The mantra for the year after dan:

Acheivable Goals.

I spelled it wrong in my notebook but I am going with it anyways.

Still, when I sat down at the hipster-biker-coffee-shop around the corner, or as they like to call it, a “general store,” those were the first two words I wrote down. Like the AMDG I had to scribble on the corners of my homework in highschool, Acheivable Goals will be the words that define my purpose this year.

Let’s put it another way. About two years ago I vacationed with my family in the Adirondacks. We stayed at a friend’s cabin on a lake for a long weekend in July. Absolutely beautiful out there. Well a couple days in, we decided to go for a hike. The friend had recommended a path to a overlook called Castle Rock. 700 feet elevation, a small peak that overlooks Blue Mountain Lake, about 3.5 miles there and back. The trail is a typical nature path: a gradual incline, the occasional rock or root, but during the last quarter mile there is a very steep section leading to the southern face of the peak. At the peak, you climb up a series large boulders, and roots to get to the overlook.

In the weeks before this trip, I had a bad cold. It turned worse when I took a dose of DayQuil that sent me to the Urgent Care with a full-body allergic reaction. A Z-pack, some coughing pearls, and a few boxes of antihistamines put my body to work. I still was wheezing at night and fighting through the end of a cough when we left for the trip.

So about two thirds the way up Castle Rock, I was glowing red like a lawn ornament on Christmas Eve. I could barely lift my feet, light-headed, wheezing, coughing. And I was frustrated, so I yelled at my family for dragging me up this hill. I wanted to turn back, but we were so close to the top that they just kept encouraging me to go on. My dad hung back with me and took stops for me to catch my breath. 15 minutes and maybe just 100 feet higher, my dad began to realize that I shouldn’t be doing this. But by this point we both wanted it. So I climb, and he encouraged, and we made it to the top. And between moments of blurred vision, I looked out and saw what really was the best view of the entire vacation. A few photos, and a very patient, slow decline back to the car, and it was over.


What I found at the top of Castle Rock was the a very frightening outlook. Mortality. I knew my health was bad, I knew my physical abilities were limited, but when you can feel sharp pains in lungs as you are just trying to breath, it changes everything. 2 days later, back in Urgent Care, I got an acute bronchitis diagnosis and an inhaler. 2 years later I am still trying to change. I don’t know how many times I could climb up Castle Rock again, hopefully quicker without bronchitis. I did it once on the support of my family, but I know I want to be the person that can climb Castle Rock anytime. To get there, however, I need acheivable goals. Build on what I can do, every day, little by little. Try new things, try things differently, push myself, ask for help when I need it, and never turn back.

So back to the general store. I stat down on this cute little pipe refurbished wood desk thing with my Moroccan Mint Tea and a fresh green moleskin and I started making lists. I love lists. So here is what I got:

Career Development
Volunteer/Organizational Activities
Writing/ Publishing
Weight Management
Personal Finances
Anxiety coping
Social Networking
Diet – eating out vs cooking, salads, packed lunches
Water consumption vs soda vs coffee
Stress management
Adult tasks Taxes
Camp? lol


Then I started drawing arrows all around, trying to connect the list, understand it a bit. Some things will effect others like a chain reaction, others are caused by a deeper issue, still others aren’t really goals as much as just fun things I want to do. By the end of it I was a bit overwhelmed. It is a lot, too much. But I already had a idea in mind to help with this. Borrowed from yet another book I haven’t quite finished, The Happiness Project.

Monthly Acheivable Goals

yes, I am keeping to the misspelling. deal with it.

12 months, just a couple goals in each. Some will build over the course of a few months, others will be introduced and hopefully stick around. And for each goal I achieve, a reward.


  1. Cooking + Diet + Drinking
  2. Health/Hygiene
  3. Sleep/Exercise


  • Fancy Meal Out
  • New glasses!
  • Bulls Game!


  1. Personal Finances
  2. Reading
  3. The Gym!


  • Visit St. Louis

Anyways. There is a full list in my book, subject to edits as I add or alter goals and rewards. I think you get the idea.


So, January.

Let’s start with the hardest one…

Cooking + Diet + Drinking




I love Coke. Like love love Coke. Like listed in my OKC desert island top five, can’t live without: First Sip of a Ice Cold Coke. Ahhhh.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 2.03.41 PM

Like includes coca cola ads in half my spotify playlists.

Like hears songs about coco and thinks about cocoa cola.

I love Coke so much that after I made this list (where I realized I hadn’t had coke in the new year or since like December 29.) I remembered I bought a coke on new years day that was waiting in the fridge, another at the move theater, and a third for dinner last night. 3 cokes in 3 days. And that is fairly accurate. About a soda a day or so.
*gulp* Please spare me your judgements.

And Coke is bad for you. Like really bad. Bad like – I did an extra credit project in middle school where I witnessed Coke actually erode my tooth in the matter of a couple weeks – bad. Bad like – what food group do I put caramel color, phosphoric acid, and high fructose corn syrup into? – bad.

Bad, So I’m giving it up. Ugh.

Other things I love, Starbucks Peppermint Mochas, coffee with cream, chai tea lattes, really any latte, egg nog, and tea.

So my first goal for the new year is simple. Instead of focusing on all the things I love that I can’t drink, I’m going to just drink water. 2.2 liters a day, the daily recommended amount to stay hydrated. I’m removing all processed beverages from my diet, meaning cokes, sodas, sugary drinks, gatorades, mochas, lattes, all of it. I’m allowed ONE 12 oz cup of coffee with SKIM MILK in the morning, and after that, if water isn’t quite hitting it for me, herbal tea. The lower the caffeine the better.

That one will be tough. But we’ll check in on that. I got this cute wearable technology that tracks my water intake called a water bottle. so 2.2 liters, no pop, one 12 oz coffee with skim milk, herbal tea is okay.

Cooking + Diet

I hate the word diet. Makes me think of the ones I “tried” in high school where my mom subbed out my Gushers and Oreos for an extra clementine; a clementine I pawned off and then used to buy skittles at the vending machines. Why couldn’t I have Gushers and Oreos like my other 3 siblings? Probably because they weren’t sneaking singles from their parents wallets to buy zebra cakes in 4th grade. But man that stuff irked me. My family is a long line of marathoner-metabolized freaks. And the word diet? It just makes me think of all the times I had to try on husky jeans in a Old Navy fitting room with my feet standing on about 4 extra inches of material because I was too short.

All Hail the King of Old Navy. c 2007 (Credit: JPT)

All Hail the King of Old Navy. c 2007 (Credit: JPT)

Diets are the things people go on when they want to lose weight. Then they go off the diet and their fat molecules that shrunk during the diet go right back to the size 44 inch jeans they were before. No seriously, I had to sit through these inconvenient truth seminars in endocrinology in college. Fat tissues produce hormones like leptin that promote gaining weight back after you lose weight. And it persists for years. Like the chances of keeping weight off for 5-10 years? Odds not in your favor.


Still, just because research says it won’t always work and just because they are difficult, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try it. So I’m going to diet. But here is the catch… I’m modifying my diet, not dieting. As in, the changes I’m making are lasting, permanent modifications, things I enjoy and wish I did more, and healthy! Bring it on, leptin.

Here are the rules…

  1. Make every meal. Don’t order out.
  2. …within reason and social ettiquette. So that Saturday night at a friends house when she orders pizza? Okay, fine. That chinese take out with your family on the day before Thanksgiving? Sure. Your roomates invite you on a Ramen-Quest, to try every bowl-o-broth in Chicago? Namaste. But that friday night after a long week when I just want a Chipotle burrito and a basketball game? GTFO, go to the store, make it yourself.

    Chef Curry with the Pot

    Chef Curry with the Pot

  3. Get out of jail cards – 2 meals a week
  4. Oh so you forgot to shop? You are hungry? Fine. Eat a lunch from the cafeteria. But don’t you dare order delivery. This also doesn’t mean you use both cards every week, sir.

  5. Breakfast, make sure you eat it.
  6. At home or at work or on a bus, don’t matter, eat a meal within 2 hours of waking up. Coffee doesn’t count. We are talking oatmeals, hand fruits, yogurt parfaits, eggs and potatoes, breakfast burritos, etc.
    I’m really into pastries and donuts. No more. Carbs are okay for breakfast, but they will need to be the wholesome kind.

    The plan… overnight oats with a variety of fruits. I tried this for a couple weeks and loved it. You make steel cut oats once a week, jar them up. Good to go with just a bit of milk and a sliced banana. And so portable.

  7. Lunch, make sure you pack it.
  8. Salads. Sliced fruits and veggies. Beans. Soups. Lentils. Legumes. No meats, no sweets, no breads. PBJ is a cop-out.

  9. Dinner, make them on Sundays, leftovers during the week.
  10. Stews and soups. Bread and meat are okay here, but rice or beans would be better. Less cheese and dairy if possible, but yogurt can be a lovely substitute. I made a whole list of crockpot recipes to try. First up, Chicken tiki masala and wild rice.

    To go with this, I’m making a list of emergency dinners for when I can’t eat a 4th day of stew. Grilled cheese and tomato soup features prominently, but I’ll need to keep the ingredients in stock.



  11. Dessert? Nope.
  12. When did I convince myself I deserve the ice creams and oreo cookies and pie slices on a regular basis? Time to quite this habit. Weekend pie? That’s fine, but just a slice. Special occasion cake? okay. Offered? fine be polite, but don’t seek it out.

  13. But what about…

    Example: Oh your roommate Clouse made a delicious bundt cake and deserves a compliment and validation for her baking prowess? Great. Eat a bite. Annnnd that’s it. “Yum, wish I could have more, thank you!”

So… thems the rules. If you’ve made it this far, you must be one of my really good friends or my mom. So just know I love you. And so, that is it for now. This will be tough. Right now I’m watching the sunset on the last day of my winter break. I’m going to suit up for a walk through Chicago’s first snow to stock up for the week. I’ll be telling you all about my recipes with photos soon. And look forward to some lovely rants about sleep patterns, healthcare, and hygeine this month. Until then…

Acheivable Goals.