Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Setting an Achievable Resolution - Step Three

Happy New Year's Eve! 2013 is ticking away.  The morning news, newspaper and Internet are filled with reports and articles about setting a New Year's Resolution and deciding to get healthy in 2014.  Statistically, only 8% of people keep their Resolutions.  I feel that the main reason for that is because people set unachievable resolutions.  They set themselves up for failure as soon as the words roll off their tongue. 

In 2010 I set, kept and am STILL keeping my New Year's Resolution.  I did it with three simple steps:

1) Set small goals and celebrate often (SMART goals!)
2) Accept the fact that I am going to mess up

3) Ask someone (or several someones) to hold you accountable

When I set out to run my first 5k, I knew that I would not be able to do it by myself.  It would be too easy for me to just quit.  So I asked my brother-in-law Chris if he would run with me.  Why?  Chris is an experienced runner.  He had run 5k's before.  Chris is a very encouraging and calm person.  He could handle me if I started to completely freak out (He is married to my sister so I knew he could definitely handle a Hamer Woman Meltdown - Ha! Ha!).  Chris is funny, so if nothing else I knew I'd be laughing throughout the 3.1 mile race!  It turned out that I needed Chris with me during that first 5k.  I would not have crossed the finish line without him!
My brother-in-law Chris and I celebrating my first 5k Registration in 2010

Four years later, I have several people who hold me accountable to my resolution to live a healthy life (Chris is still one of them!).  I am a part of two groups - Cat's Zumbettes (Ladies from my Zumba Class) and Mom's Run This Town - who will nudge me if I am away too long.  My staff at work know about my bad habits and take great joy in calling me out in front of everyone if they see me getting too close to the vending machines.  My biggest cheerleaders are my friend Amy, my sister Meg and my mom.  They listen to me whine and complain about being tired and sore.  They get on my case if I start to slack off.  They join in my celebrations with hugs and high-fives for even the smallest of milestones. 
Amy and I at Cat's Celebration of Life, 2013
Meg and I at Pittsburgh's Turkey Trot, 2013

My daughter Ellie with my mom at the Jingle Bell Run, 2013
Sharing your Resolution, your goal, your DREAM takes courage.  You may feel extremely embarrassed because you've tried and failed so many times.  You may have tried to quit smoking every January 1st for the past ten years.  You may have started and re-started fitness plans more times than you can count.  You may still be working on losing that baby weight even though your baby is eleven years-old.  Don't worry about that.  Today starts fresh. 
Choose a person to encourage you who will lift you up and propel you forward.  Someone who will be honest with you, will cry with you and will make you laugh.  Someone who when they simply look at you is saying YOU CAN DO THIS! 
There you go . . . three easy steps to setting an ACHIEVABLE RESOLUTION.  You can do this . . . make 2014 the year YOU CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Setting an Achievable Resolution - Step Two

In 2010 I beat the odds and actually kept my New Year's Resolution to live a healthier life.  Earlier this week I shared with you that I did three simple things to make my Resolution a reality.  Step one was to take my "big picture" resolution and break it down into a series of small goals.  Setting small goals allowed me to celebrate victories often which helped to push me forward toward success.

Step Two: Accept the fact that I am going to MESS UP.

My life is not perfect.  I am far from perfect.  So why should I ever think that getting myself from point A to point B should play out perfectly?  Back in 2010 I did.

All or Nothing Thinking.  If I make a single mistake or if things aren't going exactly as I planned then let's just scrap the whole idea.  I messed up.  The whole thing is ruined.  It's over.  That's a very unhealthy frame of mind because no one is perfect.   

When I was training for that first 5k, I kept missing Tuesdays.  My kids would have a lot of homework.  I'd have to work late.  There would be a basketball game or soccer practice.  For whatever reason, Tuesdays were always rough.  After a couple of weeks of missing the Tuesday workouts, I was talking to my mom and told her that I was giving up on the 5k.  I couldn't complete the training.  I remember her asking me what was so special about the training on Tuesdays.  When I thought about it, there really wasn't anything special about Tuesdays.  It was just a regular run.  Then she asked me if the training schedule had a rest day.  It did - Sundays.  She suggested that I simply adjust the training schedule to work for me and make Tuesdays my rest day.  What a brilliant idea! 

"Messing up" isn't an opportunity to "give up."  Rather it's an opportunity to look at WHY you stumbled and make an adjustment to prevent it from happening again.  Or, it could simply be a time when you say "Oooooops!" and move on. 

Even now, four years later, I still have lots of "Oooooops" moments.  Finding myself sitting on the couch devouring a bag of chips after a stressful day rather than putting a handful in a small bowl.  Letting several days pass without lacing up my running shoes.  Yes, I always feel bad when I let those things happen, but I use those times to push me to "get up" and get back on track.

Remember - Messing Up does not mean Giving Up.  Messing Up means Getting Up and starting again. 

2014 is almost here.  I have one more tip for you to help you set and Achievable Resolution . . . check back tomorrow!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Setting An Achievable Resolution - Step One

New Year's Resolutions drive me CRAZY! According to research done at the University of Scranton, only 8% of people actually keep them. 

For some people, New Year's Resolutions are a joke or merely a topic of conversation during holiday gatherings.  For others, there is a serious need to make a lifestyle change and the New Year seems like the perfect time to make those changes.  However, many people are setting themselves up for failure as soon as the words roll off their tongue.

I agree that a new year is the perfect time to make some changes in your life.  It was in January 2010 that I resolved to live a healthier life and started training for my first 5k - a step that four years later continues to have a positive impact on my life!  What did I do differently that allowed me to succeed?  THREE simple things . . .

1) Set SMALL goals and CELEBRATE often

"I'm going to lose 50 pounds this year."

There are some people who will make a statement like that and be able to do it, but the average person is going to stay strong for a few days or even a few weeks and then give up.  This resolution is too big.  It is going to take a long time to achieve it.  While it is good to see the big picture, it is easier to accomplish a goal if you break it down into smaller pieces.

"I'm going to lose five pounds this month."

Or even smaller . . .

"I'm going to lose one pound this week." 

That is do-able!  When you achieve that goal - celebrate!  Do a victory dance!  Hi-Five your family!  Pump your fist in the air!  Allow yourself to feel good and bask in the joy of victory!  That good feeling will spur you on to achieve your next goal . . . "I'm going to lose one pound this week." 

One week will turn into two and then three and then four . . . and then fifty!

Back in 2010, my resolution was to live a healthier life.  I set a goal for myself - I will complete my first 5k on April 10, 2010. Using a Couch to 5k training schedule (http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/sofa-to-5k-training-tips), I broke my goal down further - I will complete the 5k training schedule this week.  After 15 weeks I was ready to go!  Fifteen weeks of small goals and small celebrations led to my successfully crossing the finish line of the Genesis Riverside Run 5k on April 10, 2010.
April 10, 2010 - My First 5k!

My friend Emily Jackson shared this acronym with me - Goals should be SMART.
     Time Specific

What New Year's Resolution have you been thinking about?  Is it a SMART one?  How can you break it down to make it SMART?  The SMART-er or SMALLER your goal the more often you get to celebrate a victory.  Celebrating those small victories is going to make you feel good about yourself and push you toward achieving your bigger goal.

Setting small goals and celebrating often is only one of three simple actions that helped me keep my New Year's Resolution back in 2010.  Number two is . . . I'll share that one tomorrow!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

STOP!!! . . . . ok, you may continue

Life is a series of
disastrous moments,
painful moments,
unexpected moments
and things that will break your heart.
In between those moments you
savor, savor, savor.
Sandra Bullock
That is what this week felt like.  One thing after another.  Crazy stress-filled moments sprinkled with moments of fun and laughter.  However, by Friday I was struggling to see the sprinkles.
My brain was muddled from hours spent studying the American Revolution and Metals and Mathematical equations and cell structure and Quel mois est-il?  (The fact that I was French Club President in high school is not helping me help my 14 year-old at all!)  Basketball season has started so we have practice and games and a pile of sweat-soaked laundry every night.  There are chorus concerts and potlucks and work deadlines.  Have I exercised this week?  Barely!  And don't forget that as of today there are only 11 days until Christmas and I'm not done shopping and my tree is still bare and I have given zero thought to a Christmas card??? 
chaos reigns within
reflect, repent, reboot
haiku by Suzie Wagner
Quiet.  Steaming coffee.  Pine-scented candle lit.  Warm fuzzy pajamas.  Christmas jazz.  Children and hubby still sleeping. Ahhhhh . . . Savor . . . Reflect . . .
Week's schedule organized and posted on cupboard.  Menu planned.  Grocery list complete.  Washer whirling. Kitchen sink empty.  Running Shoes on . . .  Reboot . . .

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Lesson on Compromise

This past Saturday, a rare event happened - my mom, sister and I all had several hours of free time at the same time.  We love doing things together, but it's hard to find a time that works for each of us.  This was our chance! 

My sister wanted to do something that involved her children.  My mom wanted to do something to kick-off her holiday season.  There are few options for 5ks in December, so I wanted everyone to join me at the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run.  We ALL wanted to be together.  So . . .

The Hamer Women with the Jingle Bell Elf

Compromise was the key.  My sister brought one of her children (Our little guy was too cold at the Turkey Trot so we knew he would not be happy!).  My mom threw on several extra layers (If you look at the picture her coat is not zipped because she literally can't get the zipper together!).  I still completed my 5k for the month of December, but I walked it rather than ran (Remember, my goal is to COMPLETE a 5k a month, not RUN a 5k a month!).  My daughter came along, too, making it a special outing for only the Hamer women - no men allowed on this adventure!

I have to confess that there was a small piece of me that wasn't too keen on this idea at first.  Obviously, family is more important that anything else.  Yet, I kept thinking about the time clock and how by walking the event my time would stick out among all of my other 5k times.  It would be so slow in comparison. 

"Really Lisa???  Who is looking at your times and comparing them?  No one but you," I could picture that smaller version of me standing on my shoulder with her arms crossed, rolling her eyes and talking in an annoyed tone. 

"Excellent point," I told myself.  "Let's move on!"  And I did . . .

. . . And we had an EXCELLENT morning at the Jingle Bell Run! 

I think that too often adults are not willing to compromise.  That's what leads to so many family feuds.  In this situation it did take us several days of text messages and phone calls, but when our wise mother reminded us that our initial plan was to spend time together it made the decision an easy one.  By putting our individual agendas aside and putting our hearts together, we ended up having an incredible day TOGETHER.

OK, OK, OK . . . I have to confess that I still set a goal for that stupid time clock!  I wanted us to complete the event in under one hour.  Our time . . . 59:11!!!  Woo-Hoo!!

A bonus for me - I got an unexpected gift.  I felt great joy and pride as I crossed the finish line with my mom as she completed her second 5k.  She exercises on a regular basis, but 3.1 miles is farther than her normal distance.  Our mom is one of our best cheerleaders on our journey to be healthy and incorporate exercise into busy family life.  What an example to my sister and I (and our daughters!) on supporting someone's dreams and goals by literally jumping into their adventure - I LOVE it!  A high-five to Ellie and Arden who also completed their second 5ks on Saturday. 

A lesson for all of us - As you make plans with your family and friends, plan with your heart.  Compromise can lead to great memories made TOGETHER rather than getting angry and spending time apart.

Ellie and My Mom

These two are just TOO CUTE together!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

One Mile is Better than No Mile

This weekend the Hustle and Bustle of the Holiday Season arrived in full force!  While I make it a point to try to enjoy every crazy moment, it is so easy to let the stress of getting everything done get the best of me.  So while I maintain my focus on including some type of exercise into my schedule on a regular basis, I also adopt the attitude that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Yesterday was a perfect example . . .

I started my day by getting dressed in my running clothes.  My plan was to drop JJ off at basketball practice, zip into Pat Catan's to purchase the picture frames I needed for Christmas gifts, sprint through the grocery store and arrive back at the school with enough time to run three miles at the track.  All within two hours.

Well, as I'm sure you guessed my plan didn't exactly work out that way.  I called my mom on the way to my first stop and we ended up having a very encouraging conversation.  One that I definitely needed, but one that took over 30 minutes.  Once I finally got into the craft store I got a little bit distracted by all of the paper and beads and sparkles and snowmen and . . . I am rarely in this store by myself and the frames are all the way in the back and it was just so much fun to wander around and . . . yep, I got sucked in by all of the wonderful holiday magic . . . and it was WONDERFUL!  I had a ball. 

After standing in the line that wound across the front and down an aisle all the way to the back, I left with only 30 minutes to spare.  Totally not enough time to go to the grocery store AND most definitely not enough time to run three miles. 

I arrived at the school with less than 15 minutes before practice ended.  Sitting in my car I mentally reviewed the rest of my day and realized that this was it.  This was my only chance to fit in exercise.  So I got out of my car, zipped up my jacket, pulled my hat over my ears and took off around the track. 

Now I am not a fast runner and in my haste to get going I forgot to start my watch, but I must have been flying around that track!  I ran a full mile before seeing JJ walk out of the school.  Go Me!

I've decided that I'm going to use this experience as my motto for the rest of this crazy holiday month . . . One Mile is Better than No Mile!  I'm still including full workouts into my schedule, but I'm not going to let myself feel upset if time runs out.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.  Plus I know that this Mom is a much more relaxed happier Mom when she gets her workout in! 

Before entering back into the world of Holiday Craziness, I want to take a moment and THANK YOU for reading my Blog and wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that you had a fun-filled day.  My day was FANTASTIC!  Below are some pictures from Pittsburgh's Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot that benefited the local YMCA.  I am SO THANKFUL for those who encourage me and support my desire to find a way to fit exercise into my crazy life. 
My sister Meg is my FAVORITE 5K Running Buddy!!  I am so thankful we have running in common and go to these events together.  She is my head cheerleader!  Thank you Meg - love you!

 There are some of the Moms from the local Moms Run This Town Chapter.  I haven't been able to meet them for their organized group runs (yet!), but I enjoy being a part of the group through Facebook and seeing them at races.  I am thankful for a great group of encouraging and hilarious women!  The woman on the right sporting the fashionable yet warm garbage bag is our awesome leader Melanie Fleming.  Find a chapter near you at www.momsrunthistown.com 
I was happy my brother-in-law Chris ran.  It's been a while since we ran an event together (Meaning we stand at the starting line together and then he's there at the finish line waiting for me.  Ha!Ha!)  I don't think he fully understands the important role he played in my running journey.  Had he not been with me at my first 5k, I would have walked away from the course after the first 100 yards!  I am so thankful for that moment when he encouraged me to stick with it!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Who's the Crazy Mom Running Laps in the School Parking Lot?

That would be me!

Finding time to fit everything in that I need to do is one of my most frustrating challenges.  As I've shared before, exercise is often the first thing cut from my schedule when there is no time.  A big time waster that I identified for myself is driving my kids to and from their practices and lessons.  There usually isn't enough time to get much accomplished between dropping them off and picking them up.  But there IS usually enough time to accomplish some form of exercise.

Basketball is my son's sport of choice and the season is just getting underway.  Fitting exercise in during his practice's at the Junior High is easy as there is a track there.  For his after school practices, I change into my running gear at work, zip out the door at 4PM on the dot and am able to get a solid 30 minute run in by the time he is walking out of the gym at 5PM.  I don't stop at home - I always get wrapped up in something else that eats away at my time when I do that.  His Saturday morning practices are perfect because they force me to get up and get dressed so why not get on the track while I'm there?

Nights like tonight when his practices are in the evening and at an elementary school are a little more challenging - no track and dark streets.  But - the parking lots are well lit!  Instead of rushing home to accomplish one small task before needing to return or sitting in my car dozing for an hour (though I have made that choice on many occasions!), I throw on my tennis shoes and reflector vest and run laps around the parking lot for 30 minutes.  This leaves me plenty of time to chat with the other parents AND still catch a 15 minute power nap!

Using my time wisely during my kids' activities is one of my favorite time saving tips.  You don't have to run.  You can walk, stretch, jump rope . . . be creative!  The nice thing is that your kids will be focusing on practice and not being embarrassed by you doing jumping jacks off to the side.  Though I do believe that providing ample doses of embarrassment for our children is one of our main jobs. 

I have to be honest and share with you that at first I was nervous about what the other parents would think - Is she seriously running around the parking lot?  Who's mother is that?!?  But the reaction is often the opposite.  I've had parents join me.  I've had parents come up and talk to me about what I'm doing which has opened the door to great conversations and friendships.  I've had parents say that seeing me has encouraged them to think about their health and exercise patterns.  It's been very positive.

So I challenge you to join me - next time you take your kid to his sports practice or her music lesson don't just sit there.  Get Up, Get Out and Get Moving!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

I spent more time than usual in front of the TV this weekend - Hallmark kicked off their delightfully cheesy yet hopelessly addictive holiday movie season.  These movies are one of my most favorite parts of these last two months of the year!  As my time in front of the TV dragged on, the items that would not get crossed off my To Do List this weekend grew.  Not good for a busy working mom!  Not good for a busy working mom who lists every aspect of her life on her To Do List - including TV time!   

I was reminded of one of my dad's classic sayings:
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan. 

I definitely did not work my plan this weekend!  On one hand - that's ok.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending some extra time vegging out in front of the TV.  On the other hand though, I know myself - this CAN'T become routine for me and it very easily could.  While this may sound crazy to some - the temptation to sit and watch those movies is so strong.  TV is one of my biggest weaknesses.  I LOVE to watch TV!  Knowing that, this evening I took some preventative measures to protect myself against two months of obsessive addictive TV viewing - I reviewed my plan. 

It's easy to talk about wanting to do something.  It's another thing to actually get it done.  I have found that if I don't plan something and write it on my calendar it probably won't get done.  That's why - for me - it works to make myself a very detailed schedule on a daily basis.  My daily schedule captures my bigger overall plan.  What goals am I striving to accomplish? 

One of the driving forces behind "my plan" is running a 5K month.  This forces me to continue running and exercising on a regular basis.  If I don't exercise on a regular basis, my ability to handle stress goes down, my weight goes up and my attitude is all over the place which in turns impacts my entire family (There is definite truth to the statement 'If Mama ain't happy,ain't nobody happy!'). 

Bringing that to the forefront of my thinking - after searching the Internet, my 5K calendar is planned out for the next four months - Pittsburgh Predator 5K in Boyce Park on 11/9, Jingle Bell Run on the North Shore on 12/7, the Frigid 5 Miler at North Park on 1/12 and the Cupid's Chase 5K on the North Shore on 2/8. 

My plan is in place. Now it's time to work it!  What's your plan for the next few months?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our Cat is Fat: Looking for Lessons Learned by Teaching a Cat to Live Healthy

Last Friday we had one of our cats - Jack - at the Vet.  He had been vomiting several times a day for most of the week.  Jack has gotten sick to his stomach quite often during his short 6 years, but never this frequently.  After running several tests the Vet diagnosed Jack with allergies - most likely to his food.

But the Vet had more news for us.  Jack's stomach problems were not only related to what he was eating, but also to how much and how often he was eating.  Bottom line - Jack is too fat and his excessive weight is impacting his health. 

Seriously?!?  I've been trying for years to get my family focused on eating healthier and increasing our physical activity.  Now I have to do the same for our cats?! 

Our Cat
This was not going to be easy.  How do you explain to a cat that his food bowl is no longer left out because he can't eat all the time?  How is a cat supposed to understand that no matter how long he stands on your chest and "meows," he can't have some treats? 

However, I quickly saw a potential benefit to this tricky situation.

Ellie is at that age where no matter what I do or say, I am ruining her life.  This is especially the case when it comes to food and physical activity.  When I give my daughter a new healthy food to try, she responds as if I am trying to poison her.  When I cut back on my her portions or refuse to give her a snack, she acts as if I am attempting to kill her via starvation.  When I head out the door to exercise, she whines that I never spend any time with her.  When I encourage her to get up and get moving, she screams that I am torturing her.  

What is one thing that Ellie holds near and dear to her heart?  JACK!  Who does Ellie worry about and take care of when he is sick?  JACK!

So my hope is that by involving Ellie in the process of making changes to Jack's food, eating style and amount of physical activity, she will make the connection between making smart food choices and being physically active and being healthy.  Making this transition is not going to be easy for Jack.  He is going to meow and bug us like crazy until he gets used to his new routine.  But, the Vet has promised us that he will eventually adapt to his new food and eating style.  The hope is that when we go back to the Vet in three months, Jack will be down a few pounds, vomiting less and his fur will look shinier.  My hope is that Ellie will see that while it was hard at the beginning, Jack has adapted to the changes and his health has benefited from them.

Ellie can't seem to grasp the idea of making wise choices and living a healthy lifestyle from me - hopefully she can learn it from our cat!

(That all depends on if we can survive this constant meowing!!  Ay-yi-yi!  He won't stop the meowing!!)


Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Simple Closet Cleaning Tip!

This weekend I switched out my Spring/Summer clothes for my Fall/Winter clothes.  During this ritual, I always asking myself two questions:
1) Are my pants still going to fit?
2) What am I donating to Goodwill?
The first question is actually more of a plea - Please let them fit!  Please let them fit!
The second question always causes some great internal debates - I know I haven't worn that top at all, but I just kept forgetting about it.  Next year I'll make sure it is front and center.  No, you really don't like it that's why you never wear it.  But, it was such a great deal.  How can I not wear it?  That skirt is a little tight.  I'm sure I'll have lost some more weight by next year.  That shirt is really comfortable, but I don't think it's really the style anymore. Keep it - styles always circle around.  Nope - it's gotta go! 
I have many of the same debates with my kids when we go through their closets.  They have clothes that I like that they never wear that I hope they will wear some day.  Clothes that have been worn well that I think are ready for the rag bag that they don't want to part with.  Clothes that I look at and think, "Did I really buy that?"  Sorting through their closets is an activity that rarely ends well.  (As I'm typing my daughter just came up to me and asked in a sarcastic pre-teen tone - Is this outfit OK with the Fashion Police?  Ha! Ha!  If it is still in your closet, yes it passes!) 
This week one of my co-workers shared an idea with me that should make this project a whole lot easier when it comes time to sort through our closets again:
We hung all of the hangers in our closet backwards!
As we wear clothes we will hang them back up in our closest with the hanger facing the normal direction.  When it comes time to sort through out clothes again, any clothes on hangers still hanging backwards are an automatic "You're outta here!"  What a simple idea that should save time and arguments.
We'll see how things go in the Spring!  For now, I'm enjoying my sweaters.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy ME Day!

Today I took a day off from work.  It wasn't a holiday.  My kids didn't have the day off.  My husband didn't have a doctor's appointment.  I took the day off just because I wanted to. 

It used to be that every few months I would get so worn down, stressed out and worked up that I would have to take a day off of work and crash.  I'd spend the entire day in bed buried under the covers blocking out the world.  By the end of the day I was slightly more rested, but really no more refreshed.  I called those my "Mental Health Days."

This past April I took the day off of work for my birthday and filled the day doing things that I enjoy doing.  I told myself that because it was my birthday, I would not feel guilty about focusing on doing what I wanted to do and not on what I thought would make everyone else happy.  I had a FABULOUS day!  It was relaxing and fun and energizing

It was so wonderful that I did the same thing the day after completing the Half-Marathon in May.  While on our family vacation in August, I made it a point to have a couple of "Me Mornings."  As soon as we returned from vacation, I looked at my calendar and scheduled my next "Me Day" -  TODAY!

I've discovered three keys to making my Me Days a success:

1) I don't spend the entire day in bed.  Looking back I realized that spending the entire day in bed actually made me feel worse.  My entire body would ache.  I'd physically feel more tired.  I have to confess that one of my favorite things to do is lay in bed and watch TV.  So I always spend part of my Me Days laying in bed - just not the whole day.

2) I do things that I enjoy doing, not things that I HAVE to do.  There are very few things in life that can't be put on hold for a day.  I always plan my day out ahead of time picking 2-3 activities that I want to do.  If I don't plan ahead, time always gets away from me and I end up doing nothing!  For example, today I watched my favorite TV show while drinking a steaming cup of coffee, crawled back into bed for a nap, got my hair cut (which I don't do often and really enjoy!) and then surprised my kids by heading to TCBY after school.  As I type, my kids and I are enjoying our annual viewing of Disney's Halloweentown; which to us officially kicks off the holiday season!  I'm feeling no need to get up and throw in a load of laundry - it is "Me Day!"  Finally, I've planned one of my favorite meals for dinner and then will be heading to my Zumba class.  The perfect ending to my day! 
Family Fun at TCBY!
3) I consciously block out all guilt.  I am the Queen of Guilt!  I took that title over from my mom years ago.  No matter what I'm doing I always have this twinge of guilt that I'm not doing something else with or for someone else.  When I stay at work late I feel guilty that I'm not heading home to be with my family.  When I leave work on time I feel guilty that I didn't finish one more thing.  When I go out to exercise I feel guilty that I'm not hanging out with my kids,  When I skip exercise to hang out with my kids I feel guilty that I'm not meeting up with my friends at class.  I could go on and on.  I'm sure that most moms can relate to this on some level.  On my "Me Days" I give myself permission to do want I want to do.  I tell myself  - literally talk out loud to myself - that I am pushing guilt to the side and focusing on myself for the entire day. 

Following these three guidelines have turned my "Me Days" into a time of refreshment.  I enjoy the time off rather than wasting it because I'm so mentally worn down and physically tired that I can't function.  I'll return to the real world tomorrow rested and ready to face my life. 

One of the first things that I'll do when I return to my life is fill out a PTO (Paid Time Off) form for my next "Me Day!"  Why don't you get out your calendar and schedule a "Me Day" just for you! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Top Ten

A fun idea I stole from photographer Carrie Farmerie's website (www.carriefarmerie.com). 

Lisa's Top Ten
  • I have ONE intelligent, funny, very tall son.
  • I have TWO beautiful daughters - actually only one, but she is with her BFF so much I often feel like I have two!
  • THREE things I really enjoy - Coffee, watching Castle early on Saturday mornings (l-o-v-e actor Nathan Fillion!) and walking in the woods.
  • FOUR-O!  I turned forty this year and celebrated by completing the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon.
  • I run at least one FIVE-K a month to keep myself motivated to exercise on a regular basis.
  • SIX + 10 = 16  That's how many years my husband and I have been married.
  • I can honestly say that I would have no problem eating pizza for dinner SEVEN nights a week!
  • My son is in EIGHTh grade and my daughter is in sixth.  How is that possible?
  • I am on Cloud NINE that the Pittsburgh Pirates not only had a winning season in 2013, but are in the play-offs after 20 consecutive losing seasons!
  • I fall asleep TEN seconds after my head hits the pillow, but am often awake at 4AM thinking about the day ahead.
Your turn!  What is your Top Ten?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thoughts from a Fan of Pittsburgh Pirates' Manager Clint Hurdle

I have been glued to the TV these past few weeks watching the Pittsburgh Pirates' over-the-top exciting season.  Like most Pittsburghers, I have been waiting for this season for over 20 years.  So many great players with great stories make up this Team.  However, the person that I've enjoyed watching most hasn't been running around the bases.  It's the man leaning against the railing of the dugout chewing a large wad of pink gum - manager Clint Hurdle.  Since arriving in Pittsburgh as the Pirates' Manager three years ago, I have had a great affection for Hurdle.  From what I observed on TV and read about him is a classic good guy.  The kind of person ready to cheer you on when you're having a great day and pick you up when your day is not that great.

Clint Hurdle.jpg
Pittsburgh Pirates' Manager Clint Hurdle

Last week my husband shared an article with me -  http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9726637/pirates-manager-clint-hurdle-inspiring-others-daily  - which clinched Clint Hurdle's spot in my heart as a man to learn from (after my dad who will always hold the top spot - of course!).  There are many qualities in Clint Hurdle that admire - both professionally and personally, but two really stick out.

1) Positive Attitude.  Clint Hurdle is the ultimate example of the power of positivity.  One of my favorite parts of the ESPN article was how after being fired from the Rockies, the staff continued to reach out to Hurdle for inspiration.  They missed his positive attitude and uplifting sayings being part of their daily lives.  I strive to be the kind of person who is missed because of the positivity I bring to a situation, not because people are happy I'm not there because of my complaining or grouchiness.  It is so easy in life to let the negative rule our attitudes or emotions.  Personally, Hurdle has had many hurdles in his life that he has overcome.  Professionally, he accepted the job of managing the Pirates who up until this season had 20 consecutive losing seasons, the longest losing streak in North American professional sports history - conquering that negative situation on a daily basis had to be hard.  Over the years Hurdle has learned to face negative situations, learn from them and then move on putting the life lessons he learns into action with a very positive twist.  The best part - he has found great happiness and contentment in life.  I want to be like that!
2) Have fun.  One of my favorite moments from this post-season adventure was after the Pirates' Wildcard victory over the Cincinnati Reds.  The players waited for everyone to get into the locker room.  Then they circled around Hurdle and sprayed him with champagne while Hurdle did his own little victory dance. (Another example of talking the talk and walking the walk - Hurdle celebrated with apple cider to maintain his over 15 years of sobriety.)  This morning I watched Hurdle's press conference about today's game at PNC Park.  He was talking about Pirate fans approaching today's game like the pirates we see in movies . . . how much fun is that!  (YES, I saved an eye patch from our International Talk Like A Pirate Day celebration and YES, I will be wearing it at the game this afternoon!)  Here is a man working hard in a high pressure situation; yet, he is enjoying the moment and having fun.  I want to be like that!

Through the high and low moments of his life and career, Hurdle sends a daily e-mail to a growing list of people (currently over 1,000!) sharing a positive inspirational quote or thought.  He ends his e-mails with, "Make a difference today.  Love, Clint"  From watching his actions and hearing his words both on and off the field, Hurdle has definitely made a difference in me!

This is one day that this mom won't be out running.  Today you'll find me at PNC Park cheering on Clint Hurdle's Team.  LET'S GO BUCS!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Free Throws and Early American History

My family's To Do List is always filled with more tasks than we have time to complete.  This evening was no exception.

One of the most important things that JJ had to do tonight was study for his Early American History test.  After a day of sitting in school with no gym class, I really wanted him to get some exercise, too.  The more I thought about it, I realized there was no reason we couldn't combine the two tasks.   I just had to use a little creativity.

I had JJ review his study guide while I tackled some other items on the evening's To Do List.  Then we got in the car and headed for the gym.  Thankfully a basketball hoop was open.  While JJ warmed up, I set the ground rules.

1) For every Free Throw that JJ missed I would ask him a question from the study guide.
2) If he got the answer right, he attempted another shot.
3) If he got the answer wrong he had to do five jumping jacks and the question would be asked again later.
4) For every five questions that he missed, he had to run a suicide drill.

JJ made lots of baskets - but not all of them!  After getting several questions right, he missed one.  I think I surprised him when I actually made him do the jumping jacks! 
When we got to the last question, JJ had missed four questions.  If he got the last one wrong, he'd have to run . . . no suicide drill for JJ tonight! 
By the end of our study session, JJ had answered all of the questions on the study guide correctly AND had broken a sweat.  And I had crossed two things off of our To Do List.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

One Serving = One Cookie = One Hundred Calories . . . Really?

Today was a stress-filled day.  By 10:30PM I was tired and I was hungry.  I hadn't sat down for any decent length of time other than my car ride home from work and I hadn't eaten dinner.  My emotions ranged from frustration to anger to sadness to just plain blah!  I still had to make a stop at the grocery store before ending my day and I knew it was a recipe for disaster.  But we needed milk and bread.  Plus, if I showed up at home without Jamison's ice cream he would lose it!  (I say that in a joking manner; however, those of you who know my husband know how serious he is about his ice cream!)

As I walked through the grocery store, I passed a fun display of Oreo cookies.  They were on sale!  And I saw that they had Triple Double Stuff Oreos!  My co-worker had been telling me about these amazing creations.
The Triple Double Stuff Oreo
One box wouldn't hurt.  Plus, I've been separating the snacks into portion size baggies for my kids to help them control their after-school eating frenzy.  These Triple Double Stuffs would make a nice treat.

Into my cart they went!

As I came down the final aisle I grabbed a gallon of milk.  I saw the individual-sized small jugs of milk.  Maybe I'll sneak an Oreo or two in the car before I get home.  This milk will make them taste even better.

Into my cart went the small jug of milk.

After paying for my groceries and getting into my car, I remembered my Oreos.  So I pulled over and reached into the back seat digging through the grocery bags.  Found them!

I popped a Triple Double Stuff Oreo in my mouth and followed it with a big swig of milk.  MMmmmmm!  It tasted SO good!  I enjoyed another and another . . . one after the other until I had finished five Oreos.  FIVE!  I didn't feel guilty or bad or sick to my stomach.  I enjoyed every single bite!

When I got home, I unpacked the groceries.  Taking the opened bag of Oreos, I got out a couple Ziploc baggies to divide the remaining Oreos into serving size portions.  I peaked at the nutrition information on the package.  How many cookies equaled one serving?  Three?  Four? 

I blinked my eyes several times to make sure that I was seeing things correctly.  Was that the number one?  One serving equaled one cookie?  Home many calories are listed for that suggested serving size of ONE cookie?  . . . . . . .

I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.  Was I reading that right?  One serving size equals 100 calories.  WHAT?!?!?  You mean to tell me that I just ate 500 calories worth of cookies?  How can there be that many calories in the one little cookie?!?!  Even if it is a Triple Double Stuff one?!?!  I'm in complete shock.  I can't believe I did that.  I ate 500 calories in a matter of minutes . . . and I enjoyed it!

Lesson learned:  I still think that it is perfectly acceptable to have a P.I.T.Y. (Purposefully Indulge the Yuck!) Party every once in awhile (And if my party involves Oreos - that's ok.).  Next time I throw myself a P.I.T.Y. Party though, I need to at least peek at the food label of whatever food I'm indulging in.  500 Calories?!?!  In 5 cookies?!?!?!  Oh boy - that part of this feeding frenzy was a bit crazy!  Definitely should have chose to Walk Away from those Triple Double Stuffs!

So now I have 500 extra calories to burn.  Looks like this Mom is off to go running!  But it's late and I'm tired.  I'll throw in a couple extra laps tomorrow.  Good Night!  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tried a New Workout Tonight . . . DRUMMING!

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with an instructor at our local YMCA - Colleen. She told me about a new class she was starting and invited me to attend.  It sounded like fun so I told I would check it out.

When I arrived for the class this evening, the classroom was dark.  I went back to the front desk and there was Colleen. 

"Are you drumming tonight?" I asked.

Her face lit up. "I'd love to," she said.  "It's probably going to be just you and me.  Is that OK?"

"It's OK with me if it is OK with you," I responded.  I have to confess that there was a small voice in my head that said, "Are you crazy?  Can you say awkward?"  But over the past few years I've learned to ignore that voice - it's the same one that used to tell me that Oreos would make me feel better.

Colleen led me into the classroom and we set-up the Exercise Balls.  She handed me two drumsticks and turned on the music.  This began my introduction to

How much fun did I have?  A ton!  How much did I sweat?  A ton!  The concept seems simple - hit a big rubber ball with a set of sticks.  I fed off of Colleen's enthusiasm and picked up the rhythms quickly.  
The impact of the class was deep.  The Drums Alive website describes it as a mind/body experience.
"Drums Alive® joins the dynamic movements of aerobic dance with the pulsating rhythms of the drum. It is a unique sensory/motor program that is designed to give the mind and body instant feedback through continuous movement and rhythmical flow. It is a program that utilizes "whole brain - whole body" thinking by developing sensory motor reflexes and kinesthetic awareness. The physiological and psychological benefits are numerous including those found in traditional forms of aerobic fitness. Drumming has also been found to improve and increase the neurological connection between the 2 brain hemispheres, stimulating Alpha brain wave activity which can lead to higher levels of concentration, sensory/motor improvement, and an overall sense of well being."  (www.drums-alive.com)   
By the end of the 50-minute class, my heart was pounding, sweat was dripping from my nose and I had a HUGE smile on my face.  I'm so glad I didn't walk away when the room was dark or when I realized I would be the only student.  Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new paid off for me tonight.  I had a good time and got a great workout!
Who's joining me next week?  6PM Thursdays at the East Suburban YMCA in Plum. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finding Silence in the Drive-Thru

We spent this weekend visiting our friend Bill.  It turns out that Bill is not a coffee drinker.  In fact, Bill does not even own a coffee pot.  (Seriously!?!?  Bill - I'm getting you one for Christmas!)  Being the type of person who has her coffee set to brew 15 minutes before her alarm goes off and who takes her first sip of the arousing brew before her eyes are fully open - this was a bit of a problem.  So in the morning, I pulled my hair back into a messy ponytail, grabbed the keys and flew down to the McDonald's drive-thru the moment my brain even considered waking up.   

This morning I pulled into a parking spot and enjoyed my steaming cup of coffee and flipped through the pages of a magazine. Thirty minutes later as I re-started the car and headed back to Bill's, I realized that I had just spent thirty minutes in silence.  Music had not been playing.  No one was talking to me.  The theme song to Good Luck Charlie or the sounds of players tackling each other on Madden had not been echoing around me.  There were no outside sounds such as traffic or even birds.  No interruptions.  Just silence. 

When was the last time I sat in silence?  To tell you the truth . . . I don't remember.  (When was the last time I looked at a magazine somewhere other than in the bathroom?  I confess that I don't remember that either!) 

As I drove, I realized that the car was still silent.  I had turned the radio volume down as I went through the drive-thru and had never turned it back up.  At first I felt a little strange.  There was a kind of white noise in my ears.  Then I realized that I actually felt calm and relaxed. 

Later in the day as I waited for my family to pack up their belongings (Driven by my caffeinated state of being, I had my stuff packed and in the car before the rest of the gang got moving!), I searched the web for "the benefits of silence."  One writer compared spending time in silence to plugging your cell phone into the wall - you get re-charged (www.omtimes.com).  Another compared the brain's need for silence to the body's need for food (www.arinanikitina.com).  Both agreed that spending a brief time each day in silence increases creativity and decreases stress. Several other articles talked about silence boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure and regulating hormones. 

I found my favorite comment on the benefits of silence several pages into my search.  An article from www.top7business.com entitled Enjoy the Silence: The 7 Powers of Silence in Business said,
          "Those who enter a period of silence each day learn to hear the song of their heart. 
            They learn to listen to the song that only they can sing."

I have to be honest that I had never visited any of these websites before today.  I was actually surprised that after going through several pages of my Google search, I did not find any articles by prestigious universities or well-known (at least to me) authors.  Some major medical research center HAS to be doing research on the benefits of silence, don't you think?

Regardless of who is saying what about the benefits of spending time in silence, I felt refreshed by my silent time this morning.  Getting a break from the noise of the world and having the opportunity to mindlessly turn the pages of a magazine while joyfully sipping my hot coffee was a real treat. 

There is a McDonald's not far from my house.  Maybe I should drive down there for coffee on a Saturday morning every once in a while instead of making my coffee at home.  Though I'd run a much greater risk of running into someone I know as I sit in my car wearing my PJ's having my first cup of morning coffee than I did at Bill's house. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walk Away or Walk It Off

Several weeks ago I read a small article tucked in the back of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the cost of food.  The article was not talking about dollars and cents, but rather time and sweat.  How many miles will I need to run to burn off that burger?  How many sit-ups will that cupcake cost me? 

This article put food in a different perspective for me.  Are the 15 seconds it will take for me to inhale a handful of chips or a candy bar be worth the 30 minutes it will take me to burn off the calories?  Probably not.  When faced with the decision of a large piece of cake versus a small piece of cake, I would always take the bigger piece not giving a second thought to the fact that I knew I would feel sick after eating it.  But now when I look at the pieces of cake from the perspective of how much exercise it will take to burn off those calories, I'm more inclined to take the smaller piece. 

Asking myself a simple question before making a decision about what foods I eat has helped me to make healthier choices . . . Do I walk away now or walk it off later?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

35 Meals in 30 Minutes

Time and Money.  Two things that cause me great stress. 

Most Saturday mornings I spend a good chunk of time planning out my family's meals for the week ahead.  I enjoy searching the Internet for new recipes and lingering over my cookbooks looking for recipes that my family likes but that I haven't made for awhile.  I find that the weeks I take the time to do this run smoother because I know what I am making for dinner the second I walk in the door from work.  These weeks also cost less because my grocery shopping is organized and I am less likely to fallback on pizza.  This plan greatly lowers my stress because I am ultimately saving time and money.

However,  the weeks that I don't have time to plan out our meals don't go as well.  I'm often flying aimlessly through the grocery store late on a Sunday night throwing random items in my cart.  When I get home from work I stand and stare in the freezer and cupboard hoping a brilliant idea will pop out at me.  I return to the grocery store one or two more times during the week to pick up forgotten items.  A pizza box (or two!) and bags from fast food restaurants can be found in our garbage.  My stress level is high and my debit card is on fire. 

Looking at the weeks ahead, I know that our weekends are going to be busy.  Sitting down on Saturday mornings with a cup of hot coffee surrounded by my cookbooks is not going to be happening.  But today I had plenty of time.  It dawned on me - why not plan an entire month's worth of meals at one time.  I expected it to take quite awhile, but it surprisingly only took me 30 minutes! 

Here's what I did:

1) Made a list of 30 meals that I make for my family.  I listed whatever came to mind from simple suppers such as grilled cheese with tomato soup to more complicated meals like lasagna to classic family favorites such as pancakes.

2) Divided the list into chicken, beef, breakfast, sandwiches, pasta and difficult dinners.  This made it easy to make sure I spread the meals out and hadn't planned things like three chicken dishes one week and none the next. 

3) Looked up five new recipes that looked good to try (one new recipe a week!).

4) Used five sheets of paper to list Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. to represent each week.

5) Divided my list of 35 meals between the five weeks.  I took things into consideration such as simple meals on my Zumba nights.  Crockpot meals on Fridays because I am always exhausted.  More complicated meals on Sundays because I often have more times on Sundays. 

Bam!  I'm done!  Five weeks of meals planned and ready to go. I couldn't believe how easy it was.  In fact my meal plan came together so fast that I had time to write up five shopping lists.

I know that this sounds like such a simple idea, but I am so excited about it!  Obviously, I will need to have flexibility depending on exactly what is going on each week (If you've read my earlier posts you know I struggle with that!).  And I am giving myself three Pizza Coupons to use during the five weeks (I LOVE pizza!). 

35 Meals in 30 Minutes.  I'm expecting this meal plan to greatly reduce my stress and help keep my budget on target (which also reduces my stress level!).  I can't wait to get cookin'!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Day Twelve is My Day One

One of the latest trends on Facebook is the 30-Day Challenge.  For example, I’ve seen the ab challenge, the arm challenge and the squat challenge.  These challenges scream my name – structured time frame, small time commitment, concise direction on exactly what to do.  I can print out the calendar and make a big X on each day as I complete it.  Is this perfect for me or what?!?!  Love it! 

For the past several months I’ve been ready to jump on the 30-Day Challenge Bandwagon with the Ab Challenge.  Crunches, planks and leg lifts - I’m in!  My calendar is printed out.  My marker is ready to start crossing off those days.  I’m ready to go!  Then, the next thing I know it’s the third of the month. 

“Oooops.  Missed that start date.  I’ll start next month,”  I tell myself. 

The next month it’s the same thing.  I’m in!  My calendar is printed out.  My marker is ready to start crossing off those days.  I’m ready to go!  Then, all of a sudden it’s the fifth of the month. 

“Oooops.  Missed that start date.  I’ll start next month,”  I tell myself. 

Here I am today – August 12, 2013.  I can physically feel my pudgy belly rolling over the waistband of my pants and am mentally feeling extremely frustrated with myself. 

A lesson that I learned after a conversation I had with my mom a couple years ago when I was ready to quit the Couch to 5K training program pops into my head (as recorded in My Story Part 3):

Lesson #3 - Make your exercise schedule work for you.

At one point in my training I became very frustrated because I was always too busy and tired on Tuesdays and kept skipping the workout.  I was ready to give up.  Talking to my mom about it, she asked me "Who is telling you that you have to run on Tuesdays?"  That question made me stop and think.  "The schedule on the paper," I quietly answered.  "The paper?  Do they have a day to rest on the paper?" she asked.  "Yes, on Sundays." I replied.  "Why don't you rest on Tuesdays and run on Sundays?  Don't give up.  Just make a simple change to make the schedule work for you."  I always knew my mom was a wise woman!  Making that switch was a huge mental turning point for me.  I had been trying to fit myself into the training schedule, when what I really needed to do was fit the training schedule into my life.  It worked - I didn't quit!

It dawned on me . . . Just because the idea is to start day one on the first of the month, is there some crazy law out there that says that that's when I have to start?  If I start today - on the 12th - is the 30-Day Challenge Police going to show up at my door ready to cart me away?  I don't think so.

So today, August 12, 2013, I am starting Day One of the 30-Day Ab Challenge because it works for me!  (If you are on Day Twelve and dying - don't tell me!).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Perspective . . Permission . . Praise . . Observations from Week One of Getting Myself Back on Track

A little over a week ago I set three goals for myself to help myself stop eating everything in sight and get back to exercising on a regular basis:
1 - Drink more water.
2 - Eat two pieces of fresh fruit a day.
3 - Run 2-miles three times during the week.

Did I meet all of my goals?  Not exactly.  How do I feel?  GREAT!  Have I learned anything?  YES!

I met two of my goals perfectly.  I drank a TON of water and ate A LOT of fruit.  Did I run this week?  No, BUT I did exercise four out of the seven days, which to me is success.  The bottom line is that for me exercise is exercise whether I'm running, hiking, swimming or going to my Zumba class.

As is always the case in life, there are lessons to be learned along the journey.

1) PERSPECTIVE.  Two weeks ago we had a tree fall in our back yard.  Jamison and I had been watching this tree and knew that at some point in the next couple of years we were going to have to have this tree removed.  What a gift - God took care of it for us!  It was as if He took a hold of that tree and gently laid it down across our back yard.  If it would have fallen in any other direction it would have taken out sheds, pools or decks!  Instead it only broke four panels of our fence and one of our neighbors.  Phew!!
Our Fallen Tree
Last weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday working on removing the tree.  I had A LOT of help from my amazing family, friends and neighbors.  But in my mind I had set a goal for myself and this stupid tree was interfering.  I had to remind myself to check my perspective.  So I didn't get to run my two miles, but I did about 500 squats, got a great arm workout and burned who knows how many calories.  That tree put me through several good workouts!
2) PERMISSION.  When this past Monday morning arrived, I felt rested, energized and ready to go.  After so much physical work over the weekend I expected to be exhausted.  I think the key was that my weekend was filled with a strong balance of work, family fun and personal relaxation.  The tree was taken care of and my household chores to get ready for the upcoming week were done.  I went to dinner with a friend, attended my nephew's birthday party and took my kids to a pool party.  I also spent time laying on the couch napping and watching the baseball game with my husband.  For me, that last part was key.  Normally I have a hard time laying around and relaxing because I always feel as if there is something else I should be doing. 
In talking this over with a friend, she said that it worked because I gave myself permission to relax.  She's right!  I remember literally saying to myself, "Lisa - You have worked hard.  You deserve this time for yourself."  It is OK for me to have some down time.  Actually, it is MORE than OK for me to have some down time - it is VITAL that I have some down time!  It doesn't matter if I am physically working hard chopping and carrying wood or doing regular household chores - I deserve a break and need to give myself permission to take it.  Giving myself that permission helps me achieve that balance in life that I am always chasing.  (We'll see if I can apply this lesson to this weekend!)
3) PRAISE.  I was so happy this week that I got to go to TWO Zumba classes.  YAY!!  My Zumba class attendance has definitely been pushed to the back burner these past few months.  Setting that goal for myself to run three times this week pushed me to make exercise a priority.  One class I attended was my instructor's Zumba/Toning/Bokwa Fourth of July Smash-Up.  90 minutes of pure FUN!  I had a blast and felt great!
My BFF Amy (right) and I after the Zumba/Toning/Bokwa Smash-Up

After class I had several people come up to me and tell me that they've missed me in class, that I was looking good or that they had been watching/following me during class.  That absolutely made my day!  I felt good about myself and was just really pumped up!  That reminded me to more aware of doing the same for other people - paying compliments, praising people for doing well and being aware of the positive things around me.  So yesterday I purposefully paid attention and passed out compliments throughout the day.  It was SO much fun!  I enjoyed the reactions I got from people.  Their reactions made ME feel just as good, if not better, than when people give me praise. 

After one week I'm feeling really good.  I am confident that I can keep myself going.  I'm going to set similar goals for this upcoming week:
1) I will fill my cup up with water first thing in the morning and re-fill it throughout the day.
2) I will eat two piece of fresh fruit everyday.
4) I will exercise four times this week (two of which will be running since my next 5K is rapidly approaching!).

Why am I not making big changes to my goals?  I believe that by setting smaller goals I am setting myself up to succeed.  Celebrating success more often keeps me motivated which leads to achieving the larger goal I set for myself.  Remember the Old Chinese Proverb
It is better to take many small steps in the right direction
than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.

I'm going to lace up my tennis shoes and take my first small step this week . . . this Mom is heading out for a RUN!  What small step are you going to take today?


Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Can't Stop Eating!!

This slump is starting to completely freak me out!  The Half-Marathon was a month and a half ago and I still haven't gotten myself moving.  Now, I feel as if I am eating everything in sight!  I can't stop eating!!  As I type, I have that I-ate-so-much-I feel-sick-to-my-stomach feeling from chowing on pizza.  The good news is that I feel this way after eating only three slices - I used to eat four before cutting myself back to two. 

It is time to put together a game plan:

1) I registered for Pittsburgh's Great Race - the 10K.  That's a little over 6 miles in less than three months.  I better get moving! I will run two miles three times in the next week.

2) I'm going to get back to drinking lots of water.  Remember my pink cup from last summer? 
I went out tonight and got myself a new one!  Starting tomorrow, I will fill my cup up before my daily morning meeting at work and then continue to fill it throughout the day.  I love that our Employee Fridge has an automatic ice and water dispenser in the door.
3) I'm going to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day for the next week.  Somehow I got back on a salty potato chip/pretzel kick.  I've been to the vending machine twice this week!  I know that I feel better when I eat healthier natural foods such as fruit so why aren't I doing that?  Tomorrow, I'm going to clear all of the change out of my desk so that there is less temptation and stop at the grocery store to fill up my fruit bowl.
Game plan in place - three simple goals that I can easily accomplish in the next seven days.  The first step in getting myself back on track.  It is so important that I take the time and energy to focus on me - I know that for a fact.  I will NOT grow weary!  I will NOT give up! 


Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Want to be Contagious!

I stood in the long check-out line of Bottom Dollar (one of our local grocery stores).
My cart was literally overflowing.  In front of me were two ladies - a middle-aged daughter taking her elderly mom to the grocery - both carrying a small armload of goods.  In front of them was a third lady - older than the other two - pushing a cart containinging a few items.  I observed the three ladies strike up a conversation and the lady with the cart offered to have the other two cut in front of her in line.  As the ladies shifted their positions, I made eye contact with the leader of this line dance.

"Me, too?"  I asked with a smile waving my arms across the top of my full cart.

She broke into a high pitched giggle, "Now that may be considered taking advantage of a little old lady!"  

The entire checkout line joined in her laughter.

For the next 30 minutes I enjoyed an amazing conversation with this 86 year-old stranger while we went through the checkout line, boxed up my groceries (She grabbed a box and started organizing my groceries before I could stop her!), and walked to our cars which just so happened to be parked side by side.  We talked about cooking, raising children, God, health and TV comedies. 

As I was driving home I realized that I was sitting there with the most ridiculous grin on my face.  Then I started to laugh.  How weird was this?  I never saw this lady before in my life, our paths cross for 30 minutes and now I'm sitting here with a crazy grin on my face.  I just felt so happy!  This complete stranger left me with such a sense of joy.  What was it about her? 

She was CONSIDERATE - after all, not too many people let others cut in front of them in the checkout line or help a complete stranger box up her groceries.  She was a great CONVERSATIONALIST.  I am a social worker, so you know I love a good conversation filled with active listening and lots of questions.  She had a CONTAGIOUS positive attitude that left me with this sense of joy.  That was it.  Her attitude.  It was contagious!

I started to think about myself.  Do I leave people with a sense of joy?  Lately I have been struggling with my attitude.  I have always considered myself to be a very positive person, but I have felt as if I've been letting life's stresses leave a lingering dark haze over me.  I'm quicker to point out the bad in the situation.  It's harder to get myself out of bed in the morning rather than anticipating a good day.  I catch myself complaining more.  This isn't me . . . at least it's not the me I want to be!  I want to exude happiness and positivity and JOY!  I want to be CONTAGIOUS!

Living a healthy life involves all aspects of health - physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and attitudinal.  Am I living my life with a healthy attitude?  I have to admit that I don't think I am right now. That's something I know I need to work on.

As this stranger (We didn't even exchange names!) and I parted ways she shared this with me, "As I was having my time with God this morning He impressed upon my heart that I would touch someone's life today - give them a smile and some happiness.  I've been sitting in my house all day expecting someone to stop over, but as the day got later I thought maybe I'm supposed to go find that person so I decided to come to the grocery store." 

At the time I told her that I was pretty sure she had found her person.  She sure had made me smile and brightened my day!  The more I reflect on our interaction, I'd say she gave me a lot more than a smile! 

HUMOROUS SIDE NOTE: God did a great job of pointing her out to me.  She was hard to miss!  My stranger was dressed from head to toe in bright purple with purple eye shadow, purple bangle bracelets, a large purple flower ring and purple nail polish.  I LOVE purple!  That will SO be me when I'm 86!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I told you IT'S working, but exactly what is IT?

I know that we are only one week into summer vacation, but I am so incredibly proud of my kids and all that they accomplished over the past seven days.  Ellie completed her first 5k, conquered her fear of the pool slide AND roller coasters, started tennis lessons and joined the Westmoreland Youth Strings Summer Symphony without knowing another member of the group.  JJ started tennis lessons, joined a weight lifting class, helped my dad with the lawn and installing a new mailbox without complaining (Watching your 14 year-old son handle power tools is pretty scary!) and stayed within his food/game budget during two trips to Kennywood.  This would have never happened a year ago!

I wrote a couple months ago about being excited that "It's working," but I never gave you the answer as to WHAT is working.  So what is WHAT?  WHAT has changed in the past year that has made such a difference for my kids?  A year ago I made the decision that it was time to change my family's sedentary frozen food focused electronic device driven lifestyle.  I chose four areas of our everyday lives to make simple yet specific changes and dove right in.  Those four areas are physical activity, food portion, trying new things and ME!

1) Physical Activity. I used to consider sitting in front of the TV spending quality time with JJ and Ellie.  Then I thought about all of the activities we had equipment for that we rarely used: cornhole, Wii, Frisbee golf, Bocce, paddle ball, YMCA membership . . . the list could on.  It was time to play!  I didn't ASK my family if they wanted to play.  I TOLD them that we were all heading out after dinner to play.  They complained about this at first.  I expected that - they are tweenagers!  But fun is contagious.  The more fun we had, the more they wanted to play.  Eventually THEY started asking ME if I wanted to go outside!

2) Food Portion.  I simply started serving less food to my family.  I used to fill large serving platters and bowls with food and place them in the center of the table for dinner.  Now when I cook dinner, I make enough for each of us to have one serving (plus one more portion for me to take for lunch the next day) and plate the food directly from the stove.  When I order pizza, I only order one pizza instead of two.  When I grill hamburgers, I only make enough for one per person.  That way when the question comes up of wanting more to eat the available options are something healthy like fruit or simply a NO.  While I am trying new healthier recipes more often than before, for the most part we eat the same foods -- just less!  By eliminating the I'm-so-stuffed-I can't-move- post-meal-stupor, we're all ready to get up and get moving in the evening rather than collapsing on the couch.  (Don't worry - my kids are far from starved!  They still get plenty to eat.)

3) Trying New Things.  I'm making a conscious effort to introduce new things more often.  Whether it is trying a new food, a new game or a new trail at the park, I want my children to see that it is fun to try something new.  I want them to learn that you won't know if you like something unless you try it and that it is ok to try something and not like it.  Throughout the year I have gotten a LOT of complaining about this, but the fact that my kids have both been willing to try new activities this summer (granted with a little prodding - ok begging - on my part) proves to me that it's working.

4) ME!  Over the past several years I have made many changes in my life.  I expected for it to be enough for my family to observe those changes in me and want to follow along.  That wasn't working.  I had to be more intentional in pointing out the changes and including them in what I was doing.  I also had to embrace what worked best for them.  Just as I had kept trying fit my lifestyle into an exercise routine rather than fitting an exercise routine into my life, I had to figure out what activities worked best for my kids rather than always wanting them to do what I was doing.  I also had to make their exercise a priority.  So if that meant going on a walk or playing ball with them after dinner instead of doing the dishes right away or getting my full run in - so be it!  What's more important?  I learned that the more excited I got about what they were interested in doing, the more excited they got about doing it.

For example, JJ loves basketball.  So I began making a point of taking him to the Y so he could play basketball.  Eventually JJ and I started going to the Y or outside to play basketball around 9PM.  Often my gut reaction would be that it was too late or I was too tired.  I literally had to teach myself to pause when he asked me to play because my initial reaction was to sigh before saying yes.  That turned him off completely.  I learned that by being intentionally enthusiastic in my response I felt more energetic and excited to play.  Besides getting a workout in, we created great memories playing HORSE under a full moon, during a snowstorm and in a deep freeze.  Plus, we've had some pretty meaningful conversations under that hoop! 

Ellie, on the other hand, has fallen in love with riding her bike.  So I dusted off my bike, bought a new helmet (Ellie found the bright white round one we got for free at a health fair to be WAY to embarressing!) and hopped on!  I was beyond thrilled when she asked me if they had 5k's for bike riders.  You know I was on the computer in seconds and found one for her!

I'm aware that we are only seven days into the summer.  Is it too early to tell if the changes we've made over the past year have had a lasting impact on my family?  Some might say yes.  But you know what . . . I don't care!  Today I am celebrating the GREAT summer kick-off we've had and am gearing up to maintain this momentum.  I am determined that my family's sedentary frozen food focused electronic device driven lifestyle will be no more.  Will it be smooth sailing - absolutely not.  Life doesn't work that way.  But I'm ready.  Bring on the challenges, the struggles, the complaining . . . this is another mission I WILL accomplish!

This first week has obviously exhausted my children.  They are still sleeping!  So I'm lacing up my sneakers and hitting the road.  I'll be sure to leave them a note for when they wake up to remind them that . . . Mom Went Running!