Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Too much of a good thing?

Today was one of those days when I had a few too many really great things packed a little too closely together. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. I was doing just what it is I love to do: having deep and inspiring conversations with people I enjoy. However, without a break between appointments or time to eat, I literally felt ill by the end of the day.

So now I have learned a very valuable lesson. That because of who I am and the type of relationships I choose to have (both personally and professionally), it is extremely important for me to balance out my days between connection with others and time by myself to recharge. It seems sort of silly, but I am thinking that I will start scheduling in my "recharge time" between appointments and conversations with others.

Tomorrow I get to try it all again!

Day Five: Move-My-Body Challenge

Saturday morning was such a perfect family morning. After a yummy breakfast out, we headed over to the Berkeley Marina. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that this was our first experience there in our four and a half years of living in the Bay Area. We didn't really know what to expect, but my instinct told me that it was the place for us to go for a stroll by the water.

I am not sure how long we walked, skipped, ran, danced and laughed because I was too caught up in the magic of the experience with Bill and the girls. But I do know that I am counting this as my "move-my-body" experience for the day. If you haven't been to the pier at the Berkeley Marina yet, I definitely recommend it. I am guessing that it's about a mile long; jetting straight out into the bay. It feels as if you've walked half-way to San Francisco. We played our way down the pier and back, stopping every-so-often to look at the birds, count the boats and cheer the fishermen on (we even saw a boy catch a sting ray!).

How did I feel during: In the moment; happy; connected to my family; in awe by the length of the pier and beauty of the still bay.

How did I feel afterwards: Thrilled that I had followed my instinct to try the marina on that particular morning and achieved moving my body in such a fun and enjoyable way with Bill and the girls.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reaching Out

I recently threw a couple of Life Purpose Parties with my friend and hand-analysis Laura Kennedy (more about that in a future post). I found it interesting, and yet not surprising, that nearly everyone who participated said that connection (connecting with self, with others and with nature) was a key component of passion, joy and pleasure in their lives.

What does surprise me is how much we limit the opportunities for connection (again, with our self, others and nature) because we are so busy trying to do so many things. I realize this relates a bit to my previous post, but what prompted my post today was this article.

The article claims that having a strong social network can help you deal with stresses of everyday life. I find this to be true, if (and this is a big if) I choose to spend time with people who help fill me up rather then drain me. There's such a big difference between connecting with people who you enjoy being around, you feel good being around and with whom you feel a--well--connection, versus those who leave you feeling overwhelmed, undermined and empty.

Perhaps it's less about how many people we have connections with and more about the depth of those connections. That and consciously choosing to reach out to those people in order to further develop the relationship, grow the community and feel the connection that feeds our soul.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Turn It Off

I was very proud of my husband last night when he decided to turn off the baseball game (he is a huge Red Sox fan, so I know this was probably challenging for him) in order to focus on reading to Ella, my step-daughter. You should have seen the smile on her face when her dad clicked off the TV and said, "this is Ella time."

It seems as if we have all become master multi-taskers. We have been taught, and now believe, that we are more successful when we are doing multiple tasks at once. However, it has occurred to me that a result of our need to be doing more then one thing at a time is a loss of depth and connection with ourselves and those around us.

Yes, I may be able to accomplish more faster if I am responding to a work email while discussing the weekend's plans on the phone with my husband or talking to my mom on my cell phone while pushing my daughter on the swing, but what it is costing me?

It costs me an opportunity to be in the moment and fully connect with one other person. The email response is shorter and more abrupt and there are typos because I wasn't fully paying attention. My husband gets frustrated because I don't remember what we decided on. My mom keeps getting interrupted as I deal with my daughter. And my daughter is playing at the park with a mom who is not available to play with her.

Seeing the look on Ella's face when her dad declared that the following 15 minutes was her time and not her time shared with the TV (or anything else for that matter) reminded me of how important it is to make the conscious choice to choose connection--choose the relationship. Not all the time, but some of the time. Turn off the technology (or one piece of the technology) and give just one thing or one person your undivided attention. Especially when it comes to kids, sometimes even just 15 minutes of an adult (preferably their parent) focusing just on them with no other distractions is enough to last them an entire day (or longer).

Try it out. The next time you find yourself doing more than one thing at once, especially in the area of communication with others, see what if feels like to turn something off and choose one task or person to give your focus to.

Day Four: Move-My-Body Challenge

Another day down. Today was a 30 minute walk pushing Lindsay in the stroller: 15 minutes up to Starbuck's to meet a friend and her son and 15 minutes back. Who says you can't incorporate some coffee and socialization into your daily exercise?!

How did I feel beforehand: Well, at first I felt like I was cheating a bit because it wasn't going to be a "real workout". However, then it occurred to me that my goal isn't to work-out each day or even to loose weight. My goal is to simply move my body each day for at least 30 minutes. That is such a shift in my thinking; it's less about the outcome and more about enjoying the journey on a daily basis (isn't that the secret of life?).

How I felt during: Since I had gone with the comfy sweats and running shoes, it made it easy to pick up the pace (that and the fact that I was running late meeting my friend). I loved the feeling of walking briskly down the street with the sun shining and the leaves crunching under my feet. I also loved sharing the experience with Lindsay.

How I felt afterwards: Happy that I walked instead of drove. Happy that I had incorporated moving my body into social and mommy time. I've also felt motivated all day to do a bit more. I plan to do the Abs Diet weight routine while watching "The Office" tonight.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bring Back that Love'n Feel'n

My husband and I had a recent conversation about how easy it's become to forget to do the little things to show each other that we care. It's not something that I really wanted to admit, but it had been nagging at me that neither of us were making the effort to say, "I love you" in the sweet and romantic ways we once use to.

I know, I know; many people say that's just what happens over time in relationships. And when you add young kids to the mix, time and attention between the two adults in the house becomes even more limited. But, honestly, that's just not OK with me. I like the way it feels to get those sweet, romantic reminders that my husband is thinking of me. Even when it's just him surprising me with my guilty pleasure of a celebrity magazine tucked away in the grocery bag, it feels good.

But it goes both ways. Whether it's leaving a note on his pillow when I leave for a trip or sending him a loving email message at work, I now realize that for us, consciously choosing to do the little things helps us feel more connected. It can become all too easy to get caught up in life and expect our relationships to just continue on auto-pilot without much effort or attention on our part. But creating, continuing and growing a loving, fulfilling relationship requires attention and appreciation...and the little gestures along the way that say, "I choose you again today."

Day Three: Move-My-Body Challenge

Completed. Done. Mission accomplished.

Today was another 40 minutes of alternating fast walking for one song and jogging for the next.

How did I feel beforehand: Although I was dressed and ready to go I nearly aborted the plan because I thought my Nano was out of juice. Ends up it wasn't; so I got my rear in gear and out the door. It was a good reminder for me that I really do enjoy exercising more when I've got some tunes to keep me company.

How did I feel during: Pretty good. I added a bit more distance today and could feel myself slowing down towards the end of the jogging songs, but my goal is not to run fast, win a race or burn a gazillion calories. Rather, it's simply to find enjoyable ways to move my body on a regular basis.

How did I feel afterwards: Pretty darn good. I was just telling Bill how surprised I am that in just three days of regular body movement I can feel a difference in my muscles. They actually feel stronger. I think they are saying, "thanks for giving me the opportunity to move and stretch today; much appreciated."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day Two: Move-My-Body Challenge

I've got a couple minutes to post before heading out the door to get the little one at day care.

WooHoo for me for day number two of the Move-My-Body Goal! Today was approximately 40 minutes of "strength training," which translates to some varying exercises in my living room while watching the show, Brothers and Sisters, on DVR. I did sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and other fun things with some 5 pound weights (hey, at least it's a start). Actually, I followed the routine from the Abs Diet for Women book.

How did I feel beforehand: Honestly, I was dragging my feet and kept putting it off. Instead of doing it at 8:30 a.m. after dropping Lindsay off at day care liked I had planned, I didn't start it until 12:30 p.m. after doing some work and having some client calls. But I got it done never-the-less and that's what matters.

How did I feel during: Using my muscles felt good and it was nice to have the distraction of the TV; it helped the time fly by.

How did I feel afterwards: Great! I could feel the workout in my muscles and felt proud of myself for not giving in to the procrastination completely.

An aside: It really does help to be taking this day-by-day. When I find myself beginning to wonder how long I'll keep it up, or what I'll do two days from now or what will happen if I get bored of some type of exercise, I've found it helpful to stop and remind myself that all I need to worry about is today. And then once I finally did it today I was able to say, "Okay, done for today....don't have to think about that anymore...until tomorrow."

Easy Recipe of the Week: Lasagna

Extra-Easy Lasagna

3/4 pound ground beef (or turkey)
3 cups marinara sauce (recipe calls for Prego Traditional)
6 dry lasagna noodles
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz. package)
Fresh or chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and drained)
1/4 cup water
  1. Cook meat until browned; stir to separate. Spoon/drain off fat.
  2. Add marinara sauce; heat through; stir often.
  3. In 2-quart oblong dish (this is smaller then a 9x13 baking dish), spread 1 1/2 cups of marinara mixture (half the mixture) on bottom of dish.
  4. If using fresh spinach, mix into ricotta by using a food processor. If using chopped frozen spinach, mix defrosted and drained mix in with the ricotta cheese using a fork.
  5. Top with 3 noodles, half the ricotta and half the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Repeat with 3 more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture and cheese (leave a small amount of mozzarella out to use on top).
  7. Top with remaining marinara mixture and sprinkle with small amount of mozzarella cheese.
  8. Slowly pour 1/4 cup water around the inside edge of the dish and cover.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.
  10. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
  • Find ways to alter this recipe for variety and varying tastes. Last night I used sweet Italian Sausage, which everyone (including my 2 1/2 year-old) liked. Often I use the Traditional Prego sauce, but sometimes I use the Trader Joe's Vodka Marinara Sauce, which provides a creamy taste and consistency. Add lots of spinach if you like. Add less or no spinach if you like. Play around with it, be creative and find ways to get healthy foods into your families bellies. You can throw nearly anything into a food processor with the ricotta and most will never know.
  • Although this recipe doesn't take long to make, you can eliminate the dinner-time chaos by making this in advance and then just cooking it an hour before it's time to eat. This is necessary for those who work outside the home and don't have time to make and bake the dish after work. Make the recipe as indicated above; however, leave out the water until you are ready to cook it. Yesterday morning I made the lasagna and then covered it and wrote a reminder on the top to add 1/4 cup water (I've forgotten to add the water before). When I got home at 5:30 p.m. I added the water, put the foil back on and stuck it in the over. A delicious dinner was on the table by 6:30 p.m. (including some warm bread I stuck in the oven while the lasagna was cooling and a Cesar salad from a bag.
  • Enjoy a no-brainer dinner night as a result of making this dish. Depending on your family size, you should end up with plenty of lasagna left over for an easy, no-brainer meal the next night. Or freeze the remaining to use over the next few weeks when you don't want to cook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How do you explain the concept of inanimate objects to a 2 year old?

I was inside the house while Lindsay was outside playing in the backyard.

"Mommy, I want to take the wagon for a walk."

"Fine, walk it around the back yard."

Screams heard. I go running.

"Lindsay, what is wrong?"

"The wagon won't listen to me."

Day One: Move-My-Body Challenge

It did it! After dropping off my daughter at day care this morning I did about 30 minutes of "interval training" (alternating between fast walking and jogging). With my ipod on my "upbeat" playlist, I alternated between walking one song and jogging one song.

How did I feel beforehand: Just getting started was the biggest struggle for me. Before I made the decision to get my exercise clothes on and grab my ipod before walking out the door, I kept thinking off all the reasons why I should just come right home (to take a shower, to check email, to drink my coffee, to waste time doing anything but walking). Then I realized that I have to make a different choice (which feels hard right now) until it no longer feels like a hard choice. My learned behavior in the morning has been one way and now I want to change that to incorporate time for moving my body.

How did I feel during: Actually pretty good for it being the first time out in awhile. I liked alternating between the walking and jogging because I like the variety. It also really helps me to have the upbeat music that I like. I did feel tired towards the end, but a very different tired then I've been feeling by not doing anything.

How did I feel afterwards: Awesome! I feel like I have so much energy and my mind feels clear.

Move My Body Goal

Today begins the 30-Day-Move-My-Body Challenge. I am officially tired of being tired. I am tired of complaining that I am tired. I am tired of having the time and flexibility in my schedule to regularly move my body, and just not doing it.

As a life coach who helps others in achieving their goals, you'd think that living my own would be simple. Yet, yes, there are still areas in my own life where I want to improve, feel better and make more positive and empowering choices. Moving my body is one of them.

I am not sure why today was the day. Maybe it's being inspired by witnessing my husband, who in just three weeks, has gone from playing hockey a couple times a month to getting up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise at least three days a week. So, while he was out running for the second day in a row, I was lying in bed (awake) thinking about how I *could* get up and do 20 minutes of pilates--but didn't.

Whatever the reason, today is the day! And I invite the thousands of you reading this (ha!) to join me. Here are the guidelines I am going by:
  1. Take it one day at a time.
  2. Shoot for 30 minutes or more.
  3. Plan how and when you will move your body the night before.
  4. Stick with the plan, but don't beat yourself up if you have to alter it (i.e. instead of a walk in the morning because it was raining, I danced with the kids before bed).
  5. Be creative and choose ways to move your body that you enjoy (jump rope, ride your bike, dance in the living room, do sit-ups while watching T.V., etc.).
  6. Track your progress to help you stay motivated.
And behind all of this is really the most important thing. I am doing this because I want to feel good--actually, feel better. I want to have more energy. I want to think clearer. I want to feel better in my clothes. I want to be healthier and happier.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Small action. Big relief.

It’s amazing how taking one rather small, simple action can provide you with such big relief.

After losing all our computer files a number of years ago when my laptop was stolen (and no backup had been done), my husband and I have been discussing the need for a regular backup process. Every so often one of us would burn certain files onto a CD, but with no regularity and we were never quite sure we were saving all that we needed.

When discussing the back-up issue with a friend a couple of months ago, he told me about an online site that he uses, www.mozy.com. I was intrigued by how simple he told me it was and the fact that for a relatively low monthly fee ($4.95, in fact), the program could be set up to run at a certain time every month without me even thinking about it.

Let me say right now that I get nothing for mentioning this service. It’s really just a testament of finding a simple, low-cost service which provides me a *great* deal of relief.

After asking this friend numerous times to remind me the name of the website (I don’t have the best memory), I finally requested that he send me the web address in an email so I wouldn’t forget again; which he did. And there it sat in my inbox for another couple of weeks.

Well, not anymore. This morning I found the email, clicked on the link, briefly reviewed the site, gave them my payment information, downloaded the software and now my computer is going through it’s initial backup process. Great. Done. Something else to check off my to-do list.

But what I am amazed about is the amazing feeling I have of a weight having been lifted from my shoulders. It wasn’t until I signed-up for this service that I realized how much *not* having any backup was weighing on me. In the back of mind I was carrying the concern (more like sheer terror) of what would happen if our computer crashed today.

Today was such a reminder about how taking the simple actions we keep putting off on the things that we don’t necessarily *want* to do but that we are thinking about anyway can free up mental and emotional energy. Now I can take that energy that went towards the, “What would we do if our computer crashed?” and direct it towards more of what I want in my life.

Maybe the will or home emergency kit I’ve been trying not to think about (but do anyways) should be next.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How's your Attitude of Gratitude?

Focusing on what you are grateful for is not a new concept, but it’s a practice worth mentioning as it’s a key ingredient in one having a happier, more abundant life (and I don’t just mean money). When we focus on all the things—big and little—which we appreciate about our lives right now, we see and will experience more of those types of things. Too often we focus on what we don’t like, don’t have and don’t want to experience. Our mental energy gets caught in a state of worry, fear or dread for what may or may not come. Incorporating the practice of having an Attitude of Gratitude, even for just 5-10 minutes a day, can actually change your life.

Getting Started

The first step in living life with an Attitude of Gratitude is to create a way to easily adopt the practice into your life by making it a part of your regular routine. I recommend writing down your gratitude list because I believe there is power in getting words on paper. Plus, it becomes a nice little documentation of sorts as to what was going on in your life without writing any long journal entries. However, some people prefer (and get the same results) from running through a mental list of all they are grateful for while they are walking or showering or commuting to work. The when, where and how is less important then just doing it.

If you decide to write it down, choose a time of the day that makes the most sense for you. For me it’s become the last thing I do before I turn out the light and lay my head on the pillow. Set aside 5-10 minutes to go through a running list of all you appreciate and are grateful about the day and in that moment. These can be long, full sentences or short bulleted points—your choice. The important thing is to get them down and actually spend a moment feeling the gratitude for those things you are acknowledging.

Living It

This practice can and will shift your focus as to how you experience life. The more you integrate the above practice into your daily life, the easier it will become to go to a place of gratitude throughout the day. For many, this practice helps them see things from a more positive perspective in all areas of their life because they are training their mind to look for the positive, appreciate what feels good and attract more of those positive feelings to them. Like really does attract like!

For Moms

This is an especially important and valuable practice for moms, but one in which can all too easily go down the tubes because, um, honestly, when do you have time to add yet another to-do to your already l-o-n-g list?

Make the time! As moms, it’s way too easy to get caught up in our worries, concerns and challenges with our children. We can get so focused on there not being enough time to do it all, enough patience to get through another battle, enough energy to keep up and the list can go on and on. The funny thing is, by practicing your Attitude of Gratitude, you will often find that you begin to feel like you do have enough time, patience and energy and your experience as a mother shifts from ‘getting through the day’ to really enjoying the day.

Test it out. For one week, make time every morning or every night to jot down 5-10 things that you are grateful for and see what happens!