Thursday, May 18, 2017

Permission to Rest

Image result for relaxing by a stream
I write a lot about working hard, getting things done, needing to be organized, holding oneself to a higher standard, etc.  This is because I am usually writing to myself and I always need the reminders.  Of course, this does not mean that I am always perfectly hardworking, organized, put-together, etc.  I have LOTS of bad days.  The last two weeks were the busiest/craziest weeks that I have had yet in terms of the amount of time I was running around, the number of activities, and the time away from home.  I had one morning where I didn’t have to leave the house until 12:30, and I was frantically trying to get stuff done, but I was having a very hard time focusing and actually accomplishing anything. Then it hit me, I was EXHAUSTED.  No wonder I was feeling so un-motivated. Of course, I was also feeling extremely guilty about my lack of productivity.  I knew that I was exhausted, but yet, I couldn’t get over this feeling that I was failing.
    All in all, now that I am out of the craziness, I have been thinking a lot about what I did right and what I could have done to make the weeks (despite the busyness) a bit more peaceful.  When life is stressful, is it possible to not be stressed? One thing that I did realize today is that, sometimes, it is okay not to get much done.  We are at our jobs 24/7.  Even when the family goes on vacation, the mom never gets a vacation.  How then, are we supposed to do our jobs well and give our all to our families without having a nervous breakdown? We have to learn how to let things go and stop. Yes, we all need a Saturday away from the house, alone, once in a while (once a month would be GREAT!), but what about during the week? What if we can’t get away?

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Take a day at home where you don’t try to get lots of stuff done, and DON”T FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. Have a simple meal (or scrambled eggs or frozen pizza or jarred spaghetti) for dinner and don’t feel guilty.  Spend the day reading books to the kids, reading to yourself while sitting on the couch. Let the kids play outside while you sit drinking iced tea and writing in a journal or reading a book or a magazine. Call someone on the phone and chat. Don’t try to do laundry. Don’t try to get the house perfectly clean. Just Relax! Tomorrow, you can get back to work. But on this one day, STOP, and take advantage of time.

Image result for painting of a person reading a book REDEEM THE TIME
All too often we have bad days, like I did last week, where things just Don’t Get Done.  On these days I usually waste time on the computer or doing something else counter-productive.  This of course does not refresh me, but rather it makes me feel even more tired and anxious as the guilt over the wasted time builds.  Instead, I need to give myself permission to take a break and then use that time in a truly relaxing way; like reading, playing a game with the kids, crafting (for those who like to do this), gardening, baking, etc.

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If you are a full-time homemaker, the fact that your home is your work means that in a way, you never truly leave it. Back when I worked in an office, it was much easier to “leave my work at work.” Perhaps you are not able to sit down and relax, at home. Take the kids and go out for the day. We are lucky enough to live near a Botanical Garden. Once in a while I will pack a simple lunch, and the kids, and we will just meander through the gardens for a morning. The kids will bring coloring or drawing, and I will read a story to them as we sit by a pretty fountain and some lovely flowers. One nice aspect of this is that I get to spend some quality time with the kids and they see me away from home, where I am constantly needing to, “get stuff done.” Even better, perhaps you are blessed enough to have a husband who can, once in a while, take a weekday off from work. Then, you could all go for a hike or to the gardens or a park, together.  The nice thing about doing this on a weekday is that places aren’t as busy as they are on weekends.

We work hard at what we do, and that is good. But sometimes we need to take a step back and allow ourselves the freedom to stop and rest. When we do this, we are able to restore some semblance of peace to our lives. If you can avoid it, do not spend this time organizing your planner or doing your menu plan. Completely unplug from the work of the home and do something that makes you feel like the smart, put-together, fun woman that you are. Do it, I give you permission.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"I Think I Can. I Think I Can."

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I was reading the other day about battling our negative habits by working on their positive counterparts.  For example,  we can practice humility in order to "overcome the tendency to desire to be the center of everything or to always want to be receiving praise and acknowledgement. We can also practice serenity in order to avoid hastiness.  In this way, the interior struggle becomes more effective and attractive." (In Conversation with God)  It is easier to pursue a good in our lives than it is to root out the bad. Josemaria Escriva said that "The tendency of the soul towards good is greater than that towards the avoidance of evil."  We naturally desire the good, so we are more likely to pursue it. 
   I found this idea particularly interesting because either way you slice it, you are working towards the same end, the attainment of the good and the rooting out of the bad; both are necessary in the pursuit of holiness. But, when we focus upon the bad, rather than the good, it is much harder to make ourselves do something as we easily grow discouraged.We are much more likely to grow despondent and to lose hope as we focus entirely upon our own faults. To give a poor example, when I go for a run, if I think, "I have gained weight, so I need to run," it is sometimes hard to maintain the energy to keep running as I feel annoyed with myself. But, if, instead, I think, "I want to be thin, I want to be thin," then my motivation stays strong and I am able to run a lot further.
   I love to read classical children's stories to my children, except for The Little Engine That Could---which, by the way, was written in 1930. I found that interesting.  Anyway, I don't love the book because the repetitiveness is slightly exhausting, however, that book is a good example of what I am trying to say.  Two of the trains that are asked to take the toys, and dolls, and good things to eat, over the mountain to the little boys and girls (do you see what I mean?) have two opposite responses.  One says, "I cannot. I cannot. I cannot." in despair, and returns to the roundhouse.  The other, as we all know, says, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." and of course, she does.
   This holds true when we think about the sin in our own lives. We can either recognize our sins and allow that recognition  to lead us to despair and self-contempt, or, we can recognize our own sin but, rather than despairing, allow it to lead us towards joy. That joy comes from the knowledge that God loves us beyond comprehension and, no matter how sinful I have been in the past, He Will (and Wants to) forgive me, and will save me.  I need not despair because this isn't up to me. I cannot do this alone, but the joy comes from the knowledge that I don't have. In fact, I'm not even suppose to try.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Run Forest, Run"

In my last post I mentioned the fact that I lost 70 pounds.  While I did gain a bit of it back, and then I had another baby and had to lose some of it again, that is still a lot of weight to lose. How then, did I do it? Here are the few things that I did, and what I am changing this time. Why am I changing anything if it worked last time? Because I did gain some of the weight back, so I am trying to make do it all in such a way that will make this a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix.  Let me just say that there isn't some magic trick. Losing weight is hard work and it takes self-control and patience, but you all know that. Therefore, this list is short.

I Ate Super Healthy: For breakfast, every day, I drank a smoothie ("recipe" at the end of the post). For lunch, every day, I ate a salad.  Any time I needed a snack, I ate an apple. I ate healthy dinners.  While the food itself was very healthy, I got rather tired of it.  One thing about eating healthy is learning what works best for your body. For example, due to my PCOS, certain things that are fine for other people, aren't very good for me. I really need to primarily eat fruits and veggies, with hardly any grains, pastas, or breads (but then, that may be true for most people).
What Am I Changing?: I still eat really well, but I have added more variety.  This means that the weight is coming off slower as I allow myself to eat more things that I love (like ice cream) once in a while, versus the previous, Never. Like I said, I am working on a lifestyle change in regard to food that I will be able to maintain, well, for life. 

I Exercised: One of the keys is finding the right kind of exercise and combining it with eating healthy. If you exercise a bunch and then eat whatever you want, you probably won't lose much weight.  We don't burn THAT many calories working out compared to the number of calories in food.  A good 30-min. run, might burn 400 calories, a bowl of two scoops of ice cream probably has, at least, 350 calories (depending on how big the scoops are).  But I digress.  My point is, don't waste the effort of the workout by eating poorly.  My exercise of choice is running, because my husband once said to me, "do you ever see fat runners?" and I thought he was right.
    What Am I Changing?: I still mostly run, but I add in some toning workouts periodically, like Gillian Michaels's 30 Day Shred, though, I can't stand Gillian Michaels, I find her EXTREMELY OBNOXIOUS. I also got a Fit Bit, so I am trying to move lots, even when I'm not "working out".  The downside of a Fit Bit is that we can convince ourselves that we are "exercising" when just taking some extra steps isn't as effective for weight loss as a traditional workout or a run.

Drink Lots of Water: I mention this a lot, because it is of vital importance when losing weight.
    What Am I Changing?: I drink Even More water.

I Did a Health Challenge: This was EXTREMELY helpful for losing weight.  First, I'm competitive, so any sort of competition just spurs me on. Second, having the strict rules regarding what I could eat, really helped to keep me on track. I always lose the most weight within a health challenge of some kind. 
     What Am I Changing?: I'm not currently doing a health challenge, and I wish I was. I don't know anyone who is doing a health challenge right now, this isn't something I am doing by choice.

(HEALTH CHALLENGE NOTE: That being said.  If anyone would like to do a Health Challenge with me, I am happy to set that up. I would type up the rules, keep the tally of people's scores, etc.  If you are interested in this, leave a comment or let me know and I will get on that.) 

Smoothie Recipe:
1/2 banana
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup frozen berries

Throw it all in a blender and blend. (you can also throw in half a cup of uncooked oatmeal)

Favorite Salad Combination:
blue cheese
balsamic vinaigrette 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Let Them Eat Cake"

 One of the most common issues that women have to deal with in their own lives is body image. More specifically, many struggle with the issue of weight (myself included). This is even more prevalent amongst women who have had children---not that it isn't a frustration for many women without children. But, if you have kids, especially several kids, your life might look a bit like this (Lose weight, or be wanting to lose a bit of weight; get pregnant; try to stay in shape and eat well but you just feel SO sick and SO tired so all you want to eat is carbs and the thought of a salad makes you ill, so you might have gained more weight than you had hoped; have the baby; don't move much for six weeks because you have to recover from giving birth, but yet you are starving because you are CONSTANTLY nursing and you might even be rather depressed and, darn it, food is comforting; start working out and eating well, but you have a baby, or perhaps two, three, or four, etc. other people in your home that need your attention (hot food? what is that?) Fast forward a year.  Perhaps you have lost the baby weight, and if you have well done. But, there are still those other pesky pounds that you want to drop.  You work, you eat well, you figure your body out, you get pregnant again, and the cycle starts over.  Believe me, I know, I have been/am still there.
   When I got married, I was a mere wisp of a thing (I realize now looking back) and I married a man with the fastest metabolism I have ever seen.  My goal: FATTEN HIM UP.  I only succeeded in fattening myself up a bit. "Don't you feed him?" his family would ask. "No, I steal the food from his fork and eat it myself. Can't you tell?" my twenty-pounds-heavier self would reply.  Baby number 1 is on the way.  Sitting at a desk all day while being pregnant, is not good for water weight and no, despite what some people say, you can't eat whatever you want. Fifty-five pounds later (added to that previous twenty, I was now seventy-five pounds heavier than when I had gotten married two years before. Lost some weight, exercised, ate okay, struggled with infertility, diagnosed with PCOS---one of the side effects of this, by the way, is that it is really hard to lose weight, yippppeeee---have baby number two, deal with it all some more, have baby number three.  Decide that, if I don't lose this weight now, I never will.  Lose seventy pounds. Yay!  I now weigh only way five pounds more than when I got married. Gain back fifteen pounds because I let myself slip into some bad habits, pregnant again. Currently, with baby number four at the age of one, I am working on losing that fifteen pound weight gain that I had before baby number four came along.  What is my point in all of this rambling? To say, "I have been there, I get it, I know what it feels like." I have also learned a lot from all of my mistakes and from the few things that I did right.  I am, therefore, going to share some of what I learned with you.

Strive to be Healthy: I am never dieting. When my kids ask why I am going running, I answer "mommy is trying to be healthy." Because, I am.  I have three daughters and I want to convey to them the fact that I am striving for good health in my life, not dieting because I am stressed or anxious about how much I weigh.

Make a Lifestyle Change: There is no quick fix. You can't just pop a pill and lose 60 pounds in a month. You can't eat like a bird and workout a lot until that weight is gone, and then go back to your old ways.  The weight will come right back on.  And, none of these things are healthy.  It needs to be a lifestyle change that you can maintain over the course of your life. It will be slower, and probably more work, but you will be happier in the long run.

Be Happy With Yourself, Wherever You Are: This might be the hardest to achieve, but it is really important.  Do I currently weigh exactly what I want to weigh? No. But, I am eating well and working out, so I can be proud of myself and, hopefully, someday I will reach my goal. But, even if I don't, I need to not be constantly dwelling on the things that I don't like about myself. Think instead about something positive. "My tummy may not be a washboard, but I like my hair."

Own Some Clothes That Fit Well and You Look Nice In: No, you don't want to buy a new wardrobe if you are trying to lose weight. But, you need to have a few things to wear that make you feel pretty.  Learn how to dress for the body that you have Now, not the one that you hope to have in the future.

Drink Water: In order to lose weight, you need to drink TONS of water. Take your weight, divide it by two, add 16 oz. if you are working out, that is the amount of water you need to drink each day.

Think About Something Else: Don't let this rule your life by dwelling on it continually. Do not worry or stress about what you weigh. Do what you know you need to do to be healthy and live your life.

Don't Watch The Great British Baking Show: All I want to do is bake and eat, especially cake. I advise you stay away for now.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dependence and Responsibility

   It is easy in life to follow one of two paths. One, we act as if we are responsible for everything. We place the world on our own shoulders, taking on way too much because, "If I don't do it, it won't get one." Moms do this a lot. Partly it isn't our fault. There is way more to do then we could ever find the time for. So, we are constantly feeling either stressed and anxious about all we have to do, or, guilty about everything that we missed, forgot, or didn't have time for because, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO IT ALL.  Of course, this isn't just moms. Lots of people feel this way. It is rational to feel this way. We live in a crazy, busy world and we Do Have to work and we Do Have to get things done and if we Don't make dinner, we Won't eat or if we Don't do the laundry, we Won't have clean clothes.
   The second path that some people take is a laissez-faire attitude about life. "Oh, it will get done" or "someone will take care of it".  This can also be couched in an attitude of piety, "God will provide" and I will just sit here on the couch and wait for that to happen. (People, God will throw you the life-preserver, but you still need to grab on.)  Kids usually think like this, or else adults who have never really stopped being kids in regard to responsibility.  In our "helicopter-parent world," these are the type of adults that we are dooming our children to become, unless we give them some responsibility and allow them to succeed or fail on their own—but that is another topic. 
   Neither of these paths is good, so where does that leave us? This is why I LOVE this quote from St. Augustine.   
 Image result for free clip art, "pray as though everything depended on God"

 Total abandonment to God, relying completely and utterly upon Him, but, at the same time, still needing to work our hardest and do our best, that is the path we should take.  Working hard is good, and it needs to happen, all the while we must remember that we cannot do anything without God. The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Not, “I don’t have to do anything because of Christ” or “I can do everything myself.” We need to remember both components of the equation. Complete surrender to God with the acknowledgment that I cannot do this alone, it is too much, and then trying my darndest to do it anyway. 
  When I forget this and focus too much upon my own efforts, that is when things seem to go wrong and everything takes longer than it should. But when I put it all into God's hands and rely upon His help, it is amazing how much I can accomplish.