Author Archives: Sweet Red

About Sweet Red

Hey, I'm Darleen and I live in North Florida, the posts included on this blog are samplings of the random thoughts and ramblings of my mind.

My 2018 TBR List

I spent much of yesterday getting organized for school to start next week. I printed out articles that need to be read, plotted dates on when to read what on my dry erase board, made notations in my books on what was to be read and by when and double checked dates/times listed in my calendar to make sure I don’t miss something. I feel as ready to go as one can, but will feel much better once I get some reading in, which will be tomorrow. I want one last day of freedom, where I can read for pleasure and nothing else.

I did create a January/February to-be-read (TBR) stack this morning. From top to bottom: My Kindle where I am currently reading “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck – because it’s a classic and I’ve always wanted to read it.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon – A reading assignment for school.
“Gulliver’s Travels” By Jonathan Swift – another reading assignment for school.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey – because I need to be more effective to survive work and Grad School.
And Finally, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Because I stopped reading the series after book 4 and want to finish what I started.

It might be a little ambitious considering I am such a slow reader, but if HP slides into March, that isn’t the end of the world.

26170385_10155384744713823_3123551086414874561_oA few other books on my 2018 TBR list include:

  • The complete HP series by J.K. Rowling:
    • “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
    • “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”
    • “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
    • “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
    • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
    • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”
  • “The Rules of Magic” by Alice Hoffman
  • “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng
  • The Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare – starting with The Infernal Devices trilogy:
    • “Clockwork Angel”
    • “Clockwork Prince”
    • “Clockwork Princess”
  • “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

What are you reading? What is on your TBR in 2018 list?

Categories: 2018, Books, Goals, Gratitude, Life, Musings, Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year, New Goals – Who’s With Me?

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve updated this blog, I’ve created a photography blog and a weight loss surgery blog over the past few years, but this one has always been my favorite. Because of this, I have decided to focus my energies on just this blog and incorporate my photography, weight loss musings and just everyday rants on one platform, this makes it easier for me and it makes it easier for those who choose to follow my blog – at least that’s what I am hoping, but I am always open to suggestions and feedback, so feel free to let me know what you think. Ok, on to the blog post at hand.

So, as I sit here typing this, 2018 is a mere two hours and twenty minutes away. As with every New Year’s Eve, I start contemplating what went right in the past year and what I hope to change and achieve in the next – this has been my internal conversation much of the day. Let me share some of my thoughts.

Summing up 2017

2017 was a pretty normal year, unlike 2014, 2015 and 2016 – there wasn’t much upheaval. Our living arrangements stayed stable, we have been in this house for two and a half years now and expect to stay here for at least one and a half more. M and I were fortunate enough to keep our jobs and feel as confident as one can with regard to our employment status for the upcoming year. The girls are doing well in their lives, branching out with new friendships in interests  – that’s all I can ask for at this time.

Not everything stayed the same though, in January, I started Grad school, pursuing my M.A. in English through UNF. This has been a rich and rewarding experience, and I am very fortunate to have a family that is supportive of my educational goals. Also, in June, I had weight loss surgery, specifically the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG). In the past 365 days, I have lost 86 pounds and am hoping to lose at least another 20-30 in the next six months. 2017 has been the year to work on myself, and I believe I’ve done a pretty good job.

Looking forward to 2018

Even though I did a great job working on myself in 2017, I am nowhere near done. I am pushing myself to take more than two classes this year, mostly because I owe my employer two years of employment after my final class and I honestly don’t want to be beholden to them for the next seven years. So in January I will be taking two classes, and sitting in on a third, which means I will be on campus Monday through Thursday evenings after work, it’s going to be tough, but so worth it.

I have to continue working on my weight loss by eating healthy and working out, so in addition to working out with my trainer once a week, I need to add more cardio and strength training to my routine. I had been doing a good job walking during my morning break at work, so getting back to that is imperative, and then hitting the gym at least two days a week, but preferably three.

I am going to focus more attention on my writing in 2018. I’ve missed writing creatively and I’ve connected with some great writers, online as well as in person, who inspire me to write more and focus on learning the craft. It is my hope to join a well-known writers workshop in May to get some much-needed instruction and feedback to strengthen my skills. I also plan to work more diligently on my blog, specifically how to make it into something that could open doors to opportunities for travel writing, which is a dream of mine.

I have fallen in love with reading again this year, I attribute that to going back to school and spending my first semester reading James Joyce including Ulysses. Plus it helps that we don’t have cable anymore so I don’t find myself getting sucked into catching up on DVR’d shows I couldn’t watch during my school semester, though I really miss Project Runway, but I love that I’ve been reading more for enjoyment and hope that I can increase the number of books I read in 2018 by at least two.

I am hoping to find a little more time to focus on my photography in 2018. I know I won’t be able to get out every week to take photographs then come home, upload edit and write about my photos, but I barely picked up my camera this year, and I do not want that to happen in 2018. I feel as if I lost a lot of technical knowledge this year and that makes me very sad.

How am I going to do all of this?

As I mentioned to a friend earlier this week, I am great at making goals, but I am terrible at creating the steps to reach those goals. I know that I will have to be very strict with my time and schedule in order to accomplish all that I want to in the next 365 days, so I have taken a few small steps to focus on my time management. I have invested in a very nice Franklin Covey planner that breaks days into half-hour increments as well as space to list priorities for the day and notes. Additionally, I bought a dry erase board to keep near my desk to write down upcoming assignments and upcoming appointments.


I have to create new habits in 2018 to keep myself organized and as much as I don’t like living by the clock, that’s the only way that I will be successful this upcoming year.

The biggest time-suck-trap that I fall into is social media. To be successful, I have to limit my time on Facebook and YouTube. I find that I can waste an entire day taking Facebook quizzes or watching my favorite YouTubers talk about reading or writing. Instead, I need to use that time to visit with my parents, read, write and complete class assignments.

I hope that you will join me on this journey, I am excited about your feedback and hopefully some encouragement as well. What are your goals for 2018 and how are you going to accomplish them?


Categories: 2018, Books, Goals, Gratitude, Jacksonville, Life, Musings, New Start, Photography, Reading, selflove, Travel, weightloss, Writings | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Tell or Not to Tell

I have lost 76 pounds since January 1st and people are starting to notice. On one hand, it’s very motivating that people are taking notice, on the other hand, it’s kind of stressful and puts me in a position where I feel pretty awkward.

I don’t feel awkward because someone notices that I lost weight, well that does make me feel a little awkward, but usually I feel awkward because the person I am talking to usually asks me what I am doing to lose so much weight and I am never really sure what to say. For instance, there is one lady who works on the same floor as I do that I really like, she and I have had some great conversations and she’s just really nice. She and I passed in the hall on Friday and she told me that I looked good and asked me if I’d lost weight. I told her that I had lost about 75 pounds and she asked what I had been doing to get there. I told her that I was eating less and working out more, but then I felt bad because though that’s true, that’s not the whole truth, and continued to tell her that I had the surgery.  My co-worker who was walking with me asked me afterward why I told people about the surgery and when I explained that I felt as if I was lying if I didn’t, she explained to me that it wasn’t a lie at all as I was eating less and working out more.

I know that there are some people who’ve had the surgery and will not tell anyone, and there are others who have had the surgery and will tell everyone. I think I may be middle of the road on this, but I do feel that not telling the whole truth is still a lie.

If you have had the surgery, what do you tell people who ask, and do you tell those who you really like more than those you just know in passing? I wonder if I am alone in my confusion.

Categories: Vertical Sleeve, VSG, Weight Loss Surgery | 2 Comments

Competition is my Driving Force

I am not a runner – I just need to get that out of the way before I tell you what I’ve been up to.

As I mentioned in my 22 Days In post, once my surgeon cleared me for exercise beyond walking, I joined a gym. My membership came with four complimentary sessions with a trainer, it took me a while to get over my insecurities, but about a month later, I started personal training sessions with a trainer named Shirley.  Shirley, is great, she doesn’t let her clients dial it in, so every time I meet with her, I know I have to give 100%, even if I don’t feel like it. She pushes me farther that I would ever push myself and I’ve noticed that I am stronger and have much more stamina than I did when I first started working with her a couple of months ago. One thing I love to do outside of the gym is participate in 5K runs. If you have never heard of a 5K run, it’s a timed event where participants run, walk or jog/walk 5 Kilometers (3.1 miles) – many of these events raise money for a charity or specific organizations, some do not, they are strictly for competition purposes.

My first 5K was way back in 2004, the day before my 33rd birthday. I had met and bonded with a group of remarkable women who were on the same weight loss/getting healthier journey that I was on and we participated in the event as a group. I fell in love with during that first race, it was a wonderful feeling to be among hundreds of runners, yet only competing with yourself.  I did two races that year before getting bursitis in my left hip and plantar fasciitis in both feet, causing me take a step back from the weekly walk/jog sessions with my friends. It was rough for a few years, I gained some weight back with the lack of exercise and life “stuff” but I continued to participate in 5Ks, off and on completing seven 5Ks between November of 2009 and March of 2016, including an extremely difficult and incredibly hilly race on Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Camp Pendleton, California with my friend Molly (still my favorite of all the races).

Now that I am getting healthier, I decided it was time to get back to it so I signed up for the Evergreen Pumpkin Run, a 5K and 10 mile run through Evergreen Cemetery, boasted as Jacksonville’s oldest operating cemetery. It was my first 5K in a year and a half and the weather was perfect, a beautiful, brisk and windy morning keeping the temperatures fairly low (around 60 degrees or so).  The Emcee was on the microphone, speaking to the crown about the difference between the first and second waves and reminding participants to line up behind their pace flags so I headed to the back of the line, where the walkers are supposed to line up. The starting gun for the more serious runners goes off, and the rest of us slowly proceed to our new starting line, making the pace flags irrelevant. The starting gun for the second wave goes off and we start moving a little faster, then we reach the actual starting line and suddenly, everyone starts jogging.  I started out pretty strong; jogging and walking an equivalent amount, maybe even jogging a little bit more often than walking. I found a small group of women who were walk/jogging at a steady pace and I decided to keep pace with them, this lasted for the first mile to mile and a half, when I noticed I was starting to slow down. By the time I reached the two-mile marker, I could still see them, but I wasn’t going to catch up to them; I just wasn’t prepared to keep that pace the whole race.

I passed the two-mile marker, I was making good time, but I could tell I was loosing steam, I wasn’t jogging as long as I was in the beginning and my walking pace was slower too. My new pace buddies were an elderly couple and a woman carrying her daughter, but they were still jogging and I was determined to keep up!

The three-mile marker came into view, participants were lined up along the path, cheering us on, the finish line was in sight, I started jogging again; I had to finish strong!  Finally, I cross the finish line, get my much deserved medal, bottle of water and a banana and head home, very satisfied with myself.

My goal for this 5K was to complete it in under 50 minutes – my chip time was 45 minutes and 7 seconds! I am so excited and proud of myself. No, it’s not my best time, but is definitely the best I’ve done in the past 8 years! I plan to do my next 5K on Thanksgiving morning, then hopefully one a month until April or May, when it starts getting too hot to do anything outside.

Like I said, I am NOT a runner, but I am super competitive with myself and I will not be satisfied unless I create a new personal best and it seems that the only way to do that is by running, so I it looks like I might become a runner after all!

2017 Pumpkin Run Results

Pumpkin Run Medal

Categories: 5K Runs, Running, Vertical Sleeve, VSG, Weight Loss Surgery | Leave a comment

8 Life Improvements After VSG

I am not going to lie, there were a few times before I had my surgery when I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I was concerned with the “what ifs”; what if there were complications while I was under, what if I experienced sever pain, what if my body rejected foods once I was allowed to eat, what if, what if what if. I was lucky, obviously nothing happened to me while I was under anesthesia, I woke up right on time. I never experienced sever pain, at first I thought it was because they had me on pain meds in the hospital, but even after I got home, I only took my pain meds twice, once the day I came home so I could nap and once the following night before bed so that I could sleep. To date, my body has not rejected any foods that I’ve eaten, well I take that back, I did try a bite of a Dairy Queen Blizzard and immediately broke out into the sweats, but it was a small bite so there was no dumping and I immediately threw it away and haven’t touched ice cream since, I don’t even crave it.

Below, I have outlined eight (I know, a random number, but I am a random kind of girl!) ways my life has changed since getting the sleeve:

  1. I no longer crave sweets or salty foods.
    Prior to surgery, I was always craving something. My go to’s were key lime pie, apple pie or chips and dip. But after the week of liquid diet and the two weeks of liquids after, I think I finally kicked the sugar/salt demons from my veins. Also, my doctor has told me that sometimes when they remove part of your stomach, they also remove a hormone that causes cravings.
  2. I am not as tired as I used to be.
    Before I had the sleeve, I was always tired and never felt like going out and doing things. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good nap on the weekends, and I still like to come home and decompress by relaxing in my room and either chatting with my husband or kids or petting on my dogs, but, I am not napping for hours and I don’t feel like death warmed over by the end of the workday anymore.
  3. I don’t cringe when I see myself in the mirror.
    I used to rarely look at myself in the mirror because I hated what I saw, I was overly critical over every lump and bump, but now, I appreciate how my clothes are starting to hang or cling in just the right way.
  4. I have more self-confidence.
    Because I am not hating what I see anymore, I feel more confident speaking to people. No, I am not a networking queen by any stretch of the imagination, but at least when I walk through the office halls or store aisles, I hold my head up and meet people in the eye.
  5. I have let go of most of the self loathing.
    As you can imagine, liking what I see in the mirror and feeling more confident in myself makes it pretty difficult to play the loop of negative self-talk anymore. There are still days when I get upset with myself for not going to the gym when I could have, but I don’t let it get to me like it used to. I think I am actually starting to like myself.
  6. I am a happier person.
    I like what I see and how I feel which ultimately makes me a much happier person. My family hasn’t said anything, but I suspect that I am more pleasant to be around too.
  7. My body aches less.
    It used to be that when I would get out of bed, my entire lower body would ache from what I can only assume is my weight, and a terrible mattress. We have bought a new mattress and I’ve lost 62 pounds so far and it no longer hurts to walk from my bed to my bathroom in the mornings – now if only I could get my eyes to open at 5am, that would be great!
  8. I can wear shorts out in public.
    I live in northeast Florida, it’s freaking hot here 10 months out of the year. Wearing long pants, or even capris is not ideal. Thanks to the weight loss and regular personal training, my legs are starting to finally take a nice shape. They are still super pale, and I do have cellulite and fat knees, but I am way less self-conscious about them. Maybe soon, I will move on to dresses.

I know that I am lucky, I know that not everyone has the same experience, I have good friends who have had terrible experiences, but you know what we do have in common, we wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again. I am sure there are some out there who would disagree, and I am so very sad for them, but for me, this was the absolute best thing I have ever done for myself, I only wish I had done it ten years ago

Categories: Vertical Sleeve, VSG, Weight Loss Surgery | Leave a comment

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