Saturday, January 30, 2010

NutriSystem: After Five Months

I must say that NutriSystem works. I started the program five and a half months ago and, although it took some getting used to (requiring much humor and sarcasm), I've lost 25.5 pounds.

During the first 35-day program, I stuck to the NS diet nearly 100%. For the next 35-day batch of NS food, I stuck to the diet maybe 75%, which stretched out my supply of NS food by a few weeks. But since then, I have yet to complete the third round of NS food that I'd ordered back in December; I've successfully been able to mix the NS food with non-NS food every day and still lose weight. On many days I've avoided NS food altogether, substituting my own stuff—albeit in the same vein as the program.

This is actually a good thing because I continue to lose weight while avoiding the NS MREs and occasionally indulging in a meal out or other treat. I have a thing for the Whole Foods cold bar, which I treat myself to once a week. WF also has these fantastic black bean quesadillas and chicken quesadillas that you can buy in the pre-packaged meals section. Oh, and I love the WF chili and some of their soups. Costco chili is pretty good, too.

So I've been substituting entrees. The rest is easy—I just eat lots of fruits and vegies. When I am hungry for a snack, I automatically reach for a piece of fruit, a container of yogurt, or a handful of almonds. If someone offers me a cookie or some candy, I politely decline. ("I don't do that anymore.") If I indulge one evening on a meal out, then I skip dessert the next day or do an extra workout. It all seems to balance out in the end.

It works. The idea behind successful weight loss is learning to eat right. It means breaking bad habits. It's basically that simple. It is really no different from quitting smoking. You just have to decide to do it. Once it becomes habit, it requires no second thought. Of course, excercising is necessary for good health, so that element goes without saying.

There is one drawback, however. If you lose a bunch of weight while unemployed, then you end up without a wardrobe. That's the situation I've gotten myself into now. Fortunately, I had saved a bunch of my smaller clothes in a big box that I dug out of the back corner of my storage closet a few weeks ago. I hadn't seen most of those clothes since 2004—when I was a smoker! There were items in there that still had the tags on them. It was like Christmas!

Meanwhile, I've made several trips to Good Will in a ZipCar. This time, I'm not keeping my fat clothes. I never plan to wear them again! Besides, I'm tired of packing and hauling three separate wardrobes (in three different sizes) every time I move.

So the good part is, I do have some clothes I can wear. Granted, my selection is limited, but I can't complain. It sure will be fun to go clothes shopping when I find myself employed again. Hopefully that will happen by this spring.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How I Jinxed My Own Flight

The words came out of my mouth at my mom's house about four hours before my flight time: "No worries - Delta is always on time." It was raining cats and dogs—with tornado warnings plaguing the Atlanta area Sunday afternoon—so I suspected there might be flight delays. But told me my flight was on schedule.

I should have known better.

Driving my sister-in-law Judy's Celica, I left my mom's house 65 minutes ahead of time for the presumed 50-minute drive, plowing through a torrential downpour to get to the Marta train station. I had planned to park the car in the Marta garage, hide the Garmin navigator and my mom's house key in the glove box, leave the car key on a tire, and catch the 5PM train to the airport for my 7:20 flight.

My biggest mistake was picking up the phone to return a call from Judy. As a rule, I don't like talking on the phone while driving. We were only on the phone for a minute, but it was just enough for me to miss my turn. The Garmin recalcuated, adding five minutes to my arrival time, which was cutting it close.

To make matters worse, the streets were flooded, so I had to drive slowly. As time passed, my arrival time on the Garmin lengthened to the point that I decided I'd just have to take the 5:20 train. This relieved some of the stress to get there on time, so I stopped to fill up the gas tank.

But the rain came down even harder and I seemed to hit every red light. This time when the phone rang while I was driving, I simply ignored it. That was my second mistake because it was probably Delta calling me to tell me my flight was delayed, in which case I wouldn't have rushed.

I got to Marta close to 5:12, knowing I'd have to rush to get a ticket. I parked quickly, tucked a $10 bill into the ashtray to cover parking and, in my hurry, threw the Garmin, the house key, and the car key into the glove box. No sooner had I shut the door than I'd realized my mistake. I'd locked their only key inside the car. Great. But I had to run to catch the train, so I decided I'd call Judy as soon as I got on the train. I'd just have to pay her to hire a locksmith.

First, I couldn't find the way to the trains and climbed three or four flights of stairs before I realized I was going the wrong way. When I finally got back on track, I struggled at the machine to determine what kind of ticket to buy. I got the ticket and ran up to the platform. As soon as I got on the train I got the call from Delta. The automated voice seemed to take forever to spit out the message that my flight was delayed until 8:32. Just before the doors closed, I jumped off the train to deal with the car problem.

After several phone calls with Judy, my brother, a locksmith, and my insurance company, we determined that I should just get back on the train and go. I tried to re-use my Marta ticket, but was forced to buy a new one. (Rip-off!!).

I arrived at the airport around 7PM. While verifying my 8:32 flight, I noticed that two earlier flights to D.C. had been cancelled. Yikes. This was bad. Another monitor later didn't list my flight at all, so I made my way to the gate and found a seat. It wasn't long before the announcement came that my flight was delayed till 11PM. No explanation was offered. Aargh. That's when I moved to the floor and plugged in my phone and laptop to get them charged up for the wait.

Thank god for the NFL play-offs. Everyone in the crowded airport was watching the Saints game on TVs everwhere. The crowd at my gate was a ton of fun. It was pretty exciting to see the Saints win in OT (despite the three bad referee calls in a row).

Long story short, the flight was delayed till 11:20. But by then we were still boarding and delays weren't even being announced by the busy Delta gate rep maintained a surprisingly fantastic attitude throughout the hectic ordeal. Fully boarded, we still didn't have pilots. After the safety check and the long line of planes waiting to take off, we finally took off at 12:20AM.

Arriving at DCA around 2AM, I went all the way to the Metro station, only to find it closed. Geez! What kind of subway closes at night?? Argh.

I had to make my way back to the cabbie stand, where the line was about 100 deep at that point. My entire plane was standing there. I road with two other strangers to my neighborhood, but the cabbie wouldn't let us split the bill, gouging us to pay full price each. It was a rip-off, but at that point I didn't care. I was tired, hungry, and just wanted my bed. Even when the meter read $16.01 and he quoted me $17.60, I just handed him a twenty in the pouring rain and wind and went inside my building.

I've only travelled three times in the past 1.5 years, but leave it to me to pick two return trips during the biggest east coast storms of the year. Both times I kept saying, "Everything will be fine." Wrong. See, I jinxed it!

Never again. From now on, I go back to assuming the worst.

Note - At least my 'girls' were really glad to see me...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jelly Weigh-in

This morning I decided it was time to weigh Jelly. I've been trying to get her to lose weight. It's not easy to get one cat to lose weight when you've got two, because it's difficult to separate food bowls when they both have free reign of the house. Plus, Jelly will eat anything.

So first I weighed myself. Then, I picked up Jelly and weighed both of us. The good news is that I lost half a pound. The bad news is that Jelly found it.

Arrgh. She's up to sixteen pounds! Last time I weighed her she was 15.5, which was bad enough. But 16 is over the top, especially considering she supposedly weighed 13.5 when I first adopted her (at least, that's what her paperwork indicates). I've got to do something more to help her lose weight.

I keep trying to give her less food and have cut way back on letting her lick the yogurt lid. But then she cries with her squeaky little voice to get me to put something in her empty bowl. It's pathetic. And pretty hard to resist. I feel like such a bad "mom" watching her cry next to her empty bowl. Then I feel like a worse mom for giving in.

The key is to get a job and get out of the house. Then I won't have any temptation to give in to her protests. This is the most demanding cat I've ever met! Lovable, yes. That's the problem. It's too hard to resist that chubby little jellicle face, especially when it's backed by the most pathetic squeaks imaginable. Trust me, the squeaking is a killer. You've got to hear it to believe it.

Even as I type this, she is reaching her little white paws up to the armrest of my chair, looking me straight in the eye, and squeaking with unbearable desperation. When I get up out of my chair, she gallops to her empty bowl, her belly paunch swishing from side to side. I put a small amount of kibble in her bowl. She chomps it down like there's no tomorrow. The bowl is clean within seconds. Sigh. . . . I'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Family Reunion in Afghanistan

My nephew Jason the Marine arrived safely in Afghanistan yesterday and was reunited with his mom at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand. Jacqui the Navy doctor was in tears, as she loves both of her sons to pieces.

Jason and his brother Matt are great kids. Matt is such a rock star. Yesterday he was promoted to Commanding Officer of his high school NJROTC unit. Earlier in the week he finished a marathon in the balmy Orlando 26-degree weather - in just 4 hours 20 minutes. The previous week he received another Congressional nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy. There is no doubt in my mind that he will one day be President, or something better - like Master of the Universe or King of all that is Good and Right in the World. Something like that.

I'm so proud of both of my nephews. Of course, it goes without saying that their father is proud too. I gotta hand it to my brother - he raised some pretty awesome young men.

Jacqui just sent us these pictures. Thank god for the Internet!

We're all praying for their safe and speedy return to the states later this year. Your prayers are welcome!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Easy, Safe Way to Help Haiti Disaster Victims

It's sad that there are malicious people who prey upon the good will of those wanting to help the victims of the Haitian 7.0-magnitude quake. Beware of fraudulent email and phone solicitations for such help. There are many organizations providing aid that you can safely donate money to.

For customers, simply go to the Amazon home page and click the Learn more and donate link in the upper right corner under Help Victims of the Haiti Earthquake.

For non-Amazon customers, check out the CNN article online Money needed most in Haiti earthquake relief efforts, which provides a comprehensive list of the highest rated charities providing resources to the Haitian effort.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It's That Time Again

It is hard to believe that my 15-month lease is nearly up. I left New York City and moved to Virginia for school on Dec. 1, 2008. The apartment management here requires 60 days' notice prior to lease termination. That's a bit much. I never plan that far ahead when it comes to moving.

Frequently, I don't know where I'm going to land until just a few weeks prior to the actual move.

But because the apartment management company here wanted a ludicrous sum of $1,960 (!!) to proceed with my lease on a month-to-month basis, I turned in my form on its Jan. 1st due date, expressing my intent to vacate. Reason provided: "TOO EXPENSIVE!"

That's all I wrote.

Geez, I can get a 2-bedroom in Brooklyn for $2K a month if I want. Granted, it wouldn't be Brooklyn Heights, where $2,000 only buys you a 500-sf studio and you're only one subway stop from Manhattan, but it would be within 30 minutes of New York City. I don't know why these D.C. metro area property management companies think that northern Virginia is such a happening place—maybe for family-oriented yuppy suburbanites, but not for me. I'm outta here.

After the last move, which came just seven months after the previous move, which came just 4.5 months after the move before that, I'd swore I'd slash my wrists before packing another box to move. But, deep down, I knew that sooner or later, I'd have to face the fact that it was time to move again.

This week I started packing for my 47th move. That total includes short-term corporate housing and other temp housing. If I subtract temp places that I lived in for 45 days or less, then this is officially move #41 or thereabouts. It's still about 20 moves too many for someone my age. Heck, for anyone of any age.

I've lived in ten different states and Bermuda. I've owned six homes (and still own the sixth one, which now has a renter in it who has failed to pay the rent on time six months out of seven). I've owned 15 cars (and am currently car-less). I've lost track of how many jobs I've had—and boyfriends, too—ha!

Poor Baby. Since I adopted her in November 2007, she's lived through one local and one long-distance move. This will be her third move with me.

It will be Jelly's first move. Right now Jelly is confused about what's going on, but she's not quite freaking out. I think Baby understands that all-too-familiar box taping sound, though, and she's not too happy about it.

I'm trying to keep things organized and am hiding most of the packed boxes so that it doesn't feel like moving. I'm not ready to live like that—not just yet.

I'm not sure where our new place will be. I just know that it'll be cheaper than the apartment I'm in now.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Another Afghanistan Deployment

My 19-year-old nephew Jason (pictured above, middle) is leaving for Afghanistan tomorrow. His mom is already over there, working as a radiologist at Camp Bastion Hospital, saving lives.

Jason is a Marine in the infantry. A machine-gunner. It's hard to believe that this day has come. Just a year and a half ago I was at his high school graduation, but I still think of him as that sweet, adorable child that he's always been. His deployment is due to last seven months.

I hope my brother Pete (pictured left) can hold his breath that long. It cannot be easy being a parent, sending your child off to war. Jason is a brave young man. And so are his parents. Your prayers are welcome, of course.

Meanwhile, his brother Matt (the red-head), just received his third Congressional nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy! What a great kid (not unlike his older brother). I hope he gets accepted at USNA. He's already been awarded some pretty fancy scholarships at other prestigious colleges, so for him it'll probably boil down to his choice. He's in a good place right now. I know his parents are proud.