Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two words I would outlaw

If only...

Tell me I'm not the only one who has had an "if only" moment, or day, or week, or...

I often get caught up in the cycle of second guessing past decisions or not being happy with where I am in life. I think "if only I had chosen a different career path" or "if only we lived in a better neighborhood." Usually my "if only" statements are followed by a silent "then I'd be happy." And I know in my mind that those things wouldn't bring me happiness, just another "if only."

The "if only" I've struggled with all my life is my weight. If I had a dollar for every "if only I weighed less", I'd be in the 1%. It has been my own thinking and actions that have caused me to stumble in this area. I've often thought that people wouldn't want to talk to me because of my weight, so sometimes I come off as snotty. My freshman year when I didn't get elected to student council I was sure it was because of my weight, so I never tried again. I'm the one who has let it be a hindrance in lots of situations. Recently I've been doing so much better with accepting the blessings of my life, realizing that none of them have to do with the size of my waist, and pursuing living healthy rather than living thin.

But yesterday that old "if only" came back. It ruined my day and sucked my time away. I've actually been meeting my goals with exercise and nutrition, but for some reason yesterday was one of those days when I felt like the size of my thighs was inversely proportional to the content of my character. And I just couldn't shake it.

That's not to say if I am sitting in a pile of poo, that I don't need to move. (examples: poor health due to lifestyle choices, dead end job, unhealthy relationship). Recently I had blood work done and everything came back great, except my HDL cholesterol. I've never had a problem, but it was abnormally low. I know I need to improve some things in my eating to help raise this number back up to reduce my risk for heart disease. And I am making those changes, slowly so they are feeling like part of who I am and want to be. And I'm not going to just sit and think "if only my HDL was normal..." I'm going to do something about it.

It's that line between finding contentment in who we are and challenging ourselves to smooth out our rough spots.

Another "if only" I've always had has been "if only I could sing..." then I could inspire people with my music...or be a rock star. I used to pretend I was a singer/dancer with New Kids on the Block  (wow, lots of disclosure today!) It is one if only that I haven't lost too much sleep over. But today's workout is "Just Dance"...so if you'll excuse me, the Spice Girls need another member.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I quit!!!

Alright. That's it. I've had it. I'm not going to participate anymore. I'm taking my ball and going home.

I'm talking about dieting. For over the past year I've been on a quest to try to lose the last 10-15 pounds of baby weight (well, let's be honest and call it “too many doughnuts while I was pregnant” weight). I tried lots of stuff. Meeting with a friend weekly to set goals. She lost 25 pounds, I lost 5. I tracked calories. I worked out...lots. I ate healthy. I became obsessed and discouraged. I bought new workout equipment. I ate vegetables, lean protein, protein drinks, drank water, gave up pop...and still I stayed in the same 5 pound range. Every week (or day) I would get on the scale and weigh...and let the number dictate my day. I would spend hours researching on the internet...looking for true research, not just the latest advertising in a $55 billion a year industry that has a 95% failure rate. So why was I stuck? And why did I care?

I'm not sure about #1. Maybe I cheated too much. Maybe there's something off in my body chemistry. I am about 15 pounds lighter than I was through high school and college. Maybe my body likes it here.

#2...well, come to find out, I don't (much). I realized part of the reason I wasn't losing is I actually don't mind how I look. What really matters to me more is how I feel. Energetic. Healthy. Friendly (something I'm not always good at when I'm tormenting myself with a scale). A few weeks ago I realized that my husband likes me as I am, and the torment of an arbitrary number was doing me no good.

So I gave it up. No more stepping on the scale (well, not for a while anyhow). No more counting calories or trying to carry out crazy exercise programs.

Does that mean I just get to sit on the couch watching Glee and eating bon bons?

Absolutely not! First, I prefer oreos over bon bons. And second, that doesn't help me feel energetic, healthy, or friendly. I am choosing to eat in a healthy way, but in a way that I can maintain. I am choosing to participate in daily exercise, but not to the extent that I tear up my knees any more than they already are. I am setting weekly goals for exercise and eating healthy but my success is not determined by the number on a scale. Completing each daily goal that moves me to a healthier me is the success.

I'll be honest, it's tempting to step back on the scale. But I've been hitting my goals and I feel great. If I were to step on that machine, it may show no difference and make me totally throw my hands up and say “bring me the oreos!” I also catch myself reverting back to spending too much time looking up extreme exercise programs and eating plans, neither of which I will be able to maintain for a lifetime. I want to spend my days enjoying life and the people around me...not jumping from one diet to the next or erasing carbs from my diet only to gorge on a chocolate cake the next day.

So diet industry, I'll keep my money. Your success rate sucks anyhow. But cultivating habits that last a lifetime...that's worth investing in.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mom cleaning

Some people engage in spring cleaning. The Jewish people go through a process of deep cleaning in preparation for Passover. I am an adopter of "mom cleaning".

What is "mom cleaning?" It is my feeble attempt to thoroughly clean my house before my mom visits. I have already been cleaning for a month, and my mom doesn't arrive for 10 more days. I walk through my house, imagining what she would see that needed to be cleaned once she arrived. The first several times my mom came to visit out here she spent a good portion of her time cleaning things that I didn't really consider vital at that moment: light fixtures, air ducts, the thing under my fridge. Oh, I would clean them when I would notice them, but apparently not often enough. And my mom is a kind go-getter. When she gets in one of her cleaning whirlwinds we call her Edna after her grandmother that often had to be busy, too (and she lived to 96 in good health, so I guess it's not a bad thing). She won't comment that my vents need to be cleaned. She'll just find a screwdriver and the vacuum and go to it.

So her last couple visits I have done my best to preempt her. Alas, with two small children its hard to stay on top of the laundry and dishes, let alone to take down all my light fixtures and wash them. Yet I feel compelled to clean as much as possible. Its my way of saying "I love you." Every time I talk to her on the phone I let her know I'm cleaning in preparation. When we get ready to visit in December, she'll do the same (although I NEVER go around cleaning random areas of her house, but maybe...)

So in the spring time when the urge to clean my windows hits, it usually passes before I get the chance to knock much off my list. But rest assured when mom comes to town I'll do my best to rid the home of every last dust bunny.

Friday, October 7, 2011


There are times in your life when someone comes along when you realize they had been impacting you for a long time. Enter Steve Jobs.

(Okay, so I know in the 24 hour news cycle, my reflections are a little outdated. But they keep whirling in my head, and I really need that space for more important matters.)

I was in elementary school when I was first touched by Steve's brilliance. Who doesn't have fond memories that black screen with green writing. Oh, the Apple IIGS. You could make cards and banners with print shop (on an equally amazing printer that took forever and made lots of noise...but at the time it was Ah-mazing). We never had a computer ourselves, but I loved using the computer in the homes of my friends who were lucky enough to have such a modern marvel. I learned to type on his machine in 6th grade keyboarding. Nothing like practicing "quid pro quo" over and over again. That iconic piece of machinery was also the spotlight of a robotics documentary from my 7th grade year.

But I never gave a thought to who created it.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. Fall 1996. MASH bash at my house (a little get together after our performance of M*A*S*H). We watched Toy Story. I wondered "why are we watching a kids show?" But it was funny. And good. Begin the Pixar age, which was being run by Jobs. Now 15 years later, my house is home to many Pixar movies and figurines. Not that the characters were Steve's creation, but the company itself (that Steve owned) revolutionized the animation world. And as the parent of two small children, I am thankful.

It wasn't until 2003 or 2004 while playing trivial pursuit that I was introduced to Steve Jobs the man. The question was about what guy in the computer field wore jeans and a black long sleeved t-shirt. I had no idea, but a few people in the room did (computer lovers mainly). This was also about the time the iPods started becoming popular. And more popular. And newer versions.

We've never been early adopters of Apple products, out of budget reasons more than anything else. But I do love my shuffle and 4th generation Nano (which is considered "old" by now). And right now I'm typing on the MacBook Pro Andrew bought after graduation. And I couldn't understand why he'd want to spend that much money on a computer, but I have to admit...I love it! It is beyond question that Apple puts out great products. We've sort of become numb to the technology. But just imagine showing the iPhone to your 1985 self.

Reflecting on Steve's life an influence, I can't help but be amazed at the amazing job he did at branding. One Apple commercial that I linked on my facebook page is "The Crazy Ones", and it ends with "Be Different." But deeper than that, it was really saying more. Apple's message seems largely to be "Be Different. (Like everyone else, buy an iPod (or iPad or iPhone)". Job's knew that we all want to be part of something bigger, so those who adopt mac products feel we are part of a group. I haven't read this elsewhere, but I also suspect he knew of our narcissistic nature...think of the name of the products. And the fact that the products are (for the most part) intuitive. In our consumer driven culture, it really is all about us. And Jobs tapped into that. It was also by design that most of the products, at least in perception, are "outdated" in a short period of time.

Business leadership teacher Ken Blanchard says: "Profit is the applause you get for taking care of customers and creating a motivating environment for your people." I gave my applause to Steve in his lifetime and with every running workout I am thankful for his innovative spirit.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The amazing power of Windex

If you ever watched "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", you'll remember the bride's dad thought Windex was good for everything. At the time this totally perplexed me. At that stage in my life I can't say that I owned any Windex (or even the off brand, I'm a generic kinda girl). I did have one little mirror to clean in my apartment, so maybe I did. But I definitely had never cleaned any windows. When Andrew and I got married he owned like 4 or 5 bottles of Windex...why, I'm not sure. I still never washed windows until about a year ago when I realized our windows flipped in so I could easily wash them from the inside. It's a glorious job that doesn't have to be done five minutes later...like my kitchen floor or the laundry.

But that is not why I like, no love, my generic window cleaner. About a year ago I was painting my nails for a date...and I dropped hot pink fingernail polish all over my carpet. Polish remover just resulted in a spreading of the product. So a quick internet search revealed a few options...I tried windex. Sprayed on the spot and then blotted. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And guess what? No pink floor. Since then I've used it to take pen and maker off the rug (I do have 2 little kids), and some blue yogurt.

It cleans windows (although my technique leaves a lot to be desired). It cleans mirrors. It gets some crazy products out of my carpet. Now if only it would do my laundry...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Pharisee in me

Friday night was a momentous occasion on our household; I took Anni to her first football game. I almost got teary eyed on the way to the field. So much of my life and happy times has centered around those 100 yards. It was a chilly evening, but we came armed with several blankets. Anni was nestled under a blanket with her friend eating popcorn. Suddenly her friend moved a bit and the blanket fell off. Someone sitting next to them said "oops, you stole her blanket." Immediately Anni says "Number 8 is 'do not steal'", referring to the 10 commandments. She just kept looking ahead, eating her popcorn, yet her words were spoken as if she herself had not fought with her brother over a toy or disobeyed her mother that day. We all got a chuckle, but at the same time it made me think of the times when I have been quick to judge someone's behavior without thinking about the things I had just done that were just as wrong.

Another time I was taking her to school and she said "mom, you have to learn how to not sin like I have learned not to sin." Wow, quite the feat for a four year old.

This morning our pastor preached on one of my favorite passages: John 9. It is where the Pharisees are asking Jesus if the man born blind had sinned or if his parents had sinned. It has always been an encouraging chapter in times when there has been sickness, hardship, or death and we may question "Who sinned? What did we do wrong." Jesus tells them, neither had sinned, but that the blindness was so the "work of God could be displayed in his life" (John 9:3). But today I read on. I mean I had read on before, but had never really linked them. After Jesus heals the man of his blindness, the Pharisees do some investigating to prove that the man was a faker, or for some way to prove Jesus false. As they question the man we see the following exchange starting with the man (formerly known as the blindman):
"'If this man [Jesus] were not from God, he could do nothing.' To this they replied, 'you were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!' And they threw him out." (John 9:33-34).

Today was the first time it struck me that this man who had been healed was later tossed out by the Pharisees. That no only were they trying to judge and trap Jesus, but they also condemned this man for his belief because it disagreed with theirs. Weren't those Pharisees always ready to cast stones...and they were none to happy when Jesus called them out on it.

I would like to think that I'm not like the Pharisees, that I let God be God and let Him be the judge. But I know that too often I am like the Pharisees. Sometimes on spiritual matters "I can't believe they call themselves a Christian and they (you fill in the blank)", and sometimes on matters that have no eternal consequence. My sister frequently reminds me that before I had children I swore my kids would not watch TV (hahahahahaha!)

I just pray that every time I pick up that stone to throw it that God would convict me to drop it and remember where I myself would be without Christ in my life...and to never say "my kids will never...."