• freelance writing,  Lifestyle

    Writing Rituals

    Cleaning is something I feel compelled to do after a big deadline.

    Writers sometimes talk about writing rituals. While I can’t say I have that many besides grinding away at deadlines, I do have a few post-deadline rituals I thought I’d share.

    Since April of this year, I’ve been editing two monthly magazines. Both go to the printer around the same time, causing a whole lot of frenzy on my part about the third week of each month. Once I’ve finished wrapping up all the editing, writing captions, copywriting I’m responsible for, and proofreading Pdfs, I often look up and notice my house looks like a bomb went off inside of it. There’s dog hair everywhere, Post-It notes with scribbled notes lying around, along with pens, copies of previous issues of the magazine I use for reference, and piles of dirty laundry.

    While I try to delegate some of these tasks to other members of the family, such as making or ordering dinner, vacuuming, washing clothes, we’ve all been working pretty hard since school started remotely for my teens in August. Add in a husband who has been working from home upstairs since mid-March, and there’d bound to be chaos.

    Last week was hard. I had a lot of work to do and had trouble sleeping for three nights in a row. This weekend, once the final proofs for the magazines were approved, I began what I call my post-deadline ritual. I vacuumed. I mopped. I ordered all linens changed from family members. I made a half-hearted attempt to clean my bathroom. I did piles of laundry. I then decided I had way too many clothes in my closet that I was no longer wearing so I purged those. Today, after I schedule this post, I’m headed to the grocery store with my list in hand.

    I also cleaned out my e-mail inbox. Right after an issue goes to print I like to file all e-mails related to it, comb through my inbox for story ideas for the next issue (yes, planning immediately begins) and I request invoices from any writers who still need to send them so everyone can get paid.

    When I worked on my weekly planner for this week, I wrote down “research, write and record a new podcast episode.” But as I sit here halfway through Monday, knowing I have travel plans later in the week, putting out a new episode doesn’t seem feasible. I took last week off from recording because of my magazine deadline. I think I’m better off taking my time on the next couple of scripts (there are some great ones planned) and then getting back on schedule next week. It’s the gracious thing to do for my mind and body since I have a few other freelance projects I’m also working on. The good news is that “Missing in the Carolinas” has officially surpassed 6,000 downloads. I received a lovely e-mail from a family member whose siblings were profiled in Episode 11. I never expected that my little podcast would reach listeners all over the country, but it has and I couldn’t be more proud. That’s why I don’t want to rush the production process unless I have to.

    I’m curious if any other writers out there have post-deadline rituals. Do you order dinner in? Go out? Purge your closets? Clean your house? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with this strong urge to get things back in order once a whirlwind of a deadline has passed.

  • Lifestyle

    This Time Last Year

    From the August 2020 issue of Lake Norman CURRENTS.

    This time last year I was returning from a vacation in Florida, about a month into working this job, scheduling meetings, helping my daughter pack for a weeklong sleepaway camp and making a list of which school supplies I should pick up at what store. There were also a few afternoons I snuck away to our neighborhood pool for a little relaxation.

    It’s now the Summer of 2020 and I spent the week anxiously awaiting news of what the beginning of the school year will look for my kids. I was nervous for both myself and for them, as I have a rising freshman and junior. Seeing the sadness on their faces as they’ve missed the end-of-year celebrations, spring sports seasons and their friends since mid-March has been heartbreaking. I haven’t shopped for school supplies and camp was cancelled this year, and the pandemic has prevented so many teens from getting the summer jobs they’d had high hopes for.

    This time last year looked a lot different for them. My daughter was anxiously awaiting her road test to obtain her driver’s license and driving around town so she could finish her required hours. She and her brother met three times a week in the early morning with their cross country team to practice. They could walk to our pool whenever they wanted, or meet friends to shoot hoops at the nearby public basketball court.

    Thanks to COVID-19, this summer has looked a lot different for our kids. They are no longer groaning about shopping for back to school supplies, knowing they will start the school year off with remote schedule that keeps them home at least until Labor Day. They are hearing news of more and more people receiving positive COVID tests, and worrying if they forget to leave the house without a mask or hand sanitizer. They are sad because so many neighborhood pools have opted to remain closed for the summer, because they aren’t large enough to adhere to the social distancing guidelines. They long for the days when the basketball hoops were still up in the neighborhood park, and they wonder why they ever complained about not wanting to go outside in the heat. They’d give anything now to be outside in the heat with their friends without fear.

    This time last year I was living with the everyday normal stressors most adults deal with day by day. I had no idea of what was to come. But as we work through the very first pandemic most of us have ever lived through, I believe we will come out stronger. Our kids will be more resilient. They will appreciate the things they used to take for granted. For some, it could be a defining moment of their lives, if they choose to make it one.

    This time next year will look a lot different. I hope.

  • Lifestyle

    The Not-So-Secret Life of Pets

    Sonic and Ruby

    I don’t like to think about what my life would be like without my pets.

    I’ve had a dog for as long as I can remember, and most of them have been pretty small. I guess as a petite person myself I’m hesitant to get a pet that could potentially be taller than me while standing on hind legs. My husband and I started out with a small chihuahua I brought into the marriage, and while I’m sure Daniel was hesitant about Odie at first (we all know the bad rap chis can get) he eventually grew to love that boy. When Odie passed away after a long life in 2010, we swore up and down we would take a break from having a pet. We were too heartbroken and tried to convince ourselves that we would be able to take more last-minute trips, etc. without the responsibility of finding a dog sitter, etc.

    Two months later, I went to a local dog rescue for an article I was reporting on. I guess you can tell where this story is going . . . the first “person” to greet me was a wire-haired black terrier mix. There was something in his eyes that drew me to him immediately and I felt bad for him sitting in a crate out in the August heat. Within a few days, we filled out an application and had our home and yard inspected by the rescue. Sonic came home with us and our kids (who were 7 and 4 at the time) were thrilled to have another dog in the house.

    That dog has become my faithful companion. We joke that he’s like a sheepdog and herds me from room to room. He will sleep underneath my desk while I’m working, and when he feels like it’s time for me to get up, he will “herd” me to the couch, where he immediately curls up beside me. In the mornings, he herds us to the food bowls. He herds us to the side door when he’s ready to take a walk. We have no idea how old he is now, just that he was pretty young when we got him. It’s hard for me to see him start to walk a little slower and take longer naps, but we are grateful that he came to join our family.

    Six years ago, we started talking about getting a puppy to join the family, and because I had secretly always wanted a dachshund, I convinced my daughter to get one for her birthday. We found an adorable long-haired puppy we named Ruby and brought her home in 2014. As you can imagine, Sonic was a bit grumpy with that new arrival, but they eventually worked things out. Now I have two dogs that lie under my desk and have learned just how persistent dachshunds can be when they want food (which is 24/7 by the way). Their two personalities keep us pretty amused, because they both are completely different. She follows my husband around and will sass at him if she doesn’t get her way, something she never does with me. She howls when my daughter plays the piano. She also can be in a dead sleep and hear the refrigerator drawer that holds the cheese open and be in the kitchen in seconds. We keep saying we’re going to enter her in the Downtown Mooresville’s Weiner Dog Race (held each year in October), but I don’t know that we will ever follow through on that promise.

    Pets are such a fun and memorable part of our lives. I only wished they could be with us longer.

  • Lifestyle

    Tips for Making the Most Out of Your Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

    This article originally appeared in the June issue of LIMITLESS Magazine.

    We’ve all done it—racked up a glorious array of produce at our local farmers market and grocery store and then watched as our avocados rotted on a windowsill or our raspberries or strawberries developed a yucky mold before we could enjoy their fresh sweetness.

    With the month of June designated as “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month,” what better time to get a refresher on the best way to store your colorful goodies, build a more enticing salad and learn how to add more fruits and veggies into your eating plan?

    Store your fresh food properly

    Know the best way to store your food.Root vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots and turnips) are best stored in a cool, dry place. They will last up to a month if stored properly. Store your foods in complete wholeness, otherwise you will break apart the cells and they won’t last as long. Avoid placing fruits or veggies in airtight bags as this will speed up decay. Keep fruits and vegetables with the right “partners.” Some forms of produce give off high levels of ethylene gas, which is a ripening agent. High-ethylene producers include apricots, apples, avocados, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, pears and tomatoes, among others. It’s best to not store these fruits and vegetables with anything that is “ethylene sensitive,” such as unripened bananas, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, kale, raspberries and watermelon. Greens in particular are very sensitive to ethylene gas.

    Make a heart-healthy salad

    Let’s be honest, sometimes salads can get a bit . . . boring. But they are a good way to add extra fruits and vegetables into our diet, and there are some pretty creative “salad in a jar” tutorials floating around out there. (Just remember to always put the dressing on the bottom of the jar to avoid making the rest of your salad a soggy mess when it’s time to eat). Help your salad pack a punch by starting with a healthy fiber, such as quinoa or brown rice. Next, top with leafy greens such as kale, spinach, romaine or arugula. Layer in other chopped vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers. Find a nice, lean protein (think chicken, goat cheese, chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs, etc.) and then top with a healthy fat. Healthy fats include salad dressings made from olive oil, nuts, or seeds (no more than ¼ cup of nuts or seeds because they are higher in calories and fat).

    Sneak in more fruits and veggies

    According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, only 1 out of 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables. With the USDA recommending five to nine servings of these items daily, it can seem a daunting task. Incorporating a few smart swaps can help you meet those daily guidelines. Instead of rice, try using any number of riced vegetables out on the market as a base for stir-fry or as a side dish. You can purchase packages of cauliflower and broccoli already riced, both in the fresh and frozen sections of the store. Similarly, use vegetables noodles in place of pasta, such as ribbons of fresh zucchini or carrots. Instead of mayonnaise for a sandwich, mash up an avocado, add in some salt and lemon juice, and use this spread as a healthy replacement. Fold fresh or frozen berries into oatmeal or yogurt and chop up veggies to add into an omelet or a frittata. You can also use fresh fruits and vegetables in smoothies with plain non-fat Greek yogurt for a protein-packed treat.

    Summertime is a great time of year to try new types of foods, visit local farms to pick berries and get creative with meal planning. Making sure you store your foods correctly will help you make the most out of your finds.

    Sidebar:

    What’s in season right now?

    Here are a just a few of the fruits and vegetables you’ll find available in the summer:

    • Apricots
    • Beets
    • Bell Peppers
    • Blueberries
    • Butter Lettuce
    • Corn
    • Cucumbers
    • Eggplant
    • Honeydew Melons
    • Lima Beans
    • Squash
    • Strawberries
    • Tomatoes
    • Watermelon
    • Zucchini

    Source: Produce for Better Health Foundation

  • Creative Writing,  Lifestyle

    Classic Memories

    My first car looked a lot like this one.

    You never forget your first car. I know I will always remember mine—and for several reasons. First, I look back at that time in my life and realize I had no clue how much cars and insurance cost and how blessed I was to even have one on the day I turned 16. I didn’t work and save up money so that I could purchase my own car, I expected my parents (who both worked hard but did not have the funds to purchase their only child a brand-new car) to provide me with one.

    Looking back, I realize that was pretty presumptuous of me. Instead, my stepfather purchased a used car for me in cash from one of his friends. It was a 1986 red Dodge Charger. At the time, it was seven years old, but age didn’t matter to me. It was sporty, flashy and gave me my own set of bragging rights. The handle on the driver’s side door was broken and I would have to jiggle it a certain way to open it. It was also a five-speed and I remember both the joy of learning how to change the gears and the fear of pulling up to a stop sign perched on a hill (I lived in the mountains of western North Carolina). Unbeknownst to my parents, my friends and I had plenty of adventures in that car, such as the time I got it stuck in a curvy, muddy ditch and a truck full of football players from our high school happened to drive by and lifted the car back onto the road on their own. Whoops.

    I didn’t take care of that car like I should have. I wish I would’ve, because I’m sure I would have had many more adventures. Instead, I drove with reckless abandon like the teenager I was, and almost a year after I got the Charger, I took another one of those mountain curves too fast and crashed the car into a rock wall in front of a church. Miraculously, I only had a scratch on my neck from my seat belt. The car, unfortunately, did not make it.

    I thought about that wreck when the time came for my own daughter to start driving. Even though she is about as cautious as they come, I know teenagers. Driving can be tricky business, and I know accidents happen. We discussed options with her and decided to let her take the car I had driven for years (a Honda Pilot) because, as we joke, that thing is a tank and about a solid as they come. She spent a year practicing driving this car, took her driving test in it, and I purchased a newer vehicle for myself. I’m grateful she understood that we wanted her to drive an older vehicle for at least a year, see how it held up and then see if we needed to find another car. The funny thing is, I dropped her off at school on her first day of Kindergarten in that car and she now drives it to high school. Talk about a dependable car.

  • Lifestyle

    The Stained Glass Window

    May is Mental Health Month. As someone who has lived with anxiety and depression since my teens, this topic is very near and dear to my heart. I know that I am fortunate to get the care I need in the times that I struggle. Unfortunately, there are many who aren’t always as lucky. Please understand that you are not alone in your journey. You can visit the website nami.org for resources and to learn how you can advocate for yourself and your loved ones with mental illness. I would like to share an essay about an experience I went through in March of this year below. It’s taken me more than two months to be able to reflect upon this, but I knew it was finally time.

    It was raining the day 18-year-old Isaac was laid to rest. We joined the mourners that afternoon, carefully walking around the murky mud puddles that pooled on the concrete of the church parking lot. I could see my reflection in those pools, and the tears threatening to spill over onto my cheeks, on that day as I struggled to keep my umbrella from blowing inside out and out of my hands.

    In a matter of a few days, the world had become a confusing, broken and upside-down place, one that I hadn’t lived in for a very long time. It started with an e-mail from our church pastor, letting us know one of the longtime members of our youth program and church had passed away. There were no other details, except the request for prayers for the family. I read the e-mail as I waited to pick up my 14-year-old son from school. When he got in the car, I told him what I had just read.

    “What do you mean?” he asked me, frowning. “Was he in an accident?”

    “I don’t know,” I told him, with a familiar, sinking feeling weighing on my heart.

    My son pressed on. “Suicide?” he asked, looking out the window. “That doesn’t make sense,” he continued, talking more to himself than me. He mentioned how this boy had just gotten into his dream college. We drove home in silence, contemplating.

    Our worst fears were confirmed. It was indeed the thief of suicide that took this young person from the family and friends that loved him. Worst of all? No one knew why. They had no idea. This young man had suffered for so long but didn’t want to burden those around him. It’s a story we hear time and time again, but it never gets any easier.

    As we learned of the funeral arrangements and read the beautifully-written obituary celebrating this young man’s life, my heart felt like it was broken in a million pieces. I was immediately transported back to the mental health facility I had walked into at the age of 20 years old, when I confessed to my roommate that I no longer wanted to live.

    I knew the pain he must have been feeling. I knew how hard it can be to tell someone what the pain feels like—a pain that seems to come out of nowhere and has no rhyme or reason. It leaves you with an ache, a pillow full of tears night after night, a loss of appetite and the inability to understand who the person is staring back at you from the mirror.

    We walked through the lobby of our church the night of his visitation, looking at the enlarged pictures of a smiling young man wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt, holding a selfie stick as his brilliant smile joined those of his friends, and even a shot of him decked out in scuba gear, giving a thumbs up to the photographer in an underwater shot.

    “My, how he lived,” I thought to myself, then stopped. He had lived, but he hadn’t lived long enough. I wondered if I were able to talk to him at that moment, would he have regrets? Would he be grateful the pain was over, or would he have wished he could have held on just a little longer?

    I think about the holding on part often. It’s what I did for most of my early 20s—white knuckling through the depression, anxiety, insomnia and sleepless nights. There were times it was excruciatingly hard, and I didn’t think I would make it through, but I pushed myself to hold on.

    Hold on, I would say to myself, in between therapy sessions, in between new trials of antidepressant medication. Things will get better. There are people who love you, even if they don’t always know the best way to show it. You have so much to live for, even though it doesn’t seem like it now.

    We drove home from the visitation in silence. I could hear my 16-year-old daughter’s ragged breaths from holding back tears. My son had only one question, “Was that his body in the coffin?” It was almost as if he couldn’t grasp that Isaac was truly gone until he saw that.

    The rain poured outside the following day as the hundreds of people gathered inside the red brick church to celebrate Isaac’s life. We heard stories of his most epic pranks, his love of politics and sports, the way he lit up every room he walked into, and his endless generosity. I thought to myself how the young men in their neatly-pressed suits did not deserve to have their friend taken away by mental illness. How unfair it was that they were carrying their friend to his final resting place, far too soon. I thought of the quote I had come across the day before.

    Love conquers all things except the fact that depression is not a thing, it’s a living force that consumes everything in its path, it takes no prisoners.

    Isaac was a prisoner to his pain, and it took him from the world. I wished he were sitting beside me so I could’ve taken his hand to tell him things can get better; they will get better.

    I wished I could have told him he wasn’t alone, because I’m sure that’s how he felt.

    As the service ended, I looked up at the beautiful stained-glass window at the front of the church sanctuary. I could see the sunlight begin to stream through it. As we walked out of the church, the sun shone down upon us, and we gripped the handles of our umbrellas we no longer needed tightly as we made the long walk to our car. I watched as the humidity formed steam off the stagnant puddles of rain. A bright blue sky unfolded above us. I couldn’t help but feel like Isaac was giving his loved ones a final message as they said their goodbyes.

    I’ll be okay now.

  • Lifestyle,  writing advice

    Don’t Let Fear Cripple You

    There have been a lot of things I’ve been afraid of in my life. Here are just a few.

    I’ve been afraid to:

    -Go through labor and delivery with my kids (I survived, two c-sections later).

    -Travel alone to an unfamiliar location.

    -Take a cross-country flight even though I know I’m more safe in the air than a car.

    -Pick up the phone and make a call for information I need for an article (I’m introverted, and there are days I just don’t feel like talking to people I don’t know).

    -Confront people who have hurt me, because rarely does it work out the way I hope it would.

    -Share my history of battling depression and anxiety, because it’s a topic that not many people want to discuss.

    -Try running again after a minor injury sidelined me for a few weeks.

    -Hit the “send” button after crafting a query to a potential literary agent.

    -Apply for a job I don’t have 100 percent of the qualifications for.

    -Upload an audio file I created and produced in order to share my love of true crime reporting to the world.

    This is only a small fraction of the things that scare me or have intimidated me in the past. And guess what? I survived every single one of them.

    Yes, if I fail at something it will be embarrassing. But who will really know? Me. I’m my harshest critic. If an agent decides they don’t want to read my entire manuscript, they will simply send me a polite response. If a person doesn’t want to be interviewed with a story, they will say “no” and I’ll move on. If someone doesn’t want to discuss mental illness and the stigma it carries, they don’t have to. I’ve had minor physical injuries and have always been able to get back into shape. If I make a mistake in a podcast recording, I’ll own up to it and learn how not to do it in the future.

    I don’t want to be one of those people who watched other people chase their dreams while I told myself, “I’m not good enough. And if I mess up, people will judge me and ridicule me.”

     It’s taken me being in my early 40s to get past a lot those fears, but sometimes it takes time to gain courage to go after the bigger dreams.

    I hope others around me will agree.

  • Creative Writing,  Lifestyle

    Quarantine Life

    It’s been a strange past month with the shelter-at-home orders here in North Carolina thanks to the spread of COVID-19. We are a fortunate household to have one adult who has been able to transition to working from home completely, and another (me) who works as a contract employee for a magazine, and I’ve also been able to keep generating income through my clients. We are blessed, because we know others who have had to temporarily close their family businesses.

    I feel for my kids. They miss their friends, their IRL contact, driving back and forth together to school, and randomly stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts for iced coffees and donut holes. We miss simply being able to hop in the car and eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, but we are trying to order food from local restaurants at least once a week to keep supporting them where we can. We are fortunate to have Wi-Fi and four separate computers so we can all work and attend classes and Zoom meetings without having to share devices.

    We are also sad to have missed a fun spring break trip we had planned to New Orleans, where my son was excited to see the Pelicans in person and witness Zion Williamson’s ball-handling skills. I simply wanted to hear some jazz music and eat a beignet at Café Du Monde.

    During this time, we are also lucky the weather has been so beautiful, and that we have access to a greenway right in our neighborhood. While we’ve all gained a few pounds from all the snacking we’ve been doing, we are also exercising outdoors more than we ever did before. We’ve also had more family move nights during this time, and today we even got out and explored a nearby botanical garden together.

    I’ve also tried to stay busy by finally reading books that have been on my shelves for some time, taking online webinars and workshops on the craft of marketing and writing (I took a great one from Jenna Kutcher on list building) and continuing to work on my passion project, a true crime podcast I plan to launch in early May.

    I don’t want to take this extra time for granted, because there were a few times in the past few months where I wished for time to slow down because I was rapidly approaching burnout. I do hope we can all safely return to a sense of normalcy sooner than later, but I’ll trust the experts to let us know when that time is.

  • Lifestyle

    Five Days of Meals on the MyWW Purple Plan

    My weight has fluctuated ever since I graduated from college. Once I got into the routine of lunching with co-workers, eating take-out after a long day of work, and later, trying to make healthy meals for my family as an exhausted young mom, it’s not hard to see why it’s been a struggle. At the beginning of 2018 I was fed up once again. I had let myself get to a point where I was living in leggings and oversized sweaters, and reaching for every carb imaginable to combat stress and a busy schedule. Pizza and sweet treats were my biggest downfalls. I decided to join WW after I heard about their Freestyle program, and while it was hard in the beginning, once the weight started falling off me, I stayed the course logging in my foods on the app on my phone and trying not to go over my daily budget of 23 SmartPoints. I liked that I could eat foods like lean chicken, turkey, eggs, beans and non-starchy fruits and vegetables for 0 points toward my budget. Within four months, after careful tracking and a regimented workout schedule of five days a week, I reached my goal weight.

    But last year, after maintaining for about a year, I started to backslide. I would go one day without tracking what I ate, thinking it was fine if I cheated a little, and before I knew it, one day would turn into four days out of the week where I couldn’t remember what I had eaten. I told myself I would just have to pull it together and be more disciplined. When WW switched up their program last year, creating three individualized programs to meet different people’s preferences, I stuck with Blue because it was the same as the Freestyle I had been using. But over the holidays, as I cheated with all the alcohol, baked goods and cheesy foods, I realized something needed to change. I couldn’t button my pants any longer. My weight was only five or six pounds away from my heaviest weight again. And I felt miserable.

    I looked over the MyWW plans again and the Purple plan caught my eye. At first, I was nervous when I saw that I would only be allocated 16 points a day to eat. I was having trouble sticking with Blue’s 23 points at that time! Then I noticed the list of zero-point foods on the Purple plan was much larger than that of the Blue plan. I wondered if I could be savvy enough to mix the zero-point foods on the Purple plan with foods I liked in order to feel more full. On the Blue plan (which was basically low-carb) I often went to bed with my stomach rumbling, and no amount of stuffing fruits and vegetables in my face could help it. Then I would sneak into the pantry and sabotage myself with handfuls of chips or cookies to satisfy my hunger.

    The Purple plan offers zero-points for things like brown rice, potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, plain popcorn. These were all foods that I had missed on the Purple plan, and foods I knew would probably help keep me more full if I mixed them with the right things. I noted you still have to measure the amounts and use these foods sparingly, which I was willing to do. So on New Year’s Eve I officially switched to the Purple plan on my app.

    I’m happy to report that as of tracking one week on this new plan, I’ve lost three pounds and I already feel much better. I will try and stick to this plan for a few more weeks and make sure it continues to work before I make a final decision, but as of now, I’m a pretty happy camper. I’m listing five days of what I ate below to give you an example of what foods are working for me.

    Jan. 2, 2020

    Breakfast: 16 oz. black coffee, 4 tsp. Coffeemate fat-free powdered creamer, 2 tsp. sugar, an omelette with two eggs and one slice of reduced fat provolone cheese, 1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes

    Total breakfast points: 5

    Lunch: Two Falafel “meatballs,” 3 Tbsp. black olives, one mini Persian cucumber, 2 cups lettuce, topped with a dollop of Fage nonfat greek yogurt

    Total lunch points: 3

    Dinner: 1 cup of slow-cooker minestrone soup, two slices of Food for Life Sprouted Grain Bread, 3 oz. deli turkey, one slice of reduced-fat provolone

    Total dinner points: 8

    Snacks: 1 small mandarin orange

    Total snack points: 0

    Total daily points: 16

    Jan. 3, 2020

    Breakfast: Two Falafel “meatballs,” 3 Tbsp. black olives, one mini Persian cucumber, 2 cups lettuce, 16 oz. black coffee, 4 tsp. Coffeemate fat-free powdered creamer, 2 tsp. sugar

    Total breakfast points: 5

    Lunch: 1 cup of slow-cooker minestrone soup, one slice of Food for Life Sprouted Grain Bread, 3 oz. deli turkey, one slice of reduced-fat provolone

    Total lunch points: 6

    Dinner: Flank steak fajitas (no tortilla), 1/2 cups roasted sweet potatoes, 1/4 of an avocado

    Total dinner points: 6

    Snacks: 1 apple, 1 container of Fage nonfat greek yogurt with frozen unsweetened cherries, two Honeymaid chocolate graham crackers

    Total snack points: 1

    Total daily points: 17 (I dipped into my 21 weekly extra points WW gives me)

    Jan. 4, 2020

    Breakfast: 16 oz. black coffee, 4 tsp. Coffeemate fat-free powdered creamer, 2 tsp. sugar, 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, spinach and cheddar frittata

    Total breakfast points: 5

    Lunch: 1 cup slow cooker minestrone, mixed salad greens with 1 tbsp of Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing, 1 chocolate pumpkin muffin

    Total lunch points: 5

    Dinner: 1 link of Aidell’s Italian-Style chicken sausage, 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta, 1/8 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    Total dinner points: 7

    Snacks: 1 apple, 1 container of Fage nonfat greek yogurt with frozen unsweetened cherries, two Honeymaid chocolate graham crackers

    Total snack points: 1

    Total daily points: 16

    Jan. 5, 2020

    Breakfast: 16 oz. black coffee, 4 tsp. Coffeemate fat-free powdered creamer, 2 tsp. sugar, 1 container of Fage nonfat greek yogurt, 2 Honeymaid chocolate graham crackers, 3/4 cups frozen unsweetened cherries

    Total breakfast points: 4

    Lunch: 1 cup slow cooker minestrone, 1 Babybel mini cheese wedge, 1 mandarin orange

    Total lunch points: 4

    Dinner: 2 homemade italian meatballs with marinara sauce, 1 cup whole-wheat pasta

    Total dinner points: 6

    Snacks: 1 apple, 3 pieces of Oh Snap Pickling Co. carrot sticks, 1 slice of Food for Life Whole Grain Sprouted Bread

    Total snack points: 2

    Total daily points: 16 points

    Jan. 6, 2020

    Breakfast: Omelette with two eggs, cooked spinach, olive oil and reduced fat provolone cheese, 16 oz. black coffee, 4 tsp. Coffeemate fat-free powdered creamer, 2 tsp. sugar

    Total breakfast points: 6

    Lunch: 1 Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Burger with pickle chips and two slices of lettuce, one chocolate pumpkin muffin

    Total lunch points: 6

    Dinner: Slow cooker Southwest Chicken, 1/2 cup brown rice, 10 Blue Diamond lightly-salted almonds, two Hot Cocoa Hershey’s Kisses

    Total dinner points: 5

    Snacks: 2 mandarin oranges, 1 container of Fage nonfat greek yogurt with unsweetened frozen cherries

    Total snack points: 0

    Total points: 17

    As you can see, I like to make large batches of things like slow cooker meals, salads and soups and eat them repeatedly for easy meal planning. I also gravitate towards the same snacks. Having eggs in the morning usually keeps me pretty full right off the bat. I also had a lot of FitPoints I accumulated during these days that I didn’t really dip into. During this time period, I exercised all five days with elliptical training, walking and jogging.

    I hope to continue to follow this plan. So far, it is working well for me and I’m loving being able to rotate in the whole grain pastas, rice and even oatmeal, which I haven’t tried to eat again yet. I’m also not drinking any alcohol during this initial period which helps keeps extra calories at bay.

    Let me know if you have any questions!

    -Renee

  • Creative Writing,  freelance writing,  Lifestyle,  writing advice

    A New Decade of Writing

    It’s hard to believe we’re about to conclude another decade. I’ve been reflecting on this a bit, and marveling about how far I’ve come since I graduated from college, with a stack of credit card bills and student loans to pay off, and working two jobs so I could support myself. And even then there were plenty of days where I was eating pasta with plain tomato sauce for almost every dinner. If I wanted to get fancy I would throw some feta cheese on top.

    Back then, I never dreamed I could make money writing from home, and that research for a million different topics would be right at my fingertips. I took any and every job that came my way, even when it had nothing to do with my communications degree that had a concentration in print journalism. Slowly, I worked my way into the industry, starting with a job cranking out press releases and editing a university alumni magazine for a small public relations firm to freelancing for websites and regional print magazines. I’ve now been writing professionally for almost 20 years, and have my dream job of being a magazine editor while still writing creatively on the side.

    The last few years have been good to me–by keeping me employed while opening up different paths that are better suited to my skills. I’ve been able to develop long-standing relationships with other writers and editors, and we all help keep other encouraged (and employed) at the very times we need it most. (I encourage you to check out my latest post over at WOW! Women on Writing on why you should be networking over on LinkedIn.)

    I’m also ready to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was a child dreaming of a being a DJ on a radio station. I will be venturing into the podcasting world, combining my love of missing persons cases with a journalistic approach. I’ve purchased the equipment and am preparing the content as we speak. I’m blessed to be able to follow my passions, wherever they may lead me.

    I’m happy to be a part of this community and feel many more great things ahead in 2020. Cheers to you, my friends, and thank you for continuing to read and support my work.