Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

A few days ago, a bald eagle landed on my beach.  Check out this amazing creature!

Enjoy your day!


PS:  Feel free to share my photos with others but please track back to  Thanks!!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Musings & Gratitude

It’s 5:30am and Big D. “busts” Spidey trying to pitter patter down the hallway to see what Santa has left under the tree.   I simultaneously cherish my son's excitement while cursing only four hours of sleep thanks to late night wrapping and an overshot of coffee consumption.

As hubby and I snuggle our captured child, I find myself mentally plucking at memories like so many leaves in the wind.   My "baby" boy is almost eight years old and Miss M. is a teenager.  How did this happen?  When did this happen?   Too fast.
It also occurs to me that this is my first Christmas without my own parents.   (My dad died in 2010 and my mom, this past February.)   There are a few moments of “poor me” before I remember the words I heard at a church service last night:
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
As I let that phrase sing to me, I feel incredible gratitude take over.  
I am truly blessed to know some of the most amazing, talented, loving, funny, smart, insightful, beautiful people on the planet.  At the end of the day, it’s not about what I have or even what I get to do.  It’s about the people I get to know.
At the risk of going into “I love you man!” territory, I must say that I’m a pretty flippin’ lucky gal.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and a very Merry Christmas to all.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The "Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise" Game

Do yourself a HUGE favor and play this fun little game.  Invite your friends.

Whenever you catch yourself saying, or even thinking, any of the following sentiments, smack yourself in the head. Tough love, I know. It's for your own good. You'll tell me to buzz off thank me someday.

- "I'm so fat." If you say "bloated" instead of "fat", smack yourself twice.

- "I'm getting sick." Again, double smack if you are simultaneously pissed at someone else for having the nerve to feel ill in your presence thereby creating this eventuality.

- "I'm tired." No kidding. Who isn't? 

- "What a jerk!" Okay, so there are some genuine buttheads out there.  But as a general rule, if you meet more than two jerks in one day, chances are pretty good you're one of them.

- "I could never afford that." Never is a really long time. You may not want to prioritize a gold bathtub right now (or ever) but we all have the absolute ability to attract prosperity into our lives.

Remember: Energy flows where attention goes.  Focus your thoughts and words on what you WANT.

Carpe Diem!

Do you like me?  Do you want to be kept up to date on my hilarious and helpful new book, "MY Life Doesn't Make YOUR Butt Look Big"?  Yes!  Please use my handy social media buttons at the top of the page or find me at:


Twitter:  @beamingbalance and @mylifeyourbutt
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Must be High School Reunion Time

I can always tell when reunion season crops up. All I have to do is look at my blog analytics by keyword. 

Mind you, it's been slightly more complicated with the Olympics this year; I feel badly for everyone who came here only to find out that this site has nothing to do with gymnastics.  Note that I am also slightly concerned that the top "balance beam" search terms are "has anyone died on the balance beam," "balance beam deaths," "balance beam fatalities," and so on.  Morbid curiosity I guess. Either way, I got nuthin'. 

All that aside, today has been a banner day for reunion-related Google searches leading to my blog:

That's just page one but you get the idea.

Not sure how "tony horton naked" ranked so high. I'm innocent on that one!  *blush*

Anyhoo, since the demand seems to be there I figured I'd bump up a link to that post (clickety click the link):


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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Little Less Talkin' and a Lot More Action

Thanks to everyone who commented and emailed me with their goals.  Big or small, it seems we all have some lingering thing on our life "to do" list.  It begs the question, how do we actually DO it?"

How do we get from "I really need to start working out" to actual sweat? 

         How do we get from "I really need to get going on this book proposal" to seeing words organized on a page? 

    How do we get from the intention of whatever that thing is we want/need/been meaning to do, to making it actually happen?

Okay, so we've established that it's not easy.  Whether it's finishing a scrapbook or taking charge of our health, it can be really hard to get our arses in gear.   We say "no time" but of course that's a fake objection.  This is evidenced by the fact that we make time for other people and tasks.

I'll cop to it.  I've been complaining about not having enough time to work on this blog.  And yet somehow over the weekend I managed to help two friends with their blogs.

I know I'm not alone.  I'm surrounded by "givahs" and I bet you're one of them too.

So back to question:  How do we get past the talking (or whining or postponing) to the actual doing?

Going back to my Personal Strategic Management approach, I believe the key is focusing on three steps:

1. Internal
       * Transform thoughts, feelings, words, feeding only positive energy.
       * Visualize yourself at your goal and believe it will be done. 

2. External
        * Engage in the actions which will get you to your goal.
        * Focus on making the right choices and acknowledge yourself for doing so.

3. Support
        * Ask for help.
        * Feedback, physical assistance, accountability and/or just the time and space for #1 & 2 to be possible are all critical elements to success.

For most folks, once we get inspired into action, the tendency is to only do #2.   "Just do it!" and all that. 

The thing is, it's just not enough to make the effort sustainable.   The actions are very important; life is about choices afterall.  However, we must have alignment and energy from the inside-out as well as support from the outside-in get us to long-lasting success.  

So, now think of that thing you want to accomplish and map out what you will start to do differently to get to that goal: internal, external and support.

Surround that goal and conquer it!

Carpe diem,
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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Five Ways to Steal Back Time

So back to the question of, "How do you do it all??"  For me, it's not actually so much a matter of getting everything done.  Thanks to years of childhood trauma wisdom and experience, I'm both extremely OCD organized and have an intense fear of failure very goal-oriented.

The question is really how to do it all and not lose my mind.  Oh, it will all get done but will there be any survivors?

That's why I spend so much energy focusing on how important it is to take time to take care of ourselves, have fun, move, play, laugh. We must nurture our spirit, mind and body.

All that said, last I looked there are only 24 hours in a day.  Reality check. Something has got to give. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd share just a few adjustments I've made in order to steal back a few extra minutes here and there.

1. I've lowered my standards of "clean."  Instead of needing my house to be spotless at all times, I've decided that not embarrassing will work.  This paradigm shift is easier than you think.  Just pretend you're a man.

     1a. Scrubbing the floor now involves a spray bottle of Windex and a dishcloth under my bare feet as I shuffle around picking up toys and other items which magically appear on the floor with no (admitted) human intervention.

2. I'm a big fan of exercising all day long instead of trying to fit in a "workout" in one big chunk of time. For example:
       * See #1a.  It counts!
       * Running in place while waiting for the microwave, coffee maker or dear hubby to get out of the bathroom (which could actually be a long run.)
       * Playing "personal trainer" with my kids where they take turns giving everyone else exercises to do. Think "Simon Says" with more muscle confusion. 
       *  Doing commuter crunches.  Specifically, tiny abdominal muscle contractions while driving.  Glute squeezes too.  Nope, not kidding.   My office used to be 55 miles from my house.  One can't drive that much and not get creative.  If you don't commute, make them "Facebook crunches."

3. Spiderman (who will be eight in January) loves the "laundry game." He knows how to gather the clothes from around the house, sort by colors, measure detergent and start the washing machine.  He thinks it's fun and wants to learn how to use the dryer now.  I'm a genius, I know.  

4. Twelve-year old Miss M. has just been hired as the official lunchbox lady for herself and Spidey.  This has double time savings since not only don't I have to make the kids' school lunches, I also don't have to waste time arguing with them about what they want.  Miss M. now has freedom of choice (with parameters), pride in being more independent and a passive aggressive way to get at her brother.  She's also the official Dish Queen.  It can be quite dramatic when the sink is full of yucky dishes but it's a good way to teach her that sometimes life includes suffering.

 5. Sunday is now food prep day.  I take the time to make a few big batches of stuff for the week and/or get items prepped. For example, this weekend I'll make a big bowl of my citrus chickpea quinoa salad. Yum!  I'll also get all my veggies for the week washed and prepped into resealable bags or containers.  If they ever have a "Top Sous Chef" reality show, I'm so in.

There you go.  I would love to hear your fun time-saving tips so please do share!  (Even if you don't, I still love lots and lots of comments!!)


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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Detox Experiment - Final Review

It’s actually been a couple of weeks since I officially completed the Metabolic Detoxification by Metagenics. Did you miss me?

So here’s the final down-low:

Days 8 & 9 involve gradually adding back more fruits and vegetables, then rice, then the other grains.

Day 10 just says “Congratulations!” and provides a warning to add only one pre-detox food back at a time so you can see if you have any allergies.  I'd love to know if anyone actually follows that warning.

Potentially good news for you is that it’s more like a nine day detox vs. ten. If you’re already a vegetarian then it’s more like eight days.

The bad news is that even at ten days, I personally don’t think it’s enough to be truly effective. I know that sounds like a bummer since the original appeal is “you can do anything” for a week plus a couple of days.

By the end of the first week I was just starting to feel the great effects.  Knowing what a slippery slope these things can be, I tried to (mostly) stick with it for at least another week. I was traveling so it wasn’t easy!

If I had just gone back on day 10, even gradually, to eating everything I had been eating pre-cleanse (i.e. sugar, processed foods, dairy)  I'm sure I’d have undone any positive results within just a few days.

The awareness and breaking of habits is really the best part of doing a program like this. However, it takes more than a couple of days to make a lasting lifestyle change. I’m told there is a 21-day Metagenics option you can buy (I’m guessing for twice the money) but I couldn’t find it online anywhere.

All that said, there were really no negatives for me in trying it. I can confirm that it won't kill you, so that's a plus.

 Here are some of the other positives:

     * Definite increase in energy (which I needed to get back into a good fitness routine; double bonus)
     * Much more awareness of food choices
     * Much more awareness of actual hunger level
     * Started to lose that “fluffy” feeling
     * Down four lbs (was down six lbs on day 8 but gained two lbs back right away)
     * Staying away from caffeine 

If you’re reading this and deciding whether or not to do the Metagenics program, I’d say save the $84 and get Kathy Freston’s Quantum Wellness Cleanse book. (Okay, that’s $10 so you still save $74.)

Not only will you get the same or better results but you’ll have Kathy’s guidance, encouragement, and empowering information along the way; all things I really missed during the Metagenics program.

Talk to your doctor about it but my personal experience is that if you eat the right "real" food, you don't need the powdered "medical" food.  That said, a good multi-vitamin with extra vitamin D isn't a bad idea, even if you're not doing a cleanse.

If you’re not quite sure if you're ready for anything formal at all, just take Kathy’s (free) advice to “lean into it.”

Don’t worry about fancy books or programs. Just pick one unhealthy or “toxic” thing in your life and free yourself of that. Maybe it’s sugar, maybe it’s caffeine, maybe it’s alcohol or gluten. Maybe it's an unhealthy relationship with someone instead of something.  Decide and try.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Carpe diem!

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Friday, September 21, 2012

"Dreaded Days 5 - 7" of Metabolic Detox

DAYS 5, 6, 7

The plan:  Eat as much as you want of the following in addition to four servings of the "powdered beverage mix":
     - Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
     - Raw greens (red and green lettuce, romaine, spinach, endive)
     - Fresh apples and pears
     - Pear and apple juice (no sugar added)
     - All herbs & spices
     - Dijon mustard
     - Vinegars

My experience & some advice:  Pretty much every review I've read or heard about the Metagenics Metabolic Detox includes a fair bit of whining about days "five through seven."   My first advice is to think of it as simply "days five, six, and seven."  That's it.  Three days.  Otherwise it just seems like a much longer stretch of time than it really is.  Personally I didn't find it bad at all and finally noticed a huge increase in energy (plus down four lbs) by the end of this stretch.

Some other tips:

1)  Plan ahead.  Yes, I already said it.  It's worth repeating.  When you can only eat specific things, it kinda sucks not to have any of those things in your house. 

2) Don't waste your money on frozen Brussels sprouts.  They are absolutely disgusting.  You can use frozen cauliflower and broccoli in soups and stuff, but something went horribly wrong in the freezing of those little green bulbs.  Conversely, fresh Brussels sprouts are simply divine.  My favorite discovery of this entire cleanse is this one simple recipe.   Super easy and melt-in-your-mouth yummy:

     * Preheat oven to 400*
     * Cut off brown ends of the sprouts, remove any yellow leaves, cut bulbs in half lengthwise and throw them into a gallon baggie (or bowl).  It's okay, even preferable, if some of the individual leaves flake off.  Pull off some intentionally.  You'll know why later.
     * Add just a touch of olive oil (it's not technically allowed on days 5,6,7 but I'm a rebel), plus some coarse salt and pepper. 
     * Shake it all about to mix.
     * Spread out into a single layer on a foil covered sheet pan.
     * Roast for 30 minutes or so, giving it a shake every now for even cooking.  It's one of those things you have to watch.  You want the leaves to be really dark brown, almost black.  I actually pulled out the individual leaves and snacked on them while I was waiting for the fuller sprouts to cook.    Beyond good.

3) Make soup.  It turns out that when you blend cauliflower, it gets the consistency of cream.  (Note to self for future vegan recipes that call for cream).   Roasting the veggies first also gives a really delicious flavor. 

4) Use spices.  There's no need to suffer through three days of eating mounds of raw, plain veggies.  Yuck.  Open some of those jars that have been sitting on your spice rack since goodness knows when.

5) Allrecipes has a handy recipe search where you can put in specific ingredients you want or don't want.  Or, you can simply search for something like "vegan cauliflower soup".   Each recipe has a star rating and reviews with tips on how to make it even yummier.

Bon Appetite!

 Photo Credits: Sprouts -; Soup -

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Metabolic Mindfulness

Here's what we call an "ah-ha" moment.  Rather, it's a "oh yeah" moment:

One of the main reasons cleanses are so great isn't about the diet or our bodies at all.  It's about our minds.  It's about becoming more mindful.

Clearly I needed to do this.

I've had little reminders over the past couple of days.  Having to fight the urge to polish off the plain noodles that my son left in his dish.  Grabbing a potato chip from the bowl in front of me as I chatted with friends (then dropping it like it was covered in ants once I realized I had it!)  So many moments where I would have put food in my mouth out of habit or not really paying attention; certainly not based out of hunger or desire for flavor.  Each time though, I became more and more aware.

That awareness and transition from mindless to mindful has been energizing.  For the first time since I started this cleanse (and well before) I am feeling more... awake.

Today, I volunteered at an Easter Seals event where they had a delicious and beautiful continental breakfast.  (I wish I had taken a picture.  Darn.)   With this new sense of mindfulness, there was something almost empowering about not popping a whole mini-muffin (or four) into my mouth.  I thought about how good just one taste of that cream cheese would taste without even wanting an entire bagel slathered with it.

Mindfulness and gratitude will be my lessons for the day.  It will make the next five days so much more pleasant to focus on those things vs. just thinking about "eliminating" food.  


The plan:  Eat all the vegetables, beans, legumes and fruit you want plus four servings of the protein smoothie.

My day:  Much better!  I made a fabulous roasted cauliflower with garlic and lemon juice; 500* for 15 min.  Olive oil is also allowed on earlier days.  So yummy!!  Finally getting some energy back.

Tip:  Lemon and lime juice make everything taste better.  Technically days 5 - 7 don't include fruits or fruit juices except apples or pears but personally I'm inclined to add the one cheat of a few squeezes of lemon juice here and there.   That bit of acidity completely changes the flavor of the veggies and makes it so much yummier.  Even if you stay strictly to plan, you can use the citrus juices on the other days.

Remember to remember!


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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Metabolic Detoxification Anyone?

Once a year I like to do a "cleanse."  Usually it's at the end of August or September after too many summer cookouts and too much lounging on the lake with various adult beverage concoctions.

I'm a major fan of Kathy Freston's 21-Day Quantum Wellness Cleanse and have written a lot about my experience with it.

Apparently I'm also a sucker for pharmaceutical marketing. I kept seeing a giant poster at my chiropractor’s office for the Metabolic Detoxification System by Metagenics. Brien Shamp has a pretty good marketing description of what it’s supposed to do if you want to read the fabulous claims.  
With rave reviews from the folks in the chiro office and the doc's assurance that it wouldn’t hurt me, I thought I’d give the program a shot. I paid $84 (a bargain really) and took home the following:

        • UltraClear Renew Rice Protein Powder (aka “medical food”)

        • Advaclear Liver Support Capsules (aka “mega multi-vitamin”)

        • Cool shaker cup

        • Program guide

        • Handy tote bag

I’ll keep a diary and post my notes every few days. It won't be literature but we’ll see how it goes.


The plan: Eliminate all refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, packaged/processed foods, meat, poultry, fish

My day: Since I'm already vegetarian, this wasn’t so bad. The hardest part was not being able to rely on convenience foods (such as crackers, fake meat foods, etc).   Day one of no caffeine or alcohol; no biggie. I can do this.

The instructions on the vitamin supplement say to “take two capsules one to three times daily.” I kinda wish they were a little more specific but decide to just take two and made a note to call the chiro for clarification. He did say, "Call me anytime."  (Bahwhahahaha.)

Tip:  Bring the program guide to the grocery store or make a photo copy at 75% reduction and stick it in your wallet.


The plan: Also eliminate dairy and eggs. Do one scoop of the “medical food” protein drink twice during the day.

My day: I feel this odd sense of regret that I didn’t eat eggs or milk yesterday. Even though it didn’t occur to me to crave those things before, I want them now that I can’t have them. It’s a mystery.

Ended up eating a lot of fruit since I was at a conference and it was the only option. They had a yummy "berry bar" -- like a salad bar but with berries. Cool, right?

I mixed the protein powder with some outrageously expensive pure berry juice. Later I had some veggie stew I had already prepared and some rice.

Headache mid-day which I’m guessing is caffeine withdrawal. A glass of wine would have been good at the end of a crazy day. Settled for mineral seltzer in my favorite wine glass instead. It kinda worked actually.

Tip:  Fill the shaker most of the way with juice or other liquid before adding the powdered mix.  That way you avoid having big clumps of mix stuck to the bottom of the shaker.


The plan: Also eliminate most grains except rice and a few other things I wouldn’t eat anyway. If you happen to like amaranth or millet, you are free to enjoy them on day three. Do one scoop of the “medical food” protein drink twice during the day.

My day: Somehow I’m upset that I haven’t lost a single pound yet. I know this isn't a diet and the food changes have actually been fairly minor (plus all that fruit) but I am still disappointed. Not rational, I know. I only admit it because I'm sure I am not alone. Don't judge me.

Very tired today. Went out to eat at a Japanese hibachi restaurant; ordered rice and grilled vegetables (plain; no soy sauce). Realized too late they used butter on the grill but decided to eat the food anyway.   Drank herbal decaf tea and bubble water.  Still not missing the booze which shouldn't be a surprise but kinda is. 
Tip: Plan, shop, and prepare for days 5 - 7 now since they will be the most restrictive. Google "metabolic detox recipes" for some great ideas.

Late note: The “cleanse” part of the detox kicks in. Need I say more?


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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hot Air Balloons

 Yeah, I know.  I always break the rules for these meme things. Like I could be "wordless."

That said, I do want to share some pictures of the balloons that drift by my house on most warm days. 

They are extra special to me because they remind me of my dad.  We once went in search of a hot air balloon festival, got comedically lost on the way, and then arrived only to find out that we were too late and the balloons were all packed up for the night. 

After my father moved to Florida, I would call him every time I saw a hot air balloon and we would laugh about the time we drove all over God's green earth looking for that festival. 

Right around the time Daddy passed away, a balloon company set up shop in my town.   Now the balloons come by so often, you'd think the novelty would have worn off.    I'm pretty sure it has for my Facebook friends who get the irritation joy of seeing my pictures day after day. 

For me, each puff of air and heat gives a little tug at my heart. When I hear that familiar burst, I can't help but stop whatever I am doing and run outside.

As the balloons go by I hear my dad saying, "Hey there little kid. Remember that time...."


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Monday, August 27, 2012

If the Queen Comes for Tea (Cleaning Tips)

"How do you keep your house so clean?" people ask me.

To find out... please go to my NEW website where this article now resides.  THANKS!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Top 10: A Love Letter to Tony Horton

(Note: Please check out my NEW website at Charlene Ignites, LLC.)

Dear Tony,

You recently mentioned that you like Top 10 lists.  Since I strive to bring joy to others whenever possible, I thought I would take this opportunity to share 10 reasons why I love you think you totally rock.

Before you add another restraining order to the "star-crossed lovers" pile, let me assure you that this is strictly fitness inspired.  Nothing creepy.    (Look, I even used a picture of you with your shirt on.  That wasn't easy to find.)


#10) You're not perfect. You fall over.  You go left when you should go right. You put your ears between your, um, yeah.  My entire life has been spent accepting that it's about progress, not perfection. Validation of this is always a good thing.

#9) You are always there for me. All I have to do is push play to see you smiling back at me. You don't judge. You don't laugh when my workout shorts are too tight (again). You never ask, "Where the hell have YOU been??"  I can (literally) just start right back where we left off. 

#8) You were 44 years old once.  I know this because when I did Power90 for the first time in 2003, you told me so.  I only bring it up because I am now 44 and I've been hearing your voice in my head saying, "I'm 44... bring it on, on, on, on, on, on!"  I could do the math to figure out how old you are now but I don't even care.  "I got your aging right here!"  (After-note: I recently did the DVD again and he was 42.  Whatever.)

#7) Your goofy humor makes me happy. I don't care what anyone else says; I truly enjoy all your little witticisms.   I am also known for telling painfully bad awesome jokes, using random funny accents, and sounding like I have Tourettes sharing hilarious quips.  My husband only wishes he had a DVD of my comedy so he wouldn't have to wait for the odd cocktail party to see me in action.

#6) You share my weird eating habits.  Most people are just so darned "judgy" when it comes to food choices.  It is beyond gratifying to meet incredibly fit vegetarians / flexitarians.  I am also thrilled that you started the TH Kitchen.  Not only do I wish you the very best of success but I also love having a link to send people to when they ask (insert goofy accent), "So alls ya eat is vegee-tables?"

#5) You've inspired so many other love affairs. Don't be jealous but I also have fitness crushes Teigh and Gillian. (Goddesses!!)  And Debbie. And Leandro. Oh - I'm not currently speaking to Shaun T.  The pain is still too fresh.

#4) You accept me no matter what. I've never been too fat or too fit to spend time with you. You encourage me to do what I can, as I can. There was a time when I couldn't even get through all the jumping jacks on the very first Power90 video.  Now, sometimes I try to outdo Tony 2 on P90X.  It's all good.

#3) We're actually in a love triangle: Me, You, H2O.   Thanks to you I've discovered the error of my old ways and have become a hydration evangelist.  I even created a chart that includes a place to keep track of fluid intake. "Drink your water people!"  I also love that you want more people to have access to clean drinking water.  I do too.
#2) We've had two children together.  Okay, so you're not the actual father. (Again, not being creepy.)  But, you were totally there to help me lose the 50+ lbs each time.   You motivated me to get healthy at the times in my life when I needed it most.  When everyone else (who secretly wanted me to stay fat) told me, "It's okay, you just had a baby," you told me to "Bring it!"   It was tough love at times but the more I pushed play, the better I felt.

#1) We both love soup. It may seem like a weird thing to prioritize in a relationship, but that's how much I love soup. I love makin' it and I love eatin' it. I just know you do too.

Yours truly,
PS: Since you asked, I'm stirrin' up a pot o' your circa 2008 sweet potato soup!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Meditation Monday: Let it GO.

WARNING:  Thinking about things at 2:30am makes things feel larger than they really are.

Are you a ruminator? An over-thinker? Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep or focusing on the task at hand because you can't get something else out of your mind?

Yeah, me too.

When this happens to me, it helps me to picture a hand picking up the person or situation (as if a scene in a shoebox) which might be inconveniently occupying my mind. Then, I watch the hand carry it far away.

For example... when a co-worker at a previous job was constantly acting like a jerk creating unnecessary drama, I would lay in bed at night and picture a giant hand with pinched fingers holding him by the back of his pants and carrying him through empty space outside my mind while he kicked and screamed. I know it sounds mean but it helps me to point and laugh.
Instant stress relief. Ahhhhh.

There's also the quantum theory: "What you resist persists."

This says that the more you focus on something, the more of that thing you attract to into your life. Therefore, the worst part about obsessing over stressful thoughts isn't lack of sleep. Those mind treadmills are actually making the negative energy stronger and more prolific. Crazy, I know. But true.

Since then, I've been given two more similar visualizations that I use all the time. 

My friend June says she visualizes sweeping the persistent thought out the door.  She pictures herself opening the door, sweeping her worries away, closing the door and watching it get blown away by the outside wind.

If you're convinced you need to address the situation later but just need a mental break to focus on something else or get some sleep, you can always sweep it into a special room (or padded cell or whatever; it's your head) and lock the door. You can always let it out later.

Life can be stressful. Sometimes we have to be creative in order to get those brain synapses to stop firing in repetitive, non-productive ways.

The other visualization, which may sound gross but also works really well, is to picture flushing especially negative thoughts down the toilet.

Buh-bye crappy thoughts! *pun intended*


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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Healthy, Easy Breakfast (with Pictures!)

We all have that one skinny friend who says really annoying things like, "Sometimes I just completely forget to eat!"

At my age, I forget a lot of things.  Eating is not one of them. 

That said, there are days when I do get food attention deficit disorder (FADD).   Breakfast creates the most common of the FADD occurances.  It's not that I don't think about being hungry or the many hours it will be until my next possible eating opportunity.  It's just that each time I walk into the kitchen to make something, I realise that Spidey has "yellow and purple day" at camp or that Miss M. needs her teeth and/or hair brushed "better than that."  Mornings are just crazy.

Luckily, I stumbled across a quick breakfast that is way healthier than anything I could order via the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru.  Even if I only end up with a few minutes by the time I get to make my own meal, I can do this. 

Here it is:

Start with a ramekin or other small bowl coated with non-stick spray or reasonable alternative.  Cut a pepper into round slices about two inches thick.

Put the pepper into the bowl. 

Crack one whole egg into the center of the pepper plus just the white of a second egg. 

Add additional veggies as desired.  In this picture I've done a few baby tomatoes cut in half but you can use whatever you want. 
Sometimes I dice up the very top of the pepper near the stem and stick that in there.   If I'm really on top of things, I have some pre-prepped veggies in a small zip lock in the fridge all ready to go.

Place the bowl in the microwave with a paper towel underneath and some plastic wrap loosely covering the top.  (I like Press-n-Seal best.)

Cook for 30-seconds.  Stop.  Cook for another 20 to 30 seconds.  Stop.

Continue in 10 to 15 second increments until the egg looks fully cooked.  My microwave is super nuclear-powered or something so I usually only start and stop for another 30 seconds. (In any case, it's less than two minutes total in cooking time.)

If you hear ANY tiny popping noise, STOP.  Let the egg "settle down" before starting again.  Otherwise, you'll be cleaning exploaded egg and veggies out of the far crevices of your microwave as I have done more than once!

Note that there will probably be some bubbling liquid from the pepper even after the egg is fully cooked. 

Also note that the bowl will be VERY hot.  Thus, the paper towel underneath to take the hot bowl out of the microwave; it will also soak up any overspill.

Use a fork to slide the micro-omelet out of the bowl onto a plate.  Season as desired.  In this example, I used salt-free herb seasoning.

Here's what it looks like inside.  I'm still experimenting with cooking times to get a runny yolk.

Here is another one I did with broccoli and a lemon herb seasoning. 

If you have kids who eat eggs, they will love it too!   (My kids will eat the veggies, but not the eggs. They like to torture me.)

This quick, easy breakfast tastes yummy and provides lots of protein and other great nutrition to start the day. 

Broccoli is a great source of calcium and fiber!  Tomatoes and red peppers will give you the antioxidant lycopene!  Both red and yellow peppers have other antioxidants as well and they provide three times as much vitamin C as you would get eating an orange!   

I get way too excited about this stuff.  

The point is to have fun, try different combinations, and enjoy  a healthy, yummy, quick meal!
Bon appétit!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day ???: Stop(ped) the Insanity!

I know, I know.... I left ya hangin'.  Sorry about that. 

Here's the final review:

The first 35 days of the Insanity program are intense but doable.  I didn't lose any weight but I did build endurance and I felt stronger.  Not my "ideal" result but good enough to keep at it.

And then... it just all fell apart for me.

Reason #1:  The workouts in the second half of the program are too damn long.  Aside from the extra physical drag, there's a huge mental leap from exercising so intensely for around 35 minutes to doing closer to 60 minutes.  Two friends who also stopped Insanity at the same point mirrored this exact sentiment. 

(Note that the P90X workouts are also an hour but P90X has Tony Horton.  Tony has a unique way of making the time disappear. It's a gift.)

Reason #2:  I'm not a fan of hurting myself.  When doing any kind of intense fitness routine, there can be "good pain" and "bad pain."  My chiropractor and I both decided that I had transcended into the "bad pain" zone after I pulled my back out during the first week of the higher level Insanity workouts.  I tried to keep going but had to modify so many of the moves for safety that it really didn't feel worth it.

Okay, so I couldn't hack it.  Maybe it's genetics?  I do come from a long line of doughy Italians.  Growing up, I was an alto in the chorus and editor of the school newspaper.  I have never run a marathon or played organized sports.

Then again, I did jus' fine with P90X.  (Twice.)  

The bottom line is that I would personally only recommend Insanity for those who are highly athletic and/or under the age of 30.  No matter what, if you have ANY past injuries, I would steer clear.

For the effort, I think P90X is far more bang for the buck, much safer, and way more fun.     For beginners, I would start with the regular Power90, also by  Don't let the lack of "X" fool ya' -- it's a great fitness program with a much simpler nutrition plan than the others.

Thanks for your ongoing support. I hope my experience was helpful to you!

Carpe diem!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Color is Your Life?

As a  "Life Balance Strategist," I've discovered that there are many personal assessments out there. Some ask lots of questions. Some have you rate various aspects of your life on a scale of numbers. Others make you plot points on a chart or graph.

I hate to create any negative energy since I know all of these tools come from a place of wanting to help people.   However, I have a few minor complaints. 

Let's discuss.

One is that these tests tend to be far too complicated.

Most likely if someone is seeking out a "life balance assessment," they are already experiencing some stress in life.   In my opinion, many of these tests unintentionally exacerbate the stress.

Here's a very popular format: "I enjoy the company of others: Never, Seldom, Occasionally, Most of the Time, Often, or Always."

As far as I'm concerned, you really need more details for some of these questions to be answered accurately. For example, who exactly are the "others" and are refreshments being served?
Some have trick questions such as,"If you were a fruit, what kind would you be?" Or, repeat questions worded different ways to see if maybe you lied the first time.

Some tests just take so damn long that if you didn't have a life balance issue when you started, you very well may have one by the time you're done.

Luckily there are some personal assessments out there that attempt simplicity. You can simply write a plus or a minus sign next to specific categories or answer a handful of yes/no questions.
However, even these have one consistent flaw for me. They tend to place equal emphasis on internal as well as external life areas. For example, one has sections of a pie chart with labels of health, friends, work, spiritual, and family. A bunch of others include a square with four quadrants including categories like work, friends, family and self.

My philosophy and a primary inspiration in creating Personal Strategic Management (PSM) is that SELF must be the critical core.  Internal is prioritized over external.   YOU are the central point of energy; radiating from the inside out to create success in all of the other areas of life.

Here's a preview of what I've defined as the "Capacity Framework":

True life balance starts with the internal. It's our ability to maintain a strong and healthy Critical Core, even when we are not reaching external goals.
At the end of the day, throughout your life... all that external stuff may come and go.  But you've got YOU forever, baby.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of your life.  There is not another single person, thing or activity for which this is also true.
Here's a high level explanation of the self-assessment tool I created and have been delivering at volunteer life balance workshops like the one I did at Emerson College recently.
To start, think about your own life in terms of each PSM area: Critical Core, HR/Facilities, Learning, Social Responsibility, & Finance. Rate yourself in each of the five categories based on this green, yellow, red scale.
Think about each "rating" in terms of your OWN criteria. Don't assess yourself based on the judgment of society or your parents or whomever. It's called a SELF-assessment for a reason.

For example, Finance & Profitability: Let's say you are a stay-at-home mom and do not collect an actual paycheck. Yet, this arrangement works well for your situation and does not create stress for you personally. Your contribution may be that you control the budget, watch expenses and physically pay the bills accurately and on time. You may not work outside the home but this area may well be green. It could also be red. You need to decide for yourself.

Conversely, you may have an advanced degree but really feel there's some other educational goal you want or need to achieve to feel completely fulfilled in some way. So, even an MBA executive might mark L&D as yellow or red.

All that said, the first place to focus is in the center - the Critical Core. In this area, even more than the others, think of the colors as a standard American traffic light.
If you rated your Critical Core as red, then STOP. Chances are pretty good that if you are truly a red at the Core, there's not a lot of sustainable green in your life.

No matter what measure of "success" you perceive in the other areas, nothing is more important than figuring out what you need to do to start taking care of the Critical Core.
A very nice lady recently responded to this advice with, "I was taught that taking care of myself ahead of others is selfish."    I get that. But let's review: If you get sick (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) you are not really doing anyone justice. Don't kid yourself. Be selfish. I'll write you a note.
If you rated the Critical Core as yellow, then PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Contrary to popular belief, yellow does not mean speed up quickly because you know it's going to turn red any minute. My fellow overachievers -- this means you.
If you're green at the Core, then KEEP GOING. YAY YOU!
Self-assessment is really about creating awareness. Not just about what we may want to do differently but also about what we're doing right. Likewise, the personal strategic planning process is as much about outlining what has worked well for you in your life as it is about improvement.
Thank you for Occasionally, Most of the Time, Often, Always reading my blog. I really appreciate it!

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 35/60: Insanity Q & A

Insanity Workouts:
Day 29 - 35: Recovery Week (Core Cardio & Balance)
Day 28: Rest
Day 27: Plyo Circuit
Day 26: Cardio Power & Resistance
Day 25: Cardio Recovery

Yep, I'm still at it.

The past six days comprised "Recovery Week" which meant doing much easier and shorter workouts.  Unfortunately, I am now so fully sucked into this craziness that the recovery week workout didn't feel challenging enough.   Twenty minutes of not quite sweating just wasn't satisfying.  

Sick, I know.

Yesterday, I ran five miles just to feel like I had done something.  It was a mistake.  My hip flexors and piriformis were not happy.  Ouch. 

So, in answer to reader Stephanie's question about what advice I would give to someone else starting this program:   Learn from my mistake and remember that when it says "rest" and "recover," you should REST and RECOVER.

Another reader, Tina, suggested that it would be helpful to have a little more detail about some of the exercises in order to gauge if it's something she would even want to attempt. 

There's one set called the "Level 1 Drill" that I think is a good example for you to try:
     * Do four push-ups
     * Staying at the top of your last push up, alternate bringing in your feet like you are running in place while in plank position.  Keep your butt down.
     * Jump your feet in and stand up, reach hands up to the ceiling
     * Go back down to plank and repeat, starting with the four push-ups
The Plyo workout calls for doing this series five times in total.  There is also a Level 2 Drill which is the same except for eight push-ups and "plank runs" instead of four.   Obviously, it's much harder in context of the other 30+ minutes of exercises but hopefully this gives you a general idea of what you're up against.

My friend Sarah shared with me that she bought a workout DVD she's been wanting to try but just hasn't been able to get herself to do it.  Knowing I'm also a mom who works full-time (etc) she wants to know how I actually do it.   Keeping it really simple, I focus on just two steps:
     1. Wake up earlier
     2. Push play

Replace your slippers with sneakers and sleep in your sports bra if you have to.  Don't make it more intimidating than it needs to be.  Get your arse out of bed and push the little button with the arrow on it.  Don't allow yourself to dread the workout or anything else you have to do the rest of the day.  Just start moving.

 If you have any other questions or if there is anything else I can do to help you, just let me know!


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 24/60: Two Quick Tips

Insanity Workouts
Day 24: Plyo Circuit
Day 23: Cardio Power & Resistance
Day 22: Pure Cardio & Cardio Abs
Day 21: Rest Day
Day 20: Plyo Circuit

This week, I have two quick tips that I'm hoping will be helpful, even if you aren't "insane."

1) BYOM - Bring Your Own Music.  Most workout videos these days give you the option of using their background music or not.  I typically use the program audio for the first couple of weeks because it helps me learn the cadence of the workout and focus on the routine itself.

At the point where I start getting slightly bored (usually week three), I make the move to my own tunes.  On my iPod, I have a "workout" playlist.  Lately, I've been enjoying the genre stations on Pandora instead.   My taste for music is very eclectic so I might do the classic rock channel one day, pop and hip hop the next, and then showtunes.  Have some fun with it! 

2) CORE FOCUS. These workouts have really helped me be much more mindful of my midsection -- in a good way for  a change.  Throughout every exercise, there are reminders to keep the core tight.  It's made me start thinking about tightening the ab muscles at other times as well: walking around the house, sitting at my desk, in the car.  

This is something you can do even if you are not engaged in a formal exercise program.  Just start paying attention throughout the day.  Notice when your belly is just sort of hangin' out there and see if you can contract those muscles.  Focus on your core.  Not only will it make your midsection better, but it will help protect your lower back as well.  

Just standing at the fridge contemplating the Häagen-Dazs?   Focus on those belly muscles, squeeze and hold!   (Then walk away.)

Good luck and keep pushing play!!!


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