When God Speaks

I’ve been struggling in my professional life to find my place for some time now. I am college educated and have a mind for business. It runs in the family. But because of, well- life- I’ve ended up in government on the operational side of things providing support for executives. It’s easy work for me, but I feel like there’s something more I’m meant to do and I’ve struggled to figure out what that is. What is my contribution? Where should I be using my skills? Do I need new skills? Can I get a bigger pay check too while we’re at it?

I’ve been asking myself the same questions for well over a year now and in the last few weeks I began to wonder if my focus is wrong. Perhaps my contribution is not my “work.” Example – I thought I may need a new job in a place that has lots of opportunity for growth and movement so I’ve been searching and applying. I’ve applied for 12 jobs over the last 6 months and have only had one interview. That’s significant to me because with the exception of one (that I can remember), I’ve gotten every job I’ve ever interviewed for, if I even had to interview. I’ve been very fortunate in that way and I’m grateful for it. So when something that has always been so effortless suddenly isn’t, I have to step back and say, “what’s going on here?”

The place I wanted to work also involved a lifestyle change for my family. I would become a commuter. That meant no more quiet mornings on the couch with my baby because I’d have to leave the house before he gets up, getting home later, eating dinner later, more things to do in the evening to prep for the next day, and more responsibility on my husband around the morning routine. Although it required some sacrifices, the benefits seemed worth it. I mean who can argue with a 2-1 retirement match? Ironically, the longer time passed the more I have questioned if this pursuit is right for me. Do I really want to give those things up? Can my family really handle that change? On top of that, the normally peaceful city in which I wanted to work is having a crime surge like I’ve never seen in my lifetime! It’s really unbelievable.

I also thought maybe I need new skills. So I researched and applied to go back to school. Simple right? Since I already have a bachelor’s degree, getting a second undergraduate degree takes less time and typically is easier to get into. I can skip all the general ed requirements and go straight to the good stuff. I met with the program advisor who welcomed me graciously and even mapped out a plan. I submitted my application and……..nothing. A process that normally takes no longer than 3 weeks has taken 3 months. To this day, it’s still not complete. I’ve requested transcripts, paid fees, and it’s still not done. Three weeks is now 3 months for reasons I can’t explain. Sign?  As a person of faith, I tend to think so.

And then something unexpected happened. Someone with whom I had a casual friendship at work had something horrific happen in their life and I knew all too well how that felt. My heart ached for them. Suddenly, I found myself in a place where I was able to offer real support and share resources I used during my own dark time. It almost felt like my duty and fragments of bible verses began to bubble up in my mind…. “all things work together for good,” “be imitators of God,” “build one another up,” and “bear one another’s burdens.” If I had left this place, I wouldn’t have been here to lend that support, give encouragement and hopefully provide hope for their future. What a humbling experience.

As if that wasn’t enough, through normal daily conversation with my boss, we discovered that we have been mulling over and dealing with the same things, spiritually. Praying the same prayers and making similar insights into our lives. I was shocked……and then it hit me. Though I may not be in this place forever, right now this is where God wants me  and it’s where he’s using me. My workplace contribution, my need to do work that “matters” is already present. I just didn’t see it. It’s been a lesson in humility and even more so, one of contentment. I don’t have to wear a power suit or be the boss or make six figures to make a difference in this world and neither do you. Listen and pay attention in your life. Your gift-your contribution-may be right in front of you. God may be giving you glimpses of it here and there. We just have to pay attention.

xo

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Goodbye Coffee?

coffee

It seems absurd that one little cup- 16 ounces- could have such a hold on a person. And yet here I am faced with real emotion about the suggestion of giving up my morning cup of coffee in the name of health. Health, you say? As with many things there is evidence supporting both sides of the debate on whether or not coffee is beneficial. But did you know that for people with gluten sensitivity coffee is one of the most common cross-reactive foods? Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, also known as The Paleo Mom, provides a lot of information on The Pros and Cons of Coffee discussing everything from inflammatory properties, issues for celiacs and the debate on caffeine. For people like me who need to reduce inflammation and also love their coffee, the verdict is pretty clear.  And pretty sucky.

To put it mildly, I don’t want to do it. But I know I may need to. <insert heavy sigh here> While I’m not technically in a full blown autoimmune thyroid state, I am quite symptomatic. The hair loss is REDICULOUS and frankly, it’s getting on my (and my family’s!) nerves. It’s quite annoying to be picking long blonde hairs off of everything ALL.DAY.LONG. Add that to an already enlarged thyroid, thyroid nodules, the presence of thyroid antibodies in my blood, a consistent 97.1 waking body temperature and always being tired, there’s reason enough to start following the AIP protocol which does not include coffee.

I’m trying the tea thing and it’s ok, but it’s not my creamy cup of coffee. I mean come on man, I already gave up dairy! What more do you want?! WHY does behavior change have to be so hard? And why can’t I be one of those people who can eat whatever they want and not have to worry about weight or health? Curse you genetics!! I would say my rant is over, but I may just pout about this for a while. I may or may not even be planning to stop by the coffee shop in the morning for one last farewell. Does this mean I have a problem?

I’d love to hear from any other AIP followers and how you got past the coffee vice – or anyone else who decided to kick the habit for that matter. My hat’s off to you. I also want to hear about reintroduction, if you reintroduced it at all andhow long you had to stay away.

Sincerely,

Your pouting friend

Magic drinks, super pills & the easy cure

Everybody likes a quick fix. The latest Marketdata Status Report & Forecast for the US Weight Loss market values the industry at $59.8 Billion. BILLION….with a B. That includes diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs, commercial weight loss chains, OTC meal replacements, diet pills, diet websites & apps, medical programs (including prescription diet drugs and bariatrician plans), low-calorie dinner entrees and diet books. I bet you see a commercial or advertisement for one of these items at least daily. Probably more.

I didn’t look up the research on estimated ad exposure but speaking from my own experience, I have been inundated with “try this, it’s amazing!” marketing lately. And while some things seem like a total joke, I realize not every product is bad. What bothers me is our mind-set. Regardless of how amazing a drink, a supplement, a bar or whatever else may be – at most it should be a TOOL for your health journey. Not the answer. Overall health is comprised of so many facets, many of which we neglect. For example, how is your sleep? How is your stress level? What kind of food are you eating? Do you get any exercise? What about environmental toxins? Do you consider all of these when you think about health?

The supplement and pharma industry is what irks me the worst though. The “Am I hungry?” commercial kills me. How sad it is that we have let ourselves become so out of touch that we can’t even tell what physical hunger looks like anymore and expect a pill to help us. Yeah you may have gut issues (which should be taken seriously) but popping your magic probiotic alone isn’t going to fix everything. Your probiotic won’t do much good if your diet is still heavy on processed foods. Did the sales rep tell you that? You also can’t balance overall blood sugar level with a pill or drink while not even talking about what you’re putting in your mouth the rest of the day. I don’t recall seeing that as part of the ads either.

From here, I could take this discussion in two directions: One – stop accepting these quick fixes from an industry out to make money off of you. YOU’RE SMARTER THAN THAT! Or at least you can be if you would just start asking questions. Two – You don’t need magic pills. You need a better diet. There’s more to health than food as I said above, but diet is the primary place to start. Clean up your food and you’ll clean up your body. Furthermore, unless you’re ready to change the habits that got you to the place of un-health to begin with, those magic pills won’t be doing you much good anyway. You might as well plant them out back and wait for a beanstalk to grow.

Now before all my friends who endorse a certain product(s) or company disown me, I will say again not every supplement is bad. There are some great products and great companies out there that truly offer a health benefit to their customers. But to the others-please don’t try to sell me your products as a cure-all when we both know they’re not. If you, and the weight loss industry in general, want to benefit the American public, let’s start a conversation about behavior change and healthy food and THEN, how your products supplement that. Huh…what d’ya know?

Finding the Balance

It seems like I’m on a continuous journey of trying find balance, create balance and maintain balance. Work, kids, husband, sports, exercise, cooking, self-care, career development, hobbies, leisure/family time, personal time and everything involved in taking care of a home-cleaning, laundry, landscaping, etc. There is a LOT to do and figuring out that routine during the week can be tough.  And just when I think I’ve got it figured out…… something changes and we have to start all over. Have you ever felt this way?

Every choice of how you spend your time comes at a cost, but when so many things seem equally important how do you choose what makes today’s cut and what falls by the wayside for another day? More importantly, how do you protect your mind and spirit from the stress of it all?

It’s a puzzle I always seems to be working out, but I have at least learned one thing along the way….. Time is a valuable commodity and being so limited, fill it with family and time for yourself FIRST. As a mom, that has been a hard lesson to learn (and I still have to stop and remind myself at times) but if you don’t take time to nurture yourself, you will not be at your best. You deserve to be your best and your family deserves the best you; so take care of yourself. Please. Next, spend time with the people you love. Your babies will only be babies for a second. The laundry, the dusting – it can wait until the weekend.

For those a little on the OCD side, I know that hurts. 🙂 So here are a few practical tips for the “big 3” as I call it that we try to implement at our house. I’d like to point out that I have a wonderful husband who probably does more housework than I do and I’m grateful for that. Taking care of a home and family is definitely easier when you are part of a team but married or single you can make it work with some planning.

  1. Cooking – Try to pick out at least 5 recipes to have for dinner that week. Plan your shopping list around those 5 meals and take a few hours to prep as much as you can. I typically meal plan on Friday, grocery shop early Saturday morning and prep food some time on Sunday. Anything you can wash, chop, thaw, marinate or even cook for reheating will save you time during the week. Also, by getting to the grocery by 8am on Saturday, I can avoid a crowd and not take up too much time in my day.Also, get a few quick recipes under your belt that you can make in 30 minutes from items you keep in your pantry. There will be days you need a quick backup. Stir-fry is great because it is so versatile. Plus if you have a choice of chopped veggies in your fridge, it makes it that much faster. Spaghetti (either with noodles, veggie noodles or spaghetti squash) is a great quick option too.
  2. Housework – we’ve tackled this a few different ways. Sometimes my husband and I will “power clean” on a Saturday morning to try to get it done as quickly as possible, each taking a different task. When we have weekend plans, we may try to do one task each night during the week so everything is done by Saturday. Typically we try to do laundry throughout the week to keep it under control. Even one load a day or every other day is a big help. Putting away clothes? Well, that’s a different story.
  3. Exercise – My husband is so good and so disciplined about getting in exercise. He usually goes right after work or will often do cardio during his lunch break and a lifting session right after work. I, on the other hand, haven’t quite found my groove after having a baby this past fall. That needs to change.  It’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot this last week, so I’ve developed a new strategy I’ll be trying out on Monday. With a baby and everything else I have to do during the week, finding time in the evening to exercise never seems to happen. So I’m going to take advantage of my lunch break and use that time as fitness time. Yes, it will be a bit of a pain to have to clean up and go back to work for the afternoon, but I don’t really want to give up any more evening time with my family, so this is the best solution for me.

Remember –  how you spend your time is your CHOICE. I choose not to give up any more evening time because that time with my family is important and I don’t want to add another daily activity that takes me away. By the time we pick up kids, get home, feed the baby, have dinner and clean up it’s usually time to feed the baby again then get everyone ready for bed. Exercising at 8 or 9 pm isn’t my idea of fun and who has the energy to do that anyway? My health IS important to me though, so I have to find a way to make it fit into the puzzle. So, lunch time it is.

Finding balance in your life is a continuous cycle and I don’t always win. There have been days that felt like rushed, stressed, unorganized chaos. But I’ve found that if you actively manage your time and your choices, those chaotic days are fewer and life seems to flow more smoothly. I like that feeling a lot better and so will you.

Until next time….

Alien Invasion

For the ones who follow my blog (thank you) you already know that I’ve been MIA for a while.  Sorry about that, but it seems I’ve encountered an alien invasion that has affected my energy, my sleep, my drive, my appetite….basically everything.  In other words, I’m pregnant.   While this is not my first alien encounter, I am 8 years older this go around and as much as I hate to admit it, I am feeling the effects of being “of advanced maternal age.” GASP.  I’m not even 40 and this is my categorization.  As if my hormones weren’t crazy enough, this is enough to make any woman cry.   Thankfully for my husband though, that’s only happened once so far.  🙂

While I’d love to tell you that it’s been blissful and I’ve started doing all these lovely things in preparation, all I’ve really done is sleep.  I am soooooo tired.    My first pregnancy was great!  Sickness?  What sickness?  Fatigue?  Not at all!  I felt great pretty much until month 8 when I transformed into the StayPuff Marshmallow man thanks to pregnancy edema, but that’s another story for another time.  THIS time, I just want to sleep. And sleep some more.  I don’t want to cook which is like blasphemy in my house and my poor family is really getting sick of commercial crap.  And while I’m doing my best to stay active, my husband has to practically bribe – no drag – me to get out of the house.   All that said however, I am extremely grateful and thankful that baby and I are healthy and everything is progressing as it should.

Since I obviously haven’t been writing, the one thing I have been doing with my time is taking up couponing which is a learning experience in and of itself.   Having a new member in the family and my personal need to be super-prepared has made me want to save all the money I can.  I am definitely still a rookie and don’t really want to become a crazy stockpile-a-holic, but it is nice seeing 50-60% savings on your groceries and household items.  I’ll have to do some posting on that soon.  And after an upcoming vacation, I will actually start on the baby’s room and will do some sharing on that, though I promise not to inundate you with baby talk.

So until next time, thanks for hanging in there with me and I will do my best not to wait months before my next post though…yawn…. I make no promises.

The Great Motherhood Debate

It’s an age-old barrage of questions for moms – Do I work outside the home?  Do I not? If I work, what level of career should I have?  Am I a bad mom if I have a career through their childhood?  Am I being true to myself and my abilities if I don’t?  Do I push myself to be all I can and reach that high level job?  Or do I just “coast” for a bit, still contributing income, but able to leave work at work when the day is done?   What will my children and what will our family be missing if I don’t stay with them?  It’s enough to keep any mom on a roller coaster of guilt so dizzying, you’ll feel that first trimester nausea all over again.

It’s been a while since I’ve written; almost 3 months.  And in that 3 months I have completed the first trimester of my second pregnancy and found myself in this same conversation when my first child was born 8 years ago.  What’s best for my children?  What’s best for me?  It doesn’t help that I’ve been questioning my career path for the last year anyway.  Add a new baby in the mix and a new layer of questions arise as well.  But it’s not a new debate for moms.

Gone are the days where the economy made it easier for women to decide to stay home and take care of the children and households.  Not to mention social expectations were different.  Since I have never really been one to care much about social norms or what others think, that doesn’t really play a role in my mental argument as much as the economics do.  For me it’s a debate of 1. is it what’s best for our family? and 2. can we afford it?  Even the order of priority for those questions is a debate.

First, let’s talk finances.  What I hate is that as women in America we even have to have this debate.  In many other countries around the world, maternity leave for working moms is PAID.  But here in America some women can’t even take off work a full 12 weeks to be with their newborn because they simply cannot afford it.  Talk about back to work guilt!   If you’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy those first 12 weeks with your baby you’re then faced with the decision of whether or not to return to work, but for many, it’s not really a decision as much as it is a necessity.

Today’s economy doesn’t make it easy for middle class families to live comfortably (and I mean fairly modest) on one income, yet families still find themselves in a paradoxical financial situation. While it’s not affordable for one parent to stay home, families also now have to come up with $600-$1000+ a month for child care depending on how many children are enrolled when the parent does return to work.  More guilt, but this time add financial stress to the mix.

On the flip side, if you are able to financially afford to stay home with your children the question looms in my mind about retirement.  How would I continue to contribute to that?  I have to prepare for the future.  And what about my degree (that I’m still paying student loans on)?  I always thought of myself as a career minded person and always ambition.  I know I have things to contribute.  But I also love my kids and want to be there for them.

As I get older, I see the value of having someone at home to care for the kids and take care of the home, so that when the entire family is home at night, you can actually  have family time. Perhaps we wouldn’t be so exhausted all the time if we didn’t have to squeeze in time to exercise, have dinner, get homework done and oh yea…all those other responsibilities that come with having a place to live – laundry, cleaning, yard work, shopping, etc., in the 3-5hrs per night we have after working all day. And let’s not forget about the extra time needed for any sports or activities the kids or parents may participate in. I think sleep is supposed to somewhere in there too….

I guess I’m just venting and complaining that it feels like I have to choose, but yet don’t really have a choice.  I have to work.  While my husband has a wonderful job, it’s not feasible at this point for us to be a one income family.  So choice made.  But it really wasn’t a choice and here comes that guilt again….   While we are fortunate and have the luxury of our new baby being cared for my family, and while I enjoy my job, being mentally stimulated and knowing I have a means for retirement, it still doesn’t make it any easier to think about not being able to be home with my kids and what we both will be missing from that.  I know people do it every day and I know there are MANY families who have MUCH tougher choices to make than I, but it stinks that I have to miss another summer with my son sure and it sure is gonna suck to leave that new baby at home…..

Maybe one day it will be easier to make choices that create more balance for families.  Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you manage this internal and sometimes not so internal debate.

 

The lovers and haters of CrossFit

More and more, I am noticing a growing social commentary on CrossFit.  I find it extremely interesting that there seems to be a love/hate attitude toward the increasingly popular fitness regime with each side leaning toward the extreme.  Fascinating.  I’ve seen many a typical gym lifter dis CrossFit and the “skinny” folks who claim to be able to push so much weight.  Someone with those skinny legs couldn’t possibly squat more than you, right??  Or the Facebook disdain that you have yet again tagged yourself at your box (CrossFit gym) or heaven forbid – you sport a logo shirt or window decal.  Why the hate?

I have to admit I don’t understand it.   Is it insecurity? Does someone “flaunting” their healthy habits perhaps stir up some discomfort with you?  Or worse, do we by nature not enjoy seeing someone else’s happiness and success?  I would hope not.

In my personal CrossFit experience, I haven’t seen fellow CrossFitters take on the attitude of, “I’m better than you because I do this.”  In fact, that’s against the very nature of community for which CrossFit stands.  That sense of community and support is actually one of the reasons I was drawn to CrossFit in the first place.  Your biggest competitor is you.  There is no judgment from others – unless you’re doing something wrong and your coach will fix that, stat.

So I find it intriguing that there is this backlash from some out in the social media world.   So what if we are proud of what we do?  Aren’t you?  Doesn’t it feel good to accomplish a fitness goal you didn’t think you could or didn’t even think was possible?  So what if we sport logo shirts or a decal on our car?  Do you not support things you are passionate about as well?  And if we tag ourselves every single time we’re at CrossFit, SO WHAT?  Do we not have to see your location and public diaries as well?

I don’t want to be hateful, but I just find this whole rhetoric dumb.  If someone has found a fitness community they feel comfortable in, actually engages in fitness activity on a regular basis and is taking strides to good health, why would anyone judge that negatively?  Why would you not support that?  CrossFit may not be for everyone, but nor may be running, traditional lifting, yoga, dance fitness, boot camps or (fill in with any other fitness regime).  Each person has to find a fitness regime that’s right for them – whatever that may be.  Let’s just applaud each other for doing something for our health and feeling good about that.

And if after all this you still wanna hate on me because this former gym lifter likes Crossfit, well…..  too bad for you.  I feel good when I lift heavy weights or do more reps than I thought I could and I feel proud of myself for getting though that workout every time I leave.  It’s an accomplishment to me and I’m not about to apologize for that.