Friday, November 5, 2010

It's All About "I"

So, I recently took an online self assessment that coincided with People Skills training that I took today at San Francisco State as part of a professional development course offered through CSU system. The assessment ranked participants on one of four behavioral styles: 1)  dominant, 2) interactive, 3) compliant and 4) steady.

My results showed me scoring literally as high as you can in one behavioral style. For those of you who work closely with me currently and those who know me the longest, it's probably pretty easy to figure me out. But, just for fun, here are the four brief summaries of the beharioral styles*.  See if you can find yourself in these. But, more importantly (hint, hint), see if you can find me:

Dominant Style
Dominants are time-sensitive; so don’t waste their time. Be organized and get to the point. Give them relevant information and options, with probabilities of success. Give them written details to read at their leisure – all on a single page. The Dominant Styles are goal-oriented, so appeal to their sense of accomplishment. Stroke their egos by supporting their ideas and acknowledge their power and prestige. Let the D Style call the shots. If you disagree, argue with facts, not feelings. In groups, allow them to have their say because they are not the type who will take a back seat to others.

Interactive Style (I)
Interactive Styles thrive on personal recognition, so pour it on sincerely. Support their ideas, goals, opinions, and dreams. Try not to argue with their pie-in-the-sky visions; get excited about them. The I Styles are social-butterflies, so be ready to flutter around with them. A strong presence, stimulating and entertaining conversation, jokes, and liveliness will win them over. They are people-oriented, so give them time to socialize. Avoid rushing into tasks. With the Interactive Styles, in general, be interested in them.

Steady Style (S)
Steady Styles are relationship-oriented and want warm and fuzzy relationships, so take things slow, earn their trust, support their feelings, and show sincere interest. Talk in terms of feelings, not facts. The S Styles don't want to ruffle feathers. They want to be assured that everyone will approve of them and their decisions. Give them time to solicit co-workers' opinions. Never back a Steady Style into a corner. It is far more effective to apply warmth to get this chicken out of its egg than to crack the shell with a hammer. With the Steady Style, in general, be non-threatening and sincere.

Compliant Style (C)
Compliants are time-disciplined, so be sensitive to their schedules. They need details, so give them data. They are task-oriented; so don't expect to become their friend before working with them. Friendship may develop later, but, unlike the Interactive Styles, it is not a prerequisite. Support the Compliant Styles in their organized, thoughtful approach to problem solving. Be systematic, logical, well prepared, and exact with them. Give them time to make decisions and work independently. The Compliant Styles like to be complimented on their brainpower, so recognize their contributions accordingly. With the Compliant Styles, in general, be thorough, well prepared, detail-oriented, business-like, and patient.

Okay, so, what do you think my dominant behavioral style is?  Drumroll please.....

Seriously, I scored so high at the top of the chart of an Interactive that it's not even funny. Well, actually it is. And, honestly, it's why the blog format I chose to keep me motivated on my weight loss goal has worked so well for me. I'm a people pleaser, plain and simple. I need my little bits of encouragement. My star stickers and applause at my Weight Watchers meetings for every weight loss milestone. The "Atta Girl's" I've been thriving off, thanks to all of you who have been supporting me during my 8 months of weight loss. And, in turn, I enjoy giving the "Atta Girls" right back to my "girls" who are battling the bulge right alongside me.

It's the energy of the interaction that keeps me going. But, it's also the same social tendency that had me tipping the scales in the first place!

Perhaps the funniest part of today's session was when the instructor showed us four comic strips. One of the comic strips featured was one my co-worker was convinced was indicative of my Interactive style. It was a comic that showed a woman with stacks of sandwiches on the counter all around her. In the comic, she shares with the man -- presumably her husband -- "Aren't you pleased? I made you a sandwich for every day of the year!"

My colleague said that's the Interactive Style because she's a people pleaser. In her defense, others in the room agreed. However, I argued that the Interactive was the next comic over; the one with the person saying, "Wow, it says it's new and improved, it must be great!"

When the instructor shared with us what I knew, that the sandwich-maker was the "Steady" personality style, she asked for an "Interactive" to share why this wasn't indicative of their style. Promptly, I raised my hand and said, "An Interactive would NEVER take the time to make all of those sandwiches!" The leader, an Interactive herself, said, "Exactly! An Interactive would say, 'Heck with that, let's go out to dinner!'"

And therein lies the explanation of why my tendencies for socialization and eating out got me into my weight gain mess originally. And, it's also why the blog format for my personality style has helped me take the weight off.

Immediately after the training session, I got in the car to battle the traffic to head back to Benicia for my son's soccer team's final practice, which is traditionally the parents vs. kids soccer game. And, yes, as Interactives tend to be, I was a little late. About 15 minutes, to be exact. I'll blame it on the Bay Area traffic, but my colleague knows we were also roaming around San Francisco State in search of the perfect snack and beverage for our car ride home. A pork bun and large Diet Coke later, we braved the traffic and I arrived about 15 minutes late to the parents vs. kids soccer game.

I was so ready for the competition. My husband worried that I would land myself into the ER. I assured him I would be fine and requested, as a good Interactive should, "Please take pictures for my blog."

Not to brag (yeah, right), I scored the first goal of the game. It was definitely a team effort, but I sealed the deal and did a somewhat reserved victory dance that, nevertheless, mortified my 10-year-old son. It was obvious to me that my Interactive, people-pleasing self was very much satisfied by my success. But, we were dealing with 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds and I knew it was more important that they win.

That didn't stop me from assisting in one more goal for the parents. I kicked the ball to the mid section just before the goal (don't know the right terminology, but those details aren't important), at which point one of the father's of one of the kids headed it into the goal. Nice!

But, the kids came back with three goals, two of which were scored by our son, Will. Guess that's the next best thing to doing it yourself, right?

Our son attributes my goal-scoring skills to him. I see it a little bit differently:-)

So, the last couple of weeks have been tougher to stay on track on my diet, primarily because of Halloween and social engagements over the past two weekends. I've gained .5 pounds over the past two weeks, leaving me with three pounds more to go before I reach my 40 pound weight loss goal.

Until next week,

* See how compliant I'm being by noting the following attribution: Copyright © 2010 Alessandra & Associates, Inc.?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Sometimes I find myself getting a little nostalgic. This week has been one of those times for a number of reasons.

First, it's my mom's birthday tomorrow (today by the time many of you read this). As most of my blog followers know, my mom passed away in January after a very long and difficult illness. We took the kids up to Grass Valley last weekend to leave flowers at the spot where we scattered her ashes. Grass Valley was one of her favorite places, and for many years it was her childhood home. She still has relatives there, including her cousin and her husband, as well as her aunt and uncle. We spent the afternoon with them, visited the site, enjoyed lunch and reminisced.

It was the first time we visited the spot with the kids. It rained, which was a bummer but also fitting, so we couldn't stay long. We did stay long enough for the kids (and my husband) to enjoy the Halloween Oreo cookies that my mom's cousin brought up with us, along with a quart of milk. Being so close to my 40-pound weight loss goal, I didn't partake in the indulgence.

I took what is one of my all-time favorite pictures of the kids that afternoon. They had Oreo cookies -- with bright orange frosting -- stuck in their teeth, so I asked them to smile with their mouths closed. I love this picture and hope mom was smiling down on us as she watched the kids enjoying their cookies, milk and each other after they each laid a flower down for her.

I've also reconnected this week on Facebook with several of my elementary school-aged friends, something  prompted by me being "tagged" in a 5th grade class picture from John Cabrillo Elementary School in Sacramento. The original post, which was made by a classmate who I am now friends with on Facebook, had "dunno" as the caption for me, something I gave him a bit of a hard time about given I thought I was somewhat more memorable than that.

He promptly told me that he just couldn't remember my name, but remembered that I was Christen's friend. Of couse he did. All the boys knew Christen, who was my best friend from Kindergarten through high school. Sometimes (actually a lot of times) I felt very much in her shadow, especially because a lot of the boys had crushes on her. I distinctly remember my mom telling me -- in elementary school, no less -- that the boys like her because she has "bedroom eyes." She added that my eyes are more "Let's go out and play basketball" eyes. I recognize that it's a bit of an unusual comment for a mom to say to her fifth grade daughter, but she was right.

In this fifth grade class picture. I'm the one in the yellow snoopy shirt on the far right in the second row. Christen is in the fourth row, smack dab in the middle. I have to say, it was probably not only the eyes, but the amazing feathered hair that caught the boys' attention.
So it struck me funny when my fellow elementary school buddy and my new Facebook buddy, Annette, today commented online how she remembers she and I would get in trouble because we wouldn't go to the library with the girls, but would instead go play football with the boys.

Now I will let you in on a little secret. While I was very much a genuine tomboy growing up, by fifth grade, I believe my primary motivation for playing football with the boys may have indeed been the possibility of an accidental tackle now and then. But I digress.

So as a tribute to my childhood and my week's walk down memory land, I would like to list my Top 10 favorite memories from my youth:
  1. Hello Kitty
  2. Trading stickers
  3. The ice cream truck
  4. Atari
  5. Hopscotch with chicken rings (do you know, my son doesn't even know what chicken rings are?? I guess they use rocks now).
  6. Must-have accessory? Comb in the back pocket!
  7. Roller Skating at Cal Skate (and, yes, the boys would ALWAYS ask Christen to couples skate, while I stood on the sidelines)
  8. My friend Christen's car, a red VW bug convertable with a black top, broke down on the way to high school on what was "Nerd" dress up day. She dressed up; I didn't. She ended up having to get out in traffic and push the car (with taped, horn-rimmed glasses, plaid skirt, knee high socks and all), while I steered us to safety.
  9. Going to my very first concert, Wham!, with Christen and our moms
  10. The day my longest friend and neighbor, Barbara, came to my house after school with one side of her formerly long hair buzzed with a cross shaved into it. The other half remained long. She was in high school at the time, and she'd had a dream about this particular style and decided to go ahead and do it without getting permission from her parents. She asked me to come home with her because she didn't think her mom would yell at her if I was there. It was her parents' anniversary. With a bouquet of flowers in her hand and me by her side, poor Barbara opened the front door to a very surprised mother who very promptly and sternly asked me to go home. That was the only time Dorothea ever asked me to leave their home.
To all my childhood friends: Love you guys and am so glad for Facebook to have a chance to reconnect with you.

To my mom: Happy Birthday and I miss you terribly.

To my faithful followers of my journey to lose 40 pounds by my 40th Birthday(ish): I am pleased to report that I'm down another pound this week, thanks to Weight Watchers and putting in some more time at the gym. This brings my total weight loss to 37.5 pounds.

2.5 pounds to go! Here's this week's picture:

Until Next Week,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better Late Than Never

For those of you who know me, you'll know that I tend to like to be fashionably late. Sometimes, I'm really really fashionable. This started early in life for me. I will have to ask Melody, my mom's cousin who was 14 years old at my birth, to confirm my facts because she likes to remind me of them, but I was born nearly two weeks past my due date. Melody knows because she stayed with my parents for a week or so near the anticipated time of my birth, and she was so disappointed that I decided not to be born until after she had already gone back home. I must have hit the womb-snooze button just a few too many times. It gets me every time!

Little chubby "Jen Jen," as my Grandma used to call me, at three months old.

Well, as most of you who read my blog anticipate April 15th as tax day, for the last couple of years, I've opted to file an extension, allowing me to work down to the wire and submit our taxes by October 15th.  Well, part of this reason is that for some godforsaken reason, we got hit hard last year on our taxes and currently still owe $800 to the IRS (we're on the lovely payment plan). Well, I wasn't in a big hurry to find out how things would go this year, so I lived in the Land of Denial for a few extra months.

This morning, my husband and I were greeted with an early morning e-mail from our accountant. Good news, our taxes are finally filed. Bad news, we now owe just over $3,000 more in taxes between the State and Federal governments. And frankly, I'm not even sure how that happened as my colleagues and I took a 10 percent paycut with mandatory furloughs last year. Talk about adding insult to injury!

This fiscal fiasco caused my husband and me to reminisce about the days, pre-children, when we lived in my grandparents' old house on V Street in Sacramento just after we were married. My dad was the landlord and we only paid $500/month in rent for a cute little 2 bedroom, one bath home. We both worked in media, and had 2:30 - 11:30 p.m. shifts. (He was a media analyst at a news monitoring service and I was a videotape editor for the 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. newscasts at the CBS affiliate.)

Jen and Christian in the "good 'ol days" honeymooning in Hawaii

My husband and I agree that this shift was the best we've ever had. We'd wake up at 10:00 a.m.. Go out to lunch. (Our favorite lunch hotspot was Original Pete's on J Street, where we would order the lunch special that included a side salad and personal pizza, for which we would always order a side of Ranch dressing to dip it in.) We would then go to work, get home at around midnight, and watch David Letterman and Conan O'Brien before heading to bed at around 2:00 a.m. Then we'd start all over again the next day.

In those days, we could carry on a conversation at the dinner table without being interrupted. We could go to the movies at a moment's notice. I had the metabolism to support my pizza and Ranch dressing addiction. And we always got a tax refund.

Of course, it goes without saying that we wouldn't give up our two beautiful children, hectic lifestyle that comes with being working parents, and toy-strewn hardwood floors that so desperately need refinishing for the life we led back then.

But, I wouldn't mind getting that metabolism back.

However, I will say, that today (and featured in the picture below) I wore the very same skirt that I purchased to wear to my bridal shower more than 14 years ago. It's a size 6.

Take that, Internal Revenue Service! I'm now 3.5 pounds away from my 40-pound weight loss goal.

And yes, I'm going to miss my new 40-pound weight loss deadline of October 15th. But as Melody can attest, I will get there....eventually!

Until Next Time,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weigh It Forward

When I originally thought of the concept of creating my Jen's 40 by 40 blog, my single intent was to provide a venue that would hold me publicly accountable to stick to my diet. At the time, I couldn't think of any other way to motivate myself. Turns out, I was right. And now I'm only five pounds away from my 40-pound weight loss goal.

But what has proven to be the most surprising part of my blubber battle on the blogosphere is how many other people it has motivated to battle their own bulge.

I received quite a surprise last week when my friend Katie, who had just celebrated her 30th birthday, posted her own blog link to my Facebook page. I originally turned to Katie, who lives in Portland, when I first thought of starting my blog back in February. She had been blogging for a while at that time, and was able to give me some pointers on getting my own blog started. She's been a faithful follower of my efforts, and has been one of my greatest cheerleaders.

Her blog post for last week was entitled "30 by 30." Inspired by my own effort, she decided to begin following Weight Watchers and started her own exercise program. By her 30th birthday (she makes me feel so old), she had been successful in losing 32 pounds! It was amazing to see her before and after picture and it literally made my day.

But then it got better. I posted her blog link on my own Facebook page. And my friend Patricia commented that she's hoping to have a similar story to share by her December 31st birthday. Turns out Patricia, who also followed my lead and enrolled in Weight Watchers, has already lost four inches off of her waist and is down a pant size. Way to go Patricia!

Then a colleague of mine, Kay, commented on my Facebook page, "She's not the only one who was inspired by your efforts. Your blog was very instrumental in my getting on the weight control bandwagon." Kay, by the way, is looking fabulous and just has this great glow about her now.

And then, another colleague of Kay's and mine chimed in saying that both Kay and I have motivated her to get healthier.

In addition to these fabulous women, my sister-in-law, Cheryl, who began going to Weight Watchers and hiking regularly after following my 40 by 40 efforts, recently e-mailed me to let me know she has lost 18 pounds!

It occurred to me that, much like the movie "Pay it Forward," I had started my own "Weigh it Forward" effort.  It's been quite an unexpected outcome, and I guess that's why it feels so good. Almost as good as fitting into a Size 8 again.

And I have not doubt that Katie, Patricia, Kay and Cheryl will also inspire others and "Weigh it Forward" themselves. Way to go ladies, and keep up the great work! You're all helping to keep me motivated to shake these final five pounds.

Here's this week's picture:

Until next time,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

National Imperfection Day

In my mind I started with one concept for today's blog post. But a dinner discussion this evening got me thinking about another.

My husband, who teaches a fourth/fifth-grade combo class at an elementary school jokingly shared with our son that he used him as an example in class today. Apparently, today is National Imperfection Day, which prompted my husband to assign his students a journal project in which they list one of their imperfections, embrace it, realize we're not perfect, and then also discuss how they can improve.

As an example, he shared that our son Will, a fifth grader, has this really unusual ability to get a "milk-mustache" every single time he takes a sip of something. The crazy thing is, he even gets a milk (or punch) mustache after drinking out of a straw! I honestly don't know how he does it, and we have a running joke between the two of us about "having a lot of work to do before prom."

Got Milk?

I began to realize my son's tendency to get beverages and food all over his face was somewhat unique to him when I volunteered in his class a couple of years ago. It was a class party and all the kids were eating cupcakes that I made. At some point in the party, I notice chocolate frosting all over Will's face. I promptly grabbed the napkins to pass along to the class, thinking all of them would need to tidy up. But it wasn't long before I realized that my child was the ONLY one in the class that had chocolate all over his face.

We laughed about his tendency, and it became funnier when we realized that Will actually knows a few of my husband's students from various athletic teams he's played on and also from his new role as sax player in the Benicia Elementary School Band.

Our dinner discussion continued as my husband shared with us his own greatest imperfection, which he also shared with his class: Procrastination. My husband has very many strengths. Very  many. In fact, he's drying our daughter's hair after making dinner and giving her a bath, just so I can work on my blog. I will forever appreciate all of the wonderful characteristics of my husband. Truly, I will.

But sometimes, his procrastination drives me crazy!  If you know us well enough, you'll know that my husband has been working on his master's degree ever since our son was three years old. Now our son is 10 years old, has a larger shoe size than me, and will be towering over me likely before he turns 11. And yet we wait, as we have for four years, for my husband to get inspired to finish his thesis. The good news is, he only has until Spring before the classes he took before have to be retaken. It seems to be motivating him, as looming deadlines always do, and for that we are grateful.

So then I asked my husband what my greatest imperfection is. After a short pause, he explained that I have a tendency to let things go and go (like clutter in our bedroom or kitchen), and then all of a sudden I get fed up and frustrated and want to tend to it immediately. He's right about that, but I argued that at least I get things done....eventually. I remember a college roommate of mine commenting how funny it was that I would vaccuum at midnight once in a while, a practice that would occur after I ultimately got fed up with not tending to it earlier.

Actually, I can think of greater faults of mine and told my husband that. He eventually came up with many more as our son chuckled and our three-year-old daughter Piper sucked her thumb. We all agreed that Piper is too young to have an imperfection, but thought perhaps her biggest one was not being able to decide on a Halloween costume. Her latest idea is a toilet.

The truth is, I actually kind of like what I husband calls my biggest imperfection. It's what got me motivated to take my weight loss journey public and start my blog. I'd had it with my escalating weight and decided in an instant one morning last February what I had to do. And shortly after, I had a logo, started a blog, went back to Weight Watchers and began actually making use of my gym membership.

And now, I'm down to only 5.5 pounds away from my weight loss goal of 40 pounds! How's that for a National Imperfection Day celebration?

Here's this week's picture!

Until Next Week,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trying to Get the Feeling

If there were an award for the worst planned month, I think my husband and I would win it. Don't get me wrong, I loved taking three trips in a four week period, but holy cow, did it do a number on our August budgeting, not to mention my diet.

First, there was Disneyland with the kids. Next, we did Santa Cruz and Carmel for my birthday weekend. Then, as I mentioned and was eagerly anticipating in my last post, Christian and I went to Las Vegas for our first real adult vacation since our pre-schooler Piper was born.

I did my best to prepare myself for the big trip to Sin City. I worked out extra prior to the big trip. I even packed my workout clothes in the new Samsonite luggage I got as a birthday gift. I packed two days worth of workout clothes, just in case I got motivated two times out of three days to hit the Mirage Casino and Hotel gym.

But everything about Las Vegas screams indulgence. And, honestly, what's the point in going there if you're not going to indulge a little bit? From the Wheel of Fortune slot machines to the yard-long frozen alcoholic beverages, to the all-you-can-eat buffets and the amazing restaurants, it would have been a sin NOT to embibe in Sin City.

So I did.

We went to one of my favorite places -- Fat Tuesday -- merely minutes after our Southwest Airlines plane touched down and checked into the hotel. Amaretto and Pineapple was my yard-long drink of choice.

By the way, if you think THAT is bad, there was a big guy in line in front of us literally strapping on to himself a 100-ounce container of some frosty adult libation. The contraption had a strap around his neck as well as his waist! I've never seen anything like it and don't even want to think about what the Weight Watchers points value of his drink would have been!

We spent our first night walking the Las Vegas Strip and taking it all in. We saw the water show in front of the Bellagio...

...and met one of many Elvises lined up and ready to pose for photos in exchange for tips.

We ended up at the House of Blues, one of my favorite restaurants, for dinner and enjoyed live music and warm spinach dip with house made kettle chips and pasta with shrimp in a cajun Alfredo Sauce. It was clear the weekend wasn't going to bode well for my diet. But, by that point, I wasn't too worried.

The following day, we spent as much time as we could at the Mirage pool in 107-degree weather. I've honestly never seen anything like the pool at the Mirage. It was like a giant fraternity party with probably 150 people in the pool, many with adult beverages in hand, simply trying to stay cool and have some fun in the sun. We lasted just about an hour out there until it was time for a nap (Christian) and pedicure (me).

With newly painted toes and freshly rested eyes, Christian and I departed for what was to be one of the highlights of the trip -- the Barry Manilow concert at the Paris Casino. Christian sprung for third-row seats as a birthday present to me, and it was absolutely fantastic! I love Barry and have been a big fan since I was a teenager. I've seen him several times in concert and even met him once when I was 19. But, I've never seen him from the third row. It was a blast!


Afterwards we went to Tao, a restaurant in the Venetian. I love Tao! If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it. After our delicious dinner of sushi, Pad Thai noodles, Coconut Shrimp and mini donuts with three dipping sauces (caramel, chocolate, and white chocolate), we decide to head back to our hotel room. We toyed with hitting the Tao Nightclub, which is a hot spot for celebrities, but it was 12:30 a.m. and this 40-year-old just didn't quite feel like the night club scene. Instead, we went back to the room and I crocheted a hat that I had sold on my etsy shop that weekend. I understand how completely lame that sounds, but my blog is all about being honest, so there.

Our last day had us nearly out of spending money, so we decided to get yet another yard-long drink and hit the movies. We saw "The Other Guys" with Will Ferrell and Mark Walberg. Seriously funny. There is  a scene in the movie where they end up in Las Vegas and Mark Walberg is in the background drinking a yard-long. It was pretty classic.

About an hour before we had to head back to the airport, we decided to hit Margaritaville for a mid-afternoon snack. It wasn't a yard-long, but I enjoyed a modest mango margarita and Christian and I shared nachos, a particular weakness of mine.

I wish there was a way for me to feel the stuffed, heavy, disgusting feeling I feel after eating nachos PRIOR to ordering them. They were good, but during the entire plane ride (and then car ride home from Sacramento to Benicia), I was stuffed. And a little bit disgusted with myself.

As if Las Vegas wasn't enough of a dietary challenge and disruption to my workout and Weight Watchers meeting schedule, I had a last-minute business trip to Seattle that I had to leave for the morning Christian and I got back to Las Vegas. Due to the nature of my work as a fundraiser for a college, I had two receptions and a dinner to attend, all filled with culinary delights and good wine.

As lovely as I find Seattle (and the weather was simply gorgeous), I was so happy to finally get back home to get back on my diet and back on the treadmill! I'm not a very disciplined traveler. I find it nearly impossible to stick with my Weight Watchers program while on the road. And while I always pack my workout clothes with wonderful ambitions about using the hotel gym, I have never once have actually worked out on a business or pleasure trip.

It took me a few days to get back in the swing of things (thus, the missed blog and additional cheating the days after I arrived home). In the words of Barry Manilow, I struggled "Trying to Get the Feeling Again" diet-wise.

I am pleased to report that I have been nachos-free since Las Vegas and am now "back in the saddle" and on a regular workout schedule and back to counting my Weight Watchers points. I am also happy to report that I'm down another 1/2 pounds since my blog post two weeks ago. It's not much, but at least I've taken the weight off that resulted from my jet-setting life in August. That brings my total weight loss to 31 1/2 pounds, which means I have only 8.5 pounds to go until I reach my 40 pound weight loss goal.

Fortunately for me, I don't have any extensive travel plans in my future. Here's this week's picture!

Until next week,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

My highly anticipated 40th birthday occurred last Sunday, August 15th. As those of you who read my last blog, you'll remember that I was granted a two-month extension on my 40-pound weight loss goal, which I originally hoped to have completed by my big day. The new date I've set for myself is October 15th. Given that I now only have nine more pounds to go, I'm fairly certain I'll make that deadline and may in-fact beat it by a couple of weeks. I hope I didn't just jinx myself.

My birthday weekend was a blast! We took the kids to the Santa Cruz area and stayed at my mother-in-law's cabin in Felton. We enjoyed a day at the beach and rode rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

We spent the next day in Carmel followed by a birthday dinner at my favorite restuaurant in the world, Lugano Swiss Bistro in the Barnyard Shopping Center in Carmel Valley. We discovered the restaurant on our first family vacation we took 8 years ago with our son Will, who is now 10. We (probably me more than my husband) fell in love with the place and now go at least one time each year, typically coinciding with my birthday weekend. On a good year, we get down there twice. This trip, I got the honor of wearing the birthday hat and got to kiss the big Swiss cow for good luck. That was a first!

Me with Lugano owner, André Lengacher. I just realized when looking at this picture that the patio table that is just behind us is the table we sat at when Christian and I visited the restaurant for the first time.

As if this wasn't celebration enough, Christian and I depart tomorrow (today, for those reading this on Friday) on our first real vacation alone since Piper was born 3 1/2 years ago. He's taking me to Las Vegas, and surprised me with tickets to see Barry Manilow, who I have adored since I was a teen. I can't wait! I'm hoping for a wonderful, relaxing trip that includes lots of sunbathing by the Mirage pool, froo froo drinks, sleeping in, shopping, dinner at Tao (and possibly a trip to the nightclub to see if we see any celebrities), and, yes, gambling. Wheel of Fortune quarter machine, here I come!

The days prior to my 40th birthday, I did a lot of thinking about my 30's and what I hope my 40's will be like. My 30's were wonderful. We had two children who we both adore. We moved to Benicia, which we really enjoy, and bought a house with a view in a neighborhood we love.

But my 30's were also the most difficult period of my life so far. My mom was diagnosed with dementia when I turned 30, just after Will was born. She so desperately wanted to be a grandmother, but didn't have the chance to have the quality grandmother experience she waited so long for.

Mom holding Will just after he was born.

Me with mom at the Alzheimer's home where she lived for several years. This photo was taken in October 2003 at her birthday celebration, which was just a few months after she moved there.

She passed away earlier this year. Those 9 1/2 years were hard. And dad moved on, and eventually got re-married. And while I'm happy for him, that was hard too. Then my brother was deployed by the Army to Iraq, where he is serving currently. And while things are calmer there than they were at the start of the war, it's still nerve-wracking knowing he's there. That's been hard, but I know he feels good about being there, so it makes it easier.

My hope for my 40's is that it will be a decade of a much healthier lifestyle for me. I hope it's filled with many wonderful family memories with Christian and the kids. It will be a decade that will find us welcoming my brother back home from Iraq, and one that will have us sending Will off to college somewhere, hopefully somewhere close. Both kids will be going through a lot of changes and by the time I'm 50, Piper will be in middle school...oh goodness, I imagine that will be an entirely different blog!

I am also determined not to beat myself up so much in my 40's, and give myself more down time. Sometimes I feel I go, and go, and go....from work, to the gym, to home, to start crocheting to add items to my etsy shop (shameless plug:, to labeling blankets for Project Linus, to etc. etc. Not to mention, squeezing in family time, and going to Will's sporting and school events.

In my 40's, I'm going to cut myself some more slack. For example, I wanted to get a workout in tomorrow morning before heading out to the airport for our Vegas trip. That would have meant lugging Piper to the gym daycare, stopping by Raley's to pick up a prescription, hurrying home to take a shower, dropping off a Project Linus blanket at the local hospital for a teenager who is recovering from being hit by a car, finishing packing, and heading of to the airport. I just got crazy thinking about all that would be involved in trying to accomplish all of these things.

So, my new, mature, 40-year-old self decided while I was running on the treadmill at the gym this evening that I will skip the gym tomorrow morning. Instead, I will take my daughter to Starbuck's for breakfast in the morning, stop by the hospital to drop off the Linus blanket, leisurely pick Will up from school, head home and about 30 minutes later head to the airport with Christian. Whew, I'm calmer just thinking about it.

And if I decide to, I'll use the Mirage gym to workout when we get to Vegas. But, since what happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, I guess I won't be able to tell you if I did or not.

Here's this week's picture, which is not ideal, since I'm freshly sweaty from the gym. But, my more practical 40-year-old side says, it'll be just fine if you all see me in my lycra shorts and sweaty Army shirt.

Until Next Week,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

And She Lived Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, a not-quite-40-year-old Queen named Jennifer traveled with her royal family to a far away land. It is a magical land. There, you can find beautiful princesses and handsome princes. You can meet magical faries and a mouse named Mickey. And soft cuddly characters like Eeyore and a silly old bear named Pooh, who loves to eat hunny and doesn't even stop once to consider the Weight Watchers points value.

They call this land Disneyland. Some call it the Happiest Place on Earth.

After months and months of anticipation, and daily questioning by Princess Piper if the day had come to travel to this far away land, the Royal Family boarded their carriage – a 2008 Toyota Camry.  They drove for miles and miles, stopping occasionally to use the royal throne at the Golden Arches. It really wasn't that royal, but it would do in a pinch.

On these occasional pit stops, King Christian, Prince William and Princess Piper would feast on Chicken Nuggets, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies. But not Queen Jennifer. Instead, she opted for a grilled chicken sandwich without mayonnaise, apple slices and a King Sized Diet Soda.

You see, Queen Jennifer was determined to lose 40 pounds by her 40th birthday. And that birthday, August 15th, was rapidly approaching. So she did everything in her power to try to stick to her diet and exercise plan for this weeklong adventure in this magical land.

She exercised at the gym every day leading up to the trip, and partook in no cheat days because she was saving all of her extra points for the voyage. In her trunk, she packed fancy clothes and practical shoes and even workout clothes, thinking just possibly she would be able to jog around this magical land of Disney each morning.

That silly queen. She thought she would have the energy!

But she quickly learned that a day in the land of Disney would zap every ounce of strength she had. She went to bed each day when the clock struck midnight with throbbing aching feet, only to wake up the following morning at dawn with the same throbbing aching feet.

Princess Piper at the end of a very long day at Disneyland.

It became clear that the exercise strategy was not going to be successful on this voyage. Instead, Queen Jennifer rationalized that the walking all day around this gigantic land and its neighboring land, California Adventure, would be exercise enough.

During the trip, the Queen resisted many of the temptations this land had to offer: freshly baked Churros, Mickey Mouse shaped cookies, and the most delightlfully smelling Kettle Corn that you can imagine. There were fresh beignets in New Orleans Square, corn popped in tomorrow land, and candy so light it was just like cotton. The queen knew that these culinary distractions would only keep her from her goal. So she stuck with her two-point Weight Watchers Almond Sensation Bars for breakfast, did her best to order salads and vegetarian burgers for lunch and dinner, and tried with all her might to ignore the delictible smell of Kettle Corn that seemed to be around each and every corner.

Princess Piper enjoying every bite of the castle cookie she decorated herself

That worked for a couple of days. But then she slipped, ever so slightly. One night, she had a hot fudge sundae. It was good...and worth the points. Another night she convinced King Christian to agree to ordering Spinach Artichoke Dip as an appetizer at dinner at a wonderful little restaurant called the House of Blues. And then there were some other very minor insignificant cheat moments that involved frozen lemonade and a margarita, the queen's particular weakness.

But all-in-all, she did fairly well. Better than many others fared in this far away land.

The Queen and her King, as well as her prince and her princess had such a wonderful time on their journey. It was quite possibly one of the very best vacations they had had. Princess Piper proved to be quite an adventurous little one at her young age of three, which meant the Royal Family could enjoy all of the thrills this land of Disney had to offer.

When the Queen arrived home after a very, very, very long carriage ride heading north in I-5, she collapsed into bed after they arrived back to their castle shortly after midnight, knowing she had to report to her official queen duties at work in just a few short hours. When she arose from her slumber, she decided to step on the scale to see how she was doing. To her great surprise, she learned she had GAINED 7.5 POUNDS!

"Oh shucks," she exclaimed! After all, queens don't curse, you know.

"How in the world could I have gained 7.5 pounds in one week?! " And then she said, "I just wish I had more time to complete my weight loss goal."

And then, the strangest thing happened. The very same Fairy Godmother that Queen Jennifer saw during Breakfast with the Characters at the land of Disney appeared. Sure, it was a little bit weird, given that the Queen Jennifer was all ready to begin her shower and get ready for the day, but she decided to play along.

Cinderella's (and Queen Jennifer's) Fairy Godmother and Prince William at the Breakfast with the Characters in the land of Disney.

The Fairy Godmother said, "I am here to grant you one wish. I know you had a wonderful time in the far away land with your Royal Family and you have a big birthday coming up. So my gift to you is to grant you one wish...any wish you want."

The queen thought and thought. And while a million dollars seemed like a good wish, for the purpose of her blog, Queen Jennifer said:

"I wish I could be granted an extension on losing the remaining weight needed to meet my 40-pound weight loss goal. It's clear that I'm not going to be able to do it by my birthday, even though I've come such a long way."

And just like that, the her wish for a two-month extension was granted. Her Fairy Godmother assured her that all her friends and family members who are following her blog will be proud of her for her accomplishments to date and would continue to cheer her on as she continued her journey to lose the remaining weight she needed to lose 40 pounds prior to her new deadline: October 15th.

Queen Jennifer was so relieved. And as her week went on, and the water retention resulting from the trip to Disneyland and her increased sodium intake from eating out every day subsided, her weight went down and down.

And as of this writing, she was back down to 154.5 pounds -- 12.5 pounds shy from her goal of 142 pounds and only .5 pounds above her weight from her last royal blog post two weeks ago.

Despite a slight gain, Queen Jennifer knew that she would, indeed, live happily ever after.

Here is this week's picture:

Until Next Week,

Queen Jennifer

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Bum Deal

I must tell you about a real milestone I hit at the gym tonight. I started off on the elliptical trainer, on the "fat burner" setting for my age and weight. I did that at level 16 (out of 20) for 33 minutes. After that, I rowed for 15 minutes on the rowing machine while I kept my eyes open for a treadmill machine that I could snag to finish my workout with a one-mile jog. It was a particularly popular night for treadmills.

At the gym I go to, there are approximately 16 treadmill machines that line the room in an L shape. Six of them are in the front of the room, right in front of the front window. The remaining 10 treadmills line the side of the room so the walkers'/joggers' rear ends face the wall.

Immediately behind the six window-facing, on-display-for-all-to-see treadmills is a line of two recumbant bikes and four elliptical trainers. Behind those are a slew of exercise bikes, rowing machines, stairmasters and some elliptical-looking machines that I have never tried, but seem to involve a hybrid of running and cross-country skiing.

Whenever I'm on the elliptical trainer, my favorite machine, I can't help but notice the backsides of all of the walkers and joggers on those six treadmills in the front of the room. After all, there isn't much to look at, except for the television screens displaying one of many barbecue cookoffs on the Food Network or the KFC World Cup Women's softball game.

There's the little old lady that is dressed in her street clothes walking on low speed at no incline. And the  40-something-year-old guy who runs super fast in his short shorts. There are moms like me trying to shed some extra weight walking at a fast pace on an incline in their capri workout pants and a long t-shirt to cover their somewhat jiggly bum. And, of course, there's the 20-something-aged girl with her blond hair in a ponytail, iPod strapped to her arm, jogging away with just a hint of a glow and not an ounce of fat on her perfectly taut body. Boy, do I hate her!

I always wondered why anyone would ever choose one of those treadmill machines in the front row. The only redeeming quality of their location is they are immediately behind the television screens so you can read the closed captioning better if you don't have a headset that can tune into a radio frequency to hear the audio.

Needless to say, since starting to work out at the gym four months ago, I have done absolutely everything I can to avoid ever being in the front row of treadmills. So as I was rowing on the rowing machine this evening, I was praying and praying that one of the other treadmills on the side of the room would open up so I could jog without anyone seeing my rear. Don't get me wrong, it's much better than it used to be. There was a time when I would jog and it would literally take my bum a few strides to catch up with the rest of me! Now, it seems to "hold its own" and keep up with my other body parts, which is definitely progress.

After I finished my 15 minutes of rowing, the only open treadmills were in the front of the gym. I had to make a big decision. Do I stick with my plan to jog a mile, or do I chicken out and go home 10 minutes early?

This would be a really lame blog post if I chickened out, and I knew it. So, I stepped right onto the second treadmill from the left in the front of the room, right next to the 40-something-year-old man running in his short shorts. I pushed start, and 5.0 for speed and ran. I worried about my backside being on display, but I tried to keep my focus on my iPod tunes and keeping in stride with mister short-shorts. I jogged for 12 minutes, exactly a mile. And I didn't die. And nobody laughed. At least not that I saw.

Just as exciting as my exercise breakthrough, I lost 1.5 pounds this week! This brings my total weight loss to 28 pounds. I've got 12 more to go to reach my goal.

Here's this week's picture:

And since I haven't posted it in a while, here's my pre-diet photo, taken at a Project Linus event on February 20th of this year. I feel like an entirely different person!

We are taking the kids to Disneyland next week, so my next blog post will be in two weeks. Hopefully I'll have double the results!

Until then,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Non-Scale Victory

I have been the model Weight Watcher this week. More motivated than ever to reach my 40 lb. weight loss goal by my 40th birthday (which, by the way is exactly one month from today), I religiously went to the gym every day this past week, except for Sunday, which I spent fishing for 7 hours with my son. And honestly, since he kept wanting to check to see if his bait was still on the hook every 5 minutes, the amount of time I spent re-casting for him probably ended up being a pretty good workout.

So you can only imagine my frustration when stepping on the scale this morning only to find I had not lost one single ounce. Not one!

I thought back to Tuesday's Weight Watchers meeting when Norma, our group leader, discussed our topic of the week: NSVs. NSVs are Non-Scale Victories, which Weight Watchers says show you're living more healthfully. "They're momentum-savers when the numbers on the scale stall," the cover of this week's hand-out says.

I had certainly stalled, so I decided to take matters into my own hands today and enjoy my own NSV. It started with a call from work to my 10-year-old son, Will.

Me: "Will, after work I want to go to the mall and buy a new pair of jeans. Will you come with me and take photos for my blog?"

Will: "Awww."

Me: "Oh, come on, I'll get you a treat."

Will: "What kind?"

Me: "A pretzel and/or a Mrs. Fields cookie."

Will: "AND or OR?" (Clearly, "or" was going to be a deal-breaker!)

Me: "Okay, fine, you can have a pretzel AND a cookie."

So after I got off work, Will and I went to Sun Valley Mall in Concord to go to The Gap (and Wetzel's Pretzels and Mrs. Fields Cookies) to find mamma a new pair of jeans.

Since I began my diet at the end of February, I hadn't purchased any new clothes. The jeans I have been wearing are my Size 14 Gap "Boyfriend" jeans (they boast a roomier thigh, which tends to work best for me). When I wear them now, I have to cinch my belt so tight that I have a "ruffle" waist when I'm finished. Up until now, I hadn't wanted to spend the money on new jeans, knowing I'd be losing even more weight.

But, I needed a NSV, and my baggy jeans were becoming a bit embarrasing.

I wasn't quite sure what my new size would be. Realistically, I thought perhaps at best I would be a Size 10 now. But, just in case, I loaded up my arms with Size 12's and Size 10's, and I threw in one Size 8, just in case. I stuck with the Boyfriend Jean style (but in a capri length), my standby, but also tried the "Curvy" fit and "Easy Straight" style, which features a low rise, easy in the hip and thigh, straight leg opening, and stretch materials (the signage said it was just a tiny bit slimmer cut than the Boyfriend Jean, so I grabbed a Size 10 in those).

Photo Credit: Will Whitty

I also grabbed a few skirts and t-shirts to try on along with the denim. And Will and I headed into the wheelchair accessible dressing room, which would be of ample size to fit us both and provide room for Will to take photos. He knew the rule, though: "No underwear shots!" And while they are not in the camera, I'm certain the images of me changing will surely remain ingrained in his head and will torture him for life.

Will knew to stop taking pictures when I was in the process of changing,
so he turned the camera on himself. He does look somewhat disturbed by our outing,
but with a pretzel and a cookie, he did get a pretty sweet deal!

My fitting room strategy is to always try on the largest size first, so I can be pleasantly surprised if something  doesn't fit, and then can move down a size. But for some reason, I couldnt't find the Size 12 capri style Boyfriend Jeans, so I tried on the 10. Surprisingly, they pulled up pretty quickly, not getting stuck on those "Casey Thighs" I have been cursed with. In fact, they buttoned just fine and were somewhat roomy in the thighs. When I got them in final position, one thing was clear: the waist was WAY too big.

Size 10 Boyfriend Jeans...too big in the waist.

So, I rumaged through the pile of denim on the changing room bench and found the only Size 8 pair of denim capris in the group. I tried them on...and, drumroll please....THEY FIT! Holy cow (well, Skinny Cow), I never, ever would have thought I would have lost three pant sizes by now! Woo hoo, talk about a non-scale victory!

The Size 8 Boyfriend Jeans.

Those were definitely a keeper! I tossed them in the "to buy" pile. Then I got a little greedy and tried on the denim Size 10 mini skirt with the frayed edge. They were cute, but I somehow didn't feel quite ready for a mini-skirt. But, I asked the 10-year-old to confirm (or deny) my suspicions.

The aforementioned denim mini.

Me: "Will, do you think I'm ready yet for a skirt like this?

Will: "Do you want me to tell you the truth?"

Me: "Yes"

Will: "Not quite...but almost."

Gotta love that kid. And with that, the denim mini was discarded in the reject pile.

Changing Break.

I tried on a sampling of t-shirts, most of which I bought (in a size MEDIUM, not that ghastly XL that had been overtaking my closet!), and then tried on the Size 10 Easy Straight jeans with the Destructed Finish. Keep in mind, the Easy Straight Style is slightly slimmer than the Boyfriend jeans, so I felt okay with going a size up in these. They fit GREAT and the stretchy material is super comfortable. 

A medium pocket tee and Easy Stretch Size 10 Jeans: LOVE these!

Seriously, this was a no brainer. I LOVE these jeans. They went into the  "must-have" pile. I gathered up the two pairs of jeans, five t-shirts, and grabbed a super cute tote and sandals on the way out. After all, all sale items were an additional 25% off; how could I resist?!

And with that, Will and I hit the checkstand and were soon on our way to Mrs. Fields Cookies. They had a deal: buy four cookies and get one free. So, we got five to be shared by Will, Daddy, and Piper.

I got a Diet Coke.

But, more importantly, I got a No-Scale Victory that is going to keep me motivated, even though the scale stalled for me this week. My hope is that I will have a "Scale" Victory to report next week because I don't think we can afford for me not to.

Until Next Week,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

My trip to Hawaii was a mix of business and pleasure, as well as the displeasure of seeing my brother Geoff off as he and his fellow Army soldiers were deployed to Iraq. It was so fun to spend time with both he and his wife, Girlie. However, right off the bat, I new I'd be in trouble diet-wise if I didn't stick with my plan of fish and fruit and do my best to squeeze some exercise in.

Day 2: My brother and I had fun boogie-boarding on Oahu's North Shore.


Day 3: Geoff, Girlie and I spent the day driving around Oahu.
We stopped at Hanauma Bay to take this picture.

I never really realized until this trip, during which I got to spend five days with my brother before he deployed, how much my brother loves to eat! Fortunately for him, being in the army involves mandatory "PT" that typically includes running six miles each day. With a workout routine like that, you can stand to enjoy life's culinary pleasures.

But, I could tell from the moment my brother picked me up and took me to lunch at local hot spot -- Maui Mike's, which is famous for their fire-roasted chicken -- that I was deployed on my own mission. My mission was to survive my brother continually tempting me with all of the culinary treats Hawaii had to offer.

At our first feast, instead of choosing the Maui Wowie Melt Sandwich at Maui Mike's, which is shredded chicken with oozing cheese accompanied by greasy french fries (my brother informed me was their specialty), I chose shredded skinless chicken with barbecue sauce and no side of fries. Plus a Diet Coke.

After lunch, we spent some time shopping -- my brother loves to shop, which is great! -- and it wasn't before long that he appeared with an itty bitty Godiva chocolate bag with little nibbles of chocolate. Of course, he offered me some and, as a good diet soldier does, I resisted.

"You realize I'm on a diet, right?" I asked him.  "You read my blog. And besides, I'm saving my bonus points for Hula Grill on Saturday night."

"But you're on vacation!" He countered.

Me on my "cheat night" at my favorite restaurant on Waikiki -- Hula Grill

Throughout the trip, he offered me everything from banana lumpia and cookies, to Egg Fu Young for breakfast and caramel corn. Oh, and malsadas, which is like a donut but with the hole. Malsadas, which is lighter and less dense than a regular donut, are fried and best eaten while hot. It wasn't hard to find Malsadas Trucks (and shrimp trucks) in Hawaii. I stayed away because I knew they were the enemy and I was battling the bulge.

We joked about how his trying to tempt me with fatty foods was good training for trying to wear down any insurgents he might meet while deployed in Iraq. By my fourth night there, and after two sweaty, one-hour sessions at his gym at the Army Base, I gave in. It was his last full night before deployment and he wanted to go to a Thai restaurant for dinner. This was the evening we had originally planned to barbecue fish and I was going to make my Weight Watchers 2-point-per-serving corn and goat cheese salad.

But, Thai food won out. I rationalized that he was going to be away from home for so long and that perhaps I was being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud over the diet thing. I ordered Pad Thai, my favorite, and figured that since my brother was leaving for Iraq the next day, perhaps it would give him some enjoyment. He managed to score a free, warm tapioca pudding when the waitress learned he was headed to Iraq. I waved my white flag, picked up my spoon and had some. It was delicous.

So, when he offered to make me a Pina Colada after we got home from the Thai restaurant, I said, "Sure."  For heaven's sake, he had even included a pineapple do you say no to that?!

It takes exactly four days to wear down an insurgent, I informed my brother.

When it came time for his wife and me to drop him off at midnight on my fifth day there, it was surreal. There's no doubt that, while he would miss Girlie very much, he was definitely ready and excited to go to Iraq. He felt that until he actually deployed that he wasn't a "real soldier." This was an important step for him and he had been training for it for more than two years.

I was proud of him. But, it was so sad to see all of the army wives there waiting to hug and kiss their husbands for the last times in at least six months. (They'll be deployed approximately a year, but can take a 2-week vacation beginning in six months). And to see all of the sons and daughters in their pajamas, who waited there with the rest of us until around 3:30 a.m. when the last soldier had boarded the last bus...heartbreaking, simply heartbreaking. There was a moment when all of the soldiers were lined up in formation and there was one little boy who was running around yelling, "Daddy, daddy, daddy" trying to find his daddy in a sea of camoflage.

As Girlie and I drove back to their home on the base at 3:30 a.m., I had a much greater awareness and appreciation for the sacrifices that our men and women in the military make. But perhaps more inspiring was the sacrifice made by the families that they leave behind.

Geoff and Girlie saying goodbye

And suddenly, enjoying tapioca pudding and a Pina Colada with my brother the evening before he left didn't seem so sinful.

So proud of my big brother!

I'm happy to report that even though I cheated a bit more than originally planned during my week's stay in Hawaii, I lost 2.5 pounds since my last blog post two weeks ago. This brings my total weight loss to 26.5 pounds. I have 13.5 pounds to go to meet my 40-pound weight loss goal by my 40th birthday on August 15th.

Pretty sure this is against the rules, but I am on a mission!

This is definitely going to be a nail-biter down to the finish, and I've begun working out every day this week to try to throw my body's metabolism into overdrive. And I can assure you, my muscles are sore!

Here's this week's pic.

Until next week,