New Year…New List

Last year, I got on the Twitter bandwagon and joined the Finish Year movement. I created a list of 5 things I wanted to accomplish in 2012. I completed 2 of them, made serious progress on the first item on the list and didn’t make a dent in the other two. In the past, I would have considered myself a failure and given up.

But 2012 was the most productive year I’ve ever had. I don’t consider myself a failure. I’m pretty thrilled that I can look back over the last year and state with confidence that I didn’t waste the time I had.

Making a list, keeping it in front of me and posting it publicly worked for me so I’m going to do it again. Once again, I’m following the lead from one of my favorite bloggers and breaking my list down into categories.


So without further ado, here is Finish Year 2013:

Financial: On or under the grocery budget every week. I still subscribe to Emeals and we switched our meal plan to Aldi. Since I made this switch, I’m noticing a dramatic difference in our weekly bill. I eased into this by not buying everything there but now I feel confident that we’ll get the majority of our groceries there.

Physical: Lose the remaining 50 pounds through diet and hitting the gym 4 days a week during the winter months. Once Spring hits, I’ll cancel the gym membership and head back to the local bike paths. The Big Hairy Audacious Goal that’s tied to this will be running The Bix in July.

Mental: Continuous progress in my college courses. Always enrolled in at least two classes. I will finish my mini-mester class tomorrow and I’m enrolled in two classes for the Spring semester. I’m hoping to increase this after my husband graduates in May. I haven’t figured out how I’m going to factor in writing yet.

Career: Better planning ahead for both of my clients in order to better anticipate their needs.

Family: Teach Jacob and Josh to cook. They know a bit but they should know a lot more…plus I need to rely on them more since college is on my plate. Teach Ben his address and phone number. I really should have done this one before he started Kindergarten.

Spiritual: This one is tough. What I really want to change in this area, I can’t as the situation is completely out of my hands. Since I’m still experiencing “Silent Sundays”, I’m truly at a loss here. The only thing I can come up with is committing to daily Scripture reading and prayer.

Social: Also a tough one.  I’m pretty isolated most of the time and usually prefer it that way. I’m in a people suck kind of phase right now. Since I’ll be heading to classes, I’m going to make an effort to meet new people and strike up conversations with my classmates.

I know most people decide that making resolutions don’t work and I would tend to agree but posting a  list and keeping it in front of me every day went a long way towards the successes I did experience; successes I don’t think I would have achieved otherwise.

So here we are, a new year and a new list.

Wish me luck!

I’m Going To College…Where’s The Xanax?

On Monday, I’ll be taking my first college class in over 20 years.


This wasn’t planned and in a lot of ways it was a spur of the moment decision, even though it was a long harbored dream. A dream that I tried very hard to kill. I’d frequently lament to the DH that “someday” I wanted to go back to school and become an English major and I’d also not to subtly comment how jealous I was that he got to work on his second degree while I was still waiting for my chance to work on my first one.

I never claimed to be mature.

After I graduated from high school, I went to a local community college. Fiscally speaking, a four-year college was out of the question. I’ve long had a love affair with books and the written word and dreamed of becoming a published writer but without college, I assumed that was not to be.  So with a sigh, I picked the most interesting option I assumed was available to be at the time…medical assisting.

That was a mistake.

I passed my classes but I didn’t exactly excel. I assumed that was because I was working full-time while going to school but in retrospect I think I didn’t thrive because I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying.  The medical assisting education was never used…unless you count it coming in handy when one of my kids had a split lip, a broken arm, or a broken tooth…or when I lanced Skippy’s abscess on his gums.

Cut to 2012 and my new friend, Chris, telling me what she’s learning at a local college as she earns HER degree in English.

I’m so jealous of her.

(Reminder:  I never claimed to be mature.)

Chris invites me to attend an event hosted by the English department of Western Illinois University. I go and I drool. I meet the head of the English department and I drool some more. I meet the Poetry Professor. The head of the English department invites me to audit one of his classes. I go and I’m on Cloud 9.

Dang it. I still want to earn a Bachelor’s in English.

But it’s impossible and it’s too late.

I share the dream with the DH…and some close friends…and on Facebook. Suddenly the dream doesn’t seem so silly or out-of-reach. Next thing I know, I have a Pell Grant and I’m registered for Music Appreciation, Poetry Writing and Composition 101.

My online class starts on Monday and I’m scared.

If I don’t do well, I will have wasted an obscene amount of money.

And everybody will know I’m a failure.

And I’ll lose all credibility with my kids.

How the heck am I going to handle working, school and the kids as the DH finishes up HIS last semester? I’m still kind of cheesed that somehow the Monkey got away with eating a ketchup and tortilla sandwich today while I was out of the house for a couple of hours.

It’s REALLY tempting to quit before I start but I’m pretty sure I’ll regret that decision before I start. And if Meathead told me he didn’t want to go to college because of fear, I wouldn’t let fear win.

So I guess I have to do what I would tell my kids.

Work hard. Ask questions. Give it everything I got.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I fell off the fitness and health wagon pretty hard this month and regained 7 pounds…in two weeks. Between my husband ramping up his fitness goals and my sister-in-law checking in on me, I’m slowly getting back on track and have lost 3 pounds.

But it wasn’t enough to get my mojo going again so I called by buddy, Jeff.

Jeff and I were in high school together. He now lives in Florida with his beautiful wife, Jen and his two kids, Jacob and Emma. Jeff is on his own weight loss journey. I tend to notice that when people are successful at a goal they very frequently talk to other people who are on the same path. They seek each other out to ask questions, share ideas and encourage each other.

So that’s why I called Jeff. I haven’t seen Jeff in a couple of years and I wanted to find out what inspired him to make his health a priority. We chatted on the phone last week and he kindly allowed me to interview him for this blog.

Jeff, what happened that made you decide to lose weight?

It’s a combination of things. I’ve been heavy for a long time and I knew I needed to do something but it’s easier said than done. I like food too much. A couple of years ago, I had a heart scare and spent the night in a hospital. The tests came back negative but I knew I was borderline. That was the beginning. I also had a leg wound that wouldn’t heal properly. Wounds that are slow to heal tend to point towards diabetes. I went to the Wound Care clinic a few times but back in January, I weighed myself and was shocked to see that I weighed 445 pounds. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know how bad. I hadn’t been on a scale in over a year.

So what did you do next?

My wife’s friend, Colleen was telling us about Body by Vi. Customers where I work were also telling me about the program. I heard about it but wasn’t on board. Jen was interested so I went with her to find out more. We watched testimonial videos and talked to people who had success on the program and that’s when we signed up. To date I have lost 41 pounds.

What keeps you encouraged?

The best part is seeing the numbers on the scale go down each week. I feel good that I’m doing something right and doing something good for myself. I’m not dragging in the afternoon after having a huge lunch. I have more energy. Having Jen on this program as well has been a big plus. I didn’t realize how much I rely on her to help me until she went out-of-town for two weeks. It was hard and I struggled. We’re not militant with each other but it’s understood that we’re both seeing results and we’re there for each other.

Do you struggle with anything?

Yeah, snacking is a struggle. If I’m busy at work and didn’t prepare by having healthy snacks, it can be tough. Late night snacking is still a demon. I still struggle with choices. But I’ve seen a lot of transition stories of people who’ve lost weight and bettered their lives. It’s really inspiring.

Besides your target weight, what’s your goal through this process?

The main reason at the base of it all is I want to be around to see my kids grow up. I knew if I continued down this path, I was damaging my body and not going to be around. I can’t live at 400 pounds for as long as I need to be there for my kids. It’s a real eye opener to see that number. I could eat myself to death and not be there when my daughter graduates from high school. That’s a real thing.

Jeff decided to set a fitness goal for himself by coming back to his hometown next summer and participating in a 7 mile race called The Bix.

So tell me why you decided to do the Bix in 2013.

The folks at Body by Vi encourage you to set goals to achieve. So many friends from our hometown do the Bix and it seemed like a good goal to try to achieve. It’s shorter than a marathon and I knew I would have lots of support.

Jeff announced his goal on Facebook and recruited friends from high school to join up in the Bix next year. As of today, 37 friends from Rock Island High School and their spouses have committed to join Jeff next July.  (Yes, I’m doing it too!)

What are some positives from this experience you’ve encountered so far?

I like having the energy to take my kids where they want to go. To walk to the park instead of drive. Play basketball with my son without taking breaks every 2 minutes. I think this has also brought me and Jen closer together. We help hold each other accountable without being pushy.

Jeff, you and I have different challenges to conquer with weight loss. I look at you and see that you’re plugging away at your goal and that motivates me to keep working on mine. What would you say to someone who thinks they can’t achieve their weight loss goal because it seems impossible?

There’s hope for everybody. It requires a commitment to do it, stay focused and find something that works that you enjoy. That’s been the best part of the system we’ve been using. It works. It tastes good, it’s fun and we’re getting results. The results I see in others is also a good motivator.

It’s still hard. It’s still a challenge but it’s a blessing knowing I”m doing something positive to change myself, making a better life for my family and doing this with my wife. Just knowing that we’re doing this together is very satisfying.


I’m really thankful for Jeff taking the time to talk with me and being willing to share his story here. Life is team sport and we need each other. Jeff’s story is now in my toolbox to use for motivation. Thank you, my friend.

If you want to know more about Body by Vi, the system that Jeff and Jen are using, you can contact them here

Finish Year Update…and a Confession

There are four months left in 2012 and I’ve made some progress on my Finish Year list.

1. Lose 8 pounds a month. UPDATE: I’ve lost 35 pounds so far. That averages to about 4 pounds a month. I had hoped to be farther along on this goal but I have to say that I feel pretty good.

2. Run the Bix race in July. UPDATE: This goal is completed. I ran 2 of the 7 miles (walked the rest) and had a ball doing it. The best part was my husband, Rick, did the race with me. We are currently looking at another fitness goal we can do together and are leaning towards a 100 mile bike ride in 2013.

3. Blog twice a week on a regular basis. UPDATE: I hadn’t even attempted this goal until recently. Most of my blogging work has been done on the Children’s Ministry blog at my church. Now that all three of my kids are in school and a couple of friends are relentless in their pursuit for me to write again, this goal is back on track.

4. Pay off our car. UPDATE: Accomplished in March thanks to a tax return. Next goal is to eliminate our credit card debt.

5. Have the first draft of my novel completed. UPDATE: Not sure about this one, but I’m working on a plan to reorganize my life to start working on this.

The Finish Year idea from Jon Acuff was, and is, a great idea. Writing down my goals for the year and having them where I can see it every day has been very effective. When I quit my job back in November to work from home as a virtual executive assistant, I wanted to have time to achieve these goals but was secretly afraid that I would waste yet another year. The Finish Year list is the reason I haven’t.

Now for the confession.

There are two Finish Year lists. One on paper for anyone to see as they walk by my desk. The other one is in my head and it contains the items I didn’t want to write down or have anyone know about. They are the things I knew I should add but didn’t want to.

I don’t want to work on them.

Because they are infinitely more difficult to achieve.

I used to be on staff at my church. I was there for 7 years. When I left EMPLOYMENT there (I still attend), it was difficult. I could count on one hand how many of my former coworkers would still speak to me. If I went to the trouble to count them up today, I’m pretty sure I’d still have fingers left over.  No one responded to my volunteering offers for months. I was and sometimes still am angry. I finally begged God to help me because I had a kung-fu grip on my anger and hurt and didn’t want to let go.

God is faithful and is helping me with this but I’m still having setbacks. Like when a former coworker came up to me and my husband at a social function a couple of weeks ago and said, “Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever met your wife.”

Yeah you did. I sat in the same meeting with you every Tuesday afternoon for a year.

And the anger comes back.

I struggle immensely with faith and church. Today was the first time in 6 months I’ve read my Bible and prayed on my own, not because it was an assignment for my Bible study. I still feel very wounded and vulnerable and have resisted anything to do with Christian culture. I say that the purpose of this blog is about faith and the struggles it involves. Notice I don’t write very much about it?

I haven’t wanted to think about it, process it, deal with it or move on from it.

But it comes to my head every time I look at my public Finish Year list.  It’s not going away. It’s time to deal with it.

So now, I’m adding it to my list.

6. Read my Bible and pray daily.

7. Ask God to help me forgive.

8. Ask God to create a clean heart in me.

9. Ask God to pry my fingers off of my hurts and let them float away.

The bottom line is, it’s not about anybody else. It’s about me and how I choose to be. I need help on this and have to start asking God for it.

Great, Kid! Don’t Get Cocky.

To date I have lost 26 pounds.  I still have 54 pounds left to go but I’m feeling great.

I’m excited that I’ve stuck with this longer than three months, I love it when people notice the weight loss and make a positive comment and I’m THRILLED that I can walk into plenty of stores and find clothes that will fit me.  I even purged all of these clothes out of my closet because they are officially too big.

I’m getting a little cocky, though, and feeling unstoppable. My calorie log in’s at My Fitness Pal are incomplete, ice cream is starting to become a one a day habit instead of one a week, and now that I can find clothes at Target that fit me, I’m catching myself thinking that what I’ve accomplished so far is good enough. My weight begins with a 1 now instead of a 2 so it won’t matter if I change that second number from a 9 to a 4.  Hey, I’m not as bad as I used to be!

But I’m not as great as I could be.

Five months into this journey and it’s a little unnerving that I have to be constantly on guard and war with my mind.  It’s difficult already battling my body into functioning as it should and now it’s obvious that I’ve got to whip my mind into shape as well.

I don’t have any solutions or words of wisdom about this, my friend.  All I know is I’m not at the finish line yet and I can’t get comfortable.


Uncharted Territory

For the first time in my life, I know where I want to go, I have a plan on how to get there and I’m actually doing it.

But I’m freaking out.

Back in January when I wrote this post, I had high hopes for myself.  I WOULD change this year. I WOULD accomplish my goals.  I meant what I said in January, but deep down I harbored some pretty serious doubts.  I was firm in my resolve to try, but I didn’t completely believe that I could actually be successful.


There have been a lot of trips, stumbles and flat out crashes so far. Usually, I always take those things as a sign that I don’t have what it takes and quit.  But encouragement has come from unexpected sources. Friends have emailed me out of the blue to offer words of wisdom and give me a proverbial kick in the butt.

So here I stand three months later, 20 pounds lighter (the most weight I’ve ever lost to date). The budget is looking good. Rick and I are making slow but steady process to our goal of financial freedom.  And now I have a writing project for an actual BOOK to start working on with someone else.

I’m in uncharted territory right now and it frightens me just a bit.  Dare I hope that I’m on my way to the life I’ve always dreamed of?

The only way I know how to combat this comes from one of my favorite animated movies, “Meet The Robinsons”.

I realize that I’m going to fail many more times before and after I reach my goals. That doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It just means that I’m human.

Do you quit at the first sign of trouble? How do you combat it?

Dear March (A Letter to My Nemesis Month)

Dear March:

You’re a clever one.


Very clever.

For several years, I’ve set goals and made plans in January and have enjoyed success for 8-9 weeks and then…


Some years I didn’t care. Some years I cared an awful lot and thought it was me. Maybe I wasn’t capable of achieving my goal…or any goal for that matter. Maybe I was weak. Maybe I set the bar to high. Maybe I’m just a loser.

But now I know what it is.

It’s you, March.

Every year when it’s your turn on the calendar, you usurp me. You make me believe that the past two months have been a waste of my time and efforts. You, who make it seems like Winter will never end, want me to fail.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it until now.

I was a fool. You managed to trick me for your first four days, but no longer.  Spring and Summer are coming, March which means the light at the end of a long tunnel.

I will succeed.


Finish Year Update…or as I like to call it “Put Up or Shut Up”

As 2011 drew to a close, Jon Acuff challenged his readers to make 2012 the Year of the Finish. Readers were challenged to make a list of things that they wanted to complete this year and make them public either via blog post, Facebook, Jon’s website or Twitter.

Being the sheep that I am, I listed five things I wanted to finish this year and blogged about it here.  Then today I realized that I have a huge tendency to say I’m going to do something, start off strong, enjoy a small amount of success and…quit.

I know. It’s idiocy but I’m working on it.

I’m turning 40 this year and I’d really like to be able to cross some things off of my list.  40 seems to be a major milestone for whatever reason and I’d like to move into this next decade with less baggage and more accomplishments, if you will.

So without further ado, here’s an update on where I am for Finish Year.

  1. Lose 8 pounds a month. UPDATE: I should have weighed myself at the beginning of the year to know exactly what I’ve lost.  I can’t say that I’ve lost 8 pounds per month BUT I can say that I’ve lost 16 pounds since October. I would love to lose 5 more pounds by March 1 to achieve a personal milestone. My clothes are getting loser!
  2. Run the Bix race in July. UPDATE: I don’t know why I listed this as my goal. I really don’t want to do it.
  3. Blog twice a week on a regular basis. UPDATE: I’ve pretty much kept this goal. Recently, I had the opportunity for a published author to review my blog and give me feedback. He suggested blogging more often.  So that goal is going to change to blogging four times a week.
  4. Pay off our car. UPDATE: As soon as Uncle Sam  ponies up the refund he owes, this goal will be achieved.  I have never been so excited as I am with this goal. This will signify being one step closer to financial freedom.
  5. Have the first draft of my novel completed. UPDATE: Haven’t even attempted this for a couple of reasons. It’s next to impossible to achieve this goal with a five year old home with me during the day but the bigger reason is, I’m afraid. I’m not afraid that I can do it. I think that with a massive amount of work and time, this goal is achievable. It’s just that the idea I have for a book…it’s going to force me to go to places I don’t want to go.

So if I’m smart, I guess I need to rededicate myself to Finish Year and once again, declare in public how I’m going to finish 2012 strong.

Newly Revised and Updated…Finish Year 2012

  1. Lose 8 pounds a month by regular exercise (Pilates on Netflix) and daily logging in to My Fitness Pal for track weigh, diet and exercise.
  2. Run the Bix race in July.
  3. Blog four times a week.
  4. Pay off our car. (Waiting on you, Uncle Sam!)
  5. Have the first draft of my novel completed. This scares the snot out of me, but I’ll start incorporating what Jon Acuff calls “the selfishness of 5 a.m.” to get up before the rest of the household does to start working on this dream.

And now that it’s “out there”, I guess it’s put up or shut up time.

Did you set goals for yourself in 2012? Where are you at in achieving them?

2012: The Year of Finish

Jon Acuff is one of my favorite bloggers. I’ve been reading him for a few years on his Stuff Christians Like website where I learned about metrosexual worship leaders and unnecessary scarves. He’s quite funny but he’s also got quite the thought-provoking side as I learned when I read his latest book, “Quitter“.

This guy finds a way to get into your head without you realizing it. I find myself repeating phrases like “discipline begets discipline” and “the selfishness of 5 a.m.” His most recent foray into my psyche discussed how he’s great at starting things, but not finishing them.


Jon has dubbed 2012 as “Finish Year” and has issued a challenge to his readers to post a list of things that they want to finish this year.  Since I’m a great starter and tend to peter out by March, I thought this was a great idea.  I created my “Finish List” and tweeted it.

But here’s the thing…I’m lousy at the “lone wolf” thing and need support.  So I’m trolling for “Finishers” to join me this year.

Is there something that you’ve been wanting to accomplish? Do you want to finish what you start this year? What would be on your Finish List for 2012?

Let’s team up together and make 2012 a year that we finish well. Post your lists and your comments. I would love to hear from you.