#BloggingFundamentals – Day Four: Identify Your Audience

Day Four: Identify Your Audience

We often create posts hoping that a specific person (or persons) will see our work. Who’s your ideal reader?

Today, publish a post you’d like your ideal reader to see, and include a new-to-you element.

Here’s how:

  1. First, brainstorm the kind of person you hope will read your blog. What do you want to say to them?
  2. Next, start your new post by clicking on the button below. Remember to include a media element (an image, a video embed, etc.) you haven’t experimented with yet.
  3. Finally, give your post a few tags, including bloggingfundamentals, and publish it.

Writing with a specific person in mind is a great way to focus your thoughts and goals. Exploring new media elements adds more tools to your storyteller’s toolbox and helps engage your readers.

 

I decided to join “Blogging Fundamentals.” to try and challenge myself to write more and learn more about the WordPress community.  I did not do the first two days. Day One was a “why are you here” type of entry, which I have done in a previous WordPress class. You can read that here.  And Day Two was to create a tagline. These two are more geared to people who have never blogged before, so I skipped them since I already had that part done. Day Three was about connecting more with other bloggers. So the last two days I spent time searching through blogs and finding other people with common interests. I followed quite a few bloggers and commented on a lot of posts.

This brings us to “Day Four: Identifying the Audience.”

This is something I’ve always struggled with, since I never really had an audience in mind. I started off writing poetry, which was mainly for myself. I started writing about running a lot in hopes to connect with other runners. And then I started #CaffeinatedOpinions recently, which I am really enjoying so far.  I took a leap of faith that this would be something that people would be interested in reading so I hope to not be too boring. 😁

I can’t and won’t try to categorize my ideal audience. But instead, I want my audience to be respectful of others and open minded. People are too offended by everything these days. I of course everyone is entitled to their opinions – I have enough of my own – but I also do not ever want to see people others down for their ideas and opinions. I want to create an open and safe place for people to respectfully discuss topics.  I realize that this is nearly impossible to do, but I will always try my best to see every aspect I can. 

Until next time 

Megan Elizabeth 

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When You Run, You Win the Day

Megan, that is some life you’ve already had for a young person. Judging by the progress on your bucket list it seems like you’re winning… Depression is, rightly, being more recognised and accepted as an illness. Have you found (or not) that your running helps you in this regard? Oh, and what’s your target time for your half-marathon?

Roy McCarthy
Blog: https://backontherock.com/

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Hi Roy!

Thanks for stopping by! I definitely feel like I’m winning at life, although, I cannot say that I always have felt this way. Our inner struggles might make us who we are, but understanding them is quite difficult. It isn’t until we truly understand and accept what lies within us, that we can overcome it.

I shut a lot of people out at an early age. I was seven when my parents got divorced, and, for a long time, I thought it was my fault. (Mom, I know you’re reading this, so don’t worry, I haven’t felt this way in ages. Love you!) I wasn’t one of those kids who turned to the school books to distract me. I was a very average child when it came to school. But sports kept me going. I started basketball in 5th grade and, while I wasn’t the best on the team, I certainly wasn’t the worst. Our practices in grade school weren’t very intense — I mean, we were in grade school, not in college — but going to practice and running up and down the court and learning the plays kept me occupied enough to not have to think about depression.

In every single stage of my life, running and sports have pulled me through. I have something to focus on. Something that didn’t necessarily require me to engage with other people emotionally. I had my teammates and while I didn’t trust them to keep any of my secrets, I trusted that they wanted to win as much as I did so we performed well as a team.

It was funny though… I always had this want to be around people. I didn’t like being alone. I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t know how to be alone. I would surround myself with my basketball or volleyball teammates, but not have any friends. They were my teammates. They were not my friends. I had a very very small group of friends once I got to high-school, but it was a very close-knit group of about 5 girls. And that’s it. But I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Now my experience and thoughts on my actual high-school days isn’t all that revolutionary. High-school is high-school. Filled with unnecessary drama and a lot of awkwardness. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the majority of people in high-school have suffered depression to a certain degree. I was wont who turned to sports because of it.

Throughout college, I dealt with failing a few classes, switching majors, boyfriend drama, the death of my grandma and my grandpa within a year and a half of each other, learning the hard way how to handle money which lead me to $0 to my name, transferring schools and switching my major again. But through all of that, the one thing I really enjoyed was volleyball. I was on the Club Volleyball team at my first college, and then I joined an intramural team at the second college. Since I started volleyball in 7th grade, there had not been one year that passed where I didn’t play on a team. (Even to this day! I play sand volleyball every summer.) Going to practice and focusing on how to better pass the ball or how to serve in the spot I wanted to – those things kept me from falling into the trap of self-loathing. I have always had the tendency to get into a slump and focus on the bad things in my life. It wasn’t a constant throughout my entire college experience, but it happened often enough to affect my friendships and relationships. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that great at dealing with it in college. I thankfully have a few friends from that time in my life who stuck around. Most of my friendships from then faded away, but that isn’t something I dwell on anymore.

Ironically, I didn’t really enjoy running all that much until after college. I was a seasonal runner for the longest time. I would run only during the summer, and it was never consistent. About a year and a half ago, I really started getting into running. June 18th 2016 I ran my first half-marathon ever. I ran two more after that. And thus year, I have three more scheduled in the books. I finally call myself a runner. And not even a seasonal runner – I have ran in all of the seasons. The hottest it’s been was around 90 and the coldest has been around 15 degrees F. I’ve rain in pouring rain and snow. Not going to lie, I felt pretty bad ass running in the snow.

runRunning has become such a lifeline for me. And, to be honest, I really wish I would have started running sooner. Because running releases endorphins, it just makes me feel like a rockstar when I’m done running. And that will happen to everyone. I really believe it will. Now, don’t let running fool you. It is very much so a mental game. I can’t tell you how many times I have said “WHY AM I DOING THIS?” or “I HATE RUNNING” while I was running. But I have never once been done with a run and said “well that wasn’t worth it.” Because it’s worth it every single time. It’s almost like an addiction at this point. A healthy addiction. Now if that isn’t an oxymoron!

Running or any other form of exercise has been proven time and time again to help reduce stress levels and help lower your depression. The endorphins that get released while exercising interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.

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If anyone is looking to start running, just know that it is never too late! I’ve read about so many 90 year olds, yes ninety, that still run – some of whom didn’t even start to pick up running until well after retirement. I encourage people to try the Couch to 5K app. It’s amazing. It helped me get started with running. You can find their website here for more information: http://www.c25k.com/ It’s a free app as well, so there’s nothing to lose!

When you run, you win the day.

Love always,
Megan
#CaffeinatedOpinions

P.S. My current half-marathon PR is 2:46:33. I have a half-marathon coming up May 13th that I’m shooting to shave off 10 minutes. Big goal for me!

 

 

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Thank you everyone for reading!

Feel free to submit your questions HERE (not in the comments)

How To Adjust Living With Your Significant Other

Dear Megan,

My boyfriend and I moved in together recently. About 4 months ago.  We have been dating for almost 3 years now and thought we should take the next stop in moving in together. We are having a hard time living together. We never really fought and now we do. Is this normal? I feel like all we do now is fight. And it is about the silliest things, too. I thought moving in would be like a fun little sleepover every day, but I don’t really want to come home now. What can we do? Is not getting along like this a sign?

Thanks for taking the time to read my pathetic question!

Anonymous-BW

BW –

First, your question is in no way pathetic. We’ve all been there! Second, it’s totally normal!  Think of it this way – you both had your own space for 4 years of your relationship. (Whether or not you had roommates, since i’m unsure what your living situation was current to now). But you had space away from each other.  Living together is a whole different ball game. Josh and I will have lived together four years this coming August and we are still learning things.

You really get to find out a lot of habits from your significant other that you might not have known before. For example: Dishes.  When Josh and I got our own house two years ago (we had roommates prior), I was pretty adamant that as soon as we were done eating, we would clean the kitchen. Josh on the other hand, would leave dishes for the next day… or two or three. It would drive me absolutely insane. To come home from work and see a messy kitchen stressed me out. Instead of talking about it, I just did dishes. While I was doing dishes, I would be super upset. I wouldn’t even want to talk to Josh, and let me tell you, if he even thought to ask me “What do you want for dinner?” I would have lost my cool. (more on this question later!) However, Josh would see me do the dishes and just think I didn’t mind doing them. And because I didn’t ask for help, well, I must be good. So he would do something else… Well, that caused fights. What I was interpreting as “ugh he never wants to help me – why can’t he just offer to help?” He was interpreting as, “Oh how sweet – she’s doing the dishes for me.”

We have to remember that we cannot read each other’s minds. After I asked him a few times to help me, he did without question. He just didn’t know that I would have preferred help. He assumed I was fine doing them alone. And I assumed he was being a talklazy brat. Since we’ve talked about it, he actually washes the dishes more than I do. I will dry them and put them away. It’s a system that works for us. I don’t particularly enjoy putting my hand in dirty water and cleaning food off dishes. Obviously I will if I have to, but it grosses me out. And don’t even get me started at how peanut butter smells after hot water ran over it. Plus, I enjoy painting my nails, so I have definitely complained about them chipping more often. (Yes I do actually wear gloves). So, he washes, I dry.

It’s been said time and time again, that communication is key. And it’s so very true. You should talk to your significant other about chores. It sounds juvenile, but I can bet that it will help. You each might have different ideas of what to do when.

Laundry schedule: This one can be tough depending on work schedules, too. Josh and I both have a Monday – Friday job. Although he typically has to work Saturdays for overtime. Josh will do his laundry during the week, and I’ll usually do mine on Saturday when he’s working. But definitely talk about if you will do each other’s laundry, too. Josh is not allowed to do my laundry and he knows that. I’m too particular. However, he doesn’t mind if I do his laundry, although he’s pretty good about keeping up with it himself.

Bathrooms: I highly highly recommend having two bathrooms, if possible, when you live with another person. It can be 1.5 baths, but just two places to go to get ready, especially if you need to get ready at the same time. Are you a night or morning showerer? I take showers at night and Josh takes them in the morning. If you are both on the same schedule, then make a plan.  Cleaning the bathroom. Not the funnest, but it’s gotta be done.

BILLS: this is a big one. A lot of couples don’t want to talk about money, but it’s one thing that couples argue about the most. Do you want to switch off months? (he pays one mmoneyonth then you pay the next). Does he put all the bills in his name and then you just pay
him half?  It’s easier to split bigger grocery bills since their registers can split it, but what happens if you go grocery shopping alone? Do you want to open an account together to dump money into and then use THAT for bills? Do you want to keep track of who spends what each month? If someone makes more money, will they take on a little more of the bills or is everything 50/50? Talking about bills can be an awkward conversation, but it needs to happen.

Days away: Always make sure to spend time with your own friends. Go out and do something – even if it’s just a short amount of time, or a weekend getaway. Don’t ignore your friendships. I know it’s super tempting to always want to hang out with your significant other, but you also can’t shove others aside.

Be courteous: Are you running late? Did you get stuck at work? Let them know so they aren’t worried about you. A quick “i’m running late” makes anxious people like myself feel more at ease. Just be mindful that if someone tells you they are running late or got stuck at work, to not grill them right away about why. You live together. Ask them later. Are you going to the grocery store without them? Ask if they need anything. Are you making dinner plans with someone else? Let them know so they aren’t expecting to have dinner with you.

Don’t stop dating. As lovely as it is to sit on the couch and binge watch your favorite TV show, it will get old after a while. Make a monthly date somewhere. It doesn’t need to be fancy.  Josh and I love going to Wine Wednesdays – a wine bar in our town does half price datingbottles of wine, so we will go there and order a few glasses (thank you Uber – please don’t drink and drive, guys!) and just talk and enjoy each other’s company. These are NO PHONE dates. If we are just sitting on the couch, let’s be real, we are both screwing around on our phones. And that’s normal and totally fine. Just don’t whip out your phone while on a date.  And wine not your thing? Do something else! Check to see what’s in your town. Do you have a place to place darts or pool? Josh and I don’t always go out. We have found some fun 2-player games and we will sit at home and play a game. But don’t stop dating.  Josh and i made that mistake and fell into the trap of “work-come home-cook-eat-clean up-binge watch TV-bed” and that’s it. Not only did we gain weight, but we got bored of each other and then we started into a routine of he did his thing and I did mine and I barely talked to him for months. That was not a good time.  So, definitely do one or two no phone date nights.

And to include in the dating part, try and surprise them every now and then. I’ve put little “hello handsome” notes in Josh’s lunch or just decided to do a deep clean on the house when he was gone working on Sat and I was at home and he came home to a nice clean house…. guess who got a foot rub then… I did!

You will eventually learn that “what’s for dinner?” is a dangerous question. I don’t know how many times couples fight about this. And it seems such a silly thing to fight about. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there, Done that. But I have a few ideas on how Josh and I have avoided this fight in a very long time.  The first thing to note, is that before you decide to surprise someone, make sure you know what they like and don’t like for foods. I definitely found that Dinnerout the hard way when cooking for Josh. He hates Thyme! Imagine that. It totally ruined the French Onion Soup for him. I thought it was great, but hey, it left him hungry. Oops. But second, have a no fail back up plan. My favorite food is anything Mexican. So, if I ask Josh “what would you like for dinner?” And he says “I don’t know,” then tacos it is. If he has a suggestion or something he wants, then we can go for it, but an “i don’t know” means tacos.  Now, if Josh asks ME what I want for dinner, and I don’t really know (or truly don’t care), then it’s Chinese take out. So if I don’t want takeout, I better speak up. That is our no-fail way to NOT fight about dinner. And for the love of goodness, please don’t say “I don’t care” when you actually do. If you say “I don’t care” or “I don’t know” and the other person gives a suggestion, you better not say “Well, no not that.” Sorry, you lost your chance by saying “I don’t know.” 🙂

I can’t reiterate enough about “we can’t read each other’s minds.” SO SO SO often when I’m talking with either my siblings or my friends, I hear situation get out of control for no reason:

“Oh my gosh, he hasn’t texted me back in a few hours so he must be mad at me. I don’t even want to talk to him now.”
–> He was at work and left his phone in the car. mind reader

“There’s all this laundry to fold and she decided to go out with her friend instead? This place is a mess! I guess I’ll fold this myself again.”
–> Her friend was having a bad night and she planned to finish folding laundry when she got home.

“Seriously?? Why are these empty cans just sitting here on the counter? The recycling bin is RIGHT HERE. ugh, i’ll just crush them myself I guess.”
–> He brought up the cans to crush later, but wanted to finish a video game first.

I could go on and on with those examples, but I think you all get the idea. It’s very very easy to jump to conclusions. We all do it. I’m very guilty of this. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Every single relationship is so different. If something is bothering you, talk about it. We all have good days and bad days. But it’s better to ask and then find out you’re overreacting than to sit and wonder.

I highly highly recommend reading “The 5 Love Languages.” You can even buy the book on Amazon, too.

Living together can definitely be like a sleepover every night. It took us about a year and a half to really figure it out. But I can honestly say that once we learned all those little things about each other, it turned into the “sleepover” kind of feel more often. Give your relationship time to flourish. Even though you’ve been together for a while, there’s still a lot to learn.

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Love always,
Megan
#CaffeinatedOpinions

 

 

 

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Thank you everyone for reading!

Feel free to submit your questions HERE (not in the comments)

Welcome to #CaffeinatedOpinions

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Hi! And welcome to #CaffeinatedOpinions!

For the longest time, I never really knew what direction my blog should go towards. It was all over the place. Poems, random posts, fitness… No real direction.

I’ve been told my entire life that I’m a really good listener. That I take the time to see both sides to every story. Over the last year or so, I’ve really taken to heart when people tell me this. I’ve finally started to really believe it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one to really sugar coat anything. I do try and be transparent as I can without being a total monster, but also being very informative. I never ever make fun of people. I don’t actually think it’s funny when people say “um that’s common sense.” Well maybe not. Everyone has a different background. We all have so much to learn from each other.

I’ve decided to make a dedicated section of my blog for people to submit questions that they would like an opinion on. Now, let’s just get a disclaimer out there… No, I am not a doctor. I am not a trained therapist. But sometimes, we just need a second opinion on topics.

Categories to start off with, but don’t think by ANY means that you are limited to ask me what is on this list.

To submit a question, head on over to this link. Click here. You are ALWAYS welcome to remain anonymous. You have the option to tell me who you are and have me link back to your own blog; you can tell me who you are, but I don’t post any links and keep you anonymous, or you don’t even tell me who you are. Whatever you feel comfortable with!

– I love to cook. I’ve been cooking my whole life and have a few scars to prove it. I acquired some of my first scars on my knuckles from learning how to flip pancakes. I’m sort of a closet vegetarian. Since I was very little, my mom would take me to the state fair, and I could see the cows and get very upset because I thought they looked sad. I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that I refused to eat meat for months. I’ve gone through spurts of not eating any meat for months and even years, and then I’ll revert back. I currently don’t eat any meat except chicken. And I really do try and watch my dairy intake, simply to cut down on cholesterol. I have quite a few opinions on food. (Whether or not I decide to take my own advice of “stop eating so much pizza” is another story.)

– Running is life. I’ve trained for three half marathons in 2016. And right now, as of April 12, 2017, I’m in week 4 of my 8 week training for a half marathon. I definitely have some opinions about running.

– I have insomnia and restless leg syndrome. And yes, this is confirmed by a doctor and not WebMD. I went through sleep training and quite a bit of doctor appointments, so I definitely have opinions on this.

– While I might not be married, Josh and I have been together for 4 years (it was 4 years as of Feb 2017) and we have lived together for 3.5 years. So, I might not have advice on planning a wedding, but I definitely have some opinions on living with a significant other. Especially one who doesn’t share the same hobbies. I’m extroverted (for the most part) and he is very introverted.

– I am the oldest of four siblings. Me, my two sisters, and my brother is the baby. We are all roughly two years apart. I have quite a few opinions on dealing with siblings. (Don’t hate me guys. 😉 )

– I come from a divorced family. My mom divorced my father when I was seven years old. It wasn’t the prettiest of divorces. My three younger siblings have a relationship with my father; whereas I do not. I have quite a few opinions about dealing with family, especially when everyone doesn’t quite get along.

– I’ve had friendships last for 10+ years. I’ve had friendships just stop for no reason. I’ve had friendships start while drunk in bathrooms. I’ve had to cut toxic friends out of my life. I’ve kept long distance friendships. I’ve lost touch with people who live a mile from me. I have many opinions on how to keep friendships, and what ultimately lead to never talking to someone again.

– From 2004 to 2015, I moved NINE times. Yes, 9 times. In five different cities. I have learned a lot about looking for roommates, navigating new cities, finding jobs, going to college plus having a job, leaving friends and/or family behind after moving, learning what things to let go of and what mementos to hold on to. I believe there is a fine line between true mementos and junk. I’ve also learned a hell of a lot about packing efficiently.

– I am not a Esthetician (yes i feel like I need this disclaimer often), but I swear by having a multi-step skincare routine and going for monthly facials. I have been following the Korean skincare routine religiously now for almost 3 years. I’ve half assed it for a few years as well, and I’ve been getting facials since 25. I turned 31 years old in April 2017 and people STILL think that I’m 25. I 100% thank my skincare routine. Got questions? feel free to ask!

– I have battled depression from grade school through high school. Therapist and drugs and all. I was diagnosed with PTSD after my parent’s divorce. (For those of you who do not know, my mother was a victim of domestic abuse that, as a 7 year old, I witnessed). PTSD took me a very very very long time to cope with. It greatly affected me even throughout college. I have no taken any anti-depressant medication since high school. I do have episodes from time to time. I have opinions on how to cope with a lot of this, and one of them is definitely that it is normal to ask for help.

– I’ve had a decent amount of death in my life. My grandma passed away in 2005, and my grandpa unexpectedly in 2007. I was very close with my grandparents, and even now 10+ years later, I think about them often. I’ve had a close coworker of mine die from a family member stabbing him. I’ve also lost a friend to suicide. It isn’t easy. And I’ll be the first one to admit that time really does not heal your wounds, but I’ve learned to love the scars.

Please, if anyone is reading this and is coping with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to reach out. There are people who will be there to help you every step of the way. Never ever be ashamed. You’re not alone. Confidential help is available for free.

Suicide Hotline:
1-800-273-8255

 

To submit a question, head on over to this link. Click here. I won’t really be able to filter through the comments section, so make sure you use this link to submit your questions.Thanks everyone!!

My 2016: Medal Monday

Looking back on 2016, I’m still in shock at how far I’ve come. It shouldn’t surprise me, because I worked my butt off, but sometimes, just looking back at my progress, I can’t believe it. I skipped out on a lot of drinking nights. I sacrificed lazy nights in lieu of meal planning. Instead of getting brunch with friends, I made healthy breakfasts at home and met up with them for coffee. I skipped out on some work parties so I could get home at a decent hour because I knew I had to get up early to run. “Sorry I can’t; I’m running in the morning” was a text I think my friends got use to hearing. And you want to know the best thing about all of that?

It was worth it.

Every single decision. Every gathering I CHOSE to miss. Every glass of wine I decided not to pour and drink water instead. Every Sunday I would meal plan or plan out my running schedule instead of doing nothing. Every time I turned down going out to lunch at work and getting major crap for it… “you never come out with us!” Sorry guys. Plus, Chicago is expensive. All of it. Worth it.

I feel great.
I have more energy.
My skin looks more youthful.
I’ve lost weight.
I gained some absolutely amazing friendships.
My self-confidence boosted.
I am more positive.
I fight less.
I forgive more.
I listen more and talk less.

In 2016, I ran 21 races. TWENTY-ONE. Of those 21 races, three of them were half-marathons. I ran my first ever in June 2016 and loved it so much that I did two more. 2015, I could barely run 4 miles…. and I completed THREE half-marathons. I am so proud of that!

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I also participated in the #HolidayMile which was a challenge to run or walk one mile every single day from Thanksgiving to New Years. And that was a challenge, let me tell you. I missed a few days, but I ran more than I would have without this challenge.

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I ended my year with 547.34 miles. My original plan was to do 1,000 solo miles, but due to some poor planning in the beginning of the months and lack of discipline, I did not hit that goal. But my running buddy Ally and I decided to do a team effort and we hit 1,000 miles together. (More on that here.)

With the 21 races and 2 challenges I participated in, I gained 17 new shiny medals to proudly display:

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I have a plan of attack for 2017. I’m going to hit 1,000 solo miles. But I’m giving myself a different kind of challenge than I did in 2016.  I split the months up into sections of three. So, for example, Jan, Feb March is one set, then April, May, June is the next, and so on so so forth.  I picked one month out of the set of three to be my 100 miles in one month (one set I chose two) and I made sure I didn’t have any back to back months of 100 miles. I was strategic with what I decided to pick.

Here’s the breakdown:
JAN-Because it’s the first month of the year and I should start off strong.
APRIL-It’s my birthday month
JUN-I’m training for a half-marathon anyway. Plus, it will get me outside.
AUG-Josh and I usually go on vacation in Sept, so I can’t pick that month, and I needed at least a month in-between the last 100 mile month.
NOV-Because Nov 2016 was my first 100 mile a month ever.

So there’s half of my 1,000 miles in a year right there: five 100-mile months. Which will then leave me with six months to do an average of 84 miles each (which can consist of running, walking and biking). The month directly following my 100 mile month will most likely have a higher biking mileage since I’ll want to give my knee a rest.

But my challenge to myself is a two-parter. In my 100 mile months, I’m only counting actual RUNNING miles as a part of that. Here’s a visual to make more sense:

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My plan for 2017 is to also incorporate some biking, which I will count towards my grand total of 1,000 miles in the year, but during my 100 mile months, I’m keeping a separate note for just running.  So, for example, today I ran 3 miles and did a half mile cool-down. I logged my 3 miles in for running and the half mile down for walking.  So, my grand total for the year (including my New Years Day walk), is 4.75 miles, but only 3 miles of that I’m counting towards my 100 miles for January.

The reason I’m doing this is because I wanted a little more of a challenge. I really learned a lot in 2016 about the importance of planning week by week. When I hit 100 miles in Nov, I counted both my running and walking. I accomplished that, so now I just want a bit more of a challenge for myself. I also found that I would make excuses to not run. “Oh I can just walk 2 miles and run 3 miles for a total of 5 miles for the day,” when really my body is perfectly capable of doing a 4.5 mile run with a half mile cool down. I want to get faster and break my PRs and that will not happen when I’m walking.  Again, I’ll still count my walks towards my 1,000 miles for the year. Walking is still very important. I am by no means putting down walking, but this is the goal I picked for myself.

Some of my other 2017 goals:
Plan my week every Sunday night
Blog more
Run a half-marathon in a different state that is far enough to have to spend the night. (road trip!)
Read 10 books
Cross-train (I literally did none of that last year. Oops)
Explore healthier foods and blog about it
Be more positive

I’d love to hear some goals my readers have made! Comment below with yours!

Best wishes to all.

Vegan Gluten Free Healthy Brownies

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In my previous post, I talked about my entire journey of becoming a healthier person. One of those things was to really watch what I was eating.  I became more cognizant of what i was putting into my body. No I don’t really count my calories – that is just not something that worked for me. But I watch cholesterol, sugars, and fats. I make sure I’m getting enough protein and vitamins.

(I shouldn’t need to put out a disclaimer, but just in case: no i’m not a nutritionist. I am not a doctor. Everyone is different. Please do not use this to make any life altering decisions.)

Also, another disclaimer. I am not vegan. I do enjoy eating a LOT of vegan meals, though. I will still eat chicken occasionally. I will not eat pork or red meat if I don’t have to. Too much fats and cholesterol for me. I will not make hard boiled eggs or scrambled eggs for myself, but if someone offers me a food, I will more than likely eat it. I eat cheese, but I try and limit my intake of that as well. A lot of people think that because I post about a lot of the meals I eat and label them as vegan, but I’m personally not a vegan, that I’m being a hypocrite. Well, the meal itself is still vegan, so I’m not going to stop that.

Okay back to these brownies.

One of my sisters has a dairy allergy. And I love to bake. So I wanted to try and find a good recipe that I could make for Christmas that tasted good and was also dairy free. I found a brownie recipe that I was dying to try: Black bean avocado brownies. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s actually VERY good!  I already ate a row of brownies. Okay, a small row. It is made in a 8×8 pan. 😀

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large flax egg
  • 1 – 15oz can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 medium to large ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Place flax egg, black bean, avocado, vanilla, and brown sugar and process in a food processor until smooth. Add in cocoa powder, coconut oil, baking soda, and baking powder and process again until smooth. Batter will be thick. If batter is way too thick and won’t process, you can add in a tablespoon or two of almond milk. This batter needs to be very thick in order to produce fudgy brownies. Fold in chocolate chip or sprinkle onto batter then transfer to prepared pan and use a spatula to spread evenly to sides. Sprinkle top of batter with 2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate chips.
  3. Bake for 22-30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out somewhat clean. We don’t want these to dry out, but we also don’t want them completely raw either! The top of the batter should be completely set and no longer jiggle. Cool pan completely on wire rack then cut into 12 bars.
NOTES
You may be able to sub the brown sugar for honey, agave or maple syrup. I would reduce to 1/3 cup though.
The brownies are best went made in a food processor so that beans can blend together better.
The brownies are best when served at room temperature or cold.

Recipe credit here.

Vegan GF Healthy Brownies

I followed the recipe almost exactly. Instead of the flax egg, I used a chia egg instead since I already have a huge bag of chia seeds. (To make a chia seed egg: For each egg, combine 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed (or flax seed) with 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well, and place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the result should be a sticky egg-like substitute) For the powder, I used Viva Naturals Cacao Powder, (which you can actually find on Amazon!) and the Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs for the vegan choc chips (again, hello Amazon!). I was a little weary about trying this at first because it’s black beans and avocado, but if I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed this was packed full of chocolate (not the vegan kind). I do not not taste black beans or avocados AT ALL.

I decided that since this is a relatively healthy recipe, and my sister can eat these, that I am going to bring them to Christmas for all to enjoy!

Happy baking!

P.S. I’m always open to making new things! Anyone have any dairy-free and/or vegan desserts they love? Post below!

My Fitness Journey

In my entire year journey of getting back into shape and training for a half marathon and changing my diet, I’ve never shared any before or after photos of myself. To be honest, I rarely took any before photos because I was embarrassed. I untagged every photo that someone took of me. I offered to be the photographer so I didn’t need to be in a photo. I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t like how I looked, so why have a memory of that? I have measurements and my weight from before, but it hasn’t been anything I’ve shared.

Let me take you back to the beginning…

In college, I was 155 lbs. That was my ideal weight. I was playing volleyball – both on the club team at UW-Oshkosh as well as a rec league- and running. I was a casual runner in college… Maybe like 5 miles a week and definitely NOT consistent. Plus,  I walked to and from class. All that adds up. I was health conscious and ate healthier than most of my peers, but not really. Thank you metabolism. I graduated college in 2010 and moved back home. I continued to play volleyball in summer. I would run a handful of times, but nothing more than a few miles sporadically. I had a job at Sam’s Club which very much so kept me on my feet all day.

April 2012, I moved to Chicago. And this is when the slow downhill started. Yes, I had to walk to the nearest public transportation option, but then I sat. All. Day. Long. I had a desk job. And then being in a new city, all I did was eat out and eat too much. Thanks a lot Groupon. There was always a plethora of free food at work, which was never good for you. I gained about 10 lbs my first year working there. I still continued to play volleyball in summer though, so that was at least something. But summer in the Midwest… it doesn’t last long.

August 2013, I quit my job in Chicago and moved back to Wisconsin and in with my bf Josh. I quit because I found a job opportunity that was close to home. (Walking distance!) I thought it would be a good career move, but a few months later, they fired me for no reason. (Oh I have a post about that entire drama filled job…) Unemployment and depression led me down a very not good path. I was unemployed for MONTHS. Dec 19th, 2013 until May 22nd. 2014, I had no job. I had no motivation to work out. I cried myself to sleep often. I would go for days of eating burgers and ice cream and getting drunk and binge watching Gossip Girl.

Hello 185 lbs. 

I finally landed a job at Starbucks May 2014. At least i was on my feet all day, but I didn’t do anything outside of work. I ate crappy foods. I made excuses. “Oh I work weekends now. I can’t do anything.” “I work a morning shift-I’m too tired when I come home.” “I work a late shift, but I don’t feel like working out before work.” You name it, I had an excuse.

I quit Starbucks beginning Aug 2014 because I found a new role back at the company I was originally with in Chicago. I should have never left the company, but that’s another blog post. 

Commuting was hard. I left the house at 6am and didn’t get home until 8pm. The hours were brutal. (Shocker, I wrote about this previously too!) I was able to switch my hours after a few months (Nov 2014). So I was gone 6am to 630pm. Still a very long day. I ran occasionally, but not too much.

Summer 2015 I ran a few 5Ks with some friends and decided that I needed to run again and be active. I was so embarrassed of myself at this point. I hit 189 lbs at my heaviest. I never hit 190 lbs, but it was kind of a wake up call. I had become really good friends with Ally and she quickly became my running buddy. Aug 2015 was when we really started to think about our goals for 2016. We were running a decent amount, but focusing on stairs. We signed up for the Chicago Skyrise Climb. 103 floors up in Sears Tower (yeah yeah Willis Tower. It will always be the Sears Tower). I dropped a few lbs by this point, but I was still around 175-180 lbs.

Nov 8th, 2015. We climbed. 103 floors.  Words cannot describe how I felt that day. I almost cried when I finished. The fundraising money was for RIC, (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago). As I did my climb, firefighters in their gear passed me.  I passed a few older people who were walking with canes and a PT just in case. It was so incredibly inspirational. And then, the people handing out medals at the top of the stairs were in wheelchairs. People who could no longer walk.

“Why am I wasting my life not being active anymore?”

After that climb, Ally and I talked about our 2016 goals and decided that we should make a goal of running 1,000 miles in 2016. Very very high goal, but hey, we did the math and it was definitely feasible.

Dec 2015 I applied for an internal position which I got hired for (and an currently in this role) in Feb 2016. (My manager wanted me to stay for a month to train the new people. Yippee!)  My new job was way more flexible. I left my house at 6am, but I was able to be home by 540pm. It made all the difference. 

And running just took off from there.

January, I ran 86 miles.

Somewhere around March, Ally and I talked about doing a half in August maybe, so that was something we were aiming to do. We ran a lot. We read a lot about half marathons.

April 2nd, 2016, Ally and I ran a 10K… in 28 degree weather… IN THE SNOW. It was my last run in my 20s so there was no way we were backing out of this one. It was a tough run to get through. I lost feeling in my toes after the second mile. But we finished it! And we knew if we could get through that, we could get through so much more.

In May, we realized how far we had come, and signed up for our first half marathon in June! JUNE!

June 18th, 2016 – we ran our first half-marathon. It was beautiful. It was hot. And I cried when I was done. My family and bf were there to meet me at the finish line. Hello emotions. At this point, I was around 165. I watched my diet, but not too much. I was starting to feel so good about myself! We even signed up for another half marathon in Sept!

junehalf

July 2016 I did a 5K obstacle course in Madison. As I was sliding down the slide, I jammed my knee. This was a little bit of a setback; however, I took more initiative than the Old Megan would have done. I went to see a PT, I got some exercises to do (and actually did them!!). I took a little time off running to heal up. I would do some slow jogs, but stopped when the pain went from an achy dull pain to a sharp pain.

Aug 28th, 2016 – I ran another half marathon with my coworkers. I had signed up for this one months ago, before I hurt my knee, so I unfortunately had to walk the majority of it because my knee hurt so badly.

aughalf

Sept 10th, 2016 – Yes, 13 days apart, Ally and I ran another half-marathon, and I even beat my time from our first one in June!

septhalf

The longer runs because easier. And I just wanted to keep running. Running kept me happy. It kept me sane. I hit a plateau with my weight – I was hovering around 163-166 lbs. I wasn’t even all that concerned about it. I’m not really one to weight myself often, mostly because it led to disappointment. But I wanted to know what more I should be doing. Well, the one thing that didn’t really change was my diet.

Nov 2016: November was a huge month for me. I made a goal of running 100 miles this month. One. hundred. Miles. At the end of Oct, I was at 367.5 miles total for the year. Not where I wanted to be. I knew 1,000 miles would not happen this year. But Ally and I teamed up and added our miles together. This has been a learning year for us, and we didn’t want a number to get us down. So we are doing a team effort of 1,000 miles this year. Well, I still wanted to reach a high goal, so 100 miles it was! Not only did I run more, but I changed my diet. I had gotten a wellness exam at my work, which showed a slightly elevated cholesterol level. 212. 12 points above the max “normal” range. Because my good cholesterol was at 92, they told me “you really don’t have to worry about it because 100milesnovyour good cholesterol is so high, that it balances out your bad cholesterol.” But all I heard was “you have a slightly high cholesterol level.” I cut out red meat, pork and eggs, and I VERY much so limited my dairy. I made a conscious decision to eat more fruits and veggies. I had oatmeal with pb and bananas almost every morning. I just felt SO much better. By the end of Nov, I didn’t want a ton of cookies. I didn’t want to have a steak dripping in butter. I felt great. I was getting plenty of protein and fruits and veggies. I didn’t really track calories as much as I just paid attention to sugar, cholesterol, fats, sodium and ingredients. If I couldn’t pronounce it, I didn’t eat it. If it had WAY too many ingredients, I didn’t eat it. Yes of course I helped myself to some not so good foods, but it was a few times the entire month, instead of a few times a week. Hey, I’m not perfect and I love chocolate. I ended up hitting my 100 miles in Nov. It was amazing.

Well this ENTIRE story leads up to this photo and the reason behind this novel:

scale

I randomly decided to weigh myself on Monday (I always weight myself at night before going to bed. Gotta keep it consistent) and I was 158.7. Wait, what? I was back in the 150s. I weighed myself every night, but I never got above 159.6. It was anywhere from 157.9 to 159.6.

Holy crap. This whole eating healthy thing actually works. 🙂 Ha. Not that I had my doubts, but when you start seeing results, there’s just NO turning back now.

I’m 30 and I feel better now than when I was 25.

(Also, side note. I really love the app I used. Ha. PicsArt)

And here we are Dec 9th, 2016 and I’m already on pace to hit 100 more miles this month.

I got this!!

Happy Six Year Anniversary

image

Time has certainly flown by. I still struggle to find my voice and what my blog should really be about. I feel like I’ve had many missed opportunities to blog about something. And I just don’t. But every so often, I’ll get one of these notifications, or a comment on my blog, or a friend who says, “when are you going to update again?” and I realize that I’ve been lazy!

Kudos to all of you bloggers! It takes time and dedication. And apparently my dedication for writing has slowly dwindled.

Wishing you all the happiest Thursday.

❤ 🌞 Megs

Sunshine Award

What a lovely time to go through my comments to realize that I’ve forgotten to respond to this blog award! In the midst of all this snow that just got dumped on us, I get to look at the “Sunshine Award” and think about how much I already miss the warm sunshine! Thank you Nimmi!

sunshine award

I’ve taken a little bit of an unplanned hiatus. I will be posting a major update before Jan 1st, 2016! So stay tuned. But for now… the award!

Rules for the award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate a few other bloggers.
  • Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you nominated.
  • Notify the bloggers on their blog.
  • Put the award button on your blog.

Questions for me:

  • Which decade do you miss the most?  Would it be weird to say the 80s, even though I was only born in 1986? (Go ahead and do the math — yes I will be 30 in April.) I can hardly say “I grew up in the 80s” since I only had a whopping four years in it, but I’ve always said that I would love to have been a teenager in the 80s. I love 80s music. I love record players. And as weird as it will be to say this since I do online blogging, I do miss NOT constantly being connected to social media. Besides, I’ve got the perfect hair for the 80s!
  • To which poet do you feel most connected to? Shakespeare hands down. No question about it. I didn’t really appreciate much of his work until college. In fact, I never really enjoyed poetry at all prior to college. I didn’t “get it.” I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the time where I realized I loved poetry and when it clicked, but over the years, I’ve had a deeper and deeper appreciation for Shakespeare. I love his work. He can make me cry and laugh, and usually at the same time. He writes about a lot of real emotions that so many people would be able to connect with, but don’t because his style is different than modern day poets.
  • Your spirit cartoon character/TV show artist? I don’t watch a lot TV so i’m not entirely sure how to answer this one. Well… okay, so I DO watch TV, but not with spirit cartoons. I can’t even pick a favorite TV show so picking a favorite PERSON is really hard. One of my favorite shows, which had their series finale early 2015, is Revenge. I loved the series and the main character Emily was one of my favorites.  She was a very strong female character, which was why I probably loved her so much.  I’m currently watching Quantico, Once Upon a Time, Pretty Little Liars (don’t judge), Game of Thrones (hurry and start again please!), and Nashville. I gave up on Scandal, Blindspot, and Black List. And not because I didn’t enjoy them, but because I was already watching so much TV that I had to stop watching something! Also, I couldn’t pick a favorite character from any of these though. I suck at favorites. Oh, I guess another TV show I loved was Breaking Bad! Walter White’s character had amazing development throughout the series.
  • Your favorite indulgence when in stress? Lately it has been using my adult coloring book! I love love love it. Running used to be my ultimate form of relieving stress. I had fallen off the bandwagon with that over the years, but since this last June, I have gotten back up and running and it feels amazing! 
  • How has your blog helped you the most? My blog has has helped me connect with so many different types of people from around the world. I love being able to interact with other bloggers online.! 

Other Bloggers:
1. Jonas’ Essential Matters
2. kidscrumbsandcrackers
3. Daisy in the Willows
4. But I Smile Anyway
5. The Cultured Traveler

Until next time,
XOXO
Megs

I Write Therefore I Am

I joined “Writing 101” in hopes to stay on my blogging game.  I’ve struggled with keeping up with my blog since I started it five years ago. I talk about that often in a lot of my posts. These posts usually start off apologizing for how long it’s been since I last blogged. I have a lot to say, but I always wonder why people would even be interested in anything I said. So I would go months and months without updating anything. I’ve slowly learned over the years to stop worrying about what other people think. After all, I will be 30 next year – my amount of “things I worry about” have greatly diminished.

I’ve recently gotten back into running. Back in 2011/2012, I was running seven miles 2-3 times a week. I know I can do it, but I’ve gotten a little older and gained some weight, so it will be a challenge. My goal is to run a half marathon next spring. There will be an influx of posts about exercise now.

I enjoy cooking. LOVE it. I love experimenting with new foods. I watch just about every show on Food Network. I’m always in awe of how these chefs can think of their feet. I learn a lot through these cooking shows. One of the bests feelings is watching someone smile and tell you how good their meal is.  I don’t do it for recognition. I wouldn’t care if people didn’t know who made their meals. I just like making people full and happy.

I’ve recently been diagnosed as an insomniac – but let’s be real, all insomniacs sort of already know that’s what they have but wait a really long time to just “deal with it.” I’ve had sleeping issues since I was in high-school. So I’ll be blogging about my journey through these sleep study logs.

I love writing. I need to jot down my thoughts or the thoughts just rumble around inside my head and I cannot concentrate on the task at hand. One of these days I will start working on that book I’m going to publish…

Feel free to poke around my blog and sign my guestbook!

XOXO
Megs