Personal Growth

This tag is associated with 23 posts

Mamas Teach Your Children Well….

Mamas, teach your children well…

If there is one lesson I learned early in my life it was that being myself was more important that being “accepted”. I hear stories of women with friends who tear each other down and I don’t get it, because if my friends were like that they wouldn’t be my friends.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, someone is going to find fault. If you’re not pretty enough, slim enough, or smart enough. If you’re too pretty, too slim, too smart. Supermodels get picked apart as easily as the awkward girl down the street. I told a friend today that we don’t like in an accepting society, as much as we purport ourselves to be accepting. We live in a judgmental society.

When your child is picked on, I feel it’s important to explain to your child that there will always be someone who finds fault with them. Someone will always be mean. Someone will always be critical. It’s not your child’s fault that those people feel they have a right to judge. The best you can do is set an example of acceptance and tolerance and teach your children the same.

Little girls, in particular, are bombarded with messages about how they should look every day. And now I see it slowly creeping in on little boys as well. Girls should be feminine and attractive. Boys should be athletic. But now boys should be attractive too but still not quire to the degree it’s forced upon girls.

For the longest time the media would show an attractive woman married to an overweight oaf. Still does. Did you ever stop to think what the message to our children in that is? As much as I’d like to believe that it means a person should look past a person’s appearance, it doesn’t seem to be that. What it seems to be is that if you’re attractive and smart, you might be lucky enough to land an idiot. Ugh.

Where is the equally matched couple in a supportive, nurturing relationship? Haven’t seen one. It doesn’t make for good ratings.

I find fault with the media. With the stereotypes. With the belief that in life there is only “one right way” and it’s the way of the person who is criticizing you. I find fault with the belief that women have a right to pick apart other women. I find fault with men and women for making women objects. I find fault with women who accept that they are objects. I find fault with parents who don’t raise their children to respect themselves and each other.

What I don’t find fault with is the individual who does something different than I do. I’m a firm believer that there are multiple ways to get to the finish line. As long as you’re not cheating yourself or others on your way, then you can get there however you want and I’ll still respect you for finishing.

Mamas please, teach your children acceptance. Become more accepting. Become more positive. Become less focused on looks and more focused on talent and intelligence. Boost your child’s confidence in what they do well. Don’t force them to be someone else. And if they’re not accepted by someone make sure they know that there will always be times when they’re not accepted, but that it’s not on them. It’s on the people who don’t accept them.  Set a good example and they will follow your lead. You are their first role model and the one that lasts their whole life. You will be the voice in their head for decades. And because of this, you have a chance to change the world. One child at a time.

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Social Welfare – A Lesson in Perspective

I try to keep my posts lighthearted when I can. I also try to keep the subject material as non-controversial as possible. Today, however, is not one of those days. Today I would like to write about a very difficult time in my life and how grateful I was for all of the assistance I received. It’s another lesson in perspective that I hope my readers will listen to with an open mind.

I’ve taken a great sense of pride in my independence over the years. As an adult I had always supported myself, paid my bills, and, to the best of my ability, been a solid citizen. When the recession hit, I was in the process of getting laid off from a very lucrative job that I absolutely loved. Within a matter of two weeks every promising job interview I had dried up. Those positions didn’t get filled by other candidates. They simply went unfilled or the positions were eliminated. I’d been between jobs before and unemployment wasn’t ever something I wanted to stay on. It was something to tide me over until I could find another position. It never took more than a couple of months. In fact, I was so convinced that I would find a job quickly that I didn’t even apply for my unemployment until three months after I lost my job.

But 2008 was something for the record books. I applied for every single job that came up that I was qualified for, every single job that I was overqualified for, and even tossed my hat in the ring for jobs I had no chance of ever obtaining. I was averaging 100+ job applications a month. And my phone wasn’t ringing at all. When I found out I was pregnant with my darling baby boy, I contemplated terminating the pregnancy. But, being the optimist that I am, I decided that it was time in my life (I was approaching 30) and that I really wanted my child. The decision wasn’t easy. I’ve always been a believer that you shouldn’t bring a child into this world if you can’t support it. But I was willing to work at Wal-Mart if that’s what it took. (Wal-Mart never called me in for an interview either.)

My doctor helped me apply for state medical, so that I could have quality pre-natal care. And the months continued passing. My unemployment covered the basics for nearly two years, even though I constantly had to fight to get it due to a clerical error when my file was opened. I want to make it very clear that I never sat back and said “well, I’m seven months pregnant, so I should just give up on looking for a job until after the baby comes.” I have literally thousands of electronic application confirmations from those two years. I was always sure that a new job was just a week or two away. I interviewed pregnant and did my best to hide my growing belly.

I swear my son knew my concerns even before he was born, because I went into labor on a Friday night. He was born on a Saturday morning and I was back to applying to jobs on Monday. But there was nothing. Thousands of job applications with my extremely impressive resume resulted in a total of 4 interviews over two years.

State Medical was one thing to me. A perfectly acceptable social security net to bridge the gap for people who don’t have employer based coverage. But reality came really crashing in on me when my unemployment benefits were exhausted; I had no money coming in and an 8 month old baby boy at home. I had desperately wanted to breastfeed my son. He, however, had other plans. From birth he had serious latching issues. Nothing the nurses did seemed to help. I worked with him for two weeks, but he kept losing weight. There were many, many tears shed, and I felt like a failure. I pumped, but… between supplemental formula feedings and the stress I was under, there just wasn’t much to be done. So, what do you do, when your son needs specialized formula (he had milk protein intolerance) and you have no money to buy it? What do you do when there just isn’t a job to be had?

You turn to a social safety net. In my case, this was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). There was nothing else to be done. I had exhausted my financial reserves, my 401k refund, and my savings accounts. I walked into the Department of Human Services office and wanted to cry. It was the most desolate place I ever remember being in. The tenor of the office is depressing and the individuals there just have an air of being completely beaten, downtrodden. There were crying children, exhausted parents, and elderly people… everyone just looked miserable. I felt a deep, searing pain in my stomach, just being there. Oh, how the mighty fall.

The first time I used my Link (benefit) card, which was only for groceries mind you, I had to fight back the tears. The reality of my situation was just unbearable. I tried to tell myself that I paid taxes into this system for years, but it didn’t help. I felt ashamed. I felt like less of a person.

I was only on the SNAP program for two months, because a job finally came through in July 2010. It was part time, for much less than my previous salary, but it was work and it enabled me to get off the SNAP program. I was elated the first time I bought groceries with my debit card again. I felt saved. I felt human again.

I’m off public health insurance (even though I have no employer coverage so I have NO coverage) but my son still gets health care through the state. I’m grateful every day for my less than ideal job and that, somehow, I managed to retain my optimism through everything that went wrong those two years (because there’s a lot more that I’m not sharing here). And I am extremely grateful to know that there is a safety net out there for people like me. As much as I hope never to have to use it again I sleep better at night knowing that the system is there for those who need it.

The lesson in perspective is this:

If you’ve never had to utilize a social safety net, you don’t get to judge those that do. I’m sorry, but you haven’t been in their shoes. The 80’s mythology of the “welfare” recipient who drives her brand new Cadillac to the welfare office is just that – a myth. The majority of people who utilize the benefits are just like me, people who had no other option. They are people who would like to get off the benefits as soon as flipping possible. Of course, there will always be the few people who manage to game the system. But those few people aren’t the norm. I am the norm. And I can tell you firsthand just how degrading and dehumanizing that experience really was. I challenge you, any of you, who believe that I’m exaggerating, or out of the “norm” to go sit at a social services office for an hour or so and observe the degradation first hand.

After you’ve gone home and washed the lingering feel of depression and desperation off yourself, you might find that your perspective has completely changed.

Longing for the days when school was my only “job”.

Three more days of glorious freedom. It’s such a short time to accomplish all of the left over items that got moved to the back burner the last few months. There’s furniture to be moved, organization to be done, and a desk that somehow got completely buried in paperwork to dig out before classes resume next Monday. It’s going to be a rough semester, I can tell already, and all I can really do is breathe slowly and hope that all turns out well.

Going back to school as an adult is difficult enough to make me really wish I’d done it when I was young and didn’t have to worry about things like electric bills, car payments, and retirement plan contributions. I long for carefree days and nights of getting rowdy with my friends. At 22 you feel you have the world on a string, studying can be reserved for last minute cram sessions and nothing seems to be more important than enjoying life. Education is important, sure, but aren’t we here to live?

I’ll admit a minor twinge of nearly-middle-age jealousy when I hear tales of young adults in school and partying on campus. In your thirties your outlook on school is completely different (or at least it should be) and you’re trying to balance a job, a home, and a family while juggling your school work. When I hear a “normal” aged college student gripe about having too much to do while living in campus housing and NOT holding down a job as well I have to refrain from smacking that person upside the head. At the same time I want to congratulate them for doing the smart thing and getting school out of the way before the real world can intrude.

I can honestly say I appreciate school more at my age… everything but Algebra. Honestly? When was the last time anyone factored a polynomial in their day to day life. How could that possibly help me in real life? But, I digress. I am a student. I’m a student in name, registered to an institution of higher learning, and I am a student of the world. I soak up information from everything that surrounds me and attempt to navigate a complicated world with the knowledge I’ve gained.

My interests are as diverse as the day is long and, I fear, that I’ll never decide what I want to be when I “Grow up”; except maybe young again. I’ve settled on Business Management again for now, simply because it’s a field I’m already experience in and it’s the one degree that won’t eat up too much of my real life time. Changing majors would require a level of dedication and time commitment that I’m just not willing to make right now.

I’ve never believed that a person’s job has to be something that they absolutely love. Sure, it should be something you don’t loathe, but it doesn’t have to be a perfect match either. I’m of the solid mindset that your job is your gateway to enjoying and appreciating your real life more. It makes the money that pays for you to be able to pursue your passion through hobbies and leisure activities. I would never want to take something I love and turn it into work.  That’s just a personal opinion and I know it’s one that’s not shared by many.

I don’t regret my choice of major – it’s something I’m good at and there are opportunities in my future for it to challenge me, which I feel is very important. For now my only regret is not getting the education out of the way when I might have had the ability to enjoy it more. Or at least not take it quite as seriously as I do now. Oh, but sometimes I long for the days when going to school was my job and main responsibility. Here’s the life lesson kids: Stay in School – because it only gets more difficult to stick with it as you get older. Oh, and try to pick a major that doesn’t suck but at the same time don’t let your choice of career path be your end all-be all.

It Can Always Be Worse – A lesson in perspective.

We’ve all heard the phrase “it can always be worse”. I don’t feel, however, that as Americans we really think about how privileged we really are. Every day I hear people who are deeply, deeply unhappy with what they can’t have. Very few people seem to take the time to be thankful for what they do have. One of my personal development epiphanies occurred in my teens. It was the realization that Americans are not alone in the world, despite the fact that we use up more than our fair share of the world’s resources.

That realization came with a deeper knowledge of how others in the world live and how everything in this life truly boils down to a matter of perspective. We complain (myself included) about the high price of groceries while there are millions of people in this world who lack access to balance nutrition. Our supermarkets would likely astound them. And what do we do with this abundance of food? We overeat. We are now the most obese country on the planet.

We buy bottled water despite having one of the most advanced water treatment and delivery systems in the world. We have access to fresh water every minute of every day. Turn on the faucet and there it is. No trekking to a river that people bathe and pollute with waste to obtain drinking water.

We drive everywhere. Walking is now relegated to “exercise”. Ditto for Biking. For the majority of us, walking or biking is a luxury of time as opposed to an effective means of transportation.

Arguments about our health care system aside, as imbalanced as access may be, we all have access to at least emergency care. If we are in an accident or injured we can be assured that, even if we go bankrupt from the emergency room bill, there’s a good chance we’ll survive. Because of our access to food and clean water something as simple as a cut on our foot isn’t likely to kill us. For millions of people an infected cut is a serious illness. Here we can wash it in clean water, slather on some antibacterial ointment and put a bandage on it. We have easy access to basic medical supplies.

Whether you’re living in a mansion, a studio apartment, your parent’s basement, or something in between, you have a roof over your head. Access to quality shelter is something I see people take for granted every day. Their bathroom is ugly. Their back yard isn’t big enough. They don’t have enough closet space or their kids have to share a bedroom. Do us all a favor and learn to tell yourself “I don’t like my bathroom, but I’m thankful I have one!”.

The other day I was frustrated by a slow draining bathroom sink. A bottle of Drano later and I was thankful to have a sink that actually drains again. Then I thought, “Hell, I should be thankful to have a sink. And plumbing… and running water… and a home to contain it all.” And I was.

Money is a big complaint I hear all the time. It used to be something I complained about. There never seems to be enough money. I learned something though. You can’t take it with you. You can’t take anything you buy with you, really. Yes, money provides for the roof over our heads, the running water in our sinks, and the food in our bellies. Beyond the basic necessities, everything else is gravy. You have a computer, a cell phone, an iPad, a playstation, a tv… the list goes on and on. Check out http://bonsaimovie.com/ or google microfinance loans.

The most surprising aspect of these loans is how little money people are asking for to buy seeds, or a sewing machine, or fix the roof on their homes. Many of the ones in the Bonsai People documentary are less than I pay for my monthly cell phone bill.

If you need perspective from a cuter standpoint; check out the Babies documentary. Not only is it beautifully done, but it pulls you in. You see that babies are babies the world over. They are not born to hate. They aren’t born to be greedy about material things. They don’t use material objects or money to feel better about themselves. We are born happy and loving and curious. It is only through time and experience that our priorities shift.

If you watch, make sure you watch it a second time with a more critical eye. Compare and contrast how the babies live and grow up. It might not dawn on you that there are a few scenes where how the babies are taken care of would be persecuted here in the states. But, the perspective through which you watch the babies grow up makes it all perfectly acceptable. And it should be.

The point of all of this is not to make you feel guilty. Though, if you feel guilty it is because you’ve identified something within your own life that your mind feels you should feel guilt about.

This is merely an exercise in perspective. A gentle reminder of how good you have it. What you are unhappy over many people would be thankful for. Yes, you have the right to complain, but you also have a responsibility to acknowledge everything you’re fortunate enough to have.

Approach life with enthusiasm. Be grateful for all that you have and can be because of where you were born. Protect the rights of future generations to have a happy childhood. And try to live, if even for a few moments a day, as if you were an infant. Be happy. Be loving. Be curious about the world around you. And try to maintain perspective when you’re feeling overwhelmed or unhappy. After all, It can always be worse.

Our Families Shape our Lives (And I am thankful)

I’m going to take a break today from discussions about food. I’m sure there’s a collective sigh of relief from all my readers, the few of you that are out there. Today I want to talk about family and being thankful.

I was blessed with two sisters and, although we didn’t get along all the time, we’re cornerstones in each other’s lives now that we’re adults. I don’t know what I’d do without my sisters.

I was also blessed with two loving and dedicated parents. We had rough patches and there were financial and emotional struggles, but through it all my parents stayed together and provided a stable and caring home. They raised us to help our family members and forgive any faults that might irritate us. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if they hadn’t toughed it out together; if they didn’t love each other too much to give up.

I am not a perfect person. I am well aware of this. I also don’t expect perfection from others. I give credit for that to my parents because they taught me that when you love someone, you love them, faults and all. I don’t know how to love any other way. I love my friends down to the bottom of my soul. I love my family the same way. I love my son’s father this way as well.

We’ve had some really rough times and we haven’t always dealt with them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes communication failed and things looked bleak. We’ve been round and round the rollercoaster ride numerous times now and somehow, we keep coming back to each other.

So I was asked the other day… “How many more times are you going to go through this?” and my answer, at least to myself, was “as many times as it takes.” I honestly hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes of the past but I know that even if we do, it was worth taking the chance. This isn’t a dream or make-believe, this is reality. Merging two lives together takes work. Making and sustaining a healthy and happy family takes even more. Anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy is a moron. Sometimes things fail and you’re left with scars. And sometimes you’re given the chance to mend what’s been broken. I honestly believe that if you don’t take those chances in your life you’ll always wonder “what if”.

I don’t feel this makes me weak. If anything, it makes me stronger. I have the strength to fight for what I want in my life, to face my fears and try not to let scars of the past hinder my future. We are family, together with our son, and that isn’t something someone should give up on lightly.

I saw this picture the other day in my news feed and was reminded again how solid my base for family and relationships is.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or stubborn, but I don’t believe in giving up. I do believe that most differences can be resolved, problems can be fixed, and that; through mutual respect and love; time can heal wounds. If nothing else I will know, deep down, that I’m living my life in a manner that won’t leave me wondering “what if”. And, in the end, no matter how things play out, my son has two parents who love him to the bottom of their souls.

Family provides us with perspective. How we are raised influences how we live our adult lives. I count myself blessed that I have such a strong support system, a solid example of how love can thrive in even the most trying of times. We all take different paths in this world and the only constant is change. But no matter how much you change you know that there will always be people who love you just the way you are.

Our son is going to grow up with similar examples, a variation of my childhood themes, and a supportive and loving family. I couldn’t think of a better way to raise our son than to teach him to lead with his heart, not let fears hold him back from attaining his goals, and to love without judgment.

I guess that despite all of my claims that I wouldn’t be; I’m very much like my parents. In all the best ways.

I took time today to reflect on the most important people of my life;  how they’ve helped me grow into the person I am and how I know they will continue to shape the person I am going to become. I am thankful every day of my life to be so blessed.

When was the last time you (really) sat down and thought about the people you love? When was the last time you thanked them for loving you just the way you are (no matter how many times you’ve changed)?

Oops… There goes my food budget.

Our Clean Eating adventure began with a trip to one of my all-time favorite Grocery Stores: Trader Joe’s.

It’s like Whole Foods meets Aldi and I’ve been in love with TJ’s for years, if for nothing else than the cheese section. It took over an hour and a half, which, if you’ve ever been in a Trader Joe’s, you know is a long time, because the store itself is fairly small when compared to other local grocery stores. I went over my budget, by like, a lot and there was a mind-boggling amount of label reading involved, but all in all I’ll happy with the way my fridge and cabinets are stocked right now. Whole wheat pastas, ethically raised chicken and beef, organic fruit, and a couple of really phenomenal cheeses. I’ve got almonds, cashews, pistachios, and hazelnuts to snack on. There are lettuces galore – all beautifully vacuum sealed in my fridge – and fruit a plenty.

Last night’s dinner consisted of hamburgers, made with 94% lean beef and seasoned lightly. They were served on lettuce wraps, not because we can’t eat buns, but because I forgot to pick some up and didn’t feel like running out to the store to read the ingredient listings again. Add in some organic sweet corn on the cob and a baked potato and it was a meal fit for a king. Not the most experimental menu item, but still rather satisfying.

One of our large challenges is going to be portion sizes. We’re allowed an almost unlimited amount of fruit and veg, but we’re as used to overeating on meat as the rest of the US.  The burger patties were pre-portioned, so we were allowed one each. Satisfying but not overly filling, we followed our meal up with a fruit salad for dessert. Fresh Pineapple, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries with no added sugar; it truly didn’t need any. Once all of the flavors mingled and we started eating my son’s father looked over at me and said, “This is probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my whole life”. That made me smile.

In addition to my excursion to Trader Joe’s, I’ve been picking up a few clean eating foods here and there the past month. I’m extremely pleased with one brand I’ve come across in particular. Bobs Red Mill has a line of products to suit our new dietary needs without sacrificing flavor in the littlest bit. As I was browsing the aisles in one of my local markets two weeks ago, I came across their line of products. All lined up on the shelves and minimally packaged in their clear plastic bags, and I was instantly smitten. I picked up the seven grain blend pancake mix. We had these for dinner last Thursday. I altered the recipe just a smidge and made them with unsweetened vanilla almond milk (about ¼ cup more than the recipe called for) to lighten up the heavy batter just a little bit.

They were amazing with just a couple of tablespoons of 100% all natural organic preserves. They were also unbelievably filling and I was only able to eat three 4” pancakes.

 

My adventure actually started Saturday when I started overhauling my kitchen supplies. Sure I was going to have to throw away a bin full of food I approached my kitchen with apprehension.

I took an inventory of my freezer and found:

Three bags of broccoli

One bag of Green Beans

Two pounds of baby scallops

2.7 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 pound of ground chicken

8 Salmon Filets

1 Salmon Steak

Two Ahi Tuna Steaks

A pound of lean beef steak

And a couple of bags of frozen fruit.

I cleaned out all of the non-clean-eating friendly foods and donated them to my parents and other family members. I’m happy to say that there is nothing left in my kitchen that doesn’t meet our clean eating standards and I didn’t have to throw away much at all.

I gave up all the powdered drink mixes, baking mixes, cereals, processed boxed entrees and “instant” sides. Still, when I go to grab a snack or pack my meals for work, I don’t feel deprived. Almost any recipe I love can be adapted for clean eating and I have a fridge and pantry completely overflowing with nutritious clean eating options for meals and snacks.

My finances recently took a hit (with all the days and holidays off deducting hours from my paycheck) and I’m going to be watching every penny for the next few weeks but looking at what I have available for meals, I don’t feel broke in the least.

In fact, the burgers we had last night were topped with a cheddar cheese that was so decadent that I almost feel rich. If you have the ability to get to a Trader Joe’s, I highly recommend the Londoner Cheddar. It’s white cheddar, medium sharp, and it just melts in your mouth. Slightly tangy, it’s got a very mellow after bite and it went phenomenally well on our lettuce wrapped burgers. With cheese like that you don’t need mayo or ketchup. Just add a slice of heirloom vine ripened tomato and you’ve got a meal bursting with complex flavors to tease your palate.

I even found a clean eating indulgence. I LOVE peppermint patties and was actually upset that I’d have to give up my York brand (along with snickers and balance bars) but I came across a version that TJ’s carries made only with Dark Chocolate, Honey, and Peppermint oil. I daresay they’re actually superior to the York version and I couldn’t be happier.

My son’s father got a good laugh out of my Vacuum Sealer binge, in which I vacuum sealed just about everything perishable to extend refrigerator shelf life but, since he’s benefitting through the fresh and tasty meals I’m making, he was smart enough not to make any wise-acre comments. Now, if I could just get my finicky almost three-year old on the “let’s eat something other than bread and cereal” train, I’d truly be over the moon. One day at a time, I guess.

 

A Warrior Woman Rises!

Warrior Dash was amazing. I’m totally hooked. Not a fan of the running part, mostly because I slacked off the last couple weeks with my running program, but I loved the obstacles. I feel like I zipped through all of them. Next year, however, I want an earlier run on the first day. By my wave on Day 2 the course was destroyed and there were numerous times where I had to proceed with extreme caution, including an entire half mile where I feel like it took me 20 minutes for what should have taken 5. But, I finished in 1 hour, 6 minutes and I completed every obstacle.

Fire Jump

I moved like I had blinders on, my only concern with forward momentum. One of the last obstacles, a steep hill rope climb with wooden slats to help you up, had a line at the bottom. For good reason too, it was at the end of the half mile mud disaster and the wooden boards and rope were completely slicked over with slimy mess.

 At the far edge I noticed there was no wait… there was also no rope. After a quick survey of the climb itself I decided I could barrel through with no rope. Carefully placing my feet on the bottom slat I reached up and forward to grab the next slat so I could get a foot hold on it. I spider crawled my way up to the next level of muddy mess until I was through. As I waited for my teammates at the top, I treaded carefully to a quasi-dry patch to catch my breath and exhaled in victory. I was three obstacles and about .2 miles from the finish. That last half mile of slipping and sliding through the mud took a lot out of me, but I felt accomplished. The rope wall climb, the horizontal cargo net, the rock climbing wall, the barbed wire army crawls… it was all so much more fun than I expected.

 I can’t wait until next year. I’m going to get my running up to par and then next year I want to finish time under 45 minutes. I also want to fund raise as a Warrior for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s a great cause and I feel that these challenges need a higher purpose for me to find them truly satisfying. This year I donated my shoes (which were in okay condition prior to the race) to Green Sneakers for cleaning and reuse. That coupled with the fact that this was my first race (of ANY KIND, let alone off-road obstacles) made finishing a very satisfying accomplishment.

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished!

My shopping for my “clean kitchen” continued yesterday with an enormous grocery trip that consisted of 4 dozen cage free, vegetarian fed brown eggs (on sale for 2.49), about 25 lbs of fruit and veggies, 10 lbs of chicken, and 4 pounds of steak. Now I need to spend a day cooking, portioning, and freezing meals for the next two weeks. Which will put me into my deadline of July 1st. If I can keep it to 150 every two weeks, I’ll be ecstatic. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to over-run my budget on occasion. On the plus side, the 4th of July is coming up… this is my favorite time to stock up on post-holiday sale meats. Two years ago I purchased 77lbs of various meat cuts for 82 dollars. Portion Packaged and frozen, that purchase lasted me 9 months. I’m hoping to repeat that this year… though I might need a deep freezer by the time I’m done.

After resting following Warrior Dash (glad I took a day off of work) I’m looking at my finances and my schedule so I can plan my training program. I’ll let you know how that pans out.

 Hope everyone is enjoying this early summer weather as much as I am!!

Always challenge what you think you’re capable of. You’ll probably surprise yourself with the results!

The SHIT they put in our food and other highlights.

By now it should be quite clear that I am not a writer. A poet, I used to be. A mother, I am most definitely. A woman striving to live the “good” life, absolutely. I share what I feel is worth sharing and sometimes I blog to clear my head.

Today is a little of both. I haven’t blogged in a while and my brain is swimming with thoughts I need to express; some of which may actually be worth sharing.

Progress, on almost all fronts, has stalled to a certain degree. Following a money crunch, I couldn’t re-up my fitness classes this session. And, without appointments to keep me on track, I got lazy. Well, as lazy as one can get when you still have a two-year old to keep up with and a life to live. I’m not gaining or losing weight and my clothes still fit great, so I’m not going to sweat it too much. I know I’ll get back into my classes because I enjoyed them so much and I actually miss them.

We took a family trip to the Dells, where I formed a whole new obsession for Bikinis. I now have four of them. My reasoning is that I’m looking for the “Perfect” bikini. But, since I’m limited to JC Penney (where I can charge them) I doubt the “perfect” bikini is going to be found this season.

My little man, who is so close to being 3 that I don’t want to call him 2 anymore, started swimming on his own during that trip. Safely bundled up in his life vest he now kicks and paddles back and forth from mommy to daddy and back again. He jumps off the short ledges, disappears under the water, and pops back up with an enormous grin on his face. It brought tears to my eyes. Bittersweet, proud, and sad tears that only a parent could fully understand. My beautiful little man is growing up and these “little” days will be coming to an end way too soon.

Warrior Dash is this Sunday and I’m fairly certain I’m going to die. But not before completing it. I’m more worried about the heat (projected high of 92) than the running; and the obstacles just look like fun to me. If I can finish under an hour I’ll be happy. But, yeah, I might die afterward. If I do – at least I’ll die with a smile.

I’m preparing for July 1st, when my new, back to basics eating habits are fully enacted. I’ve been cleaning out my cabinets and fridge, trying to put new practices into place in increments and cleaning out all the “junk”. I’ve always been an enthusiast for whole foods. But I’ve been accepting of the “junk” in our lives as a necessary evil or perhaps, just a familiar friend. But as I more actively read labels, more and more products go back on the shelves permanently. Mac and Cheese? HOLY CRAP. Bye. I can make that from scratch in the same amount of time the boxed stuff takes.

I realized that the whole grain, high fiber, super yummy, no HFCS, etc bread that I buy from Trader Joes goes bad in a matter of days if I don’t keep it in the fridge. At first this upset me. Then I realized – wait for it – REAL FOOD SHOULD GO BAD IF NOT REFRIGERATED!!! I know, right. It was like a super startling epiphany. It is NOT natural for bread to sit on your counter for two weeks and not sprout mold. It’s not natural for it to stay soft for two weeks without refrigeration.  There’s a lot of things about our food that we’re used to that isn’t natural. In fact, it’s biologically, ecologically, and chemically just wrong!

And at the same time, there are other things that work in the reverse. Fresh eggs, just laid, can last for weeks (over a month) on your counter or in the coop. But, once washed and processed, they must be refrigerated and they keep for two weeks – Max. I watched an episode of “how it’s made” that included Eggs and it infuriated me. Now, keep in mind that I already buy cage free, organic, humane brown eggs but was willing to substitute regular eggs when money is tight because there’s a big difference between 88 cents and 2.49+.  Not anymore.

Hens (which normally have a life span of 8-16 years depending on the breed and living conditions) are kept in an environment where they are exposed to artificial UV light 24 hours a day, to simulate daylight, and fed a steady diet of hormones, both of which increases egg production. They lay 1-2 eggs a day (normally the best breeds lay a max of 1 egg a day or an average of 1 every 36 hours) and reach the end of their “useful” lives after only 72 weeks. Do the math, that’s a little over a year. And then, of course, they’re sent to slaughter where their unnaturally large chicken breasts (sometimes over a pound each) are sold to consumers for 3-4 dollars a pound.

I’m sickened. Truly, some days I think I should become a vegetarian, because the way we treat the animals we consume makes me sick to my stomach. But I’m far too honest with myself to try becoming a vegetarian. What I can do is purchase meat from animals that have been humanely raised, organically fed, and ethically kept and slaughtered. I already did this when I could afford it. Now, if I can’t afford it, then I either eat less meat or none at all. I can’t keep contributing to the artificially low-cost of meat that is achieved through such heinous methods. It’s a personal decision, and one I came to surprisingly easily.

This will mean some tweaking of my budget come July, because in addition to getting rid of all products that are highly processed and cooking from scratch, I now have the added expense of higher quality meat and eggs. I’m hoping this will balance out with the lower cost of fresh veggies, grains, rice – etc. We’ll see.

I don’t understand how we became so accepting of all of this, pardon my French, shit that we allow in our food. In a relatively short period of time in human history we moved from a 100 percent natural diet where even canned goods were generally homemade to a diet that is 85% chemically or genetically modified. And we wonder why we’re fat. Evolution hasn’t provided us the genetic tools to digest this garbage we’re stuffing into our bodies any more than it’s provided us a way to clean the pollution from the air before it goes into our lungs and our bloodstream. How is it that at the same time we learn more about the human body and how to keep it healthy, the more processed and polluted our food becomes. Technology is allowing us to learn so much more – but it’s also allowing for the development of all this shit that’s going into our food. We were healthier in our food habits back when the human race, in general, didn’t know anything about how, why, or what was healthy.

You wanted to eat, you had to cook. I bet it was a lot easier to eat less (for example) potato chips, when you had to obtain, peel, soak, and fry your own. Hence the logic behind my new lifestyle… When you think about food and snacks, you’re more likely to reach for fruit, vegetables and nuts if the alternative is time-consuming prep work and cooking. That should be reserved for major meals. And if all you have in the house is healthy snacks, you won’t be eating a full bag of potato chips or M&Ms, because they just aren’t there to be eaten.

This isn’t a diet. It’s a return to the way we were meant to look at food. It’s a return to the way we were meant to eat food. And it’s going to be difficult as hell for someone who was raised on a “modern” style of eating. I’m not going Paleo, or Atkins, or Southbeach or whatever trendy title is being thrown around. I’m just trying to get back to the natural way of eating for humans. Fruit, grain, nuts, meat; Less additives and processing and more real food.

I’ve also been looking more into the future of my education. I want to go into Nutrition. Period. I don’t know how I’m going to manage the internship that’s required to get my R.D. but, that’s two years away – minimum. So I’m not going to borrow trouble. I’m just going to pursue my dreams and do what I can, when I can, to make things happen. If it means I have to get my Masters (which usually includes the internship) and take out a huge student loan to live on when I do it, then so be it.

I’ve always been fascinated by the different nutrients, vitamins, bacteria, and acids that occur in food. I find it amazing the way they work inside our bodies and I honestly feel that I’ve finally found my calling. So I’m going to reach out with both arms and step into the unknown. I’m going to hope that, through sheer stubbornness, everything works out.

I’m also looking at buying a house – but I think I’ll leave that story for another post.

Women: Our Sisters; Our Enemies. It’ Time for Change.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The only thing holding women back is other women”. It is absolutely ridiculous the way women feel they have to compete with each other by tearing each other down. Snarky comments, unwarranted insults, callous judgment; we’re terrible to each other. What we don’t see is that it’s not only hurtful toward the person you aim it at, it’s self-detrimental as well.

I get that we’re conditioned from birth to be the prettiest, to compete for the attention and affection of other, to be jealous of any girl/woman who has something we covet. But at some point in time, we all grow up. One would think that in growing up we’d be able to teach our daughters, nieces, siblings, etc… to be better women.

The other day I saw a heavier woman jogging on the side of the road. A few years ago I would have thought to myself  –  “Keep going girl, lord knows you need it.” Now I think “Good for you, keep it up!”

It took years of mental conditioning to go from criticizer to cheerleader. We pick on each other on the basis of looks, weight, personality, intelligence, fitness, clothing, boyfriends/girlfriends, occupation, gpa, parents, siblings, children, child rearing practices… the list can literally go on and on. Every single nuance of your life is open for criticism so that another woman can benchmark and unconsciously rank herself against you.

She’s prettier than I am: -1pt

Her house is larger -5 pts:

She drives a nicer car: -3pts

 She’s got much larger boobs: – 1pt

but

Her husband is fatter than mine: +3 pts

Her son got a D in English, mine got an A: +6 pts

Her nose is crooked: +4 pts

Her lawn looks like crap: +3 pts

Her ass is sagging: +6pts

If we could count cards in Vegas the way we tally our social ranking as women, we truly would rule the world.

The problem is, we don’t keep it completely internalized either. The above tallying would converse something like this:

“You look great today, Sally , are you trying new makeup? I don’t know how you keep up with your mortgage payment, don’t you every worry that John will lose his job and you’ll get foreclosed on? The leather seating in your car is so extravagant, it’s too bad it’s not available on my car, but you know my car is eco-friendly, so no animals were hurt in the process of building it. Do you think that much cleavage is appropriate for our outing today? I mean, we’re heading over to a “play-date” so my son can help Johnny Jr. with his English homework. Speaking of Johnny Jr., it looks like all this studying has him behind on his chores, I couldn’t help but notice your lawn is overgrown…. Oh, Johnny Jr. doesn’t handle that? Please tell me John won’t be out there mowing shirtless again. Maybe all of us could hit the Gym together later, I mean, I go every day so my ass doesn’t start sagging.”

And this would be the conversation between “friends”. Can you imagine the out-and-out hostility between people who don’t know each other?

Even with as enlightened as I try to be, I rank myself without thought sometimes. It’s hard work to deprogram a habit you’ve had ever since your school friends pointed out that you were still carrying a Teddy Ruxpin lunchbox when they had already moved on to Barbie or Rainbow Brite. These habits start in grade school. Even my optimistic self can’t conquer them overnight.

When I catch myself rating what I have, how I look, or anything else about me, I have to pull myself back. I have a great family and supportive friends, I’m active and fit and healthy and I’m providing my son with the best foundation I possibly can. I have to work harder at not judging myself than I do at not judging others.

How much do you judge others? How much do you judge yourself? Is there a male perspective out there you can share with me?

Women, answer me this, why can’t we be one large sisterhood? Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality with men in the workplace, in the political world. They fought for the freedom of choice. We can choose to work. We can choose to vote. We can choose to raise our children as we see fit.

Why, when they struggled for this equality, do we now see fit to terrorize other women based on their choices or even worse, on their looks?

The next time you feel you have the right to judge another woman, think about whether or not you’re doing it just to make yourself feel better. Seek out your own insecurities and attack them with the same vigor you attack other women and maybe, just maybe, we can finally take a step towards building a web of support and cheering on other women that changes the future of womanhood for the following generations.

Smile sympathetically at the woman whose child is having a meltdown in a public place instead of shaking your head in disdain.

Cheer on the woman who has the confidence to jog in public for working to better her health.

Be supportive of a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or bottle feed, or co sleep or detachment parent.

Embrace the crooked noses, the uneven skin tones, or any other physical trait that makes a fellow woman unique.

Spread laughter and acceptance so that you can reap laughter and acceptance in return.

To any woman who reads this who has ever been judged by herself or others, let me say “I accept you, I support you, and I will cheer you on as you struggle to make your path in this world. Be happy with who you are and I will be happy for you as well!”

Just my thought of the day.

The 30 Day Challenge

I consider myself diet conscious. I try to eat right. I’m working on exercising more. I have a keen interest in nutrition and the holistic benefits of natural food. I’ve considered going vegetarian, but confess readily that I’m an omnivore so it’s unlikely to happen. I devour nutrition books and information the way other people shovel down French fries (figuratively speaking). I know what’s good for me, I know what’s bad for me, and I strive for moderation and balance.

Even then, I know that it’s not quite enough.  And, because I am easily distracted, I know I’ll never step my game up and meet my own standards of food unless I challenge myself to do better. So today, I’m thinking, it’s time to start planning. It’s going to take planning before I can implement my 30 day food challenge. It’s going to take preparation and the steely resolve of the truly determined.

Unfortunately, I cannot achieve everything I would like to. Veggies and fruit completely grown at home (or at the very least through a crop share), Amish Chicken raised locally on a sustainable farm that produces equal quality in their cage free eggs. A diet completely lacking in refined sugars and flours that doesn’t sacrifice taste. A handsome, half naked, tousle-haired Australian chef to do all of the cooking for me – because I do NOT have this thing people call “free time” often enough. Clean counters, cabinets and refrigerator shelves that house only the easiest, most nutritious snacks and meals. The list goes on and on… truly.

Current Progress

I gave up sugary drinks as a child because soda makes me sick to my stomach, literally.

I love broccoli, spinach, kale, lima beans, green beans, black beans, white beans, cucumber, bell peppers, and tomatoes. I strongly dislike carrots but I eat them because I know they’re good for me. I’m not a fan of corn and avoid it whenever possible.

I cut back my coffee intake, even though I drink it black, to help my sleep schedule.

I drink, on average, a gallon of water a day.

I eat a ton of fresh fruit, veggies, yogurt, eggs, and chicken.

I exercise a minimum of 4 times a week for 45-90 minutes each time.

I get approximately 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

I have reached the point where I consistently consume the 1250 calorie minimum I set for myself (this was a big one for me.).

The New Plan

Remove all refined flour items from my diet. No crackers, white pasta, cookies, etc. 100% whole grain from here on out.

Remove added sugar and sweeteners from my diet as much as possible. This means checking labels and deciphering the ingredients.

Adhere to portion sizes strictly.

Reduce intake of highly processed food.

Add two fish meals a week.

Institute a “meatless” day of the week.

Reevaluate my cabinets, counters, and fridge contents. Donate or pitch any items that don’t meet my new goals. Stock shelves with handy snacks.

Increase and diversify my vegetable intake; shop at local farmers markets when possible.

Maintain workout schedule.

Maintain water intake.

The Hurdles to Overcome

All of this sounds easy, until you consider my life and the people in it. We can start with my 2 year old son, who is on what the doctor calls “the white diet”. Common for children his age, he eats only chicken nuggets (fried with smooth batter texture), chips, crackers, and pretzels. We have tried everything with him. My parents even stopped arguing with me when they saw how he would sit there and refuse to eat, even after having fasted all night while sleeping, for three hours. He’ll honestly cry for three hours and refuse to eat ANYTHING that doesn’t fit on his personal approved list. I kid you not. He doesn’t eat cookies, candy, ice cream, Jell-O, or even cake, because he has “texture” issues with them. That’s one difficult factor.

The next factor is my parents who, bless their hearts, feed me dinner about 3-4 nights a week because I work and am in school 9 months out of the year. Typical dinners include a lot of white pasta, heavy sauces, and double portion sizes. Add in my sister, who is a huge believer in eating healthy but also a faithful Herbalife user who, (no offense because I love her to death) seems to think that I shouldn’t eat two of my daily meals, I should drink them instead.

My best friend and hetero life-mate is also my partner in crime. We have the ability to support each other in our goals, but also tend to rationalize and justify each other’s slip ups. This is a double edged sword, but I wouldn’t give up time with her for the world.

Then there is my son’s father. He’s a healthy guy who’s lost a lot of weight, toned himself up, and is running a new business as a personal trainer. He’s a great inspiration and adheres (mostly) to the chicken, rice and veggies rule of weight loss. He’s also my biggest deterrent in this, because I cannot stand the idea of eating the exact same thing 3 – 6 times a day, or worse, the same meal for breakfast, the same lunch, the same dinner, etc… every day. If my meals are that boring and repetitive, I’ll never make it.

An additional complication is that I spend so much time shuffling from my place to my son’s father’s place, travelling with an overnight back twice a week. Whatever I eat has to travel well.

The Planning

Now, I know that people overcome obstacles worse than these all the time but we are all different and, knowing myself as well as I do, I know my own limits.

Here is where the planning comes in. I purposely set a start date for this challenge of July 1st, over a month away, to give me time to get over the stress of training for Warrior Dash as well as give myself some downtime following a rough spring semester. It gives me time to purchase items I need and organize my life and living space better. It allows me to investigate and collect recipes. And all of this allows me to formulate a plan of attack for the food prep I’m going to have to do every Sunday. Because that is pretty much the only day I have each week to prepare my meals for the week.

I’m going to need to pack a full day’s meals every night before bed. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, etc.  On days when I won’t be home I have to pack or plan dinners for me and my son’s father.

I have to figure out how to accommodate my son’s picky eating (which our doctor says he’ll grow out of eventually) without tempting myself.

And, more importantly, I have to get the people I love on board with it. They don’t have to join me, but I don’t need them unintentionally sabotaging me either.

I’ll keep you all posted with updates as progress is made. And, if anyone has any recipes or ideas to share, I’d love to see them!

Keep Calm and Tread On.

 

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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