Tuesday, July 28

Fun and Photos in VA

Just a quick post between vacations (lucky me... lush and spongy mountains one week, hot, sandy beaches the next!) to let you know that I am still alive and well! I spent last week in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains of the western part of Virginia. My family and I were staying at Shrine Mont, the mountain camp of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia located in Orkney Springs, Virginia. Orkney Springs is an itty-bitty "township" at the end of a steep and windy road that is happily dotted with lavender and white wildeflowers. Because of all of the youthful campers, there is almost always song, literally, echoing off the mountains, just like in The Sound of Music.

Hearing that joyful music from afar, and knowing the youth and joy and love in the voices that was behind it, counts as one of the most extraordinarily uplifting, inspirational sounds I've ever heard. Wish you could experience it. Goose bumps... I'm telling you.

I took so many pictures that I don't even know where to start! It'll take a while to compile things into a format that is (pleasantly) viewable for you... so to tide you over, I'll share a little bit about my journey with you.

We were at Shrine Mont for a whole week. When we left there, instead of going straight home, my kids and I headed to Lake Anna. This lead us down, potentially, the most beautiful rode I've ever driven (VA HWY 522)... mountains looming before and behind you... the road ascending and descending with curvature almost alpine in nature... along the way, we stopped for lunch in the chic-ly quaint Culpepper, Virginia. Here is what we saw!

Saturday, July 25

In the General Store...

... In Boston, Virginia, you can rent VHS movies, buy beer, wine
snacks or cold cuts, and be entertained by the spoils of local hunting

Who knew there was a Boston, Virginia

This USPS is right in the same building of the General Store, run by a
delightful Indian man from Punjab.

Wednesday, July 22

My husband celebrating Eucharist...

At Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, Virginia.

This outdoor church is actually the Cathedral for the Episcopal
Diocese of Virginia. It was made of stones taken right from the
mountain it sits on.

Monday, July 20

Somewhere over the rainbow...

Next week, I'm going to that place over the rainbow to called vacation!

Hopefully when I get back, I'll have some good posts for you... and maybe a few iPhone photos in between!

While gone, I plan to:
  • enjoy the cool of a mountain summer
  • do a little painting
  • swim with my kids, every day
  • exercise, if I feel like it
  • visit a local winery or two
  • make new friends
Be back soon! And have some fun while I'm gone!

Sunday, July 19

I finally grew a conscience!

Before this incarnation of my blog, I was blabbing, I mean, blogging about "Things That Inspire." This was supposed to be things like art, design, crafts, and stuff like that. But I found myself so many times wanting to write to you about something I learned in yoga or a new take on women's health. So I reconfigured my blog (and moved back to blogger) to encompass a wider scope... now I simply write about whatever strikes me in the moment... and I'm so enjoying it! However, I rarely write about the things I had previously restricted myself from, like health and wellness! So here goes.

You might have gathered from the post Super, just like I am, that I'm a girl who has been on a diet or two. Before I had children, I would've called myself a "diet dabbler." But after that first baby when I retained a significant portion of pregnancy weight gain, I moved first into aficianado status, then to freak status, eventually moving into professional status. Each new diet seemed like an answer to prayer, working switfly and easily for the first six weeks, then becoming the treacherous, life-sucking bane of my existence.

Here are some of the diets I've tried:
  • Carbohydrate Addict's Diet - Good side: one hour a day of all the carbs you can eat... bad side: can you say, constipation?

  • Somersize - seemed interesting, but too restricitve.

  • The Balanced Diet diet - this was difficult b/c you couldn't repeat eating an food within a four day period.

  • Fit for Life - I must admit, someone just gave me this book... seemed too complex to even bother reading...

  • The LA Weight Loss program (they're out of business) - like an exchange program, except with the addition of nasty protein bars and judgmental counselors salivating to mark your food journal up with a red pen, at leas twice each week!

  • The Weigh Down diet (possibly the craziest one) - this diet required you to wait until your stomach growled before you could eat, and if you were hungry before that, you were supposed to pray about it... sounds crazy, but this was my most successful program, but also the most difficult to follow... I once went three days without eating, but lost seven pounds...

  • French Women Don't Get Fat - pleasant, but requiring too much preparation and concentration... what I will most likely adhere to if, at any point in my life, I only have to worry about feeding me alone.

  • There was another Faith Based program, and when I lost weight, my leader would write "PTL(praise the Lord!)" in the margins of my food journal, like my being overweight was a moral issue worthy of God's attention.

  • Intuitive Eating - this make a lot of sense, just like the French Women Don't Get Fat book does. I still incorporate lots of its principles into my eating habits. It basically teachs about how the cycles of deprivation (through dieting) cause us to have abnormally strong cravings for foods we think we "shouldn't" eat... so that when we hit a plateau in our dieting, we turn to those foods we craved, overindulging and ultimately sabotaging our weight loss. The book contends that if you listen to your intuition, indulge your cravings in moderation, you'll fare much better.

  • Mindful Eating - Much like Intuitive Eating and French Women Don't Get Fat, this book encourages you to listen to your body's natural signals of hunger and to satisfy those needs. Difficult when you you're trying to plan your meals two weeks in advance (as I do) and often eating on the go - an unfortunate necessity in my life.
I have had the best, most long-term success with Weight Watchers. My journey with WW began in 2001, just before I got pregnant with my second child. It is a sensible program, focusing on moderate portions, exercise and healthy foods, with a little leeway for the occasional splurge. My pattern has been like this: I would lose some weight, slack off on keeping track of what I was eating, eventually gain the weight back plus a few pounds... my second child is now seven, and I'm technically what the industry calls a "weight cycler..." simply nice vocab for "yo-yo-dieter."

Recently though, in the very interesting book called Big Fat Lies (scientifically based book that illustrates that overweight people aren't necessarily unhealthy, as long as they are fit... I really like this book!), I've been learning about the dangers of weight cycling, and I'm determined to stop. This year, I've lost about 20 pounds. Usually, I would just put that right back on. Even though I'd prefer to lose about fifteen more, I appear to be at a standstill. And that is okay! At this point, I am going to consider this year a success, if I can keep off the 20 pounds I've lost. I'll worry about the next fifteen later.

I attribute this round of dieting success to a few key revelations:
  • I spent last year (2008, when I was gaining back the 20 pounds I lost at the beginning of THAT year) really watching the feelings and emotions I had surrounding food.

  • I indulged cravings, and I explored the feelings behind those cravings.

  • I noticed how I tended to turn to food not just when I was streseed out, but also when I was happy. Food is an integral part of celebration for me (As a matter of fact, when reading Twilight I thought that being a vampire sounded right cool, until I thought about the fact that vampires didn't get the pleasure of marking the passing of hours by sitting at the table with their beloved family three times each day to sup...).

  • I realized that if left to my own devices, I will always overeat, and that a keeping a food journal is a necessity for me.

  • Planning meals in advance really helps for me too.

  • I must exercise more days than I don't. Based on my Ayurvedic body type (kapha), my body will cling to every calorie of food as if its life depended on it... even when it doesn't... great during a famine, but not so good with fast food joints and Starbucks on every corner.
So now, even when I'm not journaling my dietary choices quite like I should be, I know that while an indulgence might be a pleasure, it might not be worth it in the end... and that a couple of weeks off of a plan can create a snowball effect that isn't caught up until you're about 20 pounds heavier.

All of that whole long post is to say: I can finally eat and make decisions about food with a conscience. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

Friday, July 17

Peel a banana just like the monkeys on TV!

How to enjoy peeling and eating a banana! Who knew fruit could be so user friendly?

Thursday, July 16

File this under "Duh" - Disease Control

Spotted at a local Panera Bread here in Richmond, Virginia...

Um, why ELSE would we wash hands? Just to make them smell pretty? And should non-employees also wash hands? Or are they not susceptible to disease?

Anyway, at least they wash their hands!

Wednesday, July 15

*New Swestieism* - The Lesser of Two Evils

When your choice of underwear comes down to the lesser of two evils, its time to go shopping!

Tuesday, July 14

Funny Blog: Stick Man Theater

Trolling along the web recently, I stumbled upon this hysterical blog called Stick Man Theater. They illustrate movies and TV shows and other funny scenarios with stick men, frame-by-frame like a comic book. Of course they have Twilight, (which I really enjoyed... I know... shocker...) but I also loved their version of The Karate Kid. Check it out!

This blog is funny, creative, witty and clever... definitely worth a perusal. Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, July 13

Super, just like I am.

When I was a young girl, my best friend was named Betsy. Where I was short, Betsy was tall.... I had white-blonde hair, and Betsy had super shiny brown-black hair... (both of us had straight hair... go figure... anyway...) I watched TV, she read books... you get the picture...

Oh yeah... I was thick and she was thin. As a little kid, I wasn't chubby or overweight. But standing next to Betsy in our bathing suits at camp, I would always marvel that two people could be so different.

Then one day when we were probably 13, Betsy told me that she thought she was fat and that she would need to start exercising. My eyes popped wide as the gears in my head whirred to process this information: if Betsy, beautiful, thin Betsy, could be fat (gasp!), THEN WHAT THE HECK WAS I???!!

And so it began... my infinite downward spiral into the bizarre rabbit hole that is a girl/woman's relationship with her body. What started with a blissfully ignorant childish awareness that my body simply looked different than my thin friend grew, cancer-like, over the years to become an all-out obsession with comparing my frame with any other woman present... and usually coming up short. When I walked into a room, I immediately sized up the "competition," judging, quite literally, how I sized up with them: it was either good or bad - no in between.

The worst part is that I let these judgements color my friendships. Often, I felt unworthy of friendships with women I felt were thinner than me... on the flip side, I let myself feel superior to those larger than me. Not that I didn't appreciate people's intellect and inner light... it just didn't weigh as heavily on my unfairly skewed opinions of weight and appearance.

When I was in college, I gained a few too many pounds and decided to start exercising. I lost weight, a few pounds and felt smugly satisfied with myself... until THE revelation... I was the same person, thick and thin. It didn't change who I was!

As time marched on, marriage, life, kids, stress and anything else you can think of took their individual tolls on me. Scars from c-sections, post-baby body, lack of exercise, too much exercise, and despite my stellar collegiate revelation, I still berated myself for my perceived imperfections. Did I believe others judged me for these "flaws?" No. Did I judge myself? Yes.

One day about fifteen years after that first revelation, staring at myself in the full-length mirror, and spewing vitriol at myself, I made a second revelation: I would never allow another human being to speak to me with the hatred, anger and distaste that I reserved for myself. Why should I allow my own self to do it? Hmph! I had stumped myself. And with that realization, I resolved that I could not continue the hate/hate relationship with my body that I had nurtured for the better part of a lifetime... I needed to learn to love myself right where I was, then and there, despite size, appearance or age.

That was about three years ago, and I can say that for the first time I really love my body for what it is today. Is it perfect? No. Am I as thin as I was when I first realized that my body weight wasn't actually a true indicator of my goodness or rightness? Absolutely not, and I probably never will be. But I know that I am good and right none the less... and on top of that, I am fit, and strong and healthy.

Today, I choose to love my body, because I am super, just like I am.

I hope you will love yourself today too.

Saturday, July 11

Friday, July 10

So you like the lolcats? And you like Twilight too? Check out this funny site...http://www.twilol.com/

The one above makes me giggle every time I read it!

Thursday, July 9

Body Step Update

Research has suggested that one nearly sure-fire wat to keep your brain healthy, active and lucid into the advanced years of life is to keep challenging it with thoughtfully engaging activities like:
-doing crossword puzzles
-brushing your teeth with the "wrong" hand
-playing an instrument

... well I've come up with one more that kills at least two of those birds with one stone... teaching Body Step!

What is Body Step? It is an intensely athletic, physically challenging step aerobics class that can burn anywhere from 500-800 calories in just one hour. Outside of three Cardio Peak tracks that rev the heart rate up to the anaerobic threshold, there are tracks for strength building, agility training, arm and abdominal sculpting too. When someone leaves a Body Step class, they know that they've done some serious work. Now add to that the memorization of every second of choreography for the 60 minute class, mirror teaching (this means you face the class... so when you tell them to step with the right foot, you're actually stepping with your left), executing picture-perfect technique, teaching the moves and giving feedback to your class participants, and you've got yourself a brain teaser extraordinaire!

The training that I attended was just as I expected... physically intense, long, technical... just imagine about two weeks' worth of exercise crammed into two days... but I lived through it, acquiring blisters on my blisters and consuming bottles of Aleve! A trainee receive one of three grades from the class, all of which move you forward in the process... some of them just taking longer than the other. I received the middle grade - "Pass Withheld." But a "Pass Withheld" is still a pass... I will just have to complete eight team teaching sessions (instead of four) before I can start teaching classes on my own. Hooray!

Once I complete eight team teaching sessions, I'll be teaching my class for a video review that will be sent to the official Body Step certification folks. They will give a very specific, extremely detailed review of my teaching style, execution of movement, response to my class, and more other stuff than you could even imagine. While the video reviewers know that no video will be completely perfect, as the instructor, you want it to be. Striving for perfection=hours of practice, determination and a healthy dose of nerves.

Therefore, I appreciate every little bit of extra feedback I'll be getting from my team teaching sessions. Not only is learning the choreography outside of my comfort zone, but the technique of the actual moves is so specific that I must work hard to perfect it. There are twelve music tracks for the class. As of today, I've learned eight. I anticipate learning the rest this week so I can get on the ball...

... you know what they say... practice makes perfect!

Essentially, it all boils down to this: if you can manage a Body Step a few times each week, you'll are guaranteed to be fit and strong. Between the fun of the music, the "dance" of the choreography and the physical challenge, just doing the class is regularly a highlight of my week. To be able to share this fun with others, well, that will be completely worth every bit of challenge that I endure to make it happen...

Hope to see you in Body Step soon!

Don't forget to check out the Body Step "widget" on the right side of this page to get the feel for what the class is like... you can even search for the class nearest you!

Wednesday, July 8

What to expect...

Enjoy this funny from Real Simple magazine. I can't make it any bigger, but it says,

What to Expect: The 39th Year
Written by Sarah Schmelling

Someone has a lot going on these days! Your 38-year-old is always on the go, exploring her world and trying out words like ergonomic, Twitter and spa day. But even if she's often brimming with confidence, you can still help her to build on her skills and expand her dynamic personality.

What Your 38-Year-Old May Be Doing
By this year, your 38-year-old should be able to:
-Color-coordinate her own clothing.
-Plan a weekend getaway.
-Change a diaper in under two minutes
...Will probably be able to:
-Host a last-minute dinner party.
-Operate a food processor.
-Start insightful discussions on both federal spending and Japanese fashion.
...May even be able to:
-Write a best-selling novel, work full-time, and run a charity organization.

What You May Be Wondering About
Manic Milestones - "My 38-year-old has started talking about the big 4-0. She wavers between saying, "Forty is the new 30,' and pretending she's too young to remember Duran Duran. What should I do?"
Make small changes to ease her through the transition. Arrange to have her carded at her favorite restaurant. Or slip the cute young waiter an extra tip to hit on her for the evening. Just so long as he avoids comparing her to his mother.

Tuesday, July 7

Double Trouble

Look at what I drove up next to recently! So funny to see them side by side that I couldn't help but snap a shot!

Thursday, July 2

And since I had one guy in a bikini yesterday, today I'll show a different guy... in a leotard... and not just anyone....

This is Justin Timberlake. If this video is funny to you, you should really watch the whole skit at this link... I just couldn't figure out a way to embed the video here... HYSTERICAL!

And once I finish my Body Step video, there might be one of me too! Ha!

Wednesday, July 1

IF YOU NEED A LAUGH: Watch this man dance in a bikini

Very long story, putting it very shortly... Actor Peter Facinelli (played Carlisle Cullen in Twilight) wagered with his friend Rob DeFranco as to whether or not he could get 500,000 authenticated followers on Twitter.

Facinelli did it, and DeFranco had to pay up by dancing in a bikini on Hollywood Boulevard. The best part of it all is that they've raised LOTS of money doing this, and it is being given to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation!

This had me shaking with hysterical guffaws... and one really MUST admire Peter Facinelli... so much hotter as a human than as a vampire... almost makes me wish HE'D been the loser in the bikini... (=

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