Discipline Is a Four-Letter Word

Actually, discipline has ten letters. Yes, I stopped writing to count them…twice. I’ll give you a moment to double check my math.

Good? Ok, so our topic today is maintaining self-discipline when it comes to food and exercise. I’m sure we’re all super-psyched to talk about that. How do you do it? How do you keep it up long-term? How do you resist the cravings and temptations? How do you drag yourself off the couch every day to exercise. I think the answer to all of these questions can be summed in in two words: Motivation and Grace.


When you have a really good reason for doing what you’re doing, you want to do it. When you have several really good reasons, your motivation gets stronger. When you have a really good plan in place to be successful, when you feel like it’s really possible, and especially when you start seeing that it’s working, it’s like a motivation booster. And when you have at least one person cheering you on, recognizing the hard work you’re doing, and giving you “the look” when you say things like, “Just one brownie,” followed by, “I don’t feel like working out today,” that really helps to keep you on track.

So if you’ve been struggling to lose weight with yo-yo results or no results at all, I would suggest that you answer the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to do this?
  2. How are you going to do it? Is your plan one that you can stick with long-term? Are you willing to change your lifestyle?
  3. What are your goals for the next month? How much weight will you lose? How often will you be exercising regularly? What specific things will you change about your diet (cut out sugar, stop eating fast food, give up soda, eat X number of vegetable servings per day, etc.)?
  4. What roadblocks, disappointments, or problems can you realistically anticipate? How will you get past them?
  5. What are you scared of as you think about getting started with this life change?
  6. Who will kick your butt if you start slacking off? (*Hint: Tell this person [these people] your reasons for wanting to make changes, your fears about doing it, and your plan, and check in with him/her/them daily. Yes, daily.)


You’re going to have off days. You’re going to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family. You’re going to be in a situation where you have no control over the food or whether or not you get to work out. You’re going to get sick and have to be in bed for days. You’re going to eat a cookie because someone made it for you and you don’t want to be rude by refusing it. You’re not going to have time to exercise one day. You’re going to forget to take your lunch to work and have to either go out to eat or starve. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to drop the ball.

Mistakes here and there won’t ruin everything. Give yourself some grace and move forward.

When I was in college, I went through a cross-cultural training program in preparation for an overseas summer mission trip. In this program, we learned a silly song that has been extremely helpful to me in countless situations since. One part of the song said, “It’s not what you do first; it’s what you do next.” How do you respond to set-backs? How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake? What do you do after you fall off the wagon?

Each decision is a step in one direction or another, but taking one step in one direction does not mean that you have to take another. If you drink a soda in a moment of weakness, choose to stick with water tomorrow. If you decide to skip your workout one day, get back on your schedule tomorrow. Even if you’ve been making bad decisions for years, you don’t have to be stuck in that rut. You can choose to take one step at a time in another direction.

It’s hard at first, I’ll be honest. Really, really hard. But the more often you make healthy decisions, the easier they become to make. You can’t give up at one failure, though. You have to give yourself some grace and try again.

The lady on one of our exercise videos always says, “If you give up, the only person you’re giving up on is yourself.” And as much as we hate her for torturing us each day, she’s right, and I’m worth not giving up on. So are you.

3 Ways to Improve Your Workouts

I’ve been working out consistently for just over a month now. That’s a month of my whole life, so I don’t have much experience to draw from unless I also pull from way back in my childhood when working out was not a thing I did, but playing was. As an adult, I have been a terrible role model thus far and definitely no one you should trust for fitness advice. However, I’ve learned a couple things recently that I would like to share with you, and I am also going to pull from way back in my childhood.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

nawlinsDo you want to know why working out sucks SO bad and you hate it all the time always and hate everything that exists in the world while you’re exercising? It’s because the food you’re putting in your body is not fueling your body properly so that it can work out. At least that was true for me. I barely had the energy to change into workout clothes, but I forced myself to work out because I knew I should. And I kept waiting for the day when I would look forward to it, when I’d feel sluggish if I missed a run, not if I went on one. That day never, ever came, and eventually I gave up. Even when I didn’t give up (remember that time Amaris and I did a half marathon?), I didn’t lose a single pound because I didn’t change my eating habits. They may, in fact, have gotten worse. I lacked the energy I needed to train, but I trained anyway. Then to get the energy back that I needed to finish out the day, I would eat a ginormous plate of pasta because dangit I had EARNED it.

Some of you are shaking (or smacking) your heads at me right now, and you are correct to do so. Looking back, I know it didn’t make sense, but I didn’t know any better. Now I do, and y’all, I am not kidding when I tell you that I didn’t get to work out yesterday, and I was disappointed. If you give your body what it needs, it will return the favor. Get rid of the sugar and fried foods and as much of the refined and processed foods as possible. Eat your veggies. Limit your grains (not to the extreme, but probably half as much as you would like). Report back to me on your workouts.

2. Make a plan to change things up.

I get bored pretty easily, so doing a different workout every day helps me to keep it up. But I also need structure. I hated going to the gym because I would walk in, look around, wonder what I should do, not have any good ideas, and end up doing the same thing. Planning what you’re going to do, though, allows you to feel in control and ready for your workout while also preventing you from getting bored with it. It’s the same with diet. If you plan to eat different things every week, you’ll get to eat new things but also not find yourself in the kitchen staring into the fridge wondering if you’re actually hungry.

3. Play!

I have workouts that I do with a DVD throughout the week, and they are not the most fun, but I do them because I must, because they’re different every day (which keeps me from zoning out), because they’re planned for me (structure), and because doing them is FAR healthier than watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. But on Sundays, I’m going to a Zumba class up the street, and that is FUN. I look forward to it. It makes me excited about exercise (most weeks) because it doesn’t feel like exercise. When I was a kid, I was in great shape because I was on a competitive jump rope team. Have you tried jumping rope lately? Good luck going for more than a minute. It is no joke. But when I was a kid, I didn’t think about it as exercise. I just loved doing it. What do you love doing that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat, and works your muscles (keep it clean, kids)? Dance (Zumba, swing, contra (!!), Just Dance), play a sport, jump rope, run as fast as you can down a hill, ride a bike, play in the ocean, walk/hike with friends, go to a playground and climb on the jungle gym, get some buddies together and play tag (or any other childhood game that won’t make you feel like the fat kid in gym class). HAVE FUN!

Oh, and if you are giant nerd and you know it (you know it), I just found this. Enjoy!

3 Tips for Healthy Eating

This is my prompt for today, but you’ve heard it all, I’m sure. Eat your veggies, stay away from fried foods and sugar and processed foods, don’t eat too many calories, don’t eat too many carbs, don’t eat too much fat, don’t eat too much meat, eat enough protein, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I realize that these tips may just be adding to the white noise that is the health and fitness industry, but they are three things that have helped me to enjoy food responsibly.

1. Spice It Up

Herbs and spices are fantastic. When we cook any of the “recipes” we just make up on the fly, they always include a plethora of dried herbs and spices. We have ALL of them. At this point, I don’t know if I want to include a photo of my spice cabinet or a gif from The Three Amigos. Oh you know what spices look like. Just imagine literally all of them. plethoraSo as I was saying…fat and sugar taste GREAT, especially when they take the forms of cheese, butter, and wheat (macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwich, Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm). And when you’re trying not to eat such things, you REEEEAAAAALLLLY miss them. Putting a bunch of spices on your food won’t fill that void entirely, but it definitely helps. Most of our “recipes” end up having a little salt, LOTS of freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil. If we’re feeling extra sassy (and depending on what we’re cooking), we might throw in some paprika, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, and/or turmeric. And I don’t know if garlic falls into this category or not, but the more the better. Adding herbs and spices won’t make non-fried things taste like fried things, but it will still make them very, very tasty.

2. Make It Pretty

I like my food to be pretty. When it’s particularly lovely, I take pictures of it. I think people will probably get tired of that pretty soon, but I just can’t help myself. I mean look at this:berries and honey

I didn’t even want to eat it. I just wanted to have an endless photo shoot with it. It made me a little sad that I didn’t have a better camera, but then my gosh if it didn’t look delicious, so I ate it. AND IT WAS. That’s about a cup of Greek yogurt, a cup of fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries), and some raw honey. I added to it about 1/4 cup of Grape Nuts, and I can now say with all confidence that this snack is the reason Grape Nuts exist in the world.

I like my food (and my home, let’s be real) to have ALL THE COLORS. I want it to be a feast for the body, the taste buds, and the eyes. The only exception to this is Indian food, which tends to all be brown, but it’s so delicious, nobody cares. The prettier your food is, the prouder you are of having made it, and the more you want to eat it. saladAnd you know how you get lots of colors in your food? Lots of vegetables and fruits. Want a rainbow salad? Toss all of this together:

  • strawberries
  • carrots
  • yellow bell pepper
  • spring mix
  • blueberries
  • purple cabbage
  • garbanzo beans (sautee with herbs/spices)
  • goat cheese
  • homemade vinaigrette (I’ll share some recipes with you if you want them.)

I promise it will be beautiful and delicious.

3. Make a Plan and Stick to It

This is the single biggest tip I can give you if you want to eat healthier. Know what you are going to eat when. If you know you’re going to eat soon, you won’t be tempted to snack. And if you have healthy snacks planned, you won’t be (as) tempted to reach for the unhealthy ones. If you know what you’re having for dinner, and you’ve already bought all the ingredients, then all you have to do is make it. You might be tempted to be lazy and not cook, but I feel guilty when I buy fresh ingredients and then don’t use them, so use fresh veggies. They’re healthier than packaged food anyway, and you can let your guilt help you make good choices.

Sticking to the plan is really the hard part. Making the plan will be a bit labor intensive for the first few weeks, but you’ll get used to it once you figure out what works for you. I plan my dinners first because that’s the only meal of the day my husband and I get to eat together, so it takes a little more cooperation to decide what we’re going to make and what ingredients we need to buy. Once I have my dinners in place, it’s not that hard for me to work in all the other foods I need during the day. But sticking to the plan is another story entirely. It really is a meal-by-meal choice to eat what’s on the plan or to eat ice cream. I’m sure it would help a lot if I just threw out the ice cream, but since I don’t make health and diet choices for anyone but myself, I can’t really do that. Also, the guilt.

So far, though, I’ve been able to stick to my plans really well. It helps that I have a variety of foods every day, spaced out so I’m eating every few hours, and that they’re all delicious. I’m not like subsisting on plain rice cakes or anything horrible like that. Man, I’m glad I was never on a fad diet in the ’80s.

Food Diary

I haven’t eaten meat in years. I couldn’t remember whether it was 2006 or 2007 when I went quasi-vegan, but luckily I have a blog to remember things for me. It was just after Thanksgiving, 2007. I had been toying with the idea for a while, but I didn’t know if I could really do it. I remember very clearly, though, taking a bite of turkey at Thanksgiving, putting my fork down, and thinking, “I’m out.” I just re-read my blog post about it, and in it, I said I didn’t know if it would last. The vegan part of it hasn’t lasted, but the vegetarian part has and will. I honestly don’t know what would happen to my stomach if I tried to eat meat now, but I don’t think it would be pretty.

People always want to know what I eat as a vegetarian, and it’s a fair question, though a bit silly in my opinion. I eat food, just not animals. If it never had a face or a heart, it’s fair game. That leaves:

  • fruit (anything but melons – I don’t like melons)
  • vegetables (except a few I don’t care for – cucumbers, eggplant, raw tomatoes, raw onions)
  • grains (bread, pasta, rice, cereal, couscous, quinoa, farro, bulgur – Yes, please.)
  • beans (Chili, anyone?)
  • nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • dairy (yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, ice cream)
  • ALL the herbs and spices

Y’all, that’s a LOT of things. With all of those as options, I can literally walk into 98% of restaurants and find something on the menu that I can eat (unless I’m in Gatlinburg, TN, but we won’t go into that right now). My only problem is that up until about a month ago, the majority of my diet consisted of things that my body turned into sugar – dairy and pasta. So much pasta. Delicious, delicious pasta. I was eating the amount of starch that I should have been eating protein and vice versa. A typical day would have looked like this:

  • Breakfast – Krave Double Chocolate cereal with unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • Snack – Fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt
  • Lunch – Left-overs from the night before (generally some kind of grain and veggies, usually with beans, possibly with cheese or other dairy)
  • Dinner – We try a lot of new recipes, but most of them involve rice or pasta, beans, and veggies. We’ve also been known to order pizza or get Chinese take-out.
  • If I was still hungry after dinner, I might have eaten another bowl of cereal or some applesauce.

I know, it doesn’t seem THAT bad, does it? But what I’m learning is that not THAT bad is also not very good at all. And vegetarian or not, you can make good and bad food choices. Oreos are vegan. So are Twizzlers. And I have a whole book of vegan cupcake recipes, each more delicious than the next. That doesn’t make them good for you, especially when you make a whole batch and eat them all yourself.

So I’m trying something new. And I’m not doing it perfectly, but I’m working on it.

21-Day Fix Containers (not my ugly countertop)
21-Day Fix Containers (not my ugly countertop)

These are my food containers. They are color-coded so I know how much I should eat of what. Green is for veggies, purple is fruit, red is protein, yellow is starch, blue is good fats like nuts and avocado, and orange is not-so-good fats like salad dressing. When I got them, I thought, “Is this all I get to eat in a day?! No wonder it makes you lose weight!” But no. Every day, based on my weight, I get 5 green containers, 3 purple, 5 red, 4 yellow, 1 blue, and 1 orange. I’m supposed to eat all of them every day in 5 small meals, and there are days when I could eat that and WAY more, and there are days when I skip a container because I’m full. Like I said, not perfect, but I’m working on it.

This requires a LOT of planning, but that’s the hardest part. Once the planning is done, the eating is easy. I would say it’s even easier than trying to force yourself not to eat certain things by sheer willpower because you never have bad-for-you things in your plan. I make a chart of what I’m going to eat, and that’s what I eat. I’m never rooting around in the kitchen looking for something to eat. I’m never tempted to just swing through the Taco Bell drive-thru because I have food waiting for me at home, and usually it’s vegetables or fruits that will go bad if I don’t eat them, so I feel obligated to go home and eat them. Otherwise, I’ve wasted money on good food that went bad while spending even more money on bad food.

If you’re super-curious, here’s my first week on this plan (and for those who don’t know, Shakeology is a protein shake to which I add fruit and/or almond or rice milk):

21-Day Fix Week 1

I’ve color-coded it for my own benefit, so I could easily count how many of each container I had planned into each day. Again, not perfect, and some days got tweaked as I went, but not bad for my first go.

If anyone has tips, tricks or recommendations for how I can get more non-dairy protein in my life, I’m all ears. I’m eating a lot of plain Greek yogurt at this point, and I’d like to eventually cut back on that, but the struggle is real, especially if, like me, you can’t eat that much soy in a day (or any soy at all like some folks).

Healthy Start

I could go back as far as high school to start this story, but I won’t. I’ll just go back to when I was pregnant with a tee-tiny bit of back story. Like a lot of women, I have always struggled with my weight. Looking back at high school pictures, I can see now that I was reasonably thin, but I did not believe that at the time. After high school, things just got worse, and although I’ve tried now and then to lose weight, I just seem to keep putting it on. I didn’t even lose a pound when I was training for the half marathon I did in New Orleans.

When I was pregnant, the nurses at my OB/GYN practice liked to remind me that I was overweight. As if I hadn’t noticed that I was shopping at the plus-size store. And as if I wasn’t already self-conscious enough with my belly growing and people asking if I was sure I didn’t have two babies in there. Thanks, gals, for the ego boost.

But I wasn’t allowed to try to lose weight at that point.

Then we lost our sweet Ella, and through the kindness and generosity of SO many people, we ate a LOT of not-the-healthiest food in a very short period of time, and I put on another 8 pounds in just 6 weeks, which put me at the most I had ever weighed in my life, including the time I spent pregnant. This was getting serious. I knew that I needed to do something, and I knew I needed help and accountability to do it.

Well toward the end of August, I noticed that a friend from college was going to be leading a health and fitness challenge group for beginners on Facebook. I didn’t really consider myself a true beginner, but I knew I was REALLY out of shape, so I figured I would fit in just fine. We’ve been at it for almost three weeks now, and not only do I fit in just fine, it is HARD.

The exercise is hard, the eating plan is hard, and all of the feelings associated with it are hard. There’s the determination to succeed, the fear of failing, the desire to eat things I shouldn’t eat, the guilt of eating things I shouldn’t have eaten, the thought that I should just give up, and then back around to the determination to succeed. I’ve just come to think about food and exercise in a certain way, and changing my thought patterns is really difficult. But it IS time for me to make these changes, so I’m going to do it.

On a purely mental/emotional level, I need to do this now:

  1. because I need to succeed at something after losing my baby.
  2. because I need to feel like I’m in control of my body after the complete traumatic helplessness of PPROM.
  3. because I need to treat my body well after being so angry at it.
  4. because I still feel so sad so often, but endorphins make you feel so great.
  5. because I need to be proud of myself for something.
  6. because I need to keep myself busy until we are ready/allowed to try to get pregnant again.

So off I go on a frightening, exciting journey. If you can relate to any of this (with or without the pregnancy stuff), you are cordially invited to join me. I hope you will, and if you want, you can tell me that you’re with me, and we’ll keep each other going.

1/2 Marathon Training: Day 1

Well, you’ll never believe it, but Josh and Josh and I got up and went running this morning. Now, by “got up,” I mean “woke up naturally,” and by “running,” I mean “running and walking, but mostly walking.” But still, for me, that’s pretty miraculous.

Lauren started doing this “Couch to 5K” running program, and Whitney and I have now joined her. Today was my first day, although Lauren had done it a few days already, and Whitney joined her on Tuesday. It wasn’t too awful. We warmed up walking for five minutes, then we alternated running for one minute and walking for 90 seconds. We did that maybe six times? Then we cooled down walking for another five or ten minutes. We were out there in all for about half an hour.

I was really surprised how short the first minute of jogging felt. Then I was equally surprised how long the last minute of jogging felt, but knowing that it was the last one helped. Mostly, I was a little surprised that I did the whole thing having not worked out AT ALL in a long time. A really long time. So if you’re thinking that you’ve gotten flabby lately, and you need to exercise, but you either hate or can’t afford the gym, I’m here to tell you that you can do this. I am not a runner by any means, but I’ve now lived to tell about it.

So I want to keep doing this to build up running stamina, but I’m also going to do some other things to train. I’ve got two private lessons at Arthur Murray coming my way and that pole dancing class. And then, once I start getting paid, I think I’m going to join the Y and hit up some Zumba classes.

Hooray for not dying in middle-age of heart disease!!

My Brain Has Fallen Out

To say that I’m “goal oriented” is a horrid, awful understatement. Without clearly defined, publicly documented goals and/or mortifying public consequences for not achieving said goals, I just sort of coast. The last time I really exercised was the Washington, D.C. Avon Walk. In 2008. I’m just not one of those people who likes to work out because of the health benefits or the endorphins or even the smaller dress size.

When Brookie and I were living together, we both wanted to lose weight. I lost 20 pounds, but only because if I didn’t, I would have to wear a bikini at our apartment complex’s pool. In front of boys. And disgustingly tiny 18-year-old girls. I need very strong incentives.

It’s not that I don’t know I need to work out, or that I want to watch my waistline become absorbed in a gelatinous blob of flesh. It’s just that those aren’t concrete enough reasons to get me to the gym. But lately, I’ve been feeling a little sluggish, and I know it’s time I got active again (even though I’d much rather sit on the couch watching an entire season of Bones).

So I guess Amaris just caught me on the right day (the day my brain fell out) when she tweeted:

considering starting training for a half marathon. who’s down???

This started a twittersation that went like this:

  • Me: Can we start when it doesn’t feel like we live on the sun?
  • Amaris: oh, definitely. deeeeeeeeefinitely.
  • Me: Can skipping and spastic dancing be part of the training?
  • Amaris: girl…YES.
  • Me: Can we celebrate each attained goal with cookies?
  • Amaris: YES!
  • Me: Can we run it somewhere awesome and make it a vacation too?
  • Amaris: like new york? orrrrrr hmmm…seattle?!! San Diego?? puerto rico? i vote the last one. we can, um, “practice” espanol.
  • Amaris: so what all did I promise again? Colder temp, cookie incentives, skipping/spastic dancing…anythi OH! And Puerto Rico. That all?
  • Me: That’ll do it!

Soooo…Amaris and I are going to go to New Orleans in February and run a half marathon. The way we decided on The Big Easy is that we figured a city called The Big Easy would make running 13.1 miles not as agonizing. No, that’s not how it happened.

First of all, I’ve never been there, so that was an immediate draw. In February, they’ll be getting all hyped up about Mardi Gras (even though it’s not until March 8), so that’ll be lots of fun. Plus, we can make rockin’ green, purple and black running outfits and wear sparkly gold afro wigs for the run! Aaaaand (this is the best part) it’s a Rock-n-Roll Marathon, which means that bands will be set up all along the way to play us on to the finish line. That beats the Avon Walk hands down (Remember how we had to walk up that hellishly long hill past the water treatment plant between miles 18 and 21? Yeah, not inspiring).

So there you have it. We’re still working on our training plan, but I think mine is going to involve some sensual fitness, I know we’re both looking forward to Zumba classes, and of course, we’ll have to jog (except we’ll pronounce it “yog”). If you want to join us, I’ll make you a sweet running skirt too, and you can help us with the choreography for every time we pass a band!

Orrrrrr, you could just come down with us, hang out in the French Quarter, and cheer us on as we pass. We’ll give you a stiff five and a shimmy!

Open Question

This is one of those classic questions, almost on par with “If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?” or “If money were no object, what would you do with your life?” It’s one of those questions everyone is asked at some point, but I think some people think about it more than others. Here it is:

If you could do over one thing that you have done or said in the past, what would it be and why?

My initial, somewhat sarcastic response to this is, “What? Just ONE thing?” But I think that I think that’s what I’m supposed to say. Really and truly, I aim to live with no regrets, and part of that means living from here on out so that I won’t have any regrets, but the other part is not regretting anything I’ve done in the past.

Everything I’ve said and done and everything that’s been said and done to me have served in part to shape me into who I am now. And let’s be honest, I like who I am. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t put it up on the internet every day. So even though there are painful parts of my past, and even though I’ve done stupid things, without them all, I wouldn’t have learned valuable lessons that I can carry with me from this point forward.

But I’ll be honest. There have been a few boys I wish I’d kissed, a lot of money I wish I’d saved, and several unfortunate haircuts. So here are a few tips on how to live a life without regrets:

  • When considering a hair style, think about how it’ll look on your head for real, and not just how you’d like to imagine it looking in your imagination where you have that actor/actress/hair model’s hair and not your own.
  • When considering a hair style, think about what you’ll think when you look at pictures of it in 15 years. Will it just be a sign of the times, or will you think, “WHO ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?????”
  • If you’re going to spend more than $200, do your research, and get someone else to help you.
  • Be honest.
  • Be straightforward.
  • Don’t kiss all the boys (or girls) you feel like kissing. Just because you feel like doing something, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.
  • Eat your veggies.
  • Take risks.
  • Have regular adventures.
  • Have spontaneous adventures.
  • Ask questions.
  • Do what you love, no matter the cost.
  • Be about something bigger than just your life.
  • Hold a baby every chance you get.
  • Hug the people you love. Full frontal hugs.
  • Sing in the car.
  • Write down good memories so you don’t forget them.
  • Do unexpected things.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
  • Savor every bite.
  • View every experience as an educational one.

And here’s the open question:

What are your tips for living without regret?

Junk Food Is the New Atkins

As I’ve told you before, I’ve been failing miserably in my attempt to gain fifteen pounds in Italy. In fact, I believe I’m actually down seven or eight now, which works for skinny jeans, so I guess I’ll get over it. Some of you have asked, however, how I have accomplished this. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a simple 10 step program I’ve invented over here.

  1. Get 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

    And I mean every night. There have only been a handful of nights when I’ve gotten less, and my body has been most grateful for the rest.

  2. Rarely, if ever, set an alarm.

    I have always been anti-alarm clock, but unfortunately, it is a necessary evil in our world. Left to its own rhythm, my body would naturally go to sleep around 2:00 a.m. and wake up at 10 or 11. However, normal business hours do not generally allow for such a schedule. Tell me. Who decided that we go to work between 8:00 and 9:00 and stay until 5:00 or 6:00? I would happily work from 1:00-9:00 if I could still have a social life, but when your friends have to be at work at 8:30 the next day, they’re not usually up for dinner at 9:30 the night before. I say we start a revolution.

  3. When you wake up, lie in bed for an hour before you get out from under the covers.

    I spend the time writing, and I think everyone can do it. It’s not good writing or lucrative writing. It’s just sort of a time to let my brain wake up and get out anything I would otherwise spend the day wrestling with or trying to think remember. I write down weird dreams I had, I make the day’s to-do list, I try to remember how long it’s been since I washed my hair – all the things that my mind would normally just be churning and churning and making me crazy with. This way, they’re out, and I can organize them better, and they don’t distract me from the rest of the day’s tasks.

  4. Get rid of your boss. Even if you have a really good boss.

    I had a really good boss in Raleigh. It’s not the person that’s the problem. It’s the stress of having to do things the right way and having someone always there to see that you do. If you’re your own boss, you can screw things up all you want and know that you won’t get fired for it.

  5. Have zero stress.

    I think this is the most important one because if you don’t have any stress, you sleep better, and if you sleep better, you don’t feel like you need to pump your body full of sugar and caffeine to give you energy, and if you think you need to fill up on sugar and caffeine, you can make better food choices, and if you make better food choices, you lose weight.

  6. Stop worrying about money, even if you don’t have much.

    I don’t have much money, especially since I stopped getting paid by Wake Tech. I make a little money from writing, but it’s not a lot. But I haven’t worried too much about it. I haven’t gone crazy with the spending, but I haven’t stressed about it either. It’s been nice.

  7. Stop driving. Take the bus. Bum a ride. Walk.

    I don’t mean you need to put on your tennis shoes and walk like for exercise (see #8). I just mean that when you take public transportation, you naturally walk more. For example, every time I want to go downtown, I walk from my house to the coffee shop where I buy my bus tickets. Then I walk to the bus stop. I ride the bus for a long time, and then I walk from the bus to the train. Once I’m off the train, I walk all around downtown, but I don’t really notice how far it is because I’m walking in and out of shops and museums and pretty churches and restaurants. It’s not exercise. It’s just more activity.

  8. Do not exercise.

    I brought exercise clothes with me (against my own advice). I didn’t use them at all, and I mailed them home last week. I don’t know about y’all, but I hate to exercise. I feel like it’s something I have to do, and that stresses me out, and as we have already established, stress is the enemy. Be active. Don’t exercise.

  9. Instead of exercising 3-5 times a week, drink a glass or two of wine with dinner 3-5 times a week.

    I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but it is very enjoyable, and I highly recommend it.

  10. Eat whatever you want, excluding meat.

    No joke, y’all. I have been eating things that I never ate at home (or so rarely that they didn’t count) – chips, mounds and mounds of (non-whole wheat) pasta, cheese, creamy sauces, peanut butter EVERY day, Nutella, fried things, unbelievable amounts of pizza, cookies, pastries. It’s terrible. I still eat a lot of veggies and fruits (we have orange and lemon trees in our yard for crying out loud), but if diet were the only factor in weight loss, I would have long-since surpassed my fifteen-pound goal. I mean last night, I ate a Nutella pizza. Let me just say that again: NUTELLA PIZZA. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a TV commercial for Nutella, but they’re hilarious. They are very careful not to claim that Nutella is good for you in any way. They just say that it’s delicious, and that if you eat it on whole wheat bread with other good-for-you things like fruit, it can be part of a balanced breakfast. I think there also may be some claim that it gives you energy, but that is probably due to the 21 grams of sugar per serving.

    Now, clearly, this is not a very scientific weight loss study, and I cannot vouch for the results on anyone other than myself, but I’m just sayin’. Seven pounds. Maybe eight. I’ve got two more days.

How to close a chapter of life: Just make sure everything’s clean.

I’ve definitely been busy all day, but when I look back over the past several hours, I can point to exactly two things that have gotten done: article prep and laundry.

The laundry is self-explanatory, and the article prep just means I did a lot of the preliminary internet research necessary to write a bunch of articles. That way, when I’m on a plane or in some exotic locale sans internet access, I can still get some work done. They are two big, important things, to be sure, but there’s still SO much to do before I leave Raleigh on Sunday.

Most notably, I have to pack. The laundry was obviously a big prerequisite for that. I started laying out the things I want to take last night. So now that my clothes are all clean, I need to finish that job and then decide which things I don’t need after all. I’ve gotten a lot of good advice on packing, but the best for me is this: Decide what you want to take, and then put half of it back. You don’t need all those shoes or dresses or socks. The only thing you’re allowed to take too much of is underwear because apart from the obvious, it rolls up so small that it hardly counts.

Once everything is packed, I have to find a place to put the rest of the crap that is on my bedroom floor – crap that never found a home when I moved. Crap that is still in a box. Crap I probably don’t need and should just throw out. There. Trash can. Home found. Done.

Then I have to clean out my car so that an Australian doesn’t have to haul around Old Nasty and a bunch of ESL materials for three months.

Then I have to party down. It’s tough work, I tell you, but so worth it in the end. And the party is going to be FUN. My sister and I have worked up a little something special, and I hate to disappoint, but no, it does not involve me singing and dancing. But don’t worry. I’ll make up for it.

It doesn’t sound like that much stuff, but for some reason, it really feels like it, I think mostly because in the midst of all the practical things and professional things I have to do, there’s also a LOT of socializing to be done. Like I’m doing a lot more of the things I might normally turn down just to see everybody one more time before I go.

Ok, enough talking about what I have to do. Time to fold laundry. I’m on a mission.