Quotable – 1/7/13

Come Let Us Have Tea and Talk about Happy Things art by Lisa Congdon


Art by Lisa Congdon.

Last week I met a friend for tea at a local cafe.  We sat and talked for hours and giggled like school-girls.  We didn’t bitch about work or politics or relationships.  Without a set intent, we avoided negative topics.  When I got home that night, I was so uplifted.  I smiled for days.  This is something I need to do more often.

Noteworthy – 2012 Faves

This time of year you see a lot of “Best of the Year” lists.  I always enjoy reading and watching them because in doing so, I usually discover something new.  My music list includes music that I first encountered in 2012, not necessarily music that was released last year.  So, here goes, in no particular order:

“Little Talks”  Of Monsters and Men

Have you ever heard a clip of a song on a TV show and it just gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out?  And you don’t really want it out, but you have no idea what it was?  This was that song for me this year.  It was part of the season premiere of Covert Affairs last summer, and as soon as I heard it, I wanted to hear it again.

“Somebody I Used to Know” covered by Ingrid Michaelson/Army of 3

I like Gotye’s original, but I love this version.

“The Day that I Die” by Zac Brown Band

If you don’t want to hear me singing, don’t play this song, because I can’t help it when they hit the chorus.

“Ass Back Home” by Gym Class Heroes

Another sing along that you can dance to…

“Try” by Pink

I’ve always loved the honesty of Pink’s music, going back to “Family Portrait.”  There’s such a combination of strength and vulnerability.  I love her performances too.  I’ve never seen her phone it in.

“Sweet as Whole” by Sara Bareilles

This probably is my absolute favorite song of 2012.  I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I’m really not ashamed.  Sorry Mom.

K-Pop by a chorus of extras…

Like most people, I spent part of 2012 watching Psy do his awkward horse riding dance.  “Gangnam Style” is not on my 2012 list, but the next group of songs wouldn’t be here if Psy hadn’t paved the way.  I let Psy drag me down a YouTube wormhole, and discovered a lot of other South Korean, or K-Pop, groups because of his infectious little ditty.  Girls’ Generation, Exo-K, Wonder Girls, Super Junior, F(x)… all of the hours I’ve spent bouncing around the house this fall I owe to him.

Girls’ Generation – Oh (Korean Version) I actually much prefer the Japanese cover of this song, but I put the original Korean in this post because of the inclusion of an Iowa Hawkeye football helmet.  Doesn’t make sense, but Go Hawks!

Wonder Girls – Nobody (Japanese Version) I had trouble picking one Wonder Girls song for this post.  There are several I really enjoy.  This one made it on the list because, when it comes to the Wonder Girls,  this was my first love.

EXO-K – Mama (Korean Version) The music doesn’t start until a minute and a half in, but this is a visually arresting video.

Ok… One more K-pop girl group… F(x) – Electric Shock… just for fun…

There you have it!  Some of my faves from 2012.  If you have anything you think I should check out for the new year, let me know in the comments section.


Weighty Matters

When working on a Happiness Project, you are encouraged to look at what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad, what doesn’t feel right about your life, and what provides you with growth.

The thing in my life that hits all of those marks is my weight.

I weight less in my forties than I did in high school, and I’m still heavy.  Right now, I’m just in the obese category.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a healthy weight.

Maybe in kindergarten.


But by the third grade, I knew I was fat.

In 2007 I made the decision to pursue bariatric surgery.  I had the surgery in 2008 and lost 130 lbs.  Over the last couple of years I’ve gained about 15 lbs. back.  One of my goals for 2013 is not only to lose those 15 lbs. that I’ve gained, but also to make a push toward a health Body Mass Index, which I’ve never achieved.

I’ve started 2013 at 184.4 lbs.  I’d like to end the year 40-50 lbs. lighter.  On Thursdays, I’ll focus on my progress.

Random Thing That Makes Me Happy

A Blank Slate

Since this blog exists in part to chronicle my attempts at expanding my joy, I thought it was appropriate to take time once a week to identify something specific that makes me happy.

One of those things is a blank slate.

I get excited by new beginnings.  Everything is possible when you have a new year, a new month, a new day.  I rejoice in the ability to recreate myself each morning.  I’m calmed by the fact that when I screw up, there’s always a chance to start over.

We can always start fresh.  For me, that is definitely something to be happy about!

Let’s Try This Again


Happy New Year!

I’m back and giving the Happiness Project another shot.

I think I got a little too excited after reading the book last spring and jumped in without enough planning.  Also, I don’t think I realized how hard it would be to manage multiple blogs.

So now I’ve taken a break, and am ready to get back into it.  Today we start Happiness Project 2.0.

You can read a little bit about what a Happiness Project is here.

For 2013, my first goal area is “self care.”

Again, I may have aimed a little high.  I’ve selected seventeen resolutions for the month:

  • 7 hours of sleep
  • 70 grams protein
  • Doodle or write 15 minutes a day
  • Less than 45 grams sugar
  • Skin Care
  • Daily prayer/meditation
  • Read for pleasure
  • 100 oz. of water a day
  • 30 minutes daily exercise
  • Flexibility work 3x/week
  • 25 grams of fiber
  • Food journal
  • Joy-filled jar
  • Happy dance each day
  • Eat with intention
  • Eat less junk
  • Weigh myself daily

I think the goals can be broken down into three areas:


I gained weight in 2012.  About 10 pounds.  I also gained inches.  15!  With the weight gain, I’ve also experienced increased fatigue, and general ickiness.  I want to turn that around.


Because my work life has been so stressful, I want to make sure I’m taking time to enjoy myself.  I want to carve out half an hour a day – just 2% of it, to do something creative and pleasurable.


Sometimes I feel I’m going through life like a zombie.  I want to stop and pay attention to things.  Build rituals.  Express Gratitude.  Slow down.

So here we go!  Hope to see you along the journey!

My Pennies Don’t Want to be Pinched!

Today is the third day of my fiscal fast, otherwise know as a week without money.  It’s more difficult than I imagined.  No big issues, but I find myself wanting to run get something to drink instead of waiting until I get home, or craving an afternoon snack.  It figures.  Groceries are the area in my budget most likely to leak coin.

To help avoid the temptation, I’ve removed all the cash and cards from my wallet for the rest of the week.  It doesn’t occur to me to run to the store when I know I have no way to pay for it.

There are a couple of things I need… prescriptions to refill.  I’ve budgeted for them, and part of me wants to run and get them NOW, when I know I’ll be fine if I wait until Saturday to pick them up.  I really didn’t expect this week to teach me anything about patience.

Next week will be my Food Stamp Challenge, and I’ve been planning the last two days.  I’ve researched the budget, done some price comparisons at local markets, and need to narrow down a menu.  I want to see if it’s possible to eat on the food stamp budget and still manage to include some organic produce.  It’s always said that the thing that is most difficult in the challenge is getting fresh foods rather than processed.  I’m looking forward to figuring out if it’s true.

A Week Without Money

It’s hard to believe that I’m already reaching the halfway point of the Financial Health month.  August seems to be flying by.

I still have two week-long projects to complete.  Tomorrow begins my week without money.  My fiscal fast.

What is that, you ask?

Actually, it’s very simple.  For seven days, I have committed to not spending any money.  None at all.  No random purchases.  No going out to eat.  For a week, I will just make do with what I already have.

It’s an exercise in restraint.  I first read about it several years ago in a book by author Jeff Yeager.  He came up with the idea while socked in during a particularly bad snow storm.  His family was trapped at home for a few days due to the blizzard, so they had no choice but to make the best of what was in the house.  It resulted in some creativity in the kitchen and some nice familial bonding.

I just want the practice.  I want to be more mindful of what leaves my pocket.

And it will give me time to plan the other remaining challenge for Financial Health month.  I’ve wanted to complete a food stamp challenge for some time.  I actually started one last year, but had to abandon it because of a hospitalization.  For one week, I will commit to preparing my meals on a budget consistent with the allowance received by an individual in the SNAP program.  I will need time to research current food prices and plan menus for the week.  I want to make the week as healthy as possible.  That will be part of the challenge as well.

Jesus Gave Me a Smackdown


It’s very easy to delude yourself, I think.  You go by, day-to-day, and you stop paying attention to the details.

Sure, that skirt seems a little tight.

Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have had those chips.

I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.

It’s only a couple of pounds…

I weigh myself almost every day so I’m pretty aware of the ups and downs.  Generally, I don’t get too excited by it.  I know what a salty dinner does to me, or how a day light on fluids will show up at the scale.  I know that an unusually heavy workout will cause an uptick for a couple of days.

I know that generally I’ve had more ups than downs recently.  I didn’t worry much because I knew it was still in the area where I had control.  I know that if I buckle down for a week, it would be fairly simple to get back to where I’m comfortable.

But the scale isn’t the whole story.

And I’ve let it be.

I’ve got a business trip coming up and I have to do a number of presentations.  The presentations mean I’ve got to drag out the suit.  I put one on, and it was tight.  I could zip and everything, but it was uncomfortable.  So I pulled out a different one.  It, too, was tight.  I felt like a sausage!  No way I could present all day in those pants.

I ended up pulling a pile of pants out of the closet, searching for a pair that wouldn’t bust at the seams.  It was disconcerting.  I bought several new suits this spring, and I know I didn’t buy anything that didn’t fit well in the store.

So this morning, I dug out the book where I used to record my measurements with religious fervor.  I hadn’t made notes since April of 2011.  I pulled out the tape measure, and got ready for dose of truth.  Since that last record, my weight was up seven pounds.  Not great, not horrible.  When focused, I can drop that pretty quickly.  My measurements, though, were up across the board.

By a lot.

When all was said and done, I was up 8.75 inches!

Inches aren’t as easy to fudge as pounds.  And when I went back further I realized that I’d picked up about 15 inches since my lowest weight.

I think that I’ve given myself too much credit lately.  I’ve started taking swimming lessons.  I’ve done a 5K this summer.  Everything HAD to be rosy!  Besides, I used to weigh 300 lbs.!  Look how much I’ve kept off!  For four years and counting!

Well, now I’ve got my wake up call.  So much for skipping the weight training and blowing off cardio several days a week.  I’ve got to do better.

Here’s the progress on the 41 Pounds Project:

  • July 1 – 183 lbs.
  • July 8 – 181 lbs.
  • July 15 – 175.6 lbs.
  • July 22 – 177 lbs.
  • July 29 – 181.4 lbs.
  • August 5 181.4 lbs.

I’m traveling this week, and that always makes eating well harder.  My daily goals for this week are to exercise 30 minutes, get 70 grams of protein, eat freggies, drink 100 oz. of water, and food journal, aiming for about 1400 calories.

I also need to start weight training again.  I’ve been remarkably lazy on that front, and the measurements are where that shows up the most.  I’m not going to cry (even though I kind of feel like it), and I won’t beat myself up either, because that never helps.  But now that I know exactly where I stand, I can choose to move backward, forward or frozen where I am.

Let’s start chasing the horizon.

Control Your Money or It Will Control You

I have a confession to make.

I have debt.

A lot of debt.

It is the thing I am most ashamed of.  It keeps me up at night.  It makes me scared to answer the phone or the door.  It keeps me from going to the doctor for needed treatment.  It makes me feel like less of a person.  It makes me feel small and weak.

It’s not as bad as it used to be.  I’ve worked very hard at reducing the debt, and I’ve made a lot of progress.  Thing is, it’s like when I weighed 300 lbs.  You lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds, and you’ve still got SO FAR to go.

So for the second month of my Happiness Project, I’m going to focus on Financial Health.  My goals for this month can be divided into two categories.  One category will be daily challenges.  Like last month, I’ve set some goals for each day.

  • Track every penny I spend (cash, credit, whatever – write it down)
  • Purchase only needs  – not wants
  • No credit cards (with the exception of work-related travel)
  • No Starbucks (a big cheat in my budget)

I also have some one-time challenges to complete before the end of the month.

  • Start an emergency fund (I had one, then I had emergencies, and I haven’t built it back up)
  • Write a zero-based budget (I learned this in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course.  You account for every single penny before the month has started.)
  • Complete a 1 week Food Stamp Challenge (For one week, prepare all of your meals within the constraints of the daily allotment for a person on assistance)
  • Complete a 1 week Fiscal Fast (I originally got this idea from author Jeff Yeager.  For seven consecutive days, don’t spend ANY money)

I’m actually looking forward to this month’s challenges.  It’s exciting to think of how much I might be able to squeeze out of my budget.  Not that I wouldn’t like an iced latte or a new fall skirt or pair of trousers, but it would be nice if just for a few weeks I could be in control of my finances rather than be controlled by fear and worry.