no more exercise

It's been a hard decision but, as my ankle decides to keep bothering me at random, I've decided to rest it completely for the next two weeks. No 30 Day Shred, no Just Dance, and especially no running. Minimal walking and biking, just around my city to run errands [no 20 mile trips for me]. Even less yoga.

Not that this means I'm going to stop entirely and give up. I'm going to go back to my old strength training routine, kettlebell and dumbbells, and boxing on the Wii for most of my cardio. I've only been getting in what 30 Day Shred does for strength training and while that is a good amount, it still neglects a few key moves that I personally need to work on. Also, my aunt gave me a bunch of resistance bands of varying lengths the other day so I can work with those!

I know my weight loss will probably slow down or even become stagnant with this change. It'll be frustrating, and it'll be really frustrating not being able to get a good cardio burn in every day. But I'm sure that my ankle needs this. It hasn't let me do anything for the past two days, actually, and it already feels a lot better. So hopefully, if I give it complete rest, it'll fully heal. Two days down, twelve more to go.

The really frustrating thing is that it honestly does feel fine 99% of the time. Just, the little knob part is sore to the touch, and I'll get a random burst of pain while walking every once in a while, and it's especially tender after working out. So I know that it's not fully healed, despite all my denials, and it needs more rest. So that's what I'm doing. It better be thankful.

What do you [vegans] eat?

I, along with many other vegans, get this question a lot. And it's a question that still perplexes me. Not because I have no idea what to say, I'm well aware of what I eat, but more that I'm confused by the nature of the question. Is the standard American diet so meat-centric that people truly cannot comprehend the idea of meals without animal products? So, instead of listing all the food I do eat [which would take forever, as the only non-animal-based foods I don't like are carrots, kale, and pumpkin] or just saying, "Anything that doesn't contain animal products" [because that statement is both overly simplified and incredibly complex], I thought I'd let pictures do the talking for me.

Below are some days from my sparkpeople food log, randomly chosen by a number generator, from the last two months. I was originally going to just take my food log from the past seven days, but that would've ended up pretty boring because I tend to make one or two recipes for a week and just stick with them until they're gone [or, in the case of yesterday, eat one thing for every meal because it's just SO GOOD]. That's just my [budget friendly] eating and cooking style, and I like it. So instead, random days!

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March 5
This one's towards the very beginning of my journey, when I was both trying to adapt to a healthier way of eating and doing so while sticking to a budget. I wasn't sure yet how far my money would stretch when it came to healthy food, so there aren't many vegetables in here [besides the vegetable soup, which was made with frozen, not fresh, veggies]. It's a fairly bland menu, I'll admit, but it was still loads better than that summer I could only afford to eat one cup of rice and beans a day.

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March 10
Ahh, there are some fruits and veggies! Bananas are by far the cheapest fresh fruit in the area, so those were the first to be welcomed into my budget. Mushrooms made an appearance as well, into a hearty polenta mix that I loved. Just a little note: sparkpeople upped my calorie intake in April, since I'm working out more now, but in March my lower limit was 1200 even though it doesn't show here. So I wasn't below my calorie goal [although I was still below the fat goal].

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March 22
Ah, one of the first days in New York. Tortillas & beans is one of my easy, cheap, quick staple meals. I ate a lot of them while I was there. I garnish them with avocados [as you can tell], hot sauce, salsa, etc. Lettuce and tomatoes too, sometimes. Also, have you noticed a pattern with my breakfasts yet? Yeah, I'm not too creative on the breakfast front, but that's how I like it.

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March 29
Lots of fruits and veggies. I usually take yogurt and mix in some frozen [defrosted] berries, because I can't stand non-fruity yogurt. I only had that yogurt to make a recipe, if I remember.

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April 6
See, even I don't eat perfectly nutritious food all the time. Far from it. I love to indulge in a glass of wine... or two... and bread while I'm at it! Bread is something I normally don't keep in the house, since I can eat an entire loaf in one day, but I needed crumbs for a recipe [the same that I needed the wine for!] and I couldn't find any vegan breadcrumbs in my city. So I just went the old fashioned way of making my own. And then I had a lot of the loaf left. And... well... at least I got some veggies in?

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April 11
Ah, you thought maybe I changed up my breakfast by having bread that one morning, huh? Guess again. Back to oatmeal.

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April 21
Lots of variety! Lots of fruits and veggies! This was a good day full of delicious food. Yummm.

Anyway, there's a good sample of what I eat. I do rely somewhat heavily on tofu as my main source of protein, since it's cheap and easy, but I also enjoy a variety of beans and legumes [and even seitan when I can get some]. Plus, I really, really enjoy tofu and often just stick a block in the oven for a delicious snack. I usually eat it with a condiment to dip into [I don't count condiments, since I rarely consume more than 5 calories of one. It's just a little thing I give myself leniency on].

weigh-in and recipe round-up


Sorry for the delay in my weekly progress update. I spent Sunday visiting with my aunt, and then I was too emotionally drained to put together a post. Yesterday, I got sucked into a book and couldn't stop reading it until I finished, a little after 1am. But here I am now! I had a successful week and lost 2.2 pounds, making my total 15.2 so far! Not bad for eight weeks, huh? That averages out to just under 2 pounds a week, and I'm more than happy with that.

Unfortunately, I stumbled off the wagon Sunday evening and yesterday [lots and lots of pizza] so I'm sure the scale will reflect that come next week, but I'm back on it now! I've been tracking all my food and even did an extra morning workout to make up for yesterday's inactivity. Maybe I can undo the damage before the next weigh in, although it'll be difficult. Even if I don't, I will be working towards it!

Anyway, onto this week's… Recipe Round-up!

Boy, do I have delicious recipes for you! I caught the cooking bug this week and just could not step away from the kitchen. I used to love cooking, but I'd forgotten that in the last few years while I hadn't been able to afford most foods, including just plain vegetables. But now that I can, I'm determined to make the best of it and have been spending hours in the kitchen!

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First off, we have these delicious black bean burgers. They are, quite possibly, the best veggie burgers I've ever eaten. Now, I've never made veggie burgers myself before, so I had some problems with them falling apart in the pan at the beginning, but I got it right by the third or fourth batch [I made this recipe a lot in the last week]. If you're a seasoned veteran to making veggie burgers, this probably won't be a problem for you. And even if they do fall apart, well, they're still delicious! I only made one tiny alteration in the recipe, in that I used a bit of fresh tomato [chopped in the food processor] in place of tomato sauce. I alternated how I ate them, sometimes just on a plate with some hot sauce, sometimes on a bun [or half a bun] with all the trimmings. Any which way, they never disappointed. I ended up making 7 out of the batch, not 6 like the original post says, which was even better. Nutritional information per serving, for 7 burgers: 169 calories, 1.2g fat, 31g carbs, 9.5g fiber, 10g protein.

Highly recommended! In fact, I sent the recipe to my mom immediately after making them [although she'll skip the hot sauce and jalapeno pepper because she doesn't like spicy!].

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For Easter [I totally forgot that that was only last weekend!], I made some baked stuffed pears from my favourite cookbook, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. I'd only made this recipe once before, five years ago, and was taking a gamble in thinking it would be as good as I remembered. Thankfully, it was! It got passed over by most of my family for the less healthy options of cake and cookies, but those who did try it liked it. Plus, I can't be too upset about there being leftovers because, after all, they got sent back home with me. Their loss is my gain [but my loss on the scale!]. Nutritional information for a pear half, per the cookbook: 167 calories, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs, 3g fiber. [No link because it's from a cookbook, but I'm sure you could find one with a little help from google.]

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As promised, I again made the black bean brownies now that I have a new blender. I definitely have to say: the new blender makes all the difference! The batter actually looked like, well, batter, and there were no obvious chunks of black beans giving it a weird texture. I wasn't too impressed with them directly out of the oven, but they were great after sitting in the fridge for a day! I still don't think they could pass exactly for traditional brownies, they have a distinct spice to them, but they're a wonderful substitute.

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I also made this very simple recipe for roasted cabbage and as such, cabbage made a frequent side to my meals during the week. Hey, I'm Polish, we love our cabbage! I put a little extra lemon juice on it, which helped it taste like sauerkraut, which I love. A great, very low calorie side dish.

Mid-week, I had a desire for Thai food but since there are no Thai restaurants around here [seriously, I never had Thai food until I moved to Chicago! What gives, Rhode Island?], I had to scrounge around for a recipe to make myself. I've never made Thai food before [I lived around the corner from a restaurant that had the best pad Thai I've ever tasted, why would I bother cooking my own?], but I came across this peanut tofu salad recipe on pinterest and just had to give it a shot. I couldn't find snow peas in my area, and I omitted the carrots like usual, but otherwise it was delicious. I was worried that the peanut sauce would up the calories considerably, but it wasn't too bad [note: I, of course, didn't add fish sauce to my peanut sauce. I just skipped it instead of substituting something else]. Oh, and I used spinach instead of romaine lettuce because it's my personal preference, and had a bunch of spinach to use up. Nutritional information [4 servings]: 249 calories, 10.7g fat, 25.5g carbs, 6.4g fiber, 17g protein. Apparently, I forgot to take a picture of this. I just ate the last serving today, too bad I hadn't noticed earlier!

While watching Lord of the Rings, I decided to be extra hobbit-y and cook up some roasted mushrooms to serve as a movie snack. I used oyster, crimini, and shitake mushrooms, and they were delicious. I guess I didn't take a picture though, as I was too involved in the movie! Nutritional information: 76 calories, 7g fat, 2.6g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g protein.

Phew, I think that's it. Oh, and I also made another batch of the seared bean sprouts from the previous week, and spruced it up a bit with a cut-up orange. This is definitely a favourite recipe.

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fear builds walls.

Monday, I went for a bike ride. I wanted to explore the bike path more and the weather was beautiful, so why not? My back and ankle were finally cooperating again-- well, okay, my back was a little cramped up but I did some yoga poses and that solved the problem. I headed out around noon and figured I'd get a few miles under my wheels before turning back.

That "few miles" turned into 10 in one direction and hitting the last city on the bike path. Once I got going, it just felt so good to be out there again. Just me, my bike, and the road. The bike path is mostly flat-- a couple sloping hills, and a few slow inclines. Nothing too strenuous, and the many families out there probably agreed. But I had underestimated the weather-- the forecast had said a high of 77 for the day, which was pretty high [especially since it was in the 40s just a few days ago], but it actually got up to 86. Which I was not expecting, and wasn't prepared for. It didn't really hit me until I got to my 10 mile marker and took a break-- and then it really hit me. Worse, I was almost completely out of water, and the little bit I did have was very warm [the bike path really needs some water stations along the way!]. The amount of water I'd brought would've been fine for the 6 miles or so that I had been planning on biking, but not a 20 mile round trip. Oops! So, instead of pressing on to the very end of the bike path, I left that goal for another day and turned around to make the trip home. I went a bit slower, and took a few more breaks along the way.

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At one point, I stopped to take a break and saw this graffiti. If you're not familiar, the wonderful Sheryl has a few blog posts titled "street art that inspires". While this wasn't really art, just a simply written message [and hard to see entirely in this picture], it's still relevant. "Fear builds walls." How true. I've been struggling with so much fear the last couple of years that the only thing I accomplished was building walls. My weight, my laziness, my seclusion, my dependency on food were all walls I built as a mechanism to "deal" with my fears. But those walls did no good, as I'm sure you're aware. I didn't actually solve any problems, and I actually made a lot worse than they already were.

Hell, I even had fear at the start of this ride. Aside from the one ride about a month ago, I hadn't been on my bike since October. As a result, I still had a fear that my body wouldn't react properly, I'd fall off or be hit [both things I'd painfully experienced before as a bike commuter in Chicago], I'd only make it a mile before having to give up and feel like a failure. I also had my injury-specific fears that I'd hurt my ankle or back somehow, just by getting out there. It took me about an hour of mental coaching to finally get my stuff together and get on the road with my bike. And then, it still wasn't easy. I had to talk myself through the first mile, telling myself that my body just had to get used to being on the bike again. And the second mile, I had to talk myself up the hill. Once I hit the third mile [and the bike path], though, it all fell into place and I knew I could do it.

I'm usually a pretty fearless individual so acknowledging that the last couple of years have turned me around so much was a huge revelation. I think everyone has fear in their every day lives-- or at least you do if you're a woman, of a racial minority, queer, or poor. I know for sure that a lot of my own fears, which led to my weight gain, stem from my identity as a queer woman who's been living below the poverty line for years. I'm still working on bringing down those walls and fears. A lot of it is very slow going. But every day I don't give into those old habits of seclusion and comfort food is a success.

week 7 weigh-in


I'm only down 0.8 pounds this week, bringing me to a round 13. I'm not surprised or even disappointed by this. Sure, it would've been great if my body pulled some kind of miracle and managed to lose more weight even if I didn't put in the work. But I know that that rarely happens, and I don't feel good about it anyway when it does because I didn't earn it.

After Friday morning's entry and yoga session, my back still didn't feel better. This wasn't surprising. Yoga can help my back if it's early on but once it starts feeling really bad, it can't cure the symptoms entirely. And obviously, six weeks without yoga was too far gone. So, aware that my back was only feeling worse as I tried to do more throughout the day, I put myself on bedrest. Well, I made some brownies and then put myself on bedrest. [Oops. Bad decision.] I took my frustrations out on half the pan of brownies. Yep, another bad decision. I could've had one and been fine, but four was too much. Even though I did some experimenting and these turned out with about 200 less calories than my regular version... they still had a good amount. And sugar and fat. [On the other hand, they were far more perfectly fudgy than my regular recipe so I'll be making this version from now on anyway. Just... when I have people to share them with.]

So, I spent my afternoon/evening reading and watching movies on my computer. And eating brownies. Rest was the best thing for my back at this point, I was well aware, so I grudgingly gave up one day of exercise [excepting the yoga I'd done in the morning].

When I woke up the next morning, my foot was tangled in blankets and, being half asleep, instead of taking the time to carefully extract it, I just yanked it out like I normally do. Except this was my sprained ankle, and I can't treat it how I normally do. So, yeah, I hurt it. Not really badly, but still to the point where I needed to stay off it for the day. My back was feeling better, though! Can't I just do-- no? Fine. Back to bed. I resumed the previous day's activities, including finishing off the rest of the brownies. Oooops. At some time around 9pm, my ankle decided to feel completely better. No idea why so suddenly, but it was also too late to get an exercise in [yes, 9pm is too late... 10pm is my bedtime!]. So I finished up my movie [Independence Day] and just went to sleep.

This morning's scale was no surprise, as you can see. Two days of no exercise and subsisting mainly on brownies. Not exactly the most nutritious food, even if I did stay in my calorie range. Two days of bed rest have also put my body into bad [temporary] shape: my back is having spasms again. And, for reasons I can't explain, my other leg feels like I ran a marathon in my sleep. [I didn't. But I did have a dream about bathing suits!] My back is starting to feel better the more I move around, but I don't know if I'll even be able to get a good exercise in today. We'll see.

I'm off to make this week a better week!

the importance of yoga


In early 2007, I received some serious news. I woke up unable to stand up straight, stuck at a 90 degree angle, and had to make an emergency appointment with a chiropractor. After some x-rays and other things, he told me that my back was extremely messed up [my paraphrasing]. He said that it looked like I had been in a bad car accident ten years ago and never gone to see a doctor [not my paraphrasing]. He almost didn't believe me when I said that I'd never been in an accident, I just had bad growth spurts. Really bad growth spurts. My knees and ankles had been messed up for years because of them, but I never thought that something new would surface ten years later, when I was at the peak of my fitness!

So, he told me his prescription: I had to see him three times a week [this eventually got reduced to two, then one, and finally once a month], which would help with the immediate problem. But if I wanted to be able to walk for the rest of my life, I had two options: I could have painful back surgery and a long [and equally painful] recovery time, or I could do yoga for the rest of my life. I like walking. It's definitely something I want to continue doing for as long as possible. But I don't like painful surgery. Guess which one I picked.

I had already been doing yoga on-and-off for the past few years but I never did it very regularly. I struggled with some poses and sequences, most notably the downward facing dog to plank and repeat section on my favourite DVD. It took me years to get my heels to touch the floor during downward facing dog. But the news from the chiropractor got me to kick up my practice a few notches, and I quickly developed a deep love for yoga and how it made me feel [both body and mind]. And eventually, finally, with regular practice, my heels touched the floor during downward facing dog!
Downward facing dog, with instructions, at FitSugar
In full disclosure, it's been five years and I haven't kept up with it as much as I should have [just like I've let all my other fitness habits fall out of use]. For a while, I had to go back to seeing a chiropractor three times a week. But I did yoga every once in a while, knowing that I should start doing it regularly again, and could always tell the difference after a session. But my skills declined without regular use [and with added weight], and my back started causing me serious problems. This winter, spending all my time in bed, back spasms were a daily occurrence. With that happening, I knew I had to change something.

Getting out my old yoga DVD in February was a humbling experience, after all I had worked for just a few years ago. Once again, I gave up at the first downward facing dog attempt. But I did it again a few days later. And again after that. I had two goals in mind: to make it through the entire workout without skipping anything, and to get my heels to touch the floor during downward facing dog. Again. I accomplished the first one within a few sessions-- once I started, my body remembered how to respond, even though it had been a while and I was much more out of shape. The heels goal took longer, but I finally did it-- and then sprained my ankle the next day, so it's something I'll have to work towards again now that my ankle's up to it. But still, it didn't take a year and a half that time, unlike in 2007, so that's an improvement!

I'm still not doing yoga as consistently as I should. The ankle prevented me from doing it in March but even aside from that, I was only doing it once a week when I should've been doing it at least three times a week. It's one of those healthy habits that I'm still struggling to establish. Although, I've already met my calorie burn goal for the week so I think I'll focus on yoga this weekend [in addition to continuing 30 Day Shred, of course!]. But every time I do it, it gets a little easier and I feel a little better [and my back does, too!]. I'm looking forward to being back at my peak, and potentially becoming an instructor myself. Wouldn't that be neat?

Note: I wrote this entry up last night, but I just did yoga for the first time since I sprained my ankle this morning [you'd think that someone with a sprained ankle could do yoga since it's low impact, but you'd be wrong]. Partly prompted by, of course, my back bothering me today. The yoga session completely kicked my ass. I never want to take six weeks off from it ever again.

efficient inefficiency


I'm having one of those awesome days where everything's going perfectly. I got a great night's sleep, unlike the night before where I only got about four hours or so. When I woke up, I evaluated myself in the mirror and could definitely see changes from six weeks ago. My lower belly pooch is disappearing! The rest of my belly is also getting slimmer! I can definitely see my bicep muscles! Such a great way to start off the day. Then I headed downstairs and did my daily body test on the WiiFit, and the numbers are still going in the right direction [if it keeps this way, I'll have another big loss come Sunday, but I don't want to jinx myself by revealing the number so far]. I also did well on the balance tests, giving me a WiiFit age of 24. I don't usually care about those tests [the walking test, in particular, doesn't register half my steps so it always ends up with horrible results!] but I'll celebrate this one, at any rate.

Then, to make things even better, MY ANKLE FEELS GREAT. It took me a few minutes to realize, since it wasn't bothering me, but I had no soreness at all, even when I flexed my foot [contracting the tendon hurt the most, for some reason, with this injury]. I'm hoping this isn't just a fluke and that means my ankle is finally fully healed. It's been more or less six weeks, so it should be, but you never know with my ankles. Anyway, I'm not feeling so confident that I'm going to go pounding the pavement today [plus it's gloomy and hailing out] but if this keeps up for the rest of the week, hopefully next week will see me out running. Do I even need to say how excited this makes me? Because I think it should be fairly obvious by now.

I've also noticed in the past couple of days that my fitness levels, including both my flexibility and my endurance, have improved a lot. They're still not absolutely stellar, of course, but they're loads better than they were before I started six weeks ago. Then, I couldn't do 30 seconds of jumping jacks without having to stop; now, they're not a struggle for even a few minutes. Climbing up the hill to my house left me breathless this winter, but not anymore. I'm reaching farther in my stretches, both in post-workout cool downs and during yoga. And, if you remember: six weeks ago, I couldn't do even 10 minutes of a moderate intensity workout [I had to pause my Jazzercise tape oh god how pathetic is that?] but now, I have no problem with an hour of moderate to moderately high intensity workouts.

Six weeks ago, I couldn't walk/slowly jog up the stairs of my house to the second floor without getting winded. Now I run up them without heavy breathing every time I make the trip. A lot of this distinct improvement is because I use a specific tactic: "becoming efficient with inefficiency". Instead of doing simple daily tasks as quickly as possible, I make my body more efficient by taking longer and being more active in my tasks. So, I make as many trips as possible up and down those stairs to grab things from my bedroom or library [also, the only bathroom is upstairs and with all the water I drink, I'm running up those stairs at least once an hour!]. I don't work in an office but if you do, take the time to walk to a coworker's desk to talk with them instead of emailing them. Just simple little changes like that can improve your step count for the day, and that eventually adds up.

It definitely took persistence and I've still got a long way to go before I reach my final fitness goals [and then I'll just set new ones!]. I even had to push back my short-term fitness goals because of my ankle but I'm still working towards them, just aiming for the end of May instead of April. Despite that, it's encouraging to see how much I've improved in just a month and a half, sprained ankle and all. I'm excited to see where the next six weeks take me!

[On that note, I've also decided to extend my 30 Day Shred challenge to the end of May, for various reasons. I already missed a few days because of my ankle and this way, I have time to catch up as well as take a few extra days on each level if I need to. Also, I'm thinking of going through it all with the current weights I have, and then doing it again with heavier weights. Right now, on day 9 of level one, the weights section is the only part I'm still consistently struggling with, even though I'm only using 3 pound weights. I want to make sure that I can complete it with 5 pound weights before I move onto something else. So, I haven't decided between doing P90X or Insanity yet, but it won't be until June anyway.]

healthy mind, healthy body

As most people know, I struggle with depression. It's been a force in my life for as long as I can remember. I have bipolar disorder, actually, which means that I have extremes of high periods and very low periods. I'm rarely at a happy medium. This has been fixed for the most part, through various methods [mostly medication, yoga, and exercise], but I still have my bad days/weeks/months. It's still something that I struggle with. And I know that it'll never fully go away-- something I understand and accept on my good days [it's part of my identity] but on my bad days, it just makes it that much worse.

I've been in a bad place, mentally, for a while [well, I'm finally out of it now, but we'll get there]. Last summer I gave up my friends, a job I loved, a community I was welcome in, and complete freedom, because I moved halfway across the country. Suddenly, I had no friends nearby. I had no way of going to see friends who were close-but-not-biking-distance close. I had no job or money. I only had a bike in an area that relies on cars as transportation. But, on the bright side, I wasn't homeless! I was literally days away from that fate in Chicago, which prompted the move back east to be sheltered by my family. It was the best decision, which I knew, but it still sucked.

Having a place to live was definitely great, but I missed having friends and a job [spoiler alert: I still miss these]. And as these things didn't change, my mental state got worse. I hadn't been unemployed since-- well, the first month I moved to Chicago. Aside from that, I'd been steadily employed since high school. I like working [especially when it's a job I love, as with my gig in Chicago], it gives me a daily purpose. Without a job, I feel pretty worthless. Without a job or friends, I might as well not exist [says my depression].

So my self-worth kept plummeting, as months went by and nothing changed. By the time winter set in, I was at a low I hadn't experienced in years. I'd gained at least 20 pounds since the move [with another 10 still to come], I never left the house [except to go grocery shopping], I completely withdrew from everyone online. I moved my TV upstairs to my bedroom and pretty much didn't get out of bed all winter. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. I spent such long days in bed that my back would hurt from staying still. As someone who uses exercise to self-medicate my depression, I knew that curling up in bed and ignoring the world was pretty much the worst thing I could do, but I didn't care. Depression's funny like that.

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This picture sums up my entire winter.
There was a quiet, detached part of my brain that was whispering, Look what you're doing to yourself. You're ruining your health and not even trying to improve your situation. But the rest of my brain didn't care. I remember one thought that particularly stands out in my mind-- What does it matter if I let myself go to ruin? Only my cats care.

You'd think that would be such a low point, such a sobering thought, that I'd realize how awful things were and pull myself together. But, that's not how depression works. All those horrible thoughts just added up to make me feel worse. So I continued like this and fell deeper into my pit of depression. Until February.

Mid-February, Mark of Mark Reads and Watches was on tour and going to Boston. Mark's been one shining light in my life through all this. A vegan himself, he sent me encouragement and no judgment when I wasn't able to afford eating entirely vegan [or at all]. He openly shares his own experiences with depression and poverty, so I always knew I wasn't alone in this and at least had someone to talk to. And the community around his sites is awesome and was, for a while, the only bright moment of my day. So, he was going to Boston, and I knew I had to go. Boston is really close... unless you don't have a car. Foiled again! Luckily, some people were arranging a carpool from Rhode Island and they could fit me.

Most people probably wouldn't describe that night as life-changing, but it was for me. The combination of the car ride with 3 complete strangers, meeting Mark who'd helped me so much in the past year, and being in the middle of a community again, however temporarily... it was exactly what I needed, even though I didn't expect it. I got home that night feeling great, actually smiling. I couldn't remember the last time I had genuinely smiled.

It still took a couple weeks to come out of the depressive period completely, some time to change. One of the first things I did was to move the TV back downstairs, and I set a deadline for getting out of bed every morning. Then I realized how much damage I'd done to my body. At the end of February, I started working out and committed to buying whole foods instead of cheap crap. And here I am six weeks later, happier and a whole lot healthier.

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Now the cats and I spend our days outside working on the garden.
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Ginny's bad at gardening though.
I still struggle with a lot of the issues mentioned here [I'm still unemployed and friendless and living on a small food budget]. Not everything was magically fixed overnight. But I've shifted my outlook on some things [unemployed = more time to work out and spend cooking!] and try not to let the others get me down. But it's been almost two months since Boston and I can safely say that I've beaten that episode. It was hard, but I did it. So that's where I'm at now.

Weekly Update and Easter


Yesterday, I lost 3.2 pounds, which makes for a total of 12.2 pounds lost! I was shocked at this week's number, but very excited about the overall loss. And I wasn't afraid that Easter celebrations would throw it off-- it's really hard for a vegan to overindulge at my family's dinners. But I planned some precautions anyway, just in case. In addition to making healthy contributions to dinner and dessert, I set my alarm an hour early so I could have time to work out before getting ready for the day. Unfortunately, my left leg decided to twitch all night and into the morning, a sure sign that I needed to let its muscles rest. So instead of exercising, I soaked it in a warm bath, which stopped the twitching entirely. But then I didn't have time to get a workout in, and figured I should probably give it a proper rest anyway. So, without exercising, I was off to dinner!

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In my newly fitting shirt for Easter!
At dinner, I made do with a serving each of [steamed] broccoli and cauliflower, mashed potatoes [which I made], and salad [which was heavy on beans]. The brussels sprouts were gone by the time the dish made its way to me which was sad. [Perpetually annoyed that the vegetables all get eaten before the vegan gets them. It happens with veggie pizza also!] I knew ahead of time that nobody was bringing vegan desserts, so I made baked stuffed pears, which was a healthy ending to a healthy dinner. I wouldn't say that I was stuffed at the end, but I wasn't starving either [although I did finish off the mashed potato leftovers as soon as I got home!].

I was going to stay away from exercise entirely, but I put in Just Dance 3 when I got home and did about 30 minutes of that before winding down for the night. It mostly works your upper body [or, my upper body. Other people might be able to do both the arm and leg movements at the same time, but I'm too uncoordinated!], so it was fine to do while resting my overworked leg muscles. On the other hand, I'm not doing so good with this 30 day shred challenge! Oh well, I'll be back to that today.

This morning, I stayed in bed and spent a couple hours working on the blog. You can now go to the March archive and view posts that I backdated. These were written either in my livejournal and/or my sparkpeople blog before I created this. It's nothing too exciting, but it does track my progress at the beginning of my journey. I didn't change anything, even though I could have [like all those times I wrote, "My ankle should be fine tomorrow!"], so it's all truth. If you feel like looking through it, go ahead.
Okay, it's been a rough week. Between stressing my ankle too much with running [I honestly thought it would be fine while I was writing up Tuesday's post, but I had to say goodbye to most exericse for two days afterwards; I was able to go for walks but that was all], some bad family news on Thursday, and the upcoming holiday, not to mention the lack of endorphins running through my body [and the grumpiness that resulted] because of my ankle... I lacked motivation. It's true. Last night, when my ankle was finally ready to exercise again [but not running!], I still needed a metaphorical kick in the pants via twitter to get me moving. Finally, Trixie tweeted back at me the list I had shared just two days prior, 100 Reasons You Should Work Out Today, and it got me going. Nothing like having your words thrown back in your face [for a good cause]! I'm still frustrated that I'm not able to go running [ever wake up with the desire to just run until your legs can't run anymore? That was me this morning, and I couldn't act on it!], but I'm not giving up just because of that.

But all motivation is not lost! This afternoon, I was looking for something to wear to Easter dinner tomorrow. I already had a back-up of a nice, spring-like skirt and blouse but it was always too big, and hanging in an unflattering way [damn my lack of curves!], and I had just worn it for Thanksgiving [aside from Christmas Eve, that was the last time my family all got together]. I wanted to show off my weight loss progress, even though it's not huge. So, I went digging through my closet. Most of my clothes are either way too small or big, baggy, and unflattering, but I wanted to see where I was in terms of fitting into some of the smaller clothes.

I tried on a batch of shirts that I'd received for Christmas but had just barely fit into [or barely not fit into… I could put them on, but they were tight!]. To my surprise, they fit! Now, this was mostly a surprise because I weigh pretty much the same as I did at Christmas [I'm 2 pounds lighter now, according to last week's weigh in, 4 pounds according to this morning's unofficial weigh in]. But, this goes with what I always say: weight looks much different coming off than it does going on. In December, I wasn't doing strength training [or any exercise at all, to be honest] and my entire body was incredibly lumpy [ah, the perils of having a completely straight figure! I don't get curves, I just get super awkward lumps of fat]. My body hasn't changed drastically, let's be completely honest here, but I can see muscles starting to show through in some places, and my lumps are starting to even out in others. I still have quite a ways to go before my pudgy stomach goes away and you start seeing the effect of all those crunches, but this is the first clue. With just a difference of two pounds from what I looked like in December, my clothes finally fit, nicely even, and I look much better already.

I haven't seen my extended family since Christmas. I don't know if they'll notice the weight loss, and I guess that's okay because ~10 pounds isn't a huge difference. But my clothes can see it, so that's good enough for me at the moment.

Recipe Round-up

I haven't done a lot of cooking this week, actually. I've been trying to get back into the groove after traveling and a lot of that depended on using up leftovers as well as resorting to quick-fix meals instead of full cooking [we're talking the three S's: smoothies, sandwiches, and spaghetti]. Plus, I finally got a new blender and food processor so I've been making full use of that [see: smoothies]. But there is one thing that I made that was a huge success and I'm excited to share with everyone.


Yeah, that's right, I got a recipe from a site that's called "Cheese Please". Okay, the linked-to recipe isn't vegan but by substituting chicken with tofu and honey with agave nectar, it is easily made so! If you follow the link that she posts as well, you can see a bunch of variations, some of which are vegan.

I loved this recipe because it's low calorie [160 calories as I made it] and low sugar while still managing to be full of flavour. Most orange/sweet and sour recipes rely on a LOT of sugar, which is obviously a letdown while looking for healthy recipes. Instead, this one relies on all the natural ingredients to bring out the flavour. Sure, there's one tablespoon of honey/agave but that's really not a lot [I've seen some recipes call for 1/2 cup of sugar, in addition to sugar-full ingredients like ketchup!]. Also, I used Trop50 for my orange juice, which has a reduced amount of sugar and no artificial sweeteners. If you have a juicer, I'd obviously recommend using your own homemade orange juice instead of the sugar-laden store bought varieties, but I don't have one. [Ahh, it is a dream of mine to one day own a juicer!]

Because I didn't need to pre-cook the chicken[tofu] before adding it to the other ingredients, I was also able to reduce the amount of peanut oil. Rest assured, it still had a strong peanut flavour [and scent!], and of course you can always cook the tofu like you cook the chicken. I just chose not to, to cut down on time.

A few other changes: I used regular bok choy instead of the baby variety because I couldn't find the latter. I don't think it made a difference. I also omitted the carrots because I hate carrots and don't usually have them on hand [and buying a whole bag just for this one recipe isn't worth it]. This might change if they start coming up in my garden over the summer, though. But as it is, the flavour didn't suffer at all [in my humble carrot-hating opinion]. Oh, and one more note: with all the vegetables this provided, I cut the rice serving down to half a cup and that was more than satisfying.

The leftovers were quickly gone, and I'll definitely be adding this to my regular arsenal of recipes!

I did try one other recipe this week. Sparkpeople did a write-up of 15 new ways to use protein powder, and I decided to try the "protein fudge" because it was quick and easy. I just have a quick review: it is NOT worth it, both taste-wise and regarding the price of protein powder alone! [It uses 8 scoops of protein powder. I don't know how expensive whey powder is, but that's about $7 worth of vegan protein powder!] I'm hoping to repurpose it into smoothies but as is, it's horrible. Don't even bother. But as this is the first time sparkpeople's steered me wrong in 5+ years, I'll forgive them.

As I type this, I've got a delicious [I hope!] Easter dessert in the oven, and I'm about to try out a new mashed potatoes recipe [agan, for Easter]. Next week's round-up already looks better!

My aunt has cancer.


My aunt has cancer.

My hilarious, wonderful, sympathetic, black sheep, wonderful, adventurous aunt whom I look up to and take after and is pretty much the only remaining contact I have to my dad's family since his death.

[I just realized that I put 'wonderful' down twice but I don't even care because that is how I think of her.]

My father's sister. The one who's been fighting breast cancer for years [she has a lump in a breast but all the doctors say that it's benign so far, although they keep close tabs on it to make sure that it doesn't turn malignant]. The one who lost her brother to breast cancer. [Despite all the marketing towards women and the lack of awareness that men can get breast cancer too, HEY MEN CAN GET BREAST CANCER TOO.]

She's been feeling bad for a while, the last time I saw her was during the Superbowl and we were supposed to meet up a few weeks after that but she kept canceling because she felt too tired.

She had an appointment with her doctor but for reasons [he was overscheduling], it kept getting pushed back.

Well, she finally went and she finally got the results.

Cancer.

The scariest word you can say to my family. The thing she's been fighting for years. The thing she's been losing weight, exercising, and eating healthy to avoid getting. The thing her brother [my father] died from.

And the kicker?

It's not even breast cancer.

No, she has cervical cancer. Well, that just came out of left field. She had all the symptoms of breast cancer [like the rest of my father's family, she carries the BRCA2 gene], we'd all been cautioned against it for years, and... it's something else? Something that none of us would have guessed would happen to her? I mean, okay, I worked at a women's health clinic. I know that cervical cancer exists. But I also know that it mostly happens to women in their 20s and early 30s. Not women in their 60s. Not women who have been doing everything they can to reduce their overall chances of developing cancer.

I am so angry right now. Not at my aunt, not at the doctors, not at our genetics [well, maybe a little]. Just at this intangible disease that continues to plague my family. We were doing everything right. We've all started exercising, eating healthy, watching our bodies. We register every single change that our bodies make. So why, despite everything, are we facing this again? Why are we caught unawares? Why do we have to go through this again?

Tell me, what's the point to all of this if everyone I love just keeps getting this awful disease?

Run #1

The weather was nice today and finally, I realized that I couldn't make any more excuses and had to get out for some exercise. Then, it took another half hour to do so once I finally accepted that fact. I had originally planned to bike down to the bike path, then run for a while before biking home. Well, my ankle was feeling a little funny so I decided to nix the running idea and just put on my regular shoes. A few minutes after putting them on, my ankle popped into its regular spot [it didn't actually pop, but that's the best I can explain it! It's a recurring "normal" thing with my ankle, completely unrelated to the sprain] and felt absolutely fine. So off came those shoes and on went my running shoes. Although I had a bit of a debate about that, too-- should I bike in my running shoes, even though I'm going running? Should I stick my running shoes in my backpack and wear my regular shoes while biking? If I end up not running at all, I'll feel like I put unneeded miles on them. Well, I still haven't come up with a solution [although I did, this time, go out with just my running shoes] so I'd love to know how other people deal with this, if they bike to a running location or whatever. And I know, my cross training shoes should be fine for running as well, but they don't feel as good while running. They're great for aerobic exercises at home, but lack a little something for running. I don't know, maybe I'll have to go on a hunt for cross training shoes that will feel good with running as well. [Oh god I am spending so much money on shoes. Okay, I'm not really, I've spent $65 total on these two pairs of shoes because of sales and my mom's awesome bargaining, but that's still a lot for someone with no regular income!] Ahem. Anyway. After choosing a pair of shoes, putting air in my tires, filling up my water bottle, making sure everything on my bike was in working order, etc., I headed out.

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My bike. Isn't she pretty?
Let's be honest... the first few minutes weren't bad, considering I hadn't been out on my bike since early October. I was actually surprised, I was expecting a lot worse. But then I got to a hill and it was awful. To be fair, hills were a challenge even this past summer, when I was still getting in lots of miles every day, because Chicago doesn't have hills. They have a few man-made gentle bumps, going over highways and such, but not like New England has hills. So I was out of practice regarding them anyway. As it was, I knew I had to get up this big, steep hill, one that I'd previously gotten off my bike and walked up in October [the last time I took my bike out, actually!]. If you go back to my walking post from a couple weeks ago, you can see the top part of the hill in the first picture, but that's only the last part of it! So, I told myself that I'd make it halfway up this hill. I had to deal with hills eventually, but I could start small. And for the first half of the hill, it was hard. But I got there and told myself, "Hey, you made it this far, let's go up to another halfway mark!" I got to 3/4 of the way up the hill, struggling but still triumphant, and figured I should just finish it off. So I did. I surprised mself and made it all the way up the hill! Then I got to enjoy coasting down the other side [one of my favourite things to do because it feels like I'm riding a broom!], which was well worth the effort.

Then I made it to the bike path and took a few minutes to relax and enjoy the scenery. Of course, there wasn't much to enjoy because the trees still haven't bloomed but... the river looked nice, at least.

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After letting myself recover from the bike ride [specifically, the hill], I walked back to the path, locked up my bike against a pole [and set my other stuff down], and decided to try out this whole running thing. I didn't expect much, to be honest, but I knew I had to start somewhere. So, I looked down the path and told myself that I would run to the end of the bend.

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I know, that's a laughable distance for most people but I honestly haven't run in at least a year. Let me set the bar low for a few weeks. I started off, and honestly thought that I wouldn't make it. I was close to wheezing and felt like I was just running in place [after bike speeds, jogging is horrendously slow]. But I got down to the end, in 34 seconds [ahhh former me would say that's so pathetic, but I don't care, it's better than nothing!], turned around and walked back to my bike. And did it all over again. I was aiming for ten sets of running and walking. By the fourth, I was ready to give up. But I knew that was just a mental block and had to power through it.

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Look, I'm running! And showing off my tattoos!
Something happened during my eighth run. Two somethings, actually. Suddenly, I wasn't feeling so horrible. I was running with much better form, wasn't getting winded, and even completed it in under 30 seconds for the first time. This is it, I thought to myself. I knew I could retrain my body. Unfortunately, on the reverse side of that feeling... my ankle was starting to hurt. A lot. Whereas interval #4 almost made me stop because my mind was telling me I couldn't do this... I had to stop after interval #8 because I knew my ankle wouldn't hold up for much longer. It was frustrating, because I had just come upon that great feeling of being able to do this... but I also knew that my ankle would be better for stopping. Plus, I still had the bike ride home to consider!

I decided to take the bike path south towards home this time, instead of just hopping back on the road [you will not get me to admit that I was avoiding the other side of that hill]. I really did need to figure out where the bike path goes through my own city, and it would probably be a longer ride than the two mile direct route I took on the way there. Well, that worked out so-and-so [and there was an even tougher hill on this route!]. Because the bike path's largely unfinished, most of it diverted to random back streets with signs marking the direction to go to pick it back up. But before that, I did come across this long bridge:

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And discovered some paths leading off of the trail where you could go explore.

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I was worried that the bike path would drop me off in some unknown area once it was in my city. Not that getting lost in my city is really an option, since it's [literally] one square mile, but I'm not really familiar with anywhere other than my neighborhood. Luckily, it actually dropped me off in a spot my mom and I had driven through just two days ago, and right off of a street I know very well, so I was able to find my way home with no problem. Also, my house sits on the very top of another steep hill and I was going to let myself walk up it, since I accomplished so much already, but... I realized that was silly. Why let myself celebrate by being lazy? That's no way to get my body to change! So I biked up it, and I'm sure that I'll be better off having done that.

My ankle's a little sore, but I put some ice on it [well, frozen vegetables. Note to self: get some ice packs] and I'm sure it'll be fine soon. Actually, it's been almost two hours since I got back now and it's feeling almost entirely better already. Still, I'm glad that I didn't push it. After all, I still have my 30 day shred workout to do tonight!

Totals
Cycling: 25 minutes
Running: 4 minutes [hahaha]
Walking: 10 minutes

Tree climbing!

Yesterday, my schedule was thrown off a little [well okay, a lot] but that's what the weekend is for, right? It was all for the best, however, as I went to my mom's house and got a ton of gardening supplies [including half a bag of fertilizer! Score!]. Before we left, I also took time to wander around and visit my favourite childhood haunts. The land is largely overgrown, something that might be a summer project for me [my mom's trying to get the house into selling condition, and having acres covered by wild plants and vines doesn't help], since nobody's really taken care of the far back since my father died.

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Those are kiwi vines... and there's a hammock somewhere underneath them. That *used* to be our sledding hill.
Worse, my father decided to plant some bamboo when I was about 8 years old, and it's just grown free and untended since his death when I was fifteen.

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Know any New England businesses that are looking for new bamboo sources?
But, at the far back of the property still stand my two favourite trees for climbing.

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I once got my foot stuck in the one on the left... for a half hour.
I couldn't just let my visit go without getting up in one of these. So, thanks to my new arm muscles, I pulled myself up and got myself covered in sap [no, really].

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What a surprise, more bamboo.
I didn't climb too high because I'm still cautious of my ankle, but it was nice to see that I still remembered exactly where to put my feet and pull myself up with my arms. And, of course, it was great to see that my body was up to the challenge! I hope that next time I visit [well, not this Sunday for Easter dinner, but next casual visit], I'll climb even higher. Hmm, how would one count tree climbing in their activity log?

Then, I got to dig through my mom's old workout clothes and pick out some running pants and on the way home, we [my mom and I] stopped at a sports store so I could get some new clothes. I wasn't terribly impressed with the selection, but I managed to get a new sports bra, one pair of running pants, and a new pair of cross training shoes. We also went next door to the department store and I got a new blender and food processor, it is WONDERFUL and I can't wait to try out those black bean brownies again with a properly operating blender. I'm thinking I'll make them for an Easter dessert, but I'm going to try them out first just in case.

Anyway, once I got home, it was late and I was behind on everything for the day [water, food, exercise, you name it]. I made a quick smoothie to tide me over until dinner was ready [and to test out the new blender, obviously!], made dinner, waited for it to digest, and then did day one of 30 day shred. With the new sports bra. Oh wow, I'd forgotten what it's like to have a brand new, not-worn-out sports bra. So supportive, no jiggle! The exercise itself also went well, I could definitely feel it in my abs when I woke up this morning. Now, the sun's finally come out and it's getting warmer outside so I'm going to put on my walking shoes and go run errands around the neighborhood. It's supposed to stay pretty chilly today, though, so I might stick with indoor exercises the rest of the day. [Where's that nice weather we had two weeks ago, New England?] The rest of the week is supposed to be MUCH nicer so I'm planning my runs and rides for those days. If I feel like going for a run later today, however, I won't say no...

March totals, April goals


March totals:
7730 calories burned working out
1503 cardio minutes
27 days in which I exercised
9 pounds lost

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Look at all those days I worked out! A sprained ankle can't hold me back!

Sadly, pretty much no inches lost anywhere… which might be due to my faulty measuring at the beginning of the month. I did lose an inch in my biceps [which makes sense with all the pushups I've been doing!] and half an inch in my neck. But, LOOK AT THAT POUNDS LOST NUMBER. I'm so close to the double digits, and my 5%, that I can feel it. I'm especially happy because up until this morning, the scale wasn't budging a fraction of a pound. [Yes, I am a daily weigher. No, I don't fret about it. I just like to know where I stand throughout the week.] And then suddenly, 1.4 pounds gone. Yay! I was aiming for 8 pounds lost this month, hoping for 10... I fell right in the middle and I am more than happy with that.

And now, we greet April. I have some new things I'm going to be putting into motion this month. Some of this is because my ankle is finally better. Some of this is just… because. So, fitness goals for the month:

  • I will start counting points [or PointsPlus or whatever] again. I haven't been, I've just been keeping track of my calories/fat/etc. content on sparkpeople, but I'm not sure I'm doing it to the best results. I generally stay at the lower end of my calorie range [although I do have a high day here and there] and I'm worried that maybe it's just not enough? I honestly have no idea what amount of calories is most beneficial to me, because I've never counted calories before… but I know what points target works for me. [I unintentionally starved my body before, while I was doing Weight Watchers, because I was working a very active job and not taking that into account in my daily food target. And then couldn't figure out why I didn't lose any weight for six months straight! So I'm conscious of that possibly happening again, and try to avoid it.] Also, I eat a LOT of vegetables and wouldn't it be great to not have to count them? Anyway, I'll give points a month to try it out and then, if that's not the best, I'll try Core [or Simply Filling or whatever it's called these days, I haven't been to a meeting in four years so I have no idea]. Core is ultimately my best technique, especially considering all the vegetables I eat, but I don't know if I'm ready for it just yet.
  • I will do 30 Day Shred for the month. This is my favourite workout DVD to kickstart me into those upper levels of intense cardio. I couldn't have done it a month ago [even excluding the ankle], but I did a trial run on Thursday and I made it through. Although it wasn't exactly easy, it wasn't impossible either. And I wasn't so sore the next day that I couldn't walk, which is an improvement from January's attempt to do it!
  • I will start running. I've been running a tiny bit, sprints for a minute or so around my house, but for some reason I'm incapable of extending my legs and running with good form in the house. I don't know why, I just notice that I'm doing it all wrong but can't help it. So, now that it's finally supposed to start getting warm again, I'll be taking my feet outside to the bike path. I'm setting myself a low bar of twice a week to start. I'll probably expand this to three times a week in the middle of the month, if all goes well. [Hmm, this means that I'll have to go out and buy new workout clothes that are suitable for being seen outside in.]
  • I will also take out my bike at least two times a week, especially for "pleasure rides" [not biking to a destination, like the grocery store or something, but just as a means of getting out and exploring the area]. I love my bike, and can't believe that I went from riding it 30 miles a day, every day to not even glancing at it since September. Okay, some of that's because Rhode Island is not a bike friendly area and the roads are especially unsafe during the winter, which is a huge change from Chicago, but I abandoned it even before winter hit [not that winter ever really hit, in my opinion, considering how mild it was this year]. I love my bike and want to get back up to the mileage I was averaging in Chicago, even if that means riding the bike trail from end to end multiple times a day [the bike path's supposed to eventually run 40 miles but right now, only 11 of it is finished].
  • Yoga, yoga, yoga. I'll write a full entry about yoga soon but let's just say, I don't do it nearly as often as I should. And I have no excuse other than laziness, because I actually love it! So, I'm aiming to do yoga three times a week. Before I hurt my ankle, I'd finally reached [again] my goal of getting my heels to touch the floor during downward facing dog. But now, I don't want to stress my ankle too much so I'm not pushing towards that, and my heels are staying a good inch or so off the ground. I want to get back to where I was by the end of the month.
  • Also, I will be upping my kettlebell weight as soon as I can get my hands on a new one. I hope to be up to 15 pounds by the end of the month.
  • This isn't really fitness related but I'm going to put it here anyway. I can finally start my garden! I'm actually going over to my mom's this afternoon to gather gardening supplies [nobody's touched them since my dad died], so hopefully tomorrow will find me out in my yard, toiling away. SO EXCITED! Fresh vegetables [and fruit, if I'm lucky] from my own yard, all summer long? Yes please! Hmm, I should find that list I made of what seeds to buy… Anyway, I'm not expecting a huge yield this summer since I'm very much out of practice with gardening [we had a garden in our backyard in Chicago, but my housemates mostly took care of it] but… at least it'll be an attempt. And practice for next year. I know things in theory, we'll just see if I can put them into use.
So, April looks like it'll be an exciting and productive month if I stick to all of this. March was sort of my trial run, figuring things out and experimenting, and now I'm ready to kick it up a notch.