Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When is enough enough?

After reading a friend's blog and watching the Oprah episode on hoarders (http://www2.oprah.com/tows/slide/200804/20080428/slide_20080428_350_106.jhtml), I have a question. When is enough enough? How do we measure any number of things to be sure that we are on track or not going off the reservation?

My problem is not one of hoarding, although it probably could be if I didn't hate the clutter of it all so much. Mine is an inability to be satisfied with the goals that I put forth. For instance, about 4 years ago, I became quite overzealous about exercise and diet. I've always been a "stout" girl. (FWIW, no one should ever refer to a young, impressionable girl as "stout". YEARS of therapy will most assuredly follow.) Over the course of a year, working out at least 6 times a week for 2 hours each session and watching every morsel of food that entered my body, I lost 40 pounds. This was an AMAZING feat for me! I had never had any success with such things. It wasn't the weight loss success that posed a problem so much as the goals that I had set for myself. When I started on the regimen, I wanted to get to a size 10. I was an 18 at the time. As the pounds (SLOWLY) dropped off and I went down to a size 16, my goal was then a size 8. By the time the 40 pounds had been sweated off, I was in the neighborhood of expecting that I could get down to a 4. (I was still a size 16. Maybe a 14 on a good day if the clothes were cut liberally.) The 40 pounds that I had taken off just wasn't enough for me. Even though I looked much better and felt much better, none of it seemed to count unless I got into those single digits. A friend of mine who was trying to be supportive told me that I was doing great and that she could really tell, but she was concerned that I would take it too far and that I would never be satisfied.

This problem has also reared its ugly head in my financial life. Growing up, we didn't really have much since my dad was laid off for most of my childhood in the 80s, but my parents somehow managed to make ends meet anyway. Unfortunately, it was a family full of Hoosier-nicey-nice where we didn't talk about money, so none of this financial know-how was ever shared with me or my brother. The thing that is even more difficult to stomach is that when I asked my mom a few years ago how they did it, she said she didn't know. Her response wasn't even an amazed "I don't know." Instead, it was an "I don't know" of life without a plan of attack.

As a result of this lack of financial education, I made a lot of mistakes during my early and mid-20s. Let me make sure you understand.....A LOT of mistakes. If I wanted something, I bought it. If I was lonely (which was quite often), I went shopping. If life wasn't perfect (is it ever?), I bought a new nick-knack. I lived beyond my means and then some. THIS is the reason for #34! I am still paying for mistakes that I made years ago.

It wasn't until about 5 years ago that the light-bulb came on. I was a successful, single woman with no children who made a good living and I found myself working for $6.00/hour during the holiday season in order to make enough money for Christmas. I was exhausted, frustrated and lonely because I was wrapping the gifts of strangers instead of spending the holidays with my loved ones. That's when I said, "enough is enough!" I don't really spend all that much at the holidays and if I have 52 weeks to save for it, a mere $10 a week would give me more than $500 at the end of the year. I ended up putting more than that away each week (and not even missing it). At the end of those 52 weeks, it was the most liberating feeling to know that when I went shopping for gifts, I could just write a check or pay cash. I didn't have to worry about how I was going to pay the credit card bills when they came due in January. It was an amazing feeling!

.....for about 10 minutes. And that is where the problem lies. I don't seem to be able to hang onto that feeling where I am proud of myself for accomplishing a goal. When I had nothing saved, $100 seemed like it would be great. $100 came and then it didn't seem so great. Surely $500 would set my head spinning! $500 came and no fireworks. Certainly $5000! Nope. $10,000? At some point it stopped being real. Another goal on my list is to have 9 months worth of earnings in my savings account. I am edging my nearer and nearer to 50% of that goal. I should be thinking, "Wow! That's 4 1/2 months of earnings! If something goes wrong, I should be okay for a while." Instead, I think, "Ugh! I can't believe I'm not even 50% of the way there." And if I do get to 9 months worth by next July? Will I be able to breathe a sigh of relief? Will I be able to think, "Job well done, Heather."? Standing here on April 29, 2008, I would like to say that I will be able to be proud of myself. Unfortunately, I hold out little hope about that coming to fruition.

So, what is it that distorts our views? Whether it's hoarding possessions or exercising to exhaustion or saving money for the next 40-day flood. How do we know when "enough is enough"?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

200 Workouts complete!

On Tuesday, April 22, 2008, I finished workout #200. It was day 552 of 1001.

So far, in 200 workouts, I have burned approximately 71,053 calories for an average of just over 355 calories per workout.

The total amount of time I've spent working out was 7,336 minutes for an average workout of just under 37 minutes.

Here's a breakdown of what kinds of workouts I've been doing:
Treadmill - 28.50% (57)
Step Class - 25.50% (51)
Stationary Bike - 14.00% (28)
Elliptical Machine - 12.00% (24)
Weightlifting - 10.00% (20)
Outside (walking) - 9.00% (18)
Taebo - 1.00% (2)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The new #43 is.....

#43. Attend a taping of the Oprah Show.

This selection was requested by Troy. ;-)

#101. Make another 101 List

I know it's probably a bit premature to have compiled a new 101 List seeing as how 1) the current list is only 26.7% completed and 2) there are still 449 days until the next list is set to begin. However, I'm in the mood to get some things crossed off of the current list (this is #27 completed) and I keep thinking of things that I want to add to the next list. I'm afraid I will forget them, so I just decided to go ahead and get this one out of the way.

The irony is that I'm very excited about this new list. I don't think the first list was all that difficult to compile, but this one was somehow even easier. I think I probably could have come up with 200 things to do/see/experience in the 2 3/4 years that start July 16, 2008! I've been pondering why that is.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who was somewhat fascinated by my list and the concept behind it. They asked me what percent of the items I would need to complete in order to be happy with it. For once, I think that's not the point of this exercise for me. I'm a list checker. I love to cross things off of lists when they are completed. I won't say that I've turned over a new leaf or changed completely, but I will say that this 101 list is more about the journey than the destination right now. Yes, I want to complete items, but not just so that I can cross them off my list. I want the EXPERIENCE that each item represents. It's so wonderful to be able to look back at the items that have been completed already and remember how out of sorts I felt at the Bingo hall or how overwhelming it felt to complete workout #10 and know that there were 490 ahead of me.

I realize that there are 74 items left on my list and that I most likely won't complete them all, but I can't wait to see what adventures trying brings me.

For now, I concentrate on the current list of 101, but I know that a new list awaits all prepared out on the horizon.

For those of you (you lone 2 or 3 souls) who are interested in knowing what's on the new list, I'm not going to give away all my secrets, but I'll make a one time offer. If you want to know one of the items, simply leave me a post and tell me a number between 1 and 101. I'll then let you know what the adventure for that item number is. The limit is one number per person.

I can't wait to spill the beans!

#65. Enter a Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament

I guess, technically, since I entered a Texas Hold'em Tournament scheduled for May 2/3, 2008, I completed this task, but I'm pretty sure I meant that I had to actually compete in it as well.

Since I paid $135 for the privilege, I should at least give it a shot. The top prize is $10,000 or a seat at the World Series of Poker. Should I get that far, I would most definitely take the money and run! With 400 - 500 participants expected, my chances of taking home that top prize (or any of the top 15 prizes) looks like it's slim to none.

Here's hoping my luck gets better than it has been in the home game lately. I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck! (Because I'd rather be lucky than good any day!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One Month Soda-Free

As of today, April 16, 2008, I have been one month soda-free. How is it? It's actually not that bad. I was never a huge imbiber of carbonated beverages to begin with, so perhaps it would be tougher for someone who was kicking a Big-Gulp-a-day habit. I usually only had maybe 5 sodas a week and they were always diet sodas at that. I would usually have a company-provided diet coke with my lunch 3 days or so a week and then perhaps one on Friday evening with whatever bad-for-me dinner I was having. Then usually one on Saturday if we went out to eat or something.
Most of the time, I actually drink water or juice or tea. I'm not sure if those are any better for me given the sugar content in most fruit juices, but I'm gonna stick with this thing.
In the beginning, as with any addiction, I imagine, it was a lot more difficult. I think it was more of a habit than anything. I would usually just grab one from the fridge here at work while I heated up my lunch in the microwave. Then there's the draw of certain foods. Somehow water with pizza or spaghetti just doesn't seem to work for me. Alas, I have succeeded so far anyway.
1 month down, 5 more to go.

Monday, April 14, 2008

#41. Visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, located 4000 Michigan Road in Indianapolis, IN is truly a treasure! Imagine great works of emotion and inspiration, history and human struggle all gathered together in one place! The best part is that, instead of locking it all up from the fumbling, child-like hands of the grimy masses, it is all there for us to see and enjoy and study and smother ourselves in ....for free! How amazing is that?

Since I last visited the museum (circa 2000 or so), lots of changes have been made. There is an amazing installation of speakers in the lobby. They are strung up on colorful wires and play a nearly inaudible symphony of human voices. The artist asked 37 people to softly say things that they might whisper into the ear of a loved one. The result is a haunting lullaby. It is an astounding marriage of technology and humanity.

Since the weather outside was less than hospitable for our desired activity of motorcycling to an annual event in Illinois, our decision to visit the museum was made after a leisurely morning full of a busy schedule of loafing around. Consequently, we didn't make it to the museum until about 2:20 and they were closing at 5. With as many great items to view as the museum has, we will definitely budget our time a bit better next time.

We didn't really have a plan of attack, so we just started at the beginning (I think). We chose the first floor and, specifically, the European artists. In the main entrance of the first floor gallery was a collection of sculpture studies by Rodin (of The Thinker fame). The collection of sculptures was from The Gates of Hell, which was a massive sculptural piece he worked on for much of his life.

Some of my favorite pieces were from the Art Deco and Art Nuveau sections of the museum. They have a flowing, feminine quality to them and display an amazing combination of form and function. Okay, sometimes form takes over function, but they are pieces in an art museum!

The section on porcelain was simply astounding. It is a clay that is so fine, it can be made into objects that are nearly paper-thin and quite fragile. The ornate vases were quite a site to behold, as was the history on porcelain itself. Because the ingredients weren't readily available in Europe, as they were in Asia where most of the pieces originated, the Europeans had to basically reverse engineer it into its component pieces. This was all done in an effort to make it more economical for people to own.

If you've an afternoon free, I would highly recommend a visit to our amazing IMA. If you don't, you should definitely make the time!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Last Lecture

A great video of an inspirational lecture. Completely worth the time! It was on TV with Diane Sawyer last night.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008


On April 4, 1948, my dad was born in Bemidji, Minnesota. On April 5, 2008, we threw him a surprise party.

A little explanation: My dad is a quiet, shy man. He's painfully quiet and shy. At least it's painful for me. I think he's great and a lot more capable than I think he ever gives himself credit for. I sometimes just wish he would realize that.

I know that my brother and I (at least I, for sure) don't tell him nearly how often how much he means to us. So the celebration of his 60th birthday was the perfect excuse for us to let him know....in a big way!

I gathered some very old pictures from one of his sisters, (he has 3 currently living) which were simply gems! Elaine had inherited the family photos when their parents passed away a few years ago, so she had treasures from VERY early in his childhood. Among my favorites are one where he and his older sister and brother are lying in the grass. It seems so idyllic. Another is a picture of him from when he was in Vietnam. It's not a time in his life that he ever speaks of, so to have a photo of him during that time feels like a peek into a secret room that has been forbidden to me.

I took these photos, as well as some from my mom's albums from when they were first dating and when my brother and I were small, and (with the help of www.snapfish.com) made them into a keepsake album as a gift to him. Snapfish also has a great option where you can choose up to 30 photos and combine them into a poster. I made two of these to put up at the party as conversation starters.

We tried to invite people from all parts of his life. There were his family members, members of my mom's side, people he worked with as well as friends that they occasionally go to dinner and spend time with now. It seems like a simple thing to invite your loved one's family and friends, but, as I said, he's a quiet man and it was actually a much more difficult task than I would have imagined.

Lots of people came and enjoyed the afternoon celebrating Dad's life and letting him know how much he means to them. That was the goal. No gifts. Just pictures and memories and an appreciation for all that the birthday boy means to us.

Oh! And don't forget the cake!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The best new I've had in a long time!

I debated about whether to share this information here in cyberspace or not because who knows who will get their hands on it, but for now I will share. Something this exciting to me can't be kept to myself. My head could most certainly explode!

All of my life I've been blessed....in so many ways. There is one particular blessing I've not always been so comfortable being endowed with, however. Anyone who has ever met me knows that I'm quite a buxom woman. All of the women in my family are. From the pictures I've seen of previous generations, this has apparently been true for SOME time! It doesn't help matters that apparently all of the men are attracted to buxom women as well. This only results in generations of exceedingly MORE buxom women. This is my...um...blessing.

It's a body issue I've struggled with for most of my life (or at least since age 8 when the Girls started to make themselves known). I've thought about surgery. I've watched the procedure on medical TV channels, researched the cost and insurance coverage and generally drooled over the tiny bosoms of women around me. (Hmmm...that doesn't sound good, does it?)

It's a major surgery and it is quite invasive. I'm sure that, along with all that cutting, comes quite a bit of pain. That's never the part that kept me from proceeding. It's the cost. In the past, my research has shown me that the procedure carries a hefty price tag of $10,000 - $20,000. Insurance rarely covers it either. I am NOT a wealthy woman.

Alas, at the end of January, on a whim, I asked my doctor for some Plastic Surgeon (PS) recommendations. I had had enough of lugging these things around. I would love to run and jump and frolic in the fields. ...Ok, maybe not so much field frolicking, but I would love to be able to jog like a normal woman without the fear of blackening an eye.

At the beginning of March, I had an appointment with one of the recommended PSs and he said he did not consider this reduction to be a cosmetic procedure. He gave me a general guideline that they give for what an appropriate or normal size is for each person and, needless to say, I was an overachiever....but not in a good way! (If you would like to know what that guideline was so that you can "check" yourself, just let me know). Although I was certain that the insurance wouldn't cover it, he took digital photos (EGAD!) for submission to insurance. He said he would write up his recommendations, submit them and then we would play the waiting game.

I think of myself as pretty thorough and had read all of the policies and exclusions in my health insurance, so I was pretty certain I was NOT going to get the A-ok from them. Essentially, according to my understanding, the only breast procedures that were covered were reconstruction surgeries due to mastectomies. So, you can only imagine my elation when the nurse from the PS's office called me last Friday to explain that I had been APPROVED! Hallelujah! I actually had to ask her to repeat herself and I nearly started bawling from relief right there on the phone. I told Troy it felt like it was one of those Claritan commercials where you think the world is in color and focus, but then a film is removed and colors are suddenly bright and vibrant! My whole world seemed to take on a different shape. It was amazing! It was like winning the lottery on Christmas morning!

After a bit more research, I found that insurance is covering it more and more as long as a certain amount it taken out. Depending on exactly what tissue is taken, a pound is roughly 500 grams. My PS estimates that he will take approximately 2 1/2 pounds EACH! Think about it ladies! I will drop 5 pounds without breaking a sweat! Sweet! It's like having a baby...without that pesky college tuition to pay!

So, in just 43 short days, I go under the knife. I would love to document the surgery through photos, but I'm not sure that's exactly appropriate content for my blog. I'll figure out something. At present, I'm thinking about taking my photo in a "boobie" shirt as some call it (something showing the shape and cleavage) before and after so that the difference will be obvious. If you have any better suggestions that could make it through the censors, please let me know.

I need your votes!

Here it is! The place to go and vote for my photo entry at the Snapfish photo site!


Vote Early! Vote often. I need your support.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Vote early! Vote often!

Starting Monday, April 7th, 2008, please visit www.snapfish.com and vote for my photo. In the middle of the screen is a link for "Enter Snappy's photo contest". Voting will begin on April 7, 2008 and the owners of the 3 photo that gets the most votes and stars (the more stars the better, you know!) will win some pretty great prizes. I would love to be one of them and, in order to do that, I need your help! If you have a blog, link to my voting page. If you have friends, tell them all!

My photo is listed in the "Best Friends" category. It's a photo of Troy and Sisko when they were being cuddly with one another and it makes me smile every time I see it.

I'll post more info on Monday, April 7th. Until then, start spreading the word! I need votes! Thank you for your support!

Recipe #2 of 6

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on here, but about a month ago, Troy and I took the big plunge.... No, not marriage.....a freezer. I have definite commitment issues and don't get me started on his. I think a freezer is about as committed as we could get for now.

It's a gorgeous white chest freezer that is 7.2 cubic feet of lucious frozen goodness!

About once a month, we do some serious shopping and meal planning. We then gather all of the individual "disposable" freezer containers we can wrangle (QUITE a few after months of cooking), plan a menu consisting of several different meals which we both enjoy and freeze easily and I commence to cooking....marathon style. I've gotten it down to a science, nearly. I can usually complete the cooking, containerizing and labeling of 4 - 5 different meals in about 4 hours. These individually packed meals can then be frozen and we can each just grab one and take them to work for our lunches. The problem that we've run into over the last few months is that we run out of freezer space in his little refrigerator-attached freezer. I would plan 4-5 meals and only be able to complete 2 or 3 before I would run out of space. Then there was always the impending disaster of having frozen chicken breasts nearly break your toes when they would make a break for it as you attempted to retrieve a meal from the tiny freezer.

After hemming and hawwing for several months, I finally said enough is enough and bit the bullet! $280 later (including delivery fees) and I have found frozen culinary bliss!

This last round of meals was the real test. The menu I had planned consisted of:
1) Turkey burgers with mixed vegetables and rice on the side
2) Chicken enchiladas
3) Pot Roast
4) Turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables
5) Tilapia filets with vegetables and a noodle side dish
6) Chicken marsala with mashed potatoes

Normally, this would not be a menu to be prepared by those with a faint of heart and limited freezer space. But, alas! That is me no more!

A mere 5 hours after starting, there were about 40 individual meals labeled and in the freezer. It fills me a with a sense of satisfaction ..... and a full belly.

All of this was to say that I technically completed 2 new recipes this month instead of 1. I had never made Chicken Marsala and I was amazed how simple it was! No longer will I pay $15 for it in a restaurant when I know that I can make 6 servings of it for under $2 each! It was fast, VERY easy and downright delicious!

Here's the recipe I used (I skipped the parsley and doubled the wine, chicken stock, lemon juice and mushrooms):

¼ cup of flour
Salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts (boned and skinless)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ cup of dry Marsala wine
½ cup of chicken stock
½ lemon. Squeeze the lemon juice
½ cup of white sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Lightly coat the chicken breast with seasoned flour.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Place the chicken breast in the pan and brown on both sides then remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the dry Marsala wine to the pan and gently bring to boil removing the alcohol. Add the chicken stock, lemon juice and stir in the mushrooms. Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes reducing the marsala sauce. Return the browned chicken breast to the pan spooning over the sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side until cooked.

Serve with mashed potatoes or pasta. Garnish with parsley.


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