Friday: Week 1 Down, 51 to Go

After a week of sunshine and blue skies, Houston’s back to cold, dreary, and drippy. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to curl up between my feather comforter and my microplush blanket and read or hibernate. It does not bode well for my resolve to get out and do anything this weekend, be it walking or volunteering, but maybe I’ll finish some of those owl squares and binge watch something on TV, or read a book, or both.

Friday’s a good day to re-cap the week.


Health & Fitness

It has been a good week on the “The Non-Negotiable, 100% Committed, Do or Die Trying Goal for 2015,” though.


It pays to track daily, and to look at it over time. The initial drop of 7 lbs., like the cake, was a lie. It was mostly just holiday bloat – too much salt, too little fiber and water. Left to its own devices, it might’ve stuck around in the form of fat, but you can’t get too caught up on such early success or it’s tempting to get complacent. That upward blip, on 1/8? That was the overindulgence from last Friday. But at least it was a purposeful, and delicious, overindulgence. My husband and I went out to Brick House Tavern, where we split House Baked Soft Pretzels – that queso blanco is amazing! And then I had the Gun Show Burger (substituting more queso blanco for the mayo – yay, good choices!), fries, a Zombie, and a Blue Moon. But, I did follow it up with two three-mile walks on Saturday and Sunday. Non, je ne regrette rien…

blue-skies-pines bayou-2

Last weekend, I saw parts of my own neighborhood I’d never seen, before. And it struck me how easy it is to forget you have legs, when you live in a place that’s often 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more, and you work behind a desk on a computer all day – then spend your spare time writing, blogging, crocheting… It felt good – and horrible – to rediscover and stretch them. I walked a little funny until yesterday.

I remembered how, as a child, I’d spend all day running around the neighborhood on foot, or on a bike. Utterly unfettered and unselfconscious. I wasn’t particularly active or athletic, then, either – it was simply the means to an end. A way to get out and explore my world, play with friends, change the scenery, and escape boredom. When did the world start to seem like such an unpleasant – if not downright scary – place? Probably about the time I had kids, and realized there were registered sex offenders living within walking distance. But really, the majority of people are basically good.

Walking, instead of driving, I encountered a lot of smiling faces. “Hello.” A nod, here; a wave, there. At first, I felt weird – you see joggers and bikers and people walking dogs, but the solitary walkers are usually salesmen. I felt as though I ought to offer to walk a neighbor’s dog, so as not to look suspect or merely awkward. About a mile in, I no longer gave a thought to what anyone else might think. In fact, I encountered a salesman going door to door, putting fliers on people’s doors advertising a maid service. He was brisk, pleasant, and cheerful. We were going in opposite directions, but met up again on my return. He hadn’t covered quite as much ground as I had!

I decided to turn the next walk into the weekly grocery shopping trip, as well. That meant carrying a bag to carry the reusable bags I’d bought a year or two ago and never used for anything but yarn and books. I figured I’d only be able to manage two totes, anyway. Two bags, fully loaded with a week’s worth of groceries, are surprisingly heavy. And it’s still about .2 miles from there to home. I’m not sure I want to repeat that, but when the weather’s nicer, I may make smaller, more frequent trips.

In working with a friend who is a life coach in training, I think I got to the root of my afternoon snack binging. Without going into detail, it wasn’t self-indulgence and lack of discipline, but quite the opposite. Not that there are a ton of calories in the free office snacks, but it’s unhealthy and leads to other crappy eating habits later. I made a conscious effort to avoid it, this week, and I think it’s been paying off nicely.



Yeah, I am so deprived. Not.

The purple headphones are so I can listen to Spotify on my phone and create my own little personal space bubble in cubeland, when I need to focus. I think I’ve mentioned before how I can hear a gnat buzzing from across the room? The makers of open office plans and cubicles did not account for introverts with rabbit ears.

Wearing the Fitbit – mostly because I know from experience that it helps immensely to track food and exercise daily, and I’m lazy about tracking both – I’ve uncovered a different, unexpected issue I need to work on. Sleep. Oddly, I discovered it after having my son – who thinks he never sleeps – wear it one night to see how accurate his perception was (since I’ve seen him sleeping). It turned out to be fairly accurate – although he sleeps, he’s restless most of the night. His “sleep efficiency” is only about 55%.

Hah, I thought. Mine’s about 100%. I mean, I know that I can fall asleep at will in under 10 minutes. I’ve never suffered from an inability to sleep – but I’ve always struggled with fighting sleep like a toddler. I know that some part of me is afraid I’ll miss something momentous. After all, the world doesn’t just stop turning in the middle of the night, just because most of us on my side of it are out cold. I know – I was recovering from surgery and wide awake when the tsunami hit Japan, and watched it live on the news. But I also know that there’s not a damned thing I could do about it – and there will be replays (ad nauseum) if it’s newsworthy at all.

But just for grins, I started tracking my own sleep with the Fitbit. I was shocked; where my son is aware he’s at least partially awake much of the night, I’m not really conscious of it. But I don’t sleep as soundly as I imagine, either. And I’ve gone from a “sleep efficiency” of about 92% down to around 77% to 83% – getting only about 4.5 hours restful sleep a night, on average. That’s not enough for anyone.

Then again, I do have a hypothesis. Since focusing on better nutrition, I’ve also been making an effort to drink more water. And more water, for me, leads to decreased interest in coffee. I know, right? Me, the coffee junkie – no interest in the stuff. Except this morning, because it was there and it was warm and it just felt good. But it’s something I’ve noticed before – I think the only caffeine withdrawal I’ve ever suffered is actually dehydration. If I replace that with plain water, to start with, I don’t even get the caffeine withdrawal headaches. And I just tend to forget that coffee exists, after a couple of days.

You’d think that would lead to a better night’s sleep, wouldn’t you? But I think maybe not. I could always drink a pot of coffee and immediately sleep like a log. What does caffeine really do, after all? It adds nothing – gives you no energy at all. It’s an accelerant. It burns energy faster, like pouring gas on a log fire burns up the wood faster. Without it, I’m wired.

This is why they give stimulants to kids with ADD, isn’t it?

Plus, eating right – cutting back on sugar and other “empty carbs” – my energy levels are steadily increasing, not decreasing. It’s a good thing, but man, it’s not helping me to get a good night’s sleep, at all. I went to bed at 9:30 PM last night and woke up at 6:00 AM – it was the first time in over a week I got more than 6 hours’ sleep. And barely more, at that. But at least it’s progress – in the right direction.

Owls & The Hungry

If the weather doesn’t improve, it’ll give me a chance to catch up on the Owl Blanket. I’d rather not drive 30 miles to the Houston Food Bank – or even sign up and commit to do it – when there’s a chance of freezing rain. Not that the outlook’s likely to get better between now and mid-February; these are the weeks most likely to have it, if any, here in the south. But I have fallen woefully behind on the owls (the eight I do have still need eyes and branches) and alternating squares, and I don’t mind donating food if I’m unable to get there in person.

Magically Raising the Dead

Oh, hell yeah. I am making awesome progress on this one, thanks in part to you, Dear Reader. I’m not sure getting my PR3 back is even doable, at this point – but Alexa’s coming along nicely. When I started, this blog had sunk into the millions. (For those of you who don’t blog or care or even know what Alexa is, the lower the number, the better.) Today’s stats show good progress! (Not as good as that time my team and I took a blog from idea to 15k in 10 weeks, but not bad for the first week of a solo effort!)



W00t! Shout-out to my readers and blogging friends in India – you rock! (Come on, everyone else – are you really going to let India win this one? 🙂 Where the heck is Iceland on this list? Or Brazil? I used to be big in Brazil… O, Canada…)

[Tweet “Onde estão os meus fãs do Brasil? :)”]

[Tweet “Ég elska lesendur frá Íslandi”]

I really do, you know. (Hi, Asdis!)

[Tweet “O, Canada, where art thou? Où êtes-vous?”]

All are welcome, here.


So far, most of my writing has been on this blog. But the daily blogging, coming after a short, December break following NaNoWriMo, has helped to establish a routine of writing – not just for work, and not just after everyone else goes to bed. Writing in the morning, over breakfast or coffee, has become a pleasure. It’s funny how writing, even when you love it, can come to seem like a chore. And ironically, the only cure for that is to do more of it. I am secretly trying to redefine myself as a “morning person.” I do love mornings, now – I just don’t move too quickly when it’s dark, rainy, and cold. I got a laptop, in November, and can now write while sitting in a comfy recliner, or in bed, still wrapped up in my blanket. That helps!

[Tweet “Daily blogging not only provides a #blogboost, it helps establish a creative routine.”]

And just as a reminder to us all – as we’re reading this on PCs, smart phones, and tablets – there is still a place in the world, and in our brains, for real paper and ink books. For one thing, barring a really massive fire, we’ll still be able to read physical books in a thousand years – long after our Kindles and Nooks have disintegrated. But there’s an even more important reason not to convert your entire library to digital – one I’m going to have to throw at my husband, next time he suggests that the dead tree books are a waste of space and resources: “A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback.” See Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books for more fun facts about the benefits of reading – and the benefits of real books.

The World Out There

The world “out there” is not always a nice place, and sometimes we have jarring reminders of it. As a writer, and a human being, I am shocked and saddened by the events in Paris this week. I stand in solidarity with the satirists, artists, and writers who speak truth to power – the ones who criticize, poke fun at, and make us think harder about our human foibles. Violence is never the best response to ideological disagreements, as Lucille Clerc so quietly, eloquently expresses here:

Break one, thousand will rise #CharlieHebdo #JeSuisCharlie #raiseyourpencil

A photo posted by Lucille Clerc (@lucille_clerc) on


This truth is demonstrated in 23 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting and they are still coming.

25 thoughts on “Friday: Week 1 Down, 51 to Go”

  1. Try adding some extra Mg alongside the extra water. You may find it helps with the dehydration cravings. Something else that helps me is having savory protein (nuts or pemmican/ jerky) in the afternoon. Just a handful.

    1. I’ve been doing both, actually – nuts daily with the lunch, as you see in the photos – and Mg at night (but I thought it was just to help with sleep and avoid muscle cramps). By “dehydration cravings” do you mean mistaking thirst for hunger? It’s funny, because I’ve been really trying to pay attention to those signals, and yesterday was the first time I could honestly say I felt “hungry.” As opposed to stressed, bored, or thirsty.

  2. I absolutely love your style of writing! I was a pleasure to read and I have to start using the click to tweet plugin a bit more!

    I have also found that drinking more water has caused me to cut down on my coffee consumption. And as far as I know, I sleep pretty well, but now you have me wanting to really find out!

    Looking forward to visiting your blog again! Katrina

    1. Thank you, Katrina! You’re very kind to say that – twice, now! 🙂 Thanks for sharing on Twitter, too. The Click to Tweet plug-in is great fun, if you can find a little tweetable pull quote or message aimed especially at Twitter friends. I don’t use it as often as I should, either. It’s a great little plug-in. I’ve noticed the formatting changes after the hashtags – I think there’s still a minor (tiny) conflict between two of my plug-ins, but as long as it breaks neither, it’s all good, right?

      Let me know your experience with the “lack of caffeine sleep,” if you’re able to log it. It was an eye-opener for me.

    1. Counting calories definitely worked. Tracking weight, calories, and exercise DAILY is what works best for me. Some feel it makes them too much of a slave to the scale; in that case, I’d say go easy on the weigh-ins. But I look at it as a scientific data point, and I don’t have the data over time, if I don’t record it daily.

  3. Great week for you, Holly! I wish I had stuck to eating better this week, but I did not. Ugh! Nevertheless, I’ll try again tomorrow. Look forward to hearing how Week 2 goes. I’ll check back in next week and find out. Thanks for the share!

    1. Don’t get stuck in “Scarlet O’Hara thinking,” Aletha. Try again tonight. 😉 This is why, in 2006, I quit smoking at 2 PM. The hardest part was driving home from the office without lighting up. I had to break out of the, “Well, screw it I blew it – let’s try again tomorrow” mentality. Cold turkey works best for me, but if you have a lapse, oh well. No need to wait till the next calendar day to start fixing it.

  4. Wow, Holly, this is great! I love your recounting of walking and of drinking water and the foreign languages and pretty much everything. It is very entertaining and delightful.And then, of course, there are the food pictures. Oh yeah!!! I’m working to lose a little weight that I gained from completely mindless eating.
    Alas, I cannot get out to take a walk. It is too cold and I don’t want to lose a finger or two to frostbite so I have to use the exercise equipment that came with the house. Um. Yep. The stairs. Up and down ten times fast is a workout! We also have an exercise bicycle. I put on my digital walkman and I go for 20 minutes. I try to imagine that I’ve gone someplace that’s more exotic than the (basically unused) family room in my mom’s house.
    What an adventure life is!
    Thank you for sharing your adventure.

    1. Thanks, Alice! That’s good to hear. I hoped it wouldn’t be a boring read. I know it helps ME to be accountable and write things down – giving credit for the progress and reaffirming the goals, and being honest about the lapses (good God, I don’t want to have too many of those – if I blog about it, the excuses would sound pathetic and repetitive after a while, so that should give me the impetus NOT to fail, eh?)

      Most of the pictures on my blog are my own. I have this almost paranoid avoidance of using things found on the web; they’re not always what they purport to be, are they? Getty opened up free stock images to bloggers, too, and those are awesome – but you cannot resize them or set them as the featured image, either. I said once on Facebook that I’d rather see bloggers use crappy original snapshots than glossy stock photos they didn’t license.

      Stairs are GREAT exercise! Bit boring after a while, so I wish you a short winter. We have a home gym (unfortunately, not adjustable for height and limb length, so some of the exercises are not comfortable for me, at 5’11”), a stationary bike, and a punching bag (heavy and speed bag). I should make more use of those, or go to the gym I actually pay to go to. Music – esp. if it’s got a good beat synched to your own pace – is very helpful! I need to remember my earbuds next time I go for a walk, to keep me from strolling too slowly!

      1. Stairs are not too exciting nor is the exercise bike. Fortunately, I have a digital walkman so I am listening to entertaining music while exercising in the house. I have the walkman attached to headphones because earbuds pop out of my ears, lol.
        With a lot of exercise equipment, I have the opposite problem that you have. I am five feet tall and a lot of things are too big for me. I don’t belong to a gym because I do not own a car and the gym is too far away. By the time that I walk to the gym, I wonder why I am there!
        I agree about the pictures. When I use my regular (not the art) blog, I post only my own photographs because I feel that my own photographs tell my story better than anyone else’s photographs. I do carry a camera with me when I take a walk.
        Have a great weekend!

      2. Earbuds often give me an ear infection. Silicone ones seem to irritate my ears less than foam or other materials. I have weird ears. Sometimes my ears react badly to earrings – even with gold or surgical steel posts. My husband has found a brand that doesn’t – not even sure what, but I now have three lovely pair of earrings I can wear.

        Boredom is the enemy of exercise. Music sure helps, doesn’t it? I hope that there’s a break in the cold and rainy, this weekend, so I can walk. But if not, there’s the gym. And crochet. You have a great weekend, too, Alice! Thanks!

  5. Ah, something I can actually talk and identify with! lol

    I like to walk the neighborhood or go to the lake. However, with the temperatures as they are this week and the high winds neither are advisable, so I’ve been walking my homemade indoor course between the living room, through the dining room and around the island in the kitchen. Might sound goofy but it’s helped me average nearly 15,000 steps a day; any way you can get it right?

    However, when I can walk outside… what a joy! It’ll be a while before I can do that again though; the only downside, for me, of living in central New York.

    As for Fitbit tracking your sleep, your sleeping efficiency is still way higher than mine. I average about 2 hours and 45 minutes of actual sleep a night unless I take acetaminophen PM, which I’m reluctant to do more than once a week, usually Friday or Saturday nights, in which case I might get 4 or 5 hours most of the time. Only once since I’ve had the Fitbit have I slept more than 5 hours, but I was up just over 24 hours on that occasion so it doesn’t really count. And I have a BiPAP, which means that I wake more rested than I did before I had it but with little sleep it’s just an early boost, and I can get tired quickly. At least I know though.

    Keep it up but don’t burn yourself out, especially with your temperatures. 🙂

    1. If you want the sleepytime without the risk of liver damage from overuse of acetaminophen, Mitch, try Benadryl. That’s what the “PM” part is. The only problem with that, for me, is that while it clears my stuffy nose, if I have one, and makes me drowsy enough, I invariably wake up cranky – if not mean – with a massive thirst. I’m thinking of trying Valerian root; I’ve taken that in the past, and while the effect isn’t as noticeable as with Benedryl or sleeping aids, it at least has no side effects I’ve ever noticed. Vivid dreams, maybe.

      I’m thinking mine’s a temporary problem, probably due to the erratic caffeine levels (not to mention more water meaning…well, you know what it means). What’s odd is that I’m never aware of the restlessness. I’d have told you I slept like a log.

      1. The strange thing is that falling asleep isn’t my problem, it’s staying asleep. The other two will put me to sleep but there’s something about aceta PM that keeps me asleep, probably because I take 2 500mg when I need to sleep. And if I don’t sleep enough I’m drowsy all day, which is why I only take it on a weekend. Even ibuprofen won’t keep me asleep, but if I’m in pain from all my walking I take that because it actually works better on the pain.

        I always knew I didn’t sleep like a log; problems since I was 10…

  6. Towards the very end of December I was diagnosed with dormant diabetes and high cholesterol which showed up in the form of a very painful shoulder. My first reaction was shock and then meek acceptance and a determination to get myself into shape. I have gone off all forms of sweets, my major weakness and have gone into a new exercise and diet regime and in just twelve days, have dropped 2 Kgs weight and am beginning to feel much better as well. But the craving for sweets simply won’t go away!

    1. Good for you, taking quick, decisive action when you heard that from your doctor. What was the connection to the painful shoulder?

      I try to cut out sweets because they leave me tired and sleepy. Same with bread. If I nibble, I want more, more, more!!! But if I don’t eat them at all, the “craving” just vanishes, for the most part. Salt is a whole different matter, for me. That’s my personal weakness. I could suck on a bouillon cube as a snack. Fortunately, my blood pressure’s normal. The only thing that seems to raise my BP is pain, and the thing that raises my blood sugar is stress. Congratulations on the weight loss and feeling better – nothing more motivational than that! If the “craving” for sweets stems from taste only, it should go away. If it’s from mourning the loss of a favorite treat, try to find something else to substitute for it. Something with a sweet taste, maybe, but better for you. Can you eat a dried date, maybe? That probably shouldn’t be on the daily diet, but maybe as a reward for sticking to the new regimen?

      1. For both of you, as the non-dormant diabetic, it’s not about cutting out things, it’s about reducing those things that might be bad for you and finding alternatives that may or may not be healthier. Of course, for me it all came about because of a phone app (Holly knows) that makes me take a critical look at everything I’m eating. It’s how I’ve achieved numbers so fantastic that my doctor said they would disqualify me being diabetic if I could do it without medication which, unfortunately, I can’t.

      2. Mitch, any chance you’ll get to the point where you won’t need the meds, if you keep this up? That would be a good motivation. I joke about not wanting to make that crochet pig, when what really ought to be kicking me in the ass is my desire to avoid ever having to take insulin shots. Because as needlephobic as I am, I’d be seriously in a bad place…

  7. It looks like a great start of the year. As for me, the only way to curb my snacking is to have proteins ant every meal/snack, and, if possible, to start with them. And, just like you, I try to walk more often!

    1. Protein and fat are our friends. (I learned that one, 27 years ago, suffering from morning sickness with my first born. If I had a greasy bacon and egg breakfast, no morning sickness. If I had good, healthy carbs – OMG. It was totally counterintuitive, at first! I did not WANT to have bacon and eggs. But man, the relief was significant.) Now, I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t work well on carbs. I’ve not cut them out and have no plans to. I do better if I ignore most “diet advice” and just play “how many nutrients can I cram into how few calories that actually taste good?” Fiber’s important, too, and the best form I’ve found isn’t gluten free: Kellogg’s All Bran Buds. I’m sure you could substitute slightly sweetened cardboard, but if you grind it in a coffee mill and add it to milk and frozen fruit, it’s awesome.

      And walking. Hey, I’m proud of myself – I did over 7000 steps yesterday, just looping a boring hallway at work four times in addition to getting to and from the parking garage. My coach, H, and I worked out a strategy to alleviate the boredom; now I use that time to watch videos, listen to podcasts, or like yesterday, just music. I’ve become one of those awful people walking around with earbuds in their ears. But unlike most, I made a point of being annoyingly cheerful – almost forcing a few dour folks to make eye contact and smile back.

  8. Hey Holly,

    I got a fitbit for Christmas and need to set it up. I seem to always have things to do, and getting caught up is a difficult thing to do. I couldn’t sleep one night cause of all the ‘little’ things I had to do. So I got up and completed several of them, and then went back to bed!

    I’ve made some good healthy goals and my Sweetheart and I will be putting more of these into practice as soon as we are back from Atlanta where he has to see a dr.

    Thanks for sharing as it lets me know that I’m not the only one who struggles with life’s daily/weekly issues. Not giving up and continuing to move forward is the key! Sally

    1. Look me up – I’m on,,, and (the latter is my favorite – tell ’em HEALTHYWRITER sent you; though, mapmyrun is what I use to find new, interesting places to walk).

  9. Holly, responding to your question no, I’ll never get off medication. It’s because it runs in my family; there’s probably at least 20 of us who have had it on my dad’s side. Best I can do is hope to keep it managed like this and have some medication reversed. But I’ve inadvertently tested it when my numbers were low and they immediately start to jump.

    1. I’m hoping that means, by implication, that I probably CAN avoid it – having no particular family history of diabetes. Definitely something to keep in mind. But I’m glad you’re able to manage it so well, now! That can be really tough, but it’s very worthwhile. I’m sure your wife thinks so, too. I’ll bet she wants to keep you around a while longer.

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