Tuesday, October 22, 2013

BIG NEWS! Baby Finklea Coming in May 2014!


Y'all, I can't even begin to describe how full my heart feels right now! Jackie and I are so blessed to be able to announce that we are pregnant!!!

This is something that we've prayed about for a long time. The Lord has used this time to bring us closer to Him and closer to each other.

This journey has not been easy, but God has been faithful. Our hope was (and is) always in Him. We know that we've still got a long time until we get to hold our little bundle of joy, but we are bathing May 28, 2014, in prayer. We ask that you do, too.

We are so thankful for our family and friends that we shared this news with before we made our public announcement. They have been such a source of strength and love... and they're apparently fantastic secret-keepers!

I can't even wrap my mind around what life will be like next summer! I'm so thankful that God's timing will allow me to be home for almost 3 months when the baby gets here.

I'm so glad we've gone public. Keeping it a secret was SO hard!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Houses that Built Me: My Great-Grandmother Josey's House

This blog is inspired by my wife's cousin's blog, Unskinny Boppy, specifically, this entry. Beth is a home decor, DIY, photography blogging phenom, and y'all should totally check her site out!

Anywho, enough about her. Let's get back to me. (Sorry, Beth.)

When I think about the houses that built me, the one that immediately comes to mind is my great-grandmother's 100+-year-old house on Pearl Street in Darlington, South Carolina.

Since we never lived near either of my parents' families while I was growing up, summer vacation meant 3 months--you know, back when summer vacation was a full 3 months--of crashing with relatives (mainly grandparents and aunts and uncles). We spent a lot of time in my dad's hometown of Florence and in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where my mom's parents put down roots.

But one special house was alway's Josey's old blue house surrounded by numerous plants that she'd cultivated throughout the years which was just a few miles up the street from the Darlington Motor Speedway. 

We'll start our tour on the back porch. On the old swing is where I lost my first tooth. Dad pulled it, and boy did it hurt! The tooth was loose, but to this day, I don't think it was loose enough to come out! There was also an old stove on the porch. We used to play at it, and some summers, one of Josey's cats would have a litter of kittens under the stove. We'd play with them and name them. Josey had more cats than we could count!

Sitting on the swing with Josey many moons ago.
Walking through the backdoor--because no one ever, ever used the front door--was like stepping back in time. There was an old screen door with a spring that made such a distinctive creaking sound that I can still hear it's metallic whining sound as it was stretched clear as a bell in my mind. And all of the doors were so old that they locked with a plain-looking skeleton key, which in hindsight seems so funny...and unsafe.

The ceilings were well over 12 feet tall (and as a kid, they seemed even taller), and the kitchen was painted a bright, sun-shiny yellow. The white kitchen appliances (really just a sink, small counter space, and a stove/oven) were straight out of the 1950s. They might have been even older, but I'm not sure. What I do know is that they still worked. And Josey would boil water on that stove for her tea that was so hot we never understood how she was able to drink it. (Of course, I guess after decades of drinking scalding tea, she developed a tolerance.) I remember we'd also warm saltine crackers in that old oven. If you toasted them just a bit, they'd become the best crackers you ever put in your mouth.

The fridge wasn't in the kitchen. It was on the side porch that had been enclosed to also add a bathroom some time ago in yesteryear. There was the 1950s fridge that matched the other appliances. It had died long ago, and I remember being told every summer to never, ever open that fridge. Beside it sat an 1980s side-by-side refrigerator, which I always thought was cool since we just had a standard, freezer-on-top model at home. (Didn't take much to entertain me back then...) Also on the side porch was the bathroom. It only had a washing machine, toilet, and a heavy cast iron tub in it. To this day, it's the only bathroom that I've ever used where I had to wash my hands in the tub. Moving back out onto the porch, there was part of an old exterior wall beside the door that lead back into the kitchen. It was painted the same pale blue as the rest of the outside of the house, except the paint was peeling badly. For years, I would go break off tiny chips of paint. Over time, I left a pretty large (paintless) mark on that wall.

Heading back into the kitchen, Josey had a chair by the door that lead out to the enclosed porch. It was where she would sit by her space heater and listen to the radio, which sat on a simple wooden shelf beside the hot water heater that sat out in the open for everyone to see. (Of course, we decorated it with our artwork and refrigerator magnets.) Beside her chair was the wall where me, my brother, and my cousins charted our growth each summer. There were a lot of marks by the time the house was torn down, but my parents cut out that piece of drywall and have it in their home now. Not only is it a piece of my history, but that drywall binds together 4 generations on my mother's side of the family. That means a lot to me.
Me, Popeye, and Zach in Josey's chair. The drywall beside the door is where we'd eventually start the growth chart.

Zach, Josey, Me, and Gran Peg.
Off the kitchen was a small, square-shaped hallway. ("Hallway" isn't really the right word. It was more like the hub of the house, where you could go from the kitchen to the guest room, master bedroom, or dining room (which was also the living room because the formal living room was used as storage). In this tiny hub was a small triangle-shaped shelf where the rotary telephone sat in one corner.

The door to the left would take you into the large guest bedroom that my grandparents slept in when they visited my great-grandmother. The ceilings soared way overhead, and the old walls had spiderweb-like cracks that went clear up to the ceiling. There was also a working sink in one corner of the room. It is often where I brushed my teeth. (Remember, there was no sink in the bathroom.) On the small shelf above it, my grandfather would put his dentures in a clear plastic cup. That always weirded me out...and yet, I always looked at them.

Back in the hub/hall, the next door would take you into my great-grandmother's bedroom. It was always dark in there, and to be honest, I hardly ever went in there much. Although, off of her room was a small bedroom that stuck out on the side of the house. I do remember one summer sleeping in that room, with many nights spent watching the headlights and tail lights of cars driving up and down the street. It was very different from the quiet country life we had in the backwoods of Shelby, Alabama... or at least it seemed that way at the time.

The last door off of the hub/hall took you into what was supposed to be the dining room, but it doubled as a living and dining room. This was the only air conditioned room in the house, thanks to a single window unit. The other window had a large fan that was used to pull air through the house when we didn't have the AC on. Against one wall was an old console television. And in true Southern fashion, when it died, a new, smaller TV was simply placed on top of it.
You can see a mini tea set in the top right corner.

We used to have fold out pallets that we'd sleep on in the living room floor when we'd stay there during the summer. (And we'd gladly sleep on the living room floor in order to stay cool on those hot summer nights!)

The other thing I remember about the living room was the shiny black fireplace and mantle. On the mantle, Josey kept an assortment of ceramic figurines and other odds and ends. She had miniature tea sets, a statue of Jesus, and a bunch of other stuff. Of course, over time the ceramics would become stuck to the mantle, and I would always pull on them to break them free. I'd always put things back exactly where they were, but for some reason, I got a kick out of getting them unstuck. I don't know if anyone ever knew I did that.

This room had more doors than any other in the house. There was one that would lead to the porch (but was blocked by a table). Another would lead to the enclosed portion of the porch leading to the bathroom, but it was blocked by the 1960s sofa. There was the door to the hub/hall, another to Josey's bedroom, and one to the front hall, which lead to the front door and formal living room. I remember thinking that all of those doors were so cool. Of course, I'm sure they were there for improved circulation in the pre-AC days, but you just don't see houses with so many doors anymore.
You never walked too far to the left of the porch...for fear you may fall through!
The small room sticking out on the right side is the bedroom that I'd watch the cars pass by from.
It's sad to think that Josey's house isn't there anymore. It's been years since I drove by the empty lot (and according to Google Earth, it's still empty).
The house stood to the right of the parking lot. You can still see the where the driveway was.
Mom and Dad got married in the church next door. And the small building with the square-shaped roof on the upper left side is the diner that we used to walk to and order chili dogs at. There was a lot of family history on that block.

I try to hold onto these memories. I'm thankful to Beth for inspiring me to write these down before they fade away.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"It's a Major Award!" (Not a Leg Lamp)

I've been seeing posts about the Liebster Award making the rounds in the blogosphere. Some of my friends were nominated for it, and it was cool to see what questions they had to answer. I noticed that my friend Bethany, who I've known for as long as I can remember, got nominated for her blog, Hanging with the Huttons. Bethany has really been kicking butt and taking names with her blog lately... and by that, I mean she's been posting regularly and really promoting her blog--both of which are things I rarely do.

The award is designed to spread awareness about smaller blogs (200 followers or less). With my 18 subscribers, I'd say I definitely fit the bill for that. It's also intended for new bloggers, which I don't really consider myself to be. This blog has been alive and kicking since January of 2011... but I guess in the grand scheme of things, it's still relatively new.

The criteria, should you accept this award, is as follows:

  • Thank your nominator by linking back to their post. (Done.)
  • Answer 11 questions posed by your nominator. (See below.)
  • Make a list of 11 facts about yourself. (Oh, boy...)
  • Nominate 3-5 up and coming bloggers with 200 followers or less. (OK.)
  • Provide a list of 11 questions for your nominees to answer. (Insert evil laugh here. Muahahaha!)
  • Publish your post and contact your nominees with the awesome news! (They will be SO thrilled!) 

    Questions From Bethany:
    1. What is your favorite recipe? 
    Hands down, my mom's homemade mac and cheese. The. BEST. EVER!!!
    2. What is your favorite restaurant?
    I'd have to say Joe's Italian. It's where Jackie and I went on our first date, the day we got engaged, and who catered our wedding. 
    3. What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
    Well, it's not my favorite, but I've been writing a lot on my dissertation in my free time. Other than that, I like to read and watch TV. I need to workout in my free time, too!
    4. Where is your favorite place to go on a date?
    Jackie has been good about getting us to do different stuff. She took me to the drive-in in Harpersville a few weeks ago. We've gone bowling. Anywhere with her is my favorite place to go because she's my favorite person! (Brownie points: nailed it!)
    5. What would be your dream job?
    The job I have right now. I'm an instructor at the University of Montevallo in the Mass Communication Program, and as soon as I successfully defend my dissertation, I'll be promoted to Assistant Professor! Click here to read about when I started this job.
    6. What is your favorite high school memory?
    Oh, gosh! There are SO many, but if I had to pick one, I guess it would be the day we graduated. It was such a rush knowing that I had finally finished school and was about to start college!
    7. What has been the best day of your life?
    Easy one: our wedding day.
    8. What is your favorite tv show?
    Oh, boy. It's SO hard to choose. My go-to shows are anything from the Star Trek franchise. I'm also hooked on Doctor Who right now. And Jackie and I have been known to watch Law & Order: SVU for 12 hours straight.
    9. Where do you want to live when you retire?
    Well, it looks like we'll be staying in Shelby County. But I'd love to have a beach house, too.
    10. What is your favorite vacation spot?
    Seagrove/Seaside/Destin. I've been going there for years with friends. It's where we went on our honeymoon. It's where we go with my parents each year. And it's a tradition that I hope to continue some day when Jackie and I have kids. 
    11. What's the best vacation you've ever been on?
    With Jackie: Definitely our honeymoon. It was the first time we went away together, and we had so much fun. It was a perfect week! Our NYC trip was another good one!
    Random: My Mom and I made an overnight trip to Louisville, Kentucky, the other year so I could visit the Star Trek Exhibition at the science center. You can read all about the nerd-cation here.

    11 Random Facts About Myself
    1. I'm a procrastinator. I'll tell you more about it later.
    2. I'm terrible with names, which is a problem when I teach large classes at UM.
    3. I have a fear of automatic sliding doors. I'm afraid that the sensor will miss me and that the doors will close, cutting me in half. I've had nightmares about this.  I know the doors won't do that, but I've had this irrational fear for years!
    4. My love language is gifts. This makes Christmas and birthdays exciting and stressful. While I love receiving gifts, I truly love picking out gifts for others. But sometimes putting that much thought and time into gift selections is exhausting and wears me out! But when I see them open it and love it, that's a fantastic feeling!
    5. I have two toes that are webbed together (not completely, but like a third of the way). 
    6. I've written a text book!
    7. I tried Zumba once. Won't do that again!
    8. When I get my PhD, I'm going to get a replica of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, since I will also be a Doctor.
    9. I'm terrified of heights and get vertigo really bad. 
    10. I'm a HUGE sci-fi nerd!
    11. My research area (and dissertation topic) is children's media and gender, specifically masculinity in Pixar films.

    My nominees are:
     Ok, this is hard because so many of my blogging buddies have already been picked, but I do have two people that I'd like to nominate. Neither of them are "new" bloggers, but they do have less than 200 followers.
    1. Shannon at we be studly.
    2. Kim at Crazy Mosaic.

    Gosh, now I've got to come up with some questions for them....

    Questions for My Nominees:
    1. What is your favorite memory of me?
    2. What is your favorite book?
    3. If you could take a road trip anywhere, where would you go?
    4. If you could pick up and move anywhere in the world (other than your hometown), where would you move to?
    5. If your life was made into a movie, which celebrity would play you and your husband?
    6. What is the hardest thing you've ever had to do?
    7. What is your favorite TV show?
    8. What was the last thing that made you laugh?
    9. What has been the best day of your life?
    10. If you could swap lives with any celebrity or other famous person for 24 hours, who would you pick?
    11. What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you in the last month?

Monday, August 5, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons...

We've all heard the saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

Let's be frank: that's a load of crap.

When life handed me lemons today, I wanted to say, "Really, life? More lemons? Take them back. I've had enough."

Then my inner Madea said this:


Let's face facts: we don't want lemons in life. They are sour. On their own, they are not enjoyable. And sometimes, no matter what you do, there is no way that you can take those lemons and turn them into something good.
None of these are good options when receiving lemons...and I'm not sure how you start a fire with lemons.
Sometimes lemons are just lemons.

Instead of whining or complaining or trying to change those lemons into something better, we need to learn to accept that sometimes we just need to say, "Yep. These are lemons. They are my lemons. And eventually life is going to give me something other than lemons."

Not everything in life is great, but God is great. And He has great things planned for us. He tells that in his Word in Jeremiah 29:11.

Today, God taught me to accept the lemons. I said, "God, life has given me lemons again. I accept that. I cannot change the fact that they are lemons. I know that one day You're going to give me something truly great...but today is my day to get lemons. And that's OK."

Sometimes we work too hard to turn something bad into something good. But where is our faith if we feel that we must act to change those circumstances? God is faithful, and--if you're patient--God will give you the good stuff in His time. All we have to do is wait. (Granted, waiting is never fun or easy.) Making lemonade says that we don't have faith in God's provisions for our life. Sometimes God just wants us to hold the lemons until He's ready to give us something great.

So that's what I'm doing now: holding lemons. I'm not mad or bitter about it. It's just what God wants me to do right now...and who am I to complaining about that?

And if this doesn't convince you not to make lemonade with life's lemons, then maybe this last picture will:



Monday, July 22, 2013

The Weight Loss Results Are In!

It's been a long eight weeks since we started our friendly little weight loss challenge...and today was the final weigh-in!!!

I was really worried about the final weigh-in because we were out of town all weekend for my brother's wedding. And of course, being out of town means that eating good is so much harder.
Still can't believe my baby brother is old enough to be married. He'll always be a kid to me.
To make it even more challenging, Friday night's rehearsal dinner was catered by Dreamland. Now I can easily eat my weight in ribs... but I limited myself to only four. I savored every bite.

Watching "Friends"
The hotel where we stayed had a nice little gym, complete with a weight bench, two treadmills, and two ellipticals. The cardio equipment had TVs built in! They were awesome! The gym was also really hot--I'm talking like "It feels like this room isn't air conditioned" hot--and it made me sweat like it was going out of style! I did an hour the first night.

The day of the wedding, we ate breakfast at the hotel and had Arby's roast beef sandwiches for lunch. I knew the day was pretty much screwed at that point.

However, when I put my suit on, I could finally see the results of all my hard work. For the first time in years, I felt GREAT about the way that I looked.

And I'll humbly admit it: I made that suit look good. ;)
Man, I look good!
At the reception, we had Italian food, which was delicious. And I had a piece of both the wedding and groom's cake. (What can I say? When I fall off the bandwagon, I fall hard!)

Later that night, we were hanging out with my family at the hotel, and we all got hungry. Jackie and I went to get everyone some food. We'd decided on pizza, but after we drove into a questionable part of town, we realized that the Pizza Hut on the map was closed. Instead, we stopped at the world's smallest KFC and got the family meal.

At this point, my diet was going to Hell in a handbasket, so when we called it a night, I went back to the gym for another cardio session. Logged another 30 minutes.

Sunday morning, I woke up an hour early and went back and did 40 more minutes. I was hoping that it would help make up for all the bad eating the day before.

When we got home last night, I did another hour and 30 minutes.

This morning was the long-awaited final weigh-in. I got up an hour early, put on full sweats, and headed to the gym for a grueling two-hour cardio session. (This final workout had been my plan for weeks as a last chance effort to undo any wedding weekend damage.)  I did an hour on the elliptical and an hour on the treadmill. I burned more than 1,600 calories and was sweating like I was in the center of the sun. I was drenched by the time I left. Jackie was worried that I would pass out. "Don't kill yourself at the gym," she texted me while I was on the elliptical. "I'm not dead yet," I replied.

When I got home, I stepped up on the scale, and was shocked to see the final number:
Before and After
I had lost a whopping 34.8 pounds!!! I was so excited! I hadn't been in the 230s since before Jackie and I got married three years ago! I sent my picture of the scale to Jackie's cousin Beth, our official weight keeper, and anxiously awaited the final results. Would my numbers be enough for 2nd place? After weeks of being in 3rd, I really wanted to finish 2nd.

Hours later, Beth posted this on Facebook:

I had done it! 2nd place! The silver medal has never looked so good!

I couldn't have done it without the support of so many people: Jackie, my parents, Ryan Tallie, Chuck Fant, Keith & Ingrid Warren, and a lot of others.

I'm well on my way to my goal of being in the 200-215 range.

I know I can do it. I hope that my transformation also inspires others. If I can do it, so can you!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When You Feel Like the Fattest Person at the Gym

We've got just over a week left in our 8-week weight loss challenge, and things have been slowly progressing. Check out this before-and-after picture of my first weigh-in and last Monday's weigh-in.
Don't get me wrong. I know it is a huge accomplishment, and I'm really proud of myself.

But there are still days where I just feel like a big old blob of fat jiggling away while I'm on the elliptical. And to make matters worse, it seems like lately I've been timing my gym visits with all of the super-fit, chiseled, Greek god-like guys. Nothing makes you feel even fatter than being the fattest person at the gym.

It's depressing.

I see them in the mirrors lifting weights behind me, and I'm all like, "Don't mind me. I'm just huffing and puffing away over here, sweating like I'm sunbathing on the surface of the Sun. Nothing to see..."

I came across this meme on Pinterest the other day, and it totally sums up my feelings about this whole subject.
I know how you feel, Jim Gaffigan...
I know it's stupid to feel like this. Their years of hard work in the gym are precisely why they look the way they do. And I hope that one day my time in the gym will make me look good, too.

But it still irks me when I realize I'm the fattest person at the gym... and that motivates me even more to do something to change that.

If I can lose about six or seven more pounds, I'll be back to the weight I was when Jackie and I got married three years ago.

My ultimate goal is to get down to 200-215 pounds. 215 will get me out of the obese category on the BMI chart. I've told myself that I can do it by the end of the year, which should be a realistic goal.
Yep, I am clearly too short...
Thanks again to all of you who have supported and encouraged me on this journey. Your support keeps me going!

[Tangent beginning in 3...2...1...]

For those of you who are wondering how my dissertation is coming along, here's a little update for you: it's going slowly. I got feedback yesterday on the largest chapter I've written. I knew it would need some work, but my chair wants some major reorganization.

At first I freaked out and got really discouraged. Then I took a deep breath, and got to work on revisions based off of his suggestions.

And what do you know? The chapter is improving and will be much better! I feel really good about it! My chair's honest feedback was right on the money, and I'm thankful for it!

And, by the way, I've gotten hooked on Doctor Who this summer, which makes this picture all the more appropriate when thinking about my dissertation.
Finally, I have been able to enjoy some time to clear my mind from my dissertation and teaching work. I finally got to take Jackie to see Star Trek Into Darkness. She really liked it! My plan to convert her into a nerd worked! I love that she likes Star Trek and lets me indulge in my nerdiness. We also saw Despicable Me 2. Now I can't get this minion's sound out of my mind, and now all sirens should sound like this.
So that's about it. The summer class I'm teaching is going well, and we're also getting ready for my brother's wedding, which is a week from today! Needless to say, I'm as busy as ever--and thankfully, I'm lugging around a lot less weight while we're doing all of this stuff!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fighting Fatness...It's a "Disease," You Know.

Hi there, readers! Thanks for sticking around through the Great Blog Drought of 2013.

So as many of you may have heard, the AMA has classified obesity as a disease. While I'm not sure I completely agree with that, I do realize that there is certainly a genetic factor at play. (The Finkleas aren't known for being a skinny bunch...) I don't want to make an excuse for my weight by saying it is a disease...and, yes, I am obese. That's a hard word to write...to acknowledge...to accept. But just because I do not like the word does not make it any less true.

I. Am. Obese.

Is my weight the result of a disease? Yes, now please pass the Oreos. No. I am obese because of choices I made.

Should I have a 3rd helping of mac and cheese? Does a bear poop in the woods?
Do you want another piece of pie? You betcha!
Salad? Nah, I'm saving extra room for dessert!
I ate so much that I think I'm gonna pop! Oh, did you say you've got banana pudding? Why, yes, I've got room.

I think you're beginning to see my thought process. I have a love affair with food. I'm an emotional eater. I'm a hungry eater. I'm a I-don't-have-anything-else-to-do eater. I eat if I crave something crunchy. I eat if I crave something sweet. I love to eat.

And I packed on every fatty, jiggling, disgusting pound by eating some of the most delicious, decadent foods on the planet. I believe it was Kate Moss who said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." I really want to slap her across her sunken cheek and ask, "Have you ever had my mom's mac and cheese? I think you'd change your mind."

At my skinniest: 180 lbs. in 2004 or 2005
So here I sit, writing this blog to you, spilling my guts about my...well, gut. As many of you know, I was the fat kid in school. Then when I started college, I finally realized that I needed to make a change. During my freshman year at the University of Montevallo, I dropped 55 pounds while my classmates put on the "Freshman 15." It was the best I've ever felt in my whole entire life. I loved my body.

Unfortunately, my losses didn't last forever. I slowly put back on every single one of those 55 pounds...and a few extra. Then I got married and put on another 30.

I was in my mid-20s. I loved my life. I loved my wife. But I hated myself. I didn't recognize the fatty in the mirror. My shirt size went from being able to wear some mediums, to larges, to extra larges, to 2XL. My waist size jumped more than 10 inches. I trapped myself inside my own body...and I felt like I would never escape.

I prayed that God would miraculously make me skinny. (As Christians, we are supposed to treat our body like a temple of God. I apparently built a temple for Buddha...but at least no body tried to rub my belly.) I'd diet really good for a week...only to reward my efforts by pigging out. I'd think about going back to the gym. (Turns out it isn't "the thought that counts.") I was still fat...and getting fatter.

We tried Weight Watchers. We tried the 6 Week Body Makeover. We tried "Let's just control our portions." We tried Zumba. Nothing worked... at least, not for long.

And then about 5 weeks ago, we were talking with Jackie's cousin Beth (check out her ah-mazing blog, Unskinny Boppy!) and Uncle Jon about starting an 8-week weight loss challenge. (We chose 8 weeks because there were 8 weeks until my brother's wedding.) To motivate ourselves, we said, "Let's all chip in and give the winner a cash prize!" We added more family members and friends, and the winner's pot grew to quite a chunk of change.

Turns out that the motivation that I'd been lacking all these years was a big ol' stack of cash. I started eating better (back on Weight Watchers), lifting weights, and doing cardio like it's going out of style.

After a 50 minute cardio workout. 7.57 miles & 663 calories!!!
And the weight started coming off.

So far, I'm down 18 pounds. I'm back down to an XL shirt, and I've had to tighten my belt a notch. I've also lost 15 inches from all over my body.

Who knew that my competitiveness would jump start my weight loss?

I am on the road to recovery. Each pound that melts away makes me a little more free. I'm rebuilding my temple from the image of Buddha to the image of Christ. (Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" has become my mantra when I want to give up at the gym...which, let's be honest, is often.)

It has not been easy. Muscles have ached that haven't ached in years. There are days I don't think I can get out of bed because my body refuses to move. There are days that I want to simply give up.

But I push through the soreness, roll out of bed, and I refuse to give up!

Workout Before & After. And, yeah, my shirt says "Flossin' ain't just for gangstas"...which is true. Gotta keep that grill lookin' so fresh and so clean-clean.
I've been posting a lot of pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep folks updated on my progress. Every like or comment fuels my desire to get this weight off! My friend Ryan tells me and Jackie that we motivate him to run...which, in turn, motivates me to run. It's a good cycle to be in.

Folks that haven't seen me in several weeks have noticed a difference. (But I've also gotten a little sun this summer, so part of the change may be that I look a little more tan and not so much like a pale ghost...)

I like this transforming version of me. He's not only skinnier...he's happier. He will live a richer, more satisfying life. (He'll also live a life where he doesn't get winded walking up a flight of stairs or bending over to tie his shoes...both of which used to be sadly true.)

I can do this. I will get this weight off. I will (hopefully) win our weight loss challenge.

But it's not all about the money.

I want to transform my life...forever.

Yeah, the AMA may say obesity is a disease, but I think it is mostly a choice. It's a choice every time you open the fridge, go through the drive-thru, and sit down at the dinner table. People don't choose to get cancer, or MS, or lupus. Those are diseases. My obesity is not a disease. It is the result of my choices...which, up until a few weeks ago, were delicious sucked.

Thank you to all of my friends and family for your support on this journey. Your words of encouragement mean the world to me, and I couldn't do it without you.

And I have to give a special shout out to my wife. Jackie, you keep me focused and driven, and I am so thankful to have you not only as my wife, but my best friend and partner in life. We are doing this together, and I think that's why we're being successful. I am so proud of your successes, too!

Well, that's it for now. Gotta go to bed so that I can head to the gym in the morning!

Stay healthy, friends!