Top of the Mountain Tuesday

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I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, climbed Emory Peak in Big Bend, and now I can add Sandia Peak in New Mexico. Let me be very clear.  I don’t like heights, and I especially have a hard time in enclosed spaces with lots of people when I am trying to calm myself down at an extreme elevation.  The only part of a flight I enjoy is cruising altitude. I don’t like the process.  I get light-headed,  stressed, anxious, and sometimes downright angry.  I choose to conquer it, because look at this picture!  How much would I miss out on in my life if I avoided difficult things?

I was once with someone who believed when you don’t like something, like a job, or bills, or just responsibility in general, you can walk away from it or just find an easier way and hope no one catches you.  Now I battle that belief with my own kids.  They have recently learned, however, that avoiding hard work can lead to shortcuts, which can lead to mistakes that get so big you can’t cover them up anymore. Once the dishonesty is discovered, they realize life would have been so much better for them had they just chosen the path of responsibility in the first place. The payoff is always worth it, and the ability to see how far you have come and what you had to do to get there is a reward in itself.  The process isn’t supposed to be easy.  Some people will laugh at you.  Some people will support you.  Some won’t care either way.  That’s why you have to be your own coach.  Cheer yourself on.  Set your own goals.  The journey is what will grow you, not the reward.  And what people see in you when your journey is over won’t mean as much as what you see in yourself.

Health journey, career journey, education journey, family journey.  They all have to begin somewhere.  They all involve transformation.  They are made up of goals, reevaluation and commitment, and they all end in reward when you put in the effort.  When you look out over that peak and breathe that cold, clean air, you aren’t thinking about how hard it was to get there.  You are wishing you never had to leave.  Take pictures of the Top of the Mountain and look at them every time you debate whether the harder road is better than the easy one.

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Mindset Monday.

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I know this group of women in their thirties who have spent their lives putting others down.  I stepped into their line of fire and discovered the only way I would survive would be to change my Mindset.  One of the many ways they have criticized me is to make fun of my age because, well, that’s what having less of it will do to the immature.  When you covet another person’s life, you attack the dumbest things because you think it hides the ugliness in your soul.  At times I tried to resolve issues with them.  At times I lashed out.  And as the final straw, I begged for them to stop.  Sometimes in the midst of weak desperation we think we can guilt evil into not being evil, but the sad truth is they can only learn from painful lessons not taught by me.  My 42nd year Mindset has saved me and granted me a peace I don’t remember ever knowing.

In my “old” age, I need friends who share their lives with me.  Genuinely share, not just pacify me with words at my wedding reception.  I need friends who confide in me for help, like my friend who tells me when she screws up because she knows all the times I have.  I need friends who text me just to tell me God laid a word on their hearts for me, like my friend who sends me scripture in one text and in the next tells me it’s OK to curse during prayer if I need to.  I need friends who aren’t afraid to stick up for me, like my friend who refused to pick up a phone call from someone who had destroyed me.  I need friends with pure hearts, like my friend who heard my apology and accepted me through tears and open arms.  I have lost friends and loved ones because of my Mindset, and it is nothing short of a miracle.

Mindset is outlook.  Outlook is perspective.  Perspective is wisdom.  Wisdom is gained through experience.  Experience is gained with age.  I will be 42 in a couple of months.  See those wrinkles around my eyes?  They have worn years of sleepless nights through family dysfunction, failed relationships and children who were hurting.  I earned them.  See those wrinkles that creep into my cheeks when I smile?  They come from belly-filled laughs, a one-of-a-kind love born in a 1992 high school hallway, God-given blessing that wipes away all my fear and grace beyond what I will ever deserve.  I earned them.  And the gray hairs?  I cover them with blonde because I love blonde, not because I need to hide them. I earned those, too.  I am older.  I am stronger. I am wiser.  I am me, and I don’t want to be younger.  Younger means I can’t see when I should have kept my mouth shut.  Younger means I am content with being resentful and selfish.  Younger means I haven’t learned how to forgive.  Younger means I have so much to learn.  Younger means I am OK with people getting hurt while I learn it.  Bring it, 42.  I’m ready.

Fundamental Friday.

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Fear causes a lot of human inadequacy, I have recently discovered.  It causes selfishness, anger, irrational behavior.  It causes people to put on masks of confidence and sometimes even righteousness, so no one will see how deep the wounds are that house that fear. The Fundamental of fear is the feeling that something or someone is dangerous or will cause harm. When I cause harm to someone because of my own anger or resentment, I am afraid that person will harm me.  So I attack defenses.  I am afraid that person is better than me.  So I attack character.  I am afraid that person will gain more favor with others.  So I attack reputation.  I attack out of fear.  It is bullying.  If I can convince other people to attack with me, it is mobbing.  Hurt people hurt people.  The cycle can only end with the courage to stand up and say, “I don’t need to hurt anyone to make myself feel better.”  That courage may mean I end up with a smaller circle, but it will certainly mean those who are still my friends at the end of my healing are the only friends I needed in the first place.

I have been researching mobbing behavior.  It is fascinating.  Countless animal groups participate in this behavior, and sadly even with a conscience and opposable thumbs we are no different.  People are convinced to participate in behavior that seems completely out of character.  They mock and humiliate their victim, with a joyous excitement at the acceptance they gain from their mobbing friends.  It becomes a right of passage as the mobbing group grows, and all of its members believe so wholeheartedly in their cause that no one within the group will ever recognize the inhumanity of their actions unless they can be separated from the mob.  The group begins with one individual who one by one convinces others to join his/her cause — someone who deserves to be hurt over and over again until he/she gives up or disappears.  The more people who join, the more believable their cause.  They define their group and sometimes even name it, causing more alienation for their victim.  They create social media groups specifically for the purpose of mocking their victim, either publicly or within their group, or both.  Some groups name their victim and publish photos, while others believe as long as they never mention a specific name their behavior is righteous and excusable.

I have hurt people, pretty regularly because I am human myself.  But when I have a problem with someone, I address it with that individual.  Sometimes the person apologizes.  Usually not.  But that isn’t why I do it.  I do it, because if I don’t I am no better than a terrified, resentful bully who has nothing better to do than laugh at and gossip about someone I don’t like.  Above all else, I am grateful to GOD that I do not claim one single friend who participates or condones that sort of behavior.  The women I call friends support God-like behavior, and they hold me to those standards at every big turn and tiny crevice of my life.

The bottom line to my way too long rant for today:  “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”  – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.  Here’s my hand up, high in the sky where everyone can see it.  I choose kind.  Make it your Fundamental.  It is an every day battle, but the victory will be your clean heart and a long, restful sleep tonight.

Tempo Tuesday.

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Almost three months later, but here I am. The drum kit is a little dusty, but it still works.

I said before I am not a good time manager. I learned lately to do a better job of recognizing when I am overloaded. It hit around Christmas. Vacations, emotional roller coasters, medical struggles, loads of precious children time, and before I knew it I had way too much on my plate.  I have also learned that when I don’t grant myself space, God forces me to. I would rather make that decision before it is my last option.  So I gave myself permission to process, heal and refocus.

Fast forward to now.  I started running again.  When I tried it last year, my joints rebelled against the stress — howled and sobbed on a daily basis, actually.  After a few weeks I had to give it up.  I took barre classes instead. Three months of plies and reveles completely revived my knees and calves.  Now I am using the Couch to 5K app (www.c25k.com) three days a week, along with three other Zen Lab apps for strength training on my off days. Three weeks in, and I am already seeing definition and feeling the energy strides.  The strength training apps are eight weeks long.  My plan is to complete those and then get back into barre.  I developed a deep love affair with the movements and what they accomplished in my flexibility and strength, and in our little home gym we have just enough room to install a barre so I can create my own routines. My diet is uncomplicated. Eat balanced and clean 90% of the time, and don’t go overboard on anything … unless it’s my anniversary, and my man decides to steal me away to our wedding night hotel for 2.5 days of gourmet food, hockey and champagne.  That’s acceptable.

My head is clear for the first time in months. I feel good.  My home is peaceful.  My husband is my Godsend. Our kids are growing and happy. The Tempo never left. I just needed to enjoy the silence for a bit.  That perpetual swing is a good thing most days.  Routines and goals help with focus. Sometimes the rope breaks, and the foundation I attached myself to needs to be rediscovered.  Sometimes the rope needs to be repaired.  Now I can get back on and feel the breeze again.

 

Wednesday: Enough.

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When have I done Enough? When have I eaten Enough of the right things? When have I completed Enough workouts?  The simple answer is never if you intend to get in shape, stay in shape and just be a healthy you.  Your life ends exactly when it is supposed to, but you are responsible for giving yourself the very best chance of living the best one you can live.

Is there a magic number of oil changes you can get for your car before it runs for eternity with no issues? Is there a magic number of times you can sweep your floor before no more what-nots collect on it? Is there a magic number of times you go to work before you boss says you don’t have to do anything, but he will still send you a paycheck? You don’t have to get oil changes, but your car will rebel. You don’t have to sweep your floors, but the ecosystem that soon develops within your home will make you regret it.  You don’t have to go to work, but you know how that story ends.  Your body is no different.  It requires regular and permanent maintenance for health.  Part of that maintenance is also rest.  Go ahead – work out twice a day, get down to that envied 15% body fat, and run yourself into the ground.  Your heart will still give out, because you didn’t take rest as seriously as you made everything else.

Balance, people. It’s a good word. Exercise. Eat right. Rest. Play. Be quiet, and pay attention to life, to love, to your kids, to your family, to everything that makes you smile. Life is a beautiful thing, and it’s the only one you’ve got. Make it mean Enough to make the most you can every day you get to open your eyes.

Valuable Vicissitude.

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Change is isn’t always welcome, but sometimes it ends up being a very good thing.  My husband and I began our keto path a few months ago, and for months we experienced great results.  We felt better.  Clothes fit better.  Everything was better, for a while.  I went to the doctor after several episodes of the worst stomach acid I had felt since pregnancy, only to discover the culprit was linked to my recent diet Change.  The excess grease in the meat and fried stuff I was eating wasn’t wearing well on my stomach, so at doctor’s orders it had to Change.  Greasy bacon, frying yummy this-and-thats in butter, deliciously rich and heavy meat, and acidic foods are all out.  I was literally sad to cut out bacon and fried eggs, but oatmeal and poached eggs have actually been more filling and better on my digestion than any other breakfast.  I have been finding ways to incorporate more green vegetables — cucumbers for snacks, zoodles and asparagus with everything, and I was so happy to bring sweet potatoes (my favorite) back into my daily fold.  My husband had hit a plateau in the keto diet, so going back to a relatively clean and balanced plan was a good Change for his palate, too.

Since I had to make such a drastic overhaul in my kitchen, it seemed fitting to Change my workout regime.  I started taking barre classes (not bartending classes, as my brother thought I said at a family dinner).  I took ballet as a child, and I always loved the thought of at least appearing graceful —- because no matter how many hours a week I was at that place, grace was not accomplished.  It was so enjoyable, though, and I did gain a lot of flexibility and coordination.  I thought it would be a different and fun Change from vigorous strength training, and man, was I so right on.  The class utilizes a ballet bar and movements, along with yoga and intense stretching, focusing on lower body and core strength.  I have discovered and lengthened muscles in my legs and torso I didn’t even know I had, and those classes paired with a once or twice weekly yoga class at the rec center have provided me with an efficient kick start to the long and lean body I wanted.  My clothes are still fitting better.  I am sleeping better.  Life is better.

I love bacon, but it doesn’t love me.  I love weight training, but it is too much stress on my body right now.  I didn’t want to give up anything or overhaul my lifestyle again.  I didn’t want to write up new meal plans and grocery shopping lists or find a new place to work out.  I also don’t want to take these stupid pills for the rest of my life, and when we go to New York for Christmas I would really like to be able to enjoy food to its fullest potential.  Change can be good, but you have to give it permission and perspective to do so.

Esculent Elixir.

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Food is medicine.  I didn’t want to use that title, because it’s over-used and boring.  Sometimes truth is boring, because we hear it over and over again and really didn’t want to hear it the first time.

Pure food may be boring to some, because we would prefer it to be sauced up and slathered, coated and covered in all types of goodness to prevent us from having to recognize the goodness in simplicity.  The simplicity, however, is where the medicine lies.  Nothing has to be done to a fruit or a vegetable to provide us with nutrients other than maybe disregarding a peeling, root or leaf.  The nutrients are so apparent they can be seen in bright, deep colors.  So when any produce is prepared, protecting the color protects the nutrients.  It’s that simple.  Meat can be dressed with a sprinkle of natural seasoning, and it doesn’t always have to be salt.  That’s way too simple.

Taking a pill can’t always be replaced with eating nutrient rich food, but the number of illnesses that can be remedied or helped with replacing certain foods with better choices are too many to count.  Inflammation is at the root of most disease and illness reported in this country, and it is pretty disheartening to know how much of it is 100% preventable with diet and exercise.  I read a woman’s quote from her old-school grandfather who said, “If you don’t want to get fat, don’t put that biscuit in your mouth.”  Sometimes the most black and white advice is the simplest — and hardest to hear — of all.

Truth-Tellin’ Tuesday.

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I’m about to lay it down for you.  Ready?  Ketogenic is not Atkins.  There, I said it.  I feel like it needs to be shouted from a mountaintop, because now I am reading celebrity  fitness gurus make comments like, “Keto is just Atkins repackaged.”  Here’s the basic run down.

Atkins = No limit on protein, including red meat and pork.  Anything without carbs goes.  So deep fry everything as long as it’s coated in pork rinds, smother everything in cheese and salt, and don’t forget all your Atkins products in the diet isle of your grocery store.  If it says “low carb” on the package, eat it, regardless of the processing or ingredients.  Make sure you eat the fattiest burgers and greasiest bacon you can find, too.

Keto = Moderate protein, high healthy fat, low carb (as a product of low sugar).  The focus of keto is good fat, not greasy protein.  The kind of fat that benefits your blood, your brain and your gut.  The kind of fat that does not typically result in heartburn, constipation or ulcers.  Unsaturated fat, the best form of which can be found in salmon, avocados, most nuts, some seeds and olive oil.  A handful of berries can be incorporated daily as well to help with cravings, and plant-based, non-cancer-causing, non-aspirin-aftertaste sugar substitutes work in almost every dessert recipe.

Strict keto takes a little research and planning when you shop and when you consume.  It can also easily be accomplished through a clean diet, which is what the celebrity quoted above preaches.  Rely on mostly fresh or frozen foods and limit your processed goods to absolute necessity items.  Do without red meat altogether or find lean versions.  Uncured meats can be found in most stores now, and they aren’t expensive.  Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because you read this or any other publication, though.  Talk to people who are following a keto regime.  Get several different versions of health benefit and weight loss stories.  When I read the news I look at ten versions, and then I make my own conclusion.  Your health is even more important than that.  Research what works for you.  Then research it some more, because new studies come out all the time.  Try it, tweak it for your schedule and your family, then do some Truth-Tellin’ of your own.

(Note:  Pictured above are walnuts, almonds, smoked salmon and avocado.  Walnuts are not the best choice for unsaturated fat, but that’s all I had other than almonds in my pantry.  Try almonds, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, macadamia, peanuts, pecans or pistachios.)

 

 

 

Indubitably Monday.

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This morning my children returned home for Monday homeschool, following Starbucks and a bad night’s sleep.  My daughter was double-fisted and sugar-bound with a caramel frappucino and chocolate chip muffin.  My son had an iced green tea and a protein box.  Half way through their first lesson of the day C fell asleep, and T was in the bathroom with a stomach ache.  They are exhausted and unfocused.  Although Mondays are Indubitably rough even on a perfect morning, we will get through it the way we get through all the others.  It will just mean more meltdowns, lower grades and a much longer day.

Our remedies are pretty bullet-proof, when my husband and I can control the environment. When we can’t, who is to blame?  As a Mom, my nature is fix now and find the culprit so I don’t have to fix again.  As a strong Mom I also have to figure out how to make the vest a little thicker and fences a little higher to prevent battles from happening in the first place.  When they stay at someone else’s house, is it my son’s fault when he doesn’t sleep?  I could argue both ways.  When my daughter is given the choice between sugar and a healthier option, how much responsibility is on her for making a good choice for her body? That one is debatable as well.  Right now she is suffering the natural consequence of a stomach ache, but if she would not have had the option for sugar the consequence wouldn’t prohibit her from having a clear head.

Bottom line, my job as a parent is to educate in leading by example, giving information and sometimes giving consequences.  My job as an adult when other adults don’t make good decisions for my kids is to ask questions and make requests, knowing that my ability to control the outcome is limited.  Indubitably today is Monday.  School work and disappointments are inevitable.  Knowledge isn’t knowledge unless it is tested.  Sometimes that test is a nap at your desk and some Pepto.

Fierce Friday.

Hubby says I need to post more about workouts.  So here goes.

I like to try new stuff, especially if it seems fun, if I can do it with my man, if I think I will see results and if the new stuff won’t kill me. We did Body For Life for a few months last year, but we were a little over zealous and increased our lifting weight too fast. We each acquired small but powerful injuries and lost interest. Then I asked my personal trainer/world champion powerlifter nephew to help us out with some new workouts. He whipped us back into shape, but then finances would not allow us to keep paying him. We took a couple of months off, gained some weight, got frustrated again and needed to find another answer. Jillian Michaels got us into shape again, but TBH she wasn’t the avenue we wanted. We were tired of being tired. We missed strength training. We missed the power in lifting weights and the energy we gained from it. 

I looked up Bill Phillips, the Body For Life author, and saw he created a new workout for his new, later phase of life. We have been doing it for two weeks, and WOW. It is exactly what we needed. We feel the boost after every workout. We are taking it slow and gaining strength. We are just happier, a little sore, but not flat-out exhausted every day. We found what works for us, even though it meant changing our routine.  We didn’t defeat ourselves by being a slave to finishing a program that wasn’t right for us. We found our groove, and it’s a really good song.