Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why You Should Make a New Year's Resolution

What is your New Year's Resolution?

That's the question of the hour this time of year. 

I hear a lot of people reply that they don't make resolutions.  "Why bother, I don't keep them anyway," they say. 

Is that you?  If it is, I ask you to pause to read this and reconsider that response.

Take a moment to consider why you don't keep them.  I imagine that it is because 1) your previous resolutions have either been too vague or too big and 2) you have an all or nothing mindset.

This year I'm going to eat healthy.

This year I'm going to lose 100 pounds.

This year I'm going to exercise everyday.

There are some people that can make broad or big statements like that and stick to them.  I'm not one of them and I imagine that I am not alone.

I'd say - "This year I'm going to eat healthy."  I do just that for the first few weeks of the year.  Then there is a big football game and I'm making all kinds of scrumptious tailgating food.  There goes that resolution out the window!  Back to my old way of eating!

I'd say - "I'm going to lose 100 pounds this year."  Over the first few weeks I would lose five pounds.  Then I'd have a stressful week where I would eat a little more, exercise a little less and . . . BAM!  Gain two pounds.  There goes that resolution out the window!  Back to my old ways.

I'd say - "I'm going to exercise everyday."  I'd work out on the Wii or go to the Y or go for a walk everyday for a few days.  Then one night I have to work late.  The next night JJ has a basketball game and Ellie needs help with her homework.  The next night I take Ellie to her music lessons and there is a meeting at church.  Yikes - three days in a row with no exercise.  There goes that resolution out the window!  Back to skipping the gym.

If I can't be perfect ALL the time then I want NOTHING to do with this resolution. 

Five year's ago I made a New Year's Resolution and I kept it.  I kept it because 1) my resolution was specific and 2) I didn't give up. 

My health was heading down a dangerous path.  I needed to make wiser choices and get healthy.  But what exactly does that look like?  I needed to lose at least 50 pounds, but to me that was a huge number.  I needed to eat better, but I really like chips and brownies. 

I set my focus on something smaller - a 5k run.  I knew what that looked like.  I could picture 3.1 miles.  16 laps around the track.  1 trip around the big block plus 1 trip around the little block.  I could picture myself going that distance. 

My New Year's Resolution for 2010 was very specific - I will complete a 5k.

I mapped out my plan to achieve that goal and got to work.  But it wasn't always easy.  There were days that I didn't exercise.  Sometimes several days in a row that I didn't exercise.  There were days that I stress ate so much pizza on a Friday night that the idea of putting on my running shoes Saturday morning was not even on my radar.  Those were the times I wanted to give up.  "I screwed up - no running for three days.  Might as well quit."  "Too much pizza - epic fail!  Scrap the idea of getting healthy . . . again!" 

But I DIDN'T give up.  Instead I said to myself, "Ooooops!" and purposefully made the choice to get back on track.  Guess what happened - that feeling of complete failure was quickly replaced by the feeling of complete joy in the victory of clearing that hurdle. 

It is in that moment where most people get stuck.  Do I throw my hands up in defeat or do I purposefully pick myself up and forge ahead?   No matter what I do, I'm not going to be perfect all the time.  Instead of raising a white flag in surrender to my imperfections, I choose to raise my arms in victory to all that I accomplish no matter how small.

Took a walk after dinner instead of watching TV.  YES!  Ate one cookie instead of four.  YES!  Put my tennis shoes on and went for a run even though I didn't feel like it.  YES!

In 2010, I did it.  I kept my New Year's Resolution.  I completed my first 5k.  Five years later I have run over 40 5ks.  I lost 50 pounds and have kept it off.  I went from a size 22 pants to a size 14.  I feel GREAT! 

Change is possible.  You CAN do it.  You may have tried a thousand times before and not made it, but that is OK.  Try again.  Try again in 2015.  Make this your year. 

Be purposeful about it.  Pause for five minutes.  Think.  What do you want?  How do you feel right now?  How do you want to feel?  Set a goal.  A specific goal.  Then go for it . . . and make the choice to not give up.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Five Observations from the Salvation Army Red Kettle

Last Saturday my son and his friend Blake spent the afternoon manning a Salvation Army Kettle at our local mall.  This act of giving was to fulfill their Community Service requirement for their Honors Civics course.  I went along to provide coverage for extended bathroom breaks and food court runs.  Even though it was a tad chilly, I had a great time and learned several things . . .

1) Let Them Wear The Hoodie.  I will stop arguing with my kids when they want to run out the door wearing only a hoodie while their warm winter jacket hangs on the coat rack.  A majority of teenagers (and a lot of adults, too!) walked into that mall wearing only a hoodie.  As a mom I know the value of choosing my battles.  The Winter Coat War is being crossed off my list!

2) Pay Attention to Where You Park.  The number of people who forget where they park their car is quite hilarious!  Some people are embarrassed and try to slink up and down the rows of cars trying not to look like they are looking for their car.  Others stand at the end of a row loudly talking to themselves in frustration about how they can't believe they can't find their car.  One family even went as far to call mall security and the local police convinced that their car had been stolen.  While waiting for the cops, the dad proceeded to call at least 10 people to tell them his car had been stolen and he was going to get a "sweet new one" from the insurance.  It turned out he had parked by pole "17" in the upper Macy's lot instead of "27" in the lower lot.  There are simple ways to remember where you park - take a picture of the closest numbered pole, take a picture of your view of the mall from your spot, write down where you park.   

3) Hold the Door Open for Others.  I could not believe how many people did not hold the door open for the person coming through behind them!  Come on people - it is a simple turn of the head to see if anyone is there.  One lady was coming out with a stroller loaded with bags.  When the woman in front of her let go of the door, it slammed into the stroller causing all of the packages to fall to the ground AND woke up her sleeping toddler.  An elderly woman going into the mall ran into the edge of the closing door when the man going in ahead of her did not hold the door open.  Really, sir?  You almost knocked the cute little lady down!  

4) SMILE!  A simple smile can have a huge impact.  I was shocked at how few people smiled or looked happy as they walked in or out the mall.  As I stood there ringing the bell, I attempted to make eye contact with people, smile and wish them a Merry Christmas or Happy Shopping whether they put money in my kettle or not. In most cases I did get at least a smile in return and often a verbal response, too.  I know I felt a sense of victory when that happened.  Hopefully, my smile had an impact on their day if even for a moment.  I'm always telling my kids that a smile is the easiest, cheapest and sometimes best gift you can give to anybody at anytime.

5) Everyone Can Ring the Bell!  When I contacted the Salvation Army to see if JJ and Blake could volunteer they were more than happy to have us.  In fact, the Captain I spoke with told me that they were in desperate need of bell ringers.  As I stood ringing the bell that Saturday, many parents gave their young children coins to put in the kettle.  The kids were so excited and proud to reach up and drop in their coin. Several then stood there and looked at the bell in my hand.  "Would you like a turn to ring the bell?" I asked them.  Wide eyes.  Silent nods.  Small hands reaching for the bell.  Huge smiles.  They loved ringing that bell!  And I think they got more donations in those few minutes than I did during my entire shift as people flocked to the cute little kids.  The little ones' responses was a reminder to me that everyone can volunteer.  How different would our world be if more families took an hour or two of their time every once in awhile to help others?  What can your family do to help those around you?  I'm always talking about making healthy choices - volunteering our time is definitely a great exercise for the heart! 
The bell we rung was obviously old and well-used.  I thought about the
number of hands that clung to that handle before mine - very inspiring.

 I have to admit that I was pretty annoyed at JJ's assignment at the beginning of the school year - four community service projects?!?  We are way to busy to fit these in!  After spending an afternoon ringing that bell, I've changed my tune.  We've (Yes - We.  This has become a group project!) been able to see the difference we've made in people's lives and had fun doing it.  Even though JJ will be done with his Civics class next year, I'm pretty sure you'll find our family back at the Red Kettle ringing the bell next Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

High Triglycerides . . . Winning the Battle

Back in October I shared with you that my 15 year-old son's monthly blood work revealed that his triglycerides were high.  YIKES!  The doctor told us that if the triglycerides continued to elevate, my son would have to go off a medication he was taking that was really helping him. 

Well . . . we were back at the doctor's this week and . . . his triglycerides are DOWN!!!  YAY!!  I am so proud of JJ.  We didn't discuss it endlessly and we purposefully did not nag him, but we have seen him making healthier choices over the past month.

We have been pushing ourselves as a family to go to the gym more often, which has been great for him AND the rest of us.  Basketball season has started so his activity level has increased dramatically.  No more hours on the couch after school for this kid! 

I have continued to strive to cook cleaner serving more fresh fruits and vegetables.  I would love to be able to tell you that my son has been cleaning his plate, but that is not always the case.   He'll chow on his favorites - corn, carrots, green beans (that was something new I learned about JJ.  He likes fresh green beans!), apple slices and bananas.  Not so much others, especially vegetables.  When I make casseroles or crockpot meals, I like to think that maybe some of the nutrients from the vegetables that are left piled on his plate has rubbed off on the meat or noodles that he inhaled with no problem.  Wishful thinking I know, but let me hold on to that crazy thought! 

The Battle of the Bulge continues for our family, but we have made a step in the right direction!  A great motivator to push us forward and encourage us to be ready for the next challenge that comes our way.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

4 Simple Ideas to Deflate Your Holiday Stress and Inflate Your Holiday Joy

I want the holidays to be a special time, but I always end up a stressed out ball of blah rolling around with a smile pasted to my face. How can I change that?  How can I help myself enjoy the holidays? 

I firmly believe that I can't take good care of my family if I don't take care of myself.  With the world telling us to think big and shoot for the stars, my solution probably sounds really off base . . . I've lowered my expectations for myself.  I try (notice the word TRY) not to focus on the number of gifts I'm able to buy or the fact that I stink at decorating the outside of my house or that I don't have time to bake a lot of cookies (not that I want to eat that many any way!).  Instead I focus on purposefully doing FOUR things during the holiday season.  Four inexpensive, easily achievable things that make me happy. 

1) I add whipped cream to my coffee.  I can't afford stops at fancy coffee shops or mani/pedi's or massages - but I can enjoy a squirt of extra creamy whipped cream on my coffee as I prepare to face another day.  The fact that I don't do this any other time of year makes it special for me.  What simple, inexpensive treat can you add to your day to give yourself a treat?  Use peppermint scented lotion?  Buy a pair of fun snowman earrings?  Wear a pair of crazy Christmas socks?
My coffee this morning!

2) I go for walks in my neighborhood after dark to look at the Christmas lights.  Enjoying the lights from your car is nice, but you get an entirely different view when you get out of your car and walk.  I love to head out around 10PM for a stroll.  I occasionally drag my family with me.  They grump at first, but will often find that they enjoy it by the end.  Sometimes we carry mugs of hot cocoa with us and other times I have it waiting for us when we get home.  I love when it is snowing and our footprints are the first marks in the fresh snow.  The fresh air is invigorating, the exercise feels so good after being inside all day and the lights are pretty.  I can't help but feel happy when i get back to my house!  (SAFETY NOTE: Please wear reflective gear and/or carry a flashlight!!!)

3) I sing along in a very loud voice to the Christmas songs on the radio.  No matter what craziness is happening in the "real world," when I close the car door, it is just me and me alone.  How can I not smile as I am singing along to the fun adventures of Frosty or be reminded of the powerful precious gift that God gave to us as I sing the First Noel.  I get out of my car feeling refreshed and ready to face the next event.  I'm sure that I've provided some humorous entertainment to those driving next to me, but I don't worry about them.

4) I pick one special activity that I want to do and make sure I do it even if I do it by myself.  This is actually something that I've been doing for the past couple of months.  I'm always telling my husband that we can talk and talk and talk about all of the things that we want to do and accomplish, but nothing will get done unless we take action.   The list of things that I want to accomplish and experience is very long, so I am tackling the smaller items on that list one thing at a time.  I don't give my family any input on what that one thing is because that will lead to an argument.  I simply choose it and invite whoever wants to come with me to be ready at a certain time.  So far there hasn't been a month that I haven't had company.  I haven't decided what my one thing for the month of December will be yet - that's a decision I will ponder during my drive home from my in-laws this afternoon.  Walk around downtown Pittsburgh to look at the Christmas decorations?  Tackle my grandma's Pizzelle Cookie maker?  Drive out to Ohiopyle State Park for a hike?

The one word that is not included in this post (until now) is guilt.  As a mom and a caregiving spouse, I often struggle with feeling guilty about 101 different things every day.  The key for me when it comes to doing these four things without guilt is what I mentioned earlier - If I don't take care of myself then I can't take care of my family.  My family reacts to my stress.  In the same way they react to my joy.  So in a way, if doing these four incredibye simple things make me happy, my family will be happy, too! 

I encourage you - as we prepare to flip our calendars over to December - pick even just one thing that you will purposefully do this month to make YOU happy!  What can you plan to do to deflate your stress and inflate your joy?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Don't Forget to Massage the Kale!

When food assignments are given out for family holiday meals, I am normally assigned to bring a salad.  I never know whether that is a hint at the fact that I'm not the best cook in the family, a loving offer since I am a working caregiving mom or an ode to the fact that I never just open a bag of mixed greens and throw them in a bowl.  I take my salad assignments very seriously.

My Thanksgiving Salad this year featured one of 2014's favorites among healthy eaters: KALE.  I'd never eaten kale before.  I was actually kind of afraid of the rough thick leaves, but I knew that it was considered a Super Food loaded with vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants which basically means it is really good for you.  What I did not know is that kale is very high maintenance when it comes to being in a salad.  You don't simply wash and chop.  You need to massage the kale.  That's right . . . massage.  Massage turns this bitter chewy green into a tender and sweet centerpiece for a deliciously healthy salad.

I washed the kale and removed the leaves from the stems.  I sprinkled it with some sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.  Then I went to work with my fingertips to gently massage the kale in the same manner I would massage someones shoulders.    After five minutes, the stiff leaves were looser and more relaxed just like a stressed out person turns to putty in your hands after a good shoulder massage.  I was amazed! 

Topped with roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, crisp bacon, diced red onion and a warm apple cider dressing this was one yummy salad!
Massaged Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
I was obviously not the only one who did not know the impact that massage has on kale.  As my family began to fill their plates and came upon my salad, one after another asked with scrunched up noses, "Is this kale?  In a salad?"  I explained that it was not just regular kale . . . it was massaged kale.  I was happy when everyone who tasted it really liked it.

Next time you're making a salad, don't pass up the kale!  There is no need to be afraid.  Just know that it requires an extra step before tossing it with your favorite toppings.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for reading my blog and following my crazy journey of attempting to make healthy choices in a stress-filled, busy life.  I am thankful for the opportunity to share it with you!
Staying warm before Turkey Trot 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Just Move the Darn Bag!

Sometimes I make things WAY to complicated.  There has to be a plan or a theme or a prize or a chart . . .

There are times when obvious simple solutions are right in front of me and I totally miss them. 

One behavior of mine that I have always struggled to change is my grazing of chips and pretzels.  I often munch when I get home, while I prepare dinner and then throughout the evening.  A couple of chips here.  A pretzel there.  Munch.  Munch.  Munch.

The kitchen is a main thoroughfare in our house.  We need to walk through it to get to the computer, the basement and the dining table.  I'm constantly walking through there.  It's a constant path for the whole family.  I've always kept the bags of chips and pretzels on the counter under the microwave.  Nearly every time I walk through there, I grab a handful of chips or pretzels. 

"It's no big deal,"  I told myself.  "It's only a couple." 

But a couple times seven equals a lot of chips! 

I began to notice that I was not the only one sticking my hands in the bag of chips.  Throughout the evening I would hear the rustling of the bag or I would find the bag sitting on the counter wide open.   Other members of the family were picking up on my bad habit.

How was I going to change this? 

The answer was so easy and obvious!  I simply moved the bag.  For the past two weeks the bag of chips has been in an undisclosed location in our kitchen.

Guess what?  No one appears to have noticed!  No one has asked.  No one has looked around.  They've just accepted the fact that we have no chips.

Guess what else?  I haven't munched either!  There must be truth to the old saying - Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

What an easy solution - I simply moved the darn bag!  

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Trick to Eating Just ONE Treat Versus Eating the WHOLE Bag

Happy Halloween!  The final day in a week when emotional eating chocolate lovers like me are tortured nearly to death!

There have been more large bowls of candy passed around my company this week than ever before. I even won a large bowl filled with full-size candy bars at a conference (I couldn't win the laptop or the TV.  Nope, my ticket is pulled last for the Candy Bowl Centerpiece!)!  The first few days I completely abstained.  Didn't touch a single wrapper.  On Wednesday I enjoyed one piece of candy - A Peanut Butter Snicker's Square.  Mmmmmmm!  Yesterday when I left my office, I was embarrassed by the number of wrappers in my garbage can.  YIKES!  And I didn't contain my candy feast to just my desk so I know there were more wrappers with my fingerprints scattered in garbage cans throughout our Center. 

As I was thinking about it last night, I had an AH-HA Moment.  What had made the difference?  Purposeful eating.

Those first few days when I abstained from even touching the candy, I was very focused on it.  Most of my time was spent hoping the bowl wouldn't be passed around the Conference Table again.  I was so worried about eating too much.  I even re-routed myself through the office so that I didn't have to pass those who I knew had candy bowls on their desks and would offer me a piece if I popped in to say hi.  I was very uncomfortable.

On Wednesday, I took a cut-up apple with me to a meeting.  When the candy bowl was passed around the first time, I took a piece and set it on the table.  During the meeting I munched on that sweet apple and left that candy bar sit.  After the meeting, I stole a few seconds to myself in a quiet office, stood looking out the window and slowly ate that Peanut Butter Snicker's Square in four bites.  The peanut butter, the peanuts, the chocolate - It was so good!  After that, I didn't really think about candy any more.

Yesterday, when that bowl was passed around the Conference Table the first time, I grabbed a piece, unwrapped it, popped the whole snack-size piece in my mouth and practically swallowed it whole.  There was no thought, no enjoyment, no nothing.  I was not satisfied at all.  And my guard was down.  So the rest of the day I just popped piece after piece of calorie-filled chocolate bars in my mouth.  Meetings.  A Halloween Parade for our participants.  End of the day chaos.  I just went to town and didn't pass up a single piece.  When I saw that pile of wrappers at the end of the day, I felt sick.

Lesson learned!  When I ate slowly and focused on the taste and texture, I was satisfied.  When I thoughtlessly crammed piece after piece in my mouth, I didn't even realize what I was eating let alone enjoy what I was eating.  I just kept eating mindlessly searching for that satisfaction. 

So today - a day filled with lots and lots of treats - I'm not going to trick myself into thinking that I have this eating thing under control.  But, I'm also not going to deprive myself of the joy that comes from chocolate.  I will enjoy a treat or two today, but I will focus on the yummy goodness of those treats and not simply shove empty calories onto my waistline. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Acknowledge. Manage. Move On. FORGIVE. REPEAT.

A few weeks I ago I was watching one of my favorite TV shows - The Biggest Loser.  Trainer Bob was having a conversation with a contestant and they came up with a phrase that Bob said would inspire others:  Acknowledge.  Manage.  Move On.

ACKNOWLEDGE your bad habit or problem.
Come up with a plan to MANAGE it.
Don't get stuck or focused on the problem - MOVE ON focused on the solution.

At first I was so excited by that phrase.  I thought it was perfect.  I repeated it to myself in my head for several days, especially the last part - MOVE ON. 

MOVE ON Lisa - You're done with emotional eating.  You know what to do.
MOVE ON Lisa - You know better than to cave to the exhaustion of stress.  Get moving.
MOVE ON . . . .

I quickly realized that there were two more words that needed to be added on to Bob's inspiring phrase.  FORGIVE and REPEAT.

Sometimes the call of the chips is so much louder than the call of my running shoes.  Sometimes there is literally nothing more I want to do than crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head.  Sometimes I mess up.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Messing up is not the time to give up.  Messing up is the time to get up and start again.

I need to FORGIVE myself for taking that little detour and rid myself of the guilt that always comes when I screw up.  Then, I go back to the beginning and REPEAT the whole process.

ACKNOWLEDGE my bad habit or problem or mistake.
Come up with a plan to MANAGE it.
Don't get stuck or focused on the problem - MOVE ON focused on the solution.
FORGIVE myself when I make a mistake.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

High Triglycerides . . . This Battle Just Got Real!

At his doctor's appointment this week we reviewed the results of my 15 year-old son's blood work.  Due to a new medication that he is on, he has blood drawn monthly.  Everything has looked great for the past four months, but not this time.  His triglyceride levels have spiked.  High enough that if they are still at this level next month he will have to go off the medication.

I've often worried about my kids and blood work.  Would it reveal high cholesterol?  Pre-diabetes?  Any number of problems that can be caused by being overweight.  Another layer in the coating of worry and guilt that I carry due to the impact my poor coping skills and crazy emotional eating has had on their childhood. 

There are two good points in receiving these bad results:
1) We have some control over his triglyceride levels other than adjusting the medication.  Making changes in his activity level, eating habits and weight can lower those numbers.
2) I am prepared.  For the past four years I have gathered information and tried new things and changed my own life. 

I've been working hard to motivate my kids to be more active and live a healthier lifestyle.  Over the years I've seen multiple successes.  But this battle just got real.  It's no longer about their future health and happiness.  It's about right NOW. 

It's time to be a strong motivator, a creative chef, an educator and an example.  Getting my teenager to eat more fruits and veggies is going to be hard.  Getting my teenager off the couch everyday is going to be hard.  Keeping myself smiling and positive and not frustrated is going to be hard.  But I'm up for the challenge and ready for battle.  Let's Go!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy New Year . . . on September 13th!

Technically we celebrate the New Year once a calendar year on January 1st.  Everyone talks about fresh starts and new goals.  The energy lasts for a couple of weeks and then dies down until the months roll by and January 1st shows up again.

I prefer to look at the calendar as if we have many New Year's opportunities - the beginning of a new calendar year (January 1st, of course), and then my birthday (April 3rd), the beginning of summer (early June) and finally the beginning of a new school year (post-Labor Day).  I always feel energized and motivated at the start of a new phase.  New goals are set.  New opportunities are discovered.  As weeks pass I tend to get bogged down with schedules and stressors.  But then before I can get too lost in myself . . . BAM!  Happy New Year!  A new phase starts with a different schedule and a different perspective and I can start fresh . . . again. 

The "again" hanging off the end of that last sentence can be deflating or motivating.  I choose motivating! 

In my house we finally have our first full week of the new school year behind us.  My kids are falling into the routine of homework after school (and there is a LOT this year!) so that we have time to "play" when I get home from work. 

Today starts my fourth and final New Year of 2014.  It is time to rally myself again and get back on track.  I'm setting my New Year's Resolutions!  Since hurting my foot in June I've gotten away from running on a regular basis.  I registered for a 5k being run at the end of October.  I'm re-starting c25k (Couch to 5k training program) TODAY with the goal of being able to run the 3.1 miles without walking.  I will also get to the gym at least twice a week taking my family with me. We need to travel this journey of health together.

While there is no champagne or fun hats or dropping ball, I invite you to consider celebrating the New Year today, too.  Any day is a good day for a fresh start.  Why not make today YOUR day?!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Eating Clean with a Side of Dirty

For awhile now I've been saying that I need to focus on what I'm eating.  It's been over four years since I started to live a "healthier" life.  A lot of my attention was focused on exercise, reducing my portion sizes and cutting out pop.  I dropped fifty pounds and have kept it off (give and take a few fluctuating pounds!).  But I've been stuck for several years and have felt like there was more I needed to do on this healthy living journey.  The thing that has been staring me in the face is what I am eating.

Should I go gluten-free?  paleo?  clean?  low-fat?  no carbs?  strict calorie count?  some type of shake?  I've always had an excuse as to why I haven't made a decision and declared my eating style.  I don't have enough time.  I don't understand all of that science mumbo jumbo.  I know me - I'll make a big announcement and then in a few weeks barge into Gateway Grill and inhale a pizza all by myself then I'll collapse in a puddle of guilt. So rather than making any type of decision, I've just ignored the topic.

Over the past several weeks I've taken the time to read several articles and blogs about these various eating styles and tried some new recipes.  I've come to my conclusion: Why do I feel the need to declare myself as anything?

I have seen many people make declarations that they are going one way or another only to last a week or even a month before going back to their old eating habits.  I've also seen people who have made drastic eating changes and stuck with them - but will it last forever?  Plus, like I mentioned earlier - I know me and I know my life.  I need room for flexibility and moments of weakness (aka guilt-free stress eating) and simplicity.  To put myself in a specific box would just be a disaster.

On the flipside of this discussion going on in my brain, I do know very little about nutrition.  If I want to make changes to my eating habits, I am going to have to have some guidance.  So while I'm not going to make any declaration about following a specific eating style, I am going to take some specific and purposeful steps to surround myself with knowledgeable people to continue to learn from and guide me.

Here's who I'm leaning on:

1) The Positively Fit U facebook page (which I absolutely LOVE - check it out for inspiration!www.facebook.com/positivelyfitu) posts encouraging reminders about making healthy choices.  I need those daily reminders!  I was browsing the page for information and came across two statements that hit home for me:
When I eat like crap, I feel like crap.
It's all about creating healthy habits rather than restrictions.

There is great truth to the fact that I simply need to make good choices.  In most cases it is very clear - a handful of almonds is better than bag of chips.  Water is better than pop (even diet!).  A bunch of sweet grapes is better than a handful of cookies; however, satisfying a sweet tooth craving with one cookie is better than struggling to resist the craving and then caving a eating the entire bag of cookies.  I don't need to know all of the nitty gritty facts in order to make healthy choices.

2) Out of all of the eating styles I looked at, Clean Eating was my favorite.  The recipes are SO good and simple for me to follow.  I don't always have the time or money or honestly the desire to hunt for and purchase some of the purely natural ingredients so I tell my family that we are eating clean with a side of dirty. For example, I made apple nachos the other day.  The recipe called for melted natural peanut butter and melted dark chocolate chips.  I had neither in my pantry, so I simply used Jif peanut butter and chocolate syrup.  Not purely clean, but still a yummy healthy snack!  I've been making myself "clean" breakfasts and lunches while preparing 2-3 "clean" dinners for the past few weeks.  Very yummy and I have noticed a big difference in how I feel.  Pinterest has a TON of recipes and I've been following He and She Eat Clean on facebook (www.facebook.com/HeandSheEatClean).  I share my favorite recipes on my facebook page so check it out - www.facebook.com/MomWentRunning.

3)    My friend Dana is a dietitian and a FABULOUS support for me!  She loves to talk about eating healthy.  Her lunches at work are a great example of eating healthy.  And she is very encouraging.  I love to bounce ideas off of her brain!  Is there a person in your life that you can talk with about nutrition who knows what they are talking about (that person doesn't have to be a registered dietitian)?  If not - find one!  You can also check through your health insurance or your work's Employee Assistance Program.  They most likely have benefits involving some type of nutrition counseling.

4) My family - getting them on board has been quite the challenge, but they are slowly going along with trying some new things.  I keep reminding myself that they are one of the main reasons I'm focusing on the food we're putting in our mouths! 

Bottom line - I'm buying less cans and frozen foods and preparing more fresh foods.  The taste is better.  I feel better.  Hopefully I'll start to see some re-newed progress on the scale.  And I'm having fun trying new things.  Sounds like a step in the right direction to me! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

the ONE thing i would have done differently on vacation that would have made it a whole lot better

When we left for vacation I was wound tighter than a ball of string.  Work was extremely stressful.  We had several participants pass away over the weeks leading up to my vacation.  We were also working through one of the most intense scenarios with a participant that I have ever experienced and I was leaving for an entire week!  I kept seeing all of the back to school pics on Facebook and knew that I would be returning home to the excitement and anxiety of one child starting junior high and the other high school.  I was anticipating the pattern of high stress that my husband faces every fall.    On top of that I was not exercising on a consistent basis and felt like I had gained 20 pounds.  BLAH!  I needed the beach!

So I drove for two days with one thought on my mind . . . I need the beach!  We arrived at the condo.  I unpacked the suitcases, made the beds, traveled to the grocery store twice (stupid tin foil!!), cooked dinner and prepared the overnight French toast for my husband's birthday breakfast the next morning all with one thought on my mind . . . I need the beach!  By then it was dark and I was exhausted so I fell into bed knowing that I would be up at the crack of dawn which is exactly what I wanted to have happen. I couldn't wait for morning!

My eyes flew open at 6AM.  I grabbed my book, my chair and my mug of coffee.  Running over the dunes I leapt across the sand landing in my chair.  Book open, coffee sipped, the sunrise shimmering across the waves.  Ahhhhh . . . I'm at the beach! 

Let me repeat that.  Ahhhhh . . . I'm at the beach!  Wait - Why was I not relaxing?!?!?  Random thoughts kept popping into my mind.  My skin felt tight.  I had a headache.  My body was not responding to my command to RELAX! 

This happened over and over throughout the week.  Riding the waves . . . not relaxing.  Playing Monkey in the Middle in the pool . . . not relaxing.  Watching an amazing lightening display over the ocean . . . not relaxing.  Watching a movie . . . not relaxing. 

I kept telling myself to relax.  But those random thoughts were like an unending bag of popcorn in the microwave!  I kept trying to stuff them and tell them to leave me alone!  I was here to relax.

Before I knew it, it was Friday morning.  My last morning on the beach.  As I had planned, I took a tablet and pen with me down to the shore.  I wanted to be "prepared" for life when I got home so that I returned ready to roll while holding on to this state of relaxation I was to have achieved while away. 

I sat in my favorite spot with the sun shining on my face and the surf nibbling my toes.  I looked out over the waves . . . Come on!  It's the last day.  RELAX!!!

"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you."  Psalm 55:22 NLT

What was that? 

"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you."  Psalm 55:22 NLT

Seriously????  I can be so stupid some times.  God had literally been staring me in the face the ENTIRE week.  I was so busy trying to ignore my stress-filled thoughts and relax that I ignored Him.  God was right there waiting for me to hand Him my stress and worries.

So I sat there in my chair in my favorite spot with the sun shining on my face and the surf nibbling my toes and had a nice long conversation with God.  By the end of our talk I had written down the three things that were bothering my the most and identified two action steps that I would take in each area when I got home.  I closed the tablet, walked up to the condo, put the tablet in a dresser drawer, walked back down to the beach and had the BEST day of the entire week.

Next year I'm having this conversation on day ONE of my vacation!

Thank you Lord for a great week at the beach - and a great life lesson!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Recovering from Our Visit to the Pediatrician's Office

A couple of weeks ago I took my 12 year-old daughter to the pediatrician for her annual check-up.  I have to confess that I have been on a wild emotional roller coaster ever since.  The doctor that we'd seen for years left the practice, so we were assigned a new one.  Our appointment ended with a lecture about my daughter's weight and BMI and how my role as a mother resulted in these numbers.  I left the office in silence, fighting back tears.  That began a tumultuous journey through a variety of emotions.

First came the POOR ME phase.  What does this doctor expect from me?  Does she not know how hard my life is?  Very few people understand what it's like to be a caregiving spouse to a person with a chronic illness, let alone an invisible one!  I'm not home during the day to monitor or teach my kids what to do and eat.  And I'm tired when I do get home.  I feel so guilty about that!  Plus, I'm an emotional eater.  I ate my way through the first five years of my husband's illness.  So my kids ate through those years, too.  I couldn't help myself.  I can't help myself now - let's all go our for ice cream.  Didn't I buy chips at the grocery store?  Poor me!!  Can't you see how helpless I am doc?!?  Boo Hoo Hoo!

Then came the I SUCK AS A MOTHER phase.  I should be stronger.  I should have more energy.  I should be more encouraging and inspiring so that my children want to be active and healthy.  I should be stricter.  They should fear what will happen to them when I find out that they've eaten the entire box of granola bars in one day.  I should not buy granola bars.  Only horrible moms buy processed fattening granola bars.  I drove to the grocery store where I proceeded to buy one of nearly every single fruit and vegetable in the produce section.  When I got home I threw out every bag of chips, box of crackers and anything else resembling an "unhealthy snack." 

Then I got angry - really, really angry.  SCREW YOU doc!  You don't know me.  You spent all of ten minutes with us.  You don't know our life story.  You don't the positive changes that we've made over the past couple of years.  We're not perfect, but we're trying.  You didn't even spend enough time with us to figure that out.  How dare you put me down in front of my daughter and make me feel like a piece of poo!

Finally, I calmed down and realized that I was on the right path.  My family and I have made great strides in living a healthy lifestyle over the past couple of years.  Are we perfect?  No.  But no one is!  Are we trying our best?  Yes!  Can we do better?  Absolutely!  Is there always more to learn?  You bet!   The key is that we keep moving - aiming to go forward, but not panicking if we stumble back a few steps.  People and situations are going to enter my life that are going to attempt to divert me from my goal by playing with my emotions.  I can choose to let them derail me or jump over them and keep going.  I need to relax and trust in myself that I am on the right path.  What is that verse that has gotten me through to this point of my journey?

So doc - I'm a good mother.  Actually, I'm a GREAT mother!  I'm a great mother doing my best to raise two children in this crazy world filled with video games and smart phones and fast food drive-thrus and chronic diseases and . . . . Thanks for the reminder.

Check out Mom Went Running (Chapter 2) in the newly released book - Inspire!  You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Inspire-Stories-Accomplishment-Encouragement-Influence/dp/0692233962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407207430&sr=8-1&keywords=lisa+hamer+jenkins

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hard Core Facts

Obesity is a factor in 1:5 deaths in the United States.

I'm normally a very emotional person and the way to get my attention is through my heart; however, sometimes I need whacked over the head with some hard core facts. 

Obesity can be a direct factor in the following potentially very serious diagnosis: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers.
The good news is that unlike many of the health crisis we face, research has identified three key reasons why we struggle with being overweight.
Three key modifiable risk factors to obesity are lack of physical behavior, sedentary behavior and diet.
The word MODIFIABLE screams out at me from that sentence.  I remember my doctor telling me that he sees three factors in my life causing my high blood pressure - family history (Can't change that!), stress due to being a caregiving spouse with two young children and a full-time job (Difficult to change that!) and basic lifestyle choices leading to my being overweight (Totally have control over that!).
Research shows that staying active and making healthy food choices directly lowers your chances of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers.
For me, it is very motivating to know that I have some control in my health.  I want to live a long and active life with my children.  I want to be around to encourage them and annoy them and experience life with them for many many years.  I can't control my family history.  I can't control if I will be hit by a bus.  I CAN control if I eat 2 Oreos or the entire pack in one sitting.  I CAN control if I lay on the couch or go for a walk.  I CAN control if I pack carrots for my lunch or hit the vending machine because I'm craving something crunchy.  I CAN control if my family watches a movie or goes out to play tennis.
Healthy choices - it's truly as simple as that!
Information from the National Institute of Health website.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Two Reasons Haircuts are Good for My Mental Health

"What are we going to do about your curls?"

I looked up at Kelly from behind the magazine I was reading.  Her eyes were focused on my daughter's beautiful spiral curls, but her words were meant for me. 

"I don't have curly hair," I replied.

"Yes you do."

A specially trained curly hair stylist, Kelly and I had met through a mutual friend who had taken one look at my daughter's hair and sent out an SOS.  My daughter has beautiful hair just like her Aunt Leigh and Great-Aunt Jo on my husband's side of the family, but we had no idea how to take care of it.  Kelly was quickly taking care of that! 

"You definitely have curl in your hair, Lisa.  Let me show you," Kelly said indicating with a nod that I should head back to the sinks.  I was met there by her assistant.  Thus began a new relationship between me and my newly discovered naturally curly hair . . . and a new line item squeezed into our household budget under Lisa's 5ks . . . Lisa's Hair

Prior to meeting Kelly, if you would have asked me what my least favorite physical feature about myself was I would have been torn between my chin fat and my hair.  I have never liked my thin lifeless hair.  As a result, I didn't worry about it much.  It was just there.  Haircuts were at the bottom of my To Do List.  If it was a crazy week, I'd cancel and reschedule.  No big deal.  But now, after learning a new way to wash and dry my hair, I absolutely LOVE the fun bouncy mass of curls on my head!  I consider my routine visits to Kelly Elaine Inc an important part of maintaining my Mental Health!  Crazy week?  Too bad - I'm getting my haircut!  Here are the two reasons why:

1) I feel better about myself.  Let me be honest - I know that I should be happy with the body (including my hair) that God gave me; however, how I look impacts how I feel about myself which impacts my confidence which impacts my day.  I live with my hair everyday.  For most of my life every time I looked in the mirror I would say to myself - "I don't like my hair."  In my chubbier years when I didn't have a full length mirror in my house I still had to look at my hair several times a day. 

Over the years I had great stylists who gave me great haircuts, I just didn't like the hair that they had to work with.  By introducing me to a new wash/dry routine and more natural hair care products, Kelly helped me discover that I have great hair.  Fitness Reloaded founder Maria Brilaki wrote in her blog, "Not liking how your body looks . . affects you everyday.  Becoming friends with the mirror means a huge boost in how you feel everyday."  Now when I look in the mirror at the natural hair God gave me I say to myself  "I love my hair!" with great enthusiasm.  I feel so much better about myself which impacts my confidence which impacts my day.  I can be having a crappy day; yet, when I wash my hands in the bathroom I can look in the mirror and find at least one good thing - my hair!  (I'm still working on the chin fat - but one thing at a time!)

2) I have the positive anticipation of a stress relieving hour-long vacation every 6-8 weeks.  In my life I am always needing to have a Plan B.  If Jamison doesn't feel well and can't drive the kids to school, then I will call my friend Emily.  If a member of my staff calls off, then I will call Tiffany to help me cover home care assignments.  If I can't get home in time to pick-up JJ from practice, then I will call my dad to help me.  I call that Negative Anticipation.  Always anticipating what could go wrong and being ready to deal with it.   All of this Negative Anticipation can really weigh me down if I let it.  So I've found that making sure I am including Positive Anticipation in my life to be vital to reducing stress and maintaining my sanity.  One thing I positively anticipate every 6-8 weeks?  Getting my haircut!
It is important to say at this point that Kelly owns one amazing salon - Kelly Elaine Inc (https://www.facebook.com/KellyElaineInc)!  She offers free beverages from pop to wine to beer.  Her cats and dog are there to greet you.  For animal lovers, it is very relaxing to have a cat curl up in your lap!  During the warmer months, you can sit outside on her private soothing
patio and let the sun dry your hair rather than sit under the dryer.  Plus, Kelly and her assistance Victoria are a complete riot!  They make you feel welcome and have you in hysterics before you even sit down!  And - her prices make it possible for me to fit my appointments into our tight budget with just a little squeeze.  Stepping into her salon is like a mini-vacation . . . a brief escape from the realities of my life.  I leave feeling refreshed and energized.  In my opinion, how you feel about the salon you are going to and the person cutting your hair is just as important as how you feel about the cut and style you walk out the door with.

Are you in need of a vacation but can't afford to get away?  Could you use a break from your daily routine?  Have you been feeling BLAH?  Pick up the phone and make a hair appointment - it's a great mental health treat!

Here are some fun pics to show off Ellie and my curls.  These are from our first visit to Kelly Elaine Inc back in January 2012.

Ellie before her cut & style
Ellie after her cut & style

Me after my wash & style


Check out the new book that I am a part of . . . INSPIRE!  Available on Amazon through my author page - Lisa Hamer Jenkins.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Such a Simple Task - Why Don't I Do It More Often???

Three words. 

Cut up fruit.

Such a simple task.  It literally takes seconds to cut up an apple.  Not much longer to rinse off a handful of cherries and put them in a baggie.  Minutes to slice a watermelon or cantaloupe. 

So why don't I do it more often? 

When I am packing my lunch in the morning, I'm always in a rush.  So I end up grabbing my pre-packaged cheese crackers and my low-fat yogurt.  (Today I actually grabbed the entire pound-size bag of pretzels and stuck it in my purse!)  Meanwhile, the fruit I bought with good intentions sits and rots on my counter or in my fridge.

Tonight I put my good intentions into action.  I washed the delicious looking bright-red cherries I bought and put them in several small baggies.  I sliced the watermelon I bought and prepared a container for me to put in my lunch leaving the rest for my family to inhale tomorrow.  I set out a washed Pink Lady Apple along with the apple slicer and a baggie so the apple is ready to be cut at the last minute tomorrow morning.

It's a tip I hear all the time - prep your food ahead of time so that you can grab the healthier snacks just as easily as the pre-packaged ones.  It makes perfect sense and it is so easy!  I hope that my action steps tonight lead to successful snacking tomorrow which will lead to future nights of fruit prepping!

Happy Snacking!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pass the Tums . . . My To-Do List is Giving Me Heartburn!

Here I am on yet another Sunday evening, the conclusion of a fantastically fun weekend filled with a good balance of work and play, and I am popping antacids while reviewing a To Do List that has four times more untouched items than crossed off items.  There are things on this list that have been there for months.  It feels like no matter how hard or how many hours I work, I just can't get everything done.

A perfect illustration from this morning - I finally got to the point where I was not setting a foot in the shower until I scrubbed it!  When I pulled out the tile cleanser it was covered with a thick layer of dust!  I literally had to clean off the bottle of cleanser before I could clean the shower.  How disgusting is that?  Obviously, "scrub shower" has been a long-time member of the "Things-Lisa-REALLY-Needs-To-Do-but-Never-Seems-to-Get-Around-to-Doing Club."

Back to my current rapid heart beat and rising anxiety - As I looked over my List, I remembered that when I bent over to get the tile cleanser, I noticed my magazine basket - also covered with a layer of dust.  In the moment, I quickly sorted through it tossing most of it's contents in the trash.  Just now I went back and retrieved the March 2014 issue of O that I had carelessly tossed.  Written in large print across the cover - De-Clutter Your Life 2014 - O's annual guide to clearing some space in your head, your heart, your sock drawer.  Peter Walsh, my most favorite professional organizer, shares 12 rules for de-cluttering.  I found a very helpful tip for my perpetually never-ending To-Do List in Rule No. 6: FINISH THE CYCLE.

Consider your washing machine: You'd never fill it with dirty clothes, let it run for 20 minutes, then turn it off and let the clothes sit for two days.  That would create a stinky mess!  So it is with our daily routines: Doing things halfway wreaks havoc.
That's why it is important to finish each cycle. (page 113)
Peter Walsh
I'm a bad finisher.  I'm a great starter, but I struggle with wrapping things up.  Look at the example I just gave you.  I set out to scrub the shower, saw the magazine basket and before I truly thought about what I was doing, I was sorting through the magazines.  Now I did finish the cycle with the shower (it was THAT bad that I could ignore it no longer), but I can look at the projects I set out to complete this weekend and see unfinished steps along the way.  I sorted through my clothes organizing my closet and dresser drawers.  It looks great!  However, what is laying on the floor in front of my dresser right at this moment and therefore preventing me from crossing it off my List? The pile of clothes that I am donating to Goodwill.  I can't even remember what stopped me from putting the final touch on that project.  Now, because I am thinking about this problem of mine I will go down to the basement, bag it and take it to my car, but I bet it sits in my trunk for weeks before I actually stop and drop it off.  Nope - I'm turning over a new leaf - I'm going to drop it off tomorrow.  I need to finish the cycle

By finishing the cycle, I will complete more items on my List rather than starting five tasks and completing zero.  It sounds simple but it makes sense.  It sounds simple but I know I'm going to have to work hard to change me ways.
I actually have multiple To Do Lists - one for home, one for work and one for me.  My Daily Me List always includes the same items:
  • Time with God
  • Exercise
  • Kids Exercise
  • Time with my hubby
  • List three things I'm grateful for (I've been working hard to keep my Negative Nellie side under control!)
I confess that I don't always get each one crossed off every day.  I try and some days that's the best I can offer.  Maybe with a new focus of finishing the cycle, I won't be so stressed out by my other two To Do Lists and I'll have time and energy to get to these five tasks every day.  After all, I learned several years ago that . . .


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Check Your Boob Bounce!

Friends ~ The next time you get dressed to go exercise pause in front of the mirror.  Do five jumping jacks.  What are your boobs doing?  If they are wildly bouncing all over the place practically smacking you in the face you need to ask yourself a very important questions - Does my sports bra fit?  Are you even wearing a SPORTS bra?

In my mind, the sports bra is one of the most important pieces of exercise gear you will purchase.  How can a person possibly focus on the task at hand when her boobs are flying all over the place?  Plus, don't they hurt when you're done?  When I'm in a class that has a mirror or I'm crossing the finish line of a 5k, I'd rather people see me and think "Oh, hi Lisa."  Not, "Holy cow look at her boobs!"  They really need to be contained - for your sake and for those around you. 

Unfortunately, besides being one of the most important pieces of exercise gear, sports bras can be one of the more expensive pieces of exercise gear.  What totally stinks about that is that no one is most likely ever going to see it!  We Oooooh! and Aaaaaah! over each other's colorful new shoes, but I'm not going to walk into class and flash everyone to show off my new bra.  Ladies - they are worth the money.  You don't need very many.  Like I said, no one is going to see it so if you rinse it out and wear the same bra again tomorrow no one is going to know.  Sports bras do end up on clearance racks at stores like Target, Old Navy or Dick's so if you are on a tight budget like me you can still get a good one.  Marshall's and TJMaxx are also great places to find sports bras at a decent price. 

Another issue with sports bras is proper fit.  You may think that your boobs are under control, but there is a strong possibility that they are having their own dance party right under your nose and you don't even know it.  My friend Melanie recently posted this great article to her facebook page which gives step by step instructions for measuring yourself for a sports bra www.womensrunning.competitor.com/2014/06/shoes-gear/bosom-buddies_25388  It's a quick read with good suggestions.  You can also stop by a department store and ask to be fitted for a bra.  It doesn't cost anything and there is no commitment to buy a bra from that store.  I was recently fitted and was shocked at how far off I was on size.  It didn't take long, and while it was a little awkward, the lady was very nice. 

This topic has been on my mind for some time.  I feel bad when I'm running or dancing next to someone and all I can think is "Man, she really needs a new sports bra."  I don't want to think about your boobs - I want to think about you and cheer you on and have fun!  Plus, I can't be the only one noticing this.  So - five jumping jacks in front of the mirror.  It will only take you a minute to check your boob bounce. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A2Z: Getting There Without Turning Around Along the Way

This is the message that is drilled into our heads in today's instant gratification focused world, but I have a problem with it.  There are words missing.  Important words that as a result of being omitted cause many people to lose hope, stop believing and eventually give up on their dream.  This quote should read:
Think big, dream big, believe big and the results
(after a lot of hard work, many failures and
countless small victories)
will be big.
Don't get me wrong, there are many people who have the extreme drive or simply the luck to leap from point A to point Z in a single bound.  That is not me.  How many ideas have I had that I have taken the time to sit down and write out that have never made it off the paper?  How many times was a new diet "the one" that would melt away my extra pounds?    How many times have I cleaned off my kitchen counter proclaiming that it will never be piled with junk again?  (OK - that one may not seem too "big" to you, but it is a big dream in my house.)
Why is it that I have the dream or the idea, but as soon as it doesn't happen right away or the way I thought it would, I give up?
1) I FEEL like a failure.  I have the image in my mind of victory and happiness - a big celebration!  When something doesn't turn out the way I've imagined it in my head, my excitement is deflated.  Instead of the bubbly happy feeling, I feel like I have a rock in the pit of my stomach.  I don't like that feeling, so I'm not going to try again.
2) I'm too IMPATIENT.  I'm starting at Point A and am aiming for Point Z.  I don't want to travel through Point G or Point N or stop at Point T.  I want to get to Point Z and I want to get there now. That's why when I'm craving French fries I'm not going to go to the grocery store, buy a 10lb bag of potatoes, come home, wash them, slice them, season them and then wait while they bake in the oven.  No - I'm heading to the drive-thru! 
I find it so sad that many people are missing out on their BIG dreams because they give up. It IS possible to dream BIG and achieve BIG results.  We simply need to recognize that the path to accomplishing them is not one HUGE leap, but rather one filled with many SMALL steps.  For me, making two changes helped me find joy and achievement in taking many SMALL steps to find BIG results:
1) Celebrate every victory regardless of how small.  When I'm running and I get to the point that I don't think I can go any further, I'll set a small specific goal.  I will say to myself - "Lisa, run to that red mailbox" or "Lisa, finish this lap."  When I reach that mailbox or complete that lap, I'll raise my arms in victory or shout out "YES!"  (Yes, I do literally shout out loud.  Yes, I do get some strange looks.  No, I don't care.)  That small physical action of celebration pushes me to run to the next red mailbox or complete another lap.  I FEEL victorious!  That is a good feeling.  I celebrate every partial pound lost on the scale, every item crossed off my To Do List, every goal accomplished whether it is with a mental hi-five, a victory dance in my kitchen or a trip out for Fro-Yo with my family.  Celebrating helps me maintain a positive outlook.  It keeps me motivated to take the next small step needed to reach my ultimate goal.
2) Enjoy the journey.  I'm starting at Point A.  I want to get to Point Z.  I'm ready to hit the road and get this journey started.  Hey - wait a minute, I've never been to Point G.  This is a nice place!  Let's pause here and see what it's all about before we continue on.  If we are solely focused on the end result, we miss out on everything along the way.  One of my lifelong dreams has been to be a published author.  Last year I was presented with the opportunity to achieve that dream.  I honestly thought that I would hand in my manuscript and the next week be handed a shiny sweet-smelling hot-off-the-press book.  It doesn't work that way.  Publishing a book is a journey.  A couple of weeks ago as I sat around a table with my fellow authors laughing, sharing life experiences and building friendships, my breath was taken away.  What an AMAZING afternoon.  I was at Point G and I was soaking up every minute of it!  Had I given up when I realized that I wasn't jumping from Point A directly to Point Z, I would have missed out on this wonderful experience.   

My point is not that we should stop dreaming big.  I do believe that there is no limit to what I can accomplish.  It simply took me some time to figure out the best way for me to get there. 
We each have our own journey.  My path from Point A to Point Z is probably different from your path.  Though our paths have obviously crossed here.  If you are feeling a bit lost on your journey I invite you to join with me for a bit.  Try what worked for me to keep myself focused and moving forward - those two SMALL steps may be just what you need to find your BIG results! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Life-Threatening or Life-Changing?

I was recently at lunch with a group of girlfriends.  A newer group of friends, we spent the afternoon excitedly sharing bits and pieces of our life stories.  One friend, talking about her work with families living with autism, shared a sentence that has really stuck with me . . .
The diagnosis is not life-threatening, but it is life-changing.
When my husband first began to experience the chronic pain that now engulfs his body 24 hours a day, we searched for the magic pill, magic injection, magic procedure that would take it away.  On the outside, a majority of aspects of our lives changed - He could no longer work.  I could no longer be a stay-at-home-mom.  We could no longer handle life on our own so we moved closer to family.  I had to learn new things like how to start the lawnmower, put air in my car tires (so silly, but it took me forever to figure that one out!) and throw a pitch.  On the inside, I continued to hold a tight grip to the thought that this would all be over soon and life would return to "normal."   
I kept waiting for life to go back to the way it was - back to the way that I had always dreamed it would be.  That is where I got stuck.
          That is where I got sad.
                    That is where I gained weight.
                              That is where I developed high blood pressure and anxiety.
                                        That is where I missed out on a lot of fun adventures.
                                                  That is where I let go of several friendships.
                                                             That is where I lost out on five years of my life.
                                                                        That is where I got really angry at God.
I had to come to realization that life was never going back to the way it was.  My husband's diagnosis was not life-threatening, but it was life-changing so I was going to have to change.  Why did no one ever mention that to me? 
Hope is important.  I won't lose the hope that someday God will heal my husband 100% - physically and mentally.  But I also can't sit around staring at him waiting for that moment to arrive.  My hope is now firmly placed on the knowledge that God has created me to be a strong intelligent woman who can handle this crazy life that He has designed for me. 
I finally discovered the need to shift my perspective four years ago.  It took time, lots of purposeful practice and encouraging self-talk, but life is now filled with unexpected gifts and adventures that I could never have dreamed up!  I am no longer mourning dreams lost, but celebrating the ones I never knew existed.  (Life is not perfect - I still have plenty of Boo-Hoo Moments, but that is ok.)
There are so many life events that can cause us to get "stuck."  Sometimes we can be stuck for a few days, weeks, months or -like me - years.  In those moments, I encourage you to ask yourself this simple question
Is this situation life-threatening or life-changing?
The answer will shift your perspective and take you in a direction you never dreamed of!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day Five: Forgotten Jambalaya

I have always wanted to try Jambalaya just because it looked like such a cool dish.  As you can imagine, I was very excited to see this recipe make my list.  Even though I knew my family would not like it, I had told myself I was making the first five recipes to appear on the screen regardless of what they were so my hands were tied . . . I was making Jambalaya. 

I wish that I could type all of these wonderful words letting you know how much I LOVED this dish, but I can't.  I didn't like it!  However, I can honestly tell you that I think it was simply my taste buds and not the dish.  I'm just not that into too many spices.  We can blame my mother (Sorry Mom!) who rarely even uses salt in her cooking. 

Don't let the fact that I didn't like it stop you from trying it . . .

Forgotten Jambalaya

1 lb smoked sausage, cut into slices
1 lb chicken breasts (boneless, skinless), cut into pieces
1/2 lb shrimp, medium
2 tsp basil, dried
3 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves
2 green peppers, medium, chopped
1 onion, medium, chopped
1-1/2 tsp oregano
3 tsp parsley flakes, dried
1 can tomatoes, diced
1 can beef or chicken broth
1 can tomato paste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/4 tsp salt
Hot cooked rice

* Combine the tomatoes. broth and tomato paste.  Stir in the celery, green peppers, onion, garlic and seasonings.  Stir in chicken and sausage.

* Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is no longer pink.  Stir in shrimp.  Cover and cook 15-30 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink.  Serve over rice.

When I first checked out this recipe, I was thinking that it was going to be very expensive.  However, when I looked in my freezer I had some shrimp and sausage that were both left over from previous recipes.  That was perfect!  Knowing that my family was most likely not going to like this, I cut the recipe in half. 

Crockpot week is officially over!  This week, I am trying to eat as much of the food that is already in my fridge and freezer as possible.  After over four months . . . I am finally getting a new oven!  YAY!  My oven stopped working on Christmas Eve.  I've been cooking solely on my stove top and crockpot.  I cannot wait to bake a batch of oatmeal cookies and fudge brownies and lasagna and honey mustard chicken!

I hope I shared at least one recipe that you will want to try! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day Four: Chicken and Red Potatoes

I am back on track with my crockpot today!  This dish was a success with my family - after much complaining ("I don't like mushrooms!" "I don't like rice!").

Chicken and Red Potatoes

4 boneless chicken breasts
2 cups baby carrots
4 red potatoes cut into wedges
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1 can cream of onion soup (I used cream of mushroom)
3 T flour
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup milk
1 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (4 oz.)

* Place flour in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add chicken, one piece at a time; shake to coat.  In a large skillet, brown chicken in oil on both sides.

* Meanwhile, place the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms in a greased 5-quart slow cooker.  In a small bowl combine remaining ingredients.  Pour half the mixture over the vegetables.

* Transfer chicken to slow cooker; top with remaining soup mixture.  Cover and cook on low for 3-1/2 to 4 hours (Mine cooked on low for 9 hours.).

Day Five will be interesting . . .

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day Three: . . . YIKES!

An unexpected twist to my week - we had company for dinner!  The members of my family are not big fans of leftovers, so I usually only make enough to feed four and have one plate leftover for me to take for lunch.  I definitely did not have enough food for any of my remaining meals to feed six adults.  When I learned late last night that we would be having guests for dinner, I knew I had two options . . . make a midnight run for the grocery store or order pizza.  Pizza won! 

The combination of the special evening (my daughter's final elementary orchestra concert) and the fact that my family LOVES pizza made this change in plans the perfect night.

Celebrating Our Beautiful Violinist!

Back to the crockpot tomorrow!  AND - I already have one meal planned for next week!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day Two: Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Success!  That describes my second day of following a menu that I put together simply by Googling "Top 5 crockpot meals."  Today's pork chops were fork tender and didn't have a "porky" taste.  They were simply just plain yummy!

Slow Cooker Pork Chops

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
4 boneless pork loin chops
2 T canola oil
1 can (14-1/2 oz) chicken broth

* In a large resealable bag, combine 1/2 cup flour, mustard, garlic powder and seasoned salt.  Add pork chops one at a time, and shake to coat.  Transfer to the crock pot.

* Place remaining flour in a small bowl; whisk in broth until smooth.  Pour over chops.  Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until meat is tender.  (My chops cooked for 9 hours.)

* Remove pork to a serving plate.  Whisk cooking liquid until smooth; serve with pork.

I served the pork chops with Herb & Butter Rice and steamed corn.  A side salad would have been great, but time did not allow.  I actually ate mine in the High School auditorium listening to the Elementary Strings practice for their Spring concert.  Regardless of the setting, the meal was delicious.  I'll definitely be making this one again!