Well, That Was a Year

2018 Collage

If you follow this blog with any sort of regularity (and thank you for that, by the way, that’s very kind of you!) you know my 2018 is ending on a real down note.  At the beginning of the month we rather unexpectedly had to have our absolutely adored kitty, Weegie, put down.  The fallout from that was that Mr. Finger Candy and I just sort of drifted through the Christmas season, present in body, but nearly totally absent in soul.  For someone who never shuts up, I’ve had a hard time articulating why this particular death has hit me so hard.  I’ve lost quite a few beloved pets over my lifetime, and even more adored people, and yet this is the one that’s broken me.  I suppose this is what some well-meaning dumbass would optimistically term a formative event, and I’d begrudgingly have to agree – I certainly don’t feel like the same person I was at the beginning of the month, a change not necessarily for the positive.

But there’s no better time than the start of a new year to hit the reset button, and I’m looking forward to trying, trying again in 2019.  Because even without the heartbreaking events of the last month, 2018 was a wild roller coaster of big ups and bigger downs.  Sometimes actual roller coasters, even!  It just didn’t feel like the most cohesive of years, and I flubbed quite a few personal goals.

But supposedly we learn from our mistakes and all that good stuff, so I thought it might be helpful to look back over the hills and valleys of 2018 and take note of the things that worked, the things that didn’t, and hopefully find a path through 2019 that’s a lot less fraught with grief than 2018’s.  To a better year for all of us.

The Good

I started off the year on a positive note, promising myself that I’d limit my wax and beauty purchases to a small handful of orders from favourite vendors.  My discretionary spending was quite out of control, and my scented wax stores were fit to bursting.  So I put myself on a casual low buy, which though no real direction on my part morphed into a regimented no buy; there were a few months there where our financial behaviour could best be deemed as stupidly tightfisted.  But there just didn’t seem to be anything I wanted to buy, and besides, saving money felt better than buying stuff, which was kind of the point of reining in my spending in the first place, no?  Anyhow, this one was a proper New Years resolution, the kind you make with every intention of breaking, but somehow, I held fast.  Now, with three lovely, highly anticipated orders in my hot little hands (and hot little warmers) I’m set for another year of waiting and watching and planning and melting. 🙂

2018 Wax Collage

2018 is also the year I taught myself a video editing program, upped my photography and video game and started our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  Amusingly enough, I can lay all three of these newly acquired skills at the tender little furry paws of our cat, Weegie.  There was a time (oh, just the last four or so years) when our sweet baby beast would NOT abide by either her fur mama or papa sleeping for any longer than it took for her soft food dish to run dry (roughly every hour and 45 minutes.)  So I’d find myself awake at all inhospitable hours of the very early morning, with precious little to do.

Then one morning as I sat there just staring at the sky, literally trying to will the sun into cresting the horizon, I suddenly thought about all of the photos and video I had shot of our Disney vacations, and wondered what more I could do with them (other than drive you lovely readers bonkers, that is.) 😉  And so that morning I downloaded a little iPhone-based editing program called iMovie and edited together my first project (a collection of photos of Weegie looking unbelievably saucy, of course, backed by Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat?)  Since then I’ve produced 27 videos for Park or Perish!, and some of them aren’t even all that bad!  I particularly like sound editing – it’s incredibly satisfying when two tonally disparate clips finally snap into place (nearly) seamlessly.  This is a major milestone for me; as I’ve mentioned a time or 20, I am unbelievably tech-unfriendly.  That I could even find the program in the App Store in the first place was something of a miracle.  Here’s the most recent video I posted, a fun round-up of our adventures at Disney this past year.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Speaking of Disney vacations and saving money (now there’s a couple of antithetical concepts) we were able to enjoy two of the former this year precisely because we prioritized the heck out of the latter. We eased up a bit on our “Disney or death!” approach to discretionary income as the year wore on, but generally, if we had two cents to scrape together, we’d throw them into the vacation pot.  It was through this kind of financial nit-pickery that we were able to take two Disney vacations in 2018, both fully (and reassuringly) paid off before we had even stepped foot in a park.  We also became Disney annual passholders this year, because it made the most financial sense given the extent of our plans.  Every little bit helps, and I was incredibly proud of us for hitting this Disney financial goal.

Passholder 1

And speaking of those two vacations, they were wonderful; some of the best moments of my year were had at Disney World.  It’s just where we go to cut loose, explore and have an awesome (frequently margarita-enabled) good time.  We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy such incredible vacations – some people can’t swing a single lifetime trip to Disney, let alone two in one year (actually four in 365 days, but who’s counting besides ourselves and every single one of our friends who has jokingly enquired as to whether we plan on just moving into Cinderella Castle full time (dare to dream!)

Character Collage

Just about my favourite moment of the year was spending Halloween, our 14th wedding anniversary, bombing around the Magic Kingdom rock star cosplaying as two different video versions of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots (the October release of Trench was another neon yellow bright spot in an otherwise pretty gloomy year.)  I can’t speak for Mr. Finger Candy (who was the recipient of most of the delighted compliments, including a number of longing and appreciative glances from one very interested lady and a couple of even more interested dudes) but I loved playing rock star for the day, even with that black gunk smeared about my neck and hands (black stage makeup, by the way, and no, it wasn’t difficult to take off at the end of the night.  Messy?  Yes!  Sooty black water droplets allllll over the bathroom.  But not difficult.)  Also, my man looked hella hot in his meggings and shorts combo, and no, I’m not remotely joking.

Tyler Two Pilots Collage 2

The Bad

Losing our beloved cat.  Taking her to the vet one snowy Monday morning, knowing in my already breaking heart that we wouldn’t be bringing her home again.  Holding her paw until the very end.  Lots of uncontrollable sobbing.  That was my December.  I don’t wish to ever experience another one like it (oh, that we could control such things!)  But isn’t she adorable?  Gosh, at one point she was a complete LARD; look at that tummy!  That’s some serious Weege the Hutt action right there.

InstaWeege

Losing Weegie also brought into sharp focus the good relationships in our lives – the people who have been there for us at this awful time, in supportive ways big, small and occasionally virtual – and those that are no longer worth our precious, middle aged time.  It was really its own special kind of compounding heartbreak to realize that with some people, we just didn’t rank, not even in the midst of our grief.

On the other, infinitely more positive hand, this event clarified the truly excellent relationships we do have in our lives, people we are so profoundly grateful to call our friends.  They are such fantastic humans, a realization ultimately worth so much more than the one about the social boobs.  I actually feel sort of hashtag-blessed. 😉

But getting back to the crap, after making incredible strides towards improving my health in 2017, I backslid in 2018 HARD, maintaining my diet and exercise regimen for most of the year before apparently just giving up altogether in the last three months and gaining 25 pounds.  I apparently like to eat my stress and grief.  And everyone else’s as well.  I aim to jump back aboard the treadmill express in the new year, and overhaul our diets while I’m at it.  Please stop the rich holiday food, I want to get off!

And this blog?  My beloved Finger Candy, which turned five impressive years old this year with nary a whisper of fanfare?  I have no idea what this blog is even about any more; I’m not even sure if nail art is my preferred focus.  I’m in a state of blogging flux; I hope to find some solid ground soon.

Okay, that’s it, 2018 – you’re drunk, go home.  Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.  And cheers to 2019 as it makes its hopefully spectacular way in.  Happy New Years, friends.

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Fall Fun Series II: The End

Fall End Collage

So, Fall Fun Series year two final grade for one Miss Finger Candy?  C minus.  You know, if she could just buckle down and stop talking to everyone and everything she’s seated beside, she could really turn this year around (nothing my parents ever heard during parent-teacher conferences, nosiree!)

Okay, so I whiffed the Fall Fun Series.  With the exception of series MVP Michelle of Melting With Michelle (who continued posting even during the lead-up to her end-of-October wedding!) we all dropped the ball a little as work and family obligations and unfortunate, unexpected problems with both derailed some of our best blogging intentions.  And while I can’t speak for the other participants, I simply wasn’t feeling the autumn spirit this year (at least not until my spur-of-the-moment Halloween trip to Disney World; funny that it took leaving my cool weather, leaf-strewn home for Florida’s “faux” Fall for me to regain that spark.)

But I also have much to be thankful for as the autumn draws to a close.  Great friends, close family, neato husband, snuggly cat, a roof over my head, comfort and safety.  Also an arse that no longer requires its own postal stamp.  And without trying to sound too conceited (but probably failing) I like to think I have at least some of those good things in my life because I worked hard to achieve them.  Luck always plays a role, but so does effort and determination.

And so the second-to-last Fall Fun Series prompt was to thank yourself for something good you’ve done for you, yourself and I.  For me, that was taking a hard, critical look at my lifestyle choices and realizing that if I didn’t turn things around, I was going to wind up the very definition of a life unfinished.  My world had petrified, and I was in dire need of a swift kick in the pants.

Working It

So I kicked those pants, really kicked ’em into high gear, and many months later I’m feeling healthier, wealthier and more wise than I have in about a decade (well, maybe not wealthier; increased activity does not always come cheaply, particularly if your activity of choice is visiting Disney.)

And so today I’m thankful for having seen the diabetes forest for the trees, for having pulled back what was barreling towards irrevocable and for putting me first.  Sounds selfish, but by not taking care of myself, I was relegating absolutely everyone else in my life to the bottom of the list.  Actions speak louder than words and all that not-so trite stuff, and what my actions were saying was that nobody else mattered, because I hardly mattered.  I’m thankful for having rejoined the human race so I can share this weird, maddening world with you all. 🙂

Au revoir, Fall.

Goal Goals: A Dieting Story

Mansion Shot

For me, (a) major treat is a…trip to Disney World, one of my favourite places on Earth, and a spot I’ve been avoiding since gaining ALL the weight.  I think about that still-very-nebulous vacation every day as I’m thumping away on the treadmill, imagining that each on-the-spot step is actually me hauling nimble ass towards the Haunted Mansion for the first of the day’s 13 straight rides.  It’s wonderful motivation, an achievable big dream I can almost reach out and touch.  It also sort of has a smell (popcorn, Dole Whip, propane and chlorinated It’s a Small World water, in case you were wondering.)

That was me four months and 30+ pounds ago, still dreaming about that let’s-face-it-it’s-probably-never-going-to-happen trip to Disney.  Something was always going to get in the way – most likely an incapacitating back spasm or my inability to walk more than 50 feet without breaking out into a sweat.

And that picture above?  That’s my husband and I a week and a half ago standing triumphant in front of the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion following our 13th ride.

I was, frankly, astonished when Mr. Finger Candy came home three nights before our anniversary and declared that we were going to Disney World to celebrate, no ifs, ands or buts.  But I was positively gobsmacked when I realized that yes, we could go, we could go – and did go! – practically right that minute precisely because MY butt was no longer the issue!  And neither was my back, or my energy levels or any one of the other dozen or so minor ailments that had been unfairly derailing our lives for years.

You guys, I DIDS IT!!!  And not only did I do it, but I’m overjoyed to report that barring the usual (foot, it’s always foot) pains that invariably go along with a 16-hour day at the world’s busiest theme park (we walked at least seven miles our first day at the Magic Kingdom, or 33,371 feet) I had zero – I repeat, zero! – problems with mobility related to either my weight or general health.  And our feet actually fared quite well, thanks to our Lieutenant Dan-like approach to theme park foot care.  Won’t lie, I side-eyed the super slim, toboggan-type capsules on Space Mountain something fierce, but the only problem I had there was insufficient legroom.  Then again, Space Mountain has always been a cramped ride; no idea how my husband fit all 6’3 of himself in there (“Uncomfortably!” he says.)

We had the very best time on this impromptu little trip, and I’ve returned home feeling stupendous; so proud of myself.  And seriously pumped up; ready to tackle the next little bit of my weight loss journey, because the work never ends.  Bit of a bummer, that, but doable when you realize that when you put in the work, you can actually make your dreams – even the kind of bonkers ones – come true. 🙂

PhilharMagic

Motivation Manicure: A Dieting Story

Motivation Manicure Fingers

Or “How to Persevere with Your Long-Term Health and Dietary Goals When Your Motivation is Beginning to Wane.”  Except that is WAY too long a title, so Moti-Mani it is!

Regular readers and casual dropper-byers alike may remember that I’m now four months into a rather major overhaul of my family’s general health and wellness.  As in we possessed neither of those things, and I was inching dangerously close to a pit that had nothing at the bottom but razor sharp rocks.  Also diabetes, stroke and heart attack, but I thought the pointy rock thing was apt.

So I hitched up my pants (hahahahahahaha, there was no hitching, silly!  I couldn’t even get my pants BUTTONED) and decided to do the only thing I hadn’t yet tried – make a real, concerted effort to save my own bloody life.

Nearly four months in, I’m pleased to report that I’ve shed a little over 40 pounds and four dress sizes.  Better yet, I now sleep through the evening (or at least as long as my cat will allow.)  I don’t get winded walking up a flight of stairs.  I no longer wake feeling like a UFC match took place in my stomach during the night.  My skin is bright and (mostly) clear.  I have lots of energy.  I no longer sweat while eating.  Or breathing.

And while those are all FABULOUS side effects of a healthier approach to diet, exercise and general wellness, remembering to appreciate those seemingly minor gains for the major motivational milestones they actually are is a trap all of us fall into at one time or another.  We have a tendency – in all aspects of life, really – to dismiss the mundane inanities of everyday life in favour of THE BIG SHOW.  We live for those big moments, and that includes the things we feel passionately about, the things that motivate us.

How that tends to manifest itself in the dieter’s mind is a fixation on a major, end-of-diet treat (an expensive vacation, a crossed-off item on the bucket list, a five-star tour of France where you do nothing but eat cheese for 10 straight days, I don’t know your life!)

For me, that major treat is a ludicrously expensive, long and splashy trip to Disney World, one of my favourite places on Earth, and a spot I’ve been avoiding since gaining ALL the weight.  I think about that still-very-nebulous vacation every day as I’m thumping away on the treadmill, imagining that each on-the-spot step is actually me hauling nimble ass towards the Haunted Mansion for the first of the day’s 13 straight rides.  It’s wonderful motivation, an achievable big dream I can almost reach out and touch.  It also sort of has a smell (popcorn, Dole Whip, propane and chlorinated It’s a Small World water, in case you were wondering.)

And that’s what this manicure is, the nail art representation of a beautiful dream that I’m taking much-needed steps towards making a reality every single day (me standing on the Hub grass of the Magic Kingdom waiting for one of the evening’s innumerable fireworks bonanzas as the sun sets in a pastel sky behind Cinderella’s castle, but of course.)

Motivation Manicure Bottle

But plans of dream vacations will only take you so far, as being so far off in the distance themselves, they can begin to feel unattainable – gigantic dreams turned pipe dream. With a long, hard slog ahead and no clear horizon in sight, it’s just far too easy to give up altogether, particularly after suffering a (completely normal and unavoidable) setback.

So I’m choosing instead to also celebrate those little, in-the-middle victories – the increased energy, the improved mood, the sleep-filled nights.  Because it’s good to always keep your eye on the big prize, but it’s also worth checking in every now and then with the smaller successes as well.  They’re the real motivators, and the real reason to continue doing just what I’m doing – because it feels good, and because I feel good. Nothing more complicated than that. 🙂

One Foot in Front of the Other: A Dieting Story

Footsteps 1

So a funny thing happened on my way to turning 40 – I kind of grew up.  Okay, okay, hold your horses – don’t go setting off the air raid sirens just yet; I qualified that with a “kind of.”  It’s not like I saw 40 coming and, as Corinthians would say, put away my childish things.  I did quite literally go out this afternoon and buy a pile of Lego Dimensions video game toys, so that would be a big old no on putting away the playthings.

But as it pertains to issues of weight, specifically my overabundance of it, I saw 40 coming in hard with a bullet (stroke, diabetes, heart attack, take your horrifying pick) and thought it was high time I GET MY SHIT TOGETHER.  For far too many years now my friends and family – people I have caused untold worry and concern – have been trying to gently (and sometimes not so gently) convey the message that if I do not rein in some of my more destructive lifestyle impulses, I won’t have a life to ruin at all.  And for far too many years now, I’ve been shrugging off their concerns, usually with a self-deprecating dig at myself on the way out, like it’s cool to not give a crap about yourself.

Then about three weeks out from my 40th birthday, I went to the doctor and she laid it out bare – all of my measurable vitals were total garbage, and I was dancing with the devil every second I was vertical and ventilating.

Well.

When you put it that way.

But really, when she did put it that way?  I finally sat up and took notice.

Or rather, I took notice a little earlier when my friends began planning a blow-out trip to Vegas, and I realized I’d never, ever be able to keep up with them at the slots, on the dance floor or whilst liberating a tiger from Mike Tyson’s house.  I took notice when I heard a distinctly audible “CRACK!” after sitting in a rickety old chair at a hipster donut joint.  I took notice when my 90-year-old grandmother buried my 60-year-old diabetic aunt, a bright, otherwise remarkably intelligent woman who, much like her niece, never said no to a delicious dish.  I took notice when I thought about my mother and father burying me.  And I finally took notice later on that evening when I looked over at my husband, happily snugged up in his chair, and thought about all the fun and adventures we’d never get to have because I put my love of butter before my love of us.

And that was just a level of selfishness I was unwilling to cross.  The only difference between then and way-back-then was joke time was clearly over, and I was now ready to do something about the fact that I was slowly killing myself.

You, friends, are coming into this piece at the three-month mark.  In that time I’ve significantly overhauled my/our approach to food and exercise, as in I cut way, way back on the former and actually started doing the latter.  My simple, rather hands-off approach to dieting – no fancy gimmicks, just the tortoise-like certainty that it will happen if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – has so far netted me a loss of 30 pounds and three dress sizes.  I’m elated, but also desperately trying to maintain my chill – there’s nothing sadder than the receiver who does a victory dance two feet off the goal line, football still in hand.  Is that right?  I really don’t know sports.

I wish I could tell you that I accomplished this HELL YEAH, I’M KICKING ALL THE ASS feat via sexier means than increased exercise (or any exercise) and improved dietary choices, but the unvarnished truth is, much like this nail art business, it’s a matter of repetition (or as it’s often called, practice, practice, practice.)  In nail art, you develop your skills by doing challenging manicure after challenging manicure, until one day you’re firing off galaxy nails like you’ve been doing them your entire life.  Successful dieting operates in much the same way – you develop positive dietary and lifestyle habits simply by practicing them every single day.  Then one day you surprise the hell out of yourself by willingly choosing green grapes over potato chips, or breaking out into a run even though there’s absolutely no one chasing after you.  Brave new world.

I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing all of this with you, my dear online friends, for some time now.  What has held me back is my intense desire to not be THAT PERSON. You know THAT PERSON – they “discover” something the rest of the world has been “Well, duh”-ing forever, and promptly turn into a smug know-it-all. Nobody likes THAT PERSON.  THAT PERSON needs to maroon themselves on an island with all the other THAT PEOPLE, where they can lecture themselves silly about the merits of kale chips, acai berries and hot yoga (can you tell my dieting process doesn’t involve a whole lot of zen?  My workout playlist is nothing but angry punk rock and hardcore electronica, and my elliptical style can best be described as spastically aggressive.)

But for anyone who might be inspired by my weight loss journey (AKA “Sandra’s Guide to Not Dyin'”) I’d like to continue to offer up my successes, and inevitably my failures, in the hope that they may motivate you to make some positive changes in your life.

You know, if that’s what you want!  If everything’s hunky dory, keep on keeping on, you do you. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past three months, it’s that in order to be successful at (insert your “thing” here) you have to be the change you seek. In other words, if you’re not truly ready, you’re unlikely to succeed.  The grace comes in knowing when it’s time to put off the inevitable and fully commit, an intensely personal matter of timing that only you can choose.  Sometimes that choice is made for you, in a doctor’s office as you stare down your mortality, or later on at home when contemplating the cozy life you’ve built with your husband, but that moment will come when you decide to make a change.  And when that happens, I’d like to be here to share in YOUR successes, and those inevitable failures, too.  Because there’s safety and accountability in numbers. And without getting all mushy on you, I think we can continue doing this, together, just by putting one foot in front of the other.

Footsteps 2