Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Friday, December 16, 2011

FREE Book!

At this time of year, it's easy to get stressed.  With all the decorating, buying and wrapping gifts, throwing and attending parties, traveling, and so on, it's easy to forget yourself and get lost in stuff.  Next thing you know, the holidays are over, you're exhausted and thrilled just to go back to your regular routine, without even having enjoyed the holidays!

This year, try something different.  Make an effort to stay calm and enjoy all the events associated with the season.  How?  One way is to read the book that I wrote with my best friend and her daughter.  It's a step-by-step plan designed to keep you focused on what's important at this time of year.  The book is featured below and it's FREE!  One less thing to worry about.

Chapter 1:  Don't make the choice to feel stressed.

Chapter 2:  Just Say No

Chapter 3:  Eat More Turkey

That's it!  That's your holiday less-stress plan.  Now get out there and enjoy the holidays.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Take A Moment

My, it's been a while since I posted!  I guess I've been so busy that I just let this slide, but I enjoy sharing ideas and thoughts with others, so I'm going to make a better effort.

What with Thanksgiving, family visiting, family crises, and the upcoming holiday, this has been, and continues to be, a busy time of year for me, and probably for you as well.  I think we should take a moment to just be.  Enjoy that coffee.  Listen to that favorite song.  Laugh with your friend over a silly joke.  Take a walk.  Take a nap.  Let all the stress go.  All the demands on your time will be there when you're done taking care of yourself.  We don't know how long we have on this Earth - would you want to spend what theoretically could be your last day stressing about something?  Then don't.

Sit back and enjoy the moment with this song by the great Stevie Ray Vaughan (R.I.P.) and his brother Jimmy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Keep Moving!

In a previous post, I wrote about some health lies we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better about our habits.  Today I want to address the topic of just how much exercise you are getting.

One way we are told we can burn more calories is to take the stairs or park further from our building.  Now if you live or work in a building with 20 floors, I'm sure that's good advice.  But in my town, the tallest building we have is probably only 3 or 4 stories tall.  And considering that climbing stairs burns about 5-10 calories per minute (depending on weight), I might burn all of 30 calories going from basement to top.  That's not much.

Instead, consider finding an activity you enjoy and doing it long enough to make a real difference.  Here's a handy chart for you to look up the calorie burn for some common exercises. [Calorie Burn Chart]

Of course, using the stairs is still a good idea and we should all do that when we can.  Now if we only lived in a 20-story walk-up with stairs like these:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You Have the Right to Remain Silent....

I'm sure we've all heard the Miranda Warning on our favorite cop show.  It's a Supreme Court mandated way of ensuring individuals who are arrested are aware of their rights.

..."Everything you say can and will be used against you..."  That's the portion that has a tendency to creep from the legal world into our everyday lives.  You probably have a friend or family member like that.  They remember exactly what you said on October 12, 1975.  Or how you reacted when you got mad at them and every angry word you said.  And they make sure to remind you of just exactly what those words were.

I think it's safe to say that we all have said things we regret.  Sometimes we regret them the minute we hear them come out of our mouths; other times we regret them when we calm down.  Whenever we come to regret something we said, however, we don't want that friend standing there reminding us of just what was said.

So is the solution to issue a "Friendship Miranda" to people to let them know we're going to hold everything they say against them?  No.  The solution is to learn to let things go.  Forgive.  Forget.  Move on.  If a friendship is worth having, then you should not be holding words against one another.

Don't Mirandize your friends and family.  Let them off the hook.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Where Have You Been?

Goodness, it's been a long time since I've posted anything!  I've had a busy summer, though, thanks to 2 main things.

1.  I taught summer classes for the first time ever.  I only did the B session, meaning 4 days a week during the month of July.  I taught 2 classes and you would not believe how exhausted I was at the end of every day.  I realized about 1/2 way through the semester that I was cramming the work I would normally do in 4 months' time into 1 month.  No wonder I was so tired!!

2.  My daughter was home for the summer!  Yay!  We had so much fun and it was so nice to have her and her boyfriend around.  We just took them back to the airport last week and I already miss them.

And of course, school started this week, so it's back to lesson planning and dealing with Blackboard (an online communication hub for schools that can be a blessing and a curse at the same time).

I'll try to get back to posting regularly.  In the meantime, please enjoy this musical interlude.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lie #1 - Diet Soda Cancels out Junk Food

As I wrote in my previous entry, we like to lie to ourselves because sometimes it's just easier.  Let's take a look at the first lie:  You tell yourself you can eat that cheeseburger and fries because you're drinking a diet soda.

First let's consider how many calories you need in a day.  That's called your BMR and you can find out more about BMR and how to figure yours here.  Let's say your BMR is 2500.  That means you need 2500 calories per day to maintain your current weight and activity level.

Now let's consider that cheeseburger and fries.  Obviously, where you get your burger is important, but let's just say you get it from Burger King.  Go here to pick your toppings and see how many calories you will get from that.  For example, a favorite of mine would be 710 calories.  Fries would be 440 calories (and that's for a medium).  Total:  1150 calories. 

Now I grant you that a regular soda would be an additional 200-300 calories, and diet soda is definitely better on the calorie count.  But seriously, can you afford to be eating almost half of your day's allowance of calories in a single fat-filled meal?  Probably not. 

We all love to splurge now and then on a burger and fries.  Just remember to not splurge every day or even every week.  You should probably limit these kind of high-calorie meals to once a month.  Perhaps even choose a lighter alternative and then you won't have to lie to yourself to feel okay.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tread Lightly...Those Are My Toes!

Lying can be a form of ego protection.  A defense mechanism.  We lie to ourselves because believing the lie is easier than making the change that would logically follow embracing the truth. 

Author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it like this:  "We do not err because truth is difficult to see.  It is visible at a glance.  We err because this is more comfortable."

I see this tendency to lie to ourselves particularly in the world of health and exercise.  With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy for the style, here is my list of health lies.

You Might Be Lying to Yourself If...
  • You tell yourself you can eat that cheeseburger and fries because you're drinking a diet soda. 
  • You think that taking the stairs in your building or parking a bit further from the office will substitute for working out. 
  • You say that you can't work out because of that pain in your head, the cold you have, or the ache in your back.  You say that you will work out when you feel better.
  • You decide that you're not really THAT overweight because you weigh less than some random stranger at the store appears to weigh.
  • You consider yourself to be healthy overall but you still smoke.
  • You think you are a safe driver but you don't wear your seatbelt or you speed regularly
Did you see yourself in that list anywhere?  I know I did.  In the coming days, we'll take a look at each of these lies, uncover the ugly truth beneath them and discover ways to make the changes you need to make in ways that you can live with. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Not my actual garden!
Mom and I planted our garden yesterday.  Yes, I know we're late - that's just how we are.  The massive spring rains kept us off her very damp ground for quite a while, then a variety of other poor excuses, but we finally did it!  We got tomatoes, squash, green beans, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, potatoes and flowers planted.  Now we just have to sit back and wait.

Of course, there's more to it than that.  Weeding, watering, staking, thinning.  But it will be worth it in the end.  I'm pretty excited.

I was looking at quotes for this entry and ran across this one:  "It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience.  It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn't a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong?  Maybe nothing."  ~Eleanor Perenyi

I really like that.  Not only because of what it says about our gardening efforts, but also what it says about life.  It's not always our fault when things go wrong.  Absolutely we should own up to mistakes and bad choices, but sometimes life just happens.  That's a good reminder. 

What lessons have you learned from your gardening efforts?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Series

Wow!  It's been a while since I've written anything.  I had a really busy end-of-the-semester and right before finals, my daughter came home for her summer visit.  Busy, busy!

But now that things have settled down a bit, I thought I'd get back to this blogging thing.  I changed my format earlier this year, having specific types of stories on different days.  (Read about the changes here.)  However, that's too regimented for summer.  You never know what will happen, so I'll just go back to my whatever-I-happen-to-be-thinking-about style of writing.

Some of the things I've been thinking about lately include:
  • Many college freshmen are woefully unable to write complete sentences.
  • Some people share information that is far too personal on Facebook.  TMI, people!
  • How can I incorporate more technology into my summer classes?
  • I need a kick in the butt to get back to working out regularly.  Thanks a lot, Achilles Tendon!
  • Maybe there are some life lessons to be learned in rock songs.
As for that last thought, I actually got to thinking about that during the Bon Jovi concert I attended in St. Louis this past Sunday.  Yeah, I know that's a weird thing to be thinking during a concert, but that's just how my brain works.  So anyway, I had the thought during the song It's My Life.  I really like the line, "I ain't gonna live forever - I just wanna live while I'm alive."  I know it was perhaps put more eloquently by William Ross Wallace when he said, "Every man dies.  Not every man really lives."  Either way, it's a good principle to remember.  This summer, while you're working, playing, swimming, fishing, and doing all the other fun activities we enjoy in Southeast Missouri, take that thought with you and use it to make your life and your relationships great.  Don't just exist.  LIVE!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fun: Sunshine!

It's been a rough spring here in Southeast Missouri.  A lot of my neighbors, students, and friends have had damage from the recent flooding.  But today, the sun is shining and the temperature is in the 70's.  My fun today is going to be taking a walk with my husband on this beautiful day.

Here's a video for this sunny day.  I hope you enjoy today and your weekend.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Fun: Lists & More Lists!

As I mentioned previously, I kinda like lists.  I'm not sure why - I guess they just seem orderly and I like orderly.  Over on another online community I belong to, Sploofus, we've had some recent conversations about favorite movies, books, and songs.  It's very difficult for me to pick only one favorite, so how about a list?  How about 3 lists?!!

Favorite Movies
  1. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
  2. Dead Poet's Society
  3. Manchurian Candidate (The original, not that horrible re-make)
  4. Johnny English
  5. The Princess Bride
  6. Clue
  7. Rear Window
  8. Dial M for Murder
  9. Witness for the Prosecution
  10. Star Trek (the new one)
Favorite Books 
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (there aren't a lot of books I re-read, but this one I periodically read again - it's just so good!)
  2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  3. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  7. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  8. The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston
  9. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  10. Everything Lee Child has written
Favorite Songs
  1. Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin
  2. Eyes of a Stranger by Queensryche
  3. Animal by Def Leppard
  4. Time by Pink Floyd
  5. Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
  6. Darkness, Darkness by Robert Plant
  7. Killing the Blues by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  8. Promises by Def Leppard
  9. Cold Shot by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
  10. Sign of the Times by Queensryche
What would be on your top ten lists?

Monday, April 25, 2011

More on That Monday: Friendship, Part 3

This is the third in a 3-part series.  Read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Making friends isn't always easy.  Especially once we're adults.  We still have all those same fears of rejection and they can keep us from reaching out.  I have found that there are two really good ways to make friends, though.  You should try them out.
  1. Re-define "friend" - I used to think my friends were only the girlfriends I hung out with.  In fact, friends are anyone you enjoy sharing time or communicating with.  My mom, husband, daughter, brothers and sisters-in-law are all friends.  The people I go to church with are friends.  The friendly people at the library are friends.  Former students who continue to share their lives with me via Facebook are friends.  Change your definition and suddenly you'll have more friends than you realized.
  2. Recognize your potential friends - I see the same people at the park when I go regularly.  We are all kindred spirits, pounding the pavement for personal reasons.  I've come to know some of them and though we only see each other at the park, they are my running friends.  Look around at the people you run into all the time and maybe that's your friends.
If all else fails, I guess you could always try the Friendship Algorithm.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Whatever Wednesday: The Ups and Downs of Being a Geek

This is quite a week for us Doctor Who geeks.  The down side is that we learned yesterday of the passing of Elisabeth Sladen.  Sladen played the investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who.  She first appeared with Doctor #3 back in 1973 and continued in the series until 1976, when she worked with Doctor #4.  Her character was so popular that she returned to the show several times and even got her own spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Sladen was 63 and died of cancer.  Sarah Jane was spunky, smart, sweet and funny.  I'll miss her.

On the up side, Doctor Who returns to BBC America on Saturday!!!  I am so excited about this.  My husband and I are working our way through all the old Doctor Who episodes.  (We're currently on the 5th Doctor's final season.)  We have enjoyed each actor's portrayal of the Doctor as each has had his own special way of playing him, ranging from Hartnell's professorial manner to Tennant's slightly manic, geek chic manner.  The newest Doctor, Matt Smith, plays the Doctor in a wonderfully wacky way.  He thinks bow ties are cool, he wears suspenders and pants that always seem slightly too short, and he laughs and smiles more easily than before.  But you still don't want to make the Doctor mad.  That has never been a good idea.  And now, the Doctor is coming to America!  How fun is this season going to be?  Very!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Motivational Quotes

I like to keep quotes around that keep me motivated and positive.  I post them on my crazy cork board, my magnetic white board, and cross-stitch them and hang them on my wall.  Here are some of my favorites.  What are some of yours?

  • You are a work in progress.  ~ Runner's World
  • It is not age.  It is not diet.  It is the will to succeed.  ~Jacqueline Gareau, marathoner
  • The vision of a champion is  someone who is drenched in sweat at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching.  ~Anson Dorrance, soccer coach
  • Pain is weakness leaving the body.  ~Attributed to Tom Sobal, snowshoer

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Whatever Wednesday: Book Review & Body Image

Saturday was a gorgeous day here in Southeast Missouri, so I decided to take a walk up to the library, which is only about 1/2 a mile from my house.  I browsed for an hour or so and picked up several books, magazines and movies.  One book, Body Outlaws, promised a look at women who were living happily within their bodies, no matter the shape or color; those who believe "self-acceptance is not defeat."  I thought surely this book would fit in perfectly with the view I try to bring to my life and to this blog.

Instead, I found essays by women so profoundly obsessed with their bodies and looks that I was aghast and disbelieving.

One woman wrote about her endless despair at her "brown face" and the perceived mystery behind it that seemingly allures and ensnares men.  For example, she is sitting in a restaurant crying to a friend about how men always stare at her while a man at a nearby table actually does so.  He leaves, comes back and tries to present the woman with earrings he has just purchased for her.  She just cowers and is flabbergasted.  "Oh, woe is me!  I'm so beautiful and mysterious that men want to get to know me.  Woe, woe, woe!" (Not an actual quote.)

How about opening up on this guy and letting him know that his actions are creepy and inappropriate?  Tell him proudly that your heritage is Indian and the Egyptian earrings he just purchased are not only way out of line, but way off in terms of ethnicity.  Tell him to get lost.  Have you ever considered that maybe you're just pretty and the ethnicity is part of that?  Be happy with your "brown face" and stop your friggin' whining!

Then there's the woman who goes off on Barbie dolls.  Sure, we've all met people who found these unnaturally proportioned dolls to reinforce negative stereotypes of women, but this gal took it to a whole other level.  She said Barbies "ultimately succeed where Hitler failed" by making people think that blond-haired, blue-eyed women are the ideal.  Wow!  There is just so much wrong with her thinking that I can't even begin to address it all.  Let me just say that she might want to seek some counseling to find out why she feels so insecure when comparing herself to a child's toy.

Then Body Outlaws continued on with essays about big butts, small stature, shaving and many other body image issues.  One common theme seemed to be that little girls learn at a young age whether or not they are pretty (read: important), and whether they are or aren't can scar them for life.

Maybe this is my age talking, or maybe it's that I never considered my looks to be my most marketable or lovable trait, or perhaps it's my inability to put up with shallow people, but here goes.  Get Over It Already!!!

To me, self-acceptance is not obsessing positively OR negatively about your looks.  It's about doing what is best for your health, making yourself as presentable and/or professional as needed for your job and your life, and getting on with things that matter.

In a world with a host of body image problems, Body Outlaws is actually just part of the problem.

Monday, April 4, 2011

More on That Monday: Friendship, Part 2

This is the 2nd in a series.  Read part 1 here.

When my daughter was little, she would often come home from school and tell us about a new friend she'd made.  She'd describe all the fun they had on the playground throughout the day, what they had for lunch, where the girl sat in the classroom - everything.  Then I'd ask what the girl's name was.  The inevitable response?  "I don't know."

I think we can learn a lesson from that method of making friends.  We need to approach the task with the reckless abandon of a kindergartner.  

Too often, we try to find friends who meet that pre-selected mold we have in mind.  That perfect fit.  When what we should really be doing is looking around us, at the people we encounter regularly, and seeing which ones we enjoy interacting with.  Which ones come to mind as you read that sentence?  Maybe she could be your new friend.  Who is it that you always share a joke with after church, or at work, or at the park?  Could she be a potential new friend?

Instead of expecting to find friends only in places that meet certain conditions, how about letting friendships occur naturally, the way they once did on the playground?

This week, see if you can make a new friend.  Reach out on Facebook, in the library, at the grocery store, at work, at the park, and offer to have coffee, take a walk, have lunch, or share contact information with someone new.  You might be surprised at your results.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Fun: Homemade Pizza

One of my favorite things about Friday is the new tradition (is that an oxymoron?) in our house - homemade pizza!  And what's going to make it even more fun today is that we'll be sharing with my wonderful mom, who is having her birthday today.

Starting your own tradition is easy.  Here's the recipe I use:

  • Add 2 cups all-purpose flour to your food processor.  (If you don't have one, you can do this by hand.  It's not hard, just the processor makes it sooo much faster.)
  • Add 1 teaspoon salt.
  • Add one package of rapid rising yeast.  (I use Fleichmann's and I found out recently that the kind that is loose in the jar marked bread-making yeast is really the same thing.  So use whatever you have.)
  • Put on the lid and turn on while streaming in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  (If you don't have any, just use whatever kind of vegetable oil you have on hand.)
  • With processor still on, stream in 1 cup of hot water.  Dough will be very sticky (depending on the weather).
  • Open processor and add in 1/2 cup flour, process again.
  • Continue adding flour by 1/2 cup increments until it forms a ball when processed.
  • Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed, until dough is soft and non-sticky enough to handle.  Usually this step only takes a couple of minutes.  Let rest while you make other preparations.
  • Preheat oven to 425 (Honestly, this is a guesstimate because my oven's controls are very iffy.)
  • Spread one tablespoon olive oil over large pizza pan.
  • Spread dough out on pizza pan, pressing rather than stretching, until dough is size and thickness desired.  (We cover one 16" pizza pan with this amount of dough)
  • Top as desired and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until desired level of brownness occurs.
  • Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

More on That Monday: Friendship

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.  ~Elisabeth Foley

Angie and I met at a church function when we were 15 years old.  We were two of very few girls in a huge room full of boys, so naturally, we gravitated to each other.  Next thing you know, we were friends.

Since then, we've gone to college hours away from one another, been separated by jobs and families that took up all our time, and we currently live 4 hours apart and see each other, on average, once a year.  We've weathered all kinds of situations and have remained friends through it all.

One day, Angie's daughter was asking about what things she and I have in common.  We don't generally  like the same movies, books, music or TV shows.  Confused, Samantha asked why we were friends if we didn't have anything in common.  Angie replied that we were friends because we like each other.  And that's all friendship has to be.

I don't like the societal standard that is out there in movies and TV about what friends should have in common.  They should be the same age, same gender, same socio-economic class, and they should enjoy sitting around a table drinking coffee or beer.  Oh, and there should always be at least 4 friends in the group.  Less than that is just sad.

Bull hockey!!  Friends don't have to have anything in common other than that they like each other.  Differences of opinion make for lively conversation.  And a different take on things can open up your mind, challenge your convictions, and lead you to new likes and experiences.

How did you meet your best friend?  What are some of the differences and similarities you cherish?

This is the first in a series about friendship.  I challenge you to follow along.  You might learn something.  You might even make a new friend along the way. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fun: Perfect Weekend

(I've had a busy week and haven't gotten to try out the new format yet.  Sorry about that.  I'll get with it next week.)

I woke up this morning to the sound of pouring rain and thunder.  And it's cold enough that I had slush on my windshield.  Bleh!

But what if it was beautiful this weekend?  What would make it a perfect weekend?  Here's what I would do...

What would make this a perfect weekend for you?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

I'm going to try something new with my blog.  It's a combination of ideas I've seen on other blogs and my own posting habits.  The new feature is that each day of the week will have its own theme.

  • More on That Mondays - These will be stories that are related or in a series.  First up:  friendship.
  • Talked Out Tuesdays - Tuesdays are my busiest day at the college, and I don't usually have much energy or time for blogging.  So I'll be posting only a video with no comment on it from me.  Might be a news story, or inspirational story, music I've discovered, or even a movie trailer.  You never know.
  • Whatever Wednesdays - These will be similar to my current format - just whatever I happen to be thinking about, whether it's health, music, books, or Doctor Who.
  • Thriving & Thoughtful Thursdays - I'll try to feature articles that make you think, encourage you to do something positive for yourself, or celebrate being in mid-life.
  • Fun Fridays - This will be like yesterday was, just a fun list, or a story, a survey, something fun to get you ready for the weekend.
  • Surprising Saturdays/Sunday - What will be the most surprising thing is that I posted anything at all!  
I hope you'll join me next week for my new format.  Be sure to comment and let me know what you think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Fun

I've seen several blogs and Facebook posts recently about creating lists.  The Music 30-Day Challenge, the ABC Posts, the Photo 30-Day Challenge, etc.  While I'm not too keen on actually doing any of these (because they always seem to include things I have no interest in) I do like the lists concept.  Lists are fun. 

So I decided to make a list of my Current Favorite Things (not in any particular order, just as I think of them).
  1. Pomegranate Lemonade by Crystal Light
  2. Supernatural on the CW
  3. Fringe on FOX
  4. Bejeweled 3 Butterflies
  5. History 112 (American History since 1877)
  6. Creating playlists in Media Player and on my MP3 player (Next up:  Road Songs)
  7. Learning to crochet
  8. Having a TV in the bedroom so I can watch the shows my hubby hates in peace
  9. The weather (since yesterday)
  10. My house post-spring cleaning
  11. My tweed blazer
  12. Going to the park for a run and finding it nearly empty
  13. My crazy, jumbled, crowded and colorful cork board
  14. Rock bands with awesome female lead singers
  15. Daylight Savings Time
  16. The Exiles
  17. Def Leppard (always a favorite!!)
  18. My Van Gogh "Sunflowers" copy
  19. Phone time with my BFF Angie
  20. Phone time with my daughter Carrie
  21. Phone time with Mom
  22. Blogging about favorite stuff!
Crazy Cork Board
An awesome rock band with female lead singer:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

If you're enough lucky to be Irish, you're lucky enough!  
~Irish Saying

Since today is St. Patrick's Day, I made sure to wear green.  Are you celebrating?  What will you be doing?  Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy your day.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Customer "Service"

I once worked at a franchise of a large corporation, which was eye-opening on many levels.  We were always having retreats, training, conferences and meetings, rarely accomplishing more than wasting time that could have been spent on actually improving our services.  But I digress.

I remember one meeting with our Corporate Liaison (THAT was a cushy job) where we were discussing customer service.  This liaison was always telling stories about the great customer service she always got from a particular hotel chain, no matter where she went.  (In hindsight, the fact that her best customer service stories were about another company should have been some kind of sign.)

She asked us to share what businesses we thought had great customer service.  My assistant chimed in with Walmart.  When asked why she thought they had great customer service, she explained that she was able to do one-stop shopping there.  Never mind that she totally missed the point of the question, and possibly the entire meeting, but she obviously had never experienced customer service of any kind at the store.

My gripe with the mega-center is not so much about customer service as it is with the attitudes of their employees.  For instance, yesterday my husband and I stopped in to pick up a few things and ran into some relatives we hadn't seen in a while.  We were chatting in an aisle and since there were 4 of us, yes, we were taking up the whole aisle, but we were in electronics and there were no other customers in the area at the time.  Then an employee bumped past us without an "excuse me" to get to the great unknown through the double-doors at the back of the building. 

Were we taking up the aisle?  Yes.  Did he need to go through those doors?  Yes.  Did he have to bump past us to do so?  NO!  He could have easily gone around to another aisle to make his way to the cave. 

And that's what I experience every time I go there.  An employee who thinks he has the right of way over customers.  An employee who won't move her cart full of things she's restocking to let customers get by.  Employees walking down the aisle, taking up the entire aisle, who refuse to move so customers can easily pass by.  If it weren't for the fact that they are cheap and so am I, I would never shop there again. 

Those who work in businesses that involve actual people should remember the motto that Corporate Liaison always told us, "A customer is not an interruption of our work.  He is the sole purpose of it." 

Here's a funny video of just how frustrating dealing with customer service can be.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning Something New

My Granny "Square"
I had an interesting epiphany the other night.  But first, the back story...

My mom has always made beautiful crocheted gifts for family and friends.  This past Christmas, she made scarfs for the guys and house slippers with funny googly eyes for the grandsons.  (She also made bead earrings for all the gals.)  I have two beautiful afghans she has made for me, as well as bags and other gifts.  I decided that I would like to learn how to crochet so that I too can give these gorgeous, useful gifts from the heart.

So last Sunday afternoon I had my first lesson.  You can see in the picture above the lesson I'm currently working on.  It's called a Granny Square and can be used as a base for making lots of projects, plus it includes several basic stitches I need to know to build up to bigger tasks.  The middle is mostly the part my mom did to demonstrate the steps.  The second row is the one I did while Mom watched and helped me.  The outer row is the one I did by myself at home.  Can you see the downward progression?

So while I was unraveling the third row for about the third time and starting again, I commented to my husband that I knew what I was supposed to do, but it just wasn't turning out how it should.

Then came the epiphany.

Being the type of person who pretty much only learned things for academic reasons, once I learned something, I was done with it.  Mission accomplished.  Subject mastered.

But learning how to do something physical is different.  You can know in your head what to do without that translating into your body coming along for the ride.  Successful body movement is more than just knowing "how" to do something, but instead takes practice until the muscles also "know" what to do.

Understanding this is so simple and yet so profound to someone like me, who lives inside my head.  But my body is more than just a way to get my head where it wants to go.  It is part of me and I must let it learn what it needs to know through practice and repetition.  So if I don't get it right the first time, whether it's crocheting or running or doing yoga, I just have to try, try again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Motivating Music

Whether I'm cleaning, working out, or heading out for a long drive somewhere, I like to have some music that gets me pumped up and ready to take care of business.  I'm always on the lookout for new songs to add to my playlist of motivational music.  Here are my latest additions and a bit about them. 

1.  Ali in the Jungle by The Hours.  I first heard this song on a commercial (see it here).  I really like the message of the song - we all get knocked down, but the key is when are you going to get up?

2.  Help, I'm Alive by Metric.  This is a song my daughter introduced me to and I not only like the tempo for running, but I really like the lyric "My heart keeps beating like a hammer." 

3.  (Geek Alert!!!)  An Awful Lot of Running by Chameleon Circuit.  This is what is known as TRock - Time Lord Rock.  The band only sings songs about The Doctor (from Doctor Who), who is a Time Lord, thus Time Lord Rock, thus TRock.  This song is a reference to the 2008 episode "The Doctor's Daughter" in which the Doctor's companion describes what the Doctor does, "saves worlds, rescues civilizations, defeats terrible creatures and runs a lot.  Seriously, there's an outrageous amount of running involved."

What songs do you find motivational?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Grow old with me!  The best is yet to be.  ~Robert Browning  

On this day dedicated to love and all things of the heart, I thought I'd remind you to take care of your actual heart.

Looking at several health sites, I find that the top advice for a healthy heart are the following:

  1. Eat plenty of fiber and whole grains.
  2. Avoid cholesterol and unhealthy fats (trans fats & saturated fats)
  3. Maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Exercise regularly.
  5. Find effective ways to deal with stress.
  6. Stop smoking.
 If you have someone special in your life, enjoy your day together.  If you don't have a significant other, then do something nice for yourself.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Video

One of my favorite Pink Floyd tunes.  Have a great Friday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chase Your Dreams

Some people follow their dreams; others hunt them down and beat them mercilessly into submission. ~Neil Kendall

My husband and I were talking about dreams yesterday.  He has a friend who is a musician with some local success who apparently is not getting as far as he hoped in his musical career.  He described his time with the band as "a waste of time."

I have to say, I disagree wholeheartedly.  I don't think that chasing your dreams, even if you never reach them, is a waste of time.

I would say that there is a very good chance that I will never make it to the Ironman Triathlon.  But does that mean having that as an ultimate goal is a waste of time?  NO.  I'm working on getting in better shape, which is better for my health, whether I get into a certain race or not.  I'm learning things about myself, better understanding how healthy food and exercise benefit us, and am coming to appreciate a host of athletes who are an inspiration.  That is not a waste of time.

Sure, there are times when we come to realize that it's time to give up on some things.  Maybe we need to move on to something more attainable, or healthier, or whatever.  And only you can make that decision of if and when it's time to move on.  But in the meantime, you are learning, growing, trying, and persevering.  So keep at it.  Chase those dreams.  Be better and stronger.  

Here's a video about dreams featuring the amazing Blue Angels.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Film

I just finished reading a book translated from the Swedish (see my book review page) and wrote about it this morning.  Since then, I've been thinking about Sweden, where my daughter lives, and all things Swedish.  So in trying to figure out what to post today, I decided to post my favorite little Swedish film short.

This was a project for a group of film students, one of whom is the brother of my daughter's boyfriend.  Mattis Hansson is his name and I wouldn't be surprised to one day see his name on the big screen.  This always makes me smile, so I thought it would be fun for a cold Friday.  Enjoy!

P.S.  The title translates to "road soul."

Monday, January 31, 2011

January Is Over???

Can you believe January is already over?  It seems like just yesterday we were writing our New Year's Resolutions, hanging up our 2011 calendars, and making plans for the brand new year.  And here it is one month gone.

So how are your resolutions going?  Honestly, mine are not going so well.  Between aches, pains and the weather, I'm getting nowhere fast.  I'm hoping February will be a little kinder so I can make some progress.

I did want to point out a few good links for those who are still reaching toward keeping a resolution or looking to check something off the bucket list.  I hope you find these helpful as we move into another month.
  1. Fitness.  Not everyone likes to get outside to work out and many people can't afford a monthly gym membership.  Did you know you can access workouts online for free (or nearly free)?  There's a whole website devoted to exercise called Exercise TV.  You can find mini workouts, full-length routines, and even fitness plans.  (Thanks for the info, Carrie!)  Or if you are a Netflix subscriber, you can access hundreds of workout videos.  Some can only be obtained in disc format sent to you, but there are some you can stream to your computer. 
  2. Healthy food.  It's not always easy to eat right.  Especially with birthday parties, Super Bowl parties, Valentine's Day, or just a normal weekend get-together with friends and family.  All these activities can really tax our efforts to stay on track.  But here are a couple of sites that can help you get back on the wagon, or keep you on it.  First up is Cooking Light's site.  The site focuses on great tasting food without all the fat and calories.  They currently have up lots of great ideas on how to trim down those Super Bowl favorites.  Another site I really like is Jamie Oliver's.  You may not know Jamie, but he is a chef (first known in the US as The Naked Chef because he strips recipes down to their basics.  Get it?) who is dedicated to helping people eat healthfully and encouraging schools to feed kids better.  He is all about good food made from fresh, preferably local, ingredients so you know nothing artificial or unhealthy is going into the finished product.  He has a great newsletter.  (I think if you sign up right now you can get a voucher for Naked Wines, a group of winegrowers with similar passions to Jamie's.)  Definitely check out his great site.
  3. Languages.  I know lots of people have "Learn a language" on their bucket list.  Okay, first of all, you need to pick a language.  Some people think they need to have a reason to learn a specific language, like for work or family.  But actually, it's perfectly fine to pick one just because.  Got your language in mind?  Swahili?  Gaelic?  Lithuanian?  Okay, now head over to Live Mocha and get started.  This is a free website for learning languages.  They use the same principles found in expensive programs, but it's all online and it's free.  They do have some courses you can buy, but for the general interest learner, there is no charge.  In addition, it is a cooperative community where you are graded by speakers of the language you are learning and, in turn, you help those who are learning English.  It's a lot of fun and so easy to use.  I've already completed Swedish 101 and am going to start 102 soon.
  4. Learn something new.  Studies have shown that learning helps keep our brains resilient and less prone to Alzheimer's and other debilitating brain disorders.  So consider learning something new.  A quick glance at my local community college's website shows 3 continuing education courses this week:  quilting, floral arrangement and digital photography.  Check with your local college or university to see what continuing education courses they have.  These are usually short, free or inexpensive courses that teach you the basics of a skill, craft or art.  Or maybe you want to take something more academic, but don't want to actually attend school.  Consider taking free online courses like those listed here.  You can download courses to your mp3 player or computer.  How neat!  I may download Ancient Greek History.  Or if you want a short, informative lecture, check out my favorite learning site TED.com.  The site is full or short lectures on everything from politics to music to art to humor.  It's an amazing site.
So there you have it.  A list of lots of great places to go to get started on your resolutions and/or bucket lists.  And all from the comfort of your computer chair.  What sites do you use to help you reach your goals?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Back on Track

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.  ~Stanley Crawford

School started back up for me last week, then was quickly canceled later in the week due to snow.  I spent the weekend with a headache, and just generally felt rotten.  Needless to say, I didn't get much exercising done, only a little yoga.

So this is going to be a good week to get back into the swing of things.  Temps won't be quite as low, no snow (fingers crossed), lesson planning is caught up, and I woke up headache-free this morning!  So no excuses for me.  I think I'm going to start on some upper-body strength routines, add in some miles at the park, and keep up the yoga.

What nice thing are you going to do for yourself this week?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Related Rant

You know what I really hate?  I hate those commercials where the person says that it's so easy to lose weight on the so-and-so system.  NO, IT'S NOT!!!

Sleeping late is easy.  Sitting on the couch is easy.  Watching TV is easy.  Snacking on ice cream and cake is easy.  Driving from one store to another across the road is easy.  Taking a nap rather than doing yoga is easy.  Easy gets us what we've already got.  Easy gets us a belly and big hips.  Easy gets us high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Easy gets us blocked arteries and heart disease.  Easy gets us diabetes.

Losing weight is HARD.  It's hard to change your lifestyle.  It's hard to eat healthy, nutritious foods every day.  It's hard to get up early to get in a workout before work.  It's hard to put down the remote, turn off the computer, and go outside for a run.  It's hard to make the changes in our lives that are necessary to lose weight, get healthy, and stay that way.

So stop lying to us, stupid commercial ladies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Big One

As I mentioned yesterday, losing weight or achieving a specific athletic goal is the number one New Year's Resolution each and every year.  It's probably on many of your lists this year, as it has been on mine in the past.  The thing is, there are tons of misconceptions about losing weight.

Put simply, in order to lose weight, one must take in fewer calories than one expends.  It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound.  That deficit can be created by eating/drinking less, exercising more, or some combination of both.  Let's begin by looking at the intake side of things.

Ask any doctor how to lose weight and you will be told, "diet and exercise."  The problem is with that word "diet."  The word comes from several old words, including the Greek word diaita, meaning "way of life," and the Latin word dieta, "daily food allowance."  In the 14th century, the word began to take on a meaning of restriction of food, and in 1650, diet took on the additional meaning "regulate one's food intake against fatness."

Today, a diet is that awful way of starving yourself half to death, making yourself and everyone around you miserable, only to lose 2 pounds.  And when you stop dieting, you gain it all back.

What we need to do is to take back the ancient definition of diet.  Your diet is your "way of life."  It doesn't mean deprivation and starvation.  Your diet is your way of eating and drinking.  Let's make an effort for that diet to be a healthy one.

Follow these links to learn more about good nutrition and a healthy diet from the U.S. Government, helpguide.org, UC Berkeley, and the Mayo Clinic.
Click here to read about the health impact of soda.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Ten Resolutions

There are different kinds of top ten lists - they can be a list of the most popular, most common, most frequent, most needed, hardest, etc.  My Top Ten New Year's Resolutions is a combination of a variety of lists.  I have ordered them by what seems to be the most common and the most needed goals.  I'll be blogging about these resolutions and offering some tips, advice, cautions, encouragements, and so on as the month goes along.

  1. Lose weight/achieve an athletic goal.
  2. Learn something new.
  3. Quit smoking.
  4. More quality time with friends & family.
  5. Save money/reduce debt/stick to budget.
  6. Read more.
  7. Volunteer/help others
  8. Get organized.
  9. Get a job/better job.
  10. Document moments of life's awesomeness.
 These all seem to be pretty good goals and I wouldn't be surprised to find that you have one or two of these on your To Do List for 2011.  Which ones are you considering giving the old college try?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Letting Go

The other day, I got into a conversation with a woman at the grocery store when she commented on the cough I am still getting over thanks to a recent cold.  She informed me that she, too, had recently had a cold.  She expressed the conviction that she'd caught her cold from standing outside in the cold for too long.

Now I'm pretty sure it is the 21st century and it is a well-established fact that colds are caused by viruses, and not by being cold, despite the similarity in names.  Benjamin Franklin knew back in the 1700s that the cold was transmitted by infected people to others via close contact.  Somehow, it seems logical to me that at this point in time that people would no longer believe colds are caused by being cold.

There are just some things we should let go of.

  • Archaic Ideas.  If science has proven something wrong, or true, just accept it and move on.  Colds are caused by viruses.  Hair does not grow back thicker or darker after shaving.  Chiggers do not burrow into your skin so putting nail polish on the bite will not kill them.  
  • The Past.  A friend told me about a loved one's comment that she would never let go of the past as it defined her.  But at the same time the loved one was saying this, she was failing to self-reflect, grow as a person, or take responsibility for her actions.  What's done is done.  Use your past to create a better future; don't use it as a crutch.
  • Toxic Relationships.  Every holiday season, you hear people complain about having to spend time with relatives they don't like.  My question is, why spend time with them?  Life is too short to put up with crappy people.  Decide if a relationship is healthy for you and take appropriate steps to do something positive for yourself.
  • Bad Habits.  As soon as you read those two words, something popped into your head, didn't it?  We all know what our bad habits are, why they are bad for us, and how hard it's going to be to change.  Accept that it won't be easy, remember why you should make the change, and take the plunge.  Rid yourself of bad habits this year.
Letting go of things could be your best move in 2011.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting Started

Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.  ~Confucius

Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.  These studies also indicate that the action has to be performed every day in that 21-day period to really stick.

Other experts suggest doing something for one month, since not everyone will stick to something new every single day for 21 days.

So what does all this mean for those of us trying to improve our healthy habits?  I see it as consistency and small steps.

If you are trying to make positive changes this year, here are some tips to get you started.
  1. Don't try to change everything at once.  If you want to stop smoking, eat more healthfully, and lose weight, you may want to tackle these issues one at a time.  You could become overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of trying to do it all at once and give up on all of it, never to try again.  That is not the way to go!  Pick one habit and work on that before adding another.
  2. You can do anything for one month.  Don't try to pretend you will never eat junk food again.  Just give it up for one month while you work on eating better.  Breaking time into months makes your objective so much more manageable and less daunting.  Plus if you mess up, there's always next month!
  3. Stop thinking of foods as good or bad.  Yes, you do want to limit high-fat/high-sugar foods.  But if you think of them as no-nos, you'll only want them more.  If you allow yourself to have the foods you want, in moderation, you will be less likely to overindulge.
  4. Write it down.  Whether you are going to work out 4 days a week, or want to eat healthfully, writing down your actions will help you reach your goals.  Seeing those blank days on the calendar will help you get out there and take a walk.  Adding up those calories will help you see how well you are doing and where you can make little adjustments.
  5. Give up the All-or-Nothing attitude.  Just because you messed up one day, one week, one month, or even one whole year is no reason to give up on yourself altogether.  Every day is a new day and you can start again any time.  Never give up.  Never surrender.  
  6. Find what works for you.  Some people will tell you that you have to go to the gym to work out.  Others say walk in your neighborhood.  Walk with a friend.  Walk your dog.  Buy a home gym.  Etc, etc, etc.  Truth is, for your new habit to stick, you're going to have to figure out what works for you.  I don't like running in my neighborhood because of the dogs and lack of sidewalks.  I don't like the Coliseum because of the walkers taking up the entire catwalk.  I don't mind the gym, but I'm too cheap to pay for membership.  What works for me is going to McLane Park.  It's the only way that works for me.  Figure out what is going to work for you.
  7. Don't expect miracles.  You probably are not going to lose 5 pounds in a week.  You may not lose 5 p0unds in a month.  But you are going to get healthier, increase your life span, decrease your disease risk, and feel more energized if you not only start up a healthy habit, but keep it for life.
You can do this!  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

You probably noticed that the blog looks different today.  I am the kind of person who has to change my computer wallpaper every month, so I decided to change the look of the blog for 2011, too.  I will still be writing about whatever interests me at the moment, so that has not changed.

Obviously, what everyone is thinking about today is New Year's resolutions.  Should you make any, what should they be, how long until you break it....

Remember that your resolution should be written as a goal.  It should be achievable, specific, and measurable.  Read more about the elements of a good resolution here.

For this year, I have several goals that are all part of the larger aim of getting in shape.  The things I want to do this year are:
  1. Double 2010's number of exercise days (102).  To do this one, I will have to exercise 4 times every week.
  2. Run another half marathon with a time of under 2:30.  That is a big goal, as my first half marathon time was 3:09 and I am no faster now than I was then.
  3. Compete in the Classic Amphibious Triathlon held at Wappapello Lake.  This would be my first, and though it's a relatively short triathlon (400 meter swim, 16 mile bike, 3.5 mile run), that still is a bit daunting.
  4. Consider trying my first marathon.  I am making this one very flexible because I'm not sure I will really be able to do this.  I've been recovering from an Achilles tendon injury and haven't run a step in months, so I will judge this one as I go through the year.  The marathon I am thinking of is the Heart of America Marathon held on Labor Day each year in Columbia, Missouri.
I am really looking forward to 2011.  I think it will be a good year and I am excited about my goals.  I hope you truly do have a happy New Year, as well.