Fitness Challenge – finished!

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I did it!  Our organization’s annual Fitness Challenge is in the books and under my belt.  As both a participant and one of the organizers of the Challenge, this month was full of all things nutrition, exercise, knowledge, and accountability.  I’ve only participated once before, but since I love to read and happened to recommend a book to the leader of the 2016 Challenge, my name was brought up during the planning stages for this year’s event as someone who could take the reigns and make it happen.  Reading takes you places, people!

For the month of January, we committed to exercise 180 minutes a week, follow a nutrition plan of our choice (I added some qualifiers to ensure it was sustainable, measurable, and nourishing), read one of four books that were vetted by yours truly, and be accountable once a week to check in with our progress.  Those who completed the entire Challenge win a gift card and enter into a grand prize drawing for an iPad mini.  Motivation and incentive always help.

My exercise was centered around Sarah Beth Yoga and Yoga With Adrienne‘s monthly challenges, which happened to coincide perfectly with our own challenge.  My weekly exercise totals were:

Week One: 215 minutes

Week Two: 203.5 minutes

Week Three: 180 minutes (this was the week of the crazy storms, my husband traveling, and the surprise anniversary getaway, which might have contributed to the fact I barely reached my goal)

Week Four: 202 minutes

I read QBQ! which is a short but powerful read.  My thoughts on the book can be found here.  The other options were The Power of Habit, Food Rules, and The First 20 Minutes.  There are so many books on wellness and nutrition out there, but one of the qualifiers was that they needed to be available in Spanish and English.  One of the blessings of living in a bilingual community is seeking out resources that everyone can access.  These four titles fit the bill and provided quality information on various aspects of how to live a fit life.

I am definitely glad I participated.  I am also glad I had a hand in organizing the Challenge.  Any chance I get to spread my “gospel” of alternate nutrition to the masses…mwahahaa!  At least I didn’t force this book on people…they may have run away screaming! Haha!

Now time for some lay-it-all-out-there truth telling:  I have been dreaming of chocolate cake and cheeseburgers for about three weeks now.  My nutrition plan was no added refined sugar, no refined grains, and no eating after 8:30 PM.  For the entire month.  My body feels great and I’m proud to say I made it all 31 days.  But let’s just say I’ve been scoping out the best bakeries in town and have solid plans to hit them up ASAP tomorrow.  As one of my favorite fitness ladies says, one day of indulgences won’t side track a healthy lifestyle, just like one day of nutritious eating won’t give you a six pack.

When your heart is in two places at once

Today my husband leaves for Cambodia.

As I type that sentence I realize once again how not normal our life is.  We take trips around the world like other people go to the store for milk.  Well, maybe not as frequently but it often seems as common as the check out line at the grocery store.  It’s still exciting.  It’s still thrilling.  It still makes us pinch ourselves and think how blessed we are to be living our passion and calling.

So.  Cambodia.

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He will travel for a ridiculous amount of hours, land with massive jet lag, gather his team, and then spend a week or so building a home for a family and a playground for a community.  Then he puts it all in reverse and travels back to us.

Have I mentioned how unnormal our life is?  Is that even a word?

While he is halfway around the world, the kids and I (with the help of my sister – aunties to the rescue!) will fly to Washington State to spend a few weeks with family.  The kids are looking forward to Christmas with the grandparents.  Yes – they’ve kept their tree up, have presents wrapped, and the lights are still up.  In spite of all the logistics and planning to make a border crossing, two flights, and three kids’ worth of stuff happen, I have hope that the travel with be great and the trip will be even better.

For a few weeks, our hearts will be in two places at once.  Whether I’m the one staying or sending, we all go together.  Our life is what we all do, not just one person because they are the one getting on the plane destined for a remote, exotic location.

I will miss my husband so much.  At the same time, I’m so proud of him for leading, going, and bringing others.

Ten Years

January 20, 2007.  The day our lives, together, began.

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All at once it seems like the blink of an eye and an infinite stretch of time.  A moment and a lifetime.  A wonderful ten years.  A challenging ten years.  The best ten years.

We usually keep it low key for our anniversaries (kids often help with that).  Scott had plans to travel all week leading up to the big day and we hadn’t talked much about what, if anything, we wanted to do to celebrate.  Then one night I had a stroke of insight – if he was gone all week, I could potentially pull off a huge surprise for us and he would have no idea.  A few quick texts, arranged childcare with some solid friends who said they would help, and we were set – a night away to celebrate our 10 year anniversary was in motion!

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The big day came and with it came a massive wind and rain storm (at least for our area of the world).  I had plans to surprise Scott in San Diego where he was in meetings all day, which meant a drive across the border in pouring rain, flooded streets, accidents, and re-routed traffic.  I barely missed a collision with a city bus and car that happened a few feet in front of me, causing all the traffic to back up on the freeway, drive up an exit ramp, and snake our way through massively flooded side roads.img_9596

Thankfully I made it through the border with plenty of time to spare.  I texted one of my friends who was ‘in on it’ and also at the same meeting with Scott, letting him know I was nearby and would hang out until he gave me the go ahead to get into position (I was going to be waiting on the sidewalk out front when he walked outside after the meeting).  Imagine my surprise when he texted back, “Oh, you know the meeting location was changed, right?”  WHAT??!!  Turns out they were meeting 20 minutes away from where I thought they were!  All that extra time suddenly turned into barely enough margin to weave my way through surface streets (the freeways were jammed with after-work and weather-related traffic), avoid fallen trees that were literally in the road (at least four of them), and try not to lose it as I hit every single red light along the way (okay, maybe I got one green light but it was pretty ridiculous).

My friends were stalling to keep Scott from leaving the meeting and I pulled up just as he was at the end of his rope with their shenanigans (I found all this out later).  I turned the car off, pulled the emergency brake, and frantically texted my friend to let him know I was there.  And….NO SERVICE.  My phone had no service!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  I had to laugh at this point – it was all too much.  I ended up ringing the doorbell and then dashing to hide behind the cars parked in the driveway.  It turned our perfectly as Scott was at the door ready to leave so he walked out (with a bunch of other people at the meeting), saw me, and looked thoroughly confused, surprised, and baffled.  He walked out and gave me a big hug.  I said, “Happy anniversary!” and he started laughing.  He quickly put two and two together and asked, “When do we have to be back?”, thinking we had a night out to ourselves.  It felt so amazing to tell him, “TOMORROW NIGHT!”  His face just about exploded.  He was so happy and so surprised!  He had no idea.  He loves surprises so I was thrilled to make this one happen, in spite of all the ridiculous roadblocks (literally) that were thrown in the way.  I thanked all our friends that worked so hard to keep it a secret and make it a success, and we were on our way.

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We used the Hotel Tonight app to find a great deal at Embassy Suites in downtown San Diego.  Even with the rainy weather, the views were stunning.

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Delicious steaks for dinner…no, delicious doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Heavenly.  Luscious.  Mind-blowing.  Think of the best food you’ve ever eaten and then stop thinking because these steaks were AMAZING.

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We were both exhausted from the week (him traveling, me holding down the fort and planning the big surprise) so we fell into bed at a ridiculously early hour…only to be topped by me sleeping in until 8:30 AM the next morning.  It felt so good!  We hit the free breakfast in the lobby and then settled in for a few hours of peace and quiet to ourselves.  We are both introverts so we joke about spending time together-alone.  I curled up with a blanket, cup of tea, and a good book, while he watched NCAA basketball and SportsCenter.  A perfect encapsulation of our relationship, if I should say so myself. 🙂

After checking out at noon, we made our way to Liberty Station for lunch.  It was so much fun.  The food!  The details!  The food!  The marketplace feel!  The food!  Okay, so maybe I was overly excited about the food but it all looked (and smelled) so delicious.  And then Scott found a wall of beer on tap and he pretty much died and went to heaven.  It was perfect.

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I wanted to eat every single thing from every single food stall, but I finally decided on green Thai curry.  My belly was singing a happy song for the rest of the day.  Scott had a lobster roll and fries to go with a beer from the Wall of Happiness.

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A few quick stops to run some errands (we were adults with no kids in tow…it makes errands a treat!) and we were home by early evening to hug our kiddos and say a huge thank you to our friends who had cared for them while we were away.  Our night away was the perfect way to celebrate the last ten years of our marriage and look forward to many, many more years together.

Write A New Story

I was laying in bed yesterday morning, in between alarm-going-off and actually-getting-out-of-bed.  Pondering all the things that were to come that day, I remembered that my husband was leaving for a three day trip in a few hours.  Immediately I flashed back to all the other trips he’s taken over the past few months (our work usually keeps us pretty local but he’s had some commitments over the fall and winter that took him all over the place), what had happened during those times apart, and a slow wave of anxiety started to rise inside my chest.  We had been sick.  The power had gone out.  The kids missed their dad.  Memory after memory crashed through me as I began to dread the upcoming 72 hours while he was gone and we were here.  The suddenly, like a splash of cold water, this thought appeared in my mind.

Write a new story.

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Before my day had even begun, I was allowing the past to determine how the future would unfold.  Thanks to a decent understanding of my DISC profile, I know that a high S (that’s me!) tends to evaluate future events in the light of what’s gone before, so I had a pretty good idea where this ruminating was coming from.  Nonetheless, this simple thought rang out: Could I write a new story for myself, my family, my life over the next few days?  Did I need to let what had happen influence what could happen?

Write a new story.

It’s the morning of Day 2 and the story is halfway over.  I’ve struggled with the blank pages and new pencils, but what we’ve written so far isn’t half that bad.  After all, it’s ours and it’s new and there’s still more to write.

Over Easy – a simple lunch

Some days I’m not up for a huge lunch, but still want to nourish myself instead of filling up on, oh, chips and salsa.

Here is what I tossed together today:


Brown rice cooked with a bit of salt and olive oil (when I have bone broth I often use it as the cooking liquid).  I’ve used this recipe’s technique for cooking brown rice (just follow the steps in the first paragraph) for years and it comes out perfect every time.

An over easy egg.

Spinach pesto (spinach + a few snap peas + olive oil + lemon juice + Parmesan cheese + pecans + salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth and adjust seasonings to your taste).

Snipped green onion.


Simple, filling, and nutritious.

What I’m Reading – January 2017

This year I’ve taken my reading obsession public and joined Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual Reading Challenge.  And because I’m a crazy-book-obsessed-aholic, of course I decided to do both lists: Reading for Fun and Reading for Growth.  It’s the first time I’ve ever systematically thought through what I will read throughout a year.  But I have a secret weapon: instead of using the list to determine what books I’ll read, I first went to the books I have on my For Later ‘shelf’ on my library’s website and reverse engineered them to fit all the categories in the Challenge.  Sneaky?  Perhaps.  Gets me through my To-Be-Read list?  Absolutely.  And that’s what it’s all about, right?

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All those books calling my name…

I’ll share more about my complete selections for the Reading Challenge in another post (as well as how I’ve finally taken the Bullet Journal plunge!) but for now, here is what I’ve been reading to kick off 2017.

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The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley

I don’t usually read YA novels but I picked up this book without knowing that it fell in that category (it’s one of my favorite generes, after all).  Of course, I quickly realized what I was reading thanks to the writing style and the giant Newberry Award medal on the front cover (ha!).  The story kept my attention but it had slightly too much implausibility for me to truly give myself over to it.  For a young reader wanting to learn about World War 2, this book would be a great place to start.

 

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The Shape of Mercy: A Novel by Susa Meissner

I was first introduced to Meissner’s work through this other book which I really enjoyed, so when I saw the Challenge category of “three books by the same author” I thought she would be a good candidate for that slot.  This book won all sorts of awards and it was a quick read with some deeper themes.  It did seem, at time, like the author tried a bit too hard to write beyond light fiction and make the book be more meaningful.  I did like reading about a time and place in history that I haven’t spent much time exploring.

 

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QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life

This month I’m helping lead a fitness challenge for our organization and one of the requirements is to read a book about nutrition, exercise, accountability, or community (four factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle).  I choose QBQ! because I had started reading it last year and didn’t finish and because it’s super short (115 pages!).  Don’t be fooled by the brevity of the book – it addresses personal accountability head on and doesn’t leave much room to hide.  I love that it presents a simple formula to practice personal accountability through the questions we ask ourselves.  Simple, short, but powerful.

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This book is one of Morton’s first works and it shows.  The story kept me engaged but seemed to drag on at times.  It reminded me of all those nightly news shows that take five minutes’ worth of information and drag it out to fill a 45 minute time slot.  I like how each chapter switches points of view and places in history (Beatriz Williams uses the same technique and I’m a big fan of her books) and I figured out the signature “twist” earlier than I have in her other books.  At 552 pages it’s a commitment but it reads quickly thanks to a fast-paced story that keeps you wanting more.

 

irenas-children-9781476778501_hrIrena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Heartbreaking.  Triumphant.  Tragic.  Victorious.  All those words and more.  I’ve read so many books about World War 2, both fiction and non-fiction, but I never fail to be impacted by reading another person’s account of their struggle to survive (or to save others) during those awful years.  Set in Poland during the height of the Nazi Occupation, Mazzeo tells the impossible true story of one woman who helped save over 2,500 children from the Jewish ghetto.  Unbelievably believable.  Read it.

 

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A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Kelbold

This book was one of my “bonus picks” from my interview on What Should I Read Next.  I finagled as many extra recommendations out of Anne as I could. 🙂  Since one of my “Three Books You Love” was about the Columbine tragedy, it’s no wonder I resonated with this book as soon as she mentioned it on the podcast.  I was completely unprepared, however, for what this book really held.  Told in first person, this memoir/tell-all//rallying cry can basically be summed up in two questions: “How did this happen?”  and “How did I not know this was going to happen?”  Klebold lays herself bare as she examines the days leading up to the tragedy, her son’s role in the shooting, his suicide, and the aftermath that haunts her still to this day.  She has become an advocate for mental health and writes boldly about the need for education and awareness.  Highly, highly recommended.

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Completely outside my reading “box,” this book was pleasantly enjoyable to read.  It’s written as a series of interviews, diary entries, and conversations, all centered around the discovery of enormous, metallic, robotic body parts of some sort of being that are hidden all over Earth.  I don’t usually like epistolary books but the story was actually enhanced by this writing style as it helped me stay detached as a reader, much like the detachment between the robot and the scientist who were working to discover its purpose.  I enjoyed it more than I thought it would, but the last chapter?  Grr.  I immediately went to Google and searched “What happens in the last chapter of Sleeping Giants?”  To say it’s a cliffhanger would be a gross understatement.  Good move on the part of the author.  Awful news for the reader….but apparently there’s a sequel so all hope is not lost.

41jvwbsknbl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Unashamed by Christine Caine

Every once and awhile I’ll give one of these types of books a try – Christian, self-help, spiritual memoir.  As with most books that fall in this category, the first third has some great insights, the second third starts waning, and by the final pages I’m just wanting to be done already.  I did like some of Caine’s comments about the power of shame and how it is at the root of so much pain and rejection in our lives.  More than anything, though, reading this book made me want to revisit Brené Brown’s works and read the works of a true expert on this topic.

How about you?  What books have you been reading lately?  Do you have any plans for your 2017 reading journey?

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When the kids are sick

Our little ones have been fighting a cough and cold this week.  Yesterday Madison woke up super early crying about ear pain.  She didn’t relent for about three hours, yelling, “It HURTS!” while adamantly refusing anything I tried to do to help her.  Finally, after essential oils, heat compresses, hydrogen peroxide, and Tylenol, she settled down and dozed for about 10 minutes on the couch.  Miraculously, she woke up happy and pain-free.  Hallelujah!  Even more miraculously, she actually fell asleep during our afternoon quiet time (which hasn’t happened in close to two years) and slept for almost an hour and a half, snuggled next to me.

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It’s hard for me to see my kids sick.  Not only because they are in pain or miserable, but because I’ve come to believe the lie that their physical wellness is directly connected to how well I care for them.  If they are sick then I did something wrong.  We take a slightly alternative approach to wellness and health care in our family (not a lot of doctor visits or prescriptions…using a lot of oils and other natural approaches) and I harbor a hidden fear of being ‘found out’ that blazes to the surface whenever my kids don’t feel well.  That someone will point a finger and accuse me and I’ll be helpless and defenseless.  As if I can control how their body responds to every germ or virus that may pass their way?  I know where the root of that fear comes from (I haven’t written much about my family’s story lately, but there were strong themes of accusation and helplessness woven all throughout) and as I stood in the shower yesterday I decided to confront it head on.

My kids are not sick because I didn’t something wrong.

They are being cared for because I love them.

I’m not in control of their physical wellness, but I can choose how I respond to them when they are feeling icky.  My response to their pain reveals the depth of my love for them.

I hear them hacking and coughing as they wake up this morning.  It’ll be another day of teas, oils, and restful play.  I set my intention to care for them.

Because I love them.