Friday, September 23, 2016

Why I'm (Mostly) Okay with Having a Small(er) Income

Lately, Matt and I have enjoyed having a series of "What If" conversations, the most frequent of which has been, "What if we got gifted 20 million dollars? What would we do?"

While it's proved to be an interesting character study into the values of both of us (and provided many an enjoyable conversation while on long car rides), it always eventually circles back to me saying something to the effect of:

"You know what? Although it would be nice in a lot of ways to not have to budget every penny, I'm really happy exactly where we're at. The great thing about living like we are now is that we're able to appreciate the value of everything so much more."

Now, that's not to say that people who are well off can't appreciate the value of things, especially the small and simple things---

All I'm saying is that when you have to be pretty careful with every dollar, you really appreciate the treats you're able to give yourself when they do come up.

A few months ago, I hit upon an interesting weight loss strategy---I discovered that when I bought the huge bags of Hershey Kisses from Sam's Club, I actually ate much less sugar and fewer calories overall than when I didn't. (My reasoning? I know I'm a chocaholic, and I know that when I hit a certain point, I'll want to reach for sugar. So rather than try and deny myself of it entirely--which usually leads to me binging a bunch of other snacky stuff to try and satisfy the craving in another way--or looking for whatever sugar we have around--which leads to me inevitably baking something--I could just have a Hershey kiss or two and be done with it. This strategy wouldn't work for everyone, as some people might be tempted to inhale an insane amount of kisses in one sitting, but I find that I'm often perfectly satisfied after one or two and then can move on with my day.)

Anywho, when we were still getting two incomes, I would simply go pick up one of these nearly $15 bags whenever we were close to running out without even thinking about it. But the thing is, when we went down to one income and had to really rein in the spending (especially on groceries and eating out), it was one of the first things to be cut. (And--side bar--sure enough, I started doing exactly the two things I mentioned above to try and satisfy the urge.)

With our birthdays coming up, we've been getting some birthday money from our folks. I spent some of mine on some things I'd wanted for awhile, and I had about $15 left. Even though it seemed kind of weird, I chose to spend it on my bag of kisses.

And you know what?

I felt so HAPPY about it--it was such a small, silly thing, but it's made me happy all week just having that bag of kisses cozily sitting on the shelf where it did for all those months before, and already, my eating has gone way down, and my appreciation for the little pleasures in life has been renewed.

The point is, sometimes I can get hung up on all the things I have to sacrifice by me not getting a paycheck anymore---bags of Hershey kisses, pizza runs when I don't feel like making dinner, fun day adventures to places that have a high admissions cost, the peace of mind that comes from being able to put several hundred dollars every month into savings...

And, if I let it, the feeling of longing and sense of sacrifice only grows, as I think about how nice it would be to have a house of our own so that Raven would have a yard to play in, or how great it would be to be able to take that trip to the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico we'd wanted to go to this year.

But when we really start having these discussions about what we would do with so much money (if we ever got it), I think about our life now, and how sweet it is---

Because we don't have a yard of our own, I take Raven to multiple different parks every week, giving us a built-in excuse to explore the city and get out and see new things (not to mention get some exercise by walking to all those parks).

Because we hardly eat out anymore, I have learned to be even more creative and efficient in my cooking, and because our grocery budget is limited, I have learned to not waste nearly as much food as before.

Because things like ice cream and Hershey kisses and new clothes are not usually in the budget, it truly does feel like a treat when we get them.

Because we don't have the budget for too many crazy family excursions, we plan simple, cheap (or free) outings more frequently, which have been just as gratifying as one big trip, if not more so because they're more frequent.

The truth is (and always has been) that although more money would be nice in many ways, it wouldn't likely do too much to increase our happiness---that is and always will be largely determined by us, and our appreciation for the way our life is going exactly at this moment.

And right now, I'd say we're pretty content to be just where we are...especially with that unexpected bag of Hershey kisses.

 All pics from our latest family park outing last weekend

Thursday, September 22, 2016

True Story: I've Lost the Motivation to Run

Uh oh...

It's happening:

The dreaded post-race running slump.

If you took a peek into my running log today, you would see (perhaps with your eyebrow arched a little in surprise) that I've only been on 3 runs since my half marathon a month ago.

Logging only one run the week after the half was acceptable--I was beyond sore from having pushed my body so hard, and I was desperately scared of getting an injury if I pushed myself while in such a state.

So I only ran once that week post-race.

Then after that?




It's kind of hard to explain.

First, a post-race slump is not totally unexpected---after spending so many months preparing for and training for a long race (which uses up a decent chunk of your free time), you kind of feel like you've earned a break. Plus you're kind of sick of all the running and counting miles and worrying about pace and fueling and all that kind of stuff.

So I (understandably) am kind of burned out.

Second, I was SO convinced that in my later weeks of training, especially, I would finally start to see the last of the weight slide off. You might remember if you've been a longtime reader that I was only five pounds away from my goal weight at the end of April (which was about a month and a half before I started training in earnest for my half). I was sure that once my mileage got up to those higher numbers, the last pounds would finally come off, just like they had when I trained for the marathon (when I lost six or seven pounds without even eating very well at all) and when I trained for my first half marathon (when I dropped six pounds in the month leading up to it by watching my sugar intake while upping my mileage).

I thought that surely--SURELY!--they would come off that last month of training, especially as I was diligently tracking my calories and had been eating healthier as a whole than I have since, well, maybe ever. Definitely since moving away from home at 18. (Perhaps with the one exception of the three weeks I was on my elimination diet, but I'm not going to count those extreme weeks since they aren't a sustainable lifestyle for me.)

Anyway, I didn't lose the weight. Spoiler: I gained a solid two pounds. (Sure, I'm fairly sure it was muscle because all of my measurements stayed the same or went down an inch or two, but still.)

So, near the end of my training, I had admitted defeat on one count---

Running was not going to help me lose the weight this time around, and it was time for me to look elsewhere for something that would help me reach my goals (because, for some crazy reason, I kept hearing a voice in my head say over and over and over again-- "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..."). Curse you inspirational memes that actually stick with me.

So it was decided that after the half, I was going to shake things up---I would still keep running (of course), but  I was also going to add a whole lot of strength training into my routine, too. The goal was to keep my cardio fitness stable (by running the usual three times a week and attending my hip hop aerobics class on Tuesdays), but just add in three different strength sessions, too.

I was so prepared to see stunning results that I even took a "before" picture that I planned to post with an "after" a month later. 

Well, you might still see that before and after, but definitely not on that original timeline.

The problem was, I was counting on my usual motivation to run to power me through my usual cardio routines. What I hadn't counted on was how sore my body got from doing the strength training (that it was unused to doing regularly), which directly interfered with my motivation to wake up early and get out and run. Because, you know, it's kind of hard to run when you're half-worried that your legs might snap off like a Barbie's if you try and when your trunk is so sore that it kind of hurts to breathe...

So, no "after" pictures yet. And currently, not much running going on.

The good news is that I've at least seen *some* progress as far as my waist size goes from the new strength training routine---absolutely zero difference on the scale whatsoever, but I've lost almost an inch and a half from my waist. 

So that's something.

Anyway, this is just to say that I need to figure out something more sustainable than what I'd originally planned for this "post-race" period. This is just to say that as much as I love running, I don't actually always love running. 

So, world (and future me reading this), JUST A LITTLE REMINDER THAT I'M HUMAN (and that maybe expecting myself to do four hour-long cardio sessions a week plus three 20-minute strength training sessions too is a little bit much to ask of myself at the moment).

But at least, by the end of this year, if I still haven't reached that ever-illusive goal weight (which I'd set as an honest-to-goodness TOTALLY REASONABLE goal weight, I'll remind you), at least I will know that I sure gave it my darnedest. 

Most of the time, anyway.  

In the meantime, anyone got any inspirational memes to kick my butt back into gear? Because heaven knows that I didn't just spend almost a year and a half to get myself into good running shape only to lose it now... 

Monday, September 19, 2016

This is How I'll Measure You

This is how I'll measure, you I think---

In trips to the orchard, in the fall.

This accidental tradition--started when you were still inside me, when I still had yet to announce to the world the news of your presence, when I still had yet to feel your tiny kicks and your baby hiccups--

This is how I'll measure you.

This year, we set you down on the gravelly path leading to the trees, and you swung your arms and stomped along the path, immediately sure of yourself.

After all, you'd done this before.

You'd done this in utero, your tiny self perhaps napping as we strolled in the sunlight, and you'd done this as a baby just last year, apple juice dribbling down your chin as you tasted this fruit for the first time (since we'd waited until we knew we had the best in front of you).

This time, we handed you a tiny bucket, perfect for small, still-growing hands.

You marched straight into the trees and started filling your bucket with the red and green orbs littering the ground, without needing to be prompted or without watching us do it first.

Your bucket quickly got heavy, but you didn't want us to help you---

After all, you'd been here before and knew how it worked.

We thought you might get frustrated when Daddy started taking some of the precious apples you'd collected and "donated" them to the white bins under the trees. We thought you might be possessive of all these fruits that you'd just carefully put into your bucket, one by one by one.

But you simply ran to the next apple on the ground, picked it up, and then "donated" it to the same place that Daddy just had.

Because you learn fast, and often just after one time of watching.

Yes, this is how I would like to measure you, in trips to the orchard.

I will measure you by the times you cried whenever we tried to herd you into the small shop to pay for our treasure, or whenever you thought it might be time to go, or whenever we tried to pick you up (when all you wanted was to try out your own legs, running them back and forth across the sunlit grass and apple-strewn dirt).

I will measure you by how you laughed as you tried to run away every time you saw our arms stretching out to pick you up, eager to buy yourself just another minute of doing-this-right-now.

Fiercely independent and outside in your element, it is hard for you to understand why on earth we could ever choose be anywhere else.

I can measure you by how easily Daddy can still swing you up in his arms and reach you up high, high, and higher in order to feel the satisfaction that only comes from getting something that you thought was out of your reach.

You often struggled against him--intent on trying to do it by yourself--but eventually, when you realized what he was trying to do, you would stop fighting and instead laugh as you were able to reach up and grab that marbled green Macintosh that was way above your head, plucking it free from the tree with a triumphant squeal.

I can measure your fearlessness as you bite into the unknown, surprised at first by the crackling of the apple flesh breaking across your teeth and the sudden shock of tart juices running down to your collar.

You could hold the apple yourself, but you still let me hold it for you.

I can measure you by your undisguised impatience for adult things (like getting pictures taken), coupled with your intense desire to do everything that we do, like picking up Daddy's bucket which is just *barely* too heavy.

You only stopped trying when we diverted you by putting apples into your own.

I can measure your desire to help and to share by the apples you placed one at a time into my waiting palm, delighted when I called you my favorite little helper.

You tend to share without asking, to give without expectation. It's something I hope I can still measure in you for infinite orchard trips to come.

I can measure you by all these things, Raven, but I can never truly show in measurements the depth of YOU---

Your sweetness, your exuberance, your joy for living.

But when we're lucky enough to be graced with crisp autumn days that are nostalgic yet so breathtakingly NOW, I know that I can measure my bucket only in the fact that I know it's overflowing.

All pictures taken at Paradise Valley Orchard, in Paradise, Utah

For our past two trips to the orchard, check out this post and this post.

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