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This month I’m participating in 30 Days of Thanks (#30DaysofThanks) by writing a blog post about 30 things I’m thankful for. To join in, go to the link above. The best part is, you don’t need to have a blog or even be on social media to take part in the project; you just need to be thankful. I can’t wait to see how my life might change by spending the 30 days in November giving thanks for things in my life — every single day.

Today I am thankful that my sister and I found some time in our busy schedules to slip away and go to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower before it left theatres.  If you didn’t get to see it, do.  If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Go buy the soundtrack, it’s fantastic.  Or, if you want, just go listen to it on Spotify:

The movie was beautifully done.  I think it helped that the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky, wrote the screenplay and directed the film, too.  As much as I loved the book, I think this film might have been even better.  Although that might have been because the actors were so endearing.  It was truly one of the best movies I have seen in recent memory.

Afterward, LC and I went to Starbucks for a bit of an afternoon pick-me-up, and to take advantage of their “buy one holiday drink, get the other free from 2pm-5pm deal”.  I treated myself to a Grande Skinny Peppermint Mocha for 130 calories.  It was a delicious treat.

Weekends like this one, where my sister and I get to spend a lot of time together (we lounged around for much of the day yesterday, too) are all too rare, making them all the more precious.  I’m so grateful that my sister is my best friend and that she and my nieces live right next door.

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For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

December 19: Laugh
Tell us about your biggest belly laugh in 2011. Contributed by Julie Jordan Scott.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My most recent can’t-catch-your-breath-crying-because-you’re-laughing-so-hard laugh was with my sister while we were baking Christmas cookies. I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but we were getting really punchy (maybe from smelling the delicious goodies?) and I said something about the snicker doodles being Snooki doodles and we played off of that Jersey Shore vibe for a while.  You definitely had to be there. It was hilarious and ridiculous, as all the best laughing fests are.

When I think about the times that I just laugh out loud, I am always with my sister.  No one can make me laugh like she can, and I think vice versa.  We know exactly which memories to recall, exactly which phrases to say, to dissolve the other into peals of laughter.  It’s great.  Plus, laughing is a great ab workout!

So when I’m feeling like I need a bit of cheering up or a good laugh, I just head next door to my sister’s and I’m sure to start laughing soon enough.  I love that.

When’s the last time you had a good laugh?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’d like to join in on the daily writing prompts, go to WEverb11, sign up for the email notifications, and join us! Or follow along on Twitter using the #WEverb11 hashtag!

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In the midst of unpacking and organizing my new place on Saturday, my sister LC and my two nieces (T – age 8 and L – age 3) came over with their dog Minnie.  They had just spent hours at Bark in the Park, an annual dogs-and-their-owners festival that I really wanted to go to.  Alas, Ms. Lulu had a scheduling conflict – she had an all-day grooming appointment.  LC hadn’t planned to stay all day (she lives about 45-minutes away), but they had such a good time that they got to my house a lot later than expected.

Even though the house wasn’t looking it’s absolute best, I had made a lot of headway in the unpacking department, so it looked pretty warm and welcoming.  I had also just received the Aerobed and quilt that I ordered for the spare bedroom the day before.  It seemed like the stars were aligned and telling me to invite the girls (even the dog is female) over for an impromptu slumber party!

It was soooo much fun.  I’m glad my sister said yes (both nieces were pleading with her to let them stay at Zia’s), and it didn’t take much convincing, because I think LC was in need of a little break from the awkwardness at home with her soon-to-be-ex husband.  Plus, she and the girls were pretty tired from the long day in the sun, walking around at all of the booths and events.

We had a few appetizers because the girls were starving and then we headed to Target to go buy a few things I needed for the house and some pjs for the kiddies.  I bought them the CUTEST pjs ever – T got hello kitty pjs and slippers and L got Paul Frank monkey pjs and slippers.  I wish I would’ve taken photos of them, because they were adorable.  We left the pjs at my house so that when they sleep over next time, they can wear them again.  I told LC that from now on when she comes down, she should always bring a back-up change of clothes for her and the girls, just in case she decides she wants to stay over with me (or my parents).

After the shopping, we had dinner, took baths and showers, and had some hot chocolate/coffee and ice cream (Dryer’s slow-churned (less fat)) and watched cartoons before the girls went to bed.  The Aerobed inflated just about as quickly as they said it would, and it was really comfortable.  The girls loved watching it “blow up” and thought it was just the coolest thing to sleep on. If you’re like me and don’t want to make your spare bedroom into a permanent bedroom all the time, I’d highly recommend getting the Aerobed; it’s tons more comfortable than a futon.

Even Lulu and her cousin Minnie got along well.  They started wrestling/playing around the time the girls were getting ready for bed, and it was just the cutest thing ever to see them play.

LC and I stayed up chatting and watching The Cooking Channel (Nigella Lawson makes the food so sensuous, doesn’t she?  Although she has put on some pounds – LC said it was all that olive oil she was pouring on the food.  :) She’s still so beautiful, but I did notice that there was “a lot more of her to love” than the last time I saw her on t.v., years ago). It was fun having some sister time and just relaxing.

The next morning (after a few bad dreams/barking episodes that woke us all up throughout the night), we had Overnight Oats (it was a hit with everyone!) and then got ready to head to the dog park.  Minnie had never been before, and since Lulu is an “old pro” now, we thought it would be fun.  The girls enjoyed watching the puppies playing for a little while, but the swings and jungle gym started calling their name before long, so LC took them to play while I stayed with the pups.  They had a terrific time, and Lulu was so tired out the rest of the day that she literally didn’t do anything but sleep for the entire day.

If you notice that devilish “grin” on Minnie’s face, that’s because this was taken mere moments before she decided to join my nieces in the middle row of seats.  Naughty girl!  Poor Lulu, who isn’t thrilled with car rides anyway, felt abandoned in the back seat.  It was HILARIOUS, though, and we were laughing so hard that I thought we were going to get in a wreck. Luckily LC drives like a granny, because everything was fine.

All in all, it was such a fun, spontaneous evening.  I told LC that I want to try to have Sisters’ Slumber Party at least once a month, if we can.  Next month we’re getting together to take the dogs (and the girls) to Society Dog’s Howling Halloween parade.  I cannot wait!

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Be forewarned, this is going to be a L-O-N-G post, but I hope it will be worth it, because there’s so much to tell!

The Plan
My friend, Harj, decided that for her 30th birthday this year, she wanted to invite a bunch of her girlfriends to participate in the different Mermaid events taking place at Shoreline Park in Mt. View.  I invited LC to join me, thinking that the 5K would be a great way for us to spend some time together and get a little exercise while we were at it.  I also thought I could count it as my Sunday OYO training for TNT, so it would serve a double-duty.  We registered about a month ago, before I knew about the numbness issue with my feet/legs.  After I got the go-ahead from the doctor, I was looking forward to the event, because it meant that LC and I would have some time alone, just the two of us.

Bib & Goodie Bag Pick-Up
In order to avoid long lines on race day, the Mermaid people set up a bib & goodie bag pick up at Sports Basement on Saturday.  I decided to make the trip out to the store (about 25 minutes from my house, one way) so that LC and I could save time on Sunday morning.  I got to the store, picked up our bibs and goodie bags, only to discover that they had “run out” of the XXL women’s cut shirts we had both signed up to receive when we registered.  They were trying to offer me XL shirts.  Seriously?  If I thought I could fit an XL shirt, wouldn’t I have ordered one?  I was pissed and said, “what do you mean you’ve run out?  Why did we sign up for a certain size if you weren’t going to get enough of them?  This is completely disorganized and ridiculous!”  Finally one of the organizers came over and offered to give me 2 XXL unisex shirts, which weren’t as cute as the women’s cut ones, but at least they’d fit.

img_01471I love the saying on the shirt, don’t you?

The goodie bag is my favorite, though.  I really like all of the inspirational sayings on it:

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A Sister Sleepover
Since LC hates to leave her husband with her two daughters too often (they can be a handful sometimes), I suggested that she come over my house Saturday night after she put the kids to bed.  That way, she’d be there for bath and story time, but she could still spend the night so that it would be easier to get to the event the next morning.  Plus, it would be fun to have a sleepover.

In honor of the sleepover, I made a special trip (to the only Whole Foods in my area that carries) it to buy some of the Lesser Evil Black & White Kettle Corn. (Although as I just went on their website to find the link, I noticed that Safeway and Target are now carrying these snacks, too.  Good to know, because I love it, and I hate having to drive all around town for it).  I had a feeling LC would love it, too, so I made sure to buy a bag for her to take with her.

I also thought that no sleepover would be complete without some hot cocoa.  This wasn’t going to be just any hot cocoa, though.  This was going to be the Hungry Girl fake out of the Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa that LC loves so much.  The Starbucks version is delicious, but it’s also 10 points, which is quite a splurge.  The HG version promised to be just as delicious and the point count is only 2.  Much better, don’t you think?  I had the hot chocolate packets and the salt, but couldn’t find the caramel anywhere.  When I told LC about it, she said that she’d stop at Safeway on her way to my house, because she thought she knew where it was.  She ended up buying Smucker’s sugar free caramel and said she found it on the end cap by the ice cream.  Perfect!  She also bought the light can of whipped cream, so we were in business.  We didn’t add the Splenda, because we felt that the chocolate mix would be sweet enough, especially with the whipped cream and caramel.  And boy, was it!  This was one of the most decadent-tasting treats I’ve had in a long time.  It tasted every bit as good as the Starbucks version, and at 1/5 the points!  Well, see for yourself:

Delicious!

Delicious!

Maybe a little heavy on the caramel, but still a low-point treat

Maybe a little heavy on the caramel, but still a low-point treat

After we got in our sugar fix and talked for a couple of hours, we got ready for bed.  Of course, we didn’t make it to sleep until after midnight, and we knew that 6am was going to come very quickly, but it was worth it.  All late-night, chocolate-filled gab sessions are, aren’t they?

Race Day
The morning of the race was a flurry of getting up, drinking coffee, having breakfast, fighting for the bathroom, and getting out the door.  We made it to Shoreline Park without incident (although I did take a left when I should’ve taken a right, but we quickly got back on track).  The weather reports were predicting rain, but we were hoping that it would hold out until after we finished the event.  And it did.  It wasn’t raining at all, but it was incredibly windy.  Given that these marshlands are set right on SF Bay, we knew it would be windy, but the wind was especially strong on Sunday, making for quite a chilly morning.  Still, LC and I had fun getting ready for the race.

My bib number

My bib number

LC's bib number

LC's bib number

We even bought some Mermaid hats, just in case the rain did decide to make an appearance:

LC's hat

LC's hat

My hat

My hat

The 5K
A little after 9am, they announced that it was time for all of the 5K participants to get in the starting lineup.  LC and I took our place among the rest of the women.  A bit off to the side, so that we wouldn’t be in the way as the runners passed us.  I was really excited to begin, but also felt a bit of trepidation, wondering when the numbness would kick in.  Still, it’s always such a rush to wait to start a walk like this.

Waiting for the "Ready, Set, Go!"

Waiting for the "Ready, Set, Go!"

As soon as the race began, everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE took off running.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Granted, the only other 5K I’ve been in was the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day and most of those participants were just people who were looking to take a leisurely stroll to work off some pre-Thanksgiving calories, but still!  Wasn’t anyone walking in this event?  Even the moms with strollers were passing us by.

I tried to go to that zen-like, “it doesn’t matter if I’m the last one” place that Kelly had tried to tell me about, but I just couldn’t get there.  It seriously bothered me that we were the last ones.  And I don’t mean the last by a little bit, I mean it was difficult to see the people in front of us.  Still, I knew that I shouldn’t try to go too fast at the beginning, before my legs had time to warm up.  LC was a trooper, because I know she could’ve gone faster than me if she wanted to, but she was a great sister and an even better friend for sticking in the back with me.  In fact, she really tried to shake me out of my competitive zone:

Bella: We are the last ones.  The LAST ones!  Everyone else has passed us.
LC: So what?  Who cares?  All that matters is that we’re doing this together and that we enjoy ourselves.
Bella: I know you’re right, but I’m just not “built” that way.  It really bothers me that we’re so far behind everyone else.  I HATE it.
LC: Why?  What’s the difference?
Bella: I hate feeling like I’m not good enough, or not as good as everyone else.  I know it’s stupid, but it’s just how I feel.  Ugh.  Arghhh!

And it got worse from there.

The winds picked up in a major way; so much so that we were really hitting a lot of resistance as we were walking against it.  Again when I complained about this, LC looked on the bright side and said, “just think about how much easier it will be on the way back, when the wind is pushing us!”  I really do love her so much for trying to stay so positive, even though my attitude was crap and I was being such a bitch.  And I hate that I was acting like that, because normally I am a positive person, myself.  I guess this just goes to show how much this whole thing is affecting me.

Then the numbness came, this time worse than it ever has been.  It got so bad that I almost stopped when LC asked me if I wanted to.  Instead, I pushed on, until it got to be too much, and then I felt the tears coming.  I told LC through sobs that I thought we should walk off the trail for a minute so I could stop and rest and because I needed a moment.  I basically had a mini breakdown right there.  I was so glad that LC was with me because I can be my true self with her.  I didn’t have to put on a brave face with her.  I didn’t have to pretend about anything.  I could cry, really cry, and tell her exactly what I was feeling.  I went on and on about everything I had been feeling and thinking and dealing with but holding inside.  LC was amazing, and I think that with her there, I finally knew what I needed to do.

A Realization
In the midst of my crying jag, I realized quite a few things.

First of all, that I was not going to be able to participate in the half marathon.  There is simply no way, at this point, with my injuries,  that I can walk for 13 miles when I can’t even go 2 miles without getting terrible numbness and pain.  No way.  Not even if I continue to “work through it anyway,” as I have been.  It was a relief, really.  I’ve been so angry at myself for not being able to progress in my trainings, and now I could stop all of that self-hate.  I made a mistake thinking that I could do this, at my size.  Which is not to say that I’m never going to be able to do a half marathon, but I know that I can’t do it right now.  And I’m not saying that someone at my weight can’t do one, because they can.  I just can’t.  Not with my current physical limitations.  My body has been trying to tell me something for over a month now, and I am finally ready to listen to it.  I am beginning to accept the fact that I can’t do this.  And that’s ok.  I’m not a quitter if I don’t complete the half marathon.

The other truth that I recognized during my crying fit was that my weight loss has suffered since I began the TNT trainings.  You would think the opposite would be true, that all of the extra exercise would be so good for my weight loss, but it has worked exactly the opposite.  I can’t go fast enough to really get my heart rate up to burn lots of calories, not like I can on the elliptical machine or by doing a workout DVD.  The pain prevents me from going has hard or as fast as I’d like to, and I hate that.  Also, I leave every training feeling so down on myself that I indulge in food to make myself feel better.  Classic “food as self-medication”/emotional eating behavior.  It is all too much to deal with at once, at least for me.  Between teaching the extra class, fundraising and training for TNT, and doing WW, something had to give.  Getting up early every single day was simply not going to happen, so I started sacrificing my Sunday morning WW meetings, which is the last thing I should have done.  Still, because I had stopped counting points, and had started to indulge in some high caloric foods, I wanted to avoid the scale, so it was easy to give up the meetings.  Easy, but the worst possible idea.  I know that I’ve gained weight because I can feel it in my clothes.  And the scale at the doctor’s office displayed a number I thought I’d never see again.

I realized standing there crying with LC at my side trying to comfort me, that I had to make a change.  For my physical health, in terms of the injury, but also in terms of my weight loss and WW. And for my mental health, so that I could stop feeling like a failure every time I attempted to walk.  This was a huge decision, but it’s one that I know is the right one for me now.  I’m going to quit TNT. Of course, I sent in my recommitment forms on Wednesday, right before all of this happened, but I’m confident that if my doctor says I cannot participate because of my injuries, they’ll let me out of my “contract.”

I do feel incredibly guilty because of all of my friends and family members who donated money on my behalf.  I know that most of them wouldn’t have donated if it hadn’t have been for me. But as LC pointed out, “it’s not that you’re quitting because it’s too hard, you’re quitting because you have an injury that is making it impossible.  Plus, LLS is a worthy cause, and the people received a tax write-off, and I’m sure they’ll understand.”  I hope so.

We Completed It!
Once my emotional breakdown was over, I told LC that we need to get back on the track and finish the race.  Which we did.  Feeling so much relief after the cathartic release, I was finally able to just enjoy the walk.  Feeling the sun on my face, the wind whipping around us, and being there with my sister.  (Thank God for her!  I don’t know what I would’ve done without her, and she truly is one of the best people I know).  The scenery was gorgeous, too, and I think we were both finally able to enjoy it:

The SF Bay and marshlands

The SF Bay and marshlands

The trail on our way back.  Quite a journey, metaphorically.

The trail on our way back. Quite a journey, metaphorically.

The "tents" of Shoreline Amphitheatre in the background

The "tents" of Shoreline Amphitheatre in the background

We were both tired, emotionally drained (at least I was), and a bit muddy, but we had come to Shoreline Park to finish the Mermaid 5K and nothing was going to stop us. We made it to the finish line as numbers 282 and 283 to finish that event.  Not the last ones, either, by the way.  It felt good on so many levels to walk over the finish line with LC, one of my biggest supporters, best friends, and a woman who I greatly admire.

As we finished, we were given these great silver charms.  One side says “MermaidRun finisher” and the other side says, “find your happy pace.”  I’m going to put it on my silver chain and wear it as a reminder of the day and all that I accomplished.

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The Farmers’ Market
After the excitement of the race, LC and I had been looking forward to the “pancake breakfast” that the website described.  We had thoughts of sitting down (finally!) at a large picnic table, enjoying pancakes with our fellow participants.  Oh how wrong we were.  The pancakes were being handed out on paper plates, and people were eating them standing up, as the rain was beginning to fall.  (Yes, we finished the race just before the rain started).  We decided that we deserved a better post-5K meal than that, so we headed to Campbell to go to Stacks, a great place for breakfast/brunch items of all sorts.

It just so happened that the weekly farmers’ market was also taking place, which was perfect.  We had an hour wait for our table (Stacks is a popular place on Sunday mornings), and we used the time to shop for some farm-fresh fruits and veggies.  The produce was amazing, and we each picked up lots of it.  I got baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, Fuji apples, pink lady apples, yellow and red bell peppers, and some clementines.  I could’ve gotten a lot more, but I didn’t feel like schlepping it all around, since we had to go back to the restaurant to eat brunch.

Finale

I think this is probably the longest post I have ever written.  It’s almost 3000 words!  But I guess there was a lot to write about.  Quite an eventful weekend:  Decadent hot cocoa.  Huge realizations and self-awareness.  Sisterly bonding.  Fresh veggies.  I guess a little something for everyone, eh?

Thanks for reading, if you made it all the way through. I’ll leave you with one last picture.  LC brought me these lilies, straight from her garden, and I absolutely love them.  In a way I see them as a symbol of how I feel now – delicate yet strong, vibrant yet fragile.

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