Just Say No was a part of my New Year's Resolutions. I'm hesitant to write this down for fear of jinxing it, but a part of knowing how far I have come is marking my starting point, and charting where I'm currently at. I wanted to give up sugar and chocolate for the New Year. These are both things that hamper my wellness, chocolate is rumored to have anti-oxidant properties, but I don't feel well after I eat it, and there are many other foods that are richer in total nutrition than chocolate. So far, I've been good. I haven't had any chocolate since 2012, and I don't really crave it either. Temptation has been before me in many forms, from Hershey bars to the chocolate chia pudding I made last weekend, but I resisted the candy, and set aside my spoon instead of licking it. I had some sugar in the form of homemade berry crisp, but I reduced the amount of sugar the recipe recommended, and instead of traditional white sugar, I used rapadura to top the berries.

An incident with my oldest daughter led to a meeting with her teacher and the principal at school. A neat thing in 2013 has been seeing how much she enjoys her tween boot camp, the other day she came home pumped that she had completed 60 pushups. My youngest daughter will be participating in her first gymnastics meet this coming Sunday. She's made significant progress since she started, and I'm giving her a lot of credit for being devoted, and disciplined. Her coach also deserves a mention, a husband and wife team run the only gymnastics program here in town. The quiet respect they command from children is impressive. During class, he makes it a point to notice good form, and he isn't lavish with praise, but he is noticing what each child is good at, and compliments what they do well. Flexibility is what Jane has been working on recently. Yesterday she came home from class bursting with the news that her right leg splits were the lowest.

We've been doing a lot of cooking and baking this year. Now that my step-daughter lives with us, we've been in the kitchen more, and we've had a lot of fun creating new recipes such as the mixed berry crisp that used up our withered apples, and the leftover cherries and cranberries. I've been more budget conscious during 2013, our family is currently enrolled in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University, and taking control of my finances has been a daunting task, but at least now I have a plan, and a support group to share things with. Recently I had a chance to review thirty diets that were ranked by a panel of experts. Paleo, which I've tried before, came in at number 30. The diet I've had the most success with wasn't featured at all, which wasn't surprising since it's a niche diet, and difficult to follow.

Last Saturday, the girls and I sat down together. We made a grocery list, and wrote out a menu for the week. Each meal and snack was reviewed for nutritional completeness, and I forgot to buy hamburger so we couldn't follow our plan exactly, but this approach helped us utilize our grocery dollars wisely. A moment of despair visited us after a quart jar of honey shattered on the store floor, but after speaking with the clerk, she said that was part of owning a store, so we were able to avoid paying for what we had unintentionally damaged. Probably the cutest thing was hearing my daughters ask what our budget was as we went through the store. Both girls were allowed to pick out treats as we went along. We kept a running tally of how much we had spent, and unfortunately, some of the items we wanted to purchase didn't make the cut.

Two things I was excited about were a free bag of organic apples, and a discounted bag of spinach. Several apples had to be thrown out, but the rest were edible after I cut out the bruises. I made apple celery juice with several of the less desirable apples, and a few of the golden delicious variety that no one really cares for went into the fruit crisp. Spinach in that quantity is usually $10.50, the sticker said $8.00, but the cashier only charged me five since it was near the end of the day, and a portion of the bag was showing signs of wilt. I steamed the entire bag along with some parsley. Another New Year's Resolution has been to incorporate more greens into our diets, and having spinach ready to toss into smoothies has been an incredible time saver. Buying in bulk has saved me money as well. I bought a bag of triple berries for roughly half per serving than the smaller bags. I'm not supposed to have strawberries, and the girls haven't complained about the raspberry, blueberry, blackberry blend in their smoothies. They even thanked me the other day, although I suspect that was because I served their smoothies with a hearty dollop of whipped cream.

Last Saturday, a friend of mine from Twitter started a new game called 'What Do They Have In Common?'. The two items were doughnuts, and newborns, my friend is a pediatrician, and listening to some of the responses made me laugh. What started as a silly game turned into a wider discussion about how laughter can relieve tension. The next morning, a person I wasn't familiar with sent me a tweet that said I might recognize the link she had posted. Her article can be found here, and I felt privileged to be included in her list of people she wanted to recognize. Twitter has given me an opportunity to meet people I wouldn't in real life. As part of my quest for personal growth, I've tried surrounding myself with people I respect and admire that can also make me laugh. I enjoy hanging around well educated people who are supportive, intelligent, and witty. I feel that these are people I can share my struggles with, and instead of beating me down, they're going to do what they can in an electronic format.

True friends are those who want good things for me. They might not be saying things that I want to be hearing, but I admire my chiropractic friend who advocates his Workout At All Costs program, because that's made a difference in his life, and he wants to share his successes with me so my life will be better. Another friend of mine has told me that I write well, he would like to get out of the job he has, and a sports writing friend of mine has successfully transitioned from baseball blogging into covering football. Out of the blue I got credit for inspiring an article on a baseball player that I had encouraged someone to write about. My cousin and I now follow each other on Twitter, and we had an interesting conversation when my family got together at Christmas. I missed celebrating my grandfather's 90th birthday on the 7th, but my step-daughter had an interview, and I'm proud to say that she has landed a part time job, and may be offered another position by the end of this week.

To close, in the past I've had problems knowing how to handle certain people. I felt as if I had to explain myself, and that would somehow justify my actions or things I've said. I am who I am, and I'm becoming more comfortable with that. Not everyone requires a response, and that's been difficult for me, but I'm getting much better at choosing who I want to interact with, and recognizing when others are toxic, or encoaching on boundaries I've set. I'm still listening to my Love and Logic materials, there are still obstables in my path, but I have a renewed sense of hope, and am overall, a much more optimistic person than I was in 2012. If you're someone who has encouraged or supported me through my days here, then I salute you as well. There are many people here that I respect, some that I like, and a few that I love. I wish ill towards no one, and will continue to pray that your burdens are no more than you as an individual can bear.

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