2009 Blog Challenge: Catch up

Today is time for a little “catch-up” on the blog challenge. Since I started on December 13th, I have twelve days to make up for. That said, here we go, below you will find December 1st through 6th….

Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?

This is an easy one, my vacation up to New York this past September. I had such a great time in the city for the two days I spent in there (was on Long Island with family most of the week). I really enjoyed being in one of my favorite places in the USA. For the first time in my life, I spent a night in NYC. An awesome friend invited me to stay with her for a night and it was a great experience. One I will definitely remember for a very long time. Past trips to New York, I only was able to spend the day in the city, so being able to spend a night was definitely a highlight for me.

NYC

Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

I don’t know if I had one experience that stands out above all others on this front. For the most part this year, I have eaten out solo, on my own. I did have a few times eating out with family and/or friends that enter my mind though. One would be lunch with my Aunt Kyle and cousin Kim when I was up in New York. We ate at this great Chinese restaurant in Hampton Bays which was nice. Good food and good conversation and time with family I don’t see often. Another time would be eating at Pizza Fusion here in Orlando with my mom for the first time. Neither one of us had ever been there, so it was nice to experience somewhere for the first time with my mom. Another good food and good time moment that stands out in my mind. The final restaurant experience that was great in my mind is my first time eating out as a vegetarian at Dandelion Communitea Cafe. I went to the cafe after work one Saturday afternoon solo and was recommended a special wrap the restuarant makes. I fell in love with the Dandelion and their food during that lunch. The wrap was so full of flavor and goodness and the atmosphere there is like no other.

Article. What’s an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious’d and reference throughout the year.

On this one, I can’t say it was just one article. I was blown away by articles I read during my researching about veganism and how the animals were really treated. The facts surrounding the treatment and conditions that these animals lived with and under stunned me. I couldn’t believe some of the things I was reading. Further, my thinking that so-called “free-range” was good, became a mute point once I educated myself on the subject. Once I read these facts through the articles, I wanted to not only share my newfound knowledge with friends and family, but with the world. There is nothing like the truth hitting you smack dab in the face to make you change your life.

Book. What book – fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Jillian Michaels’ Master Your Metabolism. As soon as I heard about Jillian’s new book, I immediately pre-ordered it online. I knew that it was going to be a great read. And, as soon as I had it in my hands and was reading it’s contents, I knew I was right. Jillian is not only an amazing trainer on the TV reality series, “The Biggest Loser,” but she is an inspiration to me and millions of other people. I listened to her weekly radio talk show until it ended this year with eager ears and a yearning to learn from someone I respected in the health and fitness arena. I read the book cover to cover within a little over a week and once I was done, I told anyone who would listen that they needed to also pick up the book. To this day, I still tell anyone looking for a good book on the topic of health to get her book.

Jillian Michaels

Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

The only nights out that I have had in the recent past are those I spent with my friends back in Asheville. Of course, those nights were in 2008. I had a blast going to the movies at the Asheville Pizza & Brewery Company with the Asheville crew when I lived up in Western North Carolina last year. Nothing I have experienced in 2009 has topped that in my mind. Fourth of July 2008 is also a fond memory for me, great BBQ and walking to see the fireworks with great friends. There is nothing better in the world than spending a day with close friends. Ok, so maybe spending a day with family, so spending time with family and/or close friends makes the best times. 🙂

Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

During 2009, I did not attend any workshops or conferences. I did however attend a couple of comic book conventions as a creator. Both Megacon and the FX Show were comic book conventions I appeared at during the year. The one show that stands out for me is Megacon. Not only was it my first comic book convention back in Florida since moving, but I got to see good friends. Two of my friends, Derrick and Suji and myself took pictures with a Delorean replica from the movie trilogy Back to the Future. It was an experience that lasted less than ten minutes, but one I enjoyed and that will live with me for a long time to come.

2009 Vacation: Day One

I had hoped to start posting my vacation journal stuff before now, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Anyway, here we go! 🙂

Tuesday, August 25, 2009. My most anticipated vacation week began with my alarm clock buzzing loudly to arouse me just before 9am. I got up, ate breakfast, showered and dressed. After ensuring I had everything, I gathered up my bags and loaded them into my dad’s Grand Prix. We were then off for the Orlando International Airport for my 9am flight.

The check-in was quick and easy, which is just how I always hope it will be. The security checkpoint wasn’t too bad despite a couple of folks in front of me who always seem to not know how to put all their stuff on the x-ray belt and remove their shoes. Sometimes, it’s the things that most of us see as simplistic and not requiring much brain activity that boggles the minds of a select few… reminds me of the people who think ordering a sub at Subway is a rocket science. I have to force myself to chuckle at these sorts of things and people, or I might go insane.

My airline of choice to Long Island, New York is Southwest Airlines, as they not only tend to have reasonable fares, but their staff always treats me right. In the past, I’ve flown with a few others like Delta (I recall the short-lived Delta Song!) and JetBlue, and while they were okay, honestly, they didn’t impress me in the least. I don’t expect a lot when I fly, but some airlines just know how to treat their customers better it seems.

The flight into Islip was pretty smooth, not a lot of turbulence. I had a local Long Island mom to my right who was returning home after helping her sophomore college son settle into his dorm. In the window seat was a middle-school aged kid who was also returning back home to Long Island, after visiting his dad in Florida for the summer. Both nice people to chat with during the two plus hour flight from Orlando.

Upon arriving in the Big Apple, my mom’s sister, Linda picked me up in her new Civic. In tow, my Aunt had my cousin Jimmy’s two kids, Brianna and Cameron. Having never met my second generation cousins, it was nice to finally get the opportunity to do so. Brianna is fourteen and starting high school this year, Cameron is six. The kids wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese to play some games, so that was first up. Now, I haven’t been to a Chuck E. Cheese since I was probably like ten years-old. So, my feeling that the experience was going to be unlike it is through the eyes of a kid was spot on. To say the place is loud and overwhelming is probably and almost certainly and understatement. Kids of all rugrat sizes and ages were running all over the indoor playground. Between the sounds of kids squeeling for joy, the musical sounds of the games themselves and the blaring loudspeakers singing the praises of Chuck E. Cheese world, a few minutes of this place is enough for any adult to go bananas. How parents can manage to survive this sort of thing with their children, I do not know. It didn’t take me long to imagine how my own parents must have felt when I longed to play there as a youngster. For those years, I’m so sorry mom and dad.

Once my Aunt and I were able to prod the kids along in spending all of their game tokens, the experience wasn’t over, oh no. There were tickets won by playing said games that now needed to be redeemed on toys, ie: junk that is of course worth nothing…well, nothing unless you’re a kid that is. Watching my little cousins decide on prizes, my mind again went back to my childhood. I vividly remember an arcade place where you won tickets that you could exchange for similar junk toys or candy. My dad used to take my brother and I there pretty regularly when we were in elementary/middle school. So, I had to smile when I saw the indecision that my cousins went through in choosing their prizes.

Laffy taffy and plastic rubbery toys in hand, we finally left Chuckie’s land and made an immediate beeline for a a place I had been waiting for since booking my plane ticket the month prior. It was time for some real New York pizza goodness! And, it’s no lie that the best slices are found at “holes in the wall.” Totally true, at least in the state of New York it is. No atmosphere, but hands down the best pizza I had my entire trip. Oh, and the garlic knots are great as well. I had a good chuckle when my six-year-old cousin proclaimed out loud that Virginia (his home state) had better pizza that the slice he was slowly munching on. Ah, kids say the funniest things, don’t they?

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. We went back to my Aunt and Uncle’s place, where my Uncle Bill and I got to admire each others weight loss from the past year. He had lost more than 90lbs whereas I’ve lost 70lbs, and he looked great. He took me out to his local health good store, Wild By Nature. It is a nice store, I was impressed. It is down the road from their house, where a King Kullen grocery had previous been. I picked up a few items as did he before heading back to the house. We then changed into our workout clothes and headed out to the Nature Preserve for a walk. The Preserve has great trails for walking and I enjoyed taking in the fresh air as we went along the paths.

The day came to a close with a viewing of the Iron Man movie that I brought up with me. My Uncle and Aunt had never seen it, nor had the kids, so it was cool watching it again with people who hadn’t seen this awesome film before. Especially neat seeing the excitement in the eyes of a kid for it. All in all, it was a nice first day of my vacation. I was happy to finally be back up in New York.

New York 2009

I had an awesome time on my vacation up to New York. I’ve been posting some of my photos on my deviantart site, http://shannonshots.deviantart.com and will be updating here with more details on the trip itself. Came back to Orlando on Monday night, and had to go back to work on Wednesday, so as they say, there’s just not enough hours in the day to do it all. 🙂 Since this coming weekend includes a holiday (Labor Day), I have an extra day off, which will make getting some things done (aka writing more), easier.

New York writing space

My Epiphany

It was 2008, I was living in Hendersonville, NC (30 minutes from Asheville) and loving it. I had moved there in June and here it was September, the time for a little vacation back down to Florida to visit family and friends. Little did I know that this vacation would change my life forever.

My vacation came and went, I drove down to the Sunshine State with my pet birds in tow (definitely made it a not-so-lonely drive!), and back again to the mountains. While in Orlando, my dad and I went to EPCOT one day. Both of us taking pictures with his DSLRS. We both wandered through the different countries snapping away. What I didn’t know is that my father took some pictures of me taking photos without my knowledge. I only discovered this when I got back home to North Carolina and uploaded the photos from the CD he had given me. He included both the photos I had taken and his. I was stunned not only to see images of myself, but more so at how I appeared in the photos. I remember thinking, “Wow, do I really look that fat? Am I that large?” Seeing myself that overweight upset me greatly. I knew I was fat and unhealthy, but didn’t have any idea just how bad off I was. It was a reality check that while I wasn’t ready for, I seriously needed. Staring at myself on the screen of my computer, I knew that I had to change, I had to get healthy and lose the weight for good. No more excuses, it had to be done.

Left photo is one that prompted the lifestyle change. Right is from October 2008.

Left photo is one that prompted the lifestyle change. Right is from October 2008.

So, it began. I dusted off Jillian Michaels’ “Winning By Losing” book and started to really take every word she wrote to heart. I began to download podcast episodes of not only Jillian’s radio show, but other weight-loss podcasts that would aid in keeping me motivated and help me learn about health and fitness. Also, I kept a food journal, writing down any and everything I put into my mouth. My grocery shopping trips brought more apples and such into my cart while the chips and cookies got left by the wayside. After work each night, I went to my apartment complex’s fitness center to workout. No, it wasn’t easy at first, heck, it wasn’t easy even at times throughout, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew in the end, I would be glad I was making these better choices and putting in the hard work to drop the weight.

Slowly but surely, the pounds began to come off! Some weeks were great, losing 3-4 pounds, others not so much, only dropping one pound. Nonetheless, I told myself, I was succeeding, I was getting smaller and healthier. And, I was doing it the right way, no pills or “lose weight quick” diets, just good old fashioned calorie counting and sweating it out.

Further inspirations for me were The Biggest Loser contestants, Jillian Michaels, and Bob Harper. Watching fellow “losers” each week on TV working hard was a big motivation and inspiration for me during my journey. In addition to Biggest Loser, was the online support I have had on a forum I began a regular poster on, we all need support and these people were definitely that for me. While I know that it is me who has done all the hard work to drop the weight and get healthy, I can honestly say that without the support I have gotten from those friends, I may not have gotten as far as I have.

As of today, August 2009, I have now lost 69lbs and counting. I have never felt better in my life. Not only am I now at a healthy weight, but I love being active. Can’t say that I necessarily love working out all the time, but I it is now a part of who I am. Working out and watching what I eat is a way of life for me. I will never go back to that overweight girl who was unhappy with how she looked and felt. The “new” me is here to stay.

October 2008 to August 2009 progress photo.

October 2008 to August 2009 progress photo.