Weighty Matters

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Looking Back; Looking Ahead

2013 has been a pretty outstanding year. It’s difficult to imagine that 2014 can be even better, but as I sit here poised to enter the new year, I’m thinking, “Why the hell not?” Why shouldn’t the year ahead bring me even more joy? Why shouldn’t I accomplish even more things that I want to try and enjoy? Why should I limit my experiences and adventures if exploring them will engender even more happiness?

Why the hell not, indeed?

Last year I shared that I don’t make resolutions. In my post of 12/31/2012, I discussed some things I wanted to at least shoot for accomplishing, mostly in broad definitions. Here are the things I discussed, typed in italics, and a little report on how I think I did:

Practice my Tai Chi at home more often. I do indeed work on my Tai Chi more often at home, if not every day. friends and I also get together at work when possible and do a set.)

I’m going to drink more fluids each day than I have been. I think I accomplish this most days.

I’m going to continue exercising the way that I have been, stepping up as I get more fit. I need to get in more work on my arms and butt, too. (Heck to the yeah, I’m doing this!)

As much as I hate keeping a food log, I’m going to write down my food at some point every day. If I’m going to be honest, I was sporadic. There were periods of time when I consistently tracked my food on a daily basis for weeks at a time. Then, I’d fall off for a few weeks. Now I’m getting back to daily tracking.

I’m going to tackle The Room of Hopeless Clutter, step by step, and finally clear it. This continues to be a work in progress. I’ve made some progress but it’s by no means cleared. Let’s roll this one over, okay?

I want to work with my dogs more than I did this last year. In improving myself, I didn’t focus on them as much as I should. Thankfully, they’re reaping some benefit from my increased walking. That’s something that will definitely continue. Yes, I’ve addressed this. Nat and Pyxi get a couple of good walks a day now.

Other suggestions include experiencing more of the things that are on my Promise List, continuing to practice good self-care with medical appointments, skin care, wearing sun block, and treating myself to things I enjoy like facials and therapeutic massages. Well, let’s see. I checked off Hawaii, ziplining, paddleboarding, taking my friends snorkeling on my boat, and a few other things. I did my annual check up, mammogram and other medical necessities. My skin care regime is consistent, including wearing sun block. I also get in for more regular facials and massages. So, check-check-check-etc.

Then there’s a category for “Things I Might Like to Try But Am Not Definitely Committing to at This Time”. Let’s put Pilates and Spinning Class in that category. I never got to the Pilates consult, but I bought that machine and gave it a try. I don’t love it. While I also never got to a Spinning Class, I bought myself a bicycle and use it regularly for exercise. That counts!

This was my conclusion in last year’s end-of-year post: Every day I’m going to live my life like it matters, like I matter, because I do. Life is good and, no matter what, I’m going to keep it that way.

I think this last was the most important intention/goal of all. I’m proud to say that this is indeed how I live my life — like I matter. I’m truly happy that I achieved this and continue to live it.

So, what would I like to work on in 2014? I’m going to hit goal weight, there is no question of that in my mind. I will continue to make progress on the room of doom. I’m going to maintain my fitness efforts. I’m also going to make an effort to socialize more. All of this self-improvement is hard work. It also takes up time. I need to find a way to balance the different areas of my life more. That’s a goal.

Most importantly, I’m going to continue with what I proposed, and have accomplished. I will continue to live my life with quality, treating myself with respect and knowing that I matter.

If I don’t make it on to post tomorrow, let me be the first to wish all of you a Happy New Year. From the bottom of my heart I wish good fortune, health and happiness in 2014.

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Home After the Holiday

It’s Saturday and I’m home in the Keys after a whirlwind, fun, slightly exhausting week. I loved seeing and spending time with so many family members and friends. My heart is full with love and gratitude.

My body was frequently full of delicious food and some darned fine cocktails over the last week. I have not gotten in enough exercise over the last two or three days due to the fun/family schedule. I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it either. This was life lived with quality and lack of stress. Life should not always be about what I’m going to eat or what I shouldn’t or worrying about whether I’m doing things wrong.

I feel like I did this week right. I enjoyed myself, more because of the people I was with and what we did together. Food and cocktails were complements to our quality time together, not the be all and end all. That’s a big improvement in my thought process and yay for me.

Now I’m back and ready to knuckle down for the big push to lose the rest of my excess weight. Good friends of mine have a tradition where they back about 17 varieties of holiday cookies and make up gift boxes. They gifted me with a box. This could be a tempting problem, but I’m dealing. I’m separating them into small snack bags and freezing them so that they will be less readily accessible for over-snacking. However, when I really, really want a cookie or two, I can take them out of the freezer bag, let them defrost, and enjoy. I’ve used this approach before and it works well for me. I get the best of both worlds — a yummy, homemade treat when I really want it in a way that prevents overeating.

On the way home to the Keys from Ft. Lauderdale, I stopped and bought a new blender. (Remember that I broke mine about a month ago. I’ve been relying on my small smoothie maker.) It’s actually a Ninja system that functions as either a blender, juicer or food processor. I am excited about the flexibility and convenience this will provide since I won’t have to switch between multiple appliances.

It’s a happy coincidence as I went through the back issues of my newspapers that I happened on a food article by chef Sarah Moulton with great suggestions on how to quickly and easily incorporate more tasty vegetables into meals. She takes root veggies and grates them in her food processor so that they can be cooked easier and faster. Beets, parsnips and carrots are on my shopping list for tomorrow, along with some fresh fruit.

After the blender purchase, I ran into a sporting goods store. I’m ready to increase the poundage on the hand weights I use in my strength training, so I picked up a new pair of dumbbells along with some gloves and a mat. I get back on the consistent exercise routine starting tomorrow. At the moment, it’s kind of breezy, but I’m hoping to wake up to a less windy morning. I’ve missed my bike riding and can’t wait to get back into it! Unfortunately, I can’t pick up Nat and Pyxi from the boarding kennel until Monday, but even without them, if it’s too windy when I wake up, I’ll go out and walk. Gotta get back to the 10,000 plus steps a day!

I’m in a terrific place right now — physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a great day to wind down the year and set myself up for success in the days ahead.

How were the holidays for all of you?

When I sat down to write this post, I saw that it’s the 495th! Wow. We’re closing in on 500. I can’t believe it. I shared several times on how much this blog means to me, and how regularly posting here is so important to my program, my process, and working my recovery. I will continue to do so as my journey progresses. Without it, I don’t know if I would keep myself accountable. I also know that I love the contact with each of you, the stories you share, and the wisdom and insight that you bring to the discourse. Thank you again!

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Holiday Week Eating

Good morning, everyone. It’s the morning after Christmas and I’m at my brother and sister-in-law’s home in the Northeast. Spare at least a slightly sympathetic thought for me with my Keys-acclimated blood. It’s 28 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now which is, of course, significantly colder than I’m used to! Thankfully I can bundle up.

I’m having a wonderful week with family and friends. We had a lovely Christmas, although it was not without drama. My younger nephew was only going to be with us for 30 hours, due to his work schedule. His missed his flight up on Tuesday and we scrambled to get him on another flight. Successful, we thought the drama was over. After a great holiday morning, including a delicious early lunch, we took him back to the airport for his return flight. Here’s a hint: If you miss your flight on U.S. Air, they automatically cancel your return flight and don’t tell you. No email. No phone call. He found out when he arrived at the airport and tried to check in. We got him on another flight this morning but, oh, the stress. On the bright side, we had him another night.

I’ve already seen some other family and friends. Today I’m meeting Chrissy (She comments here.) for lunch. Tomorrow, more friends and family. This is how I do Christmas and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m well aware that I’m out of my normal routine, but I’m not stressing about it. I’m not hitting my 10,000 steps a day, but I am getting in some physical activity by walking Aki a couple of times a day. I’m not strictly adhering to low carbs, but I’m not horribly overdoing them either, nor am I overeating. I feel very balanced in body and mind.

In the past, I treated holidays as license to indulge in an eating free-for-all. If anyone disapproved or worried about what and how much I consumed, they kept it to themselves rather than critique on the holidays. Some would call this enabling but it was never anyone else’s responsibility to monitor my eating. It was all up to me. I can remember that I relished the holidays because I felt like I could “eat like a normal person”. To me, this meant eating what I wanted when I wanted without getting hassled for it, or hassling myself. That shows how eating habits have always been a source of great stress and emotional upheaval. It also demonstrates that my concept of “normal” was greatly skewed.

Now my viewpoint is much healthier. It means I can enjoy delicious food in appropriate-for-me quantities. Food is not inherently harmful unless we overindulge. The same can be said of alcohol. Hoovering up a dozen cookies would be a bad thing. Enjoying one or two over tea and conversation is okay.

I like this approach and attitude. It feels healthier, for one thing. For another, it continues to form a good foundation for the future. Managing holiday week eating in a healthy, positive manner is a great indication how far I’ve come and increases my confidence going forward.

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Merry Christmas

I’m in the Northeast. The weather tonight is in the chilly 20s but I’m warm in the love of my family. Instead of walking Nat and Pyxi in the balmy breezes of the Keys, I bundle up in coat and gloves, accompanied by my niece-dog Aki.

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Even though it’s past midnight, we’re going to bed so we can wake up for our traditional Christmas morning.

Thinking of you, in your homes around the country and, in some cases, around the world. Whether you celebrate or not, may the day be merry and bright.

Thank you for the present of your presence.

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Portion Out-of-Control

Recently, I stayed overnight at a nice hotel and the stay included a voucher for breakfast. When I went in, the hostess informed me that they weren’t doing the buffet that day but I could order anything from the menu except steak and eggs. No worries. For me, steak is lunch or dinner anyway.

I looked at the menu. Three egg omelet? Not unless I’m sharing with someone else. I wanted an egg, maybe a couple of sausage links and some fruit. To order that a la carte totaled more than three bucks more than if I ordered the two egg plate. Yes, I know I was there on a voucher but I figured that if I ordered sausage links and fruit a la carte, due to the price I could expect more than I could eat, right?

The “complete” meal offered two eggs, bacon or sausage, and then a choice of either breakfast potato or cut fruit and toast. I asked for scrambled eggs, sausage, and the cut fruit/toast option. Here’s what was served to me:

breakfast

Just look at that pile of food! So much for the either/or, and the smaller portions, they served me everything and then some.

If those equated two scrambled eggs, the chickens must have laid ostrich-sized varieties. I think the potato portion easily equaled an entire spud. There were four sausage links, a sizeable bowl of fruit and two slices of toast. I could only surmise that if the restaurant feels this was a one-person portion size, they must be accustomed to feeding pro football players.

I picked at what I wanted, skipping the potatoes entirely. When I was done, I’d still eaten less than half of the eggs, a single sausage link, less than a slice of toast and a couple of cubes of fruit. This caused concern in the hostess and waitress. “Is everything okay with your meal, ma’am,” each of them asked, separately of one another. I assured them that it was but just that there had been a lot of food.

Sort of got the feeling that not too many guests thought they were served too much. Make that pro football players, super heavyweight weight lifters and, perhaps, Sumo wrestlers. The waitress came over a second time, and actually said, “But you ate nothing!” Honestly, friends, the amount of food that remained on my plate would have easily satisfied a full grown man. A really hungry, full grown man.

I’m a little horrified that before my bariatric surgery I might have chowed down, plowed through, and eaten almost everything, regardless of the gargantuan amounts.

It was just more evidence that the eating habits in this country are out of control, including our “normal” portion sizes. If we grow up thinking that this much food is okay, not to mention necessary, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing an increase of obesity in all ages of our population, including kids. Clearly for most of my life my eyes were always bigger than my stomach and I forced my stomach to keep up. Now that I’ve had the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, my stomach’s in charge and leading the way to retraining my eyes. For example, the other night when my friend and I had dinner, instead of going out to a restaurant, we went to Whole Foods and selected what we wanted from their hot food and salad bars. Instead of loading up my containers, I took a slice of turkey, a dab of mashed sweet potatoes, and a half spoonful of the shredded Brussels sprouts. I had all that I needed nutritionally and stayed well within my food plan guidelines.

I controlled my portions instead of letting them get out-of-control.

Yesterday, a friend and I went to a lovely tea house for a traditional “tea” meal. I have to say that this was a superior treat since both of us love drinking tea and also love the whole ceremony of a high tea. This place also had the perfect approach, probably without realizing it, for someone like me who has a surgically altered stomach. It was a multiple course meal, beginning with a plate of tea sandwiches, followed by a scone. A plate of dessert bites came next and the final item was either a sorbet or a gelato. They also had about 100 different teas from which to choose and I had my own pot of a lovely blend.

No lie, that was still a lot of food, but here was the beauty of it. Every individual item was a very small bite. I got to taste everything that I liked without overeating. Perfect! I also handed off things I know I don’t like — such as the cucumber sandwich, stuffed mushroom, and apricot tart — to my friend. All of the tea that I drank also filled my stomach, so I thankfully couldn’t finish the dessert plate. No worries. Whatever we didn’t want to eat then, the waitress offered to box up for us to take home. This meant that late last night, I had a small cookie and a tiny lemon bar as a treat.

The tea house itself was beautiful and decorated for the holidays, including this cool upside down tree.

upsidedowntree

I wish more and more places would offer “small bite”, or even tapas sections on their menus. If I ever had a restaurant, that’s what I would do. I bet it would be popular with not only the weight loss surgery crowd but also with other people striving to practice better portion control.

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Life Changes

I had dinner last night with a dear, long time friend whom I haven’t seen since June. My body’s changed a lot since then.

Over our meal, she asked me about how my life has changed because of my weight loss surgery and transformation so far. It’s one thing for me to say how much better I feel physically and emotionally. I can talk about the increased physical ease and the reduction in aches, pains, exhausting effort.

But last night, I was struck by something even deeper when talking about the amazing positive changes. I asked her to imagine what it would be like to always, almost constantly, be hyper-aware of body size. To think about having to make continual assessments about almost everything. Would a chair hold my weight? Would the car I rented have a seat belt long enough to go around me if I was wearing a coat or jacket? Could I fit in the space between two tables in a restaurant? Would I be able to keep up with my friends when we went somewhere? If I fell and hurt myself at home, could I get up? Would I fit in a chair? How long would it be before my right knee gave ou completely? What did people think when they saw me struggle to go up stairs? Think about trying to disguise the effects of simple exertion on my breathing.

Think about constantly having your brain and feelings dealing with such a barrage of questions and assessments for decades.

Then think about not experiencing any of that any more, ever again.

The reduction of stress and pressure has been enormous, like I was caught between a boulder and a granite shelf and then suddenly freed.

In addition to my body feeling better, my mind is just so much more relaxed and at ease. It’s amazing.

Over the last two years at work, I feel like I’ve stepped up my game. I was never a slacker and always was a productive, efficient, even dynamic asset. (That’s not bragging. My boss would say the same.) However, I can look back and see where I’ve grown, matured, and developed into even more of a leader. You’ve heard the expression about all ships rise with the tide? There were also other things at play, but when the opportunities to grow and develop opened up, I was better able to step up and grow with them. I don’t know if this would have happened if I’d still had all of the other horrible mind clutter getting in my way.

Stress is a killer. It creates tension, contributes to poor health, triggers adverse body chemical reactions. The reduction of all of that stressful thinking, has lightened my spirit like losing pounds has lightened my body.

Change is good. The life changes I’ve experienced and continue to see are great.

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Getting Over the Sulk

Yes, I’ve been sulking ever since last Friday’s appointment with my weight loss surgeon. I’m a grown up, even if sometimes I give into slightly less mature behavior like sulking. At least today I’m willing to own it. I’m also setting a time limit on it. A week is more than long enough. So, the sulk indulgence ends as of now.

I have no further time nor energy to give to it. I have places to go, holidays to enjoy, workouts to continue and weight to lose. Is it possible to shift one’s attitude this quickly? Yes. It’s a matter of mind over emotions. I’m not going to invalidate the way that I’ve been feeling. As far as I’m concerned, I had a right to it, but I also know when I’m on the verge of tipping over into useless, even damaging, wallowing. When I rebel by eating inappropriately, I’m hurting myself. That is unacceptable. Not only will it hurt me in my weight loss efforts and affect my body, but I’ll begin to emotionally feel lousy. So, it’s time to shake it off and move forward.

I’m really looking forward to the holiday week in which I plan to see many family members and friends. Most of the planned get-togethers will include meals. For once, I’m not looking at these events as license to eat anything, everything, and as much as I want. I’m looking forward to the social aspects and the company and to eating good tasting food in appropriate amounts and balance. Food isn’t the focus. That’s what I need to remember.

For a full week I’ll be out of my regular routine. I’m a little concerned about keeping up with my 10,000 steps a day since getting around to see everyone will involve driving a lot. However, I can and will suggest some walks and will definitely have opportunities to pop in one of my workout DVDs. I think I’ll look forward to the challenge of keeping up with exercise along with everything else. That too I can embrace and enjoy figuring out a strategy.

I’m over the sulk. There are good times with people I love in my immediate future.

I may not blog as regularly, but I promise to do so as often as I can. In the meantime, I want you all to know that I wish you all the very best this holiday season. May love, joy, and peace be yours. Thank you for being part of my blog, my journey, and my life.

Holiday Card 2013

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Losing My Doctor

No, I’m not firing the bariatric surgeon who suggested I cut my calories back by 25% to get me through this weight loss plateau. I’m talking about my primary care physician. She’s leaving the area so today was my last appointment with her.

I’m so bummed. I’ve loved her being my doctor and adore her as a person. She’s the first primary care doctor with whom I’ve ever felt truly comfortable, no matter where I was with my weight. Dr. S. always has a caring, compassionate, willing to listen and spend time attitude. She could be up front with me about my super obesity without being judgmental and harsh. Never once did she make me feel like a useless idiot for not losing weight. She also was never one to jump to medications without discussing other treatment possibilities. I hate just throwing drugs at a problem. Bonus about Dr. S. is that she’d do my pap tests which meant I didn’t have to consult a separate gynecologist. This was a big convenience here in the Florida Keys. The closest gynecologists are an hour away from where I live.

Two plus years ago, when I came to her and asked her to help me with my plan to have bariatric surgery, she recommended the surgeon that I eventually chose. She’d worked with him previously with some of her other patients. (I might be disagreeing with him now but he really was a great surgeon for me.) We talked over so many things after my first consult with him. She helped me get set up with all of the evaluations that I needed. She offered me caring and support the whole way. Every time I’ve seen her since, she’s continued to be loving, compassionate and supportive. I was blessed to have her in my corner as my primary care doctor through the weight loss surgery journey.

I care about Dr. S. as a person. I’m really happy for her that she’s making this move and will live close to her daughter, granddaughters, and other family members. I’m just sad for me because I’ll have to find another primary care physician. For right now, I’m transferring my records and care over to the doctor with whom she shares an office. I saw him twice a couple of years ago. He’s primarily a cardiologist, so I went to him when I needed the cardiac evaluation prior to my weight loss surgery.

Down here specialists also frequently do primary care. It’s not like we’re a hugely populated metropolis with plenty of patients around for specialists. Since I had my annual physical today, I don’t actually need to see the new doctor until a year from now, unless I get sick and need something more current. I’m also not up for any major diagnostic tests. So all should be good. I’m sure that the new doctor and I will do fine together, particularly if I only need to see him once a year.

Other than the sadness over Dr. S. leaving, my appointment and physical went well. My blood labs are terrific! I have been off my blood sugar and high cholesterol medications since my weight loss surgery. I’ve now also been off the two meds I took for my high blood pressure for a year. My blood pressure was actually a little on the low side this morning. My fasting glucose was 80 and hemoglobin A1C level was also in the normal range so I no longer show any indication of Type 2 diabetes. The different cholesterol and triglyceride numbers are in the desirable ranges too. Yes, the co-morbidities continue to be resolved thanks to the weight loss and improved fitness. Booyah to the nth degree!

Dr. S. and I discussed the surgeon’s calorie-cutting suggestion. I received the last bit of agreement that I needed. The surgeon is officially overruled. I will keep on doing what I’m doing and have faith that I will eventually bust through the plateau. I might get frustrated some times, but I just need to keep going and believe that the weight will come off. After the holidays, I might start off the new year with another detox, but I actually enjoy living on smoothies for a few days. It isn’t a big deal.

Being healthy. Making good choices. Pursuing my plans. These things add up to the true big deal. Maybe the next time I see Dr. S, and I hope that I do when she visits here sometime in the future, I’ll be at my goal weight! In the meantime, I pray that the move is all that she wants it to be and I wish her nothing but the absolute best on this next phase of her life’s journey. Her new patients in her new town will be so lucky!

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Adding Qualifiers

In response to yesterday’s post, Lani wrote a very thoughtful comment that asked me to consider this:
If you never lose another pound for the rest of your life, how bad would that be, really? You’re active. You’re beautiful (you were also beautiful before, and you are still now, just beautiful.) You’re fun and smart and amazing.

She points out that I’m healthy, I’m living a great life. So, really, how bad would it be?

I don’t know. In the grand scheme of things, I am so, so SO much better than I was. I just know that it feels like it isn’t enough. It’s like I have to add qualifiers. In other words, I don’t feel comfortable calling myself healthy, but I am healthier. I’m not in great shape yet, but my fitness level is greatly improved. So, yes, if this was the end, I would be in a better, healthier, less obese state than I was and that would not be the worst thing.

But is isn’t enough. I don’t want to stop yet. Lani isn’t suggesting that I do, but offered the perspective that perhaps I should give myself a break for a little while, enjoy where I am while I maintain it, and breathe. Wisdom and compassion are in this suggestion, along with her belief that I’ll eventually get through the plateau. I wish I could take her suggestion, but I just don’t think I’m capable of doing so right now. Maybe for the next two weeks as I get through the holidays, but then it feels like something inside won’t let me stop hammering at the plateau until I finally break through.

At more than 200 pounds, I’m still obese. I’m okay with my goal weight being 170, which at least gets me to the merely “overweight” category according to the BMI charts. I don’t feel driven to go down to the 160s, 150s or 140s. However, if I don’t get to goal weight, I will feel that I’ve left part of this undone. I won’t go so far as saying I will have failed. That isn’t true. Lani’s right. I’ve made myself healthier and more sane so to that extent I have won. It’s just that if I stop and don’t get into One-derland and then my goal, it will feel like I won second or third place instead of achieving the top prize.

I’ve come a long way in dealing with the emotional issues too, but I’m not at the point where I’m completely serene. I realize that I cannot let go of the fear that this success is only temporary. I am afraid that if I do not keep pushing, I will lose the motivation — that switch will flip to Off — and I will backslide. The possibility of backsliding out of control and regaining the weight terrifies me. Been there, done that, more times than I can remember.

The best deal that I can make for myself is to take it easy for a couple of weeks and not stress about it so much. While it might not be acceptable to me to never lose another pound, I can give myself permission to not lose anything for the next week or two. That’s as much of a breather as I can handle, but it should be enough.

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Validation & Encouragement

I’ve talked about the whole calorie reduction suggestion not only here but also to good friends. To a person, everyone has agreed with me that cutting my calorie intake by 25%, which would put me in the 600 to 750 calorie range a day, isn’t a good move. That’s putting it mildly. Some of the reactions were quite a bit stronger.

I know in my gut that I’m right to reject the suggestion and, at the same time, want to share that having that instinct validated by you and my friends really helped my emotional state. As upset as I was, these could have been really bad food and eating days. Instead, talking it out, getting positive feedback, validation and encouragement, helped me balance myself.

I’ve been pretty even keeled, eating balanced, planned meals. Exercise-wise, I got in my full exertion and effort both yesterday and today. All in all, I feel really good.

I’m going to take how I feel today and build on it tomorrow, then the day after and the day after. When one has such tremendous, long term, deep issues with food and eating, enjoying days when these things aren’t issues are moments to mark, to treasure, to use as stepping stones for further progress.

One foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

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