An Awakening

This morning, I came to a realization – I’m not happy. My marriage is good – better than it ever has been, I think, so that isn’t the problem. It’s my business. My weight. My house. I feel like it’s all pretty much spun out of control. When I look around me and see that my house is a wreck, my business isn’t where I want it to be, and as a result, I’ve gained weight … well, it’s time to change pretty much everything except the husband. Him I plan to keep for a very, very long time. I guess you could say he’s just stuck with me.

Before I took a shower this morning, I did the dreaded deed – I stepped on the scale. As I stood there staring at that horrible number, it dawned on me that I’m not happy with most aspects of my life. Only my marriage and family bring me any joy right now; the rest of it just drags on me and makes me feel depressed. I realized that if things don’t start to change, and soon, I’m going to be in some pretty serious trouble. And I also realized that not being accountable is not going to help, either. So, this is my confession, my new beginning, if you will, because today things have to start changing. Today, I have to take control of my life once again and stop screwing around.

I know I’ve said this before; we all have, haven’t we? At some point we hit a wall and we think, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! But this is seriously ridiculous. I am stunned and embarrassed by my weight right now. I would DIE if anyone walked in to my house at this point, and my business … well, yet another weekend of lackluster sales isn’t making me want to run out and sign up for more shows. So, here is my very basic beginning plan for each one in turn.

My weight – first of all, my biggest issue is night time snacking and eating the crappiest of foods. Before I sat down to write this, I threw a Lean Cuisine frozen meal in the microwave – not the best choice, I thought, but better than anything I could have pulled together for myself from a fridge full of left overs that need to be thrown out and a pantry full of things that I probably shouldn’t eat at all. When I took the meal out of the microwave, this is what it looked like …

Believe it or not, overall the taste wasn’t terrible. I added a little Tony Chacerie’s to give it a little more flavor, but after eating it, I was still hungry. I looked at the calorie count – 170 calories. Wait, what? Only 170 calories, and this is supposed to be a FULL meal?!?! Are you freakin’ KIDDING me?? I could eat TEN of these and not even get in the number of calories I can eat in an average day (according to the iPhone app Lose It!), but it would provide me with more than two days’ worth of sodium. And I’d probably still be hungry. So I added a Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt, and I will probably find myself digging around for something else after that, because according to the Lose It! app, I should be eating about 2,000 calories just to lose weight (yeah, I have quite a bit of weight to lose so I get more than the “standard” 1,200 calories that many diet plans seem to think women should live on).

Today’s weight loss goal – go grocery shopping and do some food prep for this week.

My house – Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Honestly, the downstairs isn’t so bad, but upstairs, my bedroom is the place where everything that otherwise doesn’t have a home lands. And it houses a good bit of my business inventory. It isn’t very peaceful or restful, but it IS big. It’s time to do some spring cleaning all over the house, though. I tried to do the FlyLady thing recently, but it was 12 or more emails a day, most of them trying to sell me something. It just about drove me insane. I do like the basic premise, however – focus on one area of the house each week, at first getting to the point where it’s presentable, then doing deeper cleaning as you go along, while maintaining the presentable part. This week, it’s going to be tricky, because we have a show mid-week (this is the first time I’ve ever had a show that wasn’t on a weekend), but my focus spot is going to be the studio. I chose the studio for two reasons – it’s the very first thing people see when they walk in to my house, and it will require the least amount of deep cleaning. Most of the focus will be on clutter, and that’s something I can handle easily. Also, as a “bonus” Chris and I will spend a fair amount of time on getting all the laundry caught up.

This week’s house goal – declutter the studio and get all the laundry caught up

My business – This is the one that’s most difficult for me, because I’m not sure what to do to fix the issue. I’m not sure I CAN fix the issue, because I’m not positive it’s my issue to fix. I’ve been in business for a year now, and sales are lackluster. I thought it was my product, but now I don’t think that’s it, because after talking to several vendors over the last few months, everyone seems to be experiencing the same results, even at shows that were once very good. I don’t know if the problem is that people are getting away from handcrafted items, or if it’s that people just aren’t spending money, but the only booths that seem to have a lot of people looking and buying are those who are selling clothing, jewelry and/or other accessories. I didn’t keep a blow by blow record of sales by the woman across from us this weekend, but I think her weekend was much better than mine (she was selling “boutique” clothing). The couple to the right of us were selling a variety of things – jewelry, purses, and other trinkets – and they seemed to stay fairly busy, though I’m not sure what kind of sales they saw. We did ok ourselves, but not, “I can live on this” ok. We did, “Well, this is nice extra pocket money if I don’t reinvest every penny” ok. And my online and Etsy stores aren’t exactly on fire, either. We also paid for a motel for one night for this show, further eating in to my profits.

I’ve also been looking for a job, with no results. I don’t want to abandon the business, but I thought if I could find a job, I could continue the business on the side. So far, no luck finding a job, and many of the jobs I do see are part time. It’s crazy; I really don’t understand it. At this point, I’m ready to apply for part time bookkeeper jobs and try to get clients to hire me on a 1099 basis, so I can have several at once. I was looking through jobs last weekend and there wasn’t a ton of stuff out there, and then it hit me – I don’t recall seeing any jobs listed with any of the O&G majors, and only a few with the indies. There are a lot of medical jobs – for which I am not trained. There are retail jobs – which don’t pay much, are part time, and would interfere with my show schedule. And there were some accounting jobs, which require an accounting degree, preferably a master’s degree and a CPA (even when it’s clear the job doesn’t need a CPA; they’re doing that because these companies know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people out there with a CPA who are desperate to find a job and will work for enough to pay back the crushing student loan debt they accumulated over those years).

I went to a business seminar last year, but frankly I’ve forgotten a fair amount of what I learned, so …

This week’s business goal – Go to the show on Wednesday, and read through the course materials from last year’s seminar. Continue to look for a job.

And there you have it – a week’s plan in writing. I am also making notes in my calendar to help me stay the course for the week. I will try to remember to report back here periodically, because I want to keep track of how things are going. If I were more disciplined, I would do a daily post to keep track of what’s going on and how things are going, because that’s really the only way to remain accountable to myself. Maybe I’ll try doing that … but it probably won’t happen (I may be trying to turn over some new leaves, but I’m also realistic).

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It’s time to get serious

Almost 17 years ago, I accepted a two week temporary assignment at Texaco. It was a decent paying job in downtown Houston, and I welcomed the opportunity to learn something new. Although I had worked in the petrochemical industry at a couple of points in my career, up until that point, I had sort of drifted from industry to industry, trying my hand in the medical, legal, and miscellaneous categories of administrative support. Two weeks turned into six months, and by the end of that year, I was a full time Texaco employee. I will never forget one question that the hiring manager asked me – “You’ve changed jobs every year or two; how will I know you’ll still be around in a couple of years?”

It was a fair question, and obviously one that’s stuck with me all this time. In an ironic twist, two years later I found myself moving to a different group and new job in the newly merged ChevronTexaco, while that particular hiring manager found himself looking for a new job elsewhere. I ended up spending 11 years with Texaco, then ChevronTexaco, and finally, Chevron, before finding myself looking for something new in the Spring of 2010. I really enjoyed most of my time there, and I learned a lot. When I left Chevron, however, I thought it might be a good time to find a job in another industry. God had a different plan for me, and I found myself once again employed in the oil & gas industry.

I was given official notice in December, right before Christmas, that my job was being eliminated, and that my employment would end in mid-February. To be honest, I thought I would find another job within the company, and to date, I have applied for no less than 13 positions, most of which I thought I was qualified to fill. Hiring managers, however, seem to disagree, and almost six years after first coming to this company, I again find myself in need of a new job. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I just did not believe that I would find myself back on the unemployment line. Ha. Ha. Ha. Joke’s on me, I guess. There is still a very small chance that something could pop up and I could get a last-minute reprieve, but with a little more than two weeks left, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

So, I started looking for a job “on the outside.” But let me tell you, job hunting has been a harsh lesson in “Things I should have done before now.” Every single rejection I have received has told me that while my skills, accomplishments, achievements and background are “impressive,” there are better qualified candidates that applied for the job. I know there will always be someone who’s “better qualified” but the common theme in all of these jobs is that they want an accounting or finance degree, and a CPA would be preferred. So, facing at least another 15 (maybe 20) years in the job force, I have decided it’s time to get serious.

I am not totally happy about this, but it has to be done. I’m going back to school. Not to get an MBA or an advanced degree of any type, but to take the classes I would need to get my CPA. I started to do this a few years ago but I found I really didn’t have the drive or desire to make it happen, but something I learned a few years ago is that once you have a bachelor’s degree, regardless of field, there is no college in Texas that will allow you to earn an accounting degree. You can take the advanced accounting classes that would have earned you the degree, but instead of an actual degree, you get a certificate that can be used as proof of education to take the CPA. I am not a fan of long, boring certification tests (I took one many years ago to get my Certified Professional Secretary designation, and another a few years later to get my Certified Administrative Professional rating) but I think that in this case, it’s an absolute necessity, because I don’t think most employers are going to understand that I took all the classes even though I don’t have the degree to back it up. I think the CPA would be the definitive proof needed to show that yes, I can do an accounting job. Clearly, ten years of experience isn’t enough; I need some paper to back it up (isn’t that always the way?).

As you can probably predict, I missed the cut-off to enroll in Spring classes by HOURS. It’s ok, though … I will get enrolled for the summer session, so I have some time to get ready. Although I haven’t even started the classes yet, I’m thinking about purchasing a study guide for one of the modules. I think it might be helpful to know what kind of questions are on the test, and to start thinking proactively about my next steps. Maybe it won’t make a difference, but really, can it hurt? I think it might be a good idea to know what to expect on the test, so that when I cover that material in classes, I can ask for clarification on things I don’t understand, or when the information the instructor gives is vastly different from what the study materials include. I don’t know; I’ll have to think about it, but I don’t see how it could hurt to start thinking about and prepping for the test now.

Either way, I think that pursuing my CPA is the right thing to do. And who knows, once I have it, maybe I’ll decide to strike out on my own and leave Corporate America behind. Who wouldn’t love that?!?

Better late than never

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about making weekly goals that I want to accomplish. While I didn’t accomplish much on that list, I did manage to do a fair amount of sewing during the week. I am happy to be able to report that the binding for the fleece jacket is 3/4 done. I am hoping to get it finished by tomorrow night; I would be working on it right now, but there is a wicked western sun coming through the window right where I would be sitting to sew, so I’m waiting for it to go down. Clearly, I need to replace the non-functional Venetian blinds at that window with something that actually works.

In other news, this followed me home last Tuesday …

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home ...

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home …

It wasn’t in the plan to buy a new machine; I had stopped by to take a look at what they had to offer, because the one year anniversary of my Viking Opal 690Q purchase is approaching, and I had until that date to trade it in and get the full purchase price credited toward another new machine, at MSRP. Now, I’ve been watching the machines since I bought the Opal, and let me tell you that it’s not always the best idea to trade in a machine against MSRP, because many times, new machines are marked down more than the amount the trade would give you. And that would have been no different with this machine. In fact, I got an outstanding deal on this machine, paying about half MSRP. It was a machine used at the Houston Quilt Show back in November for classes, but this machine had almost no time on it. It came with the small embroidery unit, which is still a very generous 10″ x 6″-ish size. Down the road, I might just upgrade to the large unit, which has an embroidery area bigger than 14″ square.

This is the machine I’ve been using the do the binding on the fleece jacket, and I will say that I’m thoroughly impressed with the IDT on this machine. Attaching the binding has been a much easier process than I was anticipating on the other two machines I have, and I am very happy with this purchase. But I have to tell you, that really wasn’t the case when I first brought it home. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was doing the whole time I was making the purchase. When I got it home, I let it sit in the middle of the studio for a while before I unpacked it. Then I let it sit on the table for a few days before I used it. Oh, I ran a couple of sample lines of stitching on a scrap piece of fabric to be sure it would at least do that, but I didn’t actually use it until Friday. And from that first line of stitching, I knew that I would love this machine. But until then, I was pretty much freaking out, which is why very little was done on my list last week – I just couldn’t keep my mind on anything but trying to figure out what I’d do if this machine turned out to be a mistake (my dealer doesn’t allow returns). I’m very happy to report that it isn’t a mistake. Yay!

I will do a full review of this machine once I’ve had it for a while and used it, but right now I will say that I foresee this being my go-to machine for difficult fabrics. The IDT is making the fleece a breeze, so I imagine it will have similar results on other difficult fabrics. The Opal didn’t do so hot on the fleece; the Brother did fine, but the Pfaff just sang. I can’t wait to really put this machine through it’s paces and see what she can do!

Stay tuned … 🙂

New Year Incoming!

I have realized that I am not so good at the finishing thing when it comes to sewing. I am very good at the starting thing, but not so hot at the finishing thing. This is evidenced by all the projects I have “in progress” that should have been finished long ago, but are still languishing in one state or another in my studio. From clothing to quilts to home decor, I am an equal opportunity procrastinator. I don’t know if this is the result of too many ideas, not enough time, or maybe adult onset ADHD, or just too much going on in general, but this year has been one of my all time lows in completions. And it makes me very sad.

Not only that, but I really have not spent enough time sewing in general. I moved my studio downstairs this year in the hopes it would make me more productive, and it did for a while. And really, I have spent more time in the studio this year than I have in recent years but still not nearly enough, and not focused at all, as evidenced by my lack of finished projects. I would like to pretend that I don’t know what’s causing the issue, but I do, and it’s nothing more than a mental block. A mental block I need to get past and stop letting it interfere with my creative process. My kids are grown now, which I always thought would mean more time to pursue sewing and other hobbies, but instead it’s resulted in less time in the studio. I really need to get my head back in the game … err, studio. And I need to quit messing around about it and just do it.

I really don’t like to make new year’s resolutions; I think they lead to bad feelings and they put a lot of pressure on you when you probably really don’t need it. But since I know there are areas of improvement I need to make, I am going to set some goals for myself, on a monthly basis. Actually … I think I’m going to make the goals on a weekly basis, at least to start out. For my purposes, the week will start on Fridays (convenient because tomorrow is Friday and it’s also the first day of the year; see what I did there? 😉  ).

So … goals for the week commencing January 1, 2016 …

  • Treadmill at least 20 minutes, four days
  • Sewing at least 30 minutes, four days
  • Catch up on laundry
  • Remove & put away Christmas decorations
  • Re-arrange bedroom to better fit treadmill

I won’t say, “Now, how hard can that be?” because we all know how hard it can be to commit to something like this. Or to commit to anything, really (except my husband; that wasn’t difficult at all). I’ll report back in a week and let you know how it’s gone, and then I’ll set new goals for that week. I’ve even set a reminder on my calendar to come back and do the update, so I don’t forget.

Wish me luck. 😀

April progress, May goals

I know that April isn’t over yet, and there’s a possibility that I will lose a little more weight before Wednesday, but I figured this was as good a time as any for a recap of what’s happened this month in the weight loss department. It was actually a pretty busy month, after almost two months of complete inactivity. Where to begin? 

This month, I saw a gain and a loss, primarily due to the fact that I completely lost sight of my goals after going to London in February. Yep, I lost two months of progress after that trip, and hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I make such a trip, as soon as I get back home, I need to pick up where I left off and move on toward my goals. Anyway, I posted a gain of nearly three pounds at the first of the month (and it was higher than that at one point, but I think it was mostly water weight), but as of today, I’m down a net of 2.1 pounds. That means that I’ve lost a total of 21 pounds since I first started trying to lose weight. 

I also joined the gym and have been going to work out at least four days a week. On the days I’m not working out, I’m trying to make sure I move a fair bit by cleaning house, walking around the farmer’s market or the mall, or otherwise keeping my butt off the furniture. My work outs are really starting to take form, with a warm up of 20 minutes or so of cardio followed by either an upper or lower body work out. I alternate between the two, working each muscle set to fatigue. In the month of April, I lost 2.4 inches from my neck, waist, hips and bust. That makes me even happier than the weight loss, to be honest, because that means the results will start to be noticeable soon. Personally, I don’t see much of a difference in the way I look so far, and I’m looking forward to a time when I can see the difference. 

This month, I also joined a weight loss program at work, which provides a scale, a pedometer and one on one coaching. I’m really hoping it will keep me accountable to someone other than myself, and thus, keep me on track. In addition, I signed up for the Million Step Challenge at work – one million steps by the end of the year. So far, for this month, I have more than 130,000 steps, so I’m on track there as well. 

So, where does all of that leave me for May? 

  1. Lose at least five pounds in May. This one will be tricky because we have Memorial Day coming up and I totally love BBQ. That said, it’s just one day, so I need to be vigilant the rest of the month. 
  2. I’d like to see another 2 inches gone in May. I’m really sort of hoping for more, because I didn’t join the gym until the middle of April, and I’m hoping that consistent working out will give me the push I need here. 
  3. Track all of my food. This was also an April goal and while I didn’t do a great job at the first, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things and I’m weighing and measuring everything now. 
  4. Continue my push toward more whole foods and fewer convenience foods in my pantry. For us, the new normal is going to be “convenience foods” that we ourselves make. This weekend I’ve made homemade black bean soup that we’re canning. We’ve made our own tomato sauce and strawberry jam. This is going to become the way we eat all the time, because frankly, I think a big part of our problem is that we all eat too many processed foods. We’ll still buy some things – I’m not really interested in making my own cheese, though Chris mentioned he might try it – but canned foods are about to be history for us. 

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with my April progress. It could have been better, if I’d jumped back on the bandwagon sooner. And now I have an even bigger goal to watch – my daughter is getting married in November 2014, and I really want to be at my goal weight well before that time. 

Eat more to lose more?

The fitness board I hang around on has this group of people who follow the “eat more to lose more” theory. I know it sounds a bit backwards from what we’ve always been taught, but I have to admit that I adhere to this theory myself, mostly because I find it to be completely true for me. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my adult years, and I’ve found what works best for me is to exercise regularly, eat well most days, and drink water. I think the drinking water thing is helpful because my sodium intake tends to be fairly high, and it’s something I’m working on. If I don’t exercise, I tend to stay at a stable weight, or gain weight, even if I seem to be getting the food part right. But what surprised me most in all my years of yo-yo dieting is this – if I eat too few calories, I may at first lose weight, but then the weight loss stalls and sometimes even goes the other way. If I eat more than the “standard” calorie intake of a dieting female – which is around 1200-1300 calories – I lose weight.

Now before you go getting all excited and stock up on chips & cookies, let me explain how this works for me. The first thing to note is that on a really good day, I will eat between 1800-2000 calories and most of those calories will be decent choices. A typical food list on a day like this would be an English muffin with three slices of bacon and a small serving of hash brown potatoes for breakfast, a sandwich wrap with low sodium ham, a salad, and a yogurt for lunch, and fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo and a sprinkle of cheese for dinner. I then fill in between breakfast and lunch with a handful of almonds, and between lunch and dinner with a banana and perhaps a light string cheese stick, and for dessert, I might have a Weight Watchers fudge ice cream bar (one of my “guilty pleasures”). And I exercise – for example, walking up nearly 30 flights of stairs. The food logs in just over 2000 calories, but all that stair walking burned nearly 400 calories, and I’m in a deficit for the day.

I could eat 1200-1500 calories a day and lose weight, at least for a while. But the truth is, I will be miserable doing it. I’m going to feel like I’m being deprived of my favorite foods, and then it’s going to send me on a binge that will last for days, if not weeks. That’s just the way I’m built, and I know it. When you KNOW something doesn’t work for you, why continue to try? As we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different result. Simple common sense will tell you it’s just not possible.

But frankly, I still struggled with weight loss throughout my adult life, primarily because I never felt like I got enough to eat. You’d think that 2000 calories could satiate a girl, but apparently not. At least, not when 300 – 600 of those calories were going toward the consumption of Dr Pepper. Yep, I’ve been a Dr Pepper fiend for most of my adult life, and it ain’t pretty. In fact, I am fairly certain that my ever increasing Dr Pepper consumption was the driver for my weight gain over the last 15 years or so. I didn’t want to give it up, I wasn’t ready to give it up, and I couldn’t imagine going for the rest of my life without ever having a Dr Pepper again – in fact, I flat refused to consider it. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Back in 1999, I gave up sodas for over a year. I was doing really well, and felt pretty good about it, but I missed it. It was never far from my thoughts about how I would like to have just one more taste of a Coke or a Dr Pepper. I work in a highly stressful field and when things would get rough, I would crave soda. After more than a year soda free (and having survived the nightmare of a week-long withdrawal from caffeine), one day I cracked at work and popped open a Coke without even realizing what I was doing. And I drank it, and it was fabulous. I’d like to say that satisfied me and I didn’t drink another, but it would be 12 years before I would even consider setting aside sodas again.

In June 2012, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. It was pretty bad; he was in the hospital with blood sugar somewhere in the 500’s at the beginning, and we knew that a major contributing factor to his problem was regular sodas. Understand that he is a very large guy, and with good reason. But on that first day when he was admitted to the hospital with diabetes, he made immediate and permanent changes – the first being a switch to diet drinks from regular sodas. We’re both aware that sodas, even diet, are not really good for a person, but it was a first step. And even as he lay there in a hospital bed, so sick he could hardly sit up, I clung to my Dr Pepper. I just couldn’t give it up … could I?

In October, he persuaded me to give diet drinks a two week chance. I didn’t enjoy it … I wanted SO BADLY to drink a regular soda. They tasted bad, they were disgusting, and they gave me headaches (or so I thought). But at the end of two weeks, I had adjusted. I knew I had crossed the line when one day, I took a sip of a nice cold Diet Dr Pepper and thought, “Oh my gosh, that is sooooooo good!” And that is when something clicked for me. I didn’t try to “diet” or change my eating habits, but just the reduction of the calories from the regular sodas caused me to lose 15 pounds between the first of November and the end of December. I began to think that maybe I could lose weight, something that had seemed so impossible in the past.

Once the holidays were over, and January arrived, I made a commitment to be more proactive in my weight loss endeavors. But I was still only half-heartedly doing it. I think it was the sugar hang over from the holidays – I managed to mostly maintain my weight loss over the Christmas holidays (which for us, started on December 15th), although I fluctuated two pounds throughout (not so unusual though, right?). Now that the sugar is out of my system for the most part and my yogurt and fudge bar satisfy those cravings, I think I’m going to be ok. But last night, Chris and I started talking about taking a vacation in the fall. We haven’t made a final decision, but what struck me was this – if we do go on vacation, I don’t want to be tired when we’re checking out the local sites, and I don’t want my back to hurt the whole time either (chronic back pain has been my burden ever since I gained so much weight). Then I realized that I’m sick of the back pain, the shoulder pain, the aching knees, and all the other little aches and pains that I am fairly certain are exacerbated, if not caused by, the excess weight I’m carrying around. So I made a decision and set a goal.

I need to lose 105 pounds from where I am right now. There, I said it. I am more than 100 pounds overweight. I’m sure that people who see me know that I have a lot of weight to lose, so I’m not sure who I’ve thought I was fooling when I would say I have “some” weight to lose. That is seriously a 13 year old! But you know, I’ve already lost a toddler, so losing a teen shouldn’t be difficult, should it? 😉

So, my ultimate goal is to lose 105 more pounds – that will be 120 pounds total. I don’t have a specific time frame for this goal, but it would be nice if I could get it done by the end of 2014. That’s a bit more than a pound a week, and I think it’s doable. My interim goal is to lose 50 of those pounds by the end of October. I would be THRILLED if I could lose 10 of those by March 18, when I will likely have to do a week of travel for work, and that should also be doable.

The fact that I need to lose enough weight to make a whole other person sort of freaks me out, I won’t lie. But now I have all of the tools, all of the knowledge, and the drive to make it happen. And it all started just because I took one small step and gave up regular soda.