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LiveFit Phase II Review

Phase 2 is over!  I am now officially on day 57, and only have 4 weeks of the program remaining.  I am both excited and nervous for Phase 3, as it is super intense, and also incorporates sprints.  Also, I dyed my hair back to its original brunette this month!

I feel like my pictures really show minimal changes, but they are noticeable to me, and I really FEEL different.

Results: 

Weight: 146.2 (previously 150/down from 158)

Waist: 28.5 (previously 28.5/31)

Thigh: 21.5 (previously 22/23)

Calf: 13 (previously 14.5/15)

Phase 2 loss: 4lbs/2 inches

Total Loss: 12 lbs/8 inches

I am not going to lie and say I wasn’t disappointed in my results.  I lost 8lbs the first phase, so I really thought that I would lose even more than that the second phase (especially with the addition of cardio) However, it was not to be!  I am still positive and trusting the process 🙂

Goal Revaluation: On DAY 1 of this program, I wanted to lose 18-23 lbs, but now that I only lost 4 lbs this phase, I need to revaluate.  I worked so hard this month, and felt that the only thing I could have done to lose more is completely deprive myself of carbs and starches.  I am making a lifestyle change, so that is just something I am not willing to do.  I am going to change my goal to 15 lbs.  If I get to 18… GREAT!  However, I don’t see myself losing 6 lbs in four weeks.

Top 2 of Phase 2

  1. Progress in lifting: I honestly can’t believe how strong I am getting.  I have always skipped out doing arms/delts/back when I lift.  I have really strong legs, so I had must mainly enjoyed doing those lifts.  However, I have not skipped a single workout, and I am really feeling the results!  I am continually going up in heavier weights on lifts, and am feeling very solid and toned.  My shoulders also used to be covered in a thick layer of blubber, but now I feel they are really starting to shape up!  This is crucial as my shoulders are completely exposed in my dress.
  2. Adding cardio: I don’t LOVE cardio, but it really makes me feel great.  I truly believe all of the studies that show cardiovascular exercise makes you a happier person.  This phase we did 30 minutes of cardio, 4 times per week.  I get bored pretty easily, so I did 15 minutes on treadmill, followed by 15 minutes of the stairmill.  The stairmill is satan, but WOW, I just don’t think there is a better workout than that thing.

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Here is Satan herself! We have had some good times this month. 

2 Cons of Phase 2

  1. Burnout:  This program takes so much dedication.  When I started doing this program, there were 7 girls.  There are now 3 left (Whit, Nora and me) who are following the program faithfully.  Week 7, I thought I was burning out, but week 8 I truly discovered what burnout feels like.  I could barely drag myself to the gym a few of the days.  However, I did NOT like the lift schedule for the last 2 weeks of phase 2.  I am so glad we are moving on!
  2. Time: Every blog I have read about this program talks about the time commitment.  They were NOT lying.  Nora and I are usually in the gym for about two hours.  We could finish faster, but we are focusing on waiting two minutes between sets for maximum muscle development.  Now that volleyball is over, I don’t mind.  However, anybody who has a lot of stuff going on in the evening would have to sacrifice something (or multiple things).

Anyway, I wanted to keep this update short.  I am really hoping to finish strong with Phase 3.  This is supposed to be a super fat-burning phase, so we will see what happens.  If I have any wish, it is that I see some fat loss on my arms and legs this month.  I will have a FINAL LiveFit update in 28 days 🙂 Hope all of your fitness goals are being crushed, and you continue to make progress on your fitness journey.

 

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LiveFit Phase I Review/Progress

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-eason-livefit-trainer.html

I finally got through Phase I of Jamie Eason LiveFit Trainer!  It was only 28 days, but it seemed a lot longer.  To be honest, tomorrow is the FULL 28 days, but I am leaving for a volleyball tournament at the crack of dawn, so I wouldn’t have time to do measurements and pictures.  So, technically, this is day 27.  Below are my before and after pictures of the Phase I process.  Again, I wish I could make myself look decent enough for these, but I just got out of the shower… my hair is wet, not covered in grease I PROMISE! 

Overall, I am so happy with my results, and they have made me super excited for the next two phases.  I am also SO happy that I took “before” pictures, because until I took the “after” pictures, I truly thought I had made 0 progress.  It is just hard for me to notice changes throughout the process.  I would recommend that any person who wants to do this program take “before” pictures, and also take measurements.

Updated Measurements: 

Height: 5’10 (I don’t think this is ever going to change throughout the process haha)

Weight: 150

Chest: 34.5 (Previously 36)

Waist:28.5 (Previously 31)

Thigh: 22 (Previously 23)

Calf: 14.5 (Previously 15)

Total Loss: 8 lbs/6 inches

Below, I am going to talk about my top 5 favorite things about the program thus far.  I was planning on writing about 5 things I didn’t like in the program, but I am honestly happy with everything, and have nothing negative to say. 

1. No Cardio in Phase I.  I will say this several times throughout my review, but I have tried and failed in the first two weeks of this program… a few times before.  I always thought it was because I wasn’t committed enough, or was too busy, but now I think that fatigue could have been a big part of it.  I thought, “I am good at cardio… I am just going to do it, even though it says not to.”  That was a big mistake for me.  Phase I, especially the first two weeks, is all about building muscle stamina and laying the foundation for the future of the program.  Now, I can’t believe I tried to do a ton of cardio.  No wonder I failed!  I love the layout of this program, and how much stronger I feel.  Not doing cardio the first month was great, and didn’t exhaust me.  However, I do feel very ready to get into cardio this next phase.  

2. The App!  Bodbuilding.com has the LiveFit app that you can get in the app store.  Before (periods of time when I failed this program), I was trying to print the workouts out to stay organized.  First of all, this is a waste of paper, and second, I didn’t always do this and forgot the workouts.  The app has kept me so organized, and is full of recipes and instructional videos.  Without these videos, I NEVER would have attempted some of the lifts.  

When I don’t understand a lift, I won’t attempt it, because I fear terrible embarrassment at the gym.  After these four weeks, I have learned so many new lifts, and feel so much more confident at the gym.  I even stood up to some meatheads who were hogging all of the equipment last week… stupid meatheads….  The app also lets you mark a workout complete.  I don’t exactly know why, but I felt so accomplished after marking the workout complete!

3. Going to the gym!  I totally get that people don’t like the gym, and like to workout at home, but I am the opposite!  I tried to do home workouts last year, and I just hated it.  The worst part was probably my dog thinking I was trying to play with him when I was doing the moves.  The jumping on my legs, barking, and nipping got a little annoying after awhile.  So far, I have made so many connections at the gym.  I have met new people, connected deeper with co-workers I see there, and have even got a few other people to jump on the LiveFit train.  The gym is such a cool community, and I love being a part of it.

4. Spending time with Nora!  My sister Nora and I are in this together, so it has been so nice to have a lifting partner, and also just get to spend time with her.  Even though we teach at the same school district, with basketball and her own busy schedule, we barely get to hang out. We go to the gym at least 5 times a week together, so there have been a lot of laughs and good memories made.  Having a lifting partner also gives me more confidence to try new things!  When I tried to get out of the lying tricep curls, and back extensions, Nora wouldn’t let me.  Even though she already has the perfect body, and makes me look like a troll, I am thankful she has committed to this program with me.

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(My youngest sister, Nora)

5. The Structure!  Following this program step by step is so essential.  Like I said in point #1, you don’t want to skip around or do things you aren’t supposed to be doing throughout this program.  Week #3 Leg Day almost killed me.  Nora, Whitney (also doing program), and I could barely walk for about three days.  If I had jumped into this leg day without having two weeks of preparation behind me, I probably would have quit from the pain, and also probably would have hurt myself.  After this Phase I, I am really trusting the process of the program.  I am so excited to see what Phase II will bring!

MOST IMPORTANT POSITIVE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM:  This entire program is 100% free.  There is NO cost.  I already had a gym membership, so I didn’t even have to worry about that.  I think that is how fitness and weight loss should be.  We need to stop making it it into a billion dollar industry, and just lay out the facts.  If you eat clean and lift, you are going to lose weight.  You don’t need anything else, but a little cardio.

A big argument I hear is, “People need weight loss products to stay motivated.”  I call bull!  If you are not motivated to lose weight, the chances that you are going to spend hundreds on a program, and then quit are pretty high.  Just give the old fashioned method a shot, and see what happens. 🙂

Staying Motivated:  I am so busy.  I know a lot of people talk about being busy, and I am sure a lot of working parents have a lot more going on than me, but when you coach… dang… there is not a lot of time for yourself.  I am coaching basketball almost every single night, whether that is having practice, or traveling an hour away for a game.  On top of that, I am also coaching AAU volleyball.  I couldn’t just “wing it.”  So, I made a massive google doc that I planned all of my workouts on, and even realized that I needed to workout during my prep period at school.  Without this calendar and organization, I don’t think I could have done it.  It took me a long time to figure everything out, but I like the quote that says, “Without a plan, plan to fail.” 

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Rewards:

It is important to reward yourself if you accomplish something!

When I was Christmas shopping in Sephora, I found the most amazing perfume I have ever smelled.  I picked it up, and was about to throw it in my basket, but then it hit me!  I didn’t do anything to deserve this perfume.  I knew that I wanted to reward myself with a non-cheat meal kind of prize, and this was going to be it!

On the way home from the mall, I kept smelling the spot where I prayed the tester on my coat sleeve. I immediately had regrets about not purchasing this.  However, every time I put my coat on and smelled it, it made me want to work hard to be able to buy this.  So without further ado, my new perfume is called  Versace Crystal Noir.  I give it a 10/10 for smell, and am so glad I worked hard enough to reward myself with it!

I also had little rewards that I set in place to get me through the individual weeks.  The first week I went to the city and got my eyebrows threaded.  The second week and third week, I bought four tanning sessions.  I know a lot of people are super against tanning (for good reasons), but it just makes me feel so much more confident and honestly happier.  I know I probably shouldn’t’ be doing it, but I figured that it was pretty obvious in my before and after pictures.

Cheat Meals:

My initial plan was to not have a single cheat meal throughout the entire Phase I process.  However, I am living this thing called life, and came to the conclusion that it was probably okay to have a few throughout the month.  I had a total of two phenomenal cheat meals in the 28 days.

Alex’s birthday dinner:  We went to this gorgeous little hole in the wall called Harvey’s in Redfield, IA.  A couple from New York moved back to open up their own restaurant, and it is so good, it made it into the Des Moines Register!  I ordered a burger with 50% ground sirloin and 50% ground bacon.  If you think that’s bad, it was also filled with gourmet cheese.  Oh my word.  I also paired this with sweet potato fries and a Bloody Mary.

After AAU in Neola:  Whitney and I just started our first AAU volleyball coaching season this last December.  We are coaching 8th graders, since it is actually illegal for high school coaches to work with high school players during the off-season.  So, we all headed over to Neola for a long day of tournament play.  We thought we would be done at around 1:30-2, but before we knew it… it was 3:00. We were starving, so I couldn’t’ help but tell Whitney about The Buck Snort.  This is a tiny little burger and pizza joint in what looks like a garage.  It is covered with antlers and mounted trophy bucks.  We both got the Swamp Donkey.  This is an all-beef burger, covered in brisket, topped with three huge onion rings, and smothered in barbecue sauce. When you have been eating healthy… let me tell you something… this burger will almost bring tears of joy to your eyes.  We opted to get no fries, no dessert, and not even a soft drink.  We only paired our burger with ice cold water.  At least we could feel good about that 😉

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One of my favorite parts of the meals was when Whitney asked me to pray with her.  My family doesn’t pray before we eat, so that was new to me.  Whitney is such a good influence on me.  I love her!

Sunday, it is time to start Phase II.  It will be a tough first two weeks, with basketball wrapping up, but I am feeling so committed, and am excited to see where this journey is going to take me.  I will have another update at the end of February!

 

He Likes Me For Me (Especially my Curly Hair)

A few mornings ago, I was listening to the country pop pandora station while cleaning my room.  The song “God Bless the Broken Road,” by Rascal Flatts came on.  The song made me smile, as my sisters and I bought the Rascal Flatt’s CD back when we were driving from the farm we lived on to high school (10-15 minute drive), and learned every single song by heart.  I think I still know all of them haha!

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As I was enjoying this trip down memory lane, I really started to listen to the lyrics.  Gary Levox belted out the lyrics, “Every long lost dream led me to where you are.  Others who broke my heart; they were like northern stars pointing me on my way into your loving arms… God bless the broken road that led me straight to you.”

I think when you meet “the one,” it makes you kind of nervous/sick reflecting on old relationships, and what might have happened if you stayed in them.  I’m not saying people I dated were so terrible that I cringe at the thought of settling down with them, (ok… some were terrible…and yes, I cringe hard) I’m just saying that when you find that perfect person, you just realize you would have missed out on so much without him or her.

So, how do I know Alex is the one?  There are so many reasons, but I want to share an important reason. My hair.

It sounds stupid, but I have always had a deep-rooted hatred of my naturally curly hair.  My mom, who has gorgeous silky curls, somehow gave birth to a daughter with coarse curls that a lot of small-town stylists called “ethnic,” and didn’t know what to do with.

I tried to figure it out with different products and brushes, but I soon decided I hated it. The moment I decided I didn’t like my hair was when a boy I had a huge crush on, in 7th grade, told me that he didn’t like my curly hair, and that it would look better straight.

This was a monumental event for middle school me, but there would be so many more comments to come throughout the years.  The things that are said in middle/high school are so unfortunately impacting.  People would tease me for having frizzy hair, they would call it an afro, and they would say things like, “OH MY GOD, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR HAIR?”  These statements would come from friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, and crushes.  I truly don’t believe they knew that they were really hurting my feelings.

Ummmm… this is just my hair… damn.

So, despite my mom’s pleas to wear my hair natural and curly, I spent hours and hours straightening out every curl.  I wanted to look like girls who boys called pretty at school.  At the time, professional hair straighteners like Chi and Paul Mitchell were not common… so I was using a $10 Conair straightener.  I would love to post a pic of this monstrosity, but I have deleted all of them, due to the terrifying nature of the photos.

I severely damaged my hair over the years.  With already naturally coarse hair, applying high heat from a cheap product made it even worse.  I would look in the mirror and know I looked terrible, but no matter what, it was better than my natural hair.

Until I met Alex, I had never been with anybody who actually liked my curly hair.  One guy who I had a huge crush on in college told me, “I don’t like curly hair, so you should straighten it.”  Why… why… why would I not tell this jerk to… well you know?  So, in the beginning of our relationship, Alex had no idea I had curly hair.  I hid it from him.  Then one day, I couldn’t avoid it.  I forgot my straightener… I was to be exposed.

Instead of laughing, making a Sideshow Bob allusion, or asking what happened to my hair, Alex demanded to know why I didn’t wear my hair curly all of the time.  He loved it!

Alex tells me that I am beautiful all the time, but he always tells me it is his favorite when my hair is curly.  He took this picture of me in Mexico during our vacation, and sends it to me several times a year with some cute comment.  There was no makeup, no styled hair; just a tan and half-dry hair after coming back from the beach.  It’s his favorite picture of me.

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Ugh… he is so sweet.

Comments about my appearance will never stop…  Last week I walked into the gym before a game, and a colleague pointed at my hair and said, “What happened?!” What happened?  I took a shower and then came to coach a basketball game looking fine as heck… that’s what happened.

When my hair is looking extra big, Alex’s uncle even calls me “Big Ern McCraken” LOLOLOL I actually love it!

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(Big Ern)

I have a gorgeous fiancé who I get to spend my life with, and he sees me for who I really am.  He loves me when I am in my most natural state.  There is never any pressure to have makeup on, or have my hair smoothed and flat against my temples.

I still straighten my hair some days, but I wear it curly most of the time.  I actually love my natural hair, and it is something that makes me proud and gives me confidence.   I wonder if I ever would have realized this without Alex teaching me to love myself.  Nobody who I ever thought I wanted to date had anything nice to say about my hair, or my face without makeup.

The broken road kind of sucked to travel on, but I’d do it all over any day if I knew it would lead me to him.

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Tough Conversations

When I was a freshman in high school, my basketball team was small.  In fact, it was so small that we didn’t have a freshmen or JV team.  My coach was tough.  He had high expectations and conducted physically and mentally demanding practices.  I suited varsity, but only got in the last minute or two (if we were winning by enough).  Essentially, I only had the opportunity to play in practice.  However, I battled, knowing that next year could be my year.

The beginning of my sophomore year was different.  It was a huge disappointment for me.  I still found myself sitting on the bench, going in the last minute or so when my team was up big.  The basketball season is a grind, and I don’t care what anybody says, winter sports (basketball and wresting) are the most challenging.  The weather is cold, it gets dark at 4:30, it’s long, there are 3-4 games a week at times… it’s exhausting.  The weak will not survive, and at that time, I was weak.  I begged my parents to let me quit.

They didn’t say no, but they gave me a condition.  I could quit, IF I approached my coach and asked him about my role, and what I could do to get better.

Approach Coach P? To me, this was an absolute nightmare.  I didn’t sleep that night.  The entire school day, I didn’t hear a single word my teachers said, because I was so focused on how and when I would approach him.  I decided in math class that I would do it after practice that night.

Practice flew by.  It always seems like when you are dreading something, time races to the moment.  I took my practice shoes off, put on my sweats, and walked across the gym to what felt like my execution.

Coach was sitting in his office, already creating a scouting report for the next game.  I asked if I could talk to him, and as soon as I sat down, I started sobbing. I was thinking, “OHMYGOD OHMYGOD EMMA STOP CRYING,” but I couldn’t.  My disappointment and self-doubt all exploded into a disastrous ball of emotion.  So here I was, bawling in front of the man I feared most in this cold dark world… and I mean bawling, and do you know what he did?  Coach gave me a huge hug.

He let me talk (at least through my sobs), and then he let me listen.  He was honest.  He told me that I wasn’t ready.  I was too weak to be on the floor when it mattered the most, I didn’t work hard enough in the offseason, but he told me that I had potential, and asked me to stick with it.

I am honestly crying as I write this, thinking about how grateful I am for that moment with him, and for the guidance from my parents.  I finished the season, despite a lack of playing time, and worked hard that summer. The next year, I played in every single game.  I was awarded Honorable Mention All-Conference, and our team made it to the substate regional final, where I had 15 rebounds against IKM-Manning.

The following year, I was a senior captain and starter.  After the best athletic season I have ever participated in , my team made it to the first state tournament since the 1960s. I was again an All-Conference selection, and was invited to play at the Iowa All-Star Basketball game in Cedar Rapids.  My senior year laid the foundation for a 2010 team that would win its first state title.

What would have happened if my parents sent Coach P an email demanding to know why I wasn’t playing?  What would have happened if they let me quit without having a conversation with him?  My parents have taught me more things than I could ever count, but one of the most important things was to fight my own battles, and never give up.

They could have badmouthed my coach in the stands, wrote terrible things about him on social media, or encouraged me to quit.  I know this because as a coach, I get a lot of this every single season.  I have even had parents take a picture of me, and post it on facebook with some very nasty comments.  I have also had to ask my parents to escort me out of one of my games, because I had parents waiting to confront me in the lobby.  However, my parents didn’t make this about themselves; they made it about the relationship between my coach and me.

To this day, Coach P has been one of the most impacting people in my life.  Finding the courage to approach him, and having the ability to trust his honesty led me down one of the greatest paths in high school.  Now as a high school coach myself, basketball continues to be one of the biggest pieces of my life.

I urge all parents to encourage your children to fight their own battles.  Have your kids come talk to me, but also make sure they are open to my honesty.  I am not going to tell your child she deserves to play if she doesn’t.  Coach P did not lie to me.  He told me I wasn’t good enough to play yet, and I accepted that.  In fact, I felt that he respected me enough to be honest with me.  It motivated me, and I worked harder, until it paid off.

Healthy Taco Soup

Week one of clean eating went great!  I had no problems sticking to it, and am feeling incredibly accomplished.   I didn’t even cheat this weekend in Omaha… which is a big deal for me.  I usually have no self-control around taco stands.  Fried fish tacos at Juan Taco… damn….  For the first time in a long time, I am feeling committed, rather than interested in getting in shape and following this program.

I love vegetables and salads.  Unfortunately, I cannot eat a salad every single day.  For some reason, by Saturday, I was gagging when I ate my lunch.  I don’t know if it’s the taste or texture, but I just have to stop eating them for at least a week.  That being said, I needed to make a change in my meal plan.

Mexican food is hands down my favorite food on Earth.  One of my best friends, Whitney, gave me an amazing and super simple recipe for taco soup.  Original recipe: http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2008/02/original-taco-soup-crockpot-recipe.html

I made it once for my dad and brother, and it was a hit.  I needed to put my own healthy twist on it this time around, and I also wanted to make the soup more “brothy.” I love broth.  To make this recipe healthier I substituted lean ground turkey for ground beef, and also used “no salt added” cans of vegetables.  I’m sure I could have taken the time to use 100% fresh vegetables for the soup, but we lifted today, and I also had basketball film and practice.  I needed a simple prep.  Maybe next time… 😉

Below is my recipe for this week’s delicious and craving-satisfying lunch.  Remember that I prep for an entire week, and also make it for my sister.  This is a HUGE batch of soup, so I would recommend that you cut this recipe in half.

Ingredients: 

2 lbs 93% lean ground turkey                                                                                                                        2 chopped yellow onions                                                                                                                                2 packages taco seasoning                                                                                                                            2 packages ranch dressing mix                                                                                                                      2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes                                                                                                                          2 10 oz cans mild Rotel                                                                                                                                    3 cans unsalted corn                                                                                                                                        1 can kidney beans                                                                                                                                            1 can pinto beans                                                                                                                                                1 14.5 oz can low sodium beef broth

Instructions:

1) Brown turkey and onions in a large skillet 2) drain and throw (not violently) the ground turkey and onion into a large crockpot. 3) sprinkle the taco and ranch packets over the meat 4) add all of the canned items on top of the meat. REMEMBER that the corn is not to be drained, but the beans are. 5) Mix everything together, and put crock pot on low 6) Walk away, and do whatever you want for 6-8 hours while this soup becomes magnificent.  If you are in a rush, you can put it on high for 4 hours.

Day 1 Stats

Today was my first day following Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer.  I dowloaded the app (which is amazing) and that made it incredibly easy to follow throughout my workout.  It also allowed me to check the workout as completed, which is going to help me stay organized throughout this process.

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The gym was packed today, so I lifted at the high school.  Our HS gym doesn’t have the amazing equipment that the YMCA has, but it is so much more private and comfortable.  I will have to do leg days at the Y, but I decided that almost all lifting will occur at the HS gym.  This is a huge perk of being a teacher/coach!

After I lifted, I went grocery shopping! I hired a personal trainer about four years ago (when I was bodybuilding), so I am using the meal plan she specifically designed for my weight loss, but it mostly fits Jamie’s meal plan requirements.  I decided to get creative, and pack my lunch salads into mason jars (saw on pinterest).  Everything else in my meal plan is very simple and clean:

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Breakfast: Oatmeal with 1 T Almond Butter & Blueberries (200 calories)

Snack: Blueberry/Raspberry Mix & 24 Raw Almonds (200 calories)

Lunch: Mason Jar Salad (350)

Snack: Hardboiled Egg (78)

Dinner: Tilapia, Rice, Steamed Green Vegetable (380)

(Depending when I work out, I drink a 100 calorie coffee/almond milk/Protein blend) 

Total: 1,298

Even though I am no longer in my body building day prime… I feel like I can master this meal plan again.  If I am feeling hungry, I will add more calories.

“Before” pictures and stats:

I was going to include my face in my “before” pics, but WOW, I looked pretty rough this evening, and didn’t want to subject anybody to those images. If I can stick with this, and see some decent results, I will think about stepping up my progress pic game!

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Weight: 158 lbs (gained FOUR pounds over Christmas break… dang all of that amazing food)

Goal: 135-140 (18-23 lbs)

Height: 5’10

Chest: 36″

Waist: 31″

Thigh: 23″

Calf: 15″

I will do an update with pictures after I complete Phase 1 of the plan.  Wish me luck!

Best and Worst of 2016

This Christmas, my family and I sat around my mom and dad’s table and enjoyed a prime rib (cooked to perfection of course) and our usual hilarious banter.  We Walkers usually don’t get too serious at the dinner table, as we love to laugh.  After dinner, my sister Ann introduced the great idea for us to go around the table and share our best and worst moment from 2016.

It was pretty apparent how blessed my family is because we couldn’t think of just one BEST moment.  There are just so many great memories that have been made this year.  I am going to share two best moments, and also one worst moment… because reflecting on those is always good for emotional health.

Best #1:  This one is pretty easy!  My boyfriend of 2.5 years proposed on a mini-vacation to Kansas City.  It was totally unexpected, and so romantic.  After waking up from an amazing night out with some friends, he pulled the ring out and said, “Will you marry me baby?” After, we ordered a celebratory breakfast in bed, and shared a bottle of champagne before we called our friends and family.  My entire family already knew; Alex had called to ask my dad’s permission before we left.  It was a great moment, and has already been so fun planning for the wedding and preparing to spend the rest of my life with Alexander Eddy Bireline.

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Best #2: My sisters and I had been wanting to take a sister’s trip forever, but never committed or scrounged up enough money to make it happen.  2016 was different.  We talked about going on a weekend getaway in Florida, and I got serious about it.  I contacted a travel agent, and set the entire trip up for the end of May.  We went to an amazing hotel in Daytona Beach.  We relaxed by the ocean, went out on the town, ate some TERRIBLE food (food in Daytona… not great), and had a blast at the tiki bar outside of our hotel.  There were so many hilarious moments, and we had a great time together.

We need to make these trips an annual tradition!

Worst of 2016:  In September 2016, we lost our amazing grandpa Marion “Spike” Walker.  He lived an amazing 95-year-old life, serving our country in WWII (Navy), raising a family, building a successful farm, and just being a genuinely great person.  Even though the loss of him was so hard, I am grateful that we got to spend so much time with him, and got to say goodbye, and hear “love you,” just one more time from him.