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5 Financial To-Dos for Every Parent (and parent-to-be)

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When it comes to parenting there is an enormous amount of advice out there on everything from how to prep for baby to what to buy for back-to-school, but we often skip some of the most important to-dos. While many parents may have a financial plan in place most of us forget (or avoid) the big ones. Instead of sticking your head in the sand, I have an easy guide to help you get these tough to-dos to-done.

1.  Have Uncomfortable Conversations

We’ve all had to have uncomfortable conversations, but talking about death and serious illness ranks up there as one of the most challenging discussions you can have. Grab a cup of tea or a bottle of wine and sit down with your partner, spouse, or a family member to discuss.

Here are a few conversation starters:

  • The Kid(s): Who will be their guardians? Who is the backup? What kind of financial plans do you want in place for them?
  • Income/Work: What would you do if you could no longer work? What plans do you want in place for retirement?
  • Health: What are your wishes when it comes to your health? If you were unable to make health decisions for yourself who would you want to do it for you?
  • Death: What are your wishes for your remains? What kind of wake/funeral/end of life event would you prefer?

Starting these conversations isn’t easy, but once you’ve discussed these tough topics the next to dos will be much easier.

If you’ve already had these talks it’s not a bad idea to check in that nothing has changed.  My husband and I recently realized it’s been 10 years (!) since our last check-in. A lot changed in that time including our first-born being old enough to be named as a guardian for our other kids! I would recommend you check-in more frequently than that-consider having these conversations about once every 3-5 years depending on your life’s circumstances.

2. Have Wills Drafted 

I can’t tell you the number of wonderful parents I know who have no will in place. Please don’t do this to your family. I know it’s hard to think about, but it’s imperative. And no, you don’t need to have a million bucks in the bank to have a will. It’s simply a document that shares what assets you have and where they should go (even your action figure collection or your most prized jewelry can be listed).

The simplest way to get this done is to contact a local lawyer who specializes in estate planning (a fancy word for end-of-life documents). They’ll ask you some questions or have a form you fill out and then create documents for you to sign. Most of it (thankfully) can be done via email with a brief meeting to sign your final documents.

Already have a will? Take some time to go over it to check if you need to update anything. 

3. Look Into Your State’s Estate Taxes

Estate taxes are the taxes paid on your assets as they pass on to your heirs. That’s a fancy way of saying the federal or state government tax a portion of your estate when you die. While your estate lawyer (see #2 above) may provide this info, you will want to discuss the tax implications with your accountant or financial planner.

Federal laws require estate tax on amounts over 5.49 million dollars, while state laws vary. In some states setting up a trust is in your family’s best financial interest to ensure your kids aren’t stuck with a hefty tax bill.

Already know this info? Double check that your state laws aren’t changing in 2018; several states are doing away with estate taxes.

4. Share Your Health Wishes

No one likes to think about getting sick– much less being so ill that you can’t make choices for yourself–  but it happens to nearly everyone at some point in their lives. You can work with your estate lawyer to create a healthcare directive to give your spouse, partner, or family member (and usually a backup) permission to make decisions about your care.

A health care directive can include instructions on when (and when not to) use life support, whether you’d like your remains donated to science, burial wishes or instructions, and whether you’re an organ donor among other things.

Already got these details sorted for yourself and your spouse? Double check that you have them in written format in a legal document. 

5. Get Life Insurance (Or Review Your Policy)

Life insurance is one of the simplest things you can do for your family. Put simply, it offers a financial benefit to the people you choose if you die. There are two options: whole life and term.  Term life insurance is a smart option for families because you can get it at a low cost and it has the potential to replace years of lost income. It ends after the term on the policy, so a 15 year policy means you pay the same monthly cost for 15 years and the benefit remains the same. Whole life insurance has fixed premiums for as long as you pay them, but the cost is more expensive and many financial advisors would recommend other ways to stash your cash.

Life insurance may seem like it’s forcing you to put a value on your life, but it’s simply a way to help your family remain financially stable despite the loss of your income and/or care. As for how much life insurance may be appropriate, consider about 10 times your income (stay-at-home parents should calculate the cost of caregivers) plus any debt including your mortgage as a general guideline. You can purchase life insurance through your current insurance agent or you can look at companies who specialize in life insurance such as Haven Life.

Already have life insurance? Double check your beneficiaries and check that you don’t need to increase the amount to reflect your current financial situation.

Made it through our list, okay? High fives all around.

Want bonus points? Go over these to-dos with your parents, in-laws, adult siblings, and friends. They won’t want to have these conversations either, but it’s helpful to know what their plans and wishes are now, so when the time comes you’re prepared.

I know these to-dos aren’t easy to get through, but trust me once they’re done you will feel a huge sense of relief knowing if anything happens your plans are in place.

Photo source: Unsplash/Drew Hays


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7 days ago
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10 Secrets for a Successful Family Road Trip (from a mom who has traveled 10,490 miles with her kids!)

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If you’re embarking on a big family road trip, you need tips. Secret, battle-scarred, amazingly helpful tips that will make your trip easier and possibly more fun. Because these adventures are supposed to be fun, right?! Okay, well, let’s at least aim for not-so-painful.

I’ve traveled more than 1,400 miles with my five children just so far this summer (10,490 miles over the past few years) and I’ve learned a few things on the road.  And, I’m going share them with you. And please, after your next road trip, share your best tips with us! Because road trips are not for the weak.

1) Always book a hotel offering free breakfast

If you’re staying at a hotel, you must book one with a free breakfast option. Mostly because every kid loves a waffle maker (and who wants to clean a waffle maker at home?). A free breakfast is such a cost savings. Plus, the early risers can head down to breakfast while the others gets some extra sleep.

But when you check in, ask about breakfast hours because there is nothing sadder than busting down to the lobby to get your waffle on and find that everything just got shut down and the only thing they can offer you is a bruised 3 day old banana.

Also, in addition, some hotels even offer a happy hour! So if you’re staying in town for a day, this is definitely worth finding out about. The Embassy Suites in Alexandria, VA had a happy hour that was the perfect end to a day of sight seeing in DC.

Other good hotel amenities for road-traveling families: I also love a hotel with a gym (because getting 30 minutes of exercise makes it way easier to sit in the car for hours) and a pool (because kids can really get their energy out and most importantly have fun).

2) Register Any Discounts When You Book the Hotel (Not at Check In)

Hotels won’t always honor a discount like AAA unless you make note of it when you’re booking the hotel. Meaning at the time of check in – it can be too late. This recently happened to me in New York City. I thought they would honor my AAA card when I checked in but it had to be done at the time of booking and no amount of begging or crying could change their minds. Okay, I didn’t cry. But I wanted to because I hate losing out on free money!

Important note: I often check travel/hotel discount and other similar sites for the best rates and then book directly on the hotels’ sites so I can use my AAA card. Because discount travel sites don’t always allow you to use these kinds of discounts from their sites. Also, another tip…. don’t think you have to be a senior to take advantage of AARP discounts. Anyone over the age of 18 can join the AARP and take advantage of lots of hotel and other travel discounts.

3) Portable Potties aren’t Just For Kids

Bring a small, fold-up travel portable potty if you have young children who might need to pee and can’t wait for a rest stop. Make sure you have bags that fit the potty. Sometimes you’re stuck in traffic or there is not a rest stop in sight.

I will even admit that I have used one of these toddler potties after drinking a way too big latte in the car. Obviously I’m incredibly proud of this feat and it will hopefully give my kids something to write about for the “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” when they get back-to-school.

Also, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking water but keep the soda/coffee/anything else drinking to a minimum. This is also not the time to potty train little Susie. She will do great in her diapers until you reach your destination. Rest stops really slow down a trip.

4) Have Pajamas Easily on Hand

If you’re getting in late, have PJs easily available so kids can get comfy in the car and be ready for bed upon arrival. It will save you a lot of digging through suitcases at 1 in the morning. Also, make sure you pack a separate suitcase for the trip. This is REALLY important. You don’t want to be lugging all your stuff in and out of hotels when you’re on the road.

I also pack pillows and blankets so the children can get comfortable in the car and hopefully sleep! Please let them sleep.

5) Clean Out the Car Each Night

You do not want to check out of your hotel in the morning, open up your car and find out someone left a piece of bologna under the seat so that it could bake in the hot sun.  It will smell soooooo badly. So every night, just collect all the trash and clean out the car the best you can. It won’t look like palace – but did it ever?

6) Fun Car Games Before Screen Time

No kid wants to shut off his or her movie to play the license plate game with their parents. So bring out the car games first. Here are some ideas from my good friend Wendi. We did a family Mad Lib every morning of the trip during which I taught my kids the difference between an adverb and an adjective. We also had our 7 year old twins (who just learned how to read) read books out loud to us.

7) Save the Sweets for When You Need to Stop

Pack lots of snacks (especially healthy ones) for the car but save the candy for a special treat. At some point during the day, we would stop at a gas station for a bathroom break (and yes, everyone must pee!). During the stop, the kids would get to pick out any candy they want (as long it wasn’t king size). They really loved this treat and looked forward to it every day.  When it feels like you are driving forever, you need little things like this to look forward to.

8) Stop at Places You Actually Want to Visit

Whenever possible, stop at places you want to visit or have friends.  It lifts everyone’s spirits during a long road trip. I’d rather drive a bit out of the way and enjoy a city I really love than end up staying at some random place on the side of the highway.

So plan the schedule ahead of time. For example, on our drive from Florida to New York, we often stop in Savannah to eat at the super yummy and adorable Sandfly Bar-B-Q.  So don’t rigidly stick to only the fastest route. We’ve hit cities like DC, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, Chapel Hill and Charleston. They weren’t always exactly on our way but we never regretted the stop. Well, I do sort of regret one Chuck E. Cheese stop in Alabama but I’ve always had a difficult relationship with that kids’ place.

9) You’ll Never Regret Having Wipes

Carry a package of baby/toddler wipes in your purse. I don’t care if your kid is 2 or 15. Wipes come in so handy when traveling… for spills in the car, messy ice cream stops, a quick substitute for toilet paper when you find yourself in a bathroom stall without one square to spare. Carry wipes and you’ll be the most popular person ever (or at least in your car).

10) You Will Now Hate Me for Saying This

Remember it’s a journey, not a destination. Yeah, sorry. On a recent road trip, we stopped in Washington, D.C. and my husband was very anxious to get to the National Air and Space Museum. And our children were very content to run, skip and jump from this stone wall a few blocks from the museum. I finally reminded my husband that this was them having fun. And we would get to the museum. And eventually we did.

Sometimes we are so busy trying to get to our final destination that we forget about the stuff in between. And that goes for road trips too. You need to look for the moments of joy in between tedious hours on the road.

Because at some point (between the sibling fighting and constant bathroom stops), your whole family will be laughing hysterically at something and you will think, “Yes, this is why we did this!” I mean – you also saved a bunch of money on airfare – but you also did it for that moment.

Safe travels.


Have a great family road trip tip? Please share!  (I’ve still got about 1,300 miles more to drive this summer so I’ll take any help I can get.) 

Photo source: Depositphotos/Yaruta

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17 days ago
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Marriage advice that’s great . . . for toddlers

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Ah, June, when the internet is awash with advice about marriage — most of it lousy.

Either it assumes that men and women are puppets in a simple story, rather than complex human beings who are learning how to love each other; or else it applies to some marriages but by no means all; or else it’s really good advice . . . for parents dealing with toddlers.

Here are a few bits of marriage advice that work great for a toddler-parent relationship, but is awful advice for a marriage:

Never go to bed angry.

For little kids, sure. I believe in soft landings at bedtime. No child learns lessons when he’s exhausted — and most parents don’t teach good lessons when they’re exhausted, either. Bedtime is time for a hug and as much affirmation as you can muster. If your kid has been a louse all day long, bedtime is still time to say, “I love you,” and maybe remind yourself that your kids isn’t always an irrational demon. Tomorrow you really can start again.

But marriages are more complex. If you suffered a minor annoyance before bed, then yes, you can decide, “Meh, I’ll shake this off and give my love a kiss, because the major good in our marriage overrides the minor bad.” Sometimes the reason you’re angry is because it’s time to go to bed, and a good night’s sleep will set everything to rights.

But if there’s something actually worth being angry about, you’re not going to work through it after a long day when you’re both exhausted and not thinking clearly.

Most marriages go through rough spells, and going to bed angry isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes, spouses will wake up in the morning, feel rested, and decide to apologize, or at least they feel more ready to address the problem in a constructive, loving way.

Or sometimes they will realize, “I’ve been angry for twelve years, and I don’t want to live like this anymore. Time to make some changes.” This can’t happen if you paste on a contented smile just because you now have pajamas on.

Just open up and express what’s bothering you if you want things to change.

For little guys? Oh lort, just tell me what is wrong and I will fix it. Or if I can’t fix it, I will read you Frog and Toad so you forget about it.  Here, have a bit of chocolate from my secret stash. I’m glad you told me what is wrong. I would be upset, too. I love you.

It’s not that simple between spouses, though. Oh, don’t suffer endlessly in silence. No one, husband or wife, should offer themselves up as an open sewer for whatever the other spouse wants to dump.

But it’s also not useful to allow an endless stream of complaint to flow from your lips. Listen to yourself. Do most of your words reflect the true nature of your experience of your marriage? Or are you super devoted to being “honest and open” when it comes to the bad, but suddenly stoic and self-contained when it comes to the good?

Expressing anger and frustration day in and day out is more likely to shut down communication than to open it, whether your unhappiness is justified or not. One of the reasons I finally started seeing a therapist was because I didn’t know how to tell the difference between big problems and little problems, and even when I could tell, I didn’t know how to adjust my response accordingly.

Being honest isn’t the same as opening the floodgates. Honesty is also about discernment. It’s less stream-of-consciousness blather and more poetry, in which words and ideas are carefully chosen and balanced to express something true.

Also, some bad spouses just don’t care. You may be doing your level best to express, in as truthful and balanced a way as possible, that your marriage has serious problems, and it may just not work. Communication is vital in marriage, but it’s not magic. It’s only useful when both spouses are willing to listen and willing to make changes.

Just submit to the head of the household and all will be well.

In most toddler-parent relationships? Absolutely. Dear child rolling around on the floor like a maniac, I am bigger and smarter, and I am in charge of you. Just obey. Put clothes on, because it is snowing. Do not put your head in the dentist’s aquarium. Forever forsake the idea of eating that lightbulb, ya little dummy. Submit, and all will be well.

But in most marriages, this crap advice leads to unhappiness, resentment, and even abuse — and it often expands to abuse of children, too, which the wife feels unable to stop, or unwilling to acknowledge. Unquestioning submission lets insecure, immature, un-self-controlled men to treat their families like garbage in the name of godliness, which is just as bad for men as it is for women and children.

Couples who obsess about wives obeying husbands tend to gloss over the extraordinarily heavier burden God lays on men, which is to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (and no, not even St. Paul says that men have to do their part after women do their part, but if she’s being a lippy dame, you are off the hook, being-Christ-wise.)

In loving, functional relationships, it’s not even on the radar, because husband and wife will both be focused on working out what’s best for the family and best for each other, rather than on who’s obeying whom.

Unpopular opinion: Wifely obedience is occasionally useful in loving relationships in times of some forms of extreme crisis. It’s like when the government declares a state of emergency and suspends habeas corpus. It’s not a long-term plan; it’s to get the union through until things can function the way they’re supposed to again; and it’s only a good idea if the leader isn’t a tyrant.

And then there are other forms of extreme crisis that call for the wife not to submit, but instead to extricate herself, at least temporarily, from the idea that she’s in a marriage. When the husband is being abusive or otherwise dangerous, obedience would be wrong; and she is required to simply protect herself and her children.


Next time you hear some bit of marriage advice that’s popular but rubs you the wrong way, maybe this is the problem: It’s good advice for a parent-child relationship, but completely inappropriate for a marriage between equals who love each other.

What would you add to my list?


Image: Kewpie bride and groom on Ebay

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73 days ago
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Lunch Order

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100 days ago
101 days ago
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100 days ago
Cracked me up!

The Toddler Nap Transition

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Hey Amy,

Just found your site and response to “toddler rebellion” question about a woman’s son not going to sleep until very late. Loved your response. Having the same issue here – if he naps during the day (sometimes he does, something he doesn’t!) then he’s up until 10:30-ish. He’s now in the “big boy bed” with his old crib also in his room but hops out of crib if I try to contain him ;).

So, my question is, how do I make him stay in bed with books, etc. and not come out? I would be fine with that but problem is he runs out of room to hang out with me and he’s so happy and playful and we do this thing where we make a deal that he’ll stay in his bed and I’ll bring him more books etc etc etc but he just won’t stay there. Just wants to talk and play and he’s so excited about life these days (it’s precious!) but by 8pm I’m beyond tired, let’s be real. I also have a 5 month old. By the way, he’s almost 2.5 years old. And when he doesn’t nap during the day he passes out mid-sentence around 8pm. But I kind of believe in letting his body do its thing- not waking him up after an hour nap for example (which often turns into a 3 hour nap). Help!


Hello! And welcome to Nap Transition Hell. You’re not going to be happy with anything I’m about to write, but here goes:

Your son probably isn’t going to be napping all that much longer. He’s showing signs of being almost done with the daytime nap, but not quite totally there yet, and it’s impossible to predict just how long you’ll be playing this maybe/maybe not transitional song and dance routine.

Signs a toddler is ready (or close to ready) to say goodbye to the nap:

  1. Daytime naps are inconsistent, both in length and whether they happen at all. Some days they’re down for the count and out for hours; other days they’re not tired at all and fight the nap all afternoon.
  2. When they DO nap, it blows bedtime all to hell. They’re not tired and stay awake for hours and hours.
  3. When they DON’T nap, they can make it to a reasonable bedtime without too many ill effects (mega grouchiness, crying over nothing, falling asleep in the middle of dinner, etc.)

#3 is usually the last sign to appear, while most toddlers in nap transition display #1 and/or #2 for awhile but still show signs of over-tiredness at bedtime on no-nap days.

But the solution is NOT, actually, to figure out a way to “force” him to stay put in bed when he’s fully napped and super amped and pumped up. That’s an exercise in futility for a high-energy toddler. An older child can understand the directions/rules of staying in bed/staying in their room, but it’s REALLY tough for a freshly-out-of-the-crib 2 year old who just. Isn’t. Tired. ATALL. And even if he DOES stay in bed (or at least his room) and give you some peace and quiet, there’s still the issue that 10:30 p.m. is just too late of a bedtime! It’s likely his nap + overnight sleep hours aren’t adding up to the full amount he needs in a 24-hour period. (It’s about 12 hours total, on average.)

I would cut the afternoon nap down to an hour, hour and a half tops. I know this sounds like you’re not letting his body “do it’s thing” but just like the sleep regressions of the baby days of yore, toddler bodies in the midst of the nap transition aren’t always doing the right thing on their own. Those three-hour long naps are more than likely a result of the late-night antics, and by allowing them you’re accidentally creating a messy cycle of overtiredness day after day and night after night. (And I say this as a fully guilty parent who has been there and done just that!) Keep his daytime sleep shorter and you should see more signs of sleepiness (or at least a willingness to stay in bed without Energizer Bunny levels of excess energy) at bedtime than you are now.

You say he falls asleep mid-sentence by 8 p.m. on no-nap days — is he also a completely miserable little grump leading up to that moment? Or is he otherwise his pleasant happy self who just zonks out? If so, I’d maybe even consider dropping the nap entirely (like, letting an hour here and there happen if it happens, but stop pushing to make it happen every day), and start his bedtime routine earlier so he’s getting tucked in right around the 8 p.m. mark. Then see what time he wakes up in the morning: If he sleeps until 7:30/8 a.m. or later, I’d say that’s a pretty clear sign that he’s ready to be done with napping entirely and can get the sleep he needs at nighttime alone.

If he wakes up much earlier, plan on a nap that day, but again, try to keep it on the shorter side. And this advice also applies if you answered “OMG YES” to the miserable little grump question. That’s still a kid in nap transition, who still benefits from A nap, but not necessarily a LONG nap, and whose sleep needs might just vary a bit from day to day, week to week for now.

Good luck! And may the Nap Gods bless you with (short) afternoon breaks for at least a little while longer.

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105 days ago
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Couch to 5K lives up to the hype

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Here’s an entire post about the Couch to 5K running training program. You’ve been warned! If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the short version:

I was just about ready to lie down and die, but now I feel much better, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and you can, too.

How it works: We downloaded the free app onto our phones. You go out three times a week, and it tells you exactly what to do, on the screen and out loud. Like: “Begin warm-up! Walk for five minutes.” “*BONG!*Start running now!” “You are half way!” “*BONG!*Start walking now.” And so on. It begins and ends with a five-minute walk, and alternates walking and running for varying lengths of time, increasing the total running time week by week. By the time you get through the whole program, you can run five kilometers, which is just over three miles.

You can upgrade the app to play music, keep track of calories, and other stuff, but the free version is fine.

Why we started: As with the beginning of so many great things, I was sitting on the bed crying because I’m disgusting and nothing will ever change and it’s just all so horrible. So my husband goes, “Let’s do that Couch to 5K thing.” And I sniffled, “Okay,” because it sounded better than sitting on the bed crying. I probably would have agreed to go away to Organic Rollercoaster Engineer school at that point.

We both used to run many, many years ago, but now we are both 42.  I have done various kinds of workouts over the years, but it’s been harder and harder to do anything consistently. We were both feeling very much like it was the beginning of the end, and like every aspect of our lives would just get harder and cruddier and more pathetic, steadily and inexorably, until we were dead. So, this was our way to fight back and see if we could do something else, instead.

In the beginning, I was terrified. I was so sure that I was going to embarrass myself, let my husband down, and just be pathetic and gross in some way, and end up feeling even worse because I had failed one more thing. This is not commensurate with reality. I’m actually fairly accomplished in a lot of different areas, and have done all kinds of difficult and frightening things, and am surrounded by supportive, appreciative people. But my stupid rat brain was pretty persuasive about me being a repulsive loser blob.

How it’s going:  It’s going great! It has been hard every week; it has gotten easier every week. Every week, we’ve been very conscious of getting stronger, which is incredibly encouraging and motivating.

We repeated a few days when we felt like we just barely got through them. One week, we peeked ahead and freaked out at how hard the next week looked, so we repeated the same week until we got a little stronger and more confident.

And that is fine. We intend to run a 5K eventually, but we’re not in a huge rush. As long as we don’t lose ground, it’s fine.

So now, six weeks later, we’re starting week four, which is a 31-minute workout. It’s a brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog for three minutes, walk for ninety seconds, jog for five minutes, walk for 2.5 minutes, jog three minutes, walk ninety seconds, and jog five minutes, and then walk another five minutes to cool down. We talk and laugh while we jog.

There is no way I could have done this a month ago. Nooooooo way. I would have thrown up and collapsed and spent the rest of the day laughing at that that alien species of people who waste their lives moving their limbs around like idiots, rather than enjoying life like I was *sob*.

But I’ve gotten stronger, my stamina is much better, and most of all, I have more confidence. I woke up this morning feeling awful, with a sinus headache, a stuffy nose, and a heavy, congested chest. But rather than looking for a reason to skip, I decided that I would at least try and see what I could do. Nobody pushed me into it; I just decided on my own to try.

This . . . is kind of a big deal for me. I find that I’m spending less time looking for excuses not to do things, and more time looking for reasons to make things possible, or at least to give it a shot. Not just running, but all kinds of things. All kinds of things just seem more possible. I feel more capable. I’m looking forward to the future.

This is kind of a big deal for me.

Physical changes: I don’t own a scale, so I’m not sure if I’m losing weight. When I’m getting regular exercise, I find it much easier to eat reasonably, both in what and how much I eat. I’m focusing on just eating when I’m hungry no more than five times a day, stopping when I’m no longer hungry, and trying to get plants and protein and avoid sugar; so I know I’m healthier than I was six weeks ago. My days are less centered around hunting and gathering. The gin, however, stays in the picture.

I feel a lot less shame about my body. Even when I look in the mirror and see a body I’m not happy with, I see it as a working body, a trying body, and not the body of a loser. It’s not that fat people are losers, or that women who look like they’ve borne children are losers. But my body was, objectively, the body of someone who had given up. I had stopped trying to feel better, and that was no good, no matter how I looked to outsiders.

I’m definitely getting more toned. My belly is a little flatter, my hips are less blobby, and my legs and arms have more definition. I’m still fat. I will probably always be fat. This does not seem terrible to me (or to my husband, which helps a lot!).

And I’m sleeping better.
And I have more energy during the day.
I can be active longer without strain, and I can stay awake and alert for longer in the day.
And I’m setting a good example for the kids, who are thinking of doing the program themselves when school lets out.
Any my back doesn’t hurt all the time.
I think maybe my skin is clearer?
My mood is better, especially on running days.
And my posture is better. It’s easier, and it feels more natural, to sit up straight.
I’m looking forward to the summer, thinking about hiking and swimming and running around with the kids, rather than dreading feeling guilty about wasting the warm weather but feeling so draaaaaaained all the time.

I no longer look at running as some kind of alien, unreachable thing that people who are very, very different from me do. The program is really well designed, not pushing too hard or too fast, so you not only get your body in shape, but you gradually come around mentally, too, and start to think of running differently. I really admire the way it’s set up, with a good understanding of human psychology.

Things that help: We drive a little distance and then run in a secluded country road, where there is almost no traffic and it’s mostly level. This pic is from April 5. There’s less snow today!

We use the treadmill when the weather makes outdoor running actually dangerous (like when the road is covered with a sheet of wet ice), but the treadmill adds a whole level of difficulty and unpleasantness. Fresh air, room to move, and something to look at make a huge difference.

It would be harder to stick with this on my own. My husband and I encourage and motivate each other, and keep each other on track. Talking and laughing while we run also makes the time go by so much faster.

Music and distractions like Facebook help a ton on the treadmill. I prefer talking to my husband and listening to the birds and streams when we’re outside, but it helps a lot to have a song in my head, to keep to the beat.

General running tips that I remember from long ago. Correct me if I’m wrong about these!: keep your movements as smooth and gliding as possible; use your whole body, rather than just trotting with your legs; roll from heel to the ball of your foot when you step; try to extend each stride, rather than running faster; tip your chin up to keep your chest up and shoulders back, so you can get more air in your lungs; keep your hands low and your fingers and arms loose, rather than tightening them up around your chest like a fricking dinosaur; breathe in through your nose and out through your pursed lips, to keep the oxygen in your body as long as possible. Don’t forget to stretch before and after. Drink water!

My friends, I was circling the drain, but I’m fighting back! If I can do it, you can, too. (It doesn’t have to be Couch to 5K. It could be any firm decision to get moving and keep it up indefinitely.) I’m not special. I’m not radically reorganizing my life. I’m just ready to stop feeling terrible about everything all the time.


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