Posted in Dogs, Inspiration, Running

Thank You, Dear Dog, for Making me a Runner

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On January 18th, 2017, our golden retriever Italia suffered an unexpected and fatal heart attack.  Italia is the reason I became a runner, and three days after her recent death, I ran ten miles in honor of each year I had with her.  On February 18th, one month after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I ran another ten miles in tribute to her.  img_8513-version-2

I’m actually shocked I went that far because I have not run double-digit miles in almost two years.  Since my last half-marathon in the spring of 2015, I haven’t gone more than six miles, yet both runs were a breeze.  Italia’s spirit and memory carried me every step. During these ten-milers, Italia joined me in a brand new way, no leash needed.  

The following narrative is an excerpt from a longer piece I composed.  Italia was particularly instrumental in healing my grieving heart after my father passed away, and she continued to bring so much peace and comfort to my family  over the past decade.  Here is the story of how a puppy taught me to run.  NOTE – I edited the tense to reflect the current moment.

From The Reckoning of the Black Butterfly:

I significantly changed my life by improving my: mind, body, heart, and soul when I became a road runner at the age of thirty-three.  I discovered this activity ten years ago and continue to love it.  My first jog (klunk, klunk, almost kerplunk) happened a season after my father’s fatal heart attack.

I was mindlessly eating through my summer grief and earned a six-pack (times four!) Aside from being consumed with calories and sadness, I was queen bee-busy in our new house with my husband, two toddler daughters and a spunky puppy.  Oh how I craved health, happiness, strength, and peace;  I accidentally gained that and more with unplanned runs that were meant to be walks with my golden retriever pup, Italia.  

Italia was just eight weeks old when we brought her home days before the Fourth of July. This adorable, furry baby had the energy, boom, and attitude of a firecracker.  Although she got a lot of  “oohs and ahhs” she was a painfully hard to keep up with and settle down.  img_1096

When September rolled around, it was time for me to go back to work and teach high school English.  After such a stressful summer, I was exhausted, irritable, and couldn’t fit into anything that zipped or buttoned.  I resorted to elastic waistbands and flowy dresses, and my school yearbook picture that fall revealed a puffier, unrested, joyless me.  

When I would get home from work and release Italia from her kennel, she bounded, bounced, and begged for exercise.  She and I started by strolling our new neighborhood.  It felt great to get outdoors, but she kept pulling on her leash to go faster. Instead of training her to slow down, she trained me to speed up, to see more, to move beyond.

Before I knew it, she and I became a running team.  She could go as far as five miles (and so could I!) Italia was my one true running partner and was my primary motivation for getting out there.  Every run brought us a new scene.      

She got so excited when we were about to wag and whisker through the wind for a journey.  She acted like it was Christmas morning every time I pulled out our running gear: laces and leashes.  I had to keep extra leashes on hand because she would get so pumped-up that she’d bite and tear through them like wrapping paper if she got the chance.  

I never realized how beautiful the natural scenery of Meadville, Pennsylvania, truly is until I perceived and absorbed it as a runner.  There is certainly a magnitude of rural splendor in my own backyard.  My simple Crawford County world frames the mental snapshots of my small town hills, valleys, dirt roads, and meadows.

Running has provided me with the added bonus of pulling up those once stuck zippers and snapping stubborn buttons on my jeans.  I continue to thank God and Mother Nature for joining me and my four-legged love on these journeys.   Italia’s big chocolate eyes have always viewed nature majestically, and I’m forever thankful to her for helping me rediscover a healthy focus in nature and for pushing (and pulling) me further.  May we all go further tomorrow.  

Memory Eternal!

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Posted in Uncategorized

If someone is inattentive, show them you are there by dunking their flip-flops.

Greet people with a warm hello. No need to knock them over though.
Don’t hold grudges. When upset with another as she would get when we would go on a trip without her she would snap us. She would then quickly fall in love with us all over again. There was no purpose to her staying mad.
When you want to see more of the world speed up. Italia taught me to become a runner.
When your body need you to slow down, pay attention. Italia also taught me to be a walker.
Say your daily prayers.
Just because you can’t fetch and swim like people expect you to shine in other ways. Ron, love, comfort,. 

Posted in Happiness, Love, Valentine's Day

Beat the Valentine’s Day Blues

I lost all my oxygen…

Cleaning out the junk drawer, I found this magical musical machine. I hope you like my lil’ song and can laugh at this absurd “treat” now and again when you get to the end of this post.  Mary had a Little Lamb is better replayed.

Valentine’s Day is a “holiday” that can bring out a mixture of emotions all stemming from the red and thorny rose of love. Now, I realize that not all of these feelings are always warm and joyful with white lace wrapped around them. Many are feeling lonely, missing someone, and longing for lost loved ones in a way that makes Valentine’s Day a real downer.

About thirty years ago, I found out how cruddy a forced day of love can be. I was a high school sophomore dating a cute, athletic, and popular junior. This was the first, and only, time I went out with a guy because of his looks and stats.  We weren’t even friends and just knew of one another from school, dances, and parties.

Even though we barely talked, he liked me. When he asked me out (via a beautifully handwritten note), I said yes.  He was so suave and quiet (unlike me, an excited extrovert.)  I really didn’t know how to be myself around him, so I was thankful that we wrote notes (that’s the way we texted in the 80’s). When we saw each other, I didn’t know what to talk about.  It was so weird.  We awkwardly dated for three months without a real love connection.

He wisely ended it but did so by dumping me on Valentine’s Day with a half dozen red roses. He put them in my locker, and when I stopped there to get my gym clothes, I was surprised to find such gorgeous blooms.  The were big, bold, and beautiful. I pulled out the little card from the pink-hearted envelope.  In his stupid handwriting, he wrote:

Sorry things couldn’t work out. 

Love, 

Confused-Teenage-Jock-Boy-Who-Found-Love-With-Another-Naive-Teenage-Girl 

I can laugh about this now, but back then, I was humiliated and heartbroken. When my gym teacher saw me walk in with the roses, he praised their beauty and fragrance.  I thought they reeked like Aunt Mary’s bath soaps displayed on the back of her toilet.  I gave the roses to my teacher for his wife and told him to buy his own damn card. He thanked me then monitored our dodge ball game.

Wow! I was the gym champ of the day!  Within a minute after the whistle blew, I took out five people and a red and white stuffed bear sitting on the sidelines.  My adrenalin was spiked by thorns and petals, a horrible combo. I may have been unlucky in love that Valentine’s Day, but I reigned as the dodge ball queen.  I stood alone waving the ball in my hand like a trophy.  What a metaphoric way to end a heartbreaking day of high school!

I learned then that declaring extra love or breaking free from it on a specific calendar date is bogus. It’s indeed sweet and endearing to be treated with “I love yous” in extra ways, but I think it’s better when it just happens, especially on more occasions than one Hallmark Holiday.

I recall when my daughter Elena was in second grade wondering about Valentine’s Day. She asked, “When is the day that we’re supposed to love each other all day long?”

I kissed her on the head and answered, “Yesterday, tomorrow, and today.”

Love is such a curious thing that changes with each breath.  I have been in love with the same man for more than half my life, and I know he feels the same about me. Many days are pure bliss, some are just blah, and others are downright bleak, but we keep working at it and get the best out of each other. Falling in love with the same person over and over again is truly special, but it doesn’t just happen because it’s a prescribed holiday.

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Happy February 14th and may love be given to you and by you everyday.  Now take another breather and listen to my lamb (not love) song.  I hope it makes you smile.  XOXO

Posted in Health and Wellness, Weight Loss

Slimming Down with Weight Watchers

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In a recent post, I revealed my goal to lose sixteen pounds. This is a continuation from that blog; if you missed it, be sure to check it out before reading this one where I share HOW I got rid of  four sticks of butter, a chihuahua, and a bowling ball:  

https://parttimesunshinesite.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/weight-loss-goal-i-plan-to-lose-four-sticks-of-butter-a-chihuahua-and-a-bowling-ball/

*NOTE — Although this may read like an advertisement for Weight Watchers, I am not being paid or getting perks to write this honest blog.  If I were a blogger with more time, I’m sure I could learn out how to monetize, but for now, I just write because I love to and enjoy sharing with an audience.   If you enjoy reading these posts, please “Follow Me” by sharing your email on the bottom right.  You will then get notifications each time a new Part-Time Sunshine blog is posted.  Thank you and shine on!

And now for the blog: 

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How can I lose weight?  What diet actually works?  What’s safe and convenient?  What’s not going to make me feel deprived?  Is there a meal plan that considers wine a fruit?  What can I do t
o feel healthier?   I asked myself these questions for a long time before trying to answer.  I did NOT want to diet.  Who does?  I would have rather worked out more to shed the pounds, but that no longer worked for me.  

Last fall, when my Body Mass Index (BMI) went from normal to overweight, I vowed to figure it out.  Both my husband, Harry, and I committed to a plan, and we joined Weight Watchers (WW).  We’re both stronger and smaller as a result.  

We subscribed to the online plan for three months.  It was only 45.00 per person, and we each earned a free month for losing ten pounds within two months.  The money we saved by not eating out and buying less wine and treats covered the membership fees and then some.

The online plan was so much easier than I ever imagined.  The website is professional and motivating, jampacked with helpful tips, recipes, incentives, and point values for every food imaginable.  The following details my successful journey with the program.  It took me just ten weeks to hit my goal of losing sixteen pounds, and I’m still maintaining this healthy weight.

After I completed the WW profile of my height, weight, activity level, and goals, the company calculated an allotment of points that should be used daily (30 for me) and extras that can be used weekly (28 for me).  

A typical Weight Watchers day for me looks like this:

Breakfast:

Water — I drink it all day long.  

Cup of brewed green tea (no points)

Cup of coffee (Keurig) with sugar free flavored creamer (no points); If it’s not sugar free then it costs two points.  You get less options this way, but I didn’t want to waste points on creamer.  

Two large eggs (4 points).  I like them over easy.  

NOTE: I pee a lot!  🙂  

Lunch:

**Spinach salad.  My norm is to doctor it up with cherry tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, and celery.  NOTE: All fruits and vegetables are free points (except corn, avocado,  and potatoes).

Shredded cheese ⅛ cup on the salad (2 points)

Salad dressing 2 Tbs  – I prefer Bolthouse Farms brands which are so creamy and delicious. (2 points)

Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese Wedge – Creamy Swiss Light (1 point) — I like this with sliced cukes, celery, or peppers (no points).  If I want need some extra carbs for energy or salty satiation, I spread the wedge on  six Triscuit Original Crackers (3 points) or fifteen Triscuit Thin Crisps (4 points).  

When I want more pizazz for my salads and don’t mind using extra points, I like to add Nature’s Harvest Wasabi Peas ⅛ cup (1 point), avocado ¼ cup (3 points), or walnuts 1/4 cup (6 points) —  I rarely ate walnuts while trying to lose weight though.  I was surprised by how many points they cost.

** I have been building spinach salads during my faculty lounge lunches for over ten years.  Lunch was not hard for me to stay in a low point range, but I did tweak the amount of salad dressing, cheese, and toppings I added.  

Midday Snack:

Fruit – Usually grapes, an apple or banana (no points)

Cottage Cheese Low Fat, ½ cup (2 points) — I added raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries when they were available.  

Dinner:

Whatever Harry makes.  Since he is an amazing cook, and I am a failure in the kitchen, he cooks every evening.  My girls and I (and our tastebuds) are so lucky and thankful for his culinary skills.  Having a personal Harry made the program much more convenient for me. He measured every dinner ingredient and weighed meats on a scale.  He was honest about his point calculation which usually stayed in the 9-12 point range.  These consisted of a ton of veggies prepared in flavorful ways and a variety of fish, seafood, and chicken.  

Harry played a huge part in the ease of my weight loss success. I’m thankful we could cheer each other on.  It definitely helped to have that support.  I think that’s why so many WW members find that going to actual meetings with others is so beneficial.  

Eating Out – WW has a great catalog of restaurant items and entire dishes.  I looked up menus and point values before heading out.

Evening Snacks (I would have one or some of these most days because I had daily points left over):

Goldfish Crackers Flavor Blasted Crackers, Xtra Cheddar, 51 smiling fish (4 points)

Red Wine, 5 oz (4 points) – Whoa!  I was certainly too generous with my pourings before learning how to moderate.  

Rice Cakes, any flavor, (1 point each) – Sometimes I had two.  This became my go-to snack; upon discovering that my daughter ate the last of the rice cakes, I went nutty.  She was flabbergasted, as I hollered, “Hands off the rice cakes. People are dieting here.  You need to eat the cookies, chips, and ice cream instead!”  Please don’t judge.  In my defense, this was only day six of WW for me, and I looked forward to those flavored circles of cardboard all day.  Actually, I love them and now buy enough rice cakes for the entire family.   

Flavored Seltzer Water (no points) – A can of this stuff makes me feel fuller from the carbonation. Raspberry is my favorite.  If I want to turn it into a spirited drink, I mix the seltzer with a shot of vodka and splash of diet cranberry juice (3 points).   

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For the most part, I stayed in my 30 points a day range.  I used my extra 28 points a week too; I tried to save those for the weekends, holidays, restaurant visits, and special occasions.   

The food point system helped me avoid all the sugary sweets I love so much.  My teacher friends have a second floor donut club on Fridays.  I’ve declined membership since my favorites would add up to an entire meal: glazed (9 points) and cream filled (12 points).   When I baked for Christmas, I limited my intake to three cookies.  I found that it was enough, and I sincerely enjoyed every bite.  
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WW also has an activity tracker.  It even syncs to my Fitbit and calculates the extra points I could use for sweating it out.  As per my other blog, I had been treating myself with too many food-exercise-rewards, so I didn’t use the “Swap my FitPoints” option. Even though I didn’t use FitPoints, seeing them calculated was motivation enough to continue exercising three-six hours a week.   The activity tracker can be a game changer to someone who doesn’t have an exercise routine.  

WW Online has a plethora of reliable and interesting features available. During my four month membership, I used what was most helpful to me.  I loved  “Save Meal” so that I didn’t have to type in what made up my breakfasts and lunches.  The “Quick Add” option allowed me to plug in the point amount for dinners without adding all the ingredients that Harry calculated  on his account.  I love the Weight Feature and the motivational stickers and shout outs.  I actually looked forward to Mondays, the day I chose to weigh in.  Every Monday (except the one after Thanksgiving) was met with success and the website let me know it!  

With WW I made my goal and could have kept going if I wanted to lose more.  I’m happy the way I am though and love fitting into my old “new” clothes.  Besides shedding the pounds, I feel amazing.  I have more energy and stamina and can run longer and faster. My mood has improved with my eating habits. My skin looks younger and more hydrated with all the extra water from fruits and veggies.   I highly recommend Weight Watchers and give it two (thinner) thumbs up!

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