The Challenge – Are You With Me?

As I climbed into bed last night, I turned to my husband (who was reading a book on the iPad), and asked him if he would mind looking up the weather report for the next day. He kindly switched applications and we looked at the weather report together: “Cloudy with 20% Chance of Rain”. I was inspired to see a sun next to the days report and said, “20% – that’s not that bad. Besides, they have a sun on the report so that’s a good sign”.

I had a restless night as my sore throat persisted from the weekend. It felt as though someone had taken sandpaper and run it across my throat repeatedly. After apologizing, for the hundredth time, to my husband for my frequent bouts of coughing, I told him I couldn’t help it, it felt like flakes of skin were floating around in my throat and I couldn’t get them to stop. He asked if he should go downstairs so he could get some sleep. I didn’t want that, so I got up and went to the kitchen to take some cough medicine. That helped for about 4 hours, at which time the coughing began again in earnest. Needless to say, I don’t think either one of us got much sleep.

Morning soon came and I began the usual routine of getting the kids off to school. I checked outside to see what the weather was like and said with a sigh, “Of course the 20% chance of rain has to be this morning”. It wasn’t raining too hard, more like a cross between a light rain and a gentle mist. I could deal with that.

As I stepped outside for my morning run, I was grateful to be working my legs today instead of my arms. Yesterday, I had spent the morning carrying 50 lb buckets from the garage to our downstairs storage room. There had been 19 buckets, as well as an additional 22 buckets that weighed between 15-20 pounds each (which I had carried two at a time). I had determined, after moving all of them, that it would suffice for my workout for the day. My biceps were sore today and they had good reason to be.

As I ran, I reflected on my current exercise program and a thought came to me. At first, I brushed it aside as ludicrous. As I continued my run, the thought persisted. I let it bounce around in my mind for a while, thinking of all the reasons I should ignore it. If I put that thought into writing, it would be a commitment I was not sure I was ready to make. By the time I ended my run (4 miles later) I knew it wasn’t leaving. The thought had planted itself firmly in my brain and had nestled down in a nice cozy corner, unwilling to leave.

As I sit here, typing away my post for the day, I am still unsure as to whether I should put that thought in writing. If I do, it will be a major commitment on my part. It would also require participation on your part (as a reader), if you are willing.

(Five minutes have passed as I continue to sit here contemplating…”Do I or don’t I?”)

Okay, why not? The thought that persisted in my mind this morning was that I should commit to Tony Horton’s 90 Day Challenge to do P90X for 90 consecutive days. Some of you may be thinking, “That’s no big deal.” If you are one of those, then you are not familiar with what that entails.

I completed Tony’s Power 90 program quite a few months ago. It was tough, but I did it. I started implementing some of the P90X routines and just about died. I still remember the first time I pulled out the P90X Ab Ripper disc. I thought to myself, “No problem. I can do this easily”. I had worked up to 200 crunches on the Power 90 program so I thought the P90X routine would be a snap. I could not have been more wrong! The P90X Ab Ripper routine is 10 times harder than the Power 90 routine. Needless to say, I have only completed some of the P90X programs and those have been sporadically tossed in, one at a time, here and there.

Committing to complete the entire program in 90 Days is like asking for a death sentence. I know that I will most likely be crawling to my grave, wanting to die, every day if I commit. I also know that I will need all of you (my readers) to pull me out each night and encourage me to continue. With that said, here is my proposal:

I will commit to completing Tony’s 90 Day P90X Challenge if I can get a commitment from you to follow my journey, and a promise that you will provide encouragement along the way. What I am asking for is 30 comments to this post (they must all be from different people). You must give me a reason as to why you think I should complete the challenge, and you must commit to offering support along the way. (If you want to be serious about following my 90 Day Challenge, you might even decide to sign up to receive email notifications of my daily posts. Hint-Hint.) By support, I mean that you will read the posts from my journey and provide encouragement through your comments.

What you will receive in return is the opportunity to watch me die, repeatedly, as I attempt to complete the challenge. You will get to read about my struggles and my successes (at least I hope there are some). I will be honest with you about each day’s workout. If nothing else, I hope you will be inspired. Who knows, in the end, you might just decide to try it yourself.

So, that’s it. Will you support me in this challenge? Do you even think I can do it? If you want to watch me try, then post a comment to this post telling me why you would like to see me complete the challenge. Then let me know if you would be willing to offer encouragement and support along the way through your comments to my posts. I cannot do this alone. I am going to need a lot of encouragement. If I receive 30 comments, from 30 different people, then I will commit. I would like to begin the challenge on February 1st (one week from today). Are you with me?

Crock Pot Revolution – Slow Cooked Meals on Trial – Part 2

Last week, my family and I tested six new Weight Watchers crock-pot recipes. Overall, last week was a success. We found many new recipes that we all liked. This week we begin week 2 of our experiment. I will be updating this post each night with a photo of the meal and our reviews. Be sure to check back each night to see if the meal was a success or not.

Tonight was Lamb & Bean Stew. I must admit that I have never cooked lamb before so this was new for me. I had to search three stores last week just to find it! Here are the reviews from tonight:

(To see the reviews for days 1-6 see my previous post “Crock Pot Revolution – Slow Cooked Meals on Trial – Part 1“)

Lamb & Bean Stew - Day 7

Day 7 – Lamb & Bean Stew

We began the meal with my son asking, “What are we having tonight?” To which I responded, “Lamb & Bean Stew.” He looked at me, incredulous, and said, “You’re a sheep killer? You killed a baby sheep and didn’t even give it a chance to grow up?” Well, needless to say, that was not the response I expected. I looked up just in time to see him, sitting at the table with a smirk on his face, trying not to laugh. I knew then that this was going to be an interesting dinner conversation.

My daughter, who was just sitting down at the table, had overheard my sons comment and soon joined in with, “That would be like killing our little brother and serving him up for dinner!” Startled by his sisters’ comment, my youngest son, who was already eating his cheese sandwich, piped in sadly (but with a hidden smile), “I think the little lamb was only 4 years old.” At this point, I decided I might as well join in the conversation and defend myself, so I replied, “I was not the one to ACTUALLY kill the baby lamb.” The conversation continued with various responses in defense of the poor little lamb, who was chopped up into tiny pieces, and laying in our bowls for dinner.

I’m not sure when the conversation turned, but I realized that somehow the conversation had changed from the poor little lamb to what was wrong with all the Disney movies. I overheard my children talking about how Cinderella snuck out and stayed out past curfew and Snow White was living with seven grown men. Then they proceeded to talk about how Sleeping Beauty had been kissed by a stranger, and then married him. “Seriously? What was Disney thinking?” I heard one of them say.

As the conversation continued, we laughed and joked about various topics. Everyone was in good spirits and the conversation was light-hearted and funny.

At the end of the meal, I finally asked everyone for their reviews. Here are the comments from my children: “It was okay.” “Not my favorite.” My husband then added, “I would not be displeased if you did not make this again.” To which I replied, “Oh, so you wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t make it again?” My husband laughed and replied, “That is not what I said. That is a simple statement and I am not a simple man. I said, I would not be displeased if you did not make this again.” At this point, we were all laughing as we cleared the table.

Here is my review: I thought it was okay, but not my favorite. The meat was very tender, and good, but the stew did not have as much flavor as I had hoped.

My children were happy to hear that no more lambs would be slaughtered on our behalf. Oh, did I mention that my son had fun singing, “Mary had a little lamb” only, as you can imagine after reading about our dinner conversation, the words were changed to reflect the fact that we had been responsible for killing Mary’s poor little lamb.

Cheeseburger Soup - Day 8

Day 8 – Cheeseburger Soup

We had a change in the menu. Tonight we had Cheeseburger Soup instead of Lasagna. (Don’t worry, we will have Lasagna another night this week.) I went to the pantry to get the ingredients for the lasagna and realized that the can of crushed tomatoes was missing. I was confused at first but then something occurred to me. I went to my office and picked up the recipe for the Lamb & Bean Stew that we had last night (it also required crushed tomatoes). As I picked up the recipe and read it, I realized what I had done.

The Lamb & Bean Stew called for 14 ½ oz of crushed tomatoes, the oven roasted variety. The Lasagna called for a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. Last night, I had mistakenly used the 28 oz can for the Lamb & Bean Stew. That explains why the stew tasted odd. I had put in twice the amount of crushed tomatoes than it called for.

As I searched the pantry, I realized that I did not have enough crushed tomatoes for the Lasagna tonight. With that realization, I decided to make the Cheeseburger Soup instead.

When I saw this recipe, I was curious to try it. I noticed that it required a lot more than just hamburger and cheese, which is what you would find on your typical cheeseburger. I actually enjoyed the preparation for this one and was interested to see what the family thought of the soup. For the first time in my life, I purchased Velveeta Cheese. I must admit that I was a little hesitant and skeptical about it.

When everyone left this morning, they were all expecting Lasagna for dinner. They were surprised to discover that Cheeseburger Soup was on the menu instead. They were good sports and took it all in stride. As we all sat down, I could see a little trepidation on their faces. They all started eating while I was busy taking the photo for this blog.

As is typical at our home, the conversation began in earnest. This time it revolved around boys, finals at school, crazy text conversations the kids had with their friends today, and the fact that my son had announced two days ago that he had a girlfriend (he is only 13, I might add). As you can imagine, my son quickly found ways to re-direct the conversation back to his sister as often as possible.

As I dipped my spoon into the bowl of Cheeseburger Soup I was pleasantly surprised. It was GOOD. I turned to my husband and asked what he thought. “It’s good,” he replied. The kids liked it as well and the bowls were empty by the time dinner was done. The soup had more flavor that I had expected. It was creamy and tasty. I would make this one again.

Stay tuned…tomorrow night is Three Bean & Pork Chili.

Three Bean & Pork Chili - Day 9

Day 9 – Three Bean & Pork Chili

To view the recipe for this dish check out my post for Three Bean & Pork Slow Cooker Chili.

I really had fun preparing this chili today. There were a lot of different ingredients and I could tell during the prep time that it would be very flavorful. Once I realized how much it was going to make I decided to call a few friends to see if they would like to join us for dinner. They were thrilled with the offer and happy to test the recipe with us.

As everyone arrived the laughter and fun began. We had 9 people surrounding our table tonight (my youngest had already had his cheese sandwich for the night and was happily playing a game on the computer). What a fabulous evening we had with everyone. The conversation covered many intriguing topics with lots of laughter and joking by all.

The conversation continued long after the meal was finished and I noticed that everyone’s bowls were empty. Some of the comments from the guests were: “That was the perfect amount of spices and very flavorful.” “It was just tender enough to fall apart in your mouth.” “A wonderful winter comfort food.” “I would highly recommend this to others.”

All I can say is, “Wow! What a wonderfully delicious chili.” This recipe was extremely flavorful and loved by everyone. I will definitely be making this one again. One of my favorites so far.

This was also a Weight Watchers recipe and 1 serving is only 6 PointsPlus points. It was very filling and enjoyable to eat.

Old Fashioned Veal Stew - Day 10

Day 10 – Old Fashioned Veal Stew

To view the recipe for this dish see my post Old Fashioned Slow Cooker Veal Stew

Wow! This stew was AMAZING. Very hearty and delicious. I would have to say that it is probably the best stew I’ve ever had. The flavor was excellent and the meat melted in your mouth. As soon as we had dished up the meal and everyone started eating, I heard comments like, “Wow, this is really good” “Very good” “Excellent” “The meat just melts in your mouth” “I would DEFINITELY eat this again”.

The only down side to the meal was that it made just the perfect amount for our family so there were no leftovers. Next time I would definitely double it so we could have leftovers for lunch the next day. I would have to say that this one just moved to the top of my “favorites” list. You will not be disappointed if you make this one. I did not have sage so I used rosemary instead. It worked out perfect! My family loves cooked carrots so I put in some extra as well. I could not find “Veal” so I used a high quality stew meat. Everything worked out great.

This recipe is only 5 PointsPlus points. That is AMAZING! A serving is 1 1/2 cups, which is what you see in my bowl. It was so hearty and thick that I was very satisfied, if not a little on the full side, when I was done. Even my husband said that serving size was enough to fill him up. VERY, VERY GOOD.

I will post some of our favorite recipes from this experiment in the next week so you can view them here.

We have two more recipes to try in our experiment. Moroccan Stew & Lasagna. We will be having those on Sunday & Monday so check back to see photos and to read the family reviews.

Moroccan Stew - Day 11

Day 11 – Moroccan Stew

Today was day 11 of our experiment and Moroccan Stew was on the menu. My family and I were all a little hesitant about trying this one. It was a vegetarian meal and it had butternut squash in it. I have never eaten butternut squash before and I don’t think anyone in my immediate family has either. The recipe sounded good so we decided to add it to our test list.

As dinner time approached my husband had to leave to go pick up our daughter. Unsure of how long it would take him to return, my boys and I decided to begin eating without them. As my 13 year old son dished up his bowl he turned to me and said, “Hey, there’s no meat in it, but it smells good.”

We sat down to eat and as I was taking the photo for this blog update, my son began eating the stew. His first comment was,”This is really good.” Happy to hear his report I began to eat mine as well. We were both delighted with the flavor of the stew. It had a bit of a kick to it and was a little spicy, but we enjoyed it.

We were about 3/4 done with our stew when my husband and daughter walked in. They sat down, looked at their food and eyed me suspiciously. I could tell they were not sure about what I was serving for dinner. My daughter took her first bite, thought about it, then stated, “It tastes like it wants to be pumpkin pie…but its not.” With that, she concluded she didn’t like it. My husband, who is not a big squash eater, was not a big fan either. He only tasted one bite before making a decision. My son and I were a little surprised at their reaction because we both really liked the stew.

I thought it was very flavorful and made a great warm meal on a cold day. I really enjoyed the different textures and tastes. If it were just my son and I, we would eat it again. Since I have a whole family to please, and two of them didn’t like it, I guess we will probably let this one pass.

If you love flavorful, spicy dishes, and you like butternut squash, I think you would really like this dish. I did.

Lasagna - Day 12

Day 12 – Lasagna

To see a copy of this recipe check out my blog post Slow Cooker Lasagna Recipe.

Well, today was the last day in our 2 week trial of Slow Cooker recipes. Lasagna was on the menu. This was actually fun to prepare and I was curious to see how it would taste having been cooked in the crock pot. I must say that it was delicious. My husband said he would definitely eat it again and wanted to make sure I saved the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. It was fairly easy to prepare and made enough for 6. I was surprised by the size of pieces that were considered 1 serving. What you see on my plate is just 1 serving of Lasagna, per the recipe. It was a lot!! My daughter also enjoyed it and ate every bite.

My family and I have had a lot of fun trying various healthy recipes over the past two weeks. What I have discovered is that my family enjoys eating the Weight Watchers meals as much as I do. That is a huge relief. It has been wonderful to find so many crock pot recipes that we like. We will now have many alternatives to the standard “pot roast”.

My daughter told me the other day that it has been really comforting to know what is on the menu every night. I have to agree. Every day we knew what we were having because it had been planned out ahead of time. It alleviated my concern as to what I was going to be fixing every night for dinner. It took some time in the beginning, but once it was planned out and the shopping was done, it was very simple!

I hope you have all enjoyed reading about our journey as we have tried various “healthy” recipes. It’s been a fun adventure. Now…..I just have to figure out what we are going to have for the next two weeks… 😀

Fruit vs. Oreo’s

Have Fresh Fruit Readily Available AND VISIBLE Every Day - I Keep This Platter Filled With Fresh Fruit On The Table For Quick & Easy Snacks

Eating healthy can sometimes be a challenge. Okay, I’ll admit, most of the time it can be a challenge. When I first joined Weight Watchers, I was shocked to realize the point value of various foods. I finally understood why it had been so difficult for me to lose weight in the past. Foods that I thought were healthy turned out not to be. I realized that just because I was eating a salad, did not mean it was low in points or the best choice for me.

As I started tracking everything I ate, I began to realize that by making smarter choices I was actually able to eat more than I had in the past, and still lose weight. I found that I felt “satisfied” more often and stayed full longer. As the weight began to come off, I found motivation to continue with the plan.

My husband decided to join Weight Watchers with me and I must admit that having the extra support has really helped. Through sharing the plan, and the things I was learning, with my children, I found that they were also willing to try new things and eat healthier.

My daughter asked me one day if I would buy more fruit. Surprised, I told her that we had fruit in the refrigerator. She replied, “Oh, I didn’t know.” I guess that old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is true. My daughter then asked me if I could leave some of the fruit in a bowl on the counter. She told me that it would help her to remember to eat it. I turned around, pointed to a bowl of fruit already on the counter, and told her that I always left some there. She then replied, “Oh, well, could you put it on THIS counter?” She then pointed to the counter on the other side of the kitchen. I asked, “What’s the difference?” She then explained to me that the placement of the current fruit bowl was obviously not in a good place because she had not noticed it, even though it had been there for quite some time.  She told me that if I placed it in the middle of the counter, where the bar stools were, it would be readily available AND visible. Her statement made sense, so I moved the bowl to the other counter. Having the bowl of fruit readily available AND visible has made all the difference in the world.

Sure, there are days when the kids reach for the Oreo’s instead of the fruit, however, they are reaching for fruit more often than before and that is a step in the right direction. Having the fruit more VISIBLY available has also made a big difference for me. It seems that I am constantly re-filling the platter with fresh fruit from the refrigerator or the store. I am pleased to admit than I am now eating A LOT more fresh fruit than I have in the past. Occasionally, an Oreo does make it into my mouth. Oreo’s are a weakness of mine, and I know it. Which is why I don’t buy them very often anymore.

Living a healthier life can happen by simply making one small change at a time. Try placing a large bowl of fruit in the middle of the table, and the next time you crave Oreo’s or ice cream, reach for a piece of fruit instead.

18 Candles, Soft Music & A Hot Bath

It was after 10:00 pm when I headed to bed last night. As I crested the top of the stairs, and headed toward my bedroom, I said to myself, “Maybe I should just take a quick shower.” My desire, all day, had been to soak in a long, hot bath when I returned home (our new home had a fabulous large Jacuzzi tub that I had been dying to try). I had been moving boxes, tools and patio furniture all day and I was exhausted and tired.

My day had started out rough. When I had awoken 15 hours earlier, I was met with a sore scratchy throat. “Ugh!” That was the first word out of my mouth. “I cannot get sick,” I thought to myself. I climbed out of bed, threw on a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt and gave my teeth a quick brushing. I did not have time for a shower this morning. I stood in front of the mirror and put my hair in a ponytail. I would just ignore my sore throat for the day. It would go away….wouldn’t it? I had things to do and getting sick was NOT one of them.

As I walked through the door to my bedroom, exhausted and tired, I looked at my husband and said, “I think I’ll just take a quick shower before bed.” He knew I had wanted to soak in the tub when I returned home that night. My muscles were sore from the extra running I had added to my exercise schedule during the week and all the moving from the day had only added to my exhaustion. He had been relaxing in bed watching a movie on the iPAD when I walked in. He saw my tired look and smiled. “I already ran you a bath. It’s all ready,” he said.

I had not heard the water running earlier and so I walked around the corner into the bathroom to see for myself. I stopped at the entrance to the bathroom and was speechless. There in front of me was a nice hot bath with steam billowing up from the surface of the water. Surrounding the tub there were candles everywhere, each one lit and flickering in the darkness, like little beacons of light whispering, “Come in and join us”. I turned and realized there was soft music playing on the iPod player in the corner. The overhead lights had been dimmed to the lowest setting and were barely glowing. This was even better than what I had imagined in the morning!

The hot water beckoned to my tired and sleepy body. I expressed gratitude to my husband for his thoughtfulness and then slid into perfect serenity. He left me to enjoy my solitude in peace. I closed my eyes and let my mind soak in the moment. The music was soothing to my soul and the lighting was perfect for my tired eyes. Time passed and when I opened my eyes to look around again I noticed all the candles surrounding me. There were more than I had remembered having there before. I counted them, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….16, 17, 18. I found myself surrounded by 18 candles of varying shapes and sizes. I recognized them all and realized he must have found them in one of the moving boxes. Oh, how I loved that man!

I reflected on the day’s events and smiled. While it had been tiring and exhausting, there had been many happy moments too. My youngest son had been thrilled when he found his favorite baseball bat among the tools in the shed. Baseball sign-ups were coming up and he had wanted to practice. He found his bike and helmet and quickly made a beeline for the street out front so he could go for a ride. My older son found his old roller blades and had to take them for a spin around the cul-de-sac (surprisingly they still fit), he found his stilts as well as his favorite yellow disc for Disc Golf. My daughter had discovered two basketballs and a soccer ball in the back of the shed and promptly packed them in the car, claiming they were hers. These were all familiar toys that had brought much happiness in the past and the kids were happy to find them and bring them to the new house.

While I continued to reflect on the day’s events, I felt a peaceful feeling envelop me. My life was good. No, actually it was better than that. It was great! I will be the first to admit my life is not perfect, but I have a family that loves me and I love them. In the end, that is really all that matters after all.

The past year has been a journey for me as I have sought to discover how to live a healthier life. I am still on that journey. While I have spent quite a bit of time improving my health through exercise and eating healthier, I have probably spent more time focused on improving my relationships with others. My life seems fuller and richer than ever. I have been purposeful in my efforts to improve those relationships, and I am seeing the results. Even though trials still surround me, I am at peace. I have committed myself to improving all aspects of health in my life and am discovering the joy in the journey.

If you have a goal to live a healthier life, do not forget to include your relationships in that journey. Make time for those you love, give of yourself, you will be rewarded in unexpected ways.

Running At Night Changed My Life

It was cold outside and the rain was coming down, bathing my face with soft gentle drops. I had decided to go for a walk that morning. I was feeling a bit down and needed to clear my head. My walk slowly turned into a run as I remembered the last time I had run. It had been years…

I awoke with a start to the sound of someone knocking on our front door. I lay in bed and listened intently to see who it was. I could hear my mom opening the door and the voice of the visitor. I knew immediately who it was. I squeezed my eyes shut and pulled the covers over my head, willing myself to fall back asleep. I could hear their voices getting closer as they approached the door to my room. “Please fall asleep,” I repeated over and over in my mind, trying desperately to do so. The door to my bedroom opened, but I did not move. I tried desperately to keep my breathing even so they would think I was still asleep.

“Get up and get dressed,” I heard my friend say. I lay motionless, praying they would think I was still asleep and leave. Without warning, the covers were pulled off my head and there stood my friend and my mom. I can still remember vividly, the look in my friends eyes as he said, “You can either get up and get dressed, or I will get you up and dress you myself.” One look into his eyes and I knew he was telling the truth. I turned to look at my mom, with pleading in my eyes, but she just looked at me as if to say, “I’ll let him do it, if that’s what it takes to get you out of bed.” Mortified, by the thought of him actually dressing me, I slowly got out of bed. “We’re going running,” he said as he walked out my door.

Running? Was he serious? That was the last thing I wanted to do that day. What I WANTED was to lay in bed forever and never get out. I was depressed, hurt, confused, angry, sad and so many other emotions. Running was the least of my concerns. But my friend knew all that. That’s why he was standing in my room demanding that I get out of bed.

As I dressed to go running, I thought about what had brought me to that point in my life. My older brother had passed away a few weeks before and I was still dealing with the grief and trying to make sense of it all. I missed him very much and was hurting like I had never hurt before.

My friend had been there with me through it all. I had met him the year before and we had developed a strong friendship with one another. He was there for me the night I discovered that my brother had passed away. He came and picked me up and we drove for hours as we talked, cried, and tried to understand. I could talk to him about anything. He would listen, then listen some more. He had the uncanny knack of knowing when I just needed to talk and when I wanted his advice. He was a true friend.

We did go running that day and he continued to come and get me just about every day, rain or shine. I could barely run a mile in the beginning. I would gasp for air and beg to stop. “No,” he would say. “Keep going. You can do it!” He pushed me. Running was easy for him. He was a marathon runner and could run 10 miles without even breaking a sweat (or so it seemed). I knew running with me was like walking for him. He never complained. He kept with me. Encouraging me and teaching me what he knew. I ran my first 5K that summer and it felt great!

After a few months of running, we found ourselves running side by side one night. It was late, after 10pm. We were running around the track of the local junior high. The weather was perfect. It was warm and the air was still. As we came around the corner of the track, we stopped and stood in awe. There before us, just above the trees, was the most beautiful moon I had ever seen. It was HUGE! I’d never seen anything like it. It looked as though it was close enough to touch. We both stood for a moment and drank in the beautiful sight, commenting on its beauty.

As we started to run again I felt the tears slip down my cheek.  I realized in that moment that instead of always looking down, I had looked up. What a glorious sight I saw before me. I realized then, that while my friend had been teaching me to run, it was not to run away from my pain, it was to run towards something better.

I realized in that moment, that life moved on. I could choose to cover my head, and wallow in self-pity, or I could get my butt out of bed, lace up my running shoes, and participate in the journey of life. The sun would continue to rise, and the sun would continue to set. The choice was mine as to whether I would participate in the journey.

My friend taught me some valuable lessons that year. He taught me that you need to pick yourself up when life gets you down. He taught me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, such as; sitting on the beach while tossing bread to the seagulls for the simple pleasure of watching them dive for it; stopping the car by the side of the road, just so you can capture a photo of a coyote foraging in the brush; eating watermelon in the backyard and having seed spitting contests; or simply listening to music for hours on end, while singing at the top of your lungs, just for the fun of it. He taught me to laugh again. He taught me to trust again. Most importantly, he taught me to have HOPE. Hope that life would get better. Hope that the pain would eventually ease. Hope that my heart would heal. Hope that I would feel completely whole again.

My friend saved me that year. He taught me what TRUE friendship is really all about. He knew my pain and knew that I was hurting. He cared enough to be gentle but tough. He wasn’t going to let me sleep my life away, he would do much better than that. He would teach me to LIVE again.

Eight months after my brother passed away my friend moved to Hawaii for a new job. It was with tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat, that I said goodbye. I still remember the look in his eyes as we parted. It was a sad day for us both. My heart was breaking again for I knew I would miss him greatly. I think, deep down, we both knew that I would be okay, but it was still hard.

We kept in touch for a while, but life moves on. I have only seen my friend twice in the past 27 years but the impact he had on my life has remained. The lessons he taught me were invaluable later on in my life and critical to helping me endure and overcome trials. He will never know how important his friendship was to me during that difficult time of my life.

Friend, if you are reading this, “Thank You.” Thank you for saving me. Thank you for teaching me to laugh again. Thank you for making me feel like I was important, AND that I was worth saving. Thank you for teaching me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. May you know that YOU made a difference in someone’s life. MY LIFE. I will be forever grateful.

Boxing with Bob = Buckets of Sweat

Who would have ever thought that I’d take up boxing at the age of 44? Never in a million years did I see that coming. It happened quite by accident. My husband came home from work one day and stated that a friend of his was getting rid of their old punching bag. He knew I had talked about having one as a kid, and wanted to know if I’d be interested in getting it. I had fond memories of our VERY large and VERY heavy punching bag that my dad had hung in our family room as a child, so I jumped at the opportunity.

I remember the day my dad came home with the huge punching bag. We were all excited! I still have no idea how he convinced my mom to let him hang it in the family room, just off the entry to our home. Everyone saw it when they walked in the front door, and it was quite the conversation starter. Pretty much everyone that walked through our door had to take a swing at it. I think many of them had never actually punched one before.

I honestly don’t remember why my dad decided to get one, I only know that I had 3 older teenage brothers, and figured that must have had something to do with it. Whenever they would get angry with each other my dad would send them to the punching bag. I think he figured it would be safer to have them punch the bag than each other. I loved that punching bag. Sometimes, when I’d walk by, I’d stop just to hug it. I have no idea how heavy the bag was, I only know that it didn’t matter how hard I punched it, it never moved. Even when my brothers punched it, it didn’t budge. It was solid, heavy, and the most wonderful toy in the world for a little girl (at least I thought so).

Needless to say, my husband and I were driving to his friends’ house the very next day to pick up their old punching bag. I was thrilled! My husband hung it up, you’ll never guess where….Yep, in our family room/media room. That’s when I discovered what a fabulous workout I could get boxing.

At first I had no idea what I was doing. I had picked up a few moves here and there but decided to search the internet to see if I was doing it correctly. My teenage daughter kept telling me I should wrap my hands before putting on the gloves. I looked at her and said, “Oh, I don’t need to do that. These gloves are really padded.” Well, a couple of weeks later I realized she was right. I was beginning to get blisters on my knuckles and they REALLY hurt. I headed off to the store soon after to pick up some wraps for my hands.

Anyone who has boxed before knows that the wraps for your hands are VERY long. I remember opening the package and wondering, “How in the world am I supposed to wrap this around my hands?” Thank goodness for the internet! I searched and found out that there was a specific way to wrap them. I realized the sites with video tutorials were best. I had to watch them over and over as I practiced wrapping my hands. Finally, I was ready to try boxing again with not only the gloves, but the hand wraps too. WOW!! What a difference. I was convinced that hand wraps were definitely a necessity.

I am certainly not a professional boxer in any way. But I do love to punch away at “Bob” (that is the name I’ve given my bag). I don’t know how to describe it, except to say that boxing with Bob is one of my favorite exercise options. It’s tough! On the days that I box I do so for 60 minutes. That is a long time to box continually. I am always covered in sweat, and quite literally dripping sweat all over the floor. It’s kind of gross actually, but it feels great! My arms, and abs, get a really good workout. The music has to be loud, and it has to be good.

After a couple of months I realized that “Bob” was pretty lumpy in the middle. I discovered that is what happens when they get old (kind of like humans, I guess). That is when I decided that I was hooked enough on boxing that it would be worthwhile to replace Bob with an upgrade. The “new” Bob is a little heavier and taller than the old one. He’s black instead of white, but he’s still Bob to me.

With our recent move I haven’t been able to box with Bob for awhile. I’ve missed him terribly and am thrilled to say that he arrived in our new home today. We still have to find a place to hang him but I’m determined to have that done in the coming week.

I have no doubt Bob will get a good beating once he’s hung again. He’s a great partner. He never complains and is available whenever I want to box. I guess all I have to say right now is, “Welcome Home, Bob! I’ve missed you.”

I Didn’t Realize I’d Been Missing, Until I Found Myself…In The Garden

I have always had a passion for gardening; I just never had the time. I spent years

Sunflower from my garden.

collecting books on gardening, canning, farming, and living off the land. YES, I even read them! I was fascinated with the stories of people who would leave the city, and their corporate jobs, and head to the country to live a simpler life. My husband used to give me a hard time about all the books I was collecting. I would just smile and say, “Someday, I will have a garden.” We both knew it would be awhile. Time or lack thereof, was the problem. I was working full-time, owned my own business, had employees to oversee and five children to raise. Gardening was not something I had time for…at least not yet.

Cauliflower from my garden.

I knew I had to make some changes in my life when my doctor looked at me and said, “You really need to reduce the stress in your life.” This was not the first time he had spoken those words to me, nor would they be the last. It was a constant struggle. Business was booming, work was crazy and I had children in pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I also had commitments with my church that required a great deal of time. I loved everything I was involved in but knew I could not keep it up. My body was telling me, and my doctor was telling me, that something had to change.

Slowly, but surely, I started making changes in my life. Some of them were easy; some of them were VERY, VERY difficult. Gradually, I was able to make enough changes in my life to ease the stress on my body and on my mind. It was definitely a challenge, and not easy to do.

Artichoke plant in my garden.

Quite honestly, I had no idea what to do with the extra time I had created in my life. I had never had “time” to have a hobby in the previous 20 years (or at least I couldn’t remember if I had). I felt lost.

I decided it was time to test my skills at gardening. I had the time and the means to do it. With that decision made, I convinced my family to help me dig up a large portion of our backyard so I could start a garden. It was a huge undertaking but everyone helped get the ground ready.

2009 was the year of my first “Real” garden. I had tried once, years before, but it had

Tomato plant in my garden.

failed for lack of time I could devote to it. I could not have asked for a better year to start my garden. The weather was perfect and the days were warm. My son decided to help me and it soon became “our” garden. He was, and is, a huge help. We have spent the past 2 years testing our skills while learning to garden. Our focus has primarily been on vegetable gardening so that we could provide healthier food for our family.

Applying what you read in books can sometimes be challenging, but that is part of the joy in learning. Life in the garden does not always go the way you would hope, but then again…life in general does not always go the way you would hope. We learn to adapt, change, modify and continually grow from our own cultivation in this journey we call LIFE. Sometimes, we need to be pruned, re-planted and fertilized so we can grow. Just as there are different seasons in the year, there are different seasons in our life. As we end one season and begin another it can be uncomfortable, but we will soon find our place. Enjoy the season you are in, as it will pass quicker than you thought. Embrace the next season when it comes and live it to the fullest. Life is a journey; learn to find the joy in it. You’ll be grateful you did.

Part of my garden.

I didn’t realize I’d been missing, until I found myself….in the garden.