Master’s Degree

ribs at work

I distinctly remember being in the first couple months of my college career and thinking about how I couldn’t possibly earn a master’s degree because I  could barely imagine being in college for four years. By the time I was applying for graduation in 2011, I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to start working and figuring things out for myself, but life moved on. Once I did graduate my older brother started Pharmacy School and my parents began pressuring me to further my education. I didn’t appreciate that because I had managed all decisions regarding undergrad on my own, thank you very much, and I wanted to see where life took me first instead of earning another degree I didn’t really want.

Fast forward to 2017 when I feel I have exhausted my options. I have talked myself in and out of going to school several times. In the past the issue was finding something I could guarantee I would be happy with in 10 years. Growing up I wanted to be a psychologist or counselor, but I felt like it was presumptuous of me to think I could help people fix their lives. However, after college I began considering Psychology. I actually had a meeting with a black dude with dreads and a doctorate in Psychology that I had met on the street when I was 22 and dated a couple times. I went to see him when he was done with his program at University of Missouri St. Louis to gained some insight, but still wasn’t moved to sign up for the GRE. I thought my lack of action meant this pursuit was not something I should do.

After the Life Insurance sales agent debacle in 2015, I was talking to my counselor about my career woes. When my counselor and I start talking about school, I know I don’t have any real problems anymore and need to take a break until my next existential crisis. Anyway, without knowing anything about my childhood aspirations, she suggested I become a counselor. That was validating coming from her, my counselor. She is also a military spouse and felt like it would be a good option based on that experience and what I have indicated I want in a career.

I didn’t immediately pursue her suggestion because I was under the impression counselors didn’t make anything. She said she actually earned a livable wage, but she could have been the unicorn. I have since learned that Licensed Social Workers are more billable (insurance-wise) than Licensed Practicing Counselors and have less regulations.

As my unemployment reached a fever pitch- which was when I was home alone for a month like “what is life???” when Spencer was at Ranger School- I started looking into it. Being November, it was close to the application deadline for the school here and I had too many questions, so I let it pass. Finally obtaining in March a job put it out of my mind further, but here I am one year later and back at square one.

I am back here seeing another degree as my only option for a few reasons. For one, my counselor keeps telling me to “get my life” vocationally. She doesn’t use those words, but that’s what she is saying. Second, one of my other college-educated coworkers got another job in town, which woke me up to the idea there could still be other options. Third, I work in customer service for a health insurance company. I think my company is outstanding in so many ways, however, if one more person condescends to me when I inform them that I cannot tell them how much they paid to their healthcare provider, I just don’t know. I did apply for a Health Promotion Specialist position within my company but shortly learned that I was “no longer [read ‘never’] in consideration.” If I can’t get a job with the name of my degree in it the title, I’m skunked.

I have spoken to five different schools about their online programs for Master’s of Social Work. I can start soon if I want, but then there’s that whole money thing. Spencer and I have committed to a debt-free lifestyle. Taking a loan for $50,000 feels like going in the opposite direction. Do you think I have an extra $15,000 for each of the next 3 years? I’m going to go ahead and tell you ‘no.’ I could borrow part of the cost. I could quit my job and get it done quickly so I can move on to a higher salary, but exactly how long until I get there, and then how long until I’m back in the black after losing my income for 2 years? There are a lot of movable parts when considering a compromise. To make it more complicated, let’s not forget about that baby I’m supposed to have in the next year. I could wait until after the degree, but y’all, I’m already in my “About to be Thirties.” If now isn’t a good time, neither will be the first few years of my new career.

looking collegiate

The other option I have is to wait until I can use Spencer’s GI Bill to pay for the whole thing. These funds for education can be transferred to the spouse after the serviceperson has served for six years, and they must sign up for at least four more. We are still three years from that. We could wait and do that, but I don’t know how much more discontentment I can take.

Before you say it, I am looking at scholarship options but generally believe I won’t find any at the masters level. I will consider working part time to finish faster, or paying as we go and finishing it sometime within the millennium, or waiting until my kids go to Kindergarten and use the GI Bill. I think there are a lot of scenarios and strategies to consider, but it seems that it will require math, so who knows when I’ll start school. Whatever the decision, I just have to daily find ways to keep moving forward.

5 Weeks to Weightloss- Week 5!

week-5-weightloss

 

Alas, I have spent five consecutive weeks caring about what I look like. Pulling myself from the brink of apathy time and time again was a good exercise for me. While I would like to think I’m well on my way to 2017 magic, part of me feels like now that I’m done with this, I can just eat candy and bread every morning and balloon, but I’m not going to do that, of course…

My final week of this challenge was shot from the start. It was the week after hosting a Super Bowl party, which means my weekly grocery shopping was consumed on Sunday, so the rest of the week we ate chili, hot wings, Southwest eggrolls, and Doritos. I mean, that’s literally all I ate for four days. I came off an excellent week of low carb intake to consume primarily carbs and minimal vegetables. My stomach felt busted. My life was busted, partly because I couldn’t remember where I put any of the things I moved when I cleaned up for the party, including two sticks of butter, which I still haven’t found.

During this five weeks, I had two very good weeks of dieting; I’m not sure what to think about that. It’s like a guaranteed two steps forward and one step back. The other step is the fact that I was consistent with exercise pretty much the whole time. Despite my inconsistency and the fact I only really lost three pounds, I feel like my body has changed completely. I’m more shapely and more firm and I see myself as athletic again. I will always be athletic, but being in the gym and taking care of my body is what makes it apart of my self-image.

I learned that time is the most important factor in change regarding fitness. I had to commit to five weeks. I could have quit about four separate time if not for this commitment and if I had, where would my six pack be??? That shows me that diligence is the most important part of the journey. I will fail, I will be weak, I will stop caring about looking fat, but if I just accept those experiences in the moments I have them without making any life choices based on them, I’ll find my way back to the course of where I want to go.

PS. I’m returning the $70 workout pants I bought. Haven’t been able to bring myself to wear them.

Starting Weight: 165.8  Ending Weight: 162

 

5 Weeks to Weightloss: Week 4

I said I was going to cut processed carbs, and I cut processed carbs. *Smiles smugly to self*

I had a good week. Besides the ones Blue Apron meals I forgot to cancel, I managed to avoid starchy carbohydrates, primarily by not eating tortillas, chips, or cookies. It wasn’t hard at all except for my husband eating all the chicken I grilled for myself to have for breakfast and lunch.

This is an interesting story. Sunday I made mozzarella chicken with spinach noodles. Obviously I wasn’t planning to eat the meal with the noodles during the week. I don’t think chicken with tomato and cheese really goes with broccoli, so I just expected my husband to eat that and let me eat the basic chicken. Next thing I know the container that had my chicken in it was empty. I couldn’t be mad because I hadn’t told my husband the chicken was for me, but I did ask why he didn’t eat the delicious, flavorful and succulent mozzarrella chicken. Two days later we were still hungry after our Blue Apron meal… because we are reckless Americans. I get up and cook up all the chicken thighs in the fridge, but for some reason my husband asks if he should eat the mozzarella chicken from four days prior…

Apart from chicken shenanigans, I was also pleased with my exercise. I got in the usual, but I also took a day off on Monday, which I feel served me well. I once again thoroughly enjoyed working out in the middle of the day a couple times; knocking the dust off my joints from sitting in a chair all day.

The big test for me was the Super Bowl. We hosted a Super Bowl party, and per usual I planned a ton of things to cook. Because I was so busy cooking and tasting a long the way, I didn’t do much eating during the party, but I did eat several cookies I baked as tried to decide if they were actually good or not.Oh, I also ate a TON of Doritos… They will always be my weakness.

Overall, week 4 was an excellent and very promising for the home stretch.

 

Starting Weight: 160.8    Ending Weight: 161

 

5 Weeks to Weightloss: Week 3

The third week of my journey was relatively unremarkable, however, I did start to see definition in my abdomen that motivated me to keep going. I was so motivated that I went to Victoria’s Secret and spent $75 on a pair of workout pants. In my defense, it came with a sports bra! The pants are still sitting on my dresser with the tags on in case I come to my senses, but I have already spent a day in the sports bra and no shirt fantasizing about how skinny I’m about to look.

I still didn’t drink enough water this week, but I drank more nonetheless! I was no longer so dehydrated it felt like I had bronchitis. I also did better about eating breakfast and lunch. It helps to actually have the food around to eat. When I don’t have the groceries, I tend to eat whatever is around which is leftover white chocolate and red hot fudge, cupcakes, and cookies. I definitely can still improve by having those meals prepared since I’ve been using my spare time during the day doing chores.

As far as the gym goes, I still had trouble getting cardio in at the same time as lifting on a couple days, but I got it in later. One day I was going to do cardio when I got off at 2:30 (I’m working a split shift). I lazed around for 30 minutes, then went to get in the car and couldn’t find my id for the gym. I lowkey panicked because I had never lost my id before. I made several trips between my house and my car searching. I finally went to the gym to see if they had it from my checking out a locker key that morning. They did, but I was so put out by the drama that I took my id and went home.

Besides modest measurable success, I am feeling very positively. A few people have complimented me on looking buff, and my friend that works at the front desk very generously told me I didn’t need to lose anymore weight. My legs are in a place that you may or may not be familiar with where they are getting more and more toned, but since I haven’t lost a lot fat yet, I’m busting out of my spandex shorts, in a good way. I can finally feel my hip bone again.

I am at a point where I am no longer wondering if I will make my goal. I want people to know that the journey to weightloss or fitness doesn’t always have high ambition or fervor, but it does have to have time. Failing one week still usually puts you further ahead than before your ever tried. I failed in week 2 and could have thought now wasn’t a good time to try to slim down, but just one week later, I am shopping for crop tops.

Week 4 Goals

  1. Cut out processed carbs Monday through Saturday. The Super Bowl is Sunday…
  2. Prep breakfast and lunch for the week.
  3. Use pitcher as goal for water consumption.

Starting Weight: 164.6   End Weight: 160.8

5 Weeks to Weightloss: Week 2

This week was a bust from the jump. First of all I had already known I wasn’t going to do cardio until after Wednesday because I had to see people each day and my roots were too nappy to withstand the sweating so I could look decent in the evening. On top of that, I didn’t decide on my goals before the week started and didn’t really do anything to set myself up for success. I didn’t have any plan for tracking water intake, nor did I have meal options, or groceries period, to help me actually eat breakfast and lunch. I also ate a ton of sweets as I tested some recipes I’m using for Valentine’s Day. I failed.

However, I still worked out everyday. My goal is usually 5 days a week and it’s fine with me if I only make 4. Well since I did not do cardio for the first 3 days, I went to the gym for cardio and abs Saturday and Sunday. The other days I still followed my 3-day lifting plan and made it to Crossfit 2 days. My general goals for exercise are 45-minute cardio sessions 3 times per week, 3 days of weightlifting, 2 days of Crossfit. Despite my diet fumble, I feel good about the work I put in and again, I feel like I can tell it is paying off. Most notably, my legs feel more firm,  and my deltoids (shoulders) are looking legit.

ON ANOTHER NOTE, last week I talked about how focused I was and how clean my house was the whole week. My house was a wreck this week. There was a moment when I wondered if I was bipolar because I simply could not get myself together like I had been a mere 7 days earlier. No, I don’t think bipolar disorder is as simple as that, but that is the thought that crossed my mind. I felt like I was cleaning all the time but nothing ever seem to actually become ‘clean,’ which is essentially the same sentiment with my health efforts for the week.

My goals for week 3:

  1. No sweets during the week
  2. 80 oz of water per day
  3. Core Exercises 3 days per week

My goals are not that ambitious because I still need to maintain the ones I set originally. It feels like I had that successful first week and then just moved on in life. I think that is actually a huge problem for me and likely for others. We can achieve so much, but the swings in momentum and focus is what keeps us down. I feel like as soon as I get sexy, I begin my descent back down to “unbuttons jeans at dinner” so that I have to go through the whole process again. In a sense I accept that, but it is also my goal to make the time and distance between ‘sexy’ and ‘I should really order a salad’ shorter and shorter each time I go through the cycle.

What I will do differently this week is make a meal plan for the week and mark the times I fill my water cup with a note on the fridge. Oh, I’m focusing on core because I have a lot of low back pain from my typical, sedentary, American job right now. I have increased my low back exercises this month and have noticed a significant improvement, but I need to make make sure I keep it up. In addition, I need to start working on that six-pack…

 

Starting Weight: 166.6 End Weight: 164.6

5 Weeks to Weightloss:

 

 

I have come to the conclusion that life is basically a cycle of gaining and losing weight, among other things. For 2017, I hope I can avoid the count up and just continue my slow, tedious process of making it back to my prenuptials weight. I gained 20 (plus) solid pounds from my wedding day to about 8 months after. Two years and two months after my wedding, I am 10ish pounds down. I feel good because I don’t despise going to the gym like I have been known to and I am currently not in a spell where I am compelled to eat sweets at three meals a day. In the spirit of self-improvement and new resolve, I have decided to detail my efforts for you over the next five weeks. Five weeks because that is the amount of time that popped in my head and sounded like a reasonable amount of time to see real results. I am also motivated by the fact I am meant to conceive this year, which means this could be my last opportunity to have a six pack…

Week 1

Goals:

  1. Get up when my alarm goes off at 5 am and head to the gym.
  2. Have clothes and shoes set aside the night before.
  3. No sweets during the week.
  4. Cardio sessions of at least 45 minutes.

 

Last weekend I decided I lacked self-discipline, which is the cause of all my failures, except as a collegiate athlete because I did have discipline then and failed, which ruined my self-discipline. One of my issues affecting my fitness is taking 20 whole minutes to get up once my alarm goes off in the morning. This is not because I’m sleeping, it’s because I’m tired and don’t want to get up. Then I get up and struggle to get my clothes, shoes, towel, and headphones together. Next thing I know, I’m arriving at the gym at 5:50 am and soldiers start to come in for PT shortly thereafter. I need to leave by 7:15, giving me less than an hour and a half to work out, which usually means cardio or abs is cut short.

One thing about the gym I am attending on post is that there are several aged adults in there before me and after me. This helps me know that I am lazy. And what is even worse is when one of the men over 50 invites me to do abs with them and has to yell at me not to put my feet down on an exercise. I can do better, but my body is naturally at a state where a little effort goes a long way, so it is hard to get over the hump.

I decided to do cardio for 45 minutes instead of my usual ten at the beginning and ten or fifteen at the end because some guy on a treadmill told me fat loss happens after 30 minutes. Having a degree in basically Exercise Science I shouldn’t need to take advice from people who walk on treadmills for exercise, but he was right. For fat loss, the recommendation is one hour of cardio five times a week.

I felt great this week. Not only did I get to the gym by 5:30 each day feeling less stressed, I kept the house exceptionally clean.

By not allowing laziness to pervade one area of my life, I elevated my performance in the others. This concept is why it is important to me to be fit and at a satisfactory weight: my upkeep of my body is a sign of my discipline and work ethic. I really value discipline, which is a big reason I was attracted to my husband. And the sign isn’t for others but rather for me. I know I have been exercising self-control- which is a fruit of the spirit- when I can get my pants up without having to jump, and then I feel I can do anything.

I was able to decline sweets all week! I actually only had to decline once and I actually did eat one bite of the cookie… but what I’m saying is I didn’t have a taste for it. The real test comes when I want it but deny myself.

At the end of this week I feel like it is taking less effort to get to the gym and do what I am supposed to do. I am pleased with the changes I made to my morning habits and feel like I can accomplish so much.

Starting weight: 164.6 lbs     Ending weight: 166.6

I didn’t lose anything this week, but my abs look less pudgy so I’m cool with it. My goals for next week will be to:

  1. Drink 80 oz water per day.
  2. Eat breakfast and lunch.

I am terrible at drinking water as I am not thirsty, and since my life is so sedentary with the job I have, I don’t usually eat much during the day, but I want to see what happens when I do at least a protein shake for each meal.

Stay tuned!

 

7 Ways to Be a Good Spouse (At Bad Times)

couple-simpatico

In November Spencer and I celebrated our two-year anniversary, and the retrospective portion of that was a lot different than the year prior. They can have 2016, it was rough for us. I had sat down then and tried to write a reflective post, but it just was not coming together. It was hard to sort through everything and make it interesting and upbeat. Right now I’m in a unicorn phase where I am obsessed with my husband and what he’s doing and wearing and he can’t get in a fight with me, so I wouldn’t want to convey otherwise. I decided that better than describing what BS we went through, I would skip straight to the lessons I learned from it.

  1. Be still as things neither you nor your spouse have control over frustrate the crap out of you.

The Army is number one for putting couples in the position of complete inconvenience with no one to hold accountable. When Spencer made it home from being dropped from Ranger School for no good reason, we had problems. This was January. He was getting moved to a different Division because of it and I was stressed about coming up on a year of unemployment. It was tense in our house for the first time. Then this summer, I was working full time and he was trying to deal with lack of job satisfaction and things got tense in a different way. Six months later I’m working from home, he’s working a different detail and the most tension we seem to experience is when he steps in water I didn’t dry up after refilling the Brita. I am saying that circumstances change, and don’t expect the issues or patches you are going through for a time to be your forever.

  1. State your grievances as clearly as possible and provide detailed instructions to help your spouse stop pissing you off, while maintaining an optimistic attitude.

This past year was one of transition. I was disappointed that it was not intuitive for Spencer to decide to sweep once he saw food piled under the cabinets. Unfortunately I conveyed my exasperation when I asked for his help, which offended him because I was in effect punishing him for something he had no clue was an expectation. This situation reiterated in many different forms. My advice to anyone would be to state your complaint and solution calmly and in good faith. If your request is not received after attempts on three separate occasions, feel free to pop off.

  1. Reevaluate your priorities to determine if the expectations that are stressing you really need to be on your list.

I tried to keep my house as clean as it had been before I started working 40 hours a week. I was wearing myself out going to the gym, cooking, going to work, and then coming home to spend all my free time cleaning at a snail’s pace because I was tired. I had to let go of my expectations for a clean kitchen. I had maintained certain standards because I felt those were my duties, but my husband wasn’t helping out without being asked because those were not things he cared about. I had the choice to let it be something I cared less about. On the other end of this, if you still care about something like the house being really clean, consider hiring someone to help you and alleviate some stress in your life. Yes, I know people can’t afford stuff like that and suggesting it makes me sound high maintenance, which I am.

  1. Find someone else to talk to.

My husband is not a talkative person, but I don’t think his reticence excuses him from having a conversation with me about my day or whatever is affecting me at the moment. Regardless of what his skills were, a listening face is what I needed in those moments and as a consequence, his inability to provide that was another fault added to my list. My advice to others is to again moderate your expectations of the other person, and figure out if you really need to talk or if you really want attention. There are ways to get attention without requiring him to be an excellent active listener when he is stressed too. If you really need to talk, recruit a friend and don’t let your spouse frustrate you by not being eager. Counselors are great for an opportunity to talk through something. Unfortunately I was unable to see mine at that time because of said job.

  1. Keep doing it (SEX).

I can’t make a list about being a good spouse without speaking on sex. This isn’t anything I learned from the past year, but it is important to keep viewing the sex as an aspect of the marriage to be maintained. It is easy not to be interested in sex when there are issues, but neglecting it will only make things worse. Requiring no words, sex may be the only way you communicate that is the same language. Sex helps to relieve stress and to reconnect as one.

  1. Keep it legal.

Don’t be looking to any other person or thing to fulfill the needs that should be met by your spouse. I know I just said to talk to someone else, but that’s for when you need to work through something. Don’t turn to another bank account to make you feel secure, or another man to make you feel desired, or even worse, vices to get you through. Things like those feel like remedies but rob the oneness of your marriage. Stay focused, and keep working at being the right person and helping your spouse be the right person.

  1. Pray for yourself and your spouse/Pursue personal development.

I think back over the struggles and still have trouble finding solutions other than what I chose in the moment. The only thing I can really pinpoint is that I should have committed to praying for myself and my spouse and fasted to really petition God for help. The solutions I came up with weren’t anywhere close to that, ie: not cooking for a week. I know everyone is not a Christian, so my advice is to be invested in your own well-being to center yourself for dealing with what comes and do the same for your spouse.

Being newlyweds, this year was the first time I had encountered a ‘system error’ in my marriage. As things changed, I wondered if things had always been off and I was just now becoming disillusioned. I found myself saying to my spouse “It’s like you don’t understand that marriages can end,” when I was fighting with him to do the work it takes to maintain ‘us.’ No, divorce never crossed my mind; we weren’t anywhere near that, but since I didn’t realize we were going through a trial, I felt we might be in the early stages of demise. I now know THIS TOO SHALL PASS. And, it takes time to grow and gains skills from new challenges. Be faithful  be steadfast in the work it takes and you will come out on the other side, holding hands, still leeching Netflix from your parents on a rainy day, simpatico once again.