Sunday, October 15, 2017

Surviving the Office Halloween Candy Bucket with Chocolate Meditation

Last week one of my worst nightmares came true - someone brought in a large Halloween Bucket filled with various types of candy.  To make it worse, the candy supply was unending.  The bucket was never empty!  Everyday it was filled to the brim with different types of candy - chocolate, gummy, sweet & sour, fruity.

Over the years, I feel that I have developed a pretty strong Will Power.  I have tools in place to help me pass up on temptation - chew gum, drink water, avoid the area of the temptation, surround myself with people who will hold me accountable.  I was prepared for this moment.  And I did a great job . . . until Thursday.

I was unexpectedly going to have to take Friday off so I was feeling crunched to get everything done.  The homecare schedule for the weekend, which I was responsible for, was full of open assignments with a small group of staff available to fill it.  I had a site visit for the Senior Companion Program, which I am in charge of at our Adult Day Center.  Let's stop there and just say that my list of stressors was long.  My chest was tight.  My head was pounding.  I was nearing a complete meltdown.  Mid-morning I walked passed the bucket and found that it was filled with my favorite . . .
I grabbed one and shoved it in my mouth.  Mmmmmm . . . it was so good!  So I grabbed another.  And another.  And another.  Every time I walked by I would grab one.  I was still at work long after everyone had left.  I actually took my key and walked to the Bucket's office, unlocked the door and looked to see what was left.  Much to my delight, when I pushed the first layer of candy aside, I uncovered the mother load of Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins!  How had these gone undiscovered?!?  I am embarrassed to say that by the time I took my garbage can and set it outside my office door, it was nearly overflowing with bright orange wrappers.  Seriously Lisa?  Yep - that had just happened.
Thursday night I felt sick to my stomach.  Literally from the amount of pumpkins I had consumed.  And figuratively - how I had I let myself get so out of control?  After sending myself on a major guilt trip, I came to two conclusions.
First, tomorrow is a new day.  I would do better at making healthy choices than I had today.
Second, I would dust off a tool that was buried in the bottom of my Temptation Tool Box.  Chocolate Meditation.  I read about it in an issue of Psychology Today several years ago.  Since then, I've practiced it myself and included it in workshops that I've taught.  How many times, like me on Thursday, have you consumed a piece of candy so quickly that you did not enjoy it and got zero satisfaction out of it?  What a waste!  Chocolate Meditation allows you to take a moment to relax and truly enjoy the experience of eating the chocolate leaving you satisfied instead of craving more.  You should give it a try!

Chocolate Meditation
Choose some chocolate - either a type that you've never tried before or one that you have not eaten recently. It might be dark and flavorsome, organic or fair-trade or, perhaps, cheap and trashy.
Here goes:
• Open the piece of candy keeping it in the wrapper. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.

Take the candy out of the wrapper and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
• Pop it in your mouth (or take a bite depending on the size). See if it's possible to hold it on your tongue and let it melt, noticing any tendency to suck at it. Chocolate has over 300 different flavors. See if you can sense some of them.

• If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, then gently escort it back to the present moment.

• After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.

• Repeat this with one other piece.
Tomorrow is Monday and I am ready to face the day and face the Office Halloween Candy Bucket!  Are you?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happy Watermelon Day! Celebrating with a Healthy Team Building Activity

Work has been very stressful lately and I could tell that my aide staff was feeling it.  I wanted to come up with an idea that would be fun and de-stressing for my staff, a healthy idea and inexpensive for me (so the obvious and easy ideas of ordering pizza or bringing in donuts was out!).  So I hopped online and saw that August 3rd is National Watermelon Day.  Who knew?

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of watermelon is a seed spitting contest. When is the last time that you participated in a watermelon seed spitting contest?  A long time, right? I was a little worried that my staff would think it was silly, but we need some silly at work right now.  So I posted a sign saying Team Meeting at 2PM.

I had one hurdle - my day got crazy so my plan to run to the grocery store in between meetings fell through.  I walked over to the corner store across the street where I knew they had a small selection of fresh fruit.  Can you believe that they only had seedless watermelons???  As a back-up plan I bought grapes.

When my Team gathered at 2PM I could hear the groans about ANOTHER meeting.  What was up now?  They were quite surprised when I wished them a Happy Watermelon Day and suggested that we celebrate with a Grape Spitting Contest.  There was a pause . . . and then everyone burst out laughing!  We headed out to the patio off of our Day Center.  We set a spot where staff had to stand and then everyone got two turns to spit a grape and see how far it would go.

Let me tell you - we had SO much fun!  Everyone participated and we were cracking up.  It was the perfect way to break the tension.  Staff members were laughing, cheering each other on and teasing each other a bit.

Our Grape Spitting Champion and Runner-Up!
In the end we crowned a Champion and Runner-Up.  Our Champion chose a $5 gift card to Get-Go (a gas station and grocery).  The Runner-Up received a certificate for an extra fifteen minutes for her lunch one day.  To celebrate, we all snacked on seedless watermelon!

This activity took about 15 minutes (only half of my Team was in the Center at the time).  It was a great team building activity and stress reliever.  Everyone enjoyed the watermelon which was a healthy snack.  And the entire event cost me less than $15.

Healthy!  Fun!  Cheap!
Doesn't get much better than that!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's not too Late to Check Things Off Your Summer Bucket List

My kids recently returned from a week long Missions Trip to Puerto Rico with our church's Youth Group.  It was so exciting to hear their stories and look at the pictures they took!  They had an absolutely amazing time.

As I was taking care of the not so fun part of their trip - the smelly sweaty laundry! - my mind began to wander to one of the next big events of our lives . . . prepping for back to school.  School supply displays are up at Target so we should head their sooner rather than later.  My daughter "donated" her tennis shoes in Puerto Rico so she'll need a new pair.  My son needs a form completed by his doctor.


It is the middle of July.  We still have half of the kids summer vacation!  Why am I allowing my mind to be consumed with the stress of back to school already?  Don't get me wrong - it's important to plan ahead and be prepared.  My daughter and I will be making a school supply run this weekend (few things top the anxiety of needing a 1" red binder with a clear plastic cover sleeve that the teacher is requiring you to have tomorrow or you lose 100 points and there is not a single one left in 20 mile radius!).

I grabbed my planner and opened up to the page where I had written my Summer Bucket List back in May.  I've already checked several activities off.  But there are several more items on the list!
Hiking at Beam Rocks in Forbes State Forest - CHECK!
Fortunately, I caught myself before I allowed the stress and anxiety that always seems to attack me during the transition from one season to the next consume me.  There is still a lot of summer left to experience in 2017!  So I paused and took a close look at that list.  Picking a few items off it I purposely put them on my calendar so that they would not be missed.  I'll get to Pittsburgh's Wiener World!  I'll get to Hidden Valley for a weekend!

Trust me - I'll be ready for the start of school, but I won't miss out on the fun of summer!  How about you?  What's something you want to fit in before the leaves start to change colors?

A few more items already crossed off my Summer Bucket List . . .
Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Arts Festival - CHECK!

Yoga in Pittsburgh's Market Square with my Mom - CHECK

My daughter and her BFFs at Phipp's Conservatory
in Pittsburgh, PA - CHECK

Sunday, June 25, 2017

JJ's New Workout Game: Three Foul Shots or RUN!

Once again my teenage son had spent a large amount of his day sitting in front of the TV playing video games.  I told him that after dinner he and I were going to workout - no complaining, no excuses, no arguments - we were heading outside and we were going to sweat!

Much to my delight - and a little to my surprise - after we finished the dinner dishes my son said to me, "I'm ready Mom.  And tonight, I've planned the workout."  WHAT?!?!

Grabbing his basketball, we headed down to the bottom of our driveway (We have a single lane driveway that goes down a hill to our garage behind the house.  Our vehicles are parked at the top of the driveway one in front of the other.) .  JJ explained to me how he had adapted a basketball drill his 7th grade coach used during practice.  Here's what we did:

We took turns standing at the Free Throw Line.  Each of us got up to three shots per turn.

If you missed the first one, we both had to run to the top of our driveway touching the street with our foot and back to the very bottom.

If you made the first one, but missed the second one, we had to run up to touch our jeep (parked in the driveway closest to the street) with our hand and back to the very bottom.

If you made the first two, but missed the third one, we had to run up to touch our van (parked in front of the jeep) with our hand and back to the very bottom.

If you made all three, it was the other person's turn.

We did three rounds of eight total turns per round with a two minute break in between each round.

It doesn't sound like much as I type it out, but we were both dripping with sweat and out of breath by the time we finished.  Several things made me fall in love with this workout - 1) The fact that my son took the initiative to think plan the workout and suggest that we do it is obviously #1!  2) The element of surprise.  You never know which shot is going to go in!  It is very difficult to make the shot when you are out of breath.  3) Sprinting up the driveway over and over was a GREAT workout!  Plus, the more people who play the more running you do.

This game can be adapted to multiple sports - shooting a hockey puck in a net, kicking a soccer ball into a goal, throwing a football through a hoop.  You can also adapt the running to whatever space you have.  In the case of JJ's basketball practice, they had to run different lengths across the gym floor.  You could even do different exercises - If you miss the first you do 25 jumping jacks, miss the second you do 15 sit-ups, miss the third you do 10 push-ups.  The key is that your child likes the sport so that they engage in the game.  

Have fun trying out JJ's new game!  I know we'll be playing it again!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Beach Chair Transformation

This is my favorite beach chair.  I've had it for nearly 20 years.  Every time I go to the beach I sit in it for hours reading my book, watching the waves and digging my toes in the sand.

There was always one thing that I didn't like about my favorite chair - I could hardly get out of it!  It was the most ungraceful action that I'm sure was ugly to watch.  Often my husband or children would have to give me a hand to help pull me up out it.  I would hear myself making a horrible grunting noise without even realizing I was doing it as I struggled to get myself out of the chair.

Shortly after returning home from our beach vacation last summer, I was working out with my group of friends from work.  Our trainer Dana had us doing Chair Dips - one of my least favorite exercises.
Chair Dips
However, I quickly realized that the motion of the Chair Dip was the same motion required to get myself out of my beach chair!  So instead of complaining, I started repeating to myself "get out of the beach chair" with every dip.  By that time my husband and I had begun to plan our trip to the beach for our Anniversary.  I knew that I had about 11 months to work on being able to get out of my chair with a little more of a sexy flare rather than like a woman who is ten months pregnant.

Week after week, every time chair dips appeared on our workout I would repeat over and over - Get out of the beach chair.  Get out of the beach chair.  The move never got any easier.  My arms would burn and I never developed a love of Chair Dips.

Last week my husband and I spent the week in Nags Head, NC to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. Our first  morning at the beach, I awoke at the crack of dawn, grabbing my chair and my book and heading down to the beach.  Several chapters later I decided to go back to our condo to see if my husband was awake.  Without giving it a second thought, I sprung out of my chair.  You read that right - I SPRUNG out of my chair.  I couldn't believe it!  

Later that morning I returned to the beach with my husband.  I couldn't wait to show him!  I sat down in my chair and immediately sprung back up with ease and grace (and maybe a little sexy flare!) throwing my arms in the air and exclaiming "ta-da!"  He could see the difference.  I was so excited!  In fact, every time that I got out of the chair for the remainder of the week instead of letting out a moan, I would look at my husband and say "ta-da!"  It never got old.

There are many times in life when we work hard at something and don't always see a result.  The scale doesn't move.  Our pants don't fit any differently.  It feels as if no one at work is noticing the time and effort you are putting in.  Then all of a sudden - TA-DA!  Something happens and you realize that your work has paid off.  It's a lesson in never giving up!


I have to give a SHOUT OUT to my friend Dana for making me do all of those Chair Dips and to Team Muscle who continue to encourage and motivate me every single week!
Team Muscle led by Dana (green shirt)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Discovering Motivation in the Moment

Boyce Park

Saturday morning was a warm sunny day in Pittsburgh.  The weeks before had been chilly and rainy.  That motivated me to get out for a run to enjoy the weather.

A group of friends and I are registered to run the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay in a couple of weeks.  My leg of the race is 4.2 miles - a mile farther than I normally run.  The need to train so I don't let down my friends motivated me to get out for a run.

Over these past few weeks I have watched several of the senior citizens that I help care for at work continue to physically decline.  I constantly hear our Physical Therapist talk about how they stopped coming to exercise and the impact that that sedentary lifestyle has had on their health.  My fear of becoming like them motivated me to get out for a run.

I parked my car and began to run along the hilly road that winds through Boyce Park.  A little over a mile into my run, my legs started to ache and I felt tired.  I was ready to turn around and head back to my car.  All of the reasons why I was out for a run came to mind.  They were very valid reasons to continue, but I wasn't feeling it today.  Forget the three miles, I was just going to do two.  My motivation was gone.

It was then that I rounded a bend and saw them.  An elderly man and woman.  Bundled up in winter coats with hats and gloves.  He with a cane and her bent over a walker.  Moving at a slow pace.  Each step purposeful.  Each step obviously coming with pain and difficulty.  Wow - if they could be out pushing themselves to keep moving, how in the world could I let myself stop short of the goal that I had set for myself?  If they could do it, so could I.

I picked up my pace and caught up with them.  They were just adorable.  Talking to each other while continuing to move forward step by step.

I couldn't help myself.  I had to say something.

"What an inspiration you are to me," I said as I ran past.  "Keep going!  You're doing great!"

They looked at me and smiled.

I suddenly had a surge of energy and pushed myself to run through my walking intervals until I came to a hill and started to walk.  I could sense a car coming up behind me and then realized that it was slowing down.  It was the elderly couple.  The driver's side window was down.

"We finished our lap.  Time to finish yours!  Keep going," the gentleman said to me as his wife waved at me from the passenger side.

My motivation had returned.  I smiled and waved as the car disappeared over the hill.

I spent the next mile thinking about the absolutely adorable couple.  I could tell that they both were in pain as they walked along the road.  Yet, they hadn't stayed home.  They didn't quit because it was too hard or because they were tired.  They kept going and kept pushing themselves to take one step at a time.  Which is exactly what I did as I wrapped up a three mile run that had almost become two.

I have several big picture motivators, goals and fears that keep me moving day after day.  But sometimes the big picture isn't good enough.  It's easy to tell myself that I will focus on that tomorrow while choosing to do something else.  Running into that couple reminded me to look around me for a smaller dose of motivation to keep myself moving.  The beauty of the environment.  A favorite song with a great memory attached to it that is on my playlist that pushes me to run.  A friend who is expecting me.  A couple who inspires me to keep moving because they are moving.  I am surrounded by motivating people and situations just waiting to be discovered and push me towards success!
Making my way up the hill at Boyce Park.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

It Turns Out We were All Afraid of the Spin Bike

The Spin Classroom at my YMCA

While I like to try new things, I am far from the most daring person you will ever meet.  Rarely will I try anything for the first time by myself.  I ran my first 5k with my brother-in-law.  My best friend Amy and I went to our first Zumba class together.  Zip-lining was tackled with my sister's firm promise that she would be flinging herself down the mountain right behind me. 

One thing that I have been wanting to try for years is a Spin Class.  I would walk past the Spin Classroom at the YMCA and hear the pounding music and see the class full of people with wet hair and sweat pouring off their faces and my heart would start to pound.  There are a few Spin Bikes in the gym scattered among the treadmills and elliptical machines, but I would just give them a fearful glance as I finished a run. 

How could something as simple as a bike be so scary?  The seat is small.  No way my big bottom will fit on that little seat.  There are straps on the pedals.  What if I can't get them off and then I am stuck there - how embarrassing!  Various knobs are all over the place and what in the world are all of those numbers on that little screen?  Plus, I always see people peddling and standing.  How in the world am I going to stand and pedal?  I'll last like ten seconds.  No way.

One evening I ran into my co-worker Elaine at the Y.  She told me that she had just come out of a Spin Class and asked if I had ever tried one.  When I told her no, she invited me to join her sometime.  I shared with her that I had always wanted to try a Spin Class and that I would love to join her some evening. 

I managed to avoid actually going to Spin Class for about a year.  There was always a valid reason why I could not meet her for a class.

Then, Elaine called my bluff. 

I was sharing with my co-workers at our Morning Meeting about March Fourth.  Encouraging them to set a goal, try something new, do something for their health.  Elaine piped up - "This year Lisa is marching forth by trying a Spin Class with me on Wednesday."  WHAT?!?!  Everyone was looking at me.  How could I say no when I was encouraging them to take action?  "I'll see you on Wednesday, Elaine!" came out of my mouth.

Wednesday night I met Elaine at the Y at 6PM - fifteen minutes before class started (It is important to arrive early because bikes fill-up quick and once they are filled you are out of luck!).  I was literally shaking.  Elaine introduced me to the instructor who got me set up on the bike.  She moved the seat up and down and backwards and forward until she felt it was just right.  Then she adjusted the handle bars.  GULP - Next she strapped my feet into the peddles and had me start peddling.  My heart was pounding and I suddenly got really hot.  She instructed me on what the numbers on the screen meant.  Finally, she reviewed the Spinning lingo that I would need to understand in order to follow along - seated climb, standing flat, resistance, jumps  (Check out for a description of Spinning lingo.).  At that point, she deemed me ready to roll and walked away leaving me strapped to the bike gripping the handlebars for dear life and trying my best to maintain my balance.

Next thing I knew the lights went out and the music turned up.  For 45 minutes I sat.  I stood.  I pedaled fast.  I cranked up the resistance and slowly pushed those pedals forward.  Sweat was pouring down my face.  And then . . . it was over. 

Elaine and I after my first Spin Class
I LOVED it!  The 45 minutes flew by.  I pedaled while sitting and standing, going up hills and rolling along the flats.  I had no problem keeping up with the instructor.  Best of all - I never fell off the bike!  It was fantastic!  My mind was blown.  My fear was conquered.  I survived my first Spin Class.  Wow!  I was so thankful that Elaine had invited me and then pushed me to follow through with my yes.

The next day I felt great.  My legs and bottom were a little sore - just enough to remind myself that I had worked hard the night before rising victorious over my fear.  I told a few of my friends about how much I enjoyed the Spin Class and what a fantastic workout it was.  Several of their responses shocked me.  It turns out that I wasn't the only one afraid of the Spin Bike!  They told me that they had always wanted to try a Spin Class, but didn't want to go by themselves or were too nervous.  Really???  I honestly thought that I was the only one who had a fear of the bike.

So I invited them to join me in class with Elaine the following Wednesday, and two of my friends showed up!  By the end of class Spinning had two more admirers - both Nicole and Amy conquered their fear of the bike.

Nicole and Amy joining in on the fun!
Lessons learned:
* Never be afraid to voice fear about something because you're most likely not the only one.
* Conquering a fear is much easier and more fun with friends.
* Spinning is fun!

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