Learning to Lead a More Confident, Productive Life

About bridget

I was born and raised in upstate New York, where my parents still live, before escaping the cold weather to settle in North Carolina in 2008.
I am a Gemini, a middle child, a dreamer, a lover, an optimist, and a Social Worker. I have a cheesy sense of humor, a belief that all people are basically good, and a desire to improve the world around me.
I live in NC with my husband and our dog.

Weight Loss Journey 2: Quieting the Negative Voice


Oh, the past several weeks have been quite challenging.  Regarding healthy habits, I’ve been struggling.  A few weeks back I was nearly obsessed with the numbers on the scale.  I stepped on it multiple times per day, mentally cataloging the amount of food and water I was ingesting to try to cheat myself into losing weight.  It’s like I kept trying to will the numbers to go down, like if I wanted it bad enough in my mind the numbers would change without any action on my part.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way.

My eating habits have been horrible.  I’ve been doing a lot of emotional eating.  And hormonal eating.  And “oh just one more bite, you’ll do better tomorrow” eating.

I feel like I’ve lost control.

And on top of that, the worst thing is that my self-talk has been horribly negative.  The voice in my head has been telling me I was fat, lazy, disgusting, worthless, etc., etc., etc.

…which has led to more emotional eating.  And isolation.  Like I’ve lost a good friend, someone who has always cheered me on and been on my side.

It’s been a downward spiral, guys.

But this evening, I was making my to-do list for the things I want to accomplish over the weekend and as always I added exercise to the list.  The voice in my mind told me I wouldn’t accomplish that particular item.  I probably should have told her to shut up but instead I just ignored her and continued to move forward, which was better than nothing.

I reset my mind, from, “let’s have an ice cream bar-you’re gross” mode to, “what can I do right now to feel better about my body?  So I set a cut off for the evening, no more food for the rest of the night (don’t worry, I ate dinner, I promise I didn’t starve myself), grabbed a bottle of water, and pulled up Zumba on my computer.

Just a little background–I used to be a Zumba instructor.  Maybe I still am, I don’t know if you ever stop being one, but regardless I no longer teach classes.  However, I still get the music and the choreography monthly, even though I haven’t looked at it in ages, and emails from the Zumba network.  Today I noticed an email from awhile back that tonight the Zumba crew is streaming live from the annual conference for instructors, which means I could be dancing with them from the comfort of my own home!  Coincidentally the time I decided to shake it and sweat was only about a half hour before the event–score!  I pulled out my computer and got myself ready.

I love to dance. I can’t even begin to tell you.  I forget how much I love it, sometimes, until I decide to do it and then I get lost in the music and my heart reminds me.  My brain shuts out everything else (what a relief!) and all I think about is the beat and the movement of my body and how free I feel.   Tonight I recaptured that feeling, and remembered how much I missed dancing.  It felt so good to care for my body, relieve some stress, and be reminded of something I love.

Not to mention, the endorphins from exercise are an incredibly beautiful thing.  The negative girl has completely left me for the evening (hopefully longer), and I got a visit from the inner positive girl who used to hang around a lot more.  She told me I was doing awesome and hung around for awhile, like a supportive friend cheering me on from the sidelines.  She reminded me that she’s always there, but sometimes I might have to seek her out a bit for her voice to be louder than the negative one that’s been lurking about.

Suffice it to say, I’m feeling great at the moment and I want to remember this feeling when–no, if– I make excuses for not exercising, and when–no, if–I’m beating myself up for not choosing a healthy option right away.

Looking back at what I’ve shared with you above, I made a lot of good little decisions that added up.  Let’s recap, shall we?  There may have been a lot of things I’ve been doing “wrong” lately, but I can’t keep dwelling on those things or I’ll be paralyzed and unable to move forward.  It’s time to spend some thought on the positive instead of the negative.  It’s time for a cheerful focus! 😉

These are the things that pushed me in the right direction:

1. Made a list of things to accomplish this weekend

I’ve been doing this the past few weekends and it’s been really helpful.  For one thing, putting things in writing seems to solidify my commitment to completing them.   For one thing, when–no, if– the negative voice starts to tell me I’m lazy I can interrupt her with, “No I’m not, look at all these things I crossed off my list this weekend!”.

2.  Drank water

We all know water is good for us and most of us don’t get enough.  I finished the bottle and I’m working on another. Enough said.

3.  Ignored negative self-talk

It can be really hard to combat negative thoughts sometimes.  Ignoring them is good.  Actively fighting against them is better, but of course this takes more energy.  A therapist friend of  mine has told me if she sees a client in a negative thought spiral she’ll tell them to flick their wrist, or snap a rubberband on their wrist, to disrupt the chain.  I’ve done that a couple of times, and it does help to remind me I can choose to let the thought chain continue, or not.  Sometimes I forget that I have as much control as I do.  Another thing that has helped me is to change course completely and start naming the things I’m thankful for: my husband and family, a stable job, strong friendships, my health, freedom in America, my cute little dog, our beautiful home, warm and cheerful sunshine, the scent of a flower, catching a green light, etc., etc., etc.

(*Note:  If you’re struggling with a mental health issue, please get help.  You are not weak or inadequate if you can’t simply “turn off” negative thoughts; it’s much more complicated than that.  Also, it can be difficult to explain that to others if they haven’t experienced it first hand.  You can’t just will yourself into feeling better if you’re experiencing a chemical imbalance or a depressive episode, and I absolutely do not intend to minimize serious mental health issues.  Please reach out if you need help.  You are not alone.)

4.  Exercised

Exercise is good for the body, mind, and soul.  There’s tons out there on the benefits of exercise so I won’t get into that here.  For me, exercising tonight gave me  a feeling of accomplishment, reduced the guilt I’ve been carrying around about not working out more, reduced stress, increased positive and hopeful thoughts, and helped me to feel good about my body.

5.  Wrote about my experience.

Tomorrow I may not remember how glad I am that I made all these decisions today.  Writing is therapeutic for me, so I’m glad I wrote it all down and I can refer back to it and hopefully I will recapture this feeling.  I hope that someone reading this will benefit from my experience today!

If you are struggling, like I have been, hang in there dear friend.  You are destined for great things and if you’re like me, sometimes you just have to get out of your own way.  If today wasn’t great, remember that tomorrow is a new day full of promise and opportunity!  And if today was great, awesome!  Have another great day again tomorrow!

Dealing with Rejection


At work yesterday I had an unpleasant interaction with one of the senior citizens I work with.  I needed to see her about an issue and asked to speak to her but she told me she didn’t have time.  Her hand gestures suggested she was shooing me away, and she turned and walked in the other direction.

Typically this wouldn’t bother me, I would have shaken it off and gone about my day.  But she has made some excuse not to talk to me repeatedly over the past several months, so I’m beginning to think it’s me she doesn’t have time for.

One the one hand it was irritating because this pattern has gotten in the way of my ability to get my work done.  On a different level, though, it touched a deep insecurity: I felt rejected.

It took me back to those days in gym class where I was the last one picked for the team.  To the days on the bus when that “cool” girl picked on me.  To those days that guy I had a crush on didn’t give me a second look.

Truly, I don’t know what I did to offend this woman and most days I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  But yesterday, for whatever reason, it hurt.

My coworkers, who are amazing, reminded me that it probably has nothing to do with me and encouraged me not to take it personally.  In the end, though, I needed to decide how I would respond.

I had a few options, emotionally and practically speaking:

1.  Get angry

Ahh, yes, anger.  A common, knee-jerk reaction for the wounded soul.  An excellent defense mechanism.  Since I don’t know for sure if this woman’s issue with me is rational, I don’t know that it’s really fair of me to respond in this way, although it would probably feel great in the moment.  Also, this is my place of employment, I don’t want to act in an unprofessional way and put my job at risk.

2. Avoid her

Knowing this woman has this reaction when she sees me, I can protect myself by avoiding her at all costs.  After all, talking to her just seems to make her mad, right?  Wouldn’t it be better for us both if we just avoided each other?  Another great defense mechanism is at play here, but again it wouldn’t solve the problem.  In fact, it would cost me more work and energy in the long run because after all, I still have a job to do, and that does include addressing issues with this woman, regardless of whether either of us enjoys it.

3.  Offer compassion

This woman feels irritated or threatened by me in some way, it seems.  If I shift my focus to how she might be feeling, it might offer clarity.  What is it about me that might make her not want to be around me?  Do I remind her of a loved one she used to be close to but has lost? Does she feel like I don’t meet her needs in the way she expects?  Did she prefer the relationship she had with the person who was in the position before me?  I may never have the answers to these questions but it does help me to process the situation this way and lend the benefit of the doubt to the woman; she may be hurting too.  For whatever reason, I may remind her of a time she felt rejected or wounded.

4.  Open Discussion

The most healthy way to deal with this situation would be to open the doors of communication and invite an open dialogue. (To be completely honest, my mind did not jump directly to this option.  I told you, I’m a work in progress, my first reaction was anger/frustration.)

An ideal scenario would involve me inviting more information from her about the reaction she seems to be having from interactions with me.  I could say something like, “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem to want to talk about this situation (concern, form, issue, etc.) at the moment.  Do you mind me asking what it is about it that bothers you?” She has said in the past she “doesn’t have time” for whatever I’m trying to discuss with her.  I could offer to set up an appointment so she has my undivided attention, then ask more questions to get more information.  Of course the goal would be to keep lines of communication open and explore how we can improve our relationship together.  It all sounds great, but I don’t know that her goal would be to improve our relationship.  She could have a completely different mindset on the matter.  She may not even realize she’s reacting to me this way.

In theory, at this point I feel like I’d rather hear her say she doesn’t like me and why than to keep brushing me off; at least then I would know what the issue is.  In practice though, that would probably hurt too.

And on another level, what is this fundamental need to be liked by everyone anyway?  Yes, I have a job to do and I feel like this issue is interfering with that.  What if I just did my job and made her talk to me so I could get my work done?  I’m not there to make friends, after all, I have a job to do!  But I know that’s not the right answer either.

The fact is that she touched a nerve, a deep-rooted painful nerve that I like to keep hidden and like to pretend doesn’t get irritated this easily.  As much as I’d rather not admit it, I want to be liked and accepted.  I think we all do, in some capacity; we’re social creatures, after all.  And I think it’s natural that when that’s not happening, and I don’t understand why, my initial reaction is to jump to defense mechanisms I’ve used in the past to help me sort out the details of life.

I’d like to say that I resolved this issue with grace and humility and everything went swimmingly, but that’s not true.  I’m trying to have compassion toward this woman when I think of this situation.  After all, more anger and frustration on my part will just increase the divide that apparently exists between us.  Talking to her remains on my to-do list and it’s not something I can really get out of, although that’s a really attractive option at this point.  I hate feeling like I’m ruining someone’s day when I’m just trying to talk to them, plus not understanding the reason for her reaction is probably the most confusing part of it all. I will get my work done and address this woman, I’m just not really sure how it will pan out.

Any thoughts on what to do next?  Has anyone else experienced a similar situation and had a learning experience they’d like to share?


Life Events



As you can see there has been a very long hiatus since I wrote a post (1.5 years!) but I would like to get back on track.  This blog (and writing, in general), remains on my mind on a regular basis and it feels like one of those things I “need” to do in my life.

The good news is, a lot of exciting things have been happening!

Nine short days after my last post, my then-boyfriend proposed!  Of course I said yes, and life has been a whirlwind since.

Let me give you a picture of what things have looked like since my last post:

  • My man and I got engaged
  • I started a new job
  • I moved to a rental home in a neighboring city
  • I took (and passed!) a professional licensing exam
  • I finished renovations at my townhouse and successfully started renting it out, with the help of a property management company
  • I took a trip to my hometown (600 miles away), where my Mom and I found my wedding dress
  • I took several trips with my man, including weekends at the beach, a trip to Las Vegas, a trip to Miami, and several day trips to a nearby city a couple of hours away, where we planned for our wedding to be
  • I hosted a visit at Thanksgiving for my parents, my brother, and my then-pregnant sister in law, who all came to visit for the first time since I moved to NC in 2008
  • I became and aunt-My brother in sister in law had a beautiful and healthy baby boy, who also happens to be the first grandchild in the family
  • My friends threw me a bridal shower and bachelorette party
  • My man and I looked at houses all over nearby areas and closed on a house at the end of April
  • My man and I moved into our new home only a few short weeks before the wedding
  • My man and I had a beautiful wedding–We got married at the end of May <3
  • My man and I went on our honeymoon!

Thankfully, our honeymoon included a lot of downtime and some much needed rest and relaxation!  After reading that list of what has gone on in the past year an a half, I’m almost exhausted all over again!   Two moves, planning a wedding, several trips, a new addition to the family, lots of stress, lots of to-dos, and fortunately, lots of excitement!  And of course, I’ve had other friends get engaged, get married, get pregnant, adopt animals, and I’ve gotten to share in the excitement of those events as well!

Whew!  I would like to say it’s all be joy and celebrations, but there’s certainly been some difficult things too.  The part that I’m most excited about now, though, is making our house into a home and settling in.  So far marriage has been wonderful, though not without challenges, and I’m looking forward to developing a deeper relationship with my husband (that word still holds so much novelty!).

I’m sorry for the break but I hope your life has been full of joy and excitement as well!



Tips for Painting Beadboard Wainscoting

Tips for Painting Beadboard Wainscoting

Maybe it’s that I have painted nearly every room in my little townhouse, or maybe it’s because I’ve never painted beadboard before, but I’ve really been putting off this project.  We laid and nailed the beadboard the first weekend of October, and now I am finally getting around to painting.  It does feel good to finally cross this project off my to-do list, but boy was I dreading it!

The second coat is literally drying as I type.  Here are a few tips I learned as I painted beadboard for the first time!

Prep is key

This is really true for any painting project.   The times I have really taken a lot of time to prep and tape and to all those important things have yielded the least amount of work after the fact.  I can tell you, I already know I will be scraping paint off the floor because I didn’t cover it well.  I thought I had learned from past mistakes in this area, but apparently not.  I’m not a detail-oriented person, so taking time in the beginning is really important for avoiding mistakes.

For example.  I ran out of painter’s tape.  I thought to myself, I’ll just be “extra careful” when painting this area.  Yeah, right.  This is the result:

Being "extra careful"


Yup, that means it’s not as pretty as it could be and it’s more work for me after the fact.

I don’t know what it is about having a wet paintbrush in my hand that makes me lose all motor control, but at one point I actually stepped on a wet paintbrush.  Maddening.  The second coat went much smoother, because I took more time to lay down more newspaper, consciously took my time, and didn’t take shortcuts.

Fortunately, I have learned to designate crappy clothes just for painting.  I’ve been using the “be extra careful” method (unsuccessfully), long enough to know that I will always get paint on my clothes, however careful I may be.

Keep Animals and Kids at Bay and Minimize Distractions

Have I ever showed you what happened when my dog tried to “help” me paint my kitchen cabinets?

Elliot helped

Yep, he brushed against them with his ears.  It’s hard to see in this photo but since he was only about 6-8 months old at the time, it was difficult to get him to sit still for a picture.  It was adorable and made for a funny story.  But again more work for me:  fix the cabinet paint and give the pup a bath.  All the whining in the world wouldn’t make me let him in the bathroom this time. (And yes, there is something wrong with his eyes in this picture.  It’s called cherry eye, common in certain breeds.  He has had surgery for it and is now as handsome as ever!)

I also don’t like to paint before I have to be somewhere.  If I rush because I don’t want to do the task, that’s one thing.  But if I rush because I have to be somewhere or do something else, that is something I can prevent.


Between coats one and two, I walked around as I normally would in the bathroom, and saw a lot of areas that could use more finishing.  I did most of my painting sitting on the floor, and since that is not how a bathroom is typically used I missed a lot of spots and details that would be visible once the paint is dry.

At the beginning of coat 2, I started by addressing these areas.  At the end of coat two, I stood up again to take another view, and found several other spots to be addressed.  This time I took a fresh brush (one that wasn’t all goopy from painting) to address the areas, as they were small.

Use Natural Light

Using natural light when you’re painting is always a good idea, if you can. Coat one was completed last evening, and at the end I had to turn on the light to finish. Coat two was done today, late morning/early afternoon, and I noticed a lot more detail with the natural sunlight streaming in through the window.  Not only did I have a peaceful place in which to paint, the sunlight revealed more than artificial light did.

Alrighty folks, we’ve addressed some of the environmental things to consider; now down to brass tacks.

Here are some tips for precision when painting beadboard:

  • Use beadboard that is pre-primed.

I planned to paint my beadboard white, so I bought it pre-primed in white.  Thank goodness I did; there were some areas behind the toilet I had difficulty reaching, but because the beadboard was already white I don’t think it would be noticeable if I missed a small area here and there.  The whites were extremely close in color (by chance, fortunately).

  • Caulk is your friend

Between putting up the beadboard and painting it, I used paintable, white caulk to fill in gaps and to make it look more finished.   This was the first time I had ever used caulk, and I found it to be extremely easy to work with. It can be a little goopy, but it really helps to fill in areas to make them look more finished. I had seen some pictures on Pinterest where caulk was used and where it wasn’t, and the difference was obvious.

Here, we have before caulk:

without caulk

…and after caulk.  (This one also has one coat of paint.)  See the difference?

guest bath corner

  • Cover the Ridges

The thing that seemed to make the most difference in appearance was covering the ridges where the pieces of beadboard met, to create a seamless appearance. I did this with caulk but also with paint. It makes the beadboard look as though it’s supposed to be there, not like you’ve slapped a bunch of pieces on a wall and called it a day. Like I said, I’m not detail oriented but this detail seemed important to attend to.  It’s obvious to see with the pictures above!

  • Use a smaller, angled brush

During coat one, I used a 1 ½ inch standard brush for the molding and a bigger 2 inch standard brush for the rest.

During coat two, I used a 1 ½ inch angled brush for the whole thing.

Was it more tedious? Yes.

Did the angle give me more precision? Yes.

Did the precision allow me to make fewer mistakes? Yes.

Switching to a smaller brush was definitely a good decision. Note to self for the future.

Just for reference, here is a “before” picture of this bathroom.  As you can see, I have already started to remove some of the wallpaper.  Yikes!!!

guest bath before

Sometime soon I hope to reveal the  “after” pics of this project!   In the meantime, I’m so relieved to get this part crossed off my to-do list so I can look forward to other exciting things that are coming up in my life!  :-)

How were you productive this weekend?

Weight Loss Journey 1: The Grass is Greener on the Other Side?

***This post first appeared on Sparkpeople on August 26, 2009******

had family visiting this past week. Actually I’m still getting back into my regular routine–I had no idea how exhausting it would be! Anyway, getting glimpse into how others live gives me some insight into my own healthy habits and patterns I’ve developed over time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family more than anything and I don’t mean any disrespect. I just know that I have different goals than they do, and fortunately the habits that I have developed are consistent with the goals that I’m moving toward and the “me” I want to be. Here are some of the things I have learned about myself:
First of all, I’m glad I’m not a smoker. My brother and future sister-in-law are who came to visit me, and they both smoke. I didn’t realize planning the next cigarette took up so much of your day, and heaven forbid you run out! Again, no disrespect, but the smell was awful and I couldn’t get my clothes into the laundry fast enough after they left. It made my throat dry, my eyes water, and my stomach churn. Yuck.

Secondly, part of my nutrition management has been reducing my carb intake. I didn’t do this consciously, but I have all but eliminate complex carbs from my diet, primarily because I don’t like that weighed down bloated feeling they give me. I don’t keep bread or cereal in my apartment, and my main source of carbs fruit. For me, I’ve just found that I feel better when I eat this way, and I have less gastrointestinal issues (which run in my family) when I don’t eat this stuff. I didn’t really realize I’d done this until my brother pointed it out. Every time we’d go out to eat I would order something, usually a salad, that had a high volume of vegetables over starchy carbs. He kept asking me “Are you allowed to eat this? Are you allowed to eat that?” and it was funny because I’m not on a “diet”, per se. I just try to make healthy choices. He was great. He knows I’ve been losing weight and was nonjudgmental, but was interested in the choices I was making because they were so different than how he would choose to eat, which is intersting because both he and his lady are very picky eaters.
Third, I don’t enjoy fast food or the after effects. My future sister in law told me her favorite foods are bread and snacks (chips, doritos, that kind of stuff). One night she was here she went to Jack In the Box at 2 am for sirloin burgers. I realized that I hardly ever eat fast food. My only weakness in that department is a vanilla ice cream cone from McDonalds (only 150 calories) that I indulge in from time to time. I just can’t imagine eating that kind of greasy food at that time of night. Not only would I feel greasy that night and all the next day, it would wreak havoc on my stomach. Maybe we have different body chemistries, but I just wouldn’t be able to eat like they do and feel like my body was working as well as it could.
Finally, my energy level. I had walked a lot before they arrived so that I could get in all my minutes for the week before they arrived; also I had a ton of energy at the beginning of last week and wanted to capitalize on it (good thing too because this week I’ve been exhausted!). I found myself wanting to do very active things with them–we went out dancing, played with a friend’s children, went bowling, and almost went to the mountains (we ran out of time and decent weather).
It’s interesting to me to see how seeing someone else’s lifestyle can be an eye-opener as to how your lifestyle is working for you. I’m perfectly happy with the choices I make about how I eat because I feel like my body functions well on the types of foods I nourish it with. Sure, I’d love to have more time to prepare meals with more variety, more fresh produce and interesting flavors. But the fact of the matter is that what I’m doing right now is working for me, and makes me feel healthy and strong.
It has been taking a couple of days to get back into my routine. I’ve been catching up on sleep and I did gain a couple of pounds since my routine and regular eating pattern was thrown off, but I’m more eager than ever to stay committed to what I’ve been doing as I move closer to the person I’m becoming.


Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

Weight Loss Journey 2: The Power of Today

runners-373099_1920As I reflect on my life and the struggles I have had to maintain my weight and prioritize my health one thing has become abundantly clear to me:
There will never be one magic day that I reach the weight I want and never have to worry about it again.  This culture is full of options—healthy options and less healthy options:  strawberry cheesecake versus salad, taking a walk versus taking a nap.  Every day I have to make a conscious choice to eat the healthier food and make the healthier choice.
Some days that is easier than others.  Some days I can think clearly about the way I want to look and feel and make choices that are consistent with that.  Some days I crave sugar and fat and tell myself I “deserve” it because it’s been a tough day.  In the grand scheme of things, a treat here and there doesn’t make a difference as long as the majority of your habits are healthy.  But some days the healthier choice is not the most attractive one.
In my work, I am constantly telling people to take things “just one day at a time”.  That makes life appear more manageable—I don’t have to figure it all out, I just have to figure out today.  On the days when “being healthy” just feels too hard, I try to shift my focus to think about food and exercise in the context of just today:
  • Today, I will make healthy choices about what I put into my body.
  • Today, I will make a conscious effort to be active and exercise.
  • Today, I will avoid habits that are destructive to my body, mind, and soul.
There will never be a magical day when I get everything right.  It’s just not reasonable to expect myself to be perfect and truthfully, sometimes it feels like too much pressure.  
My weight has stabilized again—I could say plateaued but I don’t know that that’s accurate since I was putting less energy toward actually losing weight.  I want to lose the weight but in order to do that I have to take consistent daily action toward that goal.  Wishing it away doesn’t work.  Praying it away doesn’t work.  Dreaming it away doesn’t work.  If all those methods were effective I believe there would be a lot of thinner people in the world!
No, it takes hard work, consistent activity, and regular habits. 
For today, I will make a decision to be good to my body, and soon all of my todays will add up to success!


Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

Saving Money at Big Lots

Saving Money at Big Lots


I am a bargain shopper.  There’s no way around it.  If a deal can be had, I will find it!

That being said, each discount store is not created equal;  some places have better quality merchandise than others.

Today, I will share my thoughts on the best products to buy at Big Lots.

Home décor

This is by far the department that has the best value at Big Lots.  The inventory changes with the seasons and is relevant and affordably priced.  I got a great mirror here for only $20 that I plan to hang in my bathroom.  This includes hang-able art (is hang-able a word? You know what I mean) and picture frames.



Big lots has a decent variety of non-perishables that I peruse from time to time.  I have shied away from their new refrigerator and freezer sections, but I enjoy the selection of beverages and snacks.  In the beauty section I often find Slimfast shakes, South Beach bars, and Atkins bars for a fraction of the price I could get them at a grocery store or drugstore.


I’ve gotten great deals on utensils such as can openers, and ceramic dishware.  The quality is decent and you can usually find brand names, such as Farberware.


Curtains and rods

Curtain rods (both white metal ones and decorative wooden ones) are very affordable and there is a large selection of good quality curtains, valences, and the like.  This valence in my kitchen was only $6 and I have gotten a set of blackout curtains for $15!


Home organization

Storage tubs, Tupperware containers, and seasonal storage (such as patio covers and Christmas decoration storage) are usually a good value.  Hangers, too.


Seasonal decorations (ALL seasons—summer, fall, winter, and spring) are available and are attractive, reasonably priced and of good quality.


You can usually find multi-packs of brand name underwear, such as Hanes and Froot of the Loom.  I am an underwear snob myself, but if you like the good old-fashioned briefs, you can find them for a good price at Big Lots.

Gift sets

Although I’m not a huge fan of the beauty section in general, Big Lots has decent brand-named beauty gift sets.  Of course, your best bet is to wait until the holidays are over, but even at their regular prices these will be less expensive than you’ll find in other stores.


Yes, Big Lots has clearance!  There are often a lot of broken or damaged items in the clearance section, but sometimes I have found some incredible deals.  You can also repurpose items that won’t be able to serve their original purpose.  The best food deals I have found were clearance items that were about to expire.


There are some items that are of poor quality that I have seen at Big Lots.  These are the items I would steer clear of:

  • Sheets and comforters
  • Electronics
  • Office supplies
  • Beauty Items


Things I’m not sure about:

Baby Items

I don’t have kids, so I haven’t needed to buy baby products.

Cleaning products

I prefer to buy brand-name cleaning products on sale and/or with coupons, so I’m not sure about the quality of these items.


I haven’t bought any so I’m not sure about the quality.


Pros of Shopping at Big Lots                                                        Cons of Shopping at Big Lots

Rewards program                                                                       Manufacturer’s coupons not accepted

Variety of items                                                                                                Limited Stock

Some Brand Names


Weight Loss Journey 1:  A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Weight Loss Journey 1: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

*****This post first appeared on Sparkpeople on August 14, 2009****

I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a picture of myself about once a month that depicts the progress I’ve made so far. It’s really great to have a visual indicator of how far I’ve come, particularly when progress is slow. Most of the pictures I’ve taken have been with my cell phone (I have the EnV Touch from Verizon-I love it!) or my digital camera. Sadly, pretty much all of the photos in my gallery are selfies.  If I were ever to lose my phone I would be highly embarrassed; nearly all of the pictures on there are of me, taken by me.

Summer 2008

Summer 2008

Saved deep in a secret file on my laptop is a folder that contains pictures of me *gasp* in a bikini. I bought this bikini in late winter (February or March, I think) with the hopes of one day looking good enough in it and feeling confident enough about myself in it to eventually wear it in public.  Sorry, but these will never be in my Spark People gallery.  The most recent of these I took in the beginning of June, and I’m actually really excited to do this again.  I’m confident that current pictures will look drastically different from the June ones. Every day I jump out of bed and my reflection instantly looks back at me from my strategically-placed full-length mirror.  I actually really like doing this because you weigh the least amount first thing in the morning, and I start my day marveling at how much better I look in my booty shorts now than 3 months ago.  😀 I have a personal goal to say 3 things I love about my body every day, and this is usually accomplished within the first 5 minutes I’m awake, even if I’m running late.  It’s really a great way to start the day and I’m absolutely convinced that’s one reason I’ve stayed dedicated as long as I have so far.  Also, it forces me to look at how far I’ve come instead of how far I still have yet to go.

My journey started with my slapping a picture on my refrigerator of myself in a gown before my junior prom–my first big goal is to reach the weight that I was when I graduated high school.  Seeing that picture reminds me of what I’m trying to accomplish.  Additionally, it’s not some random model from a fitness magazine—it’s ME, at one point in my life, and since I’ve been there before I can certainly get there again!

November 2008

November 2008

Now that I have had a measure of success that is visible in pictures, I look at other pictures of me with a different perspective. Of course, I compare myself to how I used to be (who wouldn’t?), but the purpose is to prove to myself that I have made progress and that the effort is worth the results, not to criticize. In fact, I’m gaining a more objective perspective about how big I actually was (and I stress WAS–I will never be that big again).  We’ve all got those pictures where we’re standing next to a skinny friend and think we look so much bigger than them because of the way we’re standing, or the clothes we’re wearing, or the lighting.  I’ve come to realize that, although photography does not depict the total effect of a three-dimensional scene, it is very objective, and can show you things whether you accept them as so or not.  I didn’t realize how much bigger I was than some of my friends, how puffy I looked, how my clothes pinched at my body in what I sometimes thought were flattering ways.  I can see a huge difference in my face; in some old pictures my face seems so puffy I wonder how I was able to smile.

In the past couple of weeks my weight has hit a (temporary) plateau, which has turned into an incredible learning experience. I AM NO LONGER THE GIRL FROM THOSE OLD PICTURES.  When my weight stopped going down for a couple of weeks, I really got scared that I would regain that weight back and look that way again.  Aside from the vanity, this really disturbed me.  I’ve really worked at bettering myself and I’ve stayed committed.  Truthfully it’s been quite easy to lose weight, it’s just a matter of choices, but the things I’ve learned and the path that I’ve put myself on since beginning this journey is not the same path that girl from the old pictures was taking.

May 2009

May 2009

This realization has really come as quite a shock to me.  First of all, in the very first blog I ever wrote I talked about body armor and the fact that losing the weight intimidated me a bit because I had developed this physical (literal) layer of security around myself that protected me from a lot of bad things.  This layer has also distanced me from a lot of good things-new opportunity, exciting experiences, and the intimacy that only comes from allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Gaining back that weight that I’ve lost scares m–not because of how I look, or used to look, or however you want to say it, but because I don’t want to be-no, I’m NOT the frightened little girl that used to hide in that old body.  As the body has changed, so have I.  As I have changed, so have my habits and choices, which is bringing about a new body that more accurately reflects the beautiful person I am within.  I’d like to say “I’ve worked so hard” but really I haven’t.  I’ve just made a lot of good choices, which are showing on the outside. Like I said, it has really not been that difficult.  But the habits that I have now are who I am, and every day that I adhere to good decisions and to the commitment I have to better myself I move closer to the person that I intend to be. To the person I am meant to be. It has all been very exciting, and sometimes intimidating, and the fear that I have now is that the frightened little girl will try to resurface and bring doubts into my mind.  I will try with everything I have to silence that girl, because the girl that is surfacing is strong, confident, positive, and is replacing that frightened girl, regardless of whether that frightened girl is ready to leave or not.

Losing weight is so much more than counting calories and working out. I’m overwhelmed at how far I have come and where this journey has taken me mentally and spiritually.  I’m so thankful that God has given me the courage to be strong even when I don’t want to be, and to make good decisions when making bad ones might feel better.  I’m so thankful for the people in my life who are always commenting on the changes I see and telling me that they’re proud of me, even when I have chosen to focus on the wrong things.  Finally, I’m thankful that I have goals and a vision to be accountable to, and that I’ve written those down and can refer back to them when I’m feeling less than positive.

June 2009

June 2009

I’ve already made a decision to change. The hard part-and it’s really not that hard-is staying committed to the change when your old ways are trying to pull you back.  But I’m choosing to move toward momentum, positivity, success, health, and yes, vulnerability.  I don’t know where these things will take me exactly, but I have a vision in my mind and I’m confident that the future is bright and better than where I’ve been in the past! ************************************************************

Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2? Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again. Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!

Saving Money on Gas at Harris Teeter

Saving Money on Gas at Harris Teeter

***Disclaimer:  The opinions in this post are 100% my own and I have not been compensated to provide them.***

Gasoline is one of those unavoidable, non-negotiable expenses. Unfortunately, with gas prices controlled by the powers that be, lots of competition, and few savings programs, it can be difficult to save in this area of your budget.


For the past several months, Harris Teeter has had a promotion going in which customers can buy $50 gas cards for $40, when they have earned credits by shopping at the store. To earn a gas card credit, you need to spend $50 or more on groceries in one transaction.  (I didn’t know what Harris Teeter was until I moved to North Carolina, so I’m sorry for those of you that cannot take advantage of this promotion. )

Here are a couple of things you should know:

  1. The gas cards are only for BP and Shell. If you are loyal to a certain gas company this may not be a great promotion for you. I will get my gas almost anywhere, provided I get a good deal, but I do have my preferences. The BP stations tend to be more convenient for me where I live, and I have had fewer problems with their cards than with the Shell cards, so I always go with BP.Lucky for me, there is a BP station near me that has kept their prices at less than $2.00 for unleaded, even as other stations in the area have gone back up. One of the other BPs I pass frequently was at $2.09 today, but I filled up for $1.98! Wahoo!
  2. The promotion is through Harris Teeter’s reward program, VIC. If you have a problem with your gas points showing up on your receipt, you will have to call the VIC customer service line to get it fixed. I have had to do this twice myself. One of the customer service reps at Harris Teeter has told me that sometimes the gas credits people have earned doesn’t show up on their receipts, and HT cannot issue a gas card without seeing the credit on the receipt. Bummer.  When I have called to get this fixed, the gas points appeared immediately after the call, and there was little fuss. It would be ideal for the system to work the way it’s supposed to, but a quick phone call is a small price to pay to save 20% on gas! I haven’t had any problems with VIC dropping my gas card points since the most recent call I made at the beginning of October.
  3. You must, must, MUST keep your gas card’s activation receipt. When you purchase the card, you will get 2 receipts: one to show that you paid for the card and one to show that the card was activated at the register.  Now I keep the gas card and the activation receipt in one of the random handy storage areas in my car’s dashboard. That way, when I go to fill up the gas card is handy, and if there’s a problem with the gas card the receipt is handy. I always keep the receipts until I have used the card in full, just in case.  If you have a problem with the card not working, and need to return it, you will have to prove to Harris Teeter that you purchased the card at one of their stores. I had a Shell card that wasn’t working and tried to take it to customer service to get the situation resolved, but I didn’t have the activation receipt with me.. The customer service rep wasn’t rude, but he basically said I might have stolen the card and there was nothing he could do without the activation receipt. I also had to go back to the original Harris Teeter where I purchased the gas card.

Now I keep the gas card and the activation receipt in one of the random handy storage areas in my car’s dashboard. That way, when I go to fill up the gas card is handy, and if there’s a problem with the gas card the receipt is handy.  I always keep the receipts until I have used the card in full, just in case.


imageToday, I filled my 2005 Toyota Corolla’s 12-gallon tank for only $21! I still have another $29 on the card, so if the prices stay close to where they are, I can get more that two fill-ups from this card.  I fill up about every week, so that’s $40 for more than two full tanks of gas!

Yes, I will continue to be buying these gas cards!  Thanks, Harris Teeter!

How do you save money on gasoline?

Weight Loss Journey 1: The Journey to Success is Not A Straight Line

road-675538_1920***This post first appeared on SparkPeople on August 7, 2009***

I always say that one of my favorite and least favorite things about the small town I grew up in is that it never changes. That, of course, is one of the reasons I was eager to leave there when I graduated high school. Now, it’s one of the things that draws be back years later. Isn’t it funny how things that we love about something can also cause us immense frustration?  It’s like when you first start dating someone and something they do is really endearing; years later it drives you crazy.

Right now I’m finding that one of the things that caused the most frustration when I first began my weight-loss journey is bringing me comfort- the fact that weight-loss and health is a long-term process, and one day won’t make or break you. Lately I’ve not been practicing the  best eating or exercise habits, and I’m definitely feeling it in my energy level, sleep patterns, and attitude. However, I know that one day, even one week, of bad habits won’t stop my progress as long as I’m committed to be health on a long-term basis (which I am).  I know that although I was quite a bit over my caloric range for more than one day in the last week, it’s not the end of the world.

Fortunately, because I have such a strong desire to not only maintain the progress I’ve made, but also to continue on my journey, I’ve not gained any significant amount of weight back, despite my poor habits. In fact, when I measured myself on Tuesday I found that I’m continuing to drop inches in some areas. I do feel a difference in how I feel, my posture seems to be more stooped and I just feel tired. The majority of the changes I’ve noticed in my body physically, however, persist. My desire to continue on my journey is overriding my fatigue and sometimes annoyance at being accountable to myself.  I continue to log all the calories I’ve eaten even though I have one over.  I don’t like myself when I deliberately eat something that is over my caloric range, but I’ve done it anyway.  Mostly, I’m angry at myself for not treating my body better, because I know I deserve better and that I’m worth the effort. All that being said….one day doesn’t make or break you. Because of the foundation I’ve laid for healthy habits since the beginning, I know I will continue on my journey despite the fact that I’ve stepped off the path a couple of times.  It’s ironic that I was so frustrated in the beginning that my healthy habits were not yielding immediate results; now I’m very glad that a couple days of poor habits are not yielding immediate results-the progress I’ve made so far remains unchanged.  People at work are still commenting on how much weight I’m continuing to lose, and that’s encouraging as well. I like being able to tell people the amount of pounds I’ve dropped is increasing. Additionally, I’m impressed at myself; the drive to be better seems to be stronger than I initially realized. It’s forced me to remember what I really want, why I really want it, why I deserve it, and to remind myself that I have to work for it.  I’m thankful I wrote the post, Focused and Philosophical, that outlined all of these things when I was experiencing one of those initial attitude “highs”.  It has forced me to remember what I’m working for, and that there are other people relying on me to succeed besides myself. All these emotions seem to conflict but instead of kicking myself for making poor decisions, I’m commending myself for being angry at myself for those decisions. I need to be accountable to what I want, and I’m holding myself to that standard because I know it’s something I can achieve. Tomorrow is another day–no, TODAY is another day, another opportunity to turn it all around.


Inquiring minds want to know: What is all this business about Weight Loss Journey 1 and Weight Loss Journey 2?

Weight Loss Journey 1: I lost 75 pounds from 2009-2011; I’m reposting the blog posts I wrote on Sparkpeople during that time

Weight Loss Journey 2: I have gained back the majority of the weight I lost and have been on a quest since July 2015 to lose the weight again.

Sorry about the timing of the posts, I know that’s probably confusing. But they are only appearing at the same time because I didn’t start my blog earlier. It may be helpful to read the posts by category if you want to catch up. Enjoy!