Thursday, December 29, 2011

Three-Year Anniversary

As many of you know, on December 23, 2008, I underwent weight-loss surgery. My doctor had urged me to choose gastric bypass but I stubbornly stuck to my choice of Lap-band. Dr. S warned that I probably wouldn't lose as much weight as I needed to with Lap-band, but I didn't like the idea of my insides being rearranged and figured that any weight loss would be better than none. At my heaviest the thought of losing even 100 lbs (or even just 50) sounded like a miracle.

Three years later and I have lost 184 lbs! Yep, a whole person! What's great is that I'm still losing weight - very, very slowly. In June 2010 I reached my personal goal of losing half of my body weight; I weighed 175 and had lost 175 lbs. To celebrate, I went skydiving with my cousins Alyson and Cassie. Since then I have lost another 9 lbs and now weigh 167 lbs (before this week of Christmas overindulgence). I'm very pleased with how I look (except the excess skin) and am beyond thrilled with how I feel. I feel GREAT!

A few weeks ago, I went in to see my surgeon after not seeing him since June 2010. I needed a slight adjustment to my band - it felt too tight - and the timing worked out to be able to go to St. George for an appointment with him. I'm so glad I went in! Not only do I feel better since having the adjustment, but also because Dr. S said seeing me reminded him of the reason he does weight loss surgeries. He said that he sees so many patients fail to make the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight and keep it off. To see me lose more weight than he thought I would and to have kept it off for so long made him feel really good about his job. I told him that having the surgery saved my life and it really did.

I was morbidly obese. I hadn't developed some of the health complications that come with being morbidly obese, but I'm sure they weren't far off. I had noticed my blood pressure start to creep up just past normal, diabetes was probably at my doorstep, and who knows what else was going to develop if I didn't lose weight. My mom had said numerous times that she worried I'd die before I was 40. I kind of worried about that too, but I didn't know what to do about it. Sometimes I felt so utterly hopeless that death held a sort of appeal - then I wouldn't have to worry about being so large any more.

My stepmother was the one who had the idea for me to have weight loss surgery. My half sister's babysitter had lap-band surgery and had lost 70 lbs in a few months. Paula and my dad discussed the surgery decided to offer to help me pay for it if I chose to have it done. When I finally decided to go ahead with it, six months after their initial offer, I talked to Paula about my weight. She said she thought I was beautiful no matter what, but she worried that I had stopped living life, that I held back on really enjoying it and on doing things I wanted to do because of my weight. It was so true. I'm blessed with a naturally positive and happy nature, so it wasn't like I was miserable, but I could see how I had changed as my weight steadily increased. I will appreciate Paula's insights and for her and my dad's willingness to help me for as long as I live.

Losing 184 lbs has saved my life! Not only because of the weight-related illnesses that have been avoided but also because of the life I now live that I wouldn't otherwise. I'm married, for crying out loud! I would never have dreamed of joining an online dating site if I had stayed at 300+ lbs, so I would never have met my husband, the most wonderful man I've ever known. I have had many adventures that I would have skipped because of my weight, I have been able to do things like bike riding that I hadn't done since I was a kid because I was too heavy to do them. Even simple things like going to the movies or sitting in a restaurant booth are easier and more enjoyable because I don't have to squeeze into the seats! Even though it's been 3 years since my surgery, I still got a spark of joy when Steve and I went the the Nutcracker ballet and I fit easily into the small theatre seats - with room to spare!

Someone recently said to me that they kind of missed the old Julie. I'm not sure what that means, since I feel like the same person just with less body mass, but if I am different, I don't miss the "old" me. I love how I look and how I feel. I love how much healthier my body is. If there has been a non-physical change in me, it's how much hope I feel now, how excited I am by the future, how happy I am. I don't limit myself any more because of what my body looks like. And, I like shopping more now. Otherwise, I'm still me.

Weight loss surgery isn't an Easy button; it is a tool. It is effective only as much as you use it to help you change your lifestyle. There's always ways to circumvent it, but why would you spend all that money to do what you've always done? One definition of "crazy" is doing the same things you've always done and expecting different results. I definitely am not perfect with my eating (I LOVE chocolate!) but the band helps me control how much I eat and most of the time I do eat responsibly. Exercise, though, is uber important to me! It helps "erase" some of the chocolate, ice cream, etc. that I eat and it really is good for the soul as well as the body.

In conclusion, I can't believe it's been three years since I had my surgery. Back then I had no idea where I would be today, but I had hope that the results would be worth it. They are!

Here are a few pictures of my weight loss journey:

October 2008 - 350 lbs

December 21, 2008 - 351 lbs

The doctor's office took these pictures a couple days before surgery.

February 2009 - 299 lbs!

Summer 2009 - 250 lbs! (Lost 100 lbs!)

Late summer 2009

Fall 2009

April 2010 - 185 lbs

June 1011 - 171 lbs (lost 180 lbs!)

Dec. 23, 2011 - 167 lbs (lost 184 lbs!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

In the Spirit of Christmas

Can you believe that Christmas is in just a few days?? Last night, lying in bed, I realized that a week from then would be Christmas night - all the presents would be open, Christmas Eve dinner would be eaten (except for some leftover, hopefully), and it would be another year until Christmas Day again. This month has gone by so quickly, and yet I'm feeling more Christmas spirit than I have in many years.

One reason may be due to having finished my Christmas shopping weeks ago. Steve and I knew that we wouldn't have much time together to do Christmas shopping until after we needed to deliver the presents to their intended receivers, so the weekend before Thanksgiving, we cranked out most of our shopping for our family members - including four people's birthdays! During the next couple weeks, we both finished shopping for each other and managed to wrap all the presents! It's kind of hard to get the presents for people so far in advance because I'm not patient about giving them - I want them to open the presents immediately because I'm so excited! However, it's been heavenly not having to worry about what to buy people and to not have to mess with the stores (too much) and the people milling inside. It's a weight off our shoulders, making my spirits so much lighter!

A bigger part of my Christmas spirit is due to last week. My husband took last week off, so we were able to spend a lot of time together, choosing to do some very Christmas-y activities. Here's a quick run-down of our fun, with pictures when available (not as much as I would have liked).

December 9-11: We drove to Cedar City for my youngest brother's wedding. Technically not "Christmas" but the decorations had a slight Christmas feel and their colors were red, white, and black. Everything was beautiful and what says Christmas more than love? It was great to see my brother marry such a lovely woman, to welcome two great little kids into my heart, to spend time with all my family, and to be reminded of the vows I made to my wonderful husband and to have the love I feel for him strengthened in many small and great ways.

Monday, December 12: Drove home after taking a quick trip to St. George to see my WLS surgeon. All is well and he is so thrilled that I'm doing so well. Me too, doc! When we got home, we curled up on the couch and watched a couple Christmas TV specials that we had recorded, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "A Charlie Brown Christmas Special". I love both shows, but I have a special place in my heart for the latter - it really touches me.

Tuesday, December 13: We cleaned all morning, and I mean cleaned! We had been so busy (and sick) lately that our house was not looking too well. Not only did we do the standard cleaning, but we also did some of the nitpicky things that don't get done as often like cleaning base boards and window sills. I had been a little grumpy at the start of the day but when we finished cleaning, my spirit felt refreshed. It really is true that a clean house helps one's least it does mine. Having a clean house helped our very few but precious Christmas decorations and lovely tree really shine. That night, we watched "White Christmas", yet another classic Christmas movie that makes me very happy. Steve hadn't seen it for ages and was amused that I could quote it (but didn't too often to be annoying) and could sing along to all the songs (see last parenthetical note). Is there any greater Christmas movie moment than when the back of the stage opens up to the beautiful snowy Vermont scene while Bing and company sing White Christmas? I get chills every time I watch it.

I love our tree!

Wednesday, December 14: Steve and I went to see the new movie "Arthur Christmas". I knew it had received great reviews, but so had "The Muppets". I really enjoyed "The Muppets" (in large part because I was watching it with many family members, including nieces and nephews) but I didn't LOVE it, just liked it a lot. So, I was skeptical about "Arthur Christmas", really really skeptical. In fact, I had wanted to see "The Descendants" but the time schedule was better for "Arthur Christmas" and it's Christmas time and all, so we went to see it. I LOVED it! I laughed, I teared up, I got excited and anxious, and I felt Christmas. This is a movie I would like to own and watch every year with my own kids, if I ever have any, or with my nieces and nephews if I don't.

Thursday, December 15: At the beginning of the week, while watching tv, we saw a commercial for The Nutcracker. I said, "Oh how fun! I haven't seen that in years and years!" Next thing I know, Steve, my wonderful husband who doesn't love ballet/opera/fancyschmancyplays/etc., had bought us two tickets! So, this evening I put on my second-fanciest dress (having left my new dress for Kevin's wedding in Cedar, frustrating!), glammed up as much as I'm capable of being, and headed off with a very handsome husband to the ballet. I loved walking into Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake, watching the people mill about - especially the little girls who were loving being dressed up almost as much as me, and enjoying my overpriced mint chocolates and chocolate covered raspberries that my husband spoiled me with. The ballet was wonderful! I love the music, the story, the dancing, and especially the costumes. Time flew by, and even Steve enjoyed it more than he thought he would (though he wouldn't use "enjoy" to save his life).

Me before "The Nutcracker".
Not the best picture, but it was the best I could do.

Friday, December 16: Realizing that our budget was pretty much shot this month but still trying to be somewhat fiscally responsible, we decided to have a money-free date night. We ate a lovely homemade dinner of Swedish meatballs (first time every making them!), and then went to the Christmas Village in Ogden. It's one of our family traditions - second year! - and one I really enjoy. This year wasn't nearly as cold as last year, but it was still really nippy! I love the lights all around the park, the trees dressed in different colors, the houses with beautiful, whimsical scenes, and all the people and kids to provide great watching opportunities. I love walking around hand-in-hand with Steve. Back at home, we drank hot chocolate while bundled up on the couch, snuggled together, watching "Scrooged". What a funny, irreverent, heart-warming movie! I hadn't seen it before last year when Steve introduced it to me. It's another family tradition.

Saturday, December 17: We found out that Steve ended up having to work a few hours this day, right during the time we had planned to go to Salt Lake to see some of my family, go ice skating, and see the lights on Temple Square. Instead, my wonderful family came up to our house so that Steve could still be apart of our day together, though missing a few hours of it. It was my wonderful mom's birthday, so before they arrived, Steve and I bought a cake and some decorations and had everything ready for when Mom walked through the door. It was fun to see her surprise and happiness with the decorations (I forgot to take a picture at the time, but below is a incomplete re-creation).

There was also a German Chocolate cake and a few presents. It was fun!

We had lunch, she opened her presents, we played some games, Steve left for work, Cassie came, we did a little shopping at Hobby Lobby (love it!), then we bundled up and headed to the Christmas Village in Ogden. We started with Santa. Robbie was really excited to see him, and we thought it best to wait in line before it got too cold (it was already dark). I was impressed with how well Robbie did with Santa. Some kids end up getting scared, but not him. He said "Hi Santa!", climbed up on his lap, told Santa what he wants for Christmas, and then wished Santa a "Merry Christmas!". It was so cute! Then, because I'm a big kid at heart and wanted a candy cane that I hadn't stolen (yes, I stole a couple candy canes - I gave one to my mom), I sat on Santa's lap. I asked for another dog, a greyhound. I haven't decided for sure that I want another greyhound (though we're pretty sure we're going to get another dog next Spring), but it was all I could think of with such short notice.

Look at my cutie-patootie nephew! And isn't this a great-looking Santa?!

Dear Santa, please see my last blog post to see what I want for Christmas.

After Santa, we rode the little train in the middle of the Christmas village. It was only 50 cents per person and adults could ride it too (it was a really small train!). Being a kid at heart, I loved it! So did Robbie, who was the real reason we rode the train. I wish we had pictures of this! Oh well. We walked around the village, and I really got a kick out of how interested Robbie was in all the houses and their inner scenes. I thought he wouldn't be because he couldn't go inside, but he loved looking at them. He's such a cutie! Even though this was my second time seeing it in as many days, it was a different experience with my family. It was a lot of fun! I just with all my brothers and their families could have been there.

If you look closely, you can see Robbie at the igloo's door.

Cassie and Mom standing with a really big moose.

When we all got too cold, we headed to a nearby Italian restaurant. Luckily, Steve got off work a little early and was able to meet us there before we got seated. I was so happy to see him! Everyone parted ways after dinner, so Steve and I headed home alone. Again, we cuddled on the couch with mugs of hot chocolate and watched tv (we're loving season 1 of Raising Hope).

Sunday, December 18: Nothing. We didn't do a darn thing! I didn't even leave the house! (Steve was sweet enough to take the dog for her walks by himself so I wouldn't have to go out in the cold.) I read and read and read. It felt wonderful. I couldn't be this lazy every day, but after a few weeks of being busy (and sick), it was nice to be this lazy one day.

It was a really wonderful week with lots of Christmas fun, family, and spending time with Steve. This week he's back at work, so it will be less exciting, but I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We have some fun things planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (opening presents!!!).

I hope that you're all getting into the spirit of Christmas, that you're able to spend time with the marvelous people in your lives, and that with all the hustle and bustle of the season you're still able to feel the true meaning of the holiday...the perfect love of our Father and His Son and the hope and peace that this love brings to all of our lives.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

2011 Christmas Wish List

Before starting this post, I looked at last year's Christmas Wish List and was a little surprised to see that I got pretty much everything on it throughout the year. The best present, of course, was the ring and what it meant. You can read about how I got the engagement ring here. I still sometimes look down at my finger in amazement - I'm married! It has been so good being married to Steve this year and I really look forward to many years of being together.

Sadie, our cute, funny greyhound, has also been a wonderful gift. She keeps me company when Steve is at work during the night, and we both have fun playing with her expecially as time passes and her personality developes more into a pet than a racer.

I've had two jobs this year - one that was far from home and not totally enjoyable and one that is close to home and really enjoyable. The latter pays much much less than the former, but it just feels good to have a job, to be contributing to the family income, and it's perfect for me while going to school.

Steve and I play Mario Kart quite frequently and I still manage to beat him every now and then (I used to cream him, but he got good).

I hope all my friends and family found love and joy this year, but I know at least one did. My brother Kevin is getting married this weekend! I'm so happy he found someone special who loves him like he deserves to be loved.

I even discovered a couple local friends that I can see without having to travel too far! Of course, now with school and homework, I don't have as much time to hang out with them, but at least I could. They're good friends, too, friends I've known for years so feel comfortable being with. That reminds me, I need to get in contact with them and make plans for getting together in the next couple weeks!

Life has been so good to me, I feel almost selfish asking for anything else. Almost. Really, it would be selfish of me NOT to post this list. If I didn't, how would you know what to get me? *mischievous grin*

So, for your benefit more than mine, here's my Christmas Wish List: (you're welcome)

1. Perfect hair. If we're going to be 100% honest (which I always am), I would LOVE hair that goes halfway to my bum, thich and luxurious, not limp with lots of split-ends. Hair that naturally dries into the perfect hair - wavy curls, shiny, lots of body and bounce - so I don't have to spend any time on doing it. Leaving the land of fantasy, I'd settle for hair that hit my shoulders and dried into the perfect hair - straight without any kinks or frizziness, shiny, lots of body and bounce - without having to beat it into submission with a blow dryer and a 2" round brush. Even my current short hairstyle requires a few minutes with both. *disgruntled sigh*

2. A remodeled kitchen. My current kitchen isn't too shabby, it has some nice features; however, it also has a very out-dated and too-small oven and the stovetop is located on the island, separate from the oven, and is also really old. In my perfect kitchen (that fits into my current house - we won't get started on my absolute PERFECT kitchen), I'd have a double oven (a smaller oven on top of a larger one, but still about the same height of a regular oven) with a flat stovetop since our kitchen isn't set up for a gas range. I'd like the microwave to be above the stove, doubling as a vent for the stove. The island would be devoted to workspace, with a few extra electrical outlets around it. The current stove hood/vent/fan that is above the island would be replaced with either nothing or one of those fancy pot hangers (as long as I wouldn't be constantly hitting my head on it like I do our current hood). I'd love a bigger fridge - one with the french doors for the fridge and the freezer is a pull-out drawer on the bottom. I know some people don't like this set-up, but I'm pretty sure it would be ideal for me.

3. A honeymoon. Steve and I had a nice wedding weekend with a night's stay at a bed and breakfast in Salt Lake, but I would like a true honeymoon - a week somewhere fun and exotic. My top choices would be: Europe (Spain, Denmark, Germany, Italy - in that order), Japan/China, a cruise to anywhere warm or Alaska, Montreal or Quebec City, western Canada, or to any state that I haven't been to yet. So, almost anywhere. :)

4. A puzzle. Nothing too challenging like the ones my mom and Corey used to put together, just a pretty puzzle with 1000 or so pieces that would give my mind something to do when it needs a break from homework. A card table to go with the puzzle would be nice, too, so I wouldn't have to use my kitchen table.

5. A lifetime supply of chocolate. I'm thinking of a piece of chocolate - not too big or too small, maybe 2" square - that comes in the mail every day (two on Saturday so I have one for Sunday). Each day would be a different chocolate; sometimes milk, sometimes dark, sometimes with nuts, sometimes a truffle, sometimes a chocolate brownie or cake, etc. I think if I knew I would have one piece of chocolate every day for the rest of my life, I'd be pretty happy and content and would probably lose weight because that one piece would satisfy me, especially knowing that I'd get another piece the next day. And how fun would it be to try all different types of chocolate? If I really really really didn't like one type, I could request never to be sent it again, or if there was one I especially loved I could request it come more frequently. I think heaven will consist of a deal like this. Otherwise, would it really be heaven?

6. Love, happiness, and peace for my family and friends. It's a repeat from last year, but it's worth repeating. In fact, it's something I hope and pray for every day. The people in my life are what make my life so enjoyable, they deserve the best of what life has to offer. In fact, I also wish for lots of time this next year with my family and friends. Every time I get to see them is a gift.

It's unbelievably difficult to come up with a wish list when I have everything I've ever really wished for. It makes me feel so blessed.

I hope that whatever is on your Christmas Wish list is "under your tree" this next year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Thankful Thanksgiving

I know, it's pretty cliche to make a list of things I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving, but there's a reason things are sometimes cliche - they are good and they are right. There's no bad time to make a gratitude list, so here goes mine:

I'm Thankful For:

1. Steve. He pretty much dominates this list. He is the best man I have ever known, better than I deserve. Steve is sweet, strong, smart, sexy, sure, silly, and simply stupendous. (That list wasn't intended to be all s's but once it got going, I went with it.) We really are a good team, best friends, and intense Skip Bo rivals (I recently had a 12-game winning streak). I trust him completely and feel comfortable being myself 100%. He sees me at my best and my worst...and he doesn't think my worst is all that bad. We don't really fight, but we don't always agree. I feel happiest when I'm cuddled up next to him with his arms around me. I'm so thankful for the man he is, for the woman he makes me want to be, and for the life we share.

2. Our home. We have officially been in our house for a year now, and I can't believe it. In ways, I feel it can't possibly be just a year, in other ways, it feels like we've lived there for years and years. From the moment we moved in, it felt like home. I know a big part of that was because I was there with Steve, but it really does fit our preferences and personalities. It's large enough to fit houseguests, has some nice, distinct quirks, and it is in a pleasant, quiet neighborhood. There are a lot of places to walk in our neighborhood, and I love that most of the neighborhoods around us are quite festive for all the holidays. I feel like we like in a small town, but we're really close to big towns with lots of shopping and eating options. It's pretty darn close to perfect.

3. My job. Working at the Student Health Center at Weber State University is pretty darn close to being the perfect job while going to school. I don't work too many hours so have plenty of time to do homework and spend time with Steve, it's close to home and really close to my classes (one building over), they are really accomodating if I need to take time off to take a test or talk to a professor, and I get to do homework at work if it's not busy - which is quite often. An added, and important, bonus is the great people I work with. They're all very nice and I enjoy chatting with them. I'm very fortunate to be in the position where I can afford to work this job while going to school instead of needing to work a full time job in order to pay the bills. I'm thankful that my husband has a good job and is happy to support me while I go to school. I hope to return the favor someday.

4. My mom. I have a wonderful mother. She taught me how to be a lady, taught me to be strong and independent, and taught me how to work and be proud of a job well done. My mom is beautiful, inside and out, and I'm proud when people tell me that I look like her or that they see her in me or vice versa. Mom came to visit us last month and I really enjoyed spending time with her. She didn't come for any other reason except to see us and to go to the places around our home that we love. One of my favorite times was window shopping on Historic 25th Street in Ogden. We stopped at all the stores Steve and I enjoy, discovered an Argentinian bakery with yummy pastries, and bought chocolates at a cute, unique shop. The whole time, we laughed and talked. It was wonderful being with her. I'll always remember that weekend and how special she made me feel by making a trip up just to spend time with me and Steve. That's the kind of wonderful mom she is. I'm thankful she's my mom and I'm thankful for all the lessons she has taught me (even when I wasn't willing to learn from her).

5. My family. I grew up with three brothers. They were great. We fought, of course, but we had a grand time playing with each other too. They taught me to be strong, to stand up for myself and not be pushed around by boys, and they taught me a little bit about what kind of man I wanted to marry someday (they probably didn't realize they were teaching me this). They tolerated my bratty phase, my bossy phase, and my distant phase. Now we're all really good friends. And, they married, or are about to marry, good women who I really enjoy spending time with. One of my favorite traditions that I'm afraid is disappearing now that I live away from Cedar is making Christmas candies with my sister-in-laws. We spend all day making delicious confections to pass out to friends. This year, I'll be doing it on my own and it won't be the same. I'm thankful that we get along so well and have such loving relationships. I'm especially thankful for my brothers' kids. I love being an aunt and I have the most adorable niece and nephews in the world. I love them so much. I'm also thankful to be gaining a new niece and nephew in a couple weeks when my brother gets remarried. They are cute kids and I'm excited to get to know them, be a part of their lives, and to learn to love them.

6. My dad. I have an interesting relationship with my dad, but no matter what, I love him and am thankful for him and for the things he has taught me. When I was younger, he taught me that I should expect to be treated like a lady by the men in my life, he took me on practice dates, and he taught me not to settle when it came to choosing the man I would spend the rest of my life with. I married a man who has all the same wonderfully good points as my dad yet who is also unlike him in all the ways I wanted. I'm thankful that my dad's second wife is nice and who has treated us well from the beginning. I'm also thankful to have a cute little sister. She's closer in age to my niece, but she's my sister and I love her and marvel at how great she is.

7. Friends. I have always been blessed with wonderful people in my life. Angels disguised as friends. These friends have been with me through thick and thin times (literally and figuratively); we've shared dreams, secrets, tons of laughs, and our share of tears. I've met my friends at school, at work, through other friends, and a few of my closest friends are cousins of mine. Our lives have sometimes taken us away from each other, but our spirits remain close. I don't see my friends as often as I used to or would like, but every day some memory or thought about one or more of them comes to mind. I pray for my friends and hope they're doing well and are happy. And, when we actually get to spend time with each other, it's as if no time has passed and I'm just as at-ease and happy with them as ever. My mom once told me a true friend is one that you can reconnect with as easily as if you were never apart. That is how it is with my friends. I'm so very thankful for my friends. I am who I am in large part because of their influence and example.

8. My body. Even when I was obese, I had a healthy body; I could walk, hike, play tennis, swim, and other fun activities, though often with lots of huffing and puffing and a red face. Now I really appreciate my body. I am thankful to be able to run and ride a bike again and to do other things that I hadn't done when I was so heavy. I'm thankful that my body is more healthy now - not just because of the lost weight but also because of the increased activity and healthier food. I can comfortably fit in theater seats, airplane seats, office chairs, and that I don't worry about breaking flimsy-looking chairs at restaurants or people's houses. I don't limit myself any more - I live my life to its fullest. I even went skydiving last year. Yes, I'm very thankful for my slimmer, healthier body and all the activities it allows me to do.

9. Sadie. I was a little nervous about getting a dog. I knew it would change our lifestyle. And, the first week or two, I had a few rough patches. However, I really enjoy having Sadie in our lives now. She is such a loving, well-behaved dog. If you need a smile, come over and see our crazy dog. She will warm your heart with her big welcome - a furiously wagging tail and maybe even some rare greyhound kisses. Petting her releases happiness molecules that travel from your hand all the way up to your head and heart. An added benefit of having Sadie is having to walk her a few times every day...even if it's blistering hot or freezing cold. And, taking her for a quick two-minute walk to do her business isn't going to cut it. That girl doesn't do anything until she's been walked for at least 10 minutes, so you get a good walk in.

Well, I'm done with work and off to class, so I'd better end this post. I hope everyone has a wonderful turkey day with family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wonderful Weekend

Who doesn't love the weekend?

Well, there are kids in my classes that don't because that's usually when they a) work, b) do homework, c) both. That said, who else doesn't like the weekend???

I certainly do! This past weekend was particularly enjoyable. Here's what went into such a nice, productive, enjoyable two days: (pretty much ranked in order)

1) Tons of time with Steve. Now that he works 3pm to 11pm during the week, I really treasure the time we have together on the weekends. We have so much fun together; laughing, talking, playing games, even just walking the dog. He's definitely my best friend and I love him so much!

2) Shopping. It used to be that the thought of going from store to store for any reason (though especially clothes shopping) was enough to make me want to hide under my bed until the threat went away. However, with dramatic weight loss came more enjoyment while clothes shopping and with marrying Steve came more enjoyment with all other kinds of long as we're doing it together. He and I have similar shopping preferences - where we like to shop, how long we like to look at things, when we're absolutely done, etc. - so the experience is pretty pleasant. AND, we got almost all of our Christmas shopping done!!! BEFORE THANKSGIVING! That is a record for me. In addition to Christmas presents, we also bought my brother's wedding present and birthday presents for my mom and niece, AND I bought some presents for Steve while he was sleeping (he worked until 6am that morning). I have 2/3 of the money left for him, so I still have some shopping left to do, but it feels good to have the rest done so early.

3) Food. Saturday night we ate at Olive Garden. Normally when we want Italian, we go to a nice little restaurant in Ogden called Rovali's that has excellent food and service. However, I spent last week craving OG for some reason (the salad??), so we went there mid-shopping. I enjoyed my stuffed rigatoni and chicken immensely! Sunday morning, I made a delicious quiche from stuff in my fridge - bell peppers, onion, chicken, bacon, two types of cheese, eggs, and half-n-half. It was definitely the best quiche I've made - and I make pretty darn good quiches. I loved every bite! Later Sunday, I made meatloaf and garlich mashed red potatoes. The meatloaf was so juicy and flavorful and the potatoes were creamy and buttery. Mmmmm. I love the satisfaction that comes with making delicious food!

4) My hair. My bangs are still too short, but they aren't as short as they were. I can look into a mirror and not cringe. I don't care if some think it's shallow - when you think you look good, you feel good. This weekend I finally felt like I looked good again and I noticed the added spring in my step as we walked around stores.

5) Football. All of my college teams won (Weber, SUU, Utah, and Steve's UCLA), my NFL team won (Detroit Lions), and my fantasy team stands a decent change of winning if my remaining player doesn't tank tonight. Even if he does, I'd rather my real teams win and my fantasy team lose than vice versa. Here's hoping for a win-win though!

In short (haha), nothing spectacular happened this weekend, but I really really enjoyed myself. I truly believe that most of life is made up of small moments that could be easily overlooked if you're not paying attention. It's better to get every ounce of enjoyment from those moments (they can be pretty packed!) than wait for the big occassions that can be awesome but are usually pretty spaced out, too.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Life Update: School, Family, Work, Hair...You know, the important things

I must say that I enjoy being back in school and am not too ashamed to admit that one of those reasons is that while in school I don't feel too bad about not working full-time somewhere. Granted, with going to class and having homework, I put in almost as many hours as a full-time job but it's totally different, I don't care what anyone says.

I have three classes this semester: Intermediate Accounting, Cost Accounting, and Individual Tax. The latter class is my favorite, partially due to the course content and partially due to the professor. My other two classes aren't difficult classes but the professors have wonky teaching styles, so the classes tend to be a bit more challenging than they probably should be. Oh well, I love a good academic challenge, especially when I end up getting As, which I am on track to get in all three classes.

I'm not really good at making friends in my classes, especially at the beginning. I tend to like to work out problems on my own, I learn the material better that way, so I kind of stick to myself. Eventually, though, I get to know the people in my classes (and I end up being known as a smartie) and really enjoy becoming friendly with them. While getting my undergrad at SUU, I ended up making some really good friends from my classes. This is beginning to happen in my classes here at Weber. I'm already becoming friends with a gal in my Cost Accounting class and slowly I'm getting to know other people in my classes, talking to them about homework, the professors, our career plans, etc. Even though it takes me a bit of time to get to this point, I really like the social element of school.

When I started school, Steve told me that he was fine if I didn't work at all, so I could concentrate on school. That was really sweet, but I kind of wanted to work a little to kind of help with the family finances, even if just a tiny bit. I told him I'd work part-time but only if I got something on campus. Well, I did! Yay! I work 20 hours a week at the Student Health Center and really enjoy it. They understand that I'm a student first so have worked with me if I needed to miss work to finish a huge project and they allow me to do homework at work if it's slow. And of course they work around my school schedule. It's pretty much perfect for me. And, I really like everyone I work with. Colette, the office manager, is my direct supervisor. We sit at the front desk and help the students when they come in to see one of the two doctors on staff. It's also great because I don't work weekends, nights, or holidays! In fact, I don't think I work at all after the semester ends and I know I have the summer off. So, it's not a ton of money, but I feel good about bringing a little to the table and it actually does help with our budget and financial goals.

After making several trips to Cedar and other various places to see family over the summer, after we went to my nephew's baptism the first weekend in September, Steve and I decided to not take any big trips until Thanksgiving. I kind of thought I'd be bereft of seeing my family for all that time...silly Julie! We ended up seeing my brother who lives in Sandy for 4 weekends in a row after that and October was chock full of family visits!

My youngest brother visited the first weekend, along with his girlfriend (now fiancee) and her son. We had a blast going to Lagoon with them and just sitting around playing games and chatting. The next weekend my mom came up. The best part of her visit was that she came up just to see us - there was no other reason. It felt good that she had just wanted to spend time with us. We had a lot of fun with her. Steve was working when she got here Friday evening, so I got to spend a few hours just her and me, which was really wonderful. We showed her some of our favorite things in our area and just really enjoyed her company. Two weekends later, my dad, stepmom, and little sister came up to go to the Weber State vs. SUU football game. It was a fun game to go to, even though Weber shot themselves in the foot with all their penalties. I even got to see my great friend, Cardine, at the game - Bonus! Finally, last weekend we babysat my nephew while Jason and Rachel attended the University of Utah football game. My nephew absolutely adores Steve and our dog, Sadie, so a good time was had by all. And, we wore both him and Sadie out by throwing the ball around the fenced in tennis court.

I'm blessed to have such a close family and really enjoyed getting to have so many fun visits from them lately.

In September I decided to have my hair cut short. It wasn't a HUGE difference because my hair was currently an A-line bob just a couple inches below my chin. After the hair cut, the front was just a couple inches shorter, the big difference was the back - it was short. I liked it, though I didn't love the front so ended up tucking it behind my ears all the time. A couple days ago, I went in for a touch up and ended up with even shorter hair. I liked it a lot though. Then this morning, I got the crazy idea to cut my bangs. It had been so long since I had cut my own bangs that I had forgotten the cardinal rules*. Now instead of having whispy, feminine, adult bangs, I have chunky, blunt, child-like bangs. Oh, and for the first time since cutting my hair short, I feel really boyish.

Now, I could totally let this ruin my life, or I can remember that hair grows back - in fact, bangs tend to grow faster than other hair - and have fun with my new look.

The biggest hurdle to this latter, and better, approach is my husband. It's funny how much more I worry about how I look now that I'm married. Before, I wanted to look good to hopefully be found attractive by a guy who would then want to date me. However, I had this idea that they get what they see, so if I had blonde hair, they'd better like blondes, etc. Now though, it's harder (though obviously not impossible) for me to change my look because I kind of feel like Steve fell for a girl who looked a certain way and if I change that look it's kind of unfair to him. Fortunately, he says he loves me no matter what I look like, that I look beautiful no matter what, but I still want to look my best for him.

Oh well, tough noogies. Me being me, I change my hair. Sometimes it's going to look really good, other times it may not. Don't get me wrong, I'm having fun with short hair...just not the uber short bangs.

Life is good. One indication of that for me is not ever dreading a certain day, especially Mondays. Of course I still prefer the weekend because I get to see Steve more and we have lots of fun together, but I never wake up wishing it weren't that day. Thursdays are my longest days but even then, I don't mind them because I enjoy what I'm doing throughout the day.

What's not to enjoy? I am married to the most wonderful man I've ever known, we have a comfortable, nice home and a crazy, cute dog, I'm healthy both body and mind, I get to go to school to learn new things and meet new people, I have a job I enjoy, and my life is filled with wonderful friends and family.

Yeah, life is defitely good.

* The first cardinal rule = Don't Ever Cut Your Own Bangs. If you sin against this rule, please remember the following: don't cut your bangs while hair is still wet and always cut them longer than you think they should be. Since you tend to pull your hair down before you cut, if you cut them where you think you want them, when you let go of the hair, they'll be a good deal shorter than you wanted.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

What We've Been Eating - Chicken Fried Rice

My husband loves this dish. He's a big fan of rice so it is right up his alley. I got it from a magazine but have made changes to it to fit our tastes. Steve would probably eat it every month, but I refuse to make it that often. It's not a difficult dish to make, no fancy steps, everything is pretty easy to do; but it's a little time-intensive, you do a lot of things to get to the end result. It's worth it, though, just not every-month-worth-it. Here's the recipe:

Chicken Fried Rice
Olive oil (you could use any oil, but this is what I use)
1 yellow onion, chopped/diced
6-8 oz ham, diced (I've used turkey ham and it was just as tasty)
bok choy, chopped/sliced/cut up into bite-sized pieces*
1 red bell pepper, medium-diced (you don't want overly small or large pieces)
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely diced - trust me, use the fresh stuff
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced or grated
2-3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 dab of butter
4-5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
4 c cooked and cooled bismati rice - about 2 cups uncooked.
low sodium soy sauce, to taste (I like low sodium because I add salt to the other ingredients)
salt and pepper, to taste

*I use all of the top, leafy part and part of the lower stalk. I cut off a healthy part of the bottom stalk because I find it to be too fibrous and I don't love it. The recipe says to use the whole dang thing. Also, I only use 3-4 stalks because otherwise the bok choy kind of took over the dish. Do what you want, though.

1. Get the rice going. My bag of bismati rice calls for a cooking time of 20 minutes, so it's good to do this first. That said, I often forget to do it until halfway through the recipe since it's not listed as the first step in the magazine. Cook the rice according to the package directions.

2. Add about 1 T of oil to a saute/frying pan (a large one), when the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and ham, add a dash of salt/pepper. Cook for a couple minutes then add the bok choy. Cook until leafy parts have started to wilt, about 3 minutes, then add the diced red pepper and cook for a couple more minutes, just to get the red pepper a little softer. Add the ginger and garlic, stir, cook for a minute, making sure not to burn these delicate flavors. Add another dash of salt and pepper (I don't know about you, but my veggies don't come pre-seasoned), then remove everything from the pan and put in a big bowl - seriously, a big bowl - you'll need it for latter steps!

3. Add about 1 T of oil to the pan and let it get nice and hot. Then throw in a dab of butter (approx. 1 T) and let it melt. When the butter is melted, add the diced chicken, sprinkly with a good dose of salt/pepper. Spread out the pieces, then leave them alone for a bit so they'll get nice and brown. Once browness has been achieved, turn the pieces over and let the other side get the same way. Remove chicken from the pan and put in the big bowl with the veggies.

4. Check on the rice. If your timer hasn't gone off yet, check the rice anyway. If it has gone off by this time, hopefully you didn't wait until this step to check it. Whenever it happens, once the rice is cooked to the consistency you want (soft, fluffy, doesn't chip your tooth when you bite down on it), spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool until you need it. Note, though, that I've used the rice straight from cooking it, still hot, and the dish has turned out fine.

5. If there isn't leftover oil/butter in the pan after you removed the chicken, add a little more butter to it and let it melt. Scramble the eggs and add them to the hot pan, don't forget to add salt and pepper! Cook them until done. If you tend to like your scrambled eggs on the runny side, that won't work for this recipe, you'll want them to be on the firmer side. Don't let them get brown like some people (my husband) do at times. When the eggs are fully scrambled, remove them from the pan and add to the big bowl with the veggies and chicken.

6. You don't want to do this next step until your rice is ready (cooked, not necessarily completely cooled unless you're more awesome than I tend to be). If your rice is ready to be used, please proceed. Add 1 1/2 T of oil to the pan along with the curry powder. You can add a tad more curry powder if you really like curry powder, which I do. Mix the two ingredients together and heat over medium high heat for 30 seconds or until you can really start to smell the curry. Don't burn! Add the rice, stirring it so every bit gets covered in the spiced oil. Gently press the rice down to cover the entire pan and leave it for 4-5 minutes so the bottom layer gets a little crispy.

7. Stir all the other ingredients into the rice and add the soy sauce. The recipe calls for 2 T, but Steve and I like a good deal more. I usually put in 4 T, then we add more to our individual portions. Before you call the dish finished, give it a good taste to see if it needs additional salt/pepper. If you've added decent amounts throughout all the steps (veggies, chicken, eggs), then you should be okay, but please add some if needed to avoid bland food. Thank you.

That's it! Like I said before, no step is very difficult to accomplish, there's just a lot of things to chop and throw together in different steps. It takes me about 40 minutes to do everything, depending on when I remember to cook the rice. It's totally worth it to see how much Steve loves eating it!


Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween!

With Steve's temporary work schedule - 3pm to 11pm - I thought we wouldn't be able to celebrate Halloween together for the second year in a row. Fortunately, his wing commander gave the entire wing the day off, so he has tonight off! Yay!

If you don't know my husband, let me tell you a secret about him...he struggles to let out his inner child. Fortunately, he married me, a gal who struggles to rein in her inner child most of the time. I make him do things like carve pumpkins and dress up for Halloween. My first idea for his costume was a flower, since I'm dressed up as a bee. He nixed it since it wasn't manly at all. I then suggested a bag of flour...get it?! He nixed it too, and since I didn't know how to make the costume, I didn't push it, even though I thought it endlessly clever. Then last night, I had an epiphany. Steve is a big sports fan and we enjoy going to the local baseball team, the Salt Lake Bees. So, he dressed up as a Bees fan and I'm a Bee.

Tonight, we're going out to eat then will spend the rest of the evening handing out candy to trick-or-treaters...if we get any. Part of me hopes we'll have tons since I love seeing all the costumes AND because if we don't get enough of the little squirts, I'll eat too much Halloween candy. The other part of me hopes to be able to eat all, or at least a good portion, of the Halloween candy. *sigh*

Here are some pictures:

The first pumpkin is my creation and the second is Steve's. For someone who has only carved two pumpkins since he was 8, he does a really good job...especially at the cleaning out of the pumpkin.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and stays safe and warm!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wild, Wild West and Josh Groban *sigh*

Last Friday, Steve and I went on a double-date with our good friends, Tim and Tiffany. We started out by going to the county fair where we got in for free with our military IDs. After purchasing $5 worth of 50-cent tickets, we wandered around looking at all the booths and trying to decide what games to play with our tickets. Eventually we tried our arms at the baseball throwing booth. I didn't do very well - only knocked 4 of the 6 bottles off the table - but still got a piece of candy! Yay!

As we wandered around, we came to a western photography trailer. For a pretty fair fee, we got to dress up as westerners and have a photo shoot. I've always wanted to do something like this but never did it because I was so overweight and figured they wouldn't have clothes my size. Since Tiffany and I wanted to do it, the guys reluctantly agreed. I thought they would just drape costumes over our regular clothes and take a few pictures. I was wrong. Well, that's pretty much what they did with the guys, but Tiffany and I stripped down to our unmentionables and got decked out! The dressing lady asked if we wanted to be modest or sexy. Tiffany answered sexy, so we got to be "saloon ladies". It was so much fun to play dress up as an adult! Here are the pictures:

See what I mean about decked out? The lady kept putting things on me...choker, garter, hat, gloves, boa, etc. I loved it! And, to top it off, the corset was actually too big for me. Yay! There was a smaller one in red but I liked the purple hat, so we went with the purple. And doesn't my husband look sexy as a cowboy? Woot woot!

Afterward, we got something to snack on - Steve got corn on the cob and I got a fried snickers - then we went to look at the rides. They were way too expensive, so we didn't ride any of them. Instead, we played a few more games at booths. Tiffany and I decided to use a couple tickets to get tattoos at the face painting booth. Here we are...aren't we wild women?

For 50 cents, my strawberry tat sure lasted a long time. I finally had to scrub it off Monday afternoon.

After the fair, we went to the movies. We saw Cowboys Vs Aliens, which I liked more than I thought I would. For such a weird sounding movie, it had a good plot and was decently acted. They handled the whole cowboys and aliens scenario a lot better than I expected. Oh, and it really scared me in parts. I love being able to cuddle up to Steve and hide my head in his chest when I get scared. I admit that I'm a total wimp sometimes.

It was a really fun evening with wonderful people!

The next day, Saturday, I went to Salt Lake and met up with my SIL Rachel for the Josh Groban concert. I've always liked his voice and it was just as great in person as recorded. I loved how funny and quirky he was on stage, it really surprised me, but it was awesome. We didn't have very close seats, but we were able to hear him perfectly, which is what mattered most. It was great to be there with Rachel, too. We had a great talk before the concert started and we both loved the music. He has a new album out that I wouldn't mind getting based off the songs from that album that he sang. And it was great to hear some of his older songs in person.

There was a little mini stage that was directly in front of us, so I hurried and took a couple pictures before he moved to the main stage.

It was a wonderful concert and I really appreciate Rachel inviting me to go with her!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oregon Vacation

At the end of July, Steve and I took a road trip to Oregon. We drove through Nevada (a long somewhat boring drive), stopped the first night in Susanville, CA, and then headed west to the California coast. Through Nevada we listened to the worst audio book, but at least it was something to listen to.

The drive through California was beautiful - gorgeous forests and lakes - but after a few hours, I was ready to be done with mountain driving. My car sickness was peaking when we finally hit the coast. The ocean was a beautiful sight! As we drove along the coast, clouds gathered and the wind picked short, it got COLD. Our cute little dog was a trooper; she loved roaming the beach and wetting her toes in the ocean water.

We spent the night in Gold Beach, OR. That evening, we took Sadie for a walk up a hilly, dirt road behind our hotel. After a few bends, we ran smack into a herd of elk! Sadie had been pulling on the lead, which should have alerted us to something because she normally walks right at our side. Boy were we surprised to see the elk but not nearly as surprised as the elk! They ran away f.a.s.t! Sadie wanted to chase after them, of course. It was very exciting. We continued walking up the trail, wondering if we'd run into them again, but we didn't see them.

The next day, we drove to Bandon; it has a cute pier area that we walked along, buying sweatshirts because we were soooo cold! Sadie found a friend who didn't really feel like playing. And we saw a seal or two playing in the water off the pier.

We then found an old lighthouse that has been turned into a historical site. It was neat to go inside and read about the history of the lighthouse and surrounding area. We weren't able to go up to the top because we wore open toe sandals, which was a bummer. Oh well. I thought of my mom when we were at the lighthouse because I know she loves them. I thought how nice it would have been to have her there to explore the place with.

Kissy-kissy on the beach

When we finally got to Steve's parents' house a few hours away from the coast, we discovered that we didn't need our sweatshirts any more - it was hot! Steve's parents are super nice and welcomed us with open arms. People have asked me if I was nervous meeting them for the first time, but I wasn't. We had spoken on the phone a few times and I'm facebook friends with his dad, so it was almost like we had met. We had a good time. One day we drove to Crater Lake, stopping at a couple waterfalls along the way.

Steve and his dad, Ron

Crater Lake - look at that gorgeous blue water!

The next day we went to this awesome drive-thru wildlife safari. You stay in your car and drive around looking at the animals. A couple years ago, they put the dangerous animals behind cages because people were dumb and wouldn't stay in their cars AND because a couple cars got sat on by elephants and rhinos. It was really fun to see the animals roaming around.

On our way back to Utah, we stopped in Portland and spent a few hours with my dear friend and former mission companion, Anna and her two daughters. It was so wonderful catching up with her but I could have used about 2 more days or more to really get caught up completely. We continued on our way, stopping in Baker, OR for our last night on the road. When we got home Friday afternoon, almost a complete week after leaving, we were so happy to be home! We had a few hours to relax before my mom, older brother Corey, and Corey's family came to spend the night.

Sadie loves my nephew and niece and wanted to sleep with Porter instead of on her bed in our room.

We had a wonderful trip to Oregon. It was a lot of time in the car, but between listening to audio books and playing car games and just talking to each other, we managed to enjoy ourselves. Sadie was really good in the car, she just slept. Before we left on our trip, she would get so excited to go for a car ride, and I wondered if spending so much time in the car would dampen her enthusiasm for a bit. Nope, she still loves getting into the car. She loves an adventure, and so do Steve and I, so we're a happy family. I can't wait to go back to Oregon again. It was a blast!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Photo Shoot

My cousin, Cassie, gave Steve and I a wonderful wedding present - she offered to do a wedding photo shoot for us. Before I lost weight, I wouldn't have loved the idea...well, I would have been a ham during the shoot but would have dreaded seeing the actual pictures. Having lost 180 lbs, I'm definitely a lot more comfortable in my own skin, so was really excited about the photo shoot. It was also nice to have Cassie taking the pictures, I trust her and feel very comfortable with her. I knew she wouldn't be thinking all the time "she looks weird" or "yikes!".

Cassie had the great plan to shoot the pictures at the train depot in Ogden, and it really turned out great. She ended up taking about 400 pictures and narrowed it down to 90 final photos, including the same shot in different colors/photoshopping. We expected her to give us a disc with those 90 pictures but she surprised us with a beautifully framed photo and several prints of different shots PLUS the disc of all 90. I love the pictures and am soooo grateful to have them as a reminder of our special day - even though the pictures were taken over a month after we eloped, we're wearing our wedding clothes.

Below are some of my favorite shots:

This is one of my favorite shots - it totally
shows Steve and I in our element.
He is in charge and I'm goofy.

Align CenterThis is another of my most favorite shots and
is also the one Cassie framed.

Thanks again, Cassie! We'll treasure these pictures for the rest of our lives.