Tuesday, April 10, 2018

don't be a lookdown

Just last week, while on vacation with my family, we visited the lovely Monterey Aquarium in Northern California. The place was sprawling, full of unique and beautiful sea life. One display really struck me and continues to haunt me. I learned that there is a species of fish called The Lookdown. They have a very distinct flat, grey disk-like body and apparently got their name because as they swim, they look down over their upturned nose. I guess you could call them the "snobby" fish of the sea. But, what I found slightly depressing as I gazed at this display, was that they were swimming in a small funnel type case, round and round in circles. Going nowhere. Looking down. All day long.

The next week as I was working out at the gym, I saw another thing that was a bit depressing and made me think back to the "lookdown" fish that I had previously learned about. I was on the elliptical machine, above the gymnasium and basketball court. A young man, most likely of high-school age, was practicing his basketball shots. I watched him for about 15 minutes. During this time, he checked his phone exactly 10 times. I calculate that to be every 1.5 minutes. Disengaging from a healthy, physical activity every one and a half minutes to check his screen. What he was looking for is beyond me. I mean, he wasn't exactly swishing each and every shot, so pretty sure he wasn't waiting for a text from his agent! But, each time the ball bounced out of bounds or went across the gym, he would take his phone out of his pocket and glance down at the screen while he strolled lazily across the gym floor. It was almost a "knee jerk" reaction. It was like he couldn't bear the thought of walking across the gymnasium without checking his phone. Most times, he would just look down and put the phone back in his pocket.

A few minutes later, a couple of younger boys showed up. The high-school boy asked to join them. What I observed in the ensuing 10 minutes, was that the same exact boy who was addicted to the screen moments earlier, was now engaged and completely oblivious of the technological tool buzzing away in his pocket. It made me happy. And sad. All at once.

Sad because it illustrates how addicted our kids have become to their phones; that our children have never been more disconnected than they are now. They make friends over Snap Chat but, rarely talk to those same people in real time. They can't find their homework but, you can bet they can see where their best friend's second cousin is spending Spring Break, thanks to Snap Map. Our kids are obsessed about how many "likes" their latest Instagram post received yet, fail to hear the accolades and praise of their own parents because they are too busy checking texts. They have become so dependent on the instant gratification provided by technology that they don't even know how to spend their recreational/down time without it.

Our world has never been more broken. Our children have never been more mislead. Our job as parents has never been more important. We are losing an entire generation to this high tech, man-made monstrosity that we call smart phones. Hmmmm. Doesn't sound very smart to me.

So, why did this same scenario give me hope? It gave me hope that maybe, just maybe there is a solution to this subdivide among our youth today. And it's an easy fix. Won't cost a dime.  It's called real, face-to-face interaction. Oh, I know! This is a novel, newfangled and fanatical idea! But, what if we put it into practice? Think of the lives that could be saved, changed and enhanced.

And this is where parenting comes in. We have got to teach our kids by example. Go outside and say hello to our neighbors, instead of texting them. Go up to someone in the breakroom and invite them to an event in person, not by sending them an Evite. Tell someone you like their new outfit, hair do or car by actually saying the words NOT by clicking a button. Our kids are watching! We have to bridge this ever-growing, gaping hole between real, personal interaction and what we are doing now.

This whole concept of the "lookdown" fish made me think of a few other times in life where simply looking up could save our lives.

When driving, "look up, not down". It could literally save your life.

Upon waking, "look up, not down". Okay, it may not save your life, but I promise it will make your day go smoother.

Only when we look up, can we begin to see each other for who we really are and finally gain a deeper connection. But, until that happens, our youth will continue to slip further and further away from us. Going nowhere. Looking down. All day long. And, I don't want that to be on me.

Friday, February 2, 2018

How my kid earned a Varsity letter without ever stepping foot on the playing field

Yep! You heard me right! My daughter has never been an athlete. That is not to say she's never tried. Oh, she tried all right! She even played lacrosse on an all-boys team (because it was new to our region and no other girls showed up!) She played softball, basketball, soccer, took years of dance, even ran track in middle school because it happened to coincide with the same time that I took up running! (To say I had an influence on her going out for that sport would be a major  understatement.) I even talked her into running a 5k with me and to this day, that remains one of my greatest accomplishment as her mother. Well, it was The Color Run and we wore tutus and were covered in colorful powder at the end!! Oh yeah, and it wasn't timed. So, truth be told, it was really more like a party than a race! No wonder I talked her into it!

Anyways, back to my daughter's non-athleticism and how she earned a varsity letter. Sports have never been her thing. That is until freshman year when she walked into Health & Fitness class and the teacher, upon learning her name, asked her if she would like to do the track timing like her brother did. She replied "sure" but, not really very sure that this whole thing would ever come to fruition. Because sports really weren't her thing.

Fast forward to the spring of her freshman year when this coach made good on his offer and introduced her to the track timing system. She worked alongside the lead timing person for the entire season, honing her skills as a "photo finish expert". And, she loved it. The following year, there was an opening for the lead timer. So, the coach proposed that she take over and this is what led to her earning that varsity letter. How you may ask? I think the better question is why. And the answer to that WHY is because an amazing coach/teacher/human being believed in her. Because he saw something in her.  Something that no one else had ever bothered to see. And that "something" was that she is smart, dependable, capable of much and not afraid of any stage being too big or too small. He took a chance on her and made her the Team Manager and subsequently part of the team. But, in doing that, he did so much more. He built that girl up, not because she was a star athlete but, because he saw something in her. And he believed in her. He believed in my girl.

So, one day last spring, my daughter came home with a certificate in one hand and a varsity letter in the other and one giant smile on her face! That moment will forever be etched in my mind and on my heart. Because that coach took the time to believe in my girl, she now believed in herself. And, that folks, is how my daughter earned a varsity letter without ever even breaking a sweat!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What it's really like to do a Juice Cleanse

So, you wanna do a Juice cleanse? Wanna give your sorry ol' liver a little break? Wanna wipe the slate clean and start over? You may want to read this first!!!

I just finished my third Juice Cleanse. I feel like I've kind of got this thing down by now but, man oh man, I could've used some pointers my first time around!!!

Here are 10 helpful tips from a girl who's been there and done that:

1. Grab a friend. Everything is easier when done alongside a friend! Believe me, you will want someone who is in the trenches with you. Someone you can ask questions to and commiserate with. Errr...I mean, celebrate with! When its over.

2. Know before you "go". Seriously, why didn't the brochure warn me about the cabernet colored explosions I'd experience on Day 3 or the distinct changes in the shape, color and length of...well, you get the idea!! Also, plan to spend more time going #1 as well. Better yet, you may want to camp out in your bathroom for 3 days. Just kidding. Kind of.

3. Eat some real food already. Drinking nothing but juice for 3 days makes a girl extremely hangry!!! The first time I did my cleanse, I didn't eat a thing! I have no idea how I survived without biting my own arm off. The second and third time, I got smart! I took the advice in the brochure and added in whole, clean foods throughout my day. Roasted veggies, raw veggies, apples, berries, bananas, a few nuts here & there. Having something to sink my teeth into made all the difference between merely surviving and actually enjoying a cleanse. Well, maybe the word "enjoying" is a bit of a stretch!!

4. Get your rest.

5. Keep reminding yourself "it's only 3 days!" You can do anything for 3 days. Right?

6. Pamper yourself in other ways. Sauna and Epsom salt baths are suggested as additional detox tools but, maybe go a step further and get a facial or pedi to really take your mind off it. It does help.

7. Count your blessings. Some folks go to bed hungry nightly. Some don't have enough money for groceries at all. And a whole lot of people would say spending $100 on 3 days of juice is just plain cray-cray. So, embrace the fact that a.) you are capable of doing this physically & financially and b.) that you will eat regular food again. Sure puts things in perspective.

8. Avoid Food Network or any other food related shows or magazines while cleansing! Trust me on this.

9. Follow up with clean eating. A juice cleanse is a great way to jump start weight loss! I've lost up to 5 lbs doing them but, if you go back to  your old ways, so will your waistline!

10. Pat yourself on the back. Better yet, print up a diploma that says "I can do hard things." Because you did. While you're at it, also print one up that says, "I am a Badass!" Because you are.

Good Job! You did it! Congrats! Your liver thanks you! You, my friend, are a rock star!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

10 reasons to give up drinking in the New Year

We are almost 2 months into 2018. After the holidays, I decided to take a break from drinking so, I set an intention to do a "Sober January". Then, February arrived and I wasn't quite ready to start back up again. Here is a short list of all the benefits I've found from stepping away from the bottle.
1. It will save you money. No more growler fills, bar tabs or bottles of wine in your grocery cart? This could add up to hundreds each month!
2. Your heart will thank you. Research has shown that drinking alcohol can raise your blood pressure which in turn can be a risk factor for heart disease and heart attack.
3. It might just save your marriage. With any vice or addiction, we tend to spend more time on IT than the things that really matter. Put down the bottle and go for a walk with your hubby, replace happy hour at the bar with a group snowshoe hike, spend time with those you love by being totally present and aware. You will reap benefits you have never imagined.
4. You will have a ridiculous amount of extra time on your hands. And by extra, I mean productive. It is crazy how much wasted time occurs when we drink. No pun intended. From the actual time spent drinking to the entire next day when we are in recovery mode, there is so much time lost. Time you will never get back. Now, you will have time to reorganize that closet or pantry, write that blog, stick to a workout routine or volunteer your time in a soup kitchen.
5. You will look and feel 10 years younger. This is absolutely the truth. I always say that "not drinking" is the secret to staying young. Forget botox or lipo, laying off the booze reduces fine lines, redness/puffiness in the eyes and face and gives your skin a glow that no face cream can match.
6. You will be happier. Sure, enjoying a few beers after work helps you relax and unwind but, we all know alcohol is a depressant. Drink too much and you may find yourself in a world of hurt the next day and I'm not just talking about the pain between your ears.
7. Your kids will be happier. Seeing mom on the couch with a glass of wine does something to a kid. Even if it's actually 5:00 where you are. Putting down the bottle and spending quality, good old fashioned "face time" with your kid will do wonders for everyone.
8. You might just be saving yourself from a devastating disease like Alzheimer's and Dementia. Drinking creates memory loss. Memory loss is an early warning sign of Alzheimer's. Its not brain surgery folks, it's basic math.
9.You will lose weight. Alcohol contains all kinds of empty calories and slows metabolism. It also causes us to make poor food choices while drinking, as well as the days to follow. Why is it that a cheeseburger with fries and a soda sounds so much more desirable than a plate of roasted veggies and quinoa when you are hung over? Drop the booze, drop the weight.
10. You might really like taking a walk on the sober side - even temporarily! I always say that I love NOT drinking almost as much as I love drinking. And, after just a few days of it, I find the euphoric feeling that I get from a glass of wine being replaced with the europhic feeling I get when I wake up clear-headed and raring to go! I'll drink to that, however, at the moment, I'm not quite sure when that will be.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

the one thing Alzheimer's cannot take away

Alzheimer's is a cruel disease. It takes folks to lunch and then robs them blind - of the memory of what they just ate. It takes them to a movie and then leaves them cold - sitting and wondering what the heck they just spent 2 hours watching. And even worse, it makes their own children seem like vague, distant relatives.

My sweet mama is one of the 5 million people in the US suffering from this awful, awful disease.

It has been difficult to watch my mom go from the bubbly, talkative, social, outgoing person she was (when I was growing up), to a mere shadow of her former self at times. Sometimes, she is unable to form words or sentences. Sometimes, she sleeps for an entire day. Most times, she recognizes her children and husband of 63 years but, is unable to call them by name.

As Alzheimer's progresses, it takes a lot from a person. But, the one thing it absolutely cannot grab hold of is the way that person feels about people and the way that others make them feel. You see, regardless of whether my mama knows my name on any given day, she knows I am someone she loves and someone who loves her back. The look in her gorgeous blue eyes and the smile on her perfect face when I walk in her room, tell me everything I need to know.

Some days she greets me with "Oh, I'm so happy to see you," "I'm so glad you are here" or "I thought you would never get here." It doesn't matter that she doesn't know my name. She knows I am someone she loves and enjoys seeing. Recently I showed her a photo of 7-year old me (because I know people with Alzheimer's often remember things from long ago) and she said, without hesitation, "That's my baby girl."

Sometimes when I sit with my mama, there is simply no need for words. She holds my hand in hers and runs her thumb along the edge of my hand. Just like she did when I was little and needed consoling. Often, she will tuck my hair behind my ear as we sit in silence. Just like she did for 7-year old me. It's moments like these that assure me that my mom is still here.

Alzheimer's may have stolen her memory of how to speak, her ability to perform daily activities or her physical strength to walk but, it will not take away my mama's heart. And, quite honestly, that's the part of her I want most.

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  - Maya Angelou

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clean Eating

It was just an ordinary day. Shortly after the new year had begun, I was watching my daily dose of "Live with Kelly & Michael" when I saw something. Something that I had no idea would change my life and the way I relate to food. It was a special section devoted to a New Year/New You. There was this doctor and he was talking about a 2 week food cleanse. Well, automatically, my ears perked up because I had heard of all-liquid cleanses - heck, I'd even tried a few before - but, this sounded intriguing. A 2 week cleanse designed to reset the vicious cycle of my poor eating/drinking/excerise habits. And it involved actual food. I was on board!

The name of the doctor was Dr. Ian K. Smith and the cleanse was the Shred Power Cleanse. I ran right out and bought the book. I read it while on an airplane to visit my sister. I wasn't ready to start it just yet, after all I had a weekend of wining & dining ahead of me...but, I wanted to read all about it and be ready for it when I returned home.

Now, to be fair, I did do my annual 3-day juice cleans upon returning home. I thought it would be a good way to jump start my weight loss. And boy was it ever! I lost 6.6 lbs in 3 days. This time around, I had added in fresh fruits and veggies so it wasn't a strict juice only cleanse. The body does amazing things when it doesn't have to process alcohol, refined sugar, meat or dairy. I immediately felt lighter, clearer-minded and had a sense of peace and contentment that was difficult to explain. 

Well, if I had done just the 3-day cleanse as I had in the past, that feeling would have been short-lived and I would have packed back on the pounds and returned to my old habits in no time. But, this year was different. Different because I had discovered Dr. Ian K. Smith. 

Now, I am a person who loves structure and routine in an eating plan. I am "all or nothing" so, I would rather give up ALL of my bad habits, than just one. For some odd reason, that works for me. I've always said that I just want someone to tell me what to eat and when to eat it. And this program did just that!

This program also taught me the proper way to exercise. It introduced to me the concept of HIIT workouts. Higher intensity in a shorter amount of time. I had heard of these before, but it wasn't until I read this book and began doing them, that it finally made sense. I felt like I had unlocked the secret to weight loss.

Let me back up for just a minute. I am a 50 year old woman, in the midst of menopause and I have been living with MS for 17 years. I honestly thought I could not lose weight at this point in my life. I had sort of resolved myself to the fact that my skinny jeans would never fit properly and my belly would always hang over the top of my waistband. The term "happy belly" was just the name of a healthy juice from my cleanse, not something I thought I could ever actually attain. Oh, how wrong I had been!

Once I started to eat healthy - and by that I don't just mean changing the quality of my food - but also the quantity - good things started to happen. In the past, my problem was not eating too MUCH food, it was eating too LITTLE food. Eating too little actually sabotages weight loss and metabolism more than you realize. 

I cannot tell you how much this program of clean eating has improved my life. It has changed the way I look at food, it has changed the way I exercise and it has given me a sense of well-being that is beyond explanation.  I just want to shout from the mountain tops how exciting and easy this way of life really is.  For those of you who have ever struggled with making good food choices or seeing results from all your hard work at the gym...this is the plan for you! Give it two weeks! I promise it will change your life. And those skinny jeans? Well, you may just have to go out and buy them a couple sizes smaller!

Don't miss my next blog: 10 Things I've learned from a Month of Clean Eating

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dear Running,

I've decided it's time to take you back. I can no longer drive into my garage and pretend that I don't see the wall of bibs and smiling photos staring back at me. Or see the facebook memories on my daily feed and not feel a tinge of regret.  I don't even really know where things went wrong - it was like I turned 50 and decided I was too old for you. Well, now I know that was silly. Because you don't stop running because you're old, you get old because you stop running. I needed this break to be able to see how much you truly mean to me and appreciate you more. You know, the whole absence makes the heart grow fonder bit.

Now, before you get too excited, we need to lay down a few relationship ground rules:

1. We have to start slow. I don't want to hear any mention of training runs, tempos, fartleks or tapering. It's just too soon. If you want this to work, you have to be patient with me. You have to let me go at my own pace. Last time, I got way too obsessed way too soon and it wasn't good for either one of us.

2. This will NOT be an exclusive relationship. If I want to share you with walking (a ménage au troi, let's say) then you have to be okay with that. If I decide to hop on the elliptical or ride the stationary bike, you gotta embrace it and be like "you go girl - variety is the spice of life" without a smidge of jealousy. 

3. We have GOT to learn to have a little more fun together. Last time we tried this, things got way too serious! It became more about the RUN and not enough about the FUN. We got all caught up in race times and splits and PRs and shit...and somehow forgot to stop and take selfies and smell the roses. I do not want to make that mistake again. 

4. Last, but definitely not least, promise me that you WILL NOT HURT me! I've had enough bruised shins, skinned knees, swollen hands and chafing to last a lifetime. I'm over it. If you want me back, this is non-negotiable. I'm tired of getting hurt. And quite frankly, too old.

So, what do you think? Do we have a deal? Can we make this work again? If not...