DAY 026: Tearing myself a new one

At some point last winter, I noticed a pain in my left bicep during certain normal movements.  Raising my arms in certain ways hurt, lifting certain things in certain ways hurt, and even certain light Zumba arm moves hurt.  It eventually became painful to sleep on my left side, which is my usual position.  The only thing I could conclude was that I had somehow torn a muscle.  Although I didn’t have any kind of scan done, my (new and less wonderful) doctor confirmed it when I saw her for the first time in May for a physical.

I’ve been doing independent weight training on my arms since I started this weight-loss party back in March 2015.  I have always been careful with controlling the motion of anything I lifted, taking it slow, and making sure the weight isn’t too much.  I somehow still managed to hurt myself pretty severely.  The best I can figure is that when I started doing arms again after enough of a hiatus to decrease my strength, I worked out as if I had never stopped and over-exerted my muscles when I should have ratcheted down the amount of weight I was lifting.  Muscles are built by a process of tearing and rebuilding, but when a tear comes from an injury, it’s not magically healed by a protein bar.  It needs to rest until it’s ready to work again.  You can’t rush it.

The doctor told me in May to stop with arms weights until my bicep was healed.  Foolishly, I gave it a week and then resumed my normal circuits in spite of the persistent pain.  The only reason I ended up stopping is because I abandoned health altogether when things got rough in the fall.

A year later, I’m finally healed.  I hit my arms circuit last night for the first time in several months.  I was a little tentative and ginger at the beginning of my workout, especially when it came to the exercises that really used to hurt when my muscle was damaged.  But you know what?  I feel good today.  I have the satisfying soreness from a good burn, but no pain.  Soreness is fine, but there should never be pain.  Got it.  No more being stupid.  But also… I forgive you, past self.

On Tuesday, I was chatting with a friend as we were leaving work together.  She asked, “Are you dieting?”  I said, “I’m eating right.”  She said, “Your face looks good.”

And that’s where it starts.

Hello, saddle.  It’s good to be back.

DAY 021: A woman’s right to chews

The recent days have been a blend of several non-scale victories and several non-scale fails.  A quick recap:

NSV:  I made it the full week between scheduled weigh-ins without sneaking a peak at the scale, which made seeing the loss today highly satisfying.

NSF:  I caved.  I had coffee this morning.  My sleep may or may not suffer, but I honestly can’t even say I’m that upset about the coffee.  This presents an interesting experiment opportunity at zero caloric expense.

NSV:  I chose moderately healthy options for my meal out on Thursday, last night, and this morning, and succeeded at staying within my calorie limit every day this week.

NSF:  My moderately healthy brunch choice this morning, it turns out, was actually not that healthy.  Nutrition calculators are wonderful and terrible at the same time — if only I had looked in the moment instead of after the fact!  It blew up more than half of my daily limit!

NSV:  I still stayed within limit today by severely adjusting my meal plan for the rest of the day.  Lunch was a banana, my PM snack was carrots, and my dinner was steamed broccoli.  It sounds extreme, especially on a day when I got a good cardio workout in, but you know what?  I’m not hungry!  This isht is working, y’all.

NSF:  I didn’t get to the gym all the days I should have this week.  I could have done more good if I had.

NSV:  I still hit my step goals every day this week, and I did still make it to the gym a few times.

NSF:  No more data — which means NSVs outnumber NSFs!

NSV:  I managed to fully prepare and portion out my meals for this week in spite of having company staying with me — a LOT of work and sore feet, but also highly satisfying!
The lesson for me here is that we have a right to choose what we chew, and we can even allow a few calorie-dense selections into the fray.  My Thursday and Saturday meals were both dinners this week, meaning I could budget my intake throughout the day and go into the meal knowing exactly how many nutritional points I had to play with once I had the menu in my hand.  That worked well.  Today, since my meal out was in the morning and of higher caloric value than either of my other meals out this week, it was more painstaking to stay under my limit because there was so much time left in the day.  But not only did I make it work without feeling deprived, I also felt more motivation to work out as a result.  I will keep my right to what chews I make because I know how to operate within the rules.

And my body knows it.  It shed 4.6 pounds this week.

That means I’m gonna crush those 4 new DietBets.  Ahhhh, this is more like it!

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It also means I’m at -7.8 pounds so far for the month, and solidly within reach of losing the 12 pounds I wanted to lose in January.  It’s going to take some hard work, but my 3 weeks of habit forming are now officially in the books.

Let’s rock.

 

DAY 007: Shaken, not stirred

Spoiler alert:  This has nothing to do with how I take my martinis.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to express how the last few months have been for me that led me to the point in my weight-loss mission where I find myself today.  In particular, the last 6 weeks of that have turned me into a raw, exposed nerve at times.  When I saw that today was #007 in my numbering scheme, a bit of an opportunity presented itself.  It’ll be a bit of a stretch, but hey, that’s been true for my pants of late; why should my writing be any different? 😉  So, let’s say I’ve been feeling existentially shaken, but somehow not stirred to action.  (It’s tortured, but whatever.  I’m sure I’ve done worse.)

Most of the year was pretty decent, just extra busy.  When things weren’t busy, I didn’t use my time the right way.  If I could go back to the summer and kick myself in the ass, let’s just say I would.  I did have an ankle sprain in there, but even still… I leaned hard into excuses that allowed me to stray from my healthy eating and abandon exercise altogether.

Zooming in on one cross-section of time, I take you to the period of late November through late December 2017, AKA the holiday season.  Call me over-analytical (and be correct), but a highly symbolic thing happened out of precisely nowhere.  The week leading up to Thanksgiving, the piercing I got to mark the halfway point in my mission got irritated.  It was slightly warm to the touch, and I could feel there was some sort of ball of nastiness between my earring and the hole in my ear.  I the area as best I could without taking the earring out, but after a few days of those attempts, there was no change.  I finally decided to do the obvious thing my body wanted me to do and remove the earring to give the hole a thorough cleaning.  The second the post left my ear, the nastiness ball got even larger and warmer, and the hole was imperceptible.  For the ensuing 2 weeks, it became a one-to-three-day cycle of cleancleanclean, scab slowly forms over site, scab falls off, repeat.  I haven’t been able to figure out what could have caused the sudden flare-up, but it was a week before I dared try getting an earring back in.  When I did, it was my sharp piercing stud from when I got my lobes pierced at age 11 — ohhhh, yeah, I still have those little pink studs in all their juvenile glory — and it hurt more than the original cartilage piercing did.  I’m pretty sure I partially re-pierced it.

That long-winded account is to say, I don’t view it as a coincidence that this happened at a moment in time where I’d solidly backtracked to the pre-halfway mark.  My piercing might as well have said, “You no longer have the right to this.  Come back when you’re serious.”

This saga is persisting even now, albeit to a lesser extent; but I am mostly leaving the earring out, periodically re-piercing the hole to drain it of blood (there’s a blood bubble that’s shrinking, but still present) and cleaning it.  I am not about to let that sucker permanently close.  At one point, I tried to insert the earring I got that hole pierced with, but my ear swelled up around it immediately and I had to take it right back out.  It was several days before I could do anything with it again.  I don’t know if I’ve developed a sudden allergy to sterling silver — is that a thing that can even happen?! — but it was wild.  I guess I’ll have to keep watching it.

Right after Thanksgiving, I had a minor car incident when a friend’s mom hit my car in her driveway.  No one was hurt, but it was enough that my car needed significant repairs, and I was without it, out of state, for over two weeks.  This meant a huge inconvenience at home; hours on the phone with insurance adjusters, rental car agents, and the auto body shop; and an unplanned trip back to my hometown that cost me 8 hours on the road and personal time off work to pick up my car when it was finally fixed.  It was an unwelcome bout of stress and annoyance.

Then, just before Christmas, my grandfather died.  I don’t think I need to expound on that.  Suffice it to say, I loved him very much and everything about letting him go was awful and painful, sometimes physically.

When I finally got back to my place after the unexpected, prolonged time at my parents’, I was drained.  I couldn’t get out of the terrible mental spiral of, What will they say about me when I die?  I need to quit my job and do something that matters.  Life’s too short.  I’m so unhappy.  Like a broken record, over and over again.  And I came damn close to doing something rash.  When I would re-pierce my ear during that period, I liked the pain.  I admit to doing it more than usual because I liked the pain.  The psychology attributed to cutters suddenly made sense to me:  giving myself this physical pain was a type of release valve for the internal pain I was feeling but didn’t know how to express, let alone work on solving.

I needed to get myself back into some semblance of control over the situation I was downward-spiraling myself further into.  That’s why I decided to do a fast to end the year.

After devouring breakfast on New Year’s Day, I signed up and weighed in for a new DietBet.  The pot is currently at $195,870 with 6,532 players.

This past week, I signed up for two additional DietBet games:  a Kickstarter that currently has 13,355 players and a pot of $400,650, and a Transformer that currently has a DietBet record (!) of 7,022 players and a pot of $932,400.  (Both are still open to new players — join me!)  These three new bets are in addition to the Transformer I joined in November that’s still in progress — and that I have lost both rounds of so far, but that I will come back and win!

Even after all the turbulence of the fall, I remained in a sort of helpless stupor where I knew what I needed to do, but I just couldn’t get myself there.  I’ve had to force myself back into meal prep and ratcheting up my give-a-shittitude, and the mental effort of babysitting myself has been tedious and exhausting.  It’s starting to take hold, though.  I’ve gone from being emotionally shaken to having finally shaken myself out of that rut.  I’ve gone from being emotionally not stirred to having finally stirred myself into taking charge.

I’ve already made some progress in spite of that, dropping 3.2 pounds since Monday night.  I’m definitely a long way from being all in, and I have yet to get a proper workout under my belt this time around, but it’s coming.  I’m going to get myself there.  There’s no alternative option.

Life’s too short for regret.

 

 

 

DAY 755: The dirty on Whole30

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I MADE IT.  ALL THIRTY DAYS.

Here’s the official Whole30 timeline of what to loosely expect along the way.  Here’s what actually happened to me:

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THE SCORE
Days with low-carb flu:  7.5
Days with a headache:  16
Days with diarrhea:  3*
Days constipated:  8
Days with no weird effects:  4

*I think there were more of these in the beginning; at least, I recall having loose stools often and going at least once per day.  I unfortunately didn’t start keeping a symptoms calendar until I started that wretched, wretched 4-day stretch of constipation, and by that point, I could only recall back a few days.

BROAD SUMMARY (MENTALLY [because the physical should be self-explanatory based on my calendar image])
Days feeling meh/normal/pretty much fine:  16 (1 – 16)
Days feeling fucking terrible:  5 (17 – 21)
Days feeling fucking awesome:  9 (22 – 30)

TL;DR
Did you ever get your tiger blood?  YES.
Was it worth doing this shockingly expensive, drawn-out, often infuriating dietary experiment to feel awesome for less than a third of the time?  YES.
HUH?  WHY?!  There is no TL;DR way to answer this question.  Trust me blindly or keep reading, champ.

First of all, let me say up front that I’m proud of myself for doing this.  At no point did I falter, or even consider abandoning ship.  I stuck with it the whole time and I owned this process, and it wasn’t without its challenges or massive frustrations.  If I could high five myself without looking like a total dork who never learned to clap right, I would do it.

Sticking to Whole30 truly did help me tame my “sugar dragon,” challenged me to face the way I’ve been using food to punish or reward myself instead of to nourish myself, and gave me the feeling of power and control over what I put into my body (ironically enough, on such a restrictive diet).  It got me back into the gym on a routine basis.  It (eventually) made me feel great physically and like totally baller mentally.  I learned to love almond butter.  I reached rain-man levels of label-reading expertise.  What I thought was already great skin, became even greater.  I got something I really wanted out of this, which was improved sleep.  It forced me to become comfortable with discussing my dietary habits with people, out loud.  And ya know, it just feels great to have set out to do something for 30 days, and to have inarguably risen to the challenge.  Above all, it punted me out of my I-don’t-wanna stupor, and gave me results along the way:  my final weight-loss number from Whole30 is 17.2 pounds (most of which was knocked off in the first 2 weeks).  I still have a long way to go, but holy hell, y’all.  That’s a big-ass number, especially considering that low-carb flu sidelined me for a full week and I didn’t really start working out in earnest until the final third of the program.

And yet, I don’t think I would ever do this again.  The main reason is that it was astronomically expensive for me.  I’m not exaggerating when I say my weekly grocery bills doubled.  To give an example of the runaway costs I had on Whole30, I site breakfast.  Typically, I eat a bowl of passably healthy cereal (Cheerios) that I buy on sale at CVS for $2.50/box, and it lasts me over a week, along with milk from the grocery store that also lasts me over a week, for which I pay under $4.00.  Assuming each lasts me 10 days, that means one day of breakfast costs me roughly $0.65.  SIXTY-FIVE CENTS.  It’s practically free.  On Whole30, however, grains and dairy are no-nos, so I had to seek out compliant options — quite the quest within itself — and then I had to properly balance my plate.  For breakfast alone, I had to have starch (let’s say breakfast potatoes, which cost me about $6 to make last for the week), protein (let’s say Aidell’s chicken-apple sausage, $6.00/package, which lasts two days), and fat (usually avocado, which I can make last 4 days — thanks, refrigeration! — for $1/each).  I would also usually add in a fruit to help inject some fiber into the meal (let’s say raspberries, $4.00/package, which lasts two days, according to serving size).  Are you seeing how this adds up insanely fast?  Pricing this out per food item and factoring in staying power gives me a breakfast that costs $6.10 every morning.  SIX DOLLARS AND TEN CENTS.  It’s almost ten times more expensive every day!  And that’s just ONE MEAL!  Extrapolated across the full month, if I had had this meal for breakfast every day (which I did not, but I’m doing this just to drive home the point), it’s a total cost difference of $163.50!!!!  UNAFFORDABLE.

Beyond that, the amount of time it takes to plan (i.e. find compliant, balanced recipes that I liked) and prepare (i.e. cook and portion out) all the meals and snacks is something you should be provided a time machine for.  And I don’t mean a gizmo that lets you travel through time; I mean one that lets you add hours to your day.  Honestly, I thought this would be a very minor adjustment heading into Whole30 because I already put in so much thought and time into my menu planning and prepping efforts, but this knocked my socks off.  I’m used to sacrificing my entire Sunday to the kitchen altar of the nutrition gods, but even cooking morning to night did NOT give me enough time, especially if I had any hopes of getting a workout in.  I repeat:  cooking morning to night for an entire day was not enough time to get ready for the week!  Taking the example of breakfast again, something I never had to do any kind of prep for when I was simply eating a bowl of cereal, I was now having to fully prep an entire additional meal in addition to lunches and dinners for the week, increasing my kitchen work time by 50% right off the bat.  I had to sacrifice more and more of my weekend to Whole30 prep time, and it got a little dicey pretty often.

Finally, doing Whole30 can be a bit of a lonely experience.  I’m fortunate that I had a co-worker roped in with me, and I’m very glad I was vocal about my decision to take on the program ahead of time so that people I see regularly would already be in the know and implicitly give me support and accountability, but social situations could be very trying.  It’s basically impossible to find something at a work function that’s likely to be compliant, aside from an undressed pile of lettuce and perhaps some raw fruit or veggies.  There is sugar in everything.  EVERYTHING.  It’s also an isolating feeling to be at a celebratory event and be the wet blanket who’s not raising a glass of fizz to the guest of honor, or digging into the cake alongside the rest of the guests.  I’m only grateful I didn’t have to do any traveling during those 30 days; that would have been straight-up painful.

All that being said, I *am* glad I did it this once.  I learned a lot, and I think differently about food now.  On day 21, when I was up to my ears in frustration with stalled progress and feeling stymied by the whole thing, I would have said it was a pure waste of time and money.  On day 22, the Whole30 gods mercifully gave me my tiger blood, and there was no turning back.

I’ve done one day of reintroduction (sugar), and just those 12 waking hours were enough to show me the effects of sugar on me:  it makes me feel guilty, and it immediately exhausts me.  After a few days on Whole30, I had no more energy crashes and maintained a pretty consistent level throughout the day pretty much every day.  One day back on sugar, and the spikes and crashes set back in immediately.  Mind you, it wasn’t even an unusually high amount of sugar; it was a bit that was a casualty of preparation from each meal (except the cupcakes — yeah, plural.  I was at a bridal shower and I baked those bad boys blind on day 30.  You really think I didn’t deserve both of them?!  😉 )  I hate sugar now.  I mean, I still like the taste, but I hate the concept of it.  It has wrecked many a person’s relationship with food, myself included.  Taste wise, I do now detect a chemically/artificial taste in sugary foods that I didn’t previously.  It’s interesting… and unnerving.

This week, I’m actually back on the program.  There was one last recipe I wanted to test out, and I figured that while I’m at it, I might as well just keep on the program full-time the rest of the week.  I’ll continue reintroduction at the end of that.  I’m curious to see what I’ll discover.

If you’re considering doing Whole30, my best piece of advice to you is to economize your money and time.  You should save money for a few weeks before you start, and you should plan out all your meals before you even begin the program so that you save yourself that time once you get started.  Search for and build your little Whole30-friendly library of recipes well in advance, and write out your grocery lists by week so they’re ready to go when you get there. Believe me, you’ll be grateful for that little gift of time you give to yourself.  Oh, and if you can, definitely get a friend to do it with you.  The support will help keep you going when it feels like the tiger blood fairy has forgotten you.

Just don’t ask me to be that friend.  I’m taking a hard pass on doing Whole30 again.

DAY 750: True come dream

Two nights ago, I had a major first.  While unconscious.

I was dreaming that I was at some sort of banquet-y lunch with a massive dessert table.  Of course, I gravitated directly towards the dense, chewy, chocolate chip cookies displayed on it.  I picked one up, studied its delicious mushiness, and placed it back on the table.  I picked up another, gave it the same inspection, and set it back down to examine another.  After the third or fourth time I put a dream-cookie back down, I shrugged and walked away.

No, no, no, you don’t get it — my dreams are the place where I relatively safely, albeit at the cost of fleeting waking guilt, stuff my face with nutritional contraband.  I always eat the illicit brownie, piece of cake, cupcake, ice cream, chocolate, or cookie.  But this time, subconscious-me chose not to eat that little piece of dessert heaven.

I still don’t think you heard me.  In my dream, which I have never been able to control, I opted out of a cookie indulgence.

It might sound silly, but this almost feels like a bigger deal than making the safe choices in real life.  Why?  Because DUDE.  This means that the lifestyle change has so deeply permeated my mind that it now lives in my subconscious.  I have embraced it so wholeheartedly that even in my dreams, which express my true desires, I’m going for the healthy option.  I truly, at all levels, want to be healthy.  The cookie, real or imagined, no longer has the hold on me that it used to.  Even at my strongest point of total weight-loss dominance last year, I never managed to achieve this level of mental strength and control.  I’m sure I haven’t dreamed my last food-binge dream, but I’m also sure that having dreamed my first opt-out-of-food-binge dream is a BFD.

Dream-me’s actions are rooted in my general lived experience, but they also come from a specific incident at the end of last week.  On Friday, I was stuck at a work conference for the third day in a row, and it was a Whole30 dieter’s food desert.  (Incidentally, on day one of the conference, The Sugar Association’s Board of Directors was meeting down the hall from my group.  I should’ve burned it down.  HISSSSSS!)  At lunch that day, I was wringing my hands over whether or not the cold-cut turkey set out was compliant.  I had hungrily taken three slices to cut up into my plate of lettuce and cherry tomatoes, but it seemed unlikely that the lunch meat was safe to eat because it almost always contains added sugar.  Finally, I decided not to risk it and pushed it aside in favor of my boring-but-safe rabbit food.

While this inner struggle was playing out, I was looking it up on my phone and wondering aloud to a co-worker who knows of my Whole30 endeavor about the predicament, and another co-worker overheard and asked what was going on.  I explained, and she was kind of horrified to learn what Whole30 was.  She asked, “What do you do when you have a bad day?!”  (Implication: what do you binge on when you want to eat your feelings?!)  I simultaneously appreciated the completely normal, honest reaction she had, and also felt a sudden click of recognition that this is what they’re talking about when they refer to unwitting, sugar-addicted victims of SAD (Standard American Diet).  It was the first time that struck me in such a crystallized way.  As I was processing my reaction to her reaction, I checked myself to make sure I didn’t come off like one of those goddamn judgmental, holier-than-thou dieters.  I took a beat and said, “One of the things Whole30 helps with is changing how you relate to food, so it gets you away from doing that.  I mean, it helps that it’s no fun bingeing on carrots.”  She chuckled, and that was kind of the end of it.

Leading up to this conversation was my walk along the lunch buffet line.  Coming away with a plate of greens and some puny vegetables was a big, fat bummer, even though none of the options looked stunningly awesome.  Passing the cookie-laden dessert table and sitting down to eat with my cookie-laden colleagues was a bigger, fatter bummer.  I really wanted a cookie.  I vocalized that I really wanted a cookie.  I even went back over to the dessert table, knowing that I wasn’t going to take one, just to look once more at what I was missing.  I told myself they probably weren’t as good as they looked, shrugged, and walked away.

And then a few nights later, my true came dream.

What’s funny is that when I’m all by myself, I could give a rat’s ass about a cookie.  I don’t think about junk food normally; I just go about my day and eat the things I’ve spent hours and hours planning and preparing for myself.  It’s these social situations that are murder.  Already, it’s hard even finding something that I’m confident will be compliant, but then watching everyone else be able to indulge in whatever without having to think about or care about what they’re eating, is extra hard.  I never feel like I’m about to cave in those instances, but I do feel resentful and envious of the people who get to eat things other than lettuce.  (Always prepared, I did have my home-cooked lunch with me that day, and at an odd hour of the afternoon, I snuck back to my office for the sole purpose of microwave access so I could eat it.)

I only have 4 days left (including today) on Whole30.  I’m starting to feel apprehensive about going off the program when it ends.  It’s like after spending all of 8th grade English being absolutely forbidden from ever writing with a being verb — sounds impossible, but is really just super challenging — I felt guilty when I started using them again in 9th grade, even with full permission of the teacher.  True story.  Even though I will have successfully stuck it out all 30 days, it will feel wrong to start consuming grains, dairy, etc., again.  I’m also nervous I’ll suddenly regain a lot of weight, and I simply can’t afford to do that.  Unfortunately, I literally can’t afford to maintain this diet fully, so it’s a bit of a conundrum right now.  At this point, I’m thinking I may end up going on for at least another week, to give myself a bit more time to figure it out with a little less pressure because the 30 required days will have passed.  In any event, I had anticipated feeling relief by the time I reached this point, so it’s a total surprise to be feeling hesitant about going off of it!

In non-Whole30 news, I’ve been good about sticking to my work-out regimen, even in spite of some scheduling challenges.  In addition to arms and cardio, I’m keeping my new core workouts on regular days, and I’ve noticed it’s been helping with my digestion (unless that’s just a huge coincidence).  On Sunday, I did back-to-back classes at my gym, and my legs still haven’t forgotten — but it hurts so good.  My sleep has been much better and more consistent, and I am feeling more energetic overall.  I know I said this was non-Whole30 news, but the truth is that it’s probably related to at least a small degree, of course.  I’m relearning more and more that all of this is a delicate balance, and every component of it matters.

DAY 747: Flyin’ high

That’s day 24 on the books.  Less than a week to go on Whole30!

The very next day after my last post, everything changed for the better.  I didn’t want to post about it at the risk of jinxing myself, but it’s been a long enough trend now that I can at least report on a pattern.  All of a sudden:  improved sleep, regular poops, not a single headache, and good workouts.  I’ve been dreaming nightly of oh-shit scenarios where I’ve accidentally consumed a prohibited Whole30 item, and waking up in massive relief to find that it didn’t happen.  Beyond that, I am constantly thinking about working out.  I will be in the middle of a sprint on the elliptical, thinking about working out.  It does not make sense.

This must be my version of tiger blood.  It’s not euphoria and unlimited energy, but I am grateful this upswing has finally found me.

I’ve started doing regular core exercises along with my arms circuit for the first time.  I’m almost finished prepping my food for this last week of the program.  I’m eager to see the final results.  Regrettably, I only weighed myself before starting; I did not take measurements or photos.  However, if I’m pleased with the results, I’ll likely incorporate a large part of the program into my typical diet for at least the short-term.  Hopefully, that will still help me continue on my weight-loss mission, but lessen some of the expense.

Here’s hoping for a strong finish (and beyond)!

DAY 740: Headlines

1. I finally made it to the gym today!
2. I got a headache again today 😦
3. I weighed out for round 2 of my DietBet and won!
4. Since starting Whole30, I’ve lost a whopping 14 pounds!  Whaaaaa?  (And I still have 13 days to go!)
5. For my height, I have moved (back) from extremely obese to just regular obese.  Ah, what a strange milestone to celebrate.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Short, but a lot.  Kinda like my BMI.  😉