Stick with it

I’d hit a plateau with weight loss and had thought that was it, I was at my ideal ‘forever’ weight. I blogged about it recently (read about it here) and how I felt about plateaus but I’ve had a little shift beyond now so maybe I’m just at a point where weight loss is going to be very very slow. I’ve never known what that was like before, being so overweight and never coming close to a normal weight meant I’ve always seen good weight loss progress if I’ve stuck to a diet. The only time I did get slim was not my choice and so that one doesn’t count.

I have learned something about me and my whole journey through this plateau though, I’ve learned that the way I eat and exercise now has truly become a way of life for me. I’ve also learned that I wasn’t fully convinced of that or the need for that before I got to this point. I thought I was, but I wasn’t.

I’ve always known and I’ve mentioned in umpteen blogs how this is not a journey to an ideal weight but a journey for life, that I will always be on and I thought I had my head around that but when I got to near goal and to this plateau phase which made me think I was at goal I realised that I wasn’t prepared for a lifetime of this at all. Whether it was some emotional thing in my brain, a previously set trigger which told me “it’s done now eat cake” or what it was I don’t know but I found myself really craving crap food and I mean craving as in to the point of distraction. At first I wasn’t sure what it was and then I realised that it had a direct co-relation to me accepting I was ‘done’, I’d made it. The self destructive demon in my head sprang back to life when it heard that news and decided to make me change it all around, reverse all of the good I’d done and head back to Fatsville and boy did that demon find some power from somewhere. It’s as if it’s fueled by my emotional reliance on food, it’s energised by my self doubt and this innate need to destroy myself. I’d kept it at bay for a long time but as soon as I was where I wanted to be it rose up and hit me hard. As if success wasn’t something I had a right to. I have to delve into that I think.

MindPowerI don’t suppose I’ll ever understand the mind of a fat person and I am one. How we expect other people to understand I don’t know. I understand a lot and I understand more but I just don’t get what it is that made this happen. I fought against it and it was hard I will not lie. This is a real, true addiction, make no mistake. I don’t imagine it could have torn me apart any more  if it had been an addiction to alcohol or drugs that I was facing and it was far worse than anything I faced when I quit smoking. It took over my mind mentally and my stomach physically. I’ve never felt so empty in my stomach after food, it has actually been painful and I’m not exaggerating. I have felt so sad, so low of mood, so stressed and all because of this internal fight to resist bad food. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? To anyone who doesn’t know what a food addiction is or who believes food addiction is not real they would think I’m insane or making it up to cover for the fact that underneath it all I’m just a greedy person. But it is real.

Anyway, I’ve done it, I’ve battled and won again, for now. It took a while but I resisted and the urges have subsided again. The only way to win was to just keep self counselling, keep telling myself why I couldn’t binge on chocolate and crisps and biscuits and cakes and sweets and to distract myself with other things, keep on eating healthily, keep on exercising and now and then throw in a treat to satisfy the urges. That organic chocolate has come in really handy.

I really thought I’d seen the last of those pangs, I really thought I’d dealt with the emotional issues but now I believe that this really is a forever fight for me. That beast that wants to make me fat is going to come back time and time again and I’m going to have to beat it back down time and time again. Even though it’s been hard and I’ve not been the best person to live with and there have been tears shed over that because I felt so guilty for snapping at times and for retreating at others, even in spite of that I am grateful for this experience because it has taught me what I thought I always knew and that is that these really are forever changes and this is a forever battle. It is a journey that can never ‘end’. It doesn’t stop, it isn’t over and even though it feels like a way of life, even though it feels easy, there will be times when it really isn’t easy and when I’m reminded that the new way of life is just that, a new way which has 40 odd years of the old way lying underneath the surface and only time will put distance between those two ways of life.

It’s so important not to slip back into bad habits and to hold fast, it’s so hard to do but so important. I don’t want to be fat again and if I’m going to have to face a week or so of miserable struggle now and then to make sure that doesn’t happen then so be it. I know people say “I’d rather be happy than slim” but I really really am happy slim and I’m happy fit and healthy and if I have to trade that off for a once in a while bad mood while I’m in the clutches of the fat demon then so be it, it’s a good trade off. I would rather this than be miserable all of the time and being fat made me miserable, not because I was influenced by media or I wanted to be attractive to men or any of that, but because I didn’t feel I was getting the best out of my life or giving the best to my loved ones and I felt I was letting them and myself down.

This is a hard thing to do make no mistake changing habits is a tough call but with the right attitude it’s possible and with the right people supporting you. Nick and my son have been through the ringer this past week or so as I’ve struggled with this but they have never stopped loving and supporting me and helping me to come out the other side.

We’re all going away for a family holiday for half term and we’ve managed to get all of the kids together with us which is fabulous and rare these days. So good times are back and better ones are ahead, the sun screen is in the case along with the bikinis that I only ever dreamed of wearing. Holiday report will be forthcoming.


Do Plus Sized Clothes in High Street Stores ‘Normalise’ Obesity?

I was reading this article on Mummys Pages (not sure how I ended up there) but I have also read other similar ones about UK celeb, one time singer and TV now and then pop up Jamelia who in a nut shell feels that plus sized clothes should be available only in specialist shops and not an integral part of the regular high street fashion stores.

Her reason for this is that to put those clothes in the mainstream shopping spaces normalises obesity and can promote an unhealthy lifestyle. Something she feels we should not be allowing to happen. My new healthy self thought “she has a point” but then I got to thinking…

I remember a year ago or so, exploding with indignation when a guy blogged something similar and I was kind of embarrassed with myself for changing my mind so easily now I’m out of the obese zone. I kind of had an inner conflict feeling like I’d left my overweight brothers and sisters behind and become one of ‘them’ the skinny folk (not quite). I needed to think more about how I really felt about this subject and not just do it with my ‘I’m alright Jack’ hat on, because I know, only too well how fast I could slide back into obesity, believe me I know and I know what a fight I have forever to keep myself from that slide. So no, I decided to think about this not as a slimmer, healthier, fitter, happier person, but think about this as who I am, a fat person currently in control.

Evans was where it was at in the 80s and 90s if you were lucky to have one near you, there was no internet shopping back in the day
Evans was where it was at in the 80s and 90s if you were lucky to have one near you, there was no internet shopping back in the day

I thought about the days when finding plus sized clothes was a specialised job, there were select stores on the high street which stocked fatty fashion and that was it, or you made your own…with no patterns. Evans and Rogers and Rogers were the two main ones I can recall and then Rogers and Rogers, who now sell out of Matalan stores, I only saw in London.  and The offerings were not very good… thinking back to the 80s and early 90s, lots of the plus sized stockists were apparently aiming at middle aged ladies or people who worked in offices and didn’t mind wearing polyester florals and ill fitting trousers and odd shaped jackets. Strangely even the specialists didn’t seem to understand the larger figure and what it needed to dress it to make it look and feel good.

For a young girl/lady these offerings were mostly over priced for the often poorly made garments that they were, but at the other end of the market you had quality in celeb offerings from the likes of Dawn French (UK comedian) who opened a cute little boutique in London right near my friend’s flat called Sixteen47 which sold tent like creations at what then seemed extortionate prices to the more wealthy large lady. A little look for Sixteen47 just now showed that the prices are less extortionate these days, they have an online store and the garments are rather less tent like to an extent.

It was rare to find clothes in regular high street fashion shops such as Top Shop, Chelsea Girl, Miss Selfridge and later Next below a size 10 or above a size 16. I remembered this all with a shudder, even calling to mind some of the hideous outfits I wore, knowing they looked crap, feeling crap, hating myself and hating that I’d had to spend a fortune to feel and look horrendous.

BUT I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the misery of some of those shopping trips spurred me on to start a diet. That awful feeling of nothing fitting or looking right, being faced with your fat self in the changing room mirror or even worse in those days walking in to try to squeeze yourself into something and being met with the horror of communal changing rooms. The desire to wear nice clothes, the hatred of the fat shopping trip, the way I had to walk by every other shop on the high street searching for the same one shop that sold what might fit me was awful. It affected my social life. I hated girlie shopping trips, would never ask my slim friends to come into the fat shop with me and would try to steer them towards shoe shops, accessory shops and make up stores. I had TONS of shoes and nail varnishes and make up and hair accessories but just one or two outfits… outfits that I didn’t like but had had to settle for. I still notice with young chunkier girls how they still, in spite of the massive choice now available on the high street, tend to spend more on shoes and jewellery and change their hair colour every five minutes than buy lots of clothes so there is maybe a lingering still of what I used to feel.

Times have changed, most mainstream fashion outlets on the high street and online make clothes up to size 22, 24, 26 or beyond, including the big supermarkets and many of these offer beautiful, trendy garments at reasonable prices in not too shabby (but varying degrees of) quality. Higher end fashion, at higher prices is also becoming a big business when targeted at the obese ladies and all at a time when never before has health and fitness been more heavily promoted.

Isn’t that bizarre? When I was a young fatty with nowhere to buy clothes, I didn’t know anyone who went to a gym, I don’t even think there were many gyms around. I remember keep fit classes at the local church hall becoming popular in the late 80’s and then the Jane Fonda explosion and from there we got to here, a gym on every street corner. Nobody talked about healthy eating unless they were trying to lose weight and we didn’t have a clue, lettuce and yoghurt was about it in terms of our education.

Things have shifted so much in the fashion world that if you are not plus size some of the plus sized shops make clothes from a size 14 to pick up the top end of slim, so size 14 ladies are able to pick up real bargains and some lovely clothes from the plus sized outlets as these smaller sizes, catered for by other high street shops get left on the rails for sale time. I know this, I do it myself. I have frequented the plus sized shops for so long that I know what goes down in there, for someone who has always been a 14 they may never dream of entering a plus sized shop and I’m glad because I get to snap up all of those bargains let alone the accessories which skinnies miss out on. So i guess that’s a positive in all this which supports specialist shops but only for my own selfish interests.

So, where do I stand on this now? I’ve had to think about it and for me, recalling the horror of not being able to find clothes to fit, being at the mercy of the plus sized specialists who didn’t have to try with style, all they had to do was make it BIG and price it HIGH and the obese folk bought it as they had no choice, I would hate for anyone young or old to go through that misery. It definitely left scars on me, for sure and I thank the campaigners and bloggers who have and still work to influence clothing makers to think about style, fashion, fit, body shape and not just make shapeless sacks.

So on that count I support the expansion of plus sized fashion into mainstream. There are people who are sick of dieting, sick of the yo yo who cannnot lose weight and who have given up and decided to be happy as they are, many of these people are healthy, fit active people, more so than lots of skinny people I know, they are living their lives, raising their kids, pursuing their careers, dating, getting married, travelling and they have a right to be able to feel fabulous doing that. Who is Jamelia or anyone else to say they do not have that right? Besides this I know people who are slim but have massive boobs who have to wear plus sized tailoring to fit their body shape, high street stretch in a 14 will do the trick but if they want to dress it up in something sophisticated or as I say tailored for work or whatever they have to go into plus size to get the fit. Why should they not be able to find what they need on the high street at an affordable price just because their shape dictates their size on the rail?

In terms of business. If there is a market businesses will exploit it. As I said earlier the pressure from bloggers and plus size fashionistas is increasing and they are alerting manufacturers and designers to the demand. No longer is the fat woman a middle aged mother of 6 stuck at home happy to wear an elasticated crimpolene skirt and polyester vest top with nylon cardigan on top… oh no, big ladies now are business women, models, celebs, entrepreneurs, independent ladies with disposable income all of their own and they want fashion.

Business doesn’t care if women are getting fatter because they’re selling them clothes, businesses don’t have conscience or half of the world’s food manufacturers would be out of business. All they want is profit and if there is a group of large women holding out money and shouting suggestions they are not going to ignore them, so how Miss Jamelia proposes to halt that business cycle of identify the market, meet its need and make money I’m not sure. And why not? Why shouldn’t businesses make clothes fat people want, they didn’t make them fat, the don’t sell mega packs of chocolate and cut price packs of biscuits and bottles of sugar laden soda… oh wait, some of the them do, in fact Asda has the doughnuts and muffins in the doorway section WAY too near the clothes really. Are they subliminaly saying, have some doughnuts its OK we sell big clothes? Hmmm, I wonder.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, does shaming or forcing someone with obesity to lose weight actually work? Ever? No. Well at least not in my experience. Given the way lifestyles have changed since the 1980’s in terms of what and when we eat, how we live our lives, would taking away big clothes from mainstream stores make people change and lose weight? I doubt it.

So while I can see where Miss Jamelia is coming from I don’t agree with her, I think it’s more complex than her simple view considers, I wonder if she’s just looking for a hook for another documentary to be commissioned during which she tells us how amazingly fit and healthy she is and how we all need to be like her (last time it was single parenting).

People have a choice. Some people choose not to change their body size or their activity levels, not all fat people are obese, not all obese people are ill or unhealthy or unfit or inactive, nobody deserves to have their quality of  life damaged because someone tried to force their hand to do something they struggle with. I remember feeling forced to diet after a misery inducing shopping trip and it’s not fair, I wasn’t even that fat, I was a young girl, I should have been happy, I should have been carefree, I shouldn’t have been ashamed to go shopping with my friends, I shouldn’t have been compelled to buy a ridiculous amount of shoes, I should have just been able to buy some clothes. If I had been able to do that maybe I would have felt more normal and engaged more with other activities and not got fatter and fatter and used food more and more as my crutch. In fact I remember peeling off from friends heading to trendy boutiques and buying some cakes and gorging them on the way home on my own, had there been a place I could buy something alongside my friends those cakes wouldn’t have entered my body and sat on my gut for years and I might have gone out dancing in my new clothes that night.

I get it, I do, I see her point but the more I think about it the less I agree with her. I read lots of American bloggers who say how difficult it is in the US to get good plus sized high street fashion and it hasn’t done anything to reduce obesity there has it? I don’t think it would here in the UK either. Jamelia was entitled to her opinion and these debates are always good to have, they make you think, challenge the way you think and keep things real. I’m glad that I’m not out of touch with how morbid obesity felt and how it happened, it will all help me to stop it happening again.

It’s summertime! Don’t hide your wobbly self away get out and move.

The sun is beating down on the East coast today. Such a feel good summer vibe is in the air. There is no better time to get outside and exercise move. Even my PT session was outdoors today, carrying rocks, digging holes and dragging Darren along the beach on a sled tied to my waist. Exhilerating stuff. My heart was pumping for sure! And I was wearing shorts and a vest top!!

Last year I was still conscious of my size and that made me anxious about venturing out but I did it. I told myself that I didn’t care if anyone gawped at me or said anything hurtful within ear shot, I was out in the sunshine taking a walk for ME, not for them. It was to make me feel better, happier, healthier, fitter and as long as there was room on the ground for me to walk amongst skinny folk I was going to make use of it and take my share.

Thank goodness I did get out there! We not only benefit from the exercise physically  but the sun is a real psychological booster too and also we need the vitamin D that exposure to the sun brings us. All of that contributed to changing my mental attitude and to bringing me to where I am today and the weight loss I have achieved.

Don’t hide away when the weather is beautiful, stick on some comfy leggings and a big tee shirt or shift dress or even a fab maxi dress (leggings are light and help to reduce chaffing and sweating when you are really big, wear cropped ones in different colours under comfy big loose tops or dresses for comfort or if you feel the need to cover up) stick on some fab sunglasses and a gorgeous hat, a pair of comfy shoes, trainers or converse and get out there and just walk, breathe in fresh air, feel the sun on your skin and let the good times roll.

I’m lucky to live by a beach and a park and some fabulous British countryside so my outdoor choices are wonderful but no matter where you live there is a park around somewhere close or just somewhere you can walk even if it’s a high street browsing in shop windows or take a walk through a pretty quiet residential area with some nice gardens and lots of trees.

Maybe this is your first summer carrying extra weight or maybe it’s one of many where your size has made you a prisoner in your home whichever, make a start now to free yourself from that horrible place that being overweight can put you in in your mind and get out and absorb some of that good stuff you would be missing. Do it for you. If you are wary of other people it’s fine at first to do it really early when no one is around or if you wait till people are dining and catching their soap operas and you step out in the evening to catch the last rays of the sun.

You’ll be glad you took that first step when next summer you are zipping around in your new, slimmer, fitter, healthier, stronger body without a care in the world. Trust me. I did it last summer 150 pounds ago.

Out with the old, in with the new

I seem to give one thing up and pick up another when it comes to adjusting my eating habits these days.

Chocolate has gone from my diet altogether now. I managed a choc free Easter with no eggs received and none gifted. Instead I made some cute little upcycled gifts for people I would normally give eggs to and asked for daffodils instead of chocolate and I filled my house with the little beauties. I love them and they brighten up my day, unlike chocolate which gives me a horrendous sugar rush and makes me feel like crap.

In has come Coconut Oil. Now I have long since been a fan of the coconut. I remember years ago when on my travels in Africa that I was told and had it demonstrated how the Coconut Palm is 100% useful. There is not a single part of the plant which goes unused, from its bark to its sap from its fronds to its fruit/seeds. It is used either as food, drink, medicine, tools, utensils, material for shelter, clothing… it’s crazy how much that one plant gives to us. I believe that the presence of the coconut palm in the very parts of the Earth where humans originated and its usefulness to us is testament to the fact that we should be taking in as much of what it gives out as we can.

Image from here

So are you trying it? Eating it, bathing in it, medicating with it, cleaning with it? It seems to be the new bicarbonate of soda, or vinegar it is all things to all people. OK so that may be exaggerating but have you read about this stuff? Try starting with this info from Wellness Mama with links to even more info or check out the link beneath the image I used to go to dedicated website

I’ve been consuming it for sometime but stopped when I started the low carb thing because for some reason I thought it must have lots of sugar in it and my research so far has turned up conflicting stories on how much sugar, if it’s fructose or glucose and so the jury’s out but in small amounts it’s doing me more good than harm and to be honest I am so sensitive to sugar now that I positively explode if I ingest the stuff and I don’t when I eat coconut or the oil, milk or water and so my body tells me I’m doing OK.

I must admit that it’s used more on the outside of my body than the inside. I’ve used coco oil based body moisturisers for a long time now but have combined them with other concoctions but I’m gradually phasing out other things and trying to get really simple with these other elements of our lives. Our diet is so simple now it’s crazy, it takes little thought yet our meals are fabulously satisfying and delicious. I figured it’s time to rid the bathroom and my dressing table of a load of pointless junk too. We’re using up last bits of gels and oils and sprays and going as natural as possible with as few products as possible.

I kind of figured that we’re refining what we put into our bodies and what we ask of our bodies yet we’re still spraying and rubbing on who knows what harmful rubbish. So over the next few weeks the old stuff is going and we’re seeking out more natural, less harmful products to use on the outside of us.

I’m turning into a health freak but to be honest I’ve heard some bad news about a couple of family members this last few weeks and I’m counting my lucky stars not to be in their shoes and to still be so healthy in spite of the abuse I’ve given my body over recent years. I don’t think at approaching 50 I can take my  health for granted even though I’ve lost a lot of weight and changed so much, my continued health, weight loss and subsequent maintenance of a healthy me into the future will depend on the changes I have made and continue to make.

Besides, a slim healthy person has to be thinking around now of their mortality and of fending off illness, disease and immobility for as long as possible so in some respects I’m just doing what any normal close to 50 person should be doing and evaluating the way I treat my body and thinking of what I want out of the next phase of my life. I don’t want to crack and creak every time I move just yet, I don’t want to have stiff joints and water retention and bloating. I can’t do much about the wrinkles that will come and the grey hair that’s under the dye already but I can try to keep the rest in check for as long as possible.  For now coconut oil is my miracle… it might be something else next month but whatever it is, it will be better than chocolate.

One Year Anniversary

My first post on this blog was made on 5th April 2014 and it kind of dealt with how I was sick of being so fat, sick of not having a life, sick of going to bed thinking I was not going to survive the night and sick of worrying about leaving my kids alone too soon. It stated how I was determined to change my life for the better. Subsequent posts revealed how I didn’t want to just lose weight, I wanted to get fitter, engage more with life, be a better person, be happier, get healthy and make changes forever which would help me to beat what I called my ‘fat demon’ and break a lifetime yo-yo cycle of gaining and losing weight once and for all. I wanted to get to the root causes of my issues with food and weight and deal with them. It was now or never.

HappyAnniversary.175114211_largeA year on, reading through those early posts for the first time since they were written I hear my old self in my writing but she is someone I don’t really recognise anymore, someone I’ve moved so far from that I even had trouble relating to her. That shocked me. It shocked me how much we can change as people in just one year, just by altering our lifestyle. How we can forget so quickly how we felt and transition into our new way of life. I think it’s a good thing that we can change and move on, I really wouldn’t want to carry the doom and gloom of my 2014 self around constantly, it would be as restrictive as carrying the weight I’ve shed around. But I really don’t want to forget how miserable I was and how hard I’d made my life. I thought that I could recall how bad I’d felt but reading back makes me realise I don’t come close to remembering at all. For that reason alone it has been worth charting my progress through this blog because I know now that I will never be able to forget how it felt because I can go back and read how it felt, at the time, for me. I can remind myself of myself and nothing will be more powerful than that.

This blog will make sure I never forget that person because if I forget her I have a chance of becoming her again and I do not want to become her again. I don’t have to relate to her, in fact the less I relate to her the less I’m likely to become her again. I’ve never been under any false illusion that this transition is a one off, short lived, time limited thing, I know it will be ongoing for the rest of my life and I know that there ill be times when sinking back to her may be tempting. I’m strong now but I’m not stupid, I know that something could send me spiraling back out of control and just being mindful of that, having things to remind me how that felt should I feel myself falling will help me to win over the compulsion that still exists inside me somewhere to use food to self destruct.

But positives…I can’t even list the amazing things that have happened in my life since I first wrote on this blog. I couldn’t begin to share the knowledge I’ve acquired about food, exercise, physical health, mental health, holistic well being in general and about how all of those things make me who I am and change who I am every day. I’ve experimented with food groups, cooking methods, recipes, home growing and fermenting and now we have chickens and fresh eggs.

I’ve experimented with exercise starting with walking and stepping from one foot to another I’ve tried out so many new things including swimming (which I only learned to do properly this last year and has now become one of my favourite pass times), tai chi, cross fit, climbing, pilates and I’ve even managed a little run or two and am now getting to grips with yoga. All of the experimenting pays off for me because it gives me a wide varied repetoire of activity which I can slot into a day no matter where I am or how busy I am or even if I’m not well or injured, I can do some activity, some form of movement which enhances my general state of well being and makes me feel good about myself and keeps my body moving. That’s all exercise is, I’ve learned that… it’s just moving however you can and however you want to and however you enjoy doing it. I do have a routine when it comes to seriously working out and keeping in shape because I need that in my life and I enjoy it and I get so much that I need mentally from it besides needing the discipline of a routine. However beside that I also have this huge bag of activities i can dip into when I feel like it for fun, pleasure and even just to enhance my mental state, to take away stress or give me thinking time or just to give me an energy boost.

The same with food, all of the trial and error and experimenting has kept my body on its toes, I’ve tried a few approaches and each new one has taken me a step towards finding an eating plan which suits me perfectly which makes me feel energised, satisfied and well. But it all came about through trial and error, this has been a year of experimentation for sure. It also came about from advice and links and reading blogs so again blogging has really had an impact on my success.

I’ve also delved deep into my past. My upbringing and my relationships with people throughout my life and found how those relationships have influenced my relationship with food and I’ve looked in to myself and found a way to love me and accept me and to stop self destructing with food and to stop thinking food is my friend when it’s actually not. I’m more open with my feelings more expressive and demonstrative a better mother friend and lover and I’ve learned that it’s OK to take from those relationships now and then to lean on people who love me at times just as I love them to lean on me when they need a hand.

Besides all of this I’ve changed how I work and what I do for a living and had the courage to do something I wanted to do for a long time. I’ve learned new skills and developed a professional confidence that other people always thought I had but I never really did. I’ve started a fabulous relationship and my kids are positively thriving and definitely benefiting from all of the changes either directly or indirectly. Their habits have changed and they’re healthier, sleeping better, doing better generally and they are benefiting from having a much happier, healthier mum who is engaging with life now instead of hiding and waiting to die. I think I’m far more fun to be around and they don’t say it but I’m sure they are relieved that they don’t have to worry about my health now.

I guess more than anything since this blog began I’ve learned to just relax, enjoy life, be me and let myself go with relationships (including those with food and things as well as people), not to question myself, not to doubt myself or to be so hung up on what other people think of me. I feel like losing the weight has just freed me from the hell I’d allowed myself to sink into, or even purposefully put myself into. I think I’ve become more conscious of myself whilst becoming less self conscious. That may sound weird but I think there is a definite difference between the two.

Life is good and I’m so glad that I documented this past year and so glad that I went through everything I went through to get me to here. I’m feeling strong and ready for my challenges in the coming year and can’t help but get excited about whatever is in store for all of us.