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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Well - I did it. I officially launched the first phase of a new idea that I've been working on for a few months now. Here it is. Tell me what you think! And if you're interested and live in the Chicago area, PLEASE sign up!

SWAP/MEET! New Clothes. New Friends. So Much Fun!

Hi Ladies!

Do you like socializing with new people? Are you in need of some smaller sizes? Tight on budget? Looking for a new exercise buddy? Just want to come hang out with some like-minded and goal-oriented people?

Welcome to SWAP/MEET! A monthly meet-up for Chicago area ladies (gentlemen, hang tight - I'm working on expanding this idea to include everyone very soon!) to exchange plus sized clothes, books, recipes, exercise, stories and friendship.

The goal of this program is to organize Swap/Meet parties for 8-10 ladies every month who want to meet new people, are in need of new plus-sized clothing, have inspirational stories to share or are just in need of a little kick in the butt to get moving again. No topic is off the table - these parties are catered to YOU!

Here's how it works:

- Ladies bring 5 gently used articles of clothing or accessories and a $5 administration fee to each Swap/Meet.
- After a short introduction of our party guests, and while enjoying some light snacks and beverages provided by the meet coordinator, the "shopping party" begins. Ladies will "shop" from the clothing and accessories racks, try on new sizes, dish about belts, hand bags and earrings, give each other honest opinions about what's hot and what's not, and pick out up to 5 items to take home!
- When the shopping has concluded, the socializing begins! Ladies will have an opportunity to meet other Swap/Meet members, talk about books, recipes, movies, exercise, significant others - whatever suits the group's fancy. Discussions and ideas will be gathered and moderated by the group coordinator to keep the conversation fun and flowing. Ladies should feel free to network, exchange contact information and start planning your next get-together with your new friends!
- Though the Swap/Meet will have a specific start & finish time, there's no telling when the party ends! New friends are encouraged to leave for a group walk, head out to a movie or maybe hit up some more stores for a full day of shopping. The coordinator will be available to help with suggestions or to assist in making acquaintances.

The Small Print:

- Not everyone who attends the party is guaranteed to take home 5 pieces of clothing or accessories. Every attempt will be made to provide an assortment of sizes and styles for the ladies attending the party, but due to inventory, personal taste and the difficulty with determining the exactness of women's clothing sizes, ladies should be prepared for the possibility of not finding anything to their liking or their personal fit preference.
- The $5 administration fee covers the cost of food and beverage as well as any rental fee involved in securing a space for the Swap/Meet. The $5 fee is required of everyone, regardless of whether or not you take home clothing or accessories.
- The 5 articles of clothing or accessories brought to the Swap/Meet by each member may or may not be part of the items available for the shopping party. Articles are inspected for damage, cleaned and added to the larger Swap/Meet inventory before appearing for "purchase" at an event.
- While the goal of Swap/Meet is to assist people in finding new clothing in differing sizes, the overall objective of Swap/Meet is the social aspect of meeting new people and making new friends. Members are asked to come prepared to socialize and have fun - the clothing is an added bonus.
- This is NOT a Spark-Only program. Please feel free to forward this information to ANYONE who might be interested in this program. Swap/Meets will not be limited to once monthly if there is enough interest to generate more meets. Think of it like a dating site for new clothes! The best efforts will be made to match people, clothing styles, lifestyles and needs by the coordinator. Anything can happen!
- Since this is a BRAND NEW program, please allow time for set-up and potential start-up hiccups. Thanks!

Ready to SWAP/MEET?

Interested ladies, please email Jenn Kincaid (your Swap/Meet Coordinator) at with the following information:
- age
- neighbourhood
- car/public transportation
- marital status
- kids?
- food allergies
- desired clothing size (be sure to indicate tall or petite if applicable)
- desired clothing style (business attire, casual, fitness, outerwear)
- description (size, style) of 5 articles for donation
- any other information Swap/Meet needs to know

Please allow time to receive adequate interest in these events and the organization of the first Swap/Meet. The goal is to schedule the first event in October or November. I'm sincerely looking forward to meeting all of you! Let's get this party started!

Questions? Please email Jenn Kincaid at

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    wow, that sounds like a really fun idea! Wish I still lived in the Chicago area :D FUN!!!

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SLFRISBEY 9/29/2011 2:17PM

    Awesome idea!!! I will send info if I ever get a free block of time! :)

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ALOFA0509 9/28/2011 6:53PM

GR8 idea!! can't wait to hear how this turned out for all those lucky Chicago ladies emoticon

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JMEPAYNE 9/28/2011 2:03PM

    sweet idea! will send an email once i've gotten a list of donate-able items.

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SWELL10 9/28/2011 10:29AM

    phenominal idea! Wish I lived in your area! emoticon

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DIASTER 9/28/2011 9:45AM

  What a wonderful idea! Would hope it will take off and be available across the country. Such a neat social as well as practical solution. Great job Jenn

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-POOKIE- 9/28/2011 8:49AM

    Sounds awesome... and blast not being in Chicago!

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LAURIETAIT 9/28/2011 12:34AM

    Great idea Jenn. What a great way to make new friends and give and receive support.

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WYND10 9/27/2011 9:50PM

    This is a fantastic idea!! :)

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HOPE2011 9/27/2011 9:45PM

    I think it's a terrific idea and I wish I lived in the Chicago area!!

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FTHOODBABY 9/27/2011 7:38PM

    Great idea!

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JENNIFER_67 9/27/2011 6:25PM

    Sounds like fun. Wish I lived near Chicago.

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    What a fun idea. Good luck with it and I'm looking forward to hearing how it goes.

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HUGS2013 9/27/2011 2:52PM

    Sounds like a good idea! I hope it works out for you! Let us know how it goes, fingers crossed! emoticon

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KT-NICHOLS-13 9/27/2011 2:44PM

    A great idea. I'm looking forward to hearing how things progress in Chicago.

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ROXELLS_WARRIOR 9/27/2011 2:43PM

    I love the idea and wish you success! Unfortunately, Wyoming is a bit far for me to participate :)

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SLEEPTALKS 9/27/2011 2:43PM

  Such a fantastic idea! Chicago seems like a good place to be right now :)


Comment edited on: 9/27/2011 2:44:30 PM

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Kenya 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I finally finished editing my Kenya photos. These are mine only and not the compilation album yet of my brother and cousins as well. Hoping to narrow down all our pics together into one MASTER ALBUM of the trip - so stay tuned for more!

For those of you receiving error messages, I checked it out - Spark is adding an extra http// into the address in some cases so if it's not working, copy and paste the link directly into your browser. That should do it!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NANASAMM 10/6/2011 11:55PM

    Very cool pics! I can't wait to see Tanzania. Zebra butts ARE cool...I've ALWAYS loved Giraffes...I'm a fan of sunsets and lone trees too...and baby hippos and lion cubs are just the cutest. Ohhh and the herd of elephants and cheetahs. Lucky is all I can say! Thanks for sharing.

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35ANGELS 9/29/2011 12:22PM

    Awesome Pics....can't wait to see more. emoticon

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ON2VICTORY 9/27/2011 4:14PM

I was getting goth http and https

this will get you where you want to go.... AWESOME!! love the pics. that is truly an adventure.

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KT-NICHOLS-13 9/27/2011 2:46PM

    Firefox won't open the link but Internet Explorer will. Thanks for posting.

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ALOFA0509 9/27/2011 4:09AM

Breath Taking!!!!! awsum pix, Thnx for sharing emoticon

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JMEPAYNE 9/26/2011 11:13AM

    So amazing! the zebra butts are great lol

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MOCOHOLO 9/25/2011 10:07PM

    Gorgeous photos!! Thanks so much for sharing. I loved the giraffes and the zebras. And the sunsets, and the solo tree shots, and just everything!

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35ANGELS 9/25/2011 12:40PM

    I received an error also. Wonder why some of us can view them and others not. Oh well, I can't wait to see them, and I'm sure they are just amazing.

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VIMVIGOR 9/25/2011 12:58AM

Awesome pictures, it must have been the trip of a lifetime. When are you going back?? Thanks for sharing, I'm green with envy.

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JANIEWWJD 9/24/2011 11:58PM

    Sorry, but I couldn't view your pictures. It kept giving me an error message. Don't know what happened.

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SLFRISBEY 9/24/2011 2:24PM

    awww, I got that error too. I will check again later :)

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JEREMY723 9/24/2011 6:59AM

    I'm sure they're great! I've tried the link several times and get an error or "Sorry, page not found" from the site:(

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LAURIETAIT 9/24/2011 2:35AM

    Amazing pictures! Thanks sooooo much for sharing.

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The Things I Can Do

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It hasn't been easy - getting "back on the wagon" after vacation. And in the middle of a plateau, no less. But if anything is going to jar me out of this feeling of being stuck, it's up to me to figure out what that is and DO IT.

Despite having a couple of bad food weekends, and the ever present siren-song of the pumpkin scones that call me ALL DAY from the Starbuck's down the street, I have managed some really good and positive behaviours over the past couple of weeks that I think deserve some attention as well.

When things are crappy and my food intake is a little out of control, one thing that I can ALWAYS manage to do is drink my 8 glasses (or more) of water a day. It's a relatively easy and small task to complete - especially since it involves more consumption and not less - and it makes a huge difference in satiety levels and overall heath and well-being. Even if it means chugging 4 glasses of water right before bed, knowing that I'll be up at 2am trodding to the bathroom, I do it. Because I can. And all the little things that I CAN do add up.

Last week sucked for exercise. Despite my best efforts to resume my schedule of running and swimming and zumba, I ended up skipping 2 running days, only swam for 30 minutes out of an hour and then missed my long-run Sunday because of an impromptu trip to Iowa. And I realize that most of my reason for shorting myself on exercise had to do with spending time with my boy. NEED to get that in check. Because ultimately, spending time with him is detracting from spending time on me. And one of my reasons for wanting to spend so much time on me is maintaining a hot bod for him. So I'm not helping either of us by skipping out on my runs. Not to mention that I'm SUPPOSED to be training right now for my 15K in November. So yeah - I had a bad week, but it only made me miss it that much more. Which is an exciting revelation when I really think about it. Even though Mondays are typically an off-day for me for exercise, because I didn't get my run in on Sunday I KNEW I had to go home from work and run - not just because I needed to get a training run in, but because I felt the urge to get out there and pound the pavement. I raced home and threw on my running clothes before I could think twice about it. Even though I was in my usual state of work daze and exhaustion from the day, which usually lands me on the couch with dinner and the new Fall TV lineup, I headed out into the already crisp, cool night just as it was getting dark, and I RAN. And I felt like I was flying. So I opted to do an extra lap around the park. Because I could. 6.5 miles later I was literally grinning I was so happy with myself - and I felt SO good. 4 miles last week was HARD. And I had just knocked out an additional 2.5 miles after a week of nothing. So what has this taught me? Not only that my body is AMAZING, but never, ever to doubt my abilities. I can do whatever I put my mind to - and when I really, truly want it, I work that much harder for it. So if I'm having a bad week, I just have to remember to WANT it, and to hang on to that Spark. It's a small thing that I CAN do - but it makes a huge difference in my spirit and hopefully (eventually) the outcome on the scale.

Food has been a problem since my return. 3 weeks away had ballooned my stomach again and I got used to eating a lot more, whenever I wanted and indulging in sweet treats because "I was on vacation". Even when you adopt the 80/20 rule for healthy eating when you're away, that 20% becomes a bit of a bear to tackle when it's time to get back to 100% effort. And to be honest, while I was away, it was more like 50/50. But one thing that I have going for me is that I DO love food. And that makes it easy for me at home because I want to get back to trying new things, cooking, tasting, and enjoying all of it. I know from experience that when I am unprepared, I don't eat very well. So I went out last week and got good food. I bought a ton of fruit, and healthy pasta and chicken sausages. Veggies for my lunches, and a whole case of yogurt. Last night I made the most delicious 5 Cheese Tortelloni & Chicken Sausage with a homemade tomato & pesto sauce (recipe is posted in Spark Recipes if you're interested). It was the most delicious thing EVER after my long run, and it made a full 6 servings, so I'm set for lunches for the rest of the week. Tonight I'm looking forward to going home and spending some time in the kitchen baking some herb & cheddar biscuits and a sweet treat of some cheesecake (Nikhil's favorite). It may sound indulgent, but I know that if I make it, I can make it healthier than buying it - and perhaps it will help to quell some of the treat cravings that I've had for far "calorically-pricier" items this past week. This is something that I can do. I don't always have the time available to me to cook every night - but by prepping things when I DO have a night off, sets me up for healthier choices for the rest of the week and gives me more options. It's a small thing that I CAN do, but it's a huge step in the right direction - and darn if it doesn't taste GREAT!

Regardless of what the scale says on Friday morning - I'm finding my way back and fighting hard to keep moving forward. All of the things I CAN do add up. And look at where I am! The number of things that I CAN do now that I couldn't do before is astounding. I'm looking forward to adding more CAN DOs to the list soon. Including running a 15K, losing another 10 pounds, fitting into a size medium and then small.

The thing is - I already know that I CAN do all of these things. It's only a matter of time until I prove it!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SHELLYBABE2 9/23/2011 7:41AM

    TFS another great blog - so nice to know that the roller coast ride of healthy eating/living affects everyone!

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JANIEWWJD 9/22/2011 7:57PM


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WYND10 9/22/2011 6:53PM

    You can because you have and you have because you can. :D


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JIBBIE49 9/22/2011 6:31PM


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RIVER331 9/22/2011 3:24PM

    What a great blog! Congratulations on keeping your perspective and even treating yourself a little better than usual with the baking! It's perfect for where you are right now. emoticon

It's funny, I was just at the gym doing my runner training (C25K rookie runner), and along with all the other thoughts going through my mind was, "What's going to happen when this initial enthusiasm eventually wears down? Will I still be strong?"... of course I answered myself "Yes!" because like FREETHEGODDESS, I'm training my brain as well as my body - but when I read what you wrote here "So if I'm having a bad week, I just have to remember to WANT it, and to hang on to that Spark." it settled something in my chest. I CAN do this. I WILL do this.

Thank You emoticon emoticon I'm subscribing to your blog emoticon

Comment edited on: 9/24/2011 11:20:43 AM

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ALOFA0509 9/22/2011 1:50PM

You are such a rock star!!!!! Keep it up sista emoticon

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BOOKWORM27S 9/22/2011 11:39AM

Every day is a new day, and an opportunity to get back on track!

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    I can totally relate to the occasional negative thought creeping back in. I hate when I miss my exercise now. I don't enjoy exercise yet (except for my Zumba class) but, I do like the "high" I get afterward from the satisfaction of actually doing it instead of sitting around.

Why is it that when I miss several days of exercise I start thinking that I can't do the exercise anymore. Everytime I get on the treadmill to walk 5K I have to fight negative thoughts that I may not be able to do it. I know I CAN do it because I have done it 6 times now but, there is always that little battle in my head between the old negative thoughts and the new healthy, positive thoughts.

I will be happy when I have trained my brain to drown out that negative voice all together.

Glad you are back stronger than have a great attitude and much inspire me. Thanks for sharing!
emoticon emoticon

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JENNSWIMS 9/21/2011 10:26AM

    I'm sorry you're struggling to get back on track, but I have to tell you that it is reassuring too!

You've been so successful (and you are 1 of my 2 weight loss goddesses, you and 4A-Healthy-BMI) and you have really embraced the "this is a long haul, progress not perfection" idea that I try so desperately to do!

I guess what I'm saying is that if you can be super successful like you without demanding perfection every second of every day, it gives me hope.

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VIMVIGOR 9/21/2011 1:40AM

  emoticon emoticon emoticon

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FTHOODBABY 9/20/2011 7:42PM


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MOMASAURUS 9/20/2011 4:03PM

    LOVE it!

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KKINNEA 9/20/2011 3:48PM

    You've got it! I also sometimes fall back on getting at least water in - it's a small thing we can all do!

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CAALAN23 9/20/2011 2:52PM

    That's a strong inpirational spirit talking!


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LAURIETAIT 9/20/2011 2:07PM

    I'm struggling with the same issues as you. I've been eating really badly. You're right it's all about being prepared. When I have good food choices I will make them. Being prepared is certainly something I can do! My exercise has been sporadic and not too intense lately. I need to step it up a notch. Thanks for your blog. I know the route I need to take but your insight helped to push the map up in my face. Have a great week.

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LOTUSFLOWER 9/20/2011 2:06PM

    I am really proud of you. The fact that you didn't even gain on vacation is great. I think that time away, and having such an amazing trip, would make it hard for anyone to get back into the game, but you are BACK and you actually DID workout that first week back, no matter that you skipped a few. And look at you, running 6.5 this week!!!! I think the most important thing I've taken away from this blog is the part about not limiting yourself and also getting back on the wagon. You just are amazing!!

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JENJESS48 9/20/2011 1:20PM

    Yup, you're through the worst of it now. :) I need to heed your advice about focusing on what I can do and what I am doing right. And you're right - I am doing a lot of the things I can. That's just going to have to be good enough for a while. :)

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LMLOPEZ 9/20/2011 12:25PM

    Woo Hoo! And I will have to check out your recipe. Good job on the run-I am debating 5K or 15K? Still contemplating.
Isn't it amazing what our bodies can do??

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-POOKIE- 9/20/2011 12:22PM

    *smiles* a much more upbeat blog!

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MOCOHOLO 9/20/2011 12:03PM

    You can do it!!! Great blog!

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The Great Boredom Rift

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So it was only a matter of time, right? Vacation euphoria has passed and left in its wake a serious time-off hangover, the all-too-familiar "I don't get another vacation for at least a year" depression and capital B, BOREDOM.

Sure, I have a ton of stuff to do. Everyone is bugging me for my photos, I have life (and laundry) to catch up on that I've been putting off for 3 weeks, I need to get back into my exercise routine, grocery shopping, healthy cooking...but I've been hit by a serious case of the "I Don-Wannas". I think that was even my issue with writing my blog yesterday - for some reason just looking at the pictures of my fabulous trip makes me sad. And don't even get me started on work...

I know I need a game plan to get over this feeling and back in the game. So I've been thinking about what I need to do this week to jump start Fall in the right direction. I'm still sitting at this miserable plateau. I was ecstatic to see that I hadn't gained a pound upon coming back from 3 weeks away, but now I'm beginning to realize that it's most likely because the scale just isn't moving in EITHER direction. And my goal is to be down another 25 pounds by Christmas. This is going to be tricky!

I received a wonderfully sweet reception from my honey when I got home. He missed me as much as I missed him, so we've just had a lovely weekend catching up and celebrating being together again (by eating and drinking way too much).

I'm STUCK. And it sucks. Life for the past few days has felt painfully slow. All I want to do at work is eat because I'm so bored. Most people would rejoice at the fact that it only took a day and a half to catch up on 3 weeks of missed work, but for me, that's almost torture. We're gearing up to our busiest season and I'm not at all excited about it. In fact, I want out more than ever. Come to think of it, I'm not exactly excited about anything. Boo!

I am excited about my boy, but I can lose precious hours being wrapped up in him. I don't get anything done when we're together and since I derive most of my own personal pleasure from my own accomplishments, vacation aside, I haven't had many of those lately. I need my Spark back!

So here's what I'm thinking to get me back on my feet. Here's hoping it makes me feel a little bit better about the state of current affairs in my life:

1. Resume my activity schedule asap. I'm training for a 15K in November, so running NEEDS to happen and not just on weekends. 1-2 runs during the week in the mornings or evenings and a long run on Sundays. Zumba on Saturday mornings. Swimming on Wednesday nights. Monday and Friday can still be reserved for light activity or days off. As much as I would like to continue biking to work - my schedule is packed, so unless I can conceivably run and bike, or swim and bike on the same day, I might have to be ok with taking the bus to work again.

2. Weekends off food tracking. Since Nikhil and I spend most of our time together on weekends, it's been very difficult to track food when he cooks or when we go out. I can't give up my time with him so I can count everything like a mad woman. Something's gotta give. So I'm going to TRY weekends off counting and see what happens. It terrifies me to leave the tracker behind for even a day. But I proved on vacation that I can be responsible (even though I don't really think I was and I think my weight results had more to do with extra walking/being sick/carrying a heavy pack/plateau than they did with me being careful about what went in my mouth) so I'm going to use the same rules for the weekends. Drinks are going to happen. Food is going to be more plentiful. But as long as I'm really good Mon-Fri, I should be allowed a tracker-free weekend as long as I'm exercising both days to compensate. We'll see.

3. Bust out the crockpot! The season is upon us. No reason I can't have healthy meals at home that take approximately 10 minutes to make and provide healthy lunches for the whole week. Don't slack on grocery shopping. I need to get and keep the ingredients I need on hand and make time to prep and cook on a regular basis.

4. Retain vital "me-time". Just because he's available to get together, doesn't mean I am. I need to figure out just how much time I need for me and stick to it. And not feel guilty about it.

I think this last one is still the most important one for me. Having a boyfriend has been a great thing. But it's something I wasn't exactly planning on or factoring into "the plan" and as such has thrown me for a bit of a loop in my personal scheduling. It's not easy going from having every second that you're not at work or with friends to yourself, to all of a sudden scheduling around another person and trying to make things work for two people instead of just one. It's been an eye-opener for me, learning just how selfish I have made this journey for myself and realizing how difficult it has become for me by adding another person to the mix. No one was supposed to love me until I was a size 6! Haha! I didn't plan on finding someone so wonderful until I hit goal. The fact that I have found a partner but still have a lot of work to do is a bit more complicated than I expected it would be - but this is life. And I need to be prepared to live it no matter where I am on this road. But I will say - I can't believe that I'm HAPPY about Nikhil having double classes this semester for his MBA since I know that it's going to cut into our time together - however, I feel more like it's a blessing in disguise and I'm looking forward to having that extra time to myself. And I know deep down, that doesn't make me a bad person, it just makes me a healthy person.

The more weight I lose, the more space I take up. My ME is getting to be quite a large person. But I like her. She's broad, and bold and requires a lot of time and attention, but she is beautiful and talented and deserves every second that I am able to give her. The larger she becomes, the more respect she demands from other people as well. And frankly, it's about time.

And right now, that big, beautiful ME that I've created is bored. But that can only mean wonderful things for my future, because when she's bored, she dreams up fantastic things to do. It's only a matter of time, but I will settle on something great. It isn't the best feeling right now, but I think I'm still headed in the right direction. So...back to those personal accomplishments. Back to my Spark. And lunch. Because right now, I am ACTUALLY hungry, not just bored.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PAPER_WINGS18 9/19/2011 12:13PM

    You'll geet your spark back- no worries! We all have ups and downs on this journey, and sometimes we just need a litle mental break. You can do it! You've had some pretty stellar achievments, lady!

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JENJESS48 9/14/2011 12:37PM

    Ah, yes, the post-vacation doldrums. Bah! Your plan should banish them, though. emoticon

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-POOKIE- 9/14/2011 8:58AM


I love planning, and your plans sound good, plan plan and plan! Chase the boredom away.

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JENNSWIMS 9/13/2011 10:49PM

    I love hearing about how you are learning to put yourself first in so many ways, it is awesome!

If it makes you feel any better, I was so depressed the week after we got back from our cruise that I wanted to sell the house, cash the 401k and move to an island and eat coconuts for the rest of my life. Good thing I remembered that coconuts, in overly large quantities, cause diarrhea.

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LAURIETAIT 9/13/2011 8:19PM

    I was suffering from post-vacation depression too. I guess it's inevitable.
It looks like big, beautiful you has a good plan to overcome it. Can't wait to hear how it goes.





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MIQUEY73 9/13/2011 8:08PM


Sorry you're feeling bummed about post- vacation. I'm a little jealous though because you're bored already. I would love to have some boredom time at work, instead of a constant marathon. emoticon

Looking forward to what you come up with to fill that boredom!

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REDHEADMOM2U 9/13/2011 7:47PM

    Boredom is just a'll get through it!

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FTHOODBABY 9/13/2011 5:40PM


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LMLOPEZ 9/13/2011 5:20PM

    Kath, when reality hits us after such a wonderful experience it can be hard to get back in the swing. Sounds like your plan is a good one (my crockpot is working OVERTIME these last three weeks) and you are blessed with someone who cares for you to help you with your journey. You can do this and be successful!! Train for the 15K (I may join you-don't know yet which distance I want) and do what you can!!
Welcome back!

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AUTUMNPOTTER 9/13/2011 5:14PM

    Oh I hear you girl I wasn't supposed to find someone until I was at my goal weight. For years I had no one even giving me a second glance, I started on my weight loss journey, and after 15 pounds down, found someone. Well this throws off my whole plan. Dinner at his place, Godchildren's birthday parties, plans for the Renaissance faire this is messing me up. I joke with him that he got in on the ground floor, once I drop the weight he will have a smokin hot girlfriend. He says I'm hot now. I think he needs glasses.

Comment edited on: 9/13/2011 5:15:33 PM

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KT-NICHOLS-13 9/13/2011 4:26PM

    Reflections. Realizations. Revive. Without fail, you'll find your footing and get back to those personal accomplishments.

Comment edited on: 9/13/2011 4:58:34 PM

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BUTTERCUPP77 9/13/2011 3:42PM

    I had the same malaise when I got back from 2.5 months in New Zealand. I went into the worst downward spiral I've ever experienced. (I probably should have been on medication). It kept getting worse for several months, but then it started to get better once I acknowledged what I was mourning.

In my case, I had no idea (and still don't) when I would be able to return. That was hard to accept. It was also hard because I got so attached to people in the village where I was staying. And someone that I was very close to passed away within a couple of months of my return to Canada. Furthermore, it seems that my friends from the area are not so great at keeping in touch, so I ended up feeling very isolated from such an important period in my life.

It's still hard- but absolutely worth it. I would go through all of it again in a heartbeat. And at least I know where my next major vacation will be!

I know that you'll be able to find your way through this. I'll be thinking of you.

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WYND10 9/13/2011 3:32PM

    Boy oh boy do I hear you on this: "It's not easy going from having every second that you're not at work or with friends to yourself, to all of a sudden scheduling around another person and trying to make things work for two people instead of just one. It's been an eye-opener for me, learning just how selfish I have made this journey for myself and realizing how difficult it has become for me by adding another person to the mix. " And honestly, it seem your are handling it way better than I have been. I went so far off the track I had have the scare of my wedding dress not fitting me to scare me back on the wagon as it were, so kudos to you lady. I've said it before and I will say it again, you're amazing.

Good luck finding a solution to your boredom, I have a feeling you're just going to keep right on surprising yourself.

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LOTUSFLOWER 9/13/2011 3:32PM

    You have a great plan, you can do this.

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KAKAKALI4 9/13/2011 3:05PM

    Good to put it all down on paper and make a plan! You can do it ... you will do it and it seems like you are setting yourself up for success not matter what!

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The Africa Blog

Monday, September 12, 2011

I know you're all expecting an epic travelog - and I seriously don't want to disappoint, but one of the main reasons I have been so silent since coming back from vacation, is, well...I'm SPEECHLESS.

There is no beauty like Africa. Vast plains, gorgeous sunsets, wild animals, beautiful people. I loved every second of my trip and am starting to wonder already when I might go back again.

I am still working on editing approximately 2000 photos of my trip. So what I will do for those of you who want the entire travel-blog is post a link to my albums that I am painstakingly going through, editing and narrating as I go. There are videos there as well, so it's an all-encompassing look at my vacation from start to finish - "African Sickness" included.

From a Spark perspective, I don't feel like I would have been able to do this trip, nor would I have enjoyed it half as much 120 pounds heavier. In fact, I don't know that I would have even had the courage to book a vacation like this. For 12 days we camped through the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, the Ngorogoro Crater, the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara, the foothills of Kilimanjaro in Moshi and all the red dirt roads and acacia laden plains in between. I successfully used a squat toilet for the first time in my life (and even managed not to pee on myself - which is a substantial feat in my books). I ate the local food and drank the local beer and enjoyed every ounce of it (except maybe the banana beer which is more like fermented banana juice mixed with plain oatmeal). I saw a herd of over 100 elephants on our first night in the Mara and cried at the shear beauty of it all. I saw lions mating (lots of lions mating, and elephants, and wildebeast, and zebra, and's all about the circle of life kids!), and leopards eating their prey. I heard exotic bird calls, and hyenas laughing (some right outside my tent at 2am, which is the one night I didn't sleep very well - can you blame me?) - the likes of which my ears have never heard before. I met local tribes people, and made new friends in the small village of Mtu Wa Mbu where we visited a kindergarten classroom and fed the kids trail mix for their morning treat. I noticed a small boy crying and as his sister ran to comfort him I noticed that he was wearing a torn sweater from my Alma-matter in Toronto - one of the most touching and striking images of my entire trip. I schlepped a 15kg pack all over East Africa and was amazed that my feet didn't hurt once. We helped load and unload the safari jeep at every stop - but honestly, we were spoiled by our guides so much that I didn't have to carry or heft as much as I expected. I learned a few words in Swahili and am now convinced that I want to learn the language and go back to speak it. Even though my brother and I got terribly sick for 2 days at the end of the trip - I'm forgiving. It was all part of the experience and it was the price we paid for probably being a little more adventurous than we should have been in the food/water department. Who knows. But even a trip to an African hospital was an adventure and something we will talk about for years to come.

I had some amazing bonding time with my brother and my cousins. And I no longer feel like an outsider in that group. For years I have felt "less than" when it comes to my family. Because of my lack of physical fitness, I couldn't keep up and therefore didn't feel like I was one of the gang. But this trip proved all of that wrong. Not only did I fit in, I matched the fitness level of the rest of my crew. I didn't hold anyone back. I didn't need help getting around. I was part of the team - and nothing can describe the relief and happiness I felt because of it. The only question now is "where to next?"

Overlooking the Masai Mara.

The Hippo Pool on the Mara River

A visit to the local Masai village - the kids were hungry for trail mix.

Clothing from home - this little one has on a sweatshirt from York University (my Alma-matter!)

My brother and I at the top of a Pride Rock overlooking the Serengeti.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYATLANTA2010 10/27/2011 7:27AM


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TEENY_BIKINI 10/26/2011 10:04PM

    Absolutely amazing. The trip of a lifetime.

Yay you!!


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SBHPATRICK 9/20/2011 7:45PM

    Oh, how wonderful! You have articulated all of my feelings from a few years ago. I went to Tanzania with my mom in 2003, 100 pounds lighter than I'd been just two years prior. I could not imagine doing that trip with that extra weight, much less loving every minute of it as I did. I'm so glad you had an amazing trip and look forward to more of your photos!

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KA_JUN 9/14/2011 10:33PM

    Awesome! Moshi is truly beautiful!

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GIANTPANDA 9/14/2011 8:00PM

    It sounds like an awesome trip. I can't wait for your photos. All these years I have had a limited edition print of the Serengeti on my wall and that definitely should be one of my rewards for getting down to my goal weight. I love the idea of a place so profoundly beautiful that it leaves a person speechless.

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FINALLYBEINGME 9/14/2011 10:25AM

    Wow, this sounds stunning! GReat blog.

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KRAWRS 9/14/2011 9:53AM

    You are AMAZING! It looks like a truly incredible trip. I forgot/didn't know you were going! Was this a "just because" trip, or a missionary trip, or etc.?

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JANIEWWJD 9/14/2011 12:06AM

    Wow, that was amazing. I sounds like you had a wonderful time.

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MILLIE5522 9/13/2011 3:18PM

    Thank you for sharing your trip....sounds amazing! emoticon

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FYREDRAGYN 9/13/2011 3:06PM

    Wow, what an amazing trip. I am so glad you are back though. I have missed your blog. It is amazing the pull Africa has for people, all the people I've known who go always want to go back. emoticon

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MOMASAURUS 9/13/2011 1:11PM


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VIMVIGOR 9/13/2011 12:42PM

Fantastic trip, fantastic pictures, fantastic you!!! Way to go girl. Thanks for sharing. emoticon
P.S. Can I go with you next time???? Pretty please.

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JENJESS48 9/13/2011 11:55AM

    What an amazing trip! I'm so glad you enjoyed it as much as you did - and were so fit that the whole adventure was physically easy. Woo hoo! Good for you!

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SLFRISBEY 9/13/2011 9:08AM

    Amazing! I am so happy you got to go on this trip and a little jealous still :) Can't wait to see more!

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-POOKIE- 9/13/2011 9:06AM


you should be proud of yourself for changing yourself for the healthier so you could do something as amazing as this.

Im so glad you had a wonderful time.

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JENNIFER_67 9/13/2011 8:59AM

    emoticon This is my dream trip. It's still a few years out for me. (Have to finish paying for my kids' education.) But I will be going someday. I can't wait to see the rest of your pictures.

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STFRENCH 9/13/2011 7:25AM


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    Wow...what an amazing trip! I want to go to Africa so bad.

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CHARLENERAE12 9/12/2011 10:27PM

    It's been a while, and all I can say is HOLEY SHEET LADY YOU LOOK AMAZING! What an amazing trip, and what an amazing transformation you have made.

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WYND10 9/12/2011 10:14PM

    Wow, your trip sounds amazing! I can't wait to see the rest of the pictures. And that first picture of you is breath taking, and not just because of the vista behind you. You look gorgeous!

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TETICH 9/12/2011 10:04PM

    It sounds like you had fun and I am so pleased for you, getting sick and all, lol.

And I'm sure everyone there told you how welcome you would be if you went back again. Karibu tena!:) emoticon

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LOTUSFLOWER 9/12/2011 9:44PM

    I am so glad you had such an amazing experience, and you are such an inspiration,doing things you wouldn't have done previously, and having the energy to keep up with all of the trekking, camping, you are just super woman!!!! I love the pictures,they are so great. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!!! I sure did miss you while you were gone, girl.

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MIQUEY73 9/12/2011 9:11PM

    Your trip sounds AMAZING! So glad you enjoyed it!

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CHEEKY1000 9/12/2011 8:53PM!! If I ever have the money to do my trip of a lifetime (well, frankly it'll be to Scotland for a couple months), but if money weren't an issue, I'd love to do a safari as well.

I love that you can see the...uh...gastrointestinal mishap as an experience. LMAO!! Hey, it may have helped you lose any weight you might have gained. lol

I think it's great that you also got to bond on equal footing with your brother and cousins. To quote Mastercard: Priceless!

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LAURIETAIT 9/12/2011 8:43PM

    What a great trip! I look forward to seeing all the pictures.

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HOPE2011 9/12/2011 8:37PM

    So cool! Thanks for sharing - I look forward to seeing more!

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JENNSWIMS 9/12/2011 8:35PM


I so want to do a trip like yours... if you booked through a tour company would you mind giving me the details?

Anywho, it sounds like the trip of a lifetime, and how fantastic is it that you were able to enjoy it fully because you have been taking such good care of yourself? It's like a giant reward to you, for taking care of you!

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KT-NICHOLS-13 9/12/2011 8:25PM

    Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful experience and memories that will last you a lifetime. I'm looking forward to seeing more of your photos.

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MOCOHOLO 9/12/2011 8:13PM

    I'm so glad you had such a great experience and can't wait to check out your pics!

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JEREMY723 9/12/2011 8:10PM

    What memories to last a lifetime!

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FTHOODBABY 9/12/2011 8:08PM

    Awesome! Sounds like a great trip.

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