Liebster Award

Liebster Award

A couple of few months ago, Ashley over at The Broccoli Blog nominated me for the Liebster Award, and most recently awhile ago E.M. at Journey to Saving and DebtFreeOneDay at Disease Called Debt did, as well.  Thanks for thinking of me, lovelies!

I was curious to know who this Liebster character was and how I can hit him/her up for my schwag bag like they have in the Oscars, but alas I’ve discovered it simply means “dearest” in German, and it’s a way for new bloggers to get to know other bloggers.  Since y’all know I love talking about myself, I’m all sorts of honored!  Here are the rules, and my answers from the first four questions of each blogger that nominated me are below:

– post 11 facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions posed by the person who nominated you (I’ve technically answered 12, since I’ve always been a fan of extra credit)

– pass the award onto 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 questions of your own

– select blogs with 200 or less followers (but not the blogger who nominated you)

11 Random Facts:

1) I like that my name is a palindrome.

2) I like waking up while it’s still dark outside.

3) I’m not a good person when I’m hungry.

4) I was two weeks late coming out, and have been a late bloomer ever since.

5) I’d like to have kids, but pregnancy kind of freaks me out.

6) I’m pretty shy in person, but once I know you I don’t shut up (much to B’s dismay haha)

7) Even though I don’t think it really does anything, I use apple cider vinegar for most ailments since a lot of old wives’ tails suggest that.

8) I want to explore as much of South America and Asia as I possibly can.

9) I don’t understand mean or malicious people, nor do I want to.

10) I love stand-up comedy and have a high respect for people in the business.

11) If I ever catch myself getting frustrated in first world problems, I check myself before I wreck myself and practice gratitude.

12 Questions from my fellow nominators (in order, from Ashley, E.M., and Debt Free One Day:
1. What is your favorite movie soundtrack?
I’m a musicals geek and love “Guys and Dolls.”

2. What is your favorite workout?
Running!

3. Do you have any pets?
No, and even the responsibilities of watering plants have been given to B (and we mostly have cacti, awesome!)

4. What’s your favorite city that you’ve been to?
Nothing but love for my San Diego!

5) Why did you start blogging, what topic do you blog about, and why do you blog about it?
I mostly talk about personal finance-ish stuff, because I figured publicly humiliating myself making myself accountable with my debt would make me more motivated to get rid of it once and for all.  I would have never thought that I would meet such amazing and supporting people, but I’m glad I have!

6) What is your favorite place to vacation in?
I loved Costa Rica and Thailand.

7) What is your favorite meal to eat?  Care to share a recipe?
I love Mexican and Thai, but a fan of this one-skillet pasta dish (I use spicy chicken or turkey sausage, use two cans of tomatoes, and skip the cream).

8) Do you enjoy doing household tasks like laundry, cleaning the dishes, and vacuuming?
Yes, I think cooking and washing dishes/clothes is relaxing.

9) What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
I loved it, but people seem to think skydiving (even tandem) was scary.

10) Where were you five hours ago?
Getting my gym on.

11) What is your life’s ambition?
To travel as much as possible, and to hopefully have kids with my sidekick.

12) What is the worst injury you’ve ever had?

I’ve had stitches galore, but secretly like the scars from them and wear them like badges of accident-prone honor.

Here are my 11 questions:

1) What do you mostly write about and what has been your experience with it?
2) What are your goals in life?
3) What’s your favorite kind of food?
4) If you were able to take a month off and travel, where would you go and why?
5) Are you more of a cat person or dog person?
6) Describe yourself in 3 words.
7) What is your favorite book?
8) What is a piece of advice you would give your 18-year old self?
9) Do you like where you live?
10) On a scale of 1-10, how adventurous are you?
11) Do you have any financial advice for me and/or others?

And here’s who I nominate (I’m totally cheating as I’m pretty sure they have way more than 200 followers… it’s not like Liebster’s going to call me out since he’s nonexistent and all):

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Why I began running

It’s National Running Day, and instead of taking advantage of the Rock and Roll running series discounts, I figured I would talk about why I began running.  Though a part of it was purely physical – I had some weight to lose and thought I would take it up in order to get rid of the excess weight – there were a lot of mental and emotional connections to starting, and staying with it, as well.

My first year of college, my dad passed away… during spring finals week, to be exact.  Though I had some fond memories of him when I was young, throughout my teen and early adult years, it was tumultuous.  He was a “get rich quick” type, and would take on businesses.  When they didn’t pan out, he’d try again, and since some relatives in our home country had some success, he went back there to get a piece of the success.  While he was there, he also decided to take up a mistress, which became the downfall of our family unit.  He also did some pretty shitty stuff in addition, but something I’m not getting into.

He came back to the U.S. with said mistress (and what became of the mistress after his death is an amazing story on its own), right around the time I graduated high school.  Because of this, I kept him at an arm’s distance, so much so that I didn’t even know how critically ill he was until he was on his death bed.  Seeing him from healthy over New Year’s to emaciated in June was tough, and something that’s burned in my memory.  I was pretty numb at his funeral.

After his death during college, I was so busy with classes and social activities, that I didn’t really process his death.  Once I graduated, and had a more balanced schedule with free time, it all came to a head.  Maybe it was a mixture of quarter-life crisis, gaining weight, and having time to reflect, but with all this crazy energy, I went for a run.

I chose this set path that I was familiar with.  At first, I was huffing and puffing, noticing even a half-degree incline and struggling with it.  A car with d-bags honked, frightening me, and I became so frustrated that I vowed to choose another activity.  But then, I looked to my left, and noticed the ocean, the sun setting, and how beautiful it was, and decided to try one more time.

That time became multiple times.  And over time, the runs became easier, both from practicing better stride and becoming fitter.  But I also noticed some mental and emotional changes stemming from it.  At first, there was so much hurt and unresolved emotions from not talking with my dad, not having a chance to confront him or make amends before he passed away.  I recall feeling these emotions at a beginning of a run, but with the rhythmic breathing I had to do while running, it would all dissipate by the end.  I suppose it’s like active meditation, and this is when I became hooked on it.  I felt that running was a remedy for hurt or pain, despite the irony that I at times felt physical pain when I ran longer and longer distances.  The trade-off for mental balance and emotional calmness was well worth it.

And, over time, the most notable thing I noticed was the progression of the hurt and pain from his death.  I’m a creature of habit and tend to go on the same running routes (so much so that I’m pretty sure I was a hamster in a past life – I can run on the dreadmill for 10 or so miles and not get bored), and I would know the routes like the back of my hand, from every turn to every incline and practically every crack on the path.  And, as the months went on, I would notice how, hey, last month when I went around this bend, I felt a lot sadder than I am now.  I felt better and better each time, and my awareness of it was uplifting.  I would notice this upward trend every week/month and had a mental graph of it, and after awhile – I didn’t feel the hurt anymore, as my happiness was off the charts.

I guess, in some way, running helped me make peace and resolve issues in unresolvable situations.  I think about my dad now and I no longer feel bitter or sad, both because it’s been many years and due to using running therapy (and not gonna lie, traditional therapy).  I still don’t feel love or happiness, though, to be quite honest… just ambivalence.  But it’s peaceful, and it’s what works.

So when I run now, there are times when I do still tune out and just run… but often I’m hashing things out, whether about work, relationships, or whatnot.  It’s given me a lot of mental clarity and emotional balance, that the physical benefits of it is just icing on the cake.  And for that, I’m grateful I found running.

April results/ May plans

I can’t believe it’s already May tomorrow!  In April, I managed to pay down $954 of my debt so my starting May balance is now updated on the right, and here’s my April goals results (um, apparently I cut off the dates, oops):

Challenge_April

1) Run 75 miles, with 2 hill repeats sessions on Torrey Pines – PASS!  76 to be exact, and I did 3 sessions of Torrey Pines since it’s a great reward at the end of a long work day.

2) Meet all the calisthenic metrics (burpees, side planks with push-ups, walking lunges, push-ups), and 4 each of back/bi, chest/tri, delts/legs sessions – Mostly Pass.  Except for the push-ups portion (not sure what I was thinking with that metric), I completed all other categories.

3) 12 sweets this month – PASS!  With 2 that I didn’t even end up using… I’ve been wearing lighter colored clothes now that it’s spring, so this probably  has something to do with it ever since the “Melted Chocolate and White Trousers Debacle” of 2009 (est.).

4) Stick to or go under $600 in expenses (groceries, going out, gas, gifts, miscellaneous), and meet a 25% want metric – FAIL.  I ended up going to OC a couple of times to help the fam pack and then unpack (and get rid of a bunch of crap when grandma wasn’t looking), so my gas and dinner expenses were higher than usual.  But, I suppose there were some Target purchases I could’ve vetoed.  In total, I spent $716.93 with a 30% “wants” metric, so at least now I have a baseline to compare to subsequent months.

5) Study Spanish for at least 10 hours – PASS!  I also watched “La Misma Luna” which, controversial immigration/politics aspect and fairly outlandish circumstances aside, was a truly touching movie.  I like watching movies with subtitles, and then watching it again the next day by not looking at subtitles.  It can be misleading since an actor might say “I want a ham sandwich with a pickle on the side” and the subtitle reads “I want lunch,” but it still helps.  I’ve also started using the Spanish option at self checkouts or anywhere it’s available, which I always get quizzical looks at.

6) 4 new healthy recipes – PASS!  I also made this quinoa stir-fry with chicken and vegetables which was scrumdillyumptious (I used low sodium chicken broth instead of water for the quinoa, added two egg whites, and replaced snow peas with spinach).  Cash Cow Couple’s kale chip recipe also reminded me that I used to like doing stuff like that, so I made spinach chips with a bunch hanging out in my fridge.  Adding paprika was a great idea!

For May, I’m sticking to those goals, but also tweaking it a bit:

Challenge_May

1) Run 80 miles, with 2 “speed” sessions (speed to me, at least)

2) More weights sessions, 2 upper body (arms, chest, back, abs) and 2 lower body (legs, booty, lower back, abs) per week – my fitness competitor friend asked me to train some days with her and I couldn’t be happier.  She rotates me and two others as her workout buddy when she competes, and it’s a win-win since I end up doing more weights workouts even though I use half one-third one-fourth of how much she lifts since she gets in beast-mode.

3)  2 sweets a week – summer’s around the corner!

4) Stick to or go under $600 in expenses (groceries, going out, gas, gifts, miscellaneous), and meet a 25% want metric – um, and actually do this.  This doesn’t include a wedding gift or Mother’s Day gifts for my mom and grandma that I set aside with Ebay items I sold a couple of months back that I mentioned here.  But you will notice I’ve added a $500 “fun” money column as discussed in this post, though I will look for ways to supplement and absorb the costs.  I put my iPod replacement there even though I bought it this past weekend.

5) Study Spanish for at least 1 hour, 3 times a week – so I can be consistent.

6) Veggies in every meal, including breakfast, at least 4 days a week – I need to start preparing “egg quiches” with spinach and bell peppers and pack them up for breakfast – they keep when frozen, so I just thaw them out and eat.  Lunch and dinner always have veggies, anyway.

April Midpoint Check-In

I’ve been glued to the latest news of the Boston explosions recently – as much as it sickens me that some malicious asshole(s) did this, I am glad to see and read about the tales of heroism and kindness during the aftermath.  These stories have moved me to tears, and restores any doubt in my faith in humanity.  Rather than try to say anything about it, I’ll just defer to Patton Oswalt who stated it best.

Anyway, I am a couple of days late for my midpoint check in of my April goals, but here’s my progress so far (probably click for better view):

April_midpoint

1) Run 75 miles, with 2 hill repeats sessions on Torrey Pines – on track with 58% miles completed and 1 hill session!  My achilles have been hurting lately, though, so I might lower mileage next month and add spin classes or “Stairway to Hell” (aka revolving staircase) sessions.

2) Meet all the calisthenic metrics (burpees, side planks with push-ups, walking lunges, push-ups), and 4 each of back/bi, chest/tri, delts/legs sessions – aside from push-ups, I think I’m fairly on target.  Knowing that I have to report it has motivated me to get up earlier so I can complete my running and lifting sessions, so that’s pretty cool.

3) 12 sweets this month – ruh-oh, Shaggy, I’m 2/3 into my Scooby snack “rations” for the month.  The beginning of the month was stressful work-wise, which probably explains my stress eating during that time period.  Not sweating this part, yet.

4) Stick to or go under $600 in expenses (groceries, going out, gas, gifts, miscellaneous), and meet a 25% want metric – man, apparently I’ve been a little crazy with spending.  If I stayed home for the rest of the month, I would be okay, but this weekend I’m going to OC to help some family members move (part of my family drama from before), and I have a feeling I’ll be footing any meal bills (plus I need to pay for gas to get up there).  I can control most of the grocery bills at home, though, so maybe it’ll balance out in the end, or at least not have it be so high.

5) Study Spanish for at least 10 hours – even though I use this spreadsheet on a daily basis, I spaced on this goal.  Unless watching “Amorres Perros” for the 156th time counts?  Didn’t think so.  How about listening to Spanish music on my runs?  No?  Man, you’re a tough judge… I’ll make it up.

6) 4 new healthy recipes – yes, kind of, since some of these recipes aren’t full on healthy or too easy to make, so I’ll try out more this month.  A friend and I brought brunch to a couple who recently had a baby, so I made egg mini frittatas (from leftover Easter ham) and gluten-free waffles with blueberries for them (holy crap, gf flour is expensive!).  I also tried this chicken and quinoa dish (super yums), as well as this mini-pizza muffin recipe, again with leftover Easter ham.  For dessert, I’m trying to find lower-fat stuff since B and I both have a sweet tooth, and tried this pudding and graham cracker recipe out (minus the cool whip and using nonfat milk).  It was pretty tasty and letting it sit overnight gave the graham cracker a cake-y texture.  I’m going to try it with vanilla pudding and strawberries next.

How are your April goals going so far?  Any suggestions for May goals?

Observations at the Gym (or, Unsent Memos to My Fellow Gym Patrons)

someecards.com - If you're on the treadmill next to me, the answer is yes, we are racing.

To the guy who does 50 crunches and then goes to the mirror, lifts up his shirt, and checks out his abs – the body does not transform that quickly after a set.  Take a human physiology class.

To the girl wearing Gucci shades on the stepmill – it is not night time, why are you wearing your stunna glasses?  Especially when you did not wear them in the locker room.

To the gal reading a book and going 1.5 mph on the treadmill – if you do not have a drop of sweat on you after 30 minutes of that, it might be helpful to go a bit faster.

To the guy(s) grunting and groaning when lifting weights – if I can hear you over my music that is at 90%, I feel like your grunting volume is just really gratuitous at that point.

To the overly enthusiastic spin instructor – perhaps one Monster before class is sufficient?

To the girl who is eating peanut M&M’s on the stepmill – am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?  Is this real life??

To the guy going lightning fast while skipping rope – wow, you are impressively fast!  And you are so graceful, not messing  up once!  Was that a double flick of the wrist??  You are on fire… oh but wait, you forgot the rope.

To the guy who lifts up his shirt to wipe the sweat off his face – yes, your abs are delicious, but it’s okay to use a towel.  It’s that cloth hanging from your shorts.

To the gal doing 50 reps on the assisted pull-ups – when you’re 110 and the weights are at 100, you might not be challenging yourself enough.

To the guy who put away the 30 pound dumbbells – so when the place you put them on reads “10,” that is not where you should put them.

To the guy working out next to me – I put my towel there to signify that I’m  both using that area to work out in and I like personal space.  Or, you can just step on my towel, that’s cool.

And just in case everyone thinks I am greater than thou – rest assured I do not think that!  Here’s what I think their unsent memos might be:

To the girl who always wears a black tank and Nike shorts – please tell me that you have more than one set of those clothes.  (Yes, I do!  I just don’t want to think about matching thankyouverymuch)

To the girl running on the treadmill – why do you prance when you run?  Are you a show pony or trying to win Best in Show? (B’s actual observation of me, grrr)

To the girl who sweats standing still let alone becomes a drenched rat after a cardio session – um, can you go in the corner so you lessen the “splash zone” around you, please? (Main reason why I run outdoors!)

Obviously, this is a product of trying to find free hobbies during my spending abstinence…

Week 2 results and challenges are zzzzz

Last week, I posted a Week 2 challenge filled with health and budgeting fun, and here are my results from it:

1) Run 4 times a week for 20 miles total, with a 6 mile “long” run – Pass!  I’m still slow as molasses due to a layoff in running during the Fall, but I completed the mileage so at least I’m getting some endurance back.

2) Weights week -one back/bi session, one chest/tri session, one delts/legs session – Pass!

3) 2 sweets only – FAIL.  Let’s just say stuffing my face vs. projecting it on to B this past week was better for our relationship, because let’s face it, I’m not always a nice person and no one wants to see a grown man cry. 😉

4) No more than ~$100 for food/going out/gas – FAIL.  I was close since I spent under $113, but I still went over $100.

5) Post on Ebay or donate 5 articles of clothing and 2 pairs of shoes – Pass!  And not only parsed it out, but I put all of it out there, plus put a couple of bags into the donations bin in a shopping strip near me.

Week2

I also realized I didn’t do the math with Johnny Moneyseed’s wants challenge last week, so I tabulated my “wants” from last week’s and this week’s spending.  I kind of eyeballed the calculations, but I probably spent about $100 per week on wants, which in a course of a year is $5200.  That was eye opening, because this is me actually trying to tame my wants.  Looking at the list, though, I don’t think I would necessarily cut out time with friends or family (and I suppose I “need” headphones for my runs because it’s not very fun listening to me mouth breathe for miles and miles on end), but maybe I can cinch in the belt a bit more so that I’m shaving off a couple thousand this year.

As I predicted, even though it’s kept me accountable with running and spending, I’ve already grown bored with posting weekly challenges.  Maybe I’ll do monthly ones instead, but who knows how long that will last.  I figure as long as I’m putting in my miles, staying aware of my spending, and trying to keep my hands outta the cookie jar, I should be okay.

Cop out?  Probably. 🙂  Have a great weekend!

Does elderberry work on others or am I being duped?

A couple of times a month without fail, my mom seems to always start our weekly phone conversation with “So I was watching Dr. Oz and…”  The woman loves Dr. Oz and thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread (and knowing Dr. Oz, he’s probably figured out what sliced bread can cure).  So a few months ago during the cusp of flu season, she unsurprisingly started off with “So I was watching Dr. Oz, and he recommends using elderberry lozenges as soon as you start feeling cold/flu symptoms.”  Weeks later at our family get-together, she armed my brother and I (and respective partners) with elderberry lozenges to take home, along with other things that Dr. Oz recommended.  I’m sure his sponsors were reveling over this, but I do admit I think it’s quirky and cute since we’re middle-aged and she still, and will always, mother us.

Digression: Another quirky thing my mother does is tell an elaborate 2-3 minute joke, and just as she gets to the punchline she’ll say something like, “Wait, did I mention in the beginning that there was a bear in the car?  I didn’t?  That’s important, let me start over…”

Anyway, this past weekend, I started feeling under the weather with a harsh sore throat, and when I mentioned it to my mom she stated, “Well use the elderberry, Dr. Oz recommends it!”  So I did, and ya know – I think it may have worked.  After taking a few lozenges on Saturday, I felt tons better on Sunday, enough to run 5 miles and eat real food (the important part).   It kind of feels like the symptoms come and go, but I haven’t really needed to take any time off to recoup.  So I thank her since I’ll give credit where it’s duly deserved, which can only mean one thing… I will never, ever hear the end of Dr. Oz’s amazing recommendations. 😉

If anyone ever gets cold/flu symptoms, this might be worth a shot.  The kind she gave us were chewable lozenges and were pretty darn tasty, which is a step up from the licorice taste of Throat Coat teas that I usually drink.  It’s a bit pricey at around $10 a bottle, but I’m all for anything that makes me feel 100% faster.  I’d be curious to know if anyone else has tried and received the same results, or if I just had major placebo effect going on.