Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas defined: short and sweet

My perspectives on Christmas: short and sweet...

In short, I'm focused on remembering the reason for Christmas, and can still enjoy the family time, the relationships, the giggles, and even the tears during these magical weeks. What's the reason? God loves me, and wants a relationship with me. And came on down to my place...so I can be with Him in His place! How cool is that.

Sweet stuff...I have ventured into the art of baking once again. I love the preparation, the precise measuring, the mixing and scraping and blending and waiting...all for the sweet treat that results. I'm waiting, too, for the sweet treat in Jesus' coming again---and the promises of no more pain, no more fears, no more tears.

Short and sweet? It's all about relationships and God's love. Amen!

How do you enjoy your Christmas season?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rainbow Moments

One recent morning started like most others: morning coffee, breakfast, the day’s plan in place. A handful of dark gray clouds floated by but their threats of rain were overshadowed by clear brilliance on the horizon. Suddenly, as if someone turned on a giant light switch, it got brighter outside. I was glad I happened to be looking out the window at that moment because in a tiny space of time, no more than ten minutes, a rainbow appeared in all its vivid display of color. Every shade of the ROYGBIV pattern could be clearly identified and I could not stop staring. Then, without a warning, it was suddenly gone.

I had both a mammogram and a colonoscopy this past month (such fun!), and the ten seconds it took for me to read those form letters indicating there were no problems are now to me like the precious “rainbow moment.” I used to take those letters for granted, but recent stories of family and friends fighting cancer help me to appreciate the little things even more.

I think the rainbow is one of God’s ways to interrupt my day filled with uninspiring routines, bills to pay, work to do, errands to run. A rainbow’s colorful display in all its splendor shows me the joy that can be found in my own attitude, regardless of my activity. I, too, can be a colorful display of God’s love, peace and joy in this world.

What do you think about when you see a rainbow?

Tip of the week:
It's time to try something new! (again!) Every once in a while, try a new recipe, a new workout routine, or a new weight watchers program--starts this week!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Reflections

Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, we're back to the healthy eating and exercise routine. While reflecting on the Thanksgiving meal, I decided not to gripe about what and how much I might eat, but instead to think about the food as a metaphor for the relationships I crave, particularly at this time of year. Time for this foodie to see the turkey and trimmings in a new way.

The turkey. This is the meat of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. It’s a wonderful food, full of protein, providing me with the strength and nourishment to fuel my muscles for strength and good health. It’s the star of the show on this holiday, and I find it interesting that of all the foods we usually prepare, it’s the simplest. Rinse off, sprinkle a little oil, salt and pepper, and roast. The turkey reminds me of the strongest relationships in my life. My husband, close friends, family. Certain of the people in my life are the ones who are the true fuel for my strength and good health. I know that if I don’t spend the time I need with these protein sources, I get drained more easily and life’s circumstances affect me more than it should. These meaty relationships are simple, but require time.

The stuffing. It’s the flavorful, fun, fill-in stuff. With all its varieties, the stuffing can enhance the turkey with its spiciness. However, the stuffing can also absorb the juices from my primary protein source if I simply stuff too much. Like the big bowl of bread chunks that seems bottomless, I find it interesting that I can stuff way too much into a little space. Volunteerism, guilt, busy-ness, useless traditions. All these and more can provide way too much filling for my good health. It can be tasty and fun, and might fuel me for the short run, but it doesn’t give the long-lasting energy I need to sustain myself.

The cranberry sauce. This sweet enhancement to the Thanksgiving meal is exactly what makes everything else taste a little better. I love to have a bit of sauce with the turkey, with the stuffing, with whatever else ends up on my plate. It’s like my sweet relationships that lack the obligatory side effects of time and attention. They include old high school friends, new friends, temporary acquaintances—all of who add just what I need to enjoy the meat of my life a bit more.

Green. Bean. Casserole. This is an attempt at healthy living gone bad. I’m okay with the green, and even with the green bean, but when it becomes casserole, it becomes a dish I avoid. The healthiness has been masked in creaminess and crunchiness, like the healthy relationships in my life that seem simple but get masked in obligation and need redefining or skipping altogether. There have been seasons in my own life when I held onto a relationship just a bit too long that it became this unsavory side dish, and I have had to make this decision to either change it or skip it to maintain my own health.

The salad, asparagus, or brussel sprouts. There is usually one side dish that retains its simple, healthy state on the Thanksgiving table. The crunchiness and deep green colors of these foods can provide the vitamins and fiber that help us to enjoy the rest of the meal in moderation. I find it interesting that I usually skip eating these foods on Thanksgiving, even if they are on the table. There’s no room left for healthiness on a day devoted to indulgence. There’s a problem, however, when the sense of abundance makes me skip the simplicity of this day which is all about giving thanks. I want to remember not to skip giving thanks on this day, or any day, even if I skip the green stuff.

The pies. The pies epitomize indulgence and sweetness in all its forms: apple, pumpkin, lemon, cherry. The aspect of the pies I appreciate most is the sweetness of the family traditions tied to them. The passing on of the recipes and techniques for pie baking is in itself enough for dessert. I love the traditions and heritage passed on from generation to generation through these desserts. It’s a great finishing touch to a day devoted to thankfulness. This sweet gratitude is the treat for all of our days, not just the holiday season.

I’m full now, how about you? Be blessed this holiday season with the relationships you crave.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My First Spin Class

Spinning. Who would have thought that a simple exercise like riding a bike at a health club could be so complicated?

My heart was pounding and my forehead was sweating, and the cardio workout hadn’t even started yet. I was introduced to the vivacious and extremely fit instructor, Maria, as well as to my machine: not just any old bike, but a spinning bike. As such, there were several special fittings required: the seat height, the seat location, and the handle height. All three factors were customized so that the bend to my knee and the angle with which I sat on the ‘saddle’ (it’s not an old-fashioned bike seat anymore) were optimized for the most effective use of my leg muscles and glutes during the workout. I had been wanting to try this thing called spinning for years now, and Maria was friendly and made me feel welcome, so I relaxed a little while warming up.

Into the saddle I sat, wondering what the hype was all about. The lights were dimmed, Maria had her microphone in place, the music was started, and we were off.

I quickly learned the spin lingo; and quickly learned why this class is so much fun and yet so challenging—like my faith walk, which is a joy, but can also be challenging. Like my Father God, Maria was there with her spirit, her smile and her encouragement the entire way.

“In the saddle”: this means we are sitting down on the bike seat while pedaling as opposed to standing while pedaling. It reminds me of moving along in my faith walk where I need to put some energy into the movement but can still coast if necessary.

The “sprint”: this is when we are in the saddle but are encouraged to "spin" (pedal) faster. The music helped us with its increased tempo, and we would mentally beat anyone around us who might try to be faster than us. Like those challenges in life where things can get me down---self-doubt, fear, confusion—I can instead choose to take on the challenge by speeding ahead on the path of faith without looking to my right or left.

The “climb”: up out of the saddle we would go, and with increased tension on the gear making the pedals harder to turn, we’d stand and push our way up that mental and physical hill to get to the top. Maria’s constant comments, such as “You can do it!”, “You’re almost there!”, “I’m right there with you!”, all reminded me of the biblical encouragement I get on a regular basis, where I can always find something that relates to my life and reminds me that all my challenges are not new ones, and God helped people before me, and can help me too with those challenges.

“Take a break”: On occasion, Maria instructed us to slow down, get “in the saddle”, and get some water and towel off so we can refuel for the next cardio challenge in the workout. God often gives me a chance to refuel—a chat with a girlfriend, a special note in the mail, and smile from a stranger—these breaks happen just when I need them and in the way I need to keep on going.

“The road”: There were times when Maria would describe for us visually what the biking workout would look like as if we were on the road, for example: we’ll be coasting for a while, then riding faster up a slow incline, then climbing a hill to the top, then another small hill before we go downhill again---all these steps would remain in my mind while she orchestrated the bike movements to go along on the path described. There were other times, however, when she simply surprised us with the road’s challenges, and with her encouraging smile, Maria would remind us she was there with us and told us we could ‘do it’…whether it was to sprint faster or climb higher. I find it interesting that sometimes I have an idea of God’s plans for me, but most of the time I am surprised. What is helpful, though, is the reminder that God is right there with me even in the ‘surprises’ on my road trip, to help me get through those challenges. God shows who He is by example, and like Maria, knows what to expect in the challenges and as a result knows how to help me in those challenges.

My name: so many times during the workout, this previous stranger named Maria would become my caring guide as she said my name during the workout: “How’s it going back there, Lisa?” It was a shock to hear my name, but then again I can say I knew she was watching me whether she said so or not. God, too, is always watching over me, and sometimes mentions my name, but I am reassured to know He always loves and cares about me, personally. Even in the crowded room, I felt noticed.

Tip of the week:
Try spinning, if you haven't already! Next on my list: Zumba!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One of THOSE Days

Did you ever have one of THOSE days? I did, recently.

It started with the morning routine; coffee, prayers, kids off to school, exercise, work. Some writing time, some organization time, some planning time. A good day so far. Then it happened. The day morphed into one of ‘those’ days—all within a two-hour period. I had to get the kids off the school buses, bring my daughter for a haircut, have my son ready for theater practice, get both kids fed, bring my daughter to a babysitting appointment, and be ready to pick up the kids from theater practice and babysitting at various times. It was a delicate balance of flexibility, timing and patience. I got through the bus stop and bringing my daughter for her haircut, but after the haircut appointment, I realized a flaw in the plan. I didn’t have time to feed my daughter before her next stop—babysitting. I called my son to put a pizza into the oven for himself and thought to myself: yikes, my teenage son is at home with the oven on. Can’t wait to get back there and make sure the house doesn’t blow up. Oh yes, time to feed my daughter. Easy solution: stop at the local Wawa on the way. She and I made the stop and even selected a healthy option for her to eat. Back to the car.

Now, where are those car keys? Not in my pocket; not in my purse. “They’re right there, Mommy!” my daughter said with a smile. Yup, the keys were safely in the ignition…of the locked car. I haven’t locked my keys in the car in years, and today was the time to indulge. I stopped and thought: “Okay, God, I guess you’re reminding me to slow down!”

Schedule planning went into overload; I had a wonderful neighbor who could bring my son to theater practice, my friend picked up my daughter for babysitting, and my hero of a mother-in-law drove to the parking lot with a spare key, in case it was the right one. No, the house didn’t blow up with the oven being on, and no, my mother-in-law didn’t have the correct car key, but she at least had her car for me to ride home with her to pick up my spare key. We then drove back to the parking lot and I was able to bring my car home, just in time to pick up my daughter, and then an hour later, my son.


I desperately needed this beautiful prayer, and now enjoy it every morning with my Bible time. It’s adapted from Wilfred A. Peterson and is called “Prayer for a Peaceful Heart.” It will not prevent “those” days from happening, but will keep my response to those days to be one of thankfulness and peace.
“Please Lord, slow me down, ease my pounding heart
Quiet my racing mind, steady my hurried steps
Amidst the confusion of my days
Grant me the calmness of your peace
Help me to know the truly restoring gift of sleep
Teach me the art of taking time off
To slow down to see the beauty in your creation
To chat with a friend
To read a few lines from a good book
Remind me each day that there is more to life than increasing in speed
It is living, each moment, with You and for You
Let me look upwards
Into the branches of a towering oak
And know that it grew slowly and well
Please Lord, slow me down
Teach me to be gentle and humble of heart
Fearing nothing of this world
As you are my Lord
Grant me rest for my soul
Now and eternally with you

On that day, in Wawa’s parking lot, I didn’t look upwards into the branches of a towering oak, but I do remember looking upwards at the power line running across the top of the parking lot. My daughter and I noticed the line of birds sitting up there and we agreed there must have been a bird party going on! It was a beautiful way to refocus and look upwards when otherwise I would have never noticed the birds at all.

Tip of the week:
Slow down! Noticing the beauty of nature and the gift of a shared smile are probably the healthiest suggestions we can follow for joy—even in the middle of ‘those’ days.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Temptations...including Chocolate Candy

Ahhh…a cool breeze fans my face, crunchy leaves dance with the wind, heat of the sun penetrates my bulky sweatshirt and warms my shoulders. Burning wood, the sweet aroma of a distant fireplace, permeates the air. Autumn’s weather refuels me with its crisp awakening of my senses. Autumn also brings those oh-so-familiar food temptations to mind…including chocolate candy.

Why is there Halloween candy on the store shelves before I’ve finished switching gears from summer to back-to-school mode? Why does a normal display of sweet treats seem more appealing when tiny pumpkins are printed on the packages next to little smiling white ghosts? Is candy corn a vegetable?

I am obsessed with chocolate, especially chocolate candy. All I need is a tiny reminder like the cooler weather, to remind me of this personal problem. I’m also reminded of my candy-management-system for Halloween and my kids, and am excited to implement it again this year. In case you’re not already enlightened, here it is:
Candy In the House: I have learned that it is not okay for me to buy my own favorite candy to supposedly give out to the neighborhood kids, but it simply becomes ‘candy in the house’; a definite no-no for me. I became one of those boring neighbors, who gives something OTHER than the gem of all gems, a full-sized Hershey bar. Instead, my creativity spanned the treat-giving from pencils, to bubble gum, to sugarless gum, to pretzels, to coins. I will, once again, choose to give out something other than chocolate candy.
Candy All Over the Stores: I have learned to shop in the stores differently, by avoiding the candy aisles altogether, or adding some cardio workout to my routine by zipping past them as quickly as possible. I’ll do whatever it takes to deal with this chocolate problem of mine.
Candy From Outside the House: My biggest challenge is dealing with all the candy my kids can collect from the neighbors, and it’s a bigger challenge on rainy Halloweens, like we had last year. That’s when people give out double their candy to be finished with the door-opening with the accompanying rain and wind. Several years ago, I implemented the buy-back system with my kids, where I let them choose a handful of Halloween goodies (to be consumed by them within a week) to keep; the rest of the goodies are then ‘bought back’ by me at a current-year’s rate, usually 10 cents or a quarter per piece. It is fun to see their entrepreneurial spirits kick in along with the usual competitiveness and have them challenge each other for the biggest payout of the year.

What do I do with all that candy? Get rid of it---whatever it takes. Trash, dentist offices (some have a buy-back plan), someone’s desk at an office…anywhere but in my home.

Whew, this battle will be won. Time to strategize for the Thanksgiving goodies and Christmas cookies.

Tip of the week:
If chocolate candy is your addiction, go ahead and try these strategies! We sometimes need to resort to desperate measures for desperate times, don’t we?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If Momma Ain't Happy...

I have enjoyed the privilege of being involved in women’s ministries for as long as I can remember. Why? I believe that we women need support to be the best we can be as wives, daughters, friends and nurturers. We are made to give and give and give some more, and without each other, we will shrivel up, crumble, and blow away like a fallen autumn leaf. Many years ago, I enjoyed ‘women’s ministries’ in the form of my Mary Kay business, and have enjoyed that role for more than ten years. Now, my women’s ministry role includes bible studies, connection events, and retreats, so that we can refuel.

Why do we women need so much support? Because we are emotional beings!

There’s no doubt about it: my emotional state of being on any given day has a huge impact on the emotional barometer in my home. I strongly believe in being responsible for my own self-care, not to be confused with being self-ish. Self-care means I am taking ownership of what makes me ‘tick’, I am in charge of my passion meter, and I am to harness my emotional needs in a way so I can nurture them. There are three primary self-care methods that keep me sane. First and foremost is my time with God. If I don’t get to sit my bottom down into a chair with that bible on one hand and a pen and paper in the other, my entire day seems scattered. Another favorite variation of self-therapy is a visit to a book store, particularly those which have coffee shops, too, and boy oh boy the fresh-brewed coffee aroma permeating the air, swirling through the smell of fresh, new paper…it’s absolutely heavenly. So if I can’t be with God directly, I’d rather be in a bookstore, or my favorite is the final source of self-therapy: the glittering gem of treasure in self-care: my precious girlfriends. This self-care frees me to meet the needs of others—my husband, children, friends, and family. “If Momma ain’t happy…,” well, you know the rest.

I have engaged in a change in perspective lately, though. Instead of looking at my self-care practices to make sure I have my emotional needs met, I decided to accept a recent challenge which stated that my husband and my children ARE my ministry. Yes, I am involved in a number of ministries, but if I lose sight of my most important ministry—my own husband and kids—nothing else matters. Now my mantra is “If they are all happy, then Momma is happy!” With a focus on them first, while simultaneously keeping a pulse on my own self-care meter, I can know that who I am and what I do are making a difference. Making a difference in my home is where it all starts; then I know I am making a difference in the world. I think it’s what we all might want: to make a difference. I thank God for this new perspective.

Tip of the week:
Don’t quit! I speak frequently about losing weight and persevering, but when the rubber meets the road, there is always a place where we all want to quit. It’s too hard. It takes too long. It’s not fun anymore. The only way to fail in weight loss, or any challenge in life, is to quit. That fact alone keeps me going. Even if I’m messing up, again, I am committed not to quit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Puzzle Glue

School started again and my teenage son made a statement that created another puzzle piece for my life as a mom. “I’m okay, Mom”, he said.”You don’t have to walk me to the bus stop anymore.” Yes, I knew this day was coming. No, I wasn’t as prepared as I anticipated.

Like a thousand-piece puzzle in which I have become fragments of a whole, I continue to mold myself together one small section at a time. To move forward in the stages of letting go is never an easy thing, but I have observed those before me who survived. I can survive it, too. I place another curved edge neatly next to one of the other puzzle pieces for him. As a toddler, he took his first wobbly steps towards freedom. Another piece: the sleepover birthday party. And now: the independent walk to the bus stop.

The puzzle pieces are as varied as the roles I play as a mom. I’m a cook, referee, chauffeur, nurse and disciplinarian. Those various roles are like the various sections of the puzzle—the edges, the middle, the colorful part. Letting go—that’s the part of the puzzle I find most challenging. The puzzle pieces are all the same color and the only clue left is the shape. But all the shapes look the same, and one little step at a time, I test each piece to see if it fits.

The lines of separation are faded by the puzzle glue that is the unconditional love I am blessed to experience as a mom. If I stay in one piece, it’s only because of this love, the puzzle glue holding it all together.

Tip of the week:
Need a boost of fresh motivation for your eating challenges? Get out! When I get out of the house, get out to a support group, get out to a bookstore or a movie, or someplace that rejuvenates my true self, the food issues seem to lessen for a little while. Sometimes it’s all I need.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

DIving In!

"I'm diving in, I'm going deep, in over my head I want to be..." Stephen Curtis-Chapman challenged my faith with this incredibly powerful song again this week. We are challenged to take that leap of faith, not just over the edge, but into the water that's over our head. Wow.

When we're underwater, things look different. Things are quiet. Things are tuned out, but present. I want to make my prayer life deeper, too. My quiet time can be quiet-er time. My sense of peace can be even more peaceful. When I pray, I can go over the edge of the surface prayer requests and let God see my heart. It's diving in over my head, and not just to the shallow end up to waist level that makes the difference in my perspective. I don't want to just get wet in that water; I want a new view.

Wanna dive in with me?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letting Go in the Rain

On a recent road trip, I had the coveted passenger seat while my skilled driver for a husband navigated our way through many miles in a torrential downpour. Me? I would have pulled over and waited out the storm. There is a certain amount of visibility I desire while driving, and this rainstorm didn’t allow for much to be seen.

This recent trip had way more rain that I was used to seeing and I frequently found myself engaging in as many personal relaxation techniques as I could remember. Look off to the side and not at the road in front of me. Breathe slowly. Think positive thoughts. This time, I raised the bar—I prayed our way through the storms. Quietly, of course. I worked hard at being silent. I wanted to say “Why don’t you pull over?” but instead I sent my quiet thoughts upward. God, help us. God, protect our family. God, don’t let us hydroplane. God, let my husband choose to pull over. (Okay, so I want to have some control here but I think God understands.) God, protect us as if in a bubble. God, let that truck behind us slow down.

And then it hit me. I needed to trust. I needed to trust my husband’s driving ability and I needed to trust God. This trust required that I look somewhere other than what it was that was worrying me. I needed to simply go along for the ride and my only job was to turn off the crazy thoughts. Sounds so easy and yet it is so difficult to do.

By the way, I had one final prayer that afternoon. Thank you, God. The rain cleared.

Tip of the week:
Slow down. Slowing down to think about what I eat and slowing down while I am eating are both tips I need to remember for success in maintaining my health. I think it’s good to slow down while driving in a torrential rainstorm too.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Recipe for Disaster

I love to bake. Always have. Why? Because I love to eat. Still do, after losing over 100 pounds. My favorite? Sweets—in any way, shape or form.

There’s a downside to baking, though. Maintaining my weight loss of over 100 pounds requires that I change how often I indulge in this fun hobby. I can’t afford to bake, and eat, the oven-fresh deliciousness of cakes, cookies and breads on a regular basis. Yes, I still bake from time to time but far less often than I used to.

A recent family celebration gave me an excuse for the fun opportunity to bake again! The cake: an old-time classic called “1-2-3-4 Cake” for my mother-in-law’s birthday. This beautifully large white cake, topped with homemade frosting, is an indulgent result of the simple recipe with a few ingredients.

There was one problem, though. The recipe itself.

You see, I have attempted to bake this cake dozens of times over the years, and it never quite worked. Instead of a cake, I’d get a pancake. Why can’t I get this simple cake to work properly? I tried again for the birthday event. I pulled out the slightly stained and bent index card from the recipe box with the familiar handwriting of a family friend listing the ingredients and instructions. I engaged in some of my favorite activites: I stirred, blended, poured, tested, baked, cooled and frosted, and then it was time to cut the cake.

It fell. Again.

This time, I decided to check the recipe itself. I never considered the recipe to be a problem before, since it was a hand-printed treasure from my wedding shower. I still have the collection of recipes I received along with the shower gifts that day, and many of them are old-time favorites like this cake recipe. But every time I baked this cake, and it fell, I checked and fixed all the usual potential problems: my oven temperature, the ingredients themselves, and the length of time to bake the cake.

Onto the internet I went. Recipe research resulted in one simple flaw in my version: my recipe indicated that I should beat the final batter for TWENTY minutes before baking. This is unusually long, but a dense cake, like this one, can require this length of time for the proper batter consistency. I never questioned it. My research, on the other hand, corrected the flaw. It became evident that the final batter is to be mixed for TWO minutes, not TWENTY. One little zero—from a two to a twenty, and my recipe problem is solved.

I think it’s funny how one little flaw, one little zero, can make a big difference. Years and years of trying to make this cake with the wrong recipe produced the wrong results.

It’s like this in life, too. If I proceed with the wrong recipe for success, I will surely get the wrong results. Every time. This cake-baking experience reminds me to be concerned with the little things in life more often. There are little zeros that can make all the difference. For me, those little zeros are habits like giving a smile to a person I pass on the street, letting the other car pass me on the road, slowing down to give my family members a hug, noticing the flowers in bloom in the neighborhood. Little things like reminding my husband I love him, making sure to take my morning Bible time, and thanking God all along for everything, even flopped cakes.

Tip of the week:
When I am tempted while making favorite treats, like 1-2-3-4 Cake, I make sure to pop a piece of gum in my mouth to help remind me not to lick the batter. The chewing gum trick comes in handy at other times, too, like cooking dinner.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bumper Car Insights

It’s summertime and with it comes the amusement park excursions. Recently, I visited an amusement park with an old-time feel; it has been in existence since the 1940’s and is still thriving due to the family-oriented, relaxed environment combined with amusement park rides of decades past. It’s fun to ride on the same type of carousel, tilt-a-whirl and teacup I rode as a kid. The true classic that struck a chord with me was the bumper cars.

I’m not 20 years old anymore; that single fact helped me to decide against going on the bumper cars. Yes, they’re fun, but I wasn’t up for the jolting impact of a stranger’s ride slamming me into my next chiropractic adjustment. It was a blast, however, watching the riders. I noticed two types of bumper car drivers: those who look for the most ‘bumping’ opportunities and enjoy slamming their cars into as many people as possible. The second: those who enjoy driving the car around and around and avoiding the jammed collisions of the first type. What’s interesting? Both types of people are smiling. They both engage in this same ride with different focuses and yet still have the time of their lives.

It’s like that in life: we’re all on the same ride, potentially going in circles. We all have choices to make—do we ‘slam’ the others or ride around in circles with the intention to avoid the collisions? Even though both types of people are smiling, I’ve learned that the shared smiles do not imply shared experiences. It’s personal, whether we think it’s fun to go in circles or collide. The only common factor is seeking after the fun. It’s pretty obvious: no one choose the bumper car ride to have an experience that won’t make them smile. In life, we have choices on how we ride our own circles of experience: with a smile. I pray we are all blessed with those smiles today.

Tip of the week:
Need more water!? Use a straw! We all know it’s important for our health and hydration, especially on hot summer days, to drink a lot of water. Sometimes it’s hard to drink the amount of water we need. I found it’s easier to drink faster when using a straw. I don’t know why, but it works. Try it out!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Restart Rainbow

I have a lot of scriptures that are favorites as my lifeline for each new morning when it’s time to start over on the food battles for the day. Some days are uneventful; even peaceful, and for those I’m thankful. Other days are simply challenges from the moment I wake up---from that first bite at breakfast I’m ready to eat anything that hasn’t moved. Those are the days where this ‘starting over’ concept is most helpful. The next morning and the new start is always a blessing.

Starting over is colorful, like the colors of a rainbow. The rainbow scheme reminds me of the emotional ride through the day that can accompany the new day’s eating regimen. Let me travel through the colors with you:
RED – the starting over is bold, and daring, like this bold color; there’s some pain involved. It’s here I can remember how I went off track with my eating the day before and need to accept it and move on.
ORANGE – next I sense the brightness of a new harvest; it’s time to cash in on a new experience for the day.
YELLOW -- I’m joy-filled and excited for these new chances in this new day.
GREEN – As the new day continues I can feel mellow/ calm and steady; I maintain the refueling that a new start brings.
BLUE – I feel peaceful; as the day proceeds, I can either maintain this peace, or start to feel ‘down’
INDIGO – a dark color reflecting a darker mood as I reflect on this day’s events and how I handled food choices accordingly. I’m either melancholy or reflective.
VIOLET – the deepest but possibly the most beautiful color of all; this color represents the beautiful complexity of emotions that accompany the eating cycle of the day.

It’s God and his grace that keeps me going. Psalm 5:3 (NLT) “Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Yay, God!

Tip of the week:
Restart every day, every meal, or every hour if you need to. But simply restart. The only way to fail is to quit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Moderation Schmoderation

Still on the rollercoaster ride—not the amusement park of the beach resorts or any of the Great Adventure parks, but my own Great Adventure on the ride of moderation in my eating habits.

Food is still an addiction for me. It’s like an old friend and an enemy at the same time. The worst kind of enemy is one who hangs closely with me, every day; I cannot choose to knock it out of the park and skip it altogether—which is why I constantly struggle with figuring out how to live with it. The all-or-nothing discipline doesn’t work with food in the long run; the need to face moderation head-on becomes necessary for success. The skills for losing these 100 pounds are different from the skills I’m using to maintain the loss. One of those skills is this dreaded “m” word: moderation.

Moderation is not fun to me. It requires more discipline than any all-or-nothing training can provide. I realize, however, after all these years of regular exercise, which I honestly don’t enjoy, that I have learned the skill of moderation by continuing to stick to a routine. Perhaps, just perhaps, this skill can be transferred to eating food. If I can engage in something I generally dislike (exercise), and still continue to participate in it, then maybe I can use these same skills with something I love (food)!

A fortune cookie saying I mentioned in a prior blog and I’ll mention again: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Now that’s another concept altogether. Time for a snack.

Tip of the week:
Water! I have found that there are many times when I think I’m hungry that I’m not---I’m actually thirsty instead. This is another reason I will grab a drink of water first before diving into the meal or a snack; it helps clarify whether my body ‘needs’ the food or simply ‘wants’ it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who's the Cop Chasing?

It’s time to drive more cautiously; y’know—stay within the speed limit. No, no speeding tickets for me recently, but SOMEone out there got them.

Two driving occasions: the first one—I was driving along on a highway, just around (okay, above) the speed limit, but going with the flow of traffic. I’m somewhat attentive but somewhat mindless. My attention span increases exponentially with the bright flashing lights of the cop car in my rearview mirror. Not a fun sight. The ‘uh-oh-did-I-get-caught’ thoughts went flying through my mind; admittedly, the ‘oh, man, how much is this going to cost me?’ thoughts were in there too. Seconds later, the police car passes me on the left to chase someone way out in front. Whew.

Second driving occasion: inching slowly on a congested road in town; again, I’m somewhat attentive but somewhat mindless. A police car is off to the right shoulder of the road in front of me. Within seconds, he puts on his flashers and cuts out in traffic in front of me to go after someone up ahead. At least this time I was sure I wasn’t speeding.

I am still thinking about these incidents because they remind me that the rules haven’t changed; I simply didn’t get caught. How many of us are living like this---somewhat attentive but somewhat mindless? The rules I speak of here are the speed limit signs; decades of driving experience dictate that I am aware of speed limit signs and what they mean. Decades of driving experience does not change the fact that I am to adhere to these signs. Even when I’m staying within the rules, as in the second example when I was driving slowly, I could still be more attentive to the signs.

Why mention all this? I know it’s the same with my weight loss journey and with my faith journey. Like the driving, I need to continue to be alert with my weight and faith; to be more than somewhat attentive and not at all mindless; to not only know the rules but to follow them too. The wakeup call of a police officer’s flashing lights are occasionally needed as reminders, but I’m planning to make sure I don’t need too many of those reminders. God is there every morning and so am I, talking with Him. That should be enough of a reminder.

Tip of the week:
Keep it simple! In these summer months, preparing and cooking meals can be challenging for our schedules as well as our heat levels! I find salads, quick-fix sandwiches and simple fruits and vegetables to be a helpful resource, particularly now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Skinny Minnie

Several months ago, I had an experience while attending a conference at a hotel that I still can’t wrap my mind around: a stranger called me “Skinny Minnie.”

I had just finished a sweaty, refueling one-hour workout at the hotel’s fitness room and decided to finish my morning with breakfast at the lobby buffet (before I took my shower!)

“Wow,” the waitress said to me, “I wish I had the chance to work out too. Then I could be a Skinny Minnie like you are!” I chuckled nervously and thanked God for the reminder not to go too crazy on the buffet food. The reason for my sense of being uncomfortable, though, was that I have never been called “Skinny Minnie” in my life and didn’t know what to do with the label. I was stunned, actually, particularly since the waitress was small-to-average sized but still asked me for advice. I didn’t get it.

What I do get is that I look and feel better than I did before. It has been years since I’ve stayed thinner, but I am still getting used to this new ‘me’. I even look normal and blend in; I find I’m almost invisible as an average-sized person. But to be set apart as Skinny Minnie was unsettling; it was as uncomfortable as the time I couldn’t ride the kiddie amusement park ride with my son because I was too large. As for the waitress: I was no smaller than she was. Her comment to me was simply a reflection of her own perspective on how she looked and felt, not how I looked. No matter what our size, it’s the size we have of ourselves in our minds that seems more tangible than the view in the mirror. Our mind’s mirrors are distorted with years of insecurities, expectations, and self-esteem all wrapped around the outer layer of our selves that contain the sense of who and what we are, regardless of our outward appearances. We want to separate the physical from our intellectual and emotional selves, but we cannot. As I continue to wander down the path to self-identity as an average-sized person, I continue to blend the various parts of myself into a complete being.

Despite being uncomfortable, I am grateful for the “Skinny Minnie” comment; it gave me the chance to share my story of losing over 100 pounds with that waitress. It gave me a chance to share my faith journey, and to remind her that she was beautiful just as she was. I find it interesting to have the opportunity for a conversation simply because my t-shirt was sweaty. Time for a shower.

Tip of the week:
Taking the time to work out on a regular schedule, despite the time of year or vacation plans, is key for my sanity and commitment to being healthy. Endorphins aside, I always feel better in so many ways after my workouts. When I don’t feel like starting my workout, I remember it feels better when I’m finished, and with that reminder it’s easier to begin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Speed Limit 45. (part 2)

Last week’s blog post referred to an unusual speed limit sign. Instead of the customary “Speed Limit 45” out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a sign that said something extra. It said: “Speed Limit 45. This IS your warning.”

I continue the warning theme this week with some reflections on that sign. I’ve noticed more speed limit signs since then, all of which simply state the speed limit number. I continue to ponder the implicit warnings, however and ask myself: What do I need to pay attention to? What is my warning sign, really?

One easy way to reflect on my life’s priorities is to consider what I would do today if it literally was the last day of my life on earth. Geneen Roth writes some wonderful pieces in her Good Housekeeping essays which discuss food and health issues; one such article referred to “priority-setting” exercises she uses in her food addictions workshops. Geneen described a workshop exercise where participants are asked to list what they would do differently if they knew they had only one year left to live. Then they list what they’d do differently with only six months left to live. Then three months. Then one month. One week. One day.

Keeping a focus on these one-day items on my own mental list helps me know why I wouldn’t want to need another warning sign to accompany the familiar “Speed Limit 45” message. My one-day list includes my faith. Prayer time. Slowing down. Purpose-filled activities. Family time including lots of snuggling with my husband and kids. One thing Geneen noticed is that her workshop attendants included “eating anything they want”, “bingeing”, “chocolate” and similar entries in their one-year and six-month lists, but as the timing got shorter and hit the one-week and one-day levels, the bingeing wasn’t on the list anymore. When we know that our time is really short, we don’t want to waste it on our food obsessions. My own personal warning: if I had one day to live, bingeing would not be on my one-day list. And so I proceed along my process, one slow step at a time, to reducing my food obsessions and increasing my faith obsessions. I want to take my warning signs seriously.

Tip of the week:
My very favorite way to start the day is my prayer time. After that, though, I exercise! I exercise regularly because I need to exercise, NOT because I love it. Like other activities which are NOT my favorite, I find getting them done early in the day (along with filing paperwork, paying bills and planning dinner!) can make them easier to accomplish and frees my mind for enjoying the rest of my day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Speed Limit 45. This IS Your Warning.

“Be careful. I love you.” It’s what my Dad always says when I leave the house.

On a recent road trip, I noticed an unusual speed limit sign. Instead of the customary “Speed Limit 45” out of the corner of my eye, I saw something extra. It said: “Speed Limit 45. This IS your warning.”

How interesting, I thought. A speed limit sign with a message attached. Actually, multiple messages come to mind. Today’s message relates to a lifetime of my dad’s cautionary reminders. “Be careful!” my dad always said as I rushed out the door to test my new-found driving skills at the ripe old age of 16. Now, almost 35 years later, he says “Be careful. I love you.” I realize that the “I love you” add-on is the real message. It’s not only about reflecting his fear, but also about sharing his concern and love for me when he reminds that he hopes I return from another driving road trip with all my limbs—heck, my life—intact.

Most of my life I have been aware of my dad’s cautionary nature. “Don’t trip.” “Watch out.” “Don’t drop it.” Of course, I usually did trip, or drop whatever it was I was carrying. The mental images come from the second half of message itself; instead of telling me what not to do, it might’ve been more effective if he suggested what I should do instead. The speed limit sign interests me in its reminder that I often take the common messages out there to simply be precursors to the real warnings. When we’re children, the idea of a warning system is appropriate, but as adults, it’s a challenge and a priority to kick up my attention a bit so that the familiar signs serve to be the warnings in my life, too.

My own message today is a reflective one of gratitude for my father, despite his cautionary warnings over and over in my life, on this week leading up to Father’s Day in which I honor and celebrate him. I celebrate the love that underlies the warning messages; I celebrate the care, concern and loyalty with which he always stands by his family, and I celebrate the familiar messages that include the follow-up meaning: “I love you” whether or not those precious words are actually spoken.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Tip of the week:
Watch out for those familiar “FOOD” messages in television commercials! If I find the commercials triggering suggestions about eating that I choose to avoid, I simply turn off the TV temporarily, or breeze through the commercials by fast-fowarding through them on pre-recorded shows.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prayer is a Commitment and it takes Time

I had the privilege of speaking at the church ministry in Allentown called RiPPLE where Pastor Tom and the Ripple-rs inspired and encouraged each other with stories of ‘ripple’ effects; sharing how one good deed can lead to another, and particularly when we are following God’s will in our lives, the results are amazing. I presented my “Gain Faith, Lose Weight” concept including tips on how to pray with a greater focus on God and see the resulting increase in faith for ourselves. One of the key points in the talk is this: Prayer is a commitment, and it takes time.

For today, I am taking the time to expand on this concept in the hope that the inspiration to hang in there with prayer can be shared and reinforced.

All great stories, including mine where I’ve lost over 100 pounds within five years with God’s help, have at their core, a significant event; a turning point. There is no way to make great strides in this world whether it be in relationships, in personal goals, in quality of life, without a turning point where we discover for ourselves that the pain of change is actually less than the pain of remaining the same.

Those turning points in our lives can be triggered by prayer. I observe that when we’re in our deepest crises and in our highest joys in life, there’s a natural response “God, help!”, or “Thank you, God!” Why not implement this same desire in the mediocre parts of our life journeys; the straightaways on the roller coaster of life, where it seems nothing is happening but actually the energy to ride up or down that hill is being built. Prayer is critical, not only in the highs and lows of life, but all those points in between. And so the concept: Prayer is a commitment, and it takes time---comes into play.

I have found that a turning point in my life combined with the commitment to prayer is truly powerful. This prayer commitment is its own time scheduler; there is nothing else in my life that can or should interfere with it. Only then does the prayer “work” for me; only then do I know I’m on the right path, at least.

If I’m not committed, or if I’m not willing to put the time into it, my prayer life becomes stale; mundane; ineffective. All it takes is a mustard seed of commitment and a small time slot of my day, and I am back on track. Life, with its ups and downs, is still a smoother ride. Amen!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

RiPPLE Ministry: guest speaker this Sunday!

Announcing a new Meetup for RiPPLE -The Lehigh Valley Emerging Christianity Meetup!

What: First Sunday Celebration featuring Lisa Tomarelli - potluck supper follows after

When: Sunday, June 6, 2010 4:00 PM

The Caring Place
931 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 433-4680

Gain Faith, Lose Weight?
is a concept developed by Lisa Tomarelli. who spent more than 40 years of her life struggling with weight issues. Naturally goal-oriented, she battled to lose weight through diets, exercise and self-help systems?yet she failed year after year.

Then something changed: she lost more than a hundred pounds. In addition, she has kept it off. Her secret? Faith.

This is still a faith journey for Lisa, every day. Through her ?Gain Faith, Lose Weight?? program, she invites others to walk by her side. Her message: through prayer, God?s love is abundant enough to help us all!

Come and hear Lisa's inspiring story. Feel free to check out her website ahead of time at, www.lisatomarelli.com.

Following our meeting we will be holding a potluck supper for those who attend our meeting. Bring something to share with the rest of the group. We'll be welcoming our summer intern who will be joining us beginning on June 6th.

See you there!

Learn more here:

Please Note: If you hit "REPLY", your message will be sent to everyone on this mailing list (emergentchristian-44@meetup.com)
This message was sent by Elisa (proud2blefty@yahoo.com) from RiPPLE -The Lehigh Valley Emerging Christianity Meetup.
To learn more about Elisa, visit his/her member profile
To unsubscribe or to update your mailing list settings, click here

Meetup, PO Box 4668 #37895 New York, New York 10163-4668 | support@meetup.com

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Barstool, Barbeque or Church Pew?

There’s a local bar in my neighborhood that is directly across the street from a church; I pass it every week when attending my own church which is a bit further down the same road. I recall one day several years ago when my young daughter and I waited in traffic and watched as the people left their church to walk across the street to get to their cars which were parked in the lot behind the bar. She didn’t realize the parking lot was there and asked: “Why does everyone leave church and go to that bar afterwards?” I laughed. Ohhh, so many responses to that one. Instead, I acted responsibly and explained that there was a parking lot there and the people were going to their cars, not the bar.

Some thoughts I read recently on the local bar from Chuck Swindoll’s book, “Encourage Me”:
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give to His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourished not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”

I am reminded of the need for fellowship, bonding, being known and being loved as we near the first holiday event of this summer—Memorial Day weekend. It brings to mind the concept of remembering those who serve our country, but it is also about gatherings, whether they be at the barbeque, the bar or church. Why do we get together? We simply want and need each other—to know and be known, to love and be loved. The gatherings we have in our churches are breathtakingly beautiful when the connections made there are safe, accepting and inclusive. Aware of my bias, I attend my own church, Daybreak Community Church (www.enjoydaybreak.com) because I know these types of connections can be made there. Our church has always worked towards being this type of environment which means more to me than the building or the organ music—because true fellowship and connecting can heal and bring hope in our otherwise busy, crazy world.

Tip of the week:
It’s finally sunny---and taking our workouts outside can be a welcome change. When I enjoy my workouts outside, whether it is to play some tennis or go for a walk, I get a double-dose: sunshine and sweat—a perfect combination!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thoughts on Bread

Mmmm. Crusty bread from the oven, steaming hot, ready to be slathered with butter. There’s nothing like it. Baking homemade bread is a simple process with simple ingredients: flour, water, eggs, and the most critical ingredient of all—yeast.

Ironically, I find that the interesting thing about the yeast is that it’s rather boring in and of itself. Those little packets we get at the grocery store are unassuming. Open one, and not much seems to be going on in there. Mix it up in the right proportions with just a few other ingredients, though, and the result is not only a tasty bread, but a bread that has risen to more than double its original size because of the chemical reactions between the ingredients, including the yeast.

The requirement for this chemical reaction resulting in bread that has risen to its indulgent fluffiness is patience. Once the ingredients are mixed, they need to sit. And so we wait. And wait. And wait. This waiting period is like the various preparation periods in our lives where we don’t know what to do; where to go next, whether it be a job, a relationship or a decision. The waiting is critical though. It’s critical for the yeast to work with the other ingredients; it’s also critical for me to understand what my next move should be according to God’s plan, and that involves waiting.

Only in the waiting can I be prepared to move to the next stage: the stage when the heat is on. For the bread that has risen, it’s oven time. In the heat of the oven the bread finishes to perfection in all its crustiness; rises to its maximum doughiness, and becomes ready for the table in its best form yet. When I take the time to wait, I can take the ‘heat’ of life more easily. I will not only withstand the tough stuff, but thrive instead. Like the baked bread, I can become more than what I was when I started, and still be a perfect combination of the ingredients that make me who I truly am.

Tip of the week:
Salsa! Okay, whether it’s the salsa dance to add to your exercise repertoire, or the salsa condiment to top off your potatoes or scrambled eggs, it always works for some extra spice in the perfect format to enhance any weight loss effort. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mr. Martin's Marbles

There’s a Mr. Martin in every neighborhood. You know: the old man or old lady who’s alone and once they catch anyone’s ear, the stories begin. In this case, Mr. Martin is almost 90 years young, whose wife died a few years ago, and who can remember every last detail of his childhood, challenges and choices in life. He’s from the “what’s the world coming to?” era and can remember times when there were no coins to rub together; not just being poor, but destitute. The Depression did that. There were lessons to learn and along the way, basic needs to be met, destitute or not.

One recent story I heard from Mr. Martin revolved around one of his favorite childhood games: marbles.

He could still remember the one and only time he actually had to punch somebody. There was another kid—a bully—who was stealing the other kids’ marbles. And one day, it was Mr. Martin’s marbles he was after. As one who generally prefers to avoid conflict, the young Mr. Martin startled the bully and himself by punching him in the nose to get his marbles back. The kid dropped all the marbles, including his own. Mr. Martin picked up his marbles and left.

The clincher? Mr. Martin said he wondered if that kid ever went back to get his own marbles again. Mr. Martin picked up his own marbles after the fight and left the rest—the marbles that belonged to the bully—in that very same spot.

What started as a lesson in dealing with bullies ended as a lesson for me to see yet another side of Mr. Martin—the one with integrity. Honesty and integrity are not just skills, they are character traits.

I’m so glad Mr. Martin still has his marbles.
Tip of the week:
We all need each other to help us in our health and weight loss efforts. When the going gets tough, call a friend! The distraction and the delay may be helpful in avoiding a potential binge.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shattered Glass

Recently, I've been reminded that as I eat less, I want to scream more. Here's a fiction piece to remind myself that I need to watch my words, too, not just what I eat:


"You make me sick!"

She watched as her son instantly withered into a dried-out autumn leaf. The promise of his newfound interest in archery crumbled under the heavy footprint of her words. She looked at those shoulders which were just starting to display the broad frame of the man he would become and the slight fuzz of darkness across his upper lip. He sunk into his favorite spot on the sofa and said "I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to lose the arrow."

She was so excited to finally have a hobby to share with her son, who desperately needed his father in his life right now--and spent all her extra cash from the coffee can to buy him his first quiver, bow and handmade arrows with feathers in his favorite color--green.

She had so many words to say, to scream, to yell, to whisper, and yet the fewest of them created the most damage--the shattered glass of her son's soul was about to crumble into a messy heap. She knew she needed another outlet for those words; it was the only way to pick up the broken pieces, even if not to put them together.

She opened the phone book and found the listings under 'P'. Psychiatrists.


Tip of the week: Do whatever it takes--scream, yell, run around the block--to walk away from the fridge when it's clear that the answer is not in there!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mountain Madness part 3: Coming DOWN

Whew. A group of us climbed up the mountain, enjoyed the view from the top, and now it’s time to head back down.

Wait a minute. I don’t want to go down. I don’t want to head back to the place I was before; I don’t want to deal with hectic schedules, another day of running around, heading off crises while taking care of a family and a home and, oh yea, myself. This trek up a mountain with the beautiful view from the top leaves me changed. I see this experience as one of those times in life I cannot remain the same. For now, though, I need to simply hold onto that experience like another item in my backpack, and take the challenge of heading back down the mountain.

My friend said it was steep. The signs say it’s steep. But I didn’t know “steep” until I was going backwards down the rock formations to get to the next lower level. Like before, I was given suggestions to help my footing—walk sideways, take small steps, have one foot braced before moving the other—but I was taking those suggestions more seriously this time. I was trying to remember any scripture that could be dusted off in my memory about standing on rocks or having my feet grounded, and all I could think of was “trust in the Lord.” Yikes. Can’t I do that while standing on level ground? Apparently not, sometimes. Sometimes I need to be heading down the sliding board of a mountainside to realize that I am truly freaked out. I was actually quiet since I couldn’t talk and concentrate at the same time.

Trust and gratitude. It was about all I could feel—trust that God will get me back down because there’s nothing left to trust, and gratitude for my friends and their practical tips along the way. They even helped out by carrying some of my things—my water bottle, the camera.

It really is the same as life, isn’t it? When things are tough and I’m freaked out beyond my own abilities, it’s then that I know God will show up. And He even sends my friends to help me out, not in those intangible “I’ll pray for you” ways, but hands-on help by carrying my load, and practical tips and suggestions on making the way easier, safer, smoother. In these mountain reflections, I’m reminded that I want to seek after God’s presence in my life on level ground, too. I know God is there, but I forget. This mountain madness adventure was a much-needed reminder about dependence on God. Trust and gratitude; so simple but so challenging.

Tip of the week:
Last week, I suggested something “new” in the routine to boost health/fitness goals; this week, I’m suggesting we try something “old”. We all have a favorite food item, walking path, recipe or technique that has worked for us in the past—let’s do that again. For me one of those old techniques was to pray to God and promise that I wouldn’t blow it with my eating that day (or that hour, or that minute—whatever it takes!)—I can do that again, and again, and again—whatever it takes!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mountain Madness part 2: At the Top

The view from the top of a mountain. Breathtaking. Silent. Overwhelming. Colorful. Dizzying. Misty. Bigger than myself.

I continue this discussion of my recent adventure hiking up a mountain during a retreat to consider the view from the top. As I was climbing, I remember thinking: just get to the top, just get to the top. That focus helped me to keep going, despite the fear of heights that permeated the core of my being. “Just get to the top” helped to override the thought “One slip and I’ll fall wayyyyy down.” For some, it’s not heights, but other fears—no matter what the fear, it can override our rational thoughts in any circumstance. The view from the top was my reward for pushing through the fears. And boy, was it beautiful.

It was interesting to see the treetops from the top. Hey, when I look at a tree, I see the top, but from the ground instead. It reminds me how I see life’s situations from a certain angle, but forget I can see the same thing from another perspective with new clarity and insight. It was also fun to be higher up, and though my intellect knew I wasn’t actually in the clouds, my imagination let me think I was. And what if a bird flew by and I was in its path? Waterfalls also look way different from the top than from the side of the mountain. I wonder what else I need to view from the top: perhaps my goals in life, my relationships, my daily decisions, and my desire for control. Oh yea, it’s God who’s in control, and God’s view from the top has a clarity that I’ll never understand, but I can imagine is beautiful; breathtaking; peaceful.

Our group shared a prayer circle up there; and although I know my God is everywhere, at the top and at the bottom of a mountain, I can say it felt like we were truly closer to God. The dependence on Him at the top, to hold us up, to be that Rock I was standing on, to stop and notice His presence, was worth the hike. Really.

In 2 Samuel 22:32-34 (NIV) it says: “For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.” There’s no way to be up there without a prayerful moment. Those are the moments that keep me going, whether up or down the mountain, and it’s for those moments I’m always grateful.

Tip of the week:
When the going gets tough and I need new motivation for my health and weight loss goals, I find something new: a new Scripture to put on my fridge, a new recipe, a new fruit or vegetable to try, or a new exercise routine adjustment. This newness reminds me I’m always starting over and keeps me going in the many restarts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mountain Madness part 1: Going UP

- A group of women at a retreat near the Pocono Mountains
- A clear blue sky
- Brisk, spring breezes
Combine at low speed with a large block of free time and you have your recipe for a long mountain hike.

This city girl was all set to stay in at the quiet, roomy lodge. Y’know: relax, perhaps do a DVD workout, read, or watch a movie. Somehow the idea of a hike, which was furthest from my mind as a free time activity, made it into the realm of possibility and I surprised myself when I agreed to join the group on the “Nature Trail.”

The first stage of this trail walk was the path UP. Hmmm: “Nature Trail.” It sounded safe. It sounded like it was only slightly adventuresome. It sounded like a slow but steady trek along a clearly defined flat path where I could possibly view interesting grasses, flower buds, or an unusual bird or two. It sounded safe, I thought.

About twenty minutes into the walk, my panting and sweating confirmed that there was nothing flat about this trail. While picking across some rocks alongside the stream, I wanted to stop and really look at the beauty around me. But I couldn’t. Why? There was quite a way to look—DOWN. I finally admitted to my fellow hikers that I’m afraid of heights, especially these kinds of heights, where a slight misstep or unstable rock could send one of us careening into the depths below.

Suddenly, I was surrounded. Both in front of me and behind me, a couple of women watched my steps and gave lessons along the way. It was too late to go back; too late to change my mind, and so I would press forward, but with help this time. Suggestions and techniques were stated clearly: “Stay on the balls of your feet when going up.” “Make sure your foot is steady and grounded before moving the other foot.” “Make sure you take small steps.” “Walk sideways if you need to.”

Like life, we find ourselves on adventures we hadn’t anticipated. We may be surprised at the effort it takes to travel a seemingly flat trail when instead it becomes a rocky terrain to get to the next yellow tree marker. When I admit my fears, like in this case my fear of heights, the help I need comes easily. My fellow hikers, who I think were part-women-part-mountain-goats shared tips for my journey to make it safer and easier for me. For that, I’m grateful. This trip on the “Nature Trail” became a new adventure and a reminder that I can still learn lessons while going uphill on this mountain of life.

Tip of the week:
To stick to your exercise routine, plan it a week in advance and write your plan on a calendar. Then you simply need to check your plan and start moving, without having to think about it. I use the ‘mile system’ with Leslie Sansone’s DVDs and decide how many miles I’m doing each day, and which day or two I have off.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Constitutional Walking Tour

A recent trip to Philadelphia included the constitutional walking tour of the city’s historic sites. A walking history lesson for 1 ½ hours. I think I would have enjoyed learning this stuff in seventh grade if we got the chance to walk around and see the places where the historic events occurred. Back then, I simply read the text, memorized the dates, and repeated the answers correctly on the written exam. This time, it was fun to learn the same old information.

My favorite takeaway impression from this adventure is the common theme of common men attempting to make courageous changes in their worlds. Our tour guide shared the basic history facts, but he also included the fun facts. I enjoyed learning that Independence Hall wasn’t always called Independence Hall, and yet still is the building of “National Treasure” movie fame. I learned that the Liberty Bell now resides in a security-laden pavilion only because of the crazy man who tried to hit it with a hammer to release the spirits of the long-dead presidents. I learned that the pennies tossed onto Ben Franklin’s grave are there for no apparent reason. I learned that Betsy Ross’ body is buried at the Betsy Ross house, but was originally buried elsewhere and got moved there so she could be next to her third husband.

This new way of learning the same old information is reminding me of new ways I’m diving into the Old Testament stories of the Bible. Instead of simply reading the text, I’m enjoying the fun stories behind the scenes. In this way, I find the Old Testament stories relatable and glean appropriate insight for my own life today. Yes, today’s times are different than 2000+ years ago, but the fundamentals remain: the desire for freedom, for choices, for understanding. The few courageous men who dared to challenge the British traditions in the startup of America were similar to the prophets of the Old Testament days who dared believe in an all-Sovereign God despite what the people of their neighboring towns believed.

I’m grateful for my American freedom; I’m even more grateful for freedom in Christ. Like the walking constitutional tour, I want to live my life as if it’s a walking Christian woman tour. Keeping it fun; keeping it true. And maybe I can keep learning new things along the way.

Tip of the week:
If necessary, utilize the dish soap destruction method for food that calls your name and you need to resist. Just last week I had a few chocolate chips too many for a recipe, and disposed of the rest of the chips with the perfect shot of green soap on top to be sure I didn’t eat them. It works!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Writer's Life

I recently returned from a writing conference: three days of workshops and conversations with other writers, publishers, editors and agents. My mind is still spinning with the information and new ideas to process. Being around all that creativity stirs the creativity within me. I reflect on my own writing life as a result and realize it’s similar to the health-conscious life I lead with a forever focus on food, exercise and weight.

There’s an aspect of being a writer that is never ‘turned off’. Ideas are everywhere, when I’m awake and when I’m asleep; when I’m driving and when I’m in the shower; when I eat and even when I sit down to write. All those ideas need to be considered, indulged, sorted and shared. It reminds me of when I went to college part-time in the evenings. The only way to survive those eight long years of work towards the goal of that college degree was to accept what felt like the never-ending nature of school assignments. The only break was between semesters, but during those class sessions, there was always something else to read, something to write, something to study for.

The role of being health conscious, too, is never ‘turned off’. Food is everywhere, when I’m awake and when I’m asleep; when I’m driving and when I’m in the shower; when I write and even when I sit down to eat. All the food needs to be planned, purchased, cleaned, cut and cooked. Every day. Three times a day, at least. Unless I choose to fast for some period of time, there really is no break. Ever.

Another aspect of being a writer is the need for discipline within the creativity. Over and over again in workshops and conversations I hear about keeping our writing lives a priority; making sure to take the time to write whether or not the muse strikes. When writing is a paid job, there is attention to the task at hand; there is a tangible deadline and paycheck that results from the act of writing. When writing is part of a bigger goal, such as a book, there is the discipline required to persevere in its writing, editing and promoting. There is the unknown end date; the unknown deadline, but the need to continue remains intact. The need for daily attention to the writing task is simply disciplinary in nature.

Being health conscious is always disciplinary in nature. A self-professed lack of discipline is what causes most people to see the eating and exercising as ‘on’ or ‘off’ tasks, but instead there is more success in remaining healthy when we see the tasks as ‘forever’ tasks; never ‘off’. Only then can we gain the tenacity to stay with it day after day without throwing in the towel on our health efforts.

I claim the right to remain creative while being disciplined. I claim my identity as a health-conscious writer. Forever.

Tip of the Week:
To stay on my eating and exercise program, I really must pray. Not the ‘bless this food’ prayer rituals, but really pray. Every day. This week, I commit to revisiting the focus on prayer; making sure my prayer time is a higher priority than the million other things I need to do. Amen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taylor Swift: Fearless

High-pitched screaming. Cheering. Arms waving. More screaming. Through my earplugs, I could still hear the excitement. Yes, I am the parent of a Taylor Swift fan. And yes, I, too, am Fearless.

Among thousands of groupies at the recent concert as part of her “Fearless” tour, I was fascinated by Taylor Swift. She lives up to her reputation of being beautiful, energetic and connected. I have never seen a performer work so hard at making sure she exuded a sense of one-on-one connection with each of her fans. She displays a sense of gratitude and humility while sharing her talents as an artist and a person. Taylor Swift may only be nineteen, but is wise beyond her years. There were moments during the concert when I intentionally sat down and looked around. The joy of seeing my daughter experience this concert was palpable. Watching others, however, I understood the appeal of this young artist. The wide range of ages among the Swift fans—girls as young as four years old up to women who must’ve been older than me (oh, the horror)—were all singing along to those familiar lyrics of a female’s life. Dreams of being a princess; finding our own way in this world; recovering after being treated badly by a boyfriend—all common themes and perpetually relatable. It has been a long time, but I could still recall being “Fifteen” at the prompting of Taylor’s lilting rendition of teenage life.

I was also fascinated at the purity of the concert experience. Growing up in the era of rock ‘n roll rebellion, I associated concerts with radical dynamics, not the music. This time, the music itself was a welcome treat, as if I was chatting with my best friend or reading a great book.

As we stumbled along with the rest of the herd to exit the concert, a young girl next to me exclaimed my favorite comment: “This will be the topic of discussion for the rest of my LIFE!” Now that’s quite an impression.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring into Exercise...Again

Warmer weather. The reprieve from the harsh cold and imposing snowstorms of the winter are over. (Well, maybe.) It’s not spring yet, but the smells in the air, the robins on the roofs and the smiles and skip in the steps of people everywhere indicate that we’re close to this next season.

I find it interesting to see a lot of people get excited about exercise again at this time of year, too. Whether it’s the seasonal change itself, or the fear of getting back into shorts and bathing suits again, the exercise industry seems to benefit from the renewed interest. Admittedly, it’s great to experience a walk in fresh air, not a sweaty gym, and to hear new sounds, tackle new hills in the neighborhoods and simply to be outside for a change.

I also find it interesting to hear people say they have a stronger commitment to exercise because of the weather. In some cases, it’s true. In most cases, though, it’s simply another phase. I’m more impressed with people who start a new exercise regimen in the winter, or perhaps that infamous January 1st start date, and are still in their exercise routine today—three months later. Then, if they say it’s time to take it outside, I am pretty confident it’s simply a new twist on an old routine, which is healthy.

Where will all those outside-weather-exercisers be with the first rainstorm? On their couches, I presume. Time to break out the at-home workouts, or head back to the sweaty, smelly gym again. Boy, isn’t exercise fun?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Penny Candy

Ahhh. The smell of spring. School recess time. Jumping rope and penny candy. Red hot dollars. Root beer barrels. Sugar daddy lollipops. And my favorite: boxes of chalky, yummy candy cigarettes. Oh, and the soft pretzels too.

Sugar and carbs. What more could a kid want to refuel mid-day? When I was a kid, we could buy candy and soft, doughy pretzels at recess time. We squirreled away our coins to indulge in our favorite treats. The pretzels were a bonus; hey, it was Philadelphia—the pretzels were a requirement. The money transactions on the blacktop were simple enough: exchanging coins for smiles. The grueling chores of school life were briefly replaced with sugary ecstasy; penmanship was exchanged for pretzels with just the right amount of salt.

Unhappy dentists must have rebelled, though. Today, school age kids are lucky to even have twenty minutes of recess time; twenty minutes is not much time for fresh air, for running around. Oh, and forget about buying candy. Or pretzels.

Back in elementary school, I still remember one method of discipline that was used on Patrick, who was the kid in my class who talked too much. The teacher made him sit in the closet. No, it wasn’t a time-out on a chair facing the closet; he was IN the closet. One of those days, Patrick rose to the occasion, though. He sat in that closet and ate the recess candy. It was a delicious victory for all of us.

I believe God wants us to enjoy the good things in life—in this case, sugar and carbs. It doesn’t seem right to go too far to the other extreme without the goodies; without the fresh air. The moderation is the challenge. Like my fortune cookie paper said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gravy Connections

My mom’s homemade gravy, bubbling and steaming, is prepared exactly the same way Nana cooked it. Small spatters of red on the white stove mark the perfectly stirred combination of puree, meatballs, sausage, a carrot, an onion and spices. Recipe sharing was done only in the kitchen, in front of the pot, with the appropriate stories shared along with the instructions. My mouth watering, I look around for a slice of pure white bread to dunk into that pot; I used to sneak the bread-dunking routine when I was a kid. It’s fun that I can dunk in front of Mom now. Mom tells me her mother-in-law taught her all the family’s Italian recipes. It was the in-law rite of passage.

What’s so interesting and delicious are the feelings evoked with the wonderful smell of that gravy—the nurturing, the sharing, and the indulging. The traditions themselves don’t matter; what does matter is the closeness they represent. How perfect that our traditions are about “gravy”. The expression “it’s gravy” means it’s “extra”; similarly, our traditions with the food result in the connections which are the “extra”. Why, I’ve always wondered, is it always about the food? Sharing a meal forces us to slow down enough to sit and talk with each other. These connections are lost in the usual schedules of our lives. No wonder I love the gravy so much. Pass the white bread please.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grocery Math

Every time I go to the grocery store, I think I should bring my calculator. I used to bring the calculator so I could estimate my food bill as I shopped, so I knew when to stop according to my budget. Now I have to estimate the food bill in my mind because I need the calculator for grocery math.

Why do hot dogs come in packs of 10 but the rolls are packs of 8 or 12? How many packages of hot dogs would I need to be equivalent to the number of packages of hot dog rolls? Hey, who wants a hot dog without a roll anyway? Gotta pull out the calculator.

When soda is on sale, how do I quickly calculate if the two-liter sale is better or worse than the price for the individual cans? Gotta pull out the calculator.

Why is it that when I used to buy pre-packaged shredded cheese, I knew it contained two cups? It said so on the package. Now there are packages that contain two cups, but others that contain one and one-half cups. Is it worth buying a second package of cheese to get the other half cup? Then how many packages would I need to get an even two cups, which I need for most recipes, again? Gotta pull out the calculator.

Don’t even talk to me about the nutrition information on those food labels. What is a serving size, really? It used to mean a suggested portion for a reasonable serving of a given food item. Now it has changed so that it means how much of that packaged food equals about 100 calories. We’re all into this hundred-calorie thing now, admit it. And so my cereal has completely lost its mind. One type has as its serving size to be ½ cup, another is 1 ¼ cups and yet another is 1 cup. How much cereal should I be eating? Calculator time again.

The most critical use of the calculator: popcorn math. I have calculated and re-calculated a variety of popcorn labels to determine how many calories, fat and fiber are in two tablespoons of popcorn and in an entire bag of popcorn. Why do I need to know the number for two tablespoon if that’s not what I’d eat anyway? Does 94% fat-free popcorn mean it contains 6% fat? Okay, forget the calculator now. Just pop the popcorn.

No wonder I’m tired and hungry after I get groceries. Time for a snack. Start calculating.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Google Wonder

Googolplex and infinity. What is googolplex? Well, I googled it. It’s defined as a number; the number one with the exponent of googol; googol is defined as the digit one followed by one hundred zeros. All of this is not to be confused with “infinity”, which is more of a concept than a number; the number that never ends.

What ever happened to those beautiful concepts; the ideas like infinity and creation, which allow us to use our brain cells to wonder about things? We are born to wonder; it’s how we learn. As infants, the learning process seems more intuitive and evolves as a process of trial and error, but somewhere post-toddler years and before school age years, the sense of wonder takes hold and a child’s imagination is born. Imaginary friends; imaginary situations; imaginary colors—all the stuff of blending what we already know with what is unknown. The unknown factor is what makes it interesting.

And then came google. How many colors are really in a rainbow?, I might ask at the dinner table one night. Out comes the blackberry and it’s googled. Answer found. What makes a bubble round?, I wonder. Out comes the blackberry and it’s googled. Answer found. How fast could a skier really fly down those moguls?, I say, as I watch the Olympics with wonder. It’s googled.

The googling has got to go. I wish for the wonder to return. I tire of the possibility of quick answers without thought. I prefer to wonder; to exchange ideas; to rediscover things that may have already been discovered and researched. And so, I prefer the number infinity. You can keep googolplex. How long would it take to write the number googolplex on paper? I wonder.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Things aren’t always as they seem.

It’s a winter with snow. Lots of it. Almost two feet of it, brightening, calming, silencing the landscape. Its beauty is in its ability to outline all that we see already, or do we?

My daughter and I declared the time to be snowman-building time. We climbed through the piles in our backyard and picked the perfect spot for our snow creature to stand. Closer inspection revealed the snow to be the fluffy stuff; sifted confectioner’s sugar, to the highest level of slippery smoothness. We’d repeatedly gather a handful and squeeze it together for the starting snowball to begin building our snowman, only to result in another crumbled pile of white remnants at our feet. Brushing off the crumbs from my gloves one more time, we switched gears and changed our task. We must reinvent the crumbly snow and create the wet stuff we need for perfect snowballs and snowmen and snow forts.

We had two approaches to the problem: 1) a thermos of water to wet the snow, and 2) the search for already-wet snow to use for our snow building task. Pouring water onto the small pile we made, we were pleased at the hardening ice to keep the pile from flattening. The snow-watering was tedious, though, and we were convinced plan 2 would be an easier solution. I went around to the front of the house and discovered a spot where dripping water from the roof caused a section of snow to be the perfect icy, wet stuff. My daughter took the assignment of snow-watering to keep our pile strong. Imagine the crazy scene: my daughter watering snow, and me carrying piles of wet, usable snow from the front of the house around to the back so that the snowman-building project could continue. No, we weren’t crazy. We were inventing.

Eventually, our pile became large enough to sculpt into the round shape needed for the classic snowman. Determined to gather just one more pile of wet stuff, I went to the front of the house and discovered a small boulder left over from the driveway being plowed. I picked it up, carried it back and gingerly placed it on top of the mound. It’s a snowdog, my daughter said. And so it was. What we thought would be a snowman became a snowdog. Sometimes we need to just leave things alone, even if they aren’t as they seem.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Man In The Window

Once upon a time, there was a school bus stop. The neighborhood near the school bus stop was a quiet one, although the rows of houses in the little development were quite cozy and close together. Every day, anywhere between five and ten children gathered at this school bus stop, ranging between five and ten years old, and they waited together each morning with their parents for the yellow bus to arrive.

One of those children was different from the rest; instead of acting like the other children, jumping and giggling and chasing the other children in tag, she watched. An audience of one, she observed every nuance; every word spoken loudly or softly, every bird flying above, every car driving by. The bus stop was at the intersection of a busy road, so she had to wait for the cars to pass so she could observe the interesting houses across the road which stood all by themselves on little mats of grass, like the special kindergarten mat she had in school a couple years ago. Each house occupied just enough space to exist but not enough space to be noticed--much.

One day, the little girl was at the bus stop again and saw that the small white house across the road had its curtains opened for the first time ever. There was an old man standing at the window, watching for the school bus, too. He looked across at the children and looked at his watch. When the bus finally arrived, the man looked at the children again, lifted his arm, and waved. He waved to each one of those children as they got on the bus, and then he closed the curtain.

The afternoon came and the school bus returned back to the neighborhood. The girl got off the bus and looked back across the busy road. The curtains were open again. The man waved again. She glanced over but didn’t respond.

The next day, the old man was at the window again when the morning bus arrived. He waved as each of the children got on the bus. And then the curtains were closed again. When the afternoon bus dropped the children back home, she noticed the curtains were open again and the man waved a greeting.

The third morning, the old man was at the window. He opened the curtains and stood at the window. Waiting. Again. The bus was a little late this morning. The girl looked across and saw him checking his watch and checking back at the road. And waiting. This time, the man waved from the window but the bus wasn’t there yet. Hesitantly, she waved back. When the bus came, he waved as each of the children got on the bus. The bus driver noticed the old man, too, and gave a friendly honk as he took off.

Several months went by. The old man was at the window almost every morning, and when the curtains were drawn, the children finally expected him to wave to them. They all waved back now. They actually noticed.

One day, the girl said to her mother at the bus stop: “We should visit him one day.” Her mother said, “Fine, honey; let’s do that some time.”

Two more weeks went by and the girl said it again. “We should visit the old man one day.” Her mother said “Okay. We’ll go over together after school today.”

That afternoon, the girl and her mother went across the road. They went to visit the old man. The butterflies in the girl’s stomach were jumping and giggling as she knocked on the door. And the old man answered the door.

The girl and her mother found out that the old man had a wife who died two years before; he was alone and said he remembered that someone waved to him at his school bus stop when he was a little kid. And so he passed the heritage on.

The next morning, the girl went to the school bus stop. The first thing she did was wave to the man in the window. Then she jumped and giggled and chased the other children in tag. And the man watched and smiled. And the girl noticed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coffee Connections

I love coffee. I love it, not only for the taste, caffeine, and warmth but the conversations and connections that accompany it. It effortlessly blends into all aspects of my day and enhances a variety of my routines.

First and foremost, coffee defines my morning routine. The steps to prepare and wait for the coffee are perfect preludes to my first and most important conversation of the day—my conversation with God. This ritual provides the grounding that allows the rest of my day to proceed with purpose. Okay, the ritual helps me wake up in those early hours of the morning. I treasure the precious block of solitude; it provides clarity and direction.

Secondly, coffee enjoyed sometime during the day usually accompanies a chat between friends when we need to perform our own personal therapy sessions, finding patterns and meaning in our thoughts, decisions and perspectives. Sorting and putting words to those thoughts is always easier with a cup of steaming java to steer the way.

Finally: what beats a great cup of coffee after dinner? The perfect antidote to a day gone bad, or a reward for a good day, it’s a way to sit and reflect on my experiences.

Why do I love coffee? Because it forces me to sit when I otherwise wouldn’t. I am an on-the-go person, and the act of sitting with that cup of brew gives me the chance to think. It makes life more valuable to me with the forced reflection time.

My coffee habit: it’s my indulgence and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glass Half Full

I’ve noticed a lot of attention to the usual January topics in my personal life and out there in the media: diet and exercise. With New Year’s resolutions (whether we agree with them or not) come the solutions—eating and exercise programs which seem to provide a fresh new perspective on the same old thing: losing weight. This year’s slant on the new way of eating and exercise seems to be the focus on our metabolism. Metabolic makeovers. I know there are shards of truth among the shattered dreams these promises provide, but I’m skeptical. I know it’s about eating healthfully. Period. More information won’t change the basic facts: eating better and moving more is required.

We like to discuss problems: “ It’s difficult to lose those last ten pounds (seem like a common theme here?)”, or “It’s difficult to get the time for grocery shopping”, or “It’s difficult to take the time to cook”… but with all these statements, we’re only talking about the problems, not the possible solutions. I paraphrase a quote from Lanny Basham, champion of multiple Olympic medals and author of a mental management system, who says: “Come to me with the solutions, then we can talk.”

I thoroughly enjoy Lanny Bassham’s system of mental control called Mental Management. He’s an American sports shooter who won a gold in the 1976 Summer Olympics and silver in 1972; however he attempted to win a gold at Munich in 1972, realizing a mental failure caused him to take the silver instead. This mental management system developed as a result. No, I’m not competing for the Olympics but I love the focus and direction of this mental management system. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight for a lifetime requires the tenacity, focus and motivation that the Olympic athletes employ. What I’ve learned? It’s how I look at it. As simple as the glass-half-empty-or-half-full approach to a lifestyle change is the simplicity of the decision to look at new eating programs and ways of exercise as a glass-half-full type of lifestyle.

As for Lanny, he utilized his own mental management system to move forward and within the next six years, dominated his sport, winning 22 world individual and team titles, setting 4 world records, and winning the coveted Olympic Gold Medal in Montreal in 1976. I can’t wait to be a winner like that. Metabolic makeovers. Maybe they’re not so bad.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Exercise: As long as it Exists, it's Okay

I have been doing low-impact aerobic walking workouts using at-home DVDs for more than five years now and I love some parts of the experience; I simply tolerate others. It might seem like I enjoy exercising, but actually I exercise because I need to do it, kind of like taking vitamins . Okay, sometimes I think it’s great to get sweaty and enjoy the sense of accomplishment once I’ve finished a workout, but I don’t always feel like starting. Exercise, for me, need not be exciting. Just easy. What’s more important to me is that exercise simply exists. It doesn’t need to be overwhelming or perfect; it just needs to be done.

January 2010. It’s the start of a new year and so I indulge in the pursuit of New Year’s resolutions. As a goal-oriented person, I savor the chance to re-state some resolutions, create new ones, and reconnect to the plans I have in progress: voila! New Year’s resolutions! For me, the resolutions represent the pleasure of a fresh new start. This year’s resolutions include the exercise regimen…but with a new twist. I will also change up my workouts to make them more interesting.

In order to pursue my resolution of interesting workouts, I interjected hand weights and other strength moves in with my usual low-impact aerobic walking. What a surprise to have some fun and feel empowered to do pushups for the first time in my life! This new level of strength inspired me to sample a different type of at-home workout I found on sale: “The Firm”. It’s quite flashy and seems more extreme in its promises but I was ready for a new step; tentative, but ready.

Boy was I wrong. I couldn’t even try to make my muscles bulge because my eyes were bulging at the crazy moves I saw on this video. Perhaps I could accomplish the moves if I were training for ballet on a New York stage, but a simple workout routine for a writer/mom does not include what I saw on those DVDs. To add to the irony, the recordings were actually a remake of workouts created back in the 80’s—during my own prime years of life when I could have attempted these moves without a major injury. Imagine those perfect people with big hair to match the big muscles surrounding the slim bodies, colorful tights and leotards, and, of course, legwarmers. Scary.

Whew. I almost jumped onto a crazy fitness bandwagon there. Back to basics for me—simple exercises. I know it’s the consistency of the workouts, not the excitement, which will provide me with healthy results.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmas Cookies

It’s time to take down the decorations and, for me, it’s also a good time to reflect on this year’s Christmas traditions to determine what we enjoyed most, and least, in this past month. One task that I struggle with year after year is the tradition of baking Christmas cookies.

I love to bake. That’s part of my challenge. The other part is that I also love to eat cookies. I can be obsessed with them, just like I am with chocolate candy. Yes, my level of obsession has gotten smaller, as I continue this journey towards healthier approaches to food over these last five years, but those cookies are definitely a ‘red light’ food item for me. But the enjoyment of baking is something I’ve learned since I was a young girl. I know how to time the pizzelles ‘just so’ to create perfectly toasted cookies, not too white and not too brown. I know how to get the butter cookie batter to just the right consistency to create uniformly shaped trees and stars. I know how to knead the batter from my Great-Aunt-Pauline’s “S” cookie recipe in such a way to result in anise-y, lemony biscuits that melt in my mouth as I enjoy them with a steaming cup of coffee. Not only do I crave these experiences of baking, but I smile at the memories that the mouth-watering aromas bring from the baking cookies, hot in the oven. I want to pass along some, if not all, of those memories to my own daughter, and it tears my heart to think she might not learn some of these traditions.

Hence the struggle. If I bake these cookies, who’s going to eat them? Me! Well, me and my husband and kids too. But mostly me! My conclusion to this year’s cookie baking decision was to delay the baking until after the holiday rush. My daughter and I put together a small batch just last week, and it was fun for me to enjoy the time with her, and to watch my family appreciate the goodies in our house.

There was another gesture I appreciated this year. It was what I call “The Perfect Cookie Tray” brought over by a friend. She made multiple batches of homemade goodies at her house, and wanted to share some with our family. She also knows me well enough to bring her gift in the perfect package: a small tin of exactly eight cookies…two each for the four of us. We could indulge, but not overindulge. I felt understood and loved. Perhaps that’s what the cookies are all about—being understood for who we are, including our heritage, and being loved. Yum.