My Focus


Doing a generic Google search for yourself can be a little revealing. For myself, if you do not know where I live, I could be a nurse practitioner or a police officer. I am neither.

I live in Central California, am a stay-at-home wife, and love to learn. I love to share my thoughts on various subjects on this website. However, my overall focus is on health and continually learning how to better myself (and help anyone I can through that process). That is where my Atkins Journey comes into play. Through that website (and ID on Instagram and Facebook), I share the most about my life and progress.

Out of all of the projects I have done, my body is the most interesting. What works for so many people does not work for me and it’s fascinating to find alternatives to enable my body to improve and become healthier and stronger with each day. So, if you would like to actually hear more from me, check out my other “personality”. 🙂

To Learn, You Must Do

It’s rare when I am surprised by anything I read online. The last time I was truly shocked about anything in the public domain was when Trump won the Presidential election. Watching the election night coverage (yes, we watched all night) was true “shock and awe.” That was the best reality show we have ever watched and the reactions were priceless (and gloriously genuine). Virtually no one expected that outcome, especially me. I didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump. I can’t stand any of the Clintons but figured Hillary was going to win no matter who she was running against. See? “Shock and Awe.”

Most of the online election aftermath has caused my eyes to roll way too much. Both sides, with their diehard supporters who never really paid attention to what their candidates actually believed, just irritate me. As much as I love the MAGAs’ dread when they realize Trump isn’t the ultraconservative they assumed he was, I really loathe those Hillary supporters who assumed, because I did not support her (and definitely did not support Obama), that I was a Trump supporter. I knew some of these people for over 20 years, yet they lashed out at me like I had suggested someone needed to start drowning puppies. They chose to ignore the fact that I had never supported any of the chosen Republican candidates that ran against Obama in both elections. All logic and reason left their overly emotional brains and (from what I have seen) has never returned.

This has never been more evident than what has actually surprised me online: they are scared and talking about arming themselves and either advocating for (or anticipating) a civil war. I have even read some hoping for a military coup. It feels like a really bad episode of the Twilight Zone since this is the same talk I saw from ultra-conservatives when Obama was elected to office except then, the “fight” was to preserve the Constitution and now the “fight” is to dismantle it (despite the calls to arm themselves). They just aren’t thinking this through. Why would they want to give up control of their lives (and their right to protect their lives) to the very people they are protesting against?

This is new territory for me. I knew what to ignore when Obama was first elected as mostly grandstanding (or in my off-line words, idiots being keyboard commandos) but I don’t know this new crop of people. I am not sure how serious they are or are they just typing all of that to make others think they are serious.What I do know is there are too many people within society who do not understand that just because they think (or say) something doesn’t mean they will always win. These people also do not understand that with every loss, there is a lesson that can be learned if they are willing to remove emotion from the equation.

I do know that, outside of the anti-Trump groups, I have noticed an uptick in worry and a desire to begin preparing for … something. I am not sure exactly what the impetus to prepare is. I do not think it really matters. Whether people are preparing for some sort of civil war, civil unrest, disruption in the food chain, nuclear war, natural disasters, or any other imagined scenario, the path toward independence and security is the same:

You can have all the books in the world but if you have never grown a tomato plant, you will never be able to grow all the fruits and vegetables you need to sustain your family. This also applies to splitting your own firewood or baking bread (you know, actually cooking) or sewing a shirt or repairing your appliances or any number of skills you think you will need to survive any of the disastrous scenarios people can imagine.

This also goes for life in general (which was the original intention of this post). If all you do is read books without putting into practice what you read, you have learned nothing. Online marketing, SEO optimization, building your email list, writing (and publishing) a book, improving your health, losing weight, increasing your strength … none of the knowledge you acquire from any book, course, or video will do you any good if you don’t physically DO anything!

So, where do you begin? Go through everything you have learned over the course of the last year and figure out what one activity you can do today, right now. Choose just one. Then tomorrow, choose another. Slowly build up until you are practicing what you were taught (and learning what will work and what won’t). Not everything you have been taught will lead you to your ultimate goal (or end up working the way you intended). So, you set aside those things that are not working for you and move onto another activity.

The most important thing to know is you cannot control everything. You will not get everything you think you want (or things will not go the way you have planned). This is called life. You either embrace that fact or you will end up just spinning around in circles, blaming others for life not going the way you intended.

Even if you believe that the climate changing is caused by humans, what can you really do about that? Can you, personally, eliminate all excess carbon emissions from the planet, allowing your tomatoes to grow better this year? No, and even if you could, what would happen if the climate didn’t change back? What if all the scientists who support human caused climate change are proven wrong? What would you do with your life then?

We all need to focus on what we can personally change: our sphere of influence. Plant a tree, get your yard equipment serviced so it burns fuel more efficiently, stop using so many weed killers or bug sprays, pick up the garbage on your street (then the next street, then your entire neighborhood), dig up your lawn and plant food, vote for a city councilperson who embraces your way of thinking, etc. These are the types of acts that will ultimately change the world, not blocking traffic or hiding in your house waiting for the end of the world.

Perpetual Outrage

This post stems from a “I have had enough” post on Facebook. I have a wide variety of friends (or those I follow) on social media. There will always be topics I do not care about and I usually just scroll past those posts. The outrage that began before the last Presidential election meant I was scrolling more than actually reading most days. Lately, though, I have noticed the constant state of outrage is spreading from political topics to just about everything. From politics to sexual harassment to even herbal medicine and knitting (I am serious), it seems an opinion cannot be made unless there is outrage behind it. I am so tired of it.

I am curious about those who are perpetually outraged: how is your home life? How is your relationship with those who share your joys and sorrows? Do you care this much about the plight of your family, friends or neighbors? How does “that” (whatever is happening on the world stage, whether it’s words said or Tweeted by the President or “equal pay” for actors or …) directly affect you and those you love? I know for most, the knee-jerk reaction will be to say it affects us all but it doesn’t and you would realize this if you took a step back. I understand how difficult that can be when you are in the thick of it but living in a state of outrage all the time will only lead to illness and unhappiness (not only for you but those around you). I am not advocating sticking your head in the sand and pretending nothing is going on in the world. Being aware can be good as long as that awareness consumes (and ultimately) ruins your life. Before I emotionally leap into an issue, I ask myself: how does this directly affect me right now? If it doesn’t, and never will, then I let it go. If it might have a direct affect on my life some time, I keep an eye on it.

This month marks 8 years since my body, after years of being perpetually outraged, extended its middle finger and said, “I’m done.” It took me quite a while to realize I must come first. I must care about (and love) myself before all others or I will end up alone and dead way too young. I am, now, the happiest (and healthiest) I have ever been.

Meeting the Neighbors

We moved onto this street almost 15 years ago and, despite speaking to everyone on our street, there was one set of neighbors I had never met. It wasn’t that I was scared. On the contrary, they are the most peaceful neighbors I could hope to have!

So, 2 1/2 weeks post gallbladder surgery, I waited until my husband left for work (so he couldn’t say no or worry about my safety too much), donned my urban camouflage (I did so good-looking like a tweaker bum that when I got back my neighbor said he’d almost grabbed his gun when I walked by his house), and headed out.  It turns out that between 7 am and 8 am is a great time to walk our neighborhood! The hookers have already gone home and the tweakers haven’t emerged yet!

Welcome to my neighbors’ house: San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery!


Saint Joachim, greeting visitors to the San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery



Is this a saint?


Capt Charles M. Weber, Founder of Stockton, CA


St. Joseph






I have no idea who this is.


St. Isidore the Farmer?



Saint Lorenzo Ruiz


That was yesterday. Today, I walked for 2 1/2 hours and headed to the San Joaquin Rural Cemetery, since they are almost my neighbors (North of this one). I have always been creeped out by the Rural cemetery, even when I went there for the funeral of a friend in high school. I wanted to fight that fear and did but I wasn’t triumphant. That cemetery (the oldest in Stockton) feels sad. I may have to put off any more walking for a bit.



“The Soldiers Friend, Ruel C. Gridley, Born January 23, 1829, Died November 24, 1870” This made my day! “Erected by Rawlin’s Post No. 23, Grand Army of the Republic and the Citizens of Stockton, Sept. 19, 1887, in gratitude for services rendered, Union Soldiers during the War of Rebellion, in collecting 275,000 dollars for the Sanitary Commission by selling and reselling a sack of flour.





The inscription above the name reads, “Green be the turf above thee, Companion of my happier days, None knew thee, but to love thee, None named thee but to praise.”




Loma Prieta Earthquake – 28 years later

I hadn’t realized yesterday marked the 28th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake (that big one that hit San Francisco hard). What most of those outside California may not realize is the epicenter was not in San Francisco but 60 miles south-southeast. You would never know it by the damage it caused.

I have experienced earthquakes all my life, since I have pretty much lived in Central California since my birth. The first earthquake I remember was when I was in the third grade. My desk was jolted and I turned around and yelled at the boy behind me, telling him to stop kicking my desk. Right about then, the teacher told us it was an earthquake (if I remember right, the earthquake drills were the same as the atomic bomb drills … Duck and Cover).

From then until 1989 (and since), the earthquakes are typically different. Have you ever stood up too fast (or turned around too fast) and got a little dizzy? That’s what they usually feel like. My husband knows if I stop what I am doing and stare at the ceiling fan (to see if it is swaying), I got dizzy and am checking for an earthquake.

I was nowhere near the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake. I lived about 120 miles northeast. My 11 month old was napping and I had just sat down to watch the evening news when I was violently jolted from side to side. It was violent enough that if I had been sitting on a stool, it would have knocked me over. Then, a minute or so later (and 60 miles north of us) I see the news studio start shaking. It was surreal.

Once the details started trickling in and I watched with horror the continual coverage of the death and destruction caused by that earthquake, the “what-if” questions began rolling through my head: “What if the ceiling had fallen on us?” “What if the stairs were blocked and we couldn’t get out?” “Where would we go if we had to evacuate?” “How could we have survived with the amount of food in the house?”

Today I realized that was the day this prepper was born. I saw everything differently. I realized just how close I was to an operating nuclear power plant (and thought about how stupid it was that I had been there, swimming and fishing in the warm water … shudder). I realized just how close I was to the various military installations and weapons depots and national labratories and … I am sure you get the picture. Just imagine how much worse it would have been if I had been on the internet at the time!

My paranoia has ebbed and flowed over the years but believe it or not, the one thing I have not worried about is earthquakes. Where I live (a block from the mainline for the railroads) my house is jolted more when a train slams into a train car to hook it up than any earthquake since Loma Prieta. If a major earthquake were to hit, the possible damage here would be due to flooding (not the actual earthquake). That is, unless there is some hidden fault line no one knows about (which is always possible).

Now, my worries are not about North Korea, China, or Russia. My worries are about more mundane issues like: our health and happiness, my husband’s job security, my ability (or inability) to grow anything edible, crackheads, fires in our small community (old wooden houses built close together), reliability of the internet when asshats shoot their guns in the air and tag a junction box … you know, normal “living in a city” issues.

So, my trigger (to want to change my life in a big way) was Loma Prieta. What was yours?

Good Post Surgery Monday!


Well, I had my gallbladder removed on Thursday and not only is today hubby’s first day back to work but this is my first morning without feeling the need to take any pain pills! I am pretty sure I was a bit paranoid I wouldn’t wake up with the alarm, since I was bright eyed 2 hours before the alarm went off! I am thinking a nap may be in order later today, since I am not sure how “occupied” I can be if I cannot lift more than 5 pounds.

I have spent the past month or so preparing for this surgery. With fall threatening to become a reality, I wanted to get as much physical labor finished as I could so I wasn’t fighting weather once I was healed. So, would you like a rundown? I am very happy!

We have been living in this house for almost 6 years and it’s amazing how long upgrades/improvements/plans can take when a person keeps changing their mind (cough). The front yard is at the most 20 feet from the house to the sidewalk and raised. I knew before we moved in that I did not want lawn out there. So, after clearing as much of the lawn and weeds as possible, I was given a few small agave plants. So, I decided those would become my neighbor/crackhead deterrent. I planted some along the neighbor’s driveway and the rest along the front of the house. Then, I left them alone. This was a huge mistake!


April 2015

I did not realize just how big these plants get, nor what their growing habits were. They multiply prolifically, not only in the soil but within the plant themselves. Agave also likes to move whatever is in its way (not excluding house siding). So, when I decided I wanted to remove the concrete shingles, I didn’t realize the size of the job ahead of me.


June 2017

This is just over a year after that first picture and these plants aren’t just sharp, they are like hypodermic needles that (at least on me) tend to cause immediate infection. So, I had to don a face shield (the kind used to protect your face when using a grinder), thick clothes (that I still got poked through) and a machete to cut the leaves back so I could get close enough to dig out the plants.


Just one root ball, on a smaller plant.

Between me chopping away, digging, then having to take a break to recuperate, then finally asking my husband for help (here he is with his mad machete skills):


He can actually hit the same cut multiple times! He’s a god!

Completed a week before my surgery, we now have an almost naked front yard (I will not remove the agave next to the neighbor’s driveway until my husband has a section of fencing ready to go).


Almost naked yard!

Once I recover, then it’s time to work on removing the cement shingles. I could replace the lost/broken ones but I really hate them. Every time we turn around, one of them is breaking. When we first bought this house, we both agreed that the bulk of any “money” we would sink into the house was in sweat equity (there is no way putting in granite counter tops in this neighborhood would pay off). I want the original siding back. I love wood and so far, there doesn’t seem to be too much damage to the siding underneath the shingles (and there aren’t 50 coats of paint on it).

In the mean time, I have two books I am actively working on. One is basically an expanded version of the FAQs for “My Atkins Journey.” The second one is for my father-in-law. He has been writing down stories from his childhood, either about incidents that happened or stories he was told. He initially just wanted me to type them up for him but I thought compiling them into an actual book would be fun. I even have him hunting for pictures to include (he’s thrilled and so am I).

I am a new member if Instagram, so if you want to follow along, check me out here!


“You are pregnant.”

Those three words send a wave of overwhelming emotions (from sheer terror to exhilaration, along with every emotion in between) that can knock you over, whether you were hoping to hear them or they were a total surprise. If you carry the baby to term, things just get worse. That is when the actual worry begins (and never ends).

If you had wonderful parents, you worry you will not be as good as they were. If you did not, you worry you will not give your child (children) better parents. For new parents, no matter how much you read or babysit, nothing compares to the realities of having a newborn baby. This is when the continual worry about doing things correctly begins.

Then, that worry turns into reality as the days, weeks, months, and years pass and it’s difficult to know whether you did a good job or scarred your children for life. Now that my children are technically adults (my youngest is in their first year of adulthood), it looks like I did the latter and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

You know it’s bad when your oldest friend defends you to your child by saying, “She’s doing the best she can.” You see, she is a good mother and the kind of mother my children wanted. How do I define “good mother”? A “good mother” is one who puts their children above everything else (including themselves and their spouses). I was not (and never will be) a good mother. I was a “suck it up” mother (I describe myself as more of a distant father). One child just told me, “I understand what neglected means.” I thought loving them and making sure they didn’t kill themselves (or anyone else) counted for something. It was actually counted as a bad thing that the “only time” we spent any time together was while we played video games (I learned so we could do something together they liked).

I have jokingly said I should have had dogs instead of children and, during especially emotionally trying times, I see more truth in that joke:

  • dogs do not scream they hate you when you tell them no (or correct them), then refuse to speak to you for years;
  • dogs do not question whether they were ever wanted when you are trying to teach them a hard lesson;
  • typically, no law enforcement is ever involved with a dog;
  • dogs forgive your mistakes;
  • dogs care whether YOU are happy or not;
  • you always know what makes your dog happy.

I had always seen it as my role to prepare my children for life away from me. I wanted them to understand that life can be wonderful or it could suck horribly but how you dealt with it would determine if you were happy or not. Today, it feels like I have failed miserably. I do not know if it will get any better once my children are in steady relationships with (possibly) children of their own or not. All I know is I am tired (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).

Equifax Data Breach Info

Great piece (30 minutes) about the breach and what to do:

And you basically go here, click “Potential Impact,” follow the steps, sign up for their credit monitoring (only a year), then wait for the Class Action Lawsuit to commence. I want credit monitoring for life!

I like this lawyer’s take on what should be awarded:

Equifax can’t sustain trial over data breach, lead lawyer says

And here’s his website, just in case his lawsuit is granted class action status:

Merging Pains, Twitter, and Autoresponders

When I decided to merge two (of my three) identities into one, I thought I knew what a chore it would be. I was wrong: it’s much worse. Well, not quite. It’s not like the “old days” when I had to cut and paste code or go through each individual page to change a name or attribute. The issue is, I forgot the other WordPress blog had different pages, links, menus, etc. At least this was a much easier transition than when I first arrived on the WordPress scene and transferred all of my Blogspot posts here … that was a nightmare. SO, if there is anything here that is broken, please let me know.

As for YouTube, that WAS a lot of cut and paste. I finally decided that if I forgot to transfer it, I don’t care.

But Twitter was awful! I love the way WordPress and YouTube deal with multiple pages (blogs or channels). You can just switch between them (if you are unlike me, and actually remember to switch). Twitter, if you are old and still using a computer, does not allow that. You have to log off, then log back in to the different account. I use a different password and login for just about everything I do and it would have taken much too long for me to figure out which was which. So, this is what I did.

I announced on my two other Twitter accounts that they would no longer be updated and asked them to follow my “Real Me” account (@brendanolen3). Then, I went through all those I was following on those two accounts and followed with my new account. Well, thanks to all the “Twitter for Business” advice out there, I have been receiving not only autoresponder private messages for the past three hours (from each and every person) BUT some who want me to verify I am a “real” person and click a link (immediate unfollow with those). I even unfollowed someone who was trying to sell their stuff by tagging every single one of their followers, individually posting on that person’s wall (feed … whatever it’s called) to challenge them to “review” their product (maybe I just ignored them before).

If Twitter was my go-to social media platform for business, I would not have the time (nor patience) to read (let alone respond to) all the autoresponder messages I am getting. I understand that I tend to be an “old fart” when it comes to some of the technology out there (heck, I just joined Instagram (brenda_nolen … if you hurry you can see my first and only photo on there) a few days ago and still don’t know what I am doing) but I have a request to all those doing business of any kind on Twitter:

Would you please either arrange for your autorespond messages to be sent at a later time (say, a day after someone follows you) or stop using them? 

I am so irritated, I almost want to turn off all notifications on my phone. All I want to do is learn and possibly share what I learn (and who I learned it from … as in send business your way). Please keep this in mind when you immediately spam someone who follows you (I can’t be the only one who feels this way). If I receive any “reminders” or “follow-ups” from anyone, I will unfollow them. I have also gotten into the habit of unfollowing people who autopost.

I hope this will all calm down, since I just finished “the merge” about an hour ago.

Doctor Day! My Results Are In!

Here are the results of my latest doctor’s visit. I am thrilled!

My Atkins Keto Journey

After 10 years, I am still med free and can officially say I no longer have type 2 diabetes!

A few months back, I went into the doctor weighing 207 with an A1C of 6.9 (normal is 5.6 and below). Keep in mind, I hadn’t been to the doctor in over 5 years and had been eating just about anything I wanted. His instructions were to lose 20 pounds and fix my diet.

So, I pretty much gave up all carbs during the day and ate whatever I wanted for dinner (but stopped eating almost all sweets of any kind, including sugar-free). The first thing I noticed was my desire for food began to lessen. I am now at the point where I may eat a meal and a half to two meals per day. I am just not hungry during the day but I eat something so I don’t…

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