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.