Thursday, January 29, 2015

DietBet - Lose Weight to Win Cash

Normally, I am a sucker for gambling. Every Superbowl pool, March Madness bracket, even last years World Cup got me entering in for a chance to win. Any type of competition where money is involved, I'm up for the challenge. Along with the sports events, last year I was exposed to a new game called DietBet. Looking at the title alone, you know there are two key components: dieting and money. But what are the terms?

My friend at work who ran our DietBet was sure to note: This is not considered gambling because the outcome of your DietBet is based on skill, not luck. I was extremely intrigued and read the terms. $10 dollars to join. You weigh in in the first few days with a couple photos of yourself on the scale, and then you weigh out again, same procedure. Whoever meets the terms of the bet (the percentage of weight lost in the given period of time) wins! And if there is more than one winner, you split the pot! How easy is that? Well, maybe easier said than done. But my competitive nature is what allowed me to win, and split the pot with a few other people. So in the end I won the money I entered, and some.

This year we increased the stakes at a whopping $20 to enter. The pool is up to $300 and the contest is over in less than two weeks now. The terms are to lose at least 4% of your total body weight in one month. For me, that translated to about 8 lbs, which doesn't seem like a lot. But the hardest part is if you get to your goal too soon, you must maintain.

I'm sure you are probably asking how is this regulated? For one, everything is online. DietBet is a website where you can create a profile and access all of the challenges at the click of a button. There's also a handy app for smartphones where you can track everyone's progress and weigh in whenever you want. However, the only weigh-ins that matter are the first and the last. There are judges that work for DietBet that receive your photos and approve or reject. So you don't have to worry about friends or coworkers literally seeing your pictures. You receive a code word that you must include on a piece of paper next to the scale so the judges know the pictures are actually you and that you are taking them during the right times.

You may be wondering how I'm currently doing on DietBet. Right now I have hit 75% of my goal with about 1.5 more lbs to lose before the "weigh-out" in 11 days. I've noticed a slight plateau in changes so I need to rework a few things in my diet and exercise routine. But after all is said and done, if you're looking for a fun weigh to lose that holiday weight with your friends, family, or coworkers, this has worked for me in the past and is already helping me now. It's what has put me back on track with my goals, particularly my "resolution" of running a 5k in April for Alzheimer's. I have already shaved off minutes of my 5k-time and are well on the way to running the race straight through. And what's even better, I got my husband and brother and sister-in-laws to join! We have been encouraging each other and it has been really fun doing this together. Check out the website, I'll be sure to do a follow up of my results at the end of the challenge. 11 days to go and counting!

Monday, January 26, 2015

House Hunting - On Hold?

After marriage (especially almost a year and a half after marriage), most people expect one of the following from you:

a.) Have a baby
b.) Have a baby
c.) At least try to have a baby
d.) Buy a house

Now although I know I'm not exactly mentally prepared for a, b, or c, option d has definitely been on my mind. Jay and I spent most of last fall getting to know a realtor, venturing to open houses, and even coming close to putting down an offer. But as we were leaving that very house on the corner of a quiet block, I started asking myself questions. Would I really want three bedrooms on the lower level and the master on the upper? Do I want to demo and reno? What percentage is the right percentage for a down payment? Can I see us living here for 5 years? 20 years? Our entire adult life? Is this where I see us raising a family?

This is one of those instances in my married life where I've realized that everything truly happens for a reason. After taking a large step and a deep breath back, we knew this wasn't our time. We wanted to make sure we got this right instead of making any quick and impulsive decisions.

Below are a few key lessons learned from our recent home search:

a.) Save up as much money as possible. The more to put down, the better. 20% is ideal which seems pretty impossible. I commend anyone who has ever been able to save 5% or more, period. But the worst situation to be in is if you or your spouse loses your job and all of the sudden there isn't enough money for the mortgage payments.
b.) Know exactly what you are looking for. Whether it be the style of the house, the type of amenities, the layout, the work you'll want to put into it, you name it. If you are iffy on any factors, the realtor may have the ability to sway you otherwise. And no matter what they say, they're the ones making a buck or two off of you.
c.) Know your expenses. Take a look at your current expenses. And then add in all the types of things a homeowner needs to include. Like maintenance on landscape, plumbing, electrical, etc. When you rent, you don't realize how all these things add up. If a pipe bursts, you call your landlord or leasing office. But when you own, you're literally on your own. That pipe becomes your problem.
d.) Know your debt. When they run your credit to approve how much money you'll be granted for a mortgage, the bank takes a look at everything. And I mean everything. From student loans to the number of open credit cards you hold. A larger credit line almost looks like a liability (the more money you could technically borrow). I've been in the process myself of paying off some cards and cancelling them so I don't have as many active accounts. I'm a sucker for a good deal, but I have to remember you don't always need the "store" card to save a few dollars.

With all of this in mind, we have put our house hunt on hold for at least another year. We'll probably get the itch again in the fall and start re-inserting ourselves in the market. But at least we'll be a little bit more educated and hopefully in a better place to find our forever home. Take my advice for what it's worth, I'm no expert. But this past year has been eye opening and definitely a learning experience for us. And no babies anytime soon! Not quite yet at least..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Running for a Reason

After almost half a month into the new year, I can proudly conclude that I am well on my way to accomplishing one of my resolutions. The motivation for it really came to me after a vivid dream with my Grandpa. He passed away in 2014 from a battle with Alzheimer's and dementia.

The dream:
It was Christmas morning and we were all in the living room opening gifts. My grandpa was there, and he was in his normal state, long before the effects of Alzheimer's took over his mind. He was wearing his signature light wash jeans and crew-neck sweatshirt. And I still remember how piercing his blue eyes looked as he stood and smiled over us. He was telling stories and laughing, and I remember thinking "wow, he really looks great." All of the sudden, I begin crying and ask him for a hug. I tell him I miss him, and he responds back, "I miss you too. But I am always with you and watching over you everyday." This must have immediately jolted me out of the dream because I woke up pretty hysterical. It felt so real and I truly believe he was reaching out to me. This was the first person close to me that I have ever lost, and I still struggle knowing he is gone. I can still hear his voice in my mind and I try to hold tight to every single memory I have of him. The dream felt so real and it makes me believe that he is out there and making sure I am OK.

After talking to my husband and mom about it, I knew I wanted to do something in his honor in 2015. When I came across a 5k event for Alzheimer's, I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate his life. The race isn't until April 25th, so I have a good amount of time to prepare. I have already started testing my endurance by running on the tread-mill a few days a week. My goal is to get my time down to 30 minutes. That sounds like plenty to achieve 3.1 miles, but I was never a fast runner. I was always the girl who couldn't keep up with the sprinters on my soccer team, so instead I embraced my strength of kicking and potentially knocking girls over if they were in my way. Just last night I ran 3.1 in 35 minutes, shaving a minute off my initial time just a week ago. If I keep this up, I know I can do it.

This race will not only test my will and my body, but my mind as I will be thinking of one person the whole time. If my grandpa could only read this and know that I love and miss him so much. I will always keep him in my heart, and remember that he is with me. I know I will make him proud.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Problem with Resolutions

You may not remember me, considering I haven't posted anything since the end of October. Pretty lame, right? I can't put into words my writers block - life just kind of threw me into the whirlwind of the holiday season. I felt like the singer Sting at the Kennedy Center Honors, and how he all the sudden couldn't write songs anymore. Lucky for us, it didn't last forever. Lucky for me, I guess I needed the kick of the New Year to really get motivated again. Sometimes we need a life event to give us that little extra push, I'm happy mine was 2015.

Most people for the New Year decide on a major resolution. To lose weight, quit smoking, save money, get a better job. The list could go on and on. I know from my own experience that resolutions are extremely hard to keep the entire year. One would think that a single goal in 365 days could be managed and maintained. But the term "resolution" itself can be a little misleading. We tend to glorify it as this object, when to me it really is something along the lines of "I have a problem and I need to resolve it." That's where I think we're all going wrong. We think a piece of our lives is a bit of a problem and we must fix it or else. But I truly don't believe that is the case.

So instead of thinking our lives are troublesome, why can't we think of setting short-term goals? Goals that could eventually lead to something wider-spanned and long lived? Where we are not necessarily fixing something in our lives that is "broken," but making something better? A more enhanced version of ourselves? Where we can look back and say we didn't set these unattainable resolutions that remain to sit high on a pedestal?

And just to kick off this conversation, here are a few of my short-term goals. We have to start from somewhere, right?

1. Enter and complete a 5k by summertime
2. Try my extreme hardest not to "sweat the small stuff" (I'm sure my husband will be happy about this one)
3. Learn and grow in my new position at work and don't get discouraged by obstacles
4. Plan a trip that won't break the bank
5. Remember that everything happens for a reason and stay positive

I think that's a firm number - 5. I mean I could probably set 100 things easily to accomplish off the top of my head, but they don't say "baby steps" for no reason. I encourage anyone who reads this to remember that seemingly small thoughts can snowball into life-changing resolutions, all we need is the idea and belief that we can get there.

Happy New Year and here's to 2015!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thank You For Joining Me!

I never could have imagined that starting a blog would become not only an outlet to vent on life, but a way of life in general. Over the last few months, I have challenged myself to open up to the world and express different aspects of reality with you. For all of the bloggers reading this, you understand how tough it is to put yourself out there and share real-life stories. To allow others into our lives and to not be afraid of what anyone says. I sincerely commend you all for that, as I have faced my own inner battles while sitting you front-row and center into my journey as a new wife.

Sure, there are ups and downs, but life wouldn't be as interesting if things were always perfect. We are tested and we prevail, even if we get kicked down a time or two. Staying positive has always been one of my biggest strengths, but the fear of failure has remained my biggest flaw. Over time I have learned that I am not always right, I cannot always have it my way, yet I can still learn about myself and those around me. I can still evolve into a woman that I aspire to be - successful, fair, compassionate, and true.

I can't stress it enough, from the bottom of my heart, that I thank you all for taking the time to follow me as I continue to change and be impacted by of all of you on Bloglovin. Here's to 100 more!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Following Career Instincts

I have to admit - October has put me on a slight hiatus. This five-week month has been both a reality check and an inner debate of my career path. The questions of my future and planning for the future. Where would I see myself in a year? In five years?

Approaching my one year anniversary at work, I started asking myself these difficult questions. I knew I was ready for the next challenge, but where would it be? For one, I wanted to stay at my current company, where there is so much opportunity to grow and thrive. But I was ready to explore other options and I began meeting with people outside of my department. This was my chance to learn more about the different areas and see if they sparked any interests. A great way to connect and research. To my surprise (as I had not been actively searching jobs), there was a position available that my instincts ensured would be a great fit. I had that "Aha!" moment when you just know and it feels right. A role that blended my past with my present experience in retail and I felt passion stirring up inside my bones again. I knew I would regret it if I didn't at least give it a shot.

After talking it over with my current manager, working on scheduling with HR, and then one long week (that felt like a year) of the interview process, I received an offer the following Tuesday. I cannot truly describe the feeling of excitement that overcame me. Hard work, determination, and the drive to be successful really can pay off. I saw what I wanted and went after it, knowing there was always a chance it wouldn't work out. But at least I tried, and even rejection wouldn't stop me from continuing to push myself in the future. We can never give up on our dreams, no matter how many doors get closed. Or how many "no's" we may hear. We can't give up on ourselves and what we want in life. Only we can control our futures. I took mine by the horns and there's no turning back.

And so, I start my new position in mid-November after a well deserved vacation that Jay and I will be taking back to Aruba. We are heading to where our first week of marriage began (on our honeymoon). We will be able to revisit the places we shared together as we started and celebrated our newlywed life. And what a way to kick off a new job! I'm telling you, the timing of it all could not be more perfect. It truly is a sign that everything happens for a reason. As long as we take control of our future and go after what we believe in, everything then seems to fall into place.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Life We Leaf

The changing of the seasons always makes me take a step back and think about the meaning of change in general. The leaves on the trees don't just decide one day that they want to be a different color. They turn into hues of reds and oranges because they adapt to the colder environment. They no longer need to produce ingredients that help them grow. Much in the same, we make changes because we are thrown into situations of everyday life. We wear warmer clothes because the temperature drops. We turn off the air conditioning because we can be comfortable with the windows open. But unlike leaves, we also have the ability to change when we want to. Because we can make decisions whether they are smart choices or not our finest moments. And then comes the caveat - we must learn to deal with the aftermath of the decisions we make that could alter the rest of our futures. It's kind of scary to think about how much power we can hold from making a choice. How a mere action or thought can steer us into one direction or another. Change can be good, but can it also be bad?

We can take the word "change" and spin it into almost any shape or form. We often hear "change is good." But what about when it wasn't our choice? What if it was the only way and you had to just accept it and continue to live your life? There are things in my life that I will never seem to understand. Things that I cannot control. Things that maybe I wasn't directly related to, but rippled it's way into my life and has affected me and my course. We all experience impacts like this, and I know I am not alone. Part of it makes me angry because I wish I could control the things that alter my life. I guess that's why they call it life - it's our general, random, principle of existence. We live and we learn. We exist and then we're gone. I don't mean to sound morbid, but the speck of our existence is a microscopic dot that falls into a short time-span of the world and all its history.

You see how my mind starts to wander from just the thought of change? Such a concept can snowball into something much larger than us. But what about the things we can control? And that we can change? The good kind of change? The things that make every day worthwhile? What would be the point of living if we couldn't control our existence? Questions could continue to spiral on and on. But at least I know I have the power and the right to make things happen in my own life. And hopefully those decisions don't negatively affect someone else. It's just my way of adapting to change. The best and worst. What I can decide and what I must adjust to. After all, we all seem to be leaves on a bigger tree. We just happen to have two ways of making things happen.

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