Coursera update

Yesterday I was sad and discouraged to realize I was taking the Coursera courses I’d signed up for because I wanted to be taking courses, not because I was interested in the material I’d be learning. Today I’m glad I realized that – because I found a course I am very interested in, that started yesterday and goes on for 14 weeks! I think I hadn’t initially signed up for it because it overlaps with the Spring 2015 semester, but today I’m thinking that shouldn’t be a problem. I can enjoy it prior to the semester starting, and one the semester starts I can determine how engaged I will remain in the course. The great thing about Coursera is that it’s risk-free: you can do anything from watching an occasional video to completing all the coursework multiple times and being a constant presence in the forums. My goal is to watch all the videos and complete the graded coursework once for each week until the Spring 2015 semester starts, then engage with the material as I’m able (prioritizing my other responsibilities, of course). It feels so good to be excited about and motivated to do something and OMG I’m even setting goals! Realistic, attainable goals. This is pretty significant. Go me!

Good News

Fox and I have been comparing costs at different venues, including one we have an appointment to visit next week. We’ve decided an a la carte wedding is a bit more of a headache than we’re up for, and that local inclusive packages aren’t really that much less expensive than the venue we fell in love with last weekend (Too Good to Be True). If we’re going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on a wedding, we might as well have it at a positively gorgeous location with really awesome amenities and a superb day-of coordinator, where we know we’ll be the only event happening that weekend. To me, that’s worth some extra cash – and it might even be worth asking nearby family and friends to come out to a “destination” wedding as well!

We’ve found a number of ways to cut over $2,000 off the budget.

* The owner of the venue offered us an exclusive, very generous room rate specifically for the weekend of our wedding. Although we’ll be leaving it to guests (including bridal party) to pay for their own rooms, we’re still saving hundreds of dollars on the rooms we’ll need for Fox & me, my mom, his parents, and his sister. (Our parents are helping to pay for the wedding, so it seems only fair to include their hotel rooms in the budget.)

* We’re telling the caterer it’s an “anniversary party,” not a “wedding.” In a way that’s true – if all goes according to plan, it’ll take place about a year after our legal marriage ceremony. We’re still waiting to hear back from them, but based on the information available online we’ll save at least $1,000 – for the exact same service and food.

* I found a beautiful dress that happens to come in white but isn’t technically a “wedding dress.” It’s a lot more practical than I’d been going for – no lace, no train, no beading. But it has long flowing sleeves, that should make up for it! The dress itself is less than $100; I’ve budgeted an additional $100 in case I need to have a professional make some minor adjustments (e.g. reducing the bust measurement). It’s a grand total of $1,000 less than I’d originally planned to spend on my dress!

To be honest I’m a bit torn about this decision. My inner little girl who wants to be a princess keeps yelling at me and stamping her feet. This was the one time I had an excuse to get and wear such a dress, and now I’m blowing it! I don’t know if it’s possible to get her to see the practical perspective (after all, she specifically wants a dress that isn’t practical), but I’m hoping maybe we can come up with some kind of compromise. Maybe we can play dress up more often – and yes, we’ll do it right – but with clothes that don’t cost $1,200 and then you can never wear them again. And this dress is quite different from what I usually wear, and I genuinely like it (at least as much as others I’ve seen with much heftier price tags). It will be special and mark me as special – which is what I think she‘s truly going for.

And it will be comfortable. I have an outfit in the same material and I love the way it feels against my skin. I’ll be able to move in the dress without catching on things. I’ll be able to use the restroom without an attendant. I won’t have to worry about the shenanigans stores pull when you buy a “wedding dress” from them (such as adding wedding accessories to the bill that you didn’t buy!). I won’t have to wait months for the dress to arrive. If there’s something wrong with it I can return it no questions asked and buy a new one. It just makes so much more sense. I’ve liberated myself from perhaps the most crushing part of the bridal industry. It feels good!

Or at least it would, if Miss Princess would stop glaring at me!

* Another thing that’s really nifty about our venue of choice is that we’ll have access to a grill and fire pit for the “rehearsal” dinner, which will really be the OMG We Haven’t Seen You In Forever Let’s Catch Up! dinner. I priced barbeque foods for about 50 people online and it came to about $250. Good luck finding a restaurant or caterer that will let you get away with that price!

[Update: Oops, I forgot to include drinks in the barbeque budget. There are other foods we might want to add, too. So it’ll be a bit more than I expected – but most likely still a lot less than a more traditional dinner!]

In other news, I’m starting to get a bit antsy. I want to be more active – physically, creatively, and so on. I keep feeling motivated to get a job, then doubting whether I’ll be able to find and keep one. It’s hard for me to follow through on my thoughts that it would be good or fun or interesting to engage in favorite hobbies. But I want to do them, and I no longer think there’s no point to doing them, and I no longer think I can’t do them. It’s more a matter of getting up the energy and convincing myself I don’t need permission to do them.

As frustrating as wedding planning number crunching has been, it’s shown me that I can feel motivated to do a task, remain focused on it, keep trying despite frustrations, and have at least some success. That’s a good feeling. And it’s forced me to question long-held assumptions (e.g. I’m going to wear a traditional wedding dress; we have to say it’s a wedding and pay wedding prices) and to be more creative in my approach to problem-solving.

My score on the Burns Depression Checklist has dropped dramatically since I wrote Planning A Head, even with some very painful experiences thrown in. I’m hopeful that this trend will continue.

Out of the Darkness: This won’t happen overnight.

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, the Out of the Darkness Overnight is a 16- to 18-mile walk that takes place overnight; it is an endurance event (to raise money for research and programs to prevent suicide and help survivors).

theovernight.org

theovernight.org

I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve done a 2.5-mile MS Walk (National Multiple Sclerosis Society). I’ve done Relay for Life, which was overnight but had a track I could walk as many or as few times as I wanted; I spent much of the night not walking. Never before have I walked for hours and hours on end. The most I’ve walked at once is 5 miles.

The idea of walking all night scares me. I wouldn’t have signed up, if I’d really thought about it beforehand. To be honest, I’m kind of glad I was impulsive.

This is a nice kick in the pants to make the lifestyle changes I need to be healthier – both physically and mentally. Thinking about what I’ll need to do to prepare for this event has helped me realize: When I said I was “walking to save my own life” yesterday, I meant it literally. It’s gotten to the point where my idea of “physical activity” is walking to class, and “eating vegetables” is putting tomato sauce on my pasta. I’ve developed a habit of having Pop Tarts for dinner because I can grab them from a vending machine before class. (They’re probably the most hunger-satisfying, not-absolutely-horrible-for-you option in said machine.) Last night my “dietary success” was having nachos after class – because the menu listed calorie counts and the alternative I was considering had twice as many! It’s not that I don’t know how to live a healthier lifestyle. I need motivation.

countdownWell, Ziya, this is it!

Starting today, I have 16 weeks to prepare. 16 weeks to go from eating Pop Tarts and getting out of breath from a brisk walk across campus, to being capable of walking 16 to 18 miles in one night.

… somehow …

Today I am starting small. I am learning to become more aware of when my body needs water. Too often I let it go until my mouth is unbearably dry, just because I’m too lazy to get up and refill my glass! That will not do at all. So, my primary focus for this week will be on (re-)learning to keep water near me at all times and drink it frequently, before I feel thirsty.

I’ve also been meaning to start planning my meals ahead of time. I keep putting it off because I find the process very tedious, but I’ve seen how well it works for other people and how poorly not planning has (not) been working for me.

My primary reason for wanting to do this is to make life easier on days when I need to eat away from home. If I have healthy food with me, it will save me the stress of trying to make remotely-healthy choices that aren’t too expensive – while hungry. Of course, in addition to planning my meals, I’ll need to make preparing them ahead of time a priority. Half the reason why “eating vegetables” means putting tomato sauce on pasta is because that’s a very easy, mindless thing I can do when I’m too hungry and distracted to cook properly.

theovernight.org

Stretching is crucial.

Finally, it seems stupid to put off any kind of physical-activity-related preparation until next week. This is the part I find hardest to embrace, so I’ll start really small: my legs have been screaming at me to stretch them! I’ll start doing the stretches in the Overnight: Stretching Guide at least once per day. Perhaps I can also get up the guts to look at their Training Program (PDF), which includes a 15-week option.

Why am I craving pizza bites?