Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adjusting to New Chapters, Seeking Delight

Ah, change. We love it and we hate it and ironically, it's one thing we know for sure happens in our lives. We resist it and we pursue it, and positive or negative, it's challenging.

Back to School Picture 2013

 I have two high school girls this year: one in her first year and one in her last.

My younger is, for the first time, as tall as her big sister and though she'd rather not, she may begin edging her out any day now. This one has really begun developing her own sense of identity. She is surprised as anyone to find that she's grown from a shy, little thing into a girl with an extroverted personality who gets complimented on her communication skills and her serving heart. She has a passion for plants and at this point has designs on studying horticulture after she graduates in four years.

No one would ever accuse my older of being shy. Bubbly and energetic from day one, she is juggling her final high school classes with college classes and a brand new job and doing it all with that great smile and enthusiasm!

You can see here where Eve gets her height; the girl is all leg thanks to her dad!

Along with all the new changes that come with our homeschooling year, I am getting used to being a student again myself. While I haven't been too stressed about it yet, I did have a couple of days of being overwhelmed after looking at the course syllabus and the amount of work required of me. I started to wonder if I really could balance it all... and what was my life going to be like for the next two years... and could I handle it?

Thankfully, I've learned a few things about myself over the years. One, is my initial reaction to new challenges that require me to perform at a particular level. I almost always need a few days to wrap my brain around them and remind myself that I don't have to accomplish everything all in one day.

I remember when I transferred to the University of MN years ago and went to meet with a financial aid adviser. I listened and nodded throughout the meeting in which I was informed of all the information I was required to gather and submit and essentially all the hoops I was going to need to jump through in order to begin taking classes. I nodded and listened, listened and nodded and when the meeting was over I walked outside and began to cry.

One of Target's newest Starbucks "team members"!
Thankfully, I don't respond that way so much anymore. My body still likes to remind me that I'm stressed out about something though by causing my feet and lower legs to tingle; they feel like little gnats are flying around them. It's not quite the same sensation as when your feet fall asleep and the blood is rushing back, but very similar... and annoying. But, whatever. I just try to ignore it and breeeeeaaathe deeply! :)

Then, last night, after I'd gotten nearly all my assignments done ahead of time for the week, I realized I can do this. I'm planning on taking two courses next semester and that will be another adjustment again. I had been concerned that the potential existed for me to be miserably run ragged for the next two years and I decided then and there that I was just not going to be. I intend to enjoy this time whether I am taking classes or not, just as I determine to enjoy my life every day right now. How foolish it would be for me to only focus on the end goal of graduating and decide that I'll finally be happier then when my schedule isn't so packed. Well, yes, it will be true that my schedule will not be packed, but that may be because I'm done or close to being done homeschooling. It may be that I don't have to drive my girl to work anymore because she's got her own transportation or even her own residence. I have no idea. But I'll tell you this much. I am not in a hurry. I never want to be in a hurry to live my life.

So, even if I only have 30 minutes of time in the day to do my yoga, I am going to enjoy doing my yoga. And if I have one day a week that is completely spoken for by various activities that need attending to, then I will pay attention to each of those activities, doing them one. at. a. time. and not wishing them away, because that is simply wishing my life away and I have no desire to do that.

What I'm saying is, we all have seasons in our lives that are going to be busier than others and more difficult than others. And we can pout about the challenging changes or we can live as fully in them as we live in the more delightful periods of our lives. And I do believe that just because we have a challenging chapter, it doesn't mean that delight isn't lying hidden somewhere within it as well. But we'll never find it if we're not on the lookout for it. I know I am. So though I may be driving and teaching and planning and cooking and shopping  and mothering and serving and studying, I'm also going to be seeking. God has promised me life in abundance. I am trusting that I will find. :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

40 Days of Fitness Reboot: Arms - Update - Consistency is the Key

Happy, Christmas Cousins

I realize it's a bit contradictory to add "Consistency is the Key" to my post title when I'm going to report that I haven't been able to work out the past three days - and won't be able to tomorrow either, but that's what happens when life happens. 

Above you can see, obviously, that it was Christmas, and it being the holiday season, things have been busy! :) Actually, Paul's dad and step-mom come up every summer from Arizona and when it is close to their time to head home, they like to celebrate with the grandkids in person instead of sending packages in the mail. So for the last number of years, Christmas with this side of the family has been at the height of summer which makes for swimsuits rather than snowsuits and picnics, and football tossing, and all the good things that come with a hot day out of doors.

The hot temps have definitely been playing their role too. We've had heat advisories out for the past few days, so that nixed the outdoor running for me on Friday. Saturday was Christmas and today was church and my dad's 70th birthday. Tomorrow is the first day of school with lots of car travel, so the running is unlikely to happen that day either.

But that doesn't stop me. Yes, it's frustrating. And yes, I wish I could be sticking with the schedule I had set out for my fitness. But I am not a professional athlete or an Olympian in training, so I don't do my training NO MATTER WHAT. Instead, I realize that exercise is simply a part of my life and I just pick up where I left off. I don't give up and I don't berate myself. 

Sometimes there are times when things are crazy and you just can't get to making your bed. Or you end up with a bowl of cereal for supper instead of a full-course meal. That doesn't make me say that I'll never make my bed again or never eat the kind of nutritional dinner I prefer eating.

The reason I'm offering these scenarios is that I know plenty of people who feel that if they've "fallen off" their diet or program or whatever, that they've FAILED and they'll never achieve what they want to achieve. But that is a fallacy, a lie. Consistency is the key. Consistency over the long haul, over the months and the years, not the days or the weeks. Health and fitness should be as regular a part of your day as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. And yet, we all know that even those can get put on the back burner due to circumstances. Thankfully, of course, that doesn't happen very often. And that should be our attitude with our health and fitness too. We don't let every little thing be an excuse to skip our workout. Instead, we remain committed to ourselves, our families (our health is very important to them) and to service to God's kingdom!

So hang in there with your goals. I've got yoga on tap again for Tuesday and I'm looking forward to it! We're starting school tomorrow and I'll be putting my new schedule to the test. We'll see how it goes! Off and running to school year 2013-2014. I hope if you've got young ones in school or at home for school that things are off to a good start. Have a blessed, exciting year of discovery!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yarn Along

Today I'm linking up with Ginny over at her Small Things blog to join in with "Yarn Along." This is very much like my own "Making and Media Monday," but I never had a blog link-up for that. I thought I'd join in with other bloggers today and share. This is what Ginny writes about "Yarn Along":

The Yarn Along began in early Fall 2010 as a way to share knitting projects and good reads; motivating ourselves, and inspiring each other.  Every week knitters, and a few crocheters as well, link up and share a photo (or two) of what they are knitting and what they are reading.  Knowing that Yarn Along Wednesday is coming up is a great way to stay motivated to finish those projects!  And I, for one, am always on the lookout for a great book recommendation as well.

 In regards to my knitting, I am still working on my hat. That requires a bit more concentration, since it's got colorwork. Recently, I began volunteering at a neighborhood assisted living facility teaching (and sometimes just reminding) some of the residents how to knit. I needed a simple project to take along that I could pick up and put down as those in the group request help from time to time. So, I cast on a simple, vanilla sock out of some yarn I had in my stash from my Goodwill haul years ago. It is a "Three Sisters" sport weight superwash wool. That's not the strongest fiber for socks, but I'm going to get some help from my friend, Liz, showing me how to pre-darn and reinforce the spots that naturally wear out the quickest for me on my socks and hopefully that will help.

I finished my February Lady Sweater this past spring, but just hadn't gotten around to finding buttons for it. Thinking that I wanted to participate in this Yarn Along motivated me to go pick out some buttons and sew them on Monday night while I was watching "Rosemary and Thyme" on Netflix.

I am quite pleased with how the knitting turned out. I used Cascade 220 and chose red. I don't normally wear much red, but I started this sweater back in January. It was my new cast-on project for the new year and I know I was craving color in the midst of winter darkness.

I really like how the Cascade creates nice stitch definition.

The only think I'm not too pleased about with the sweater is that it feels slightly bulky under my arms. I think I could have done with perhaps 4 fewer garter-stitch rows there, but there's nothing to do about that now. I did try it on as I went, as it is a top-down construction and it appeared to be fitting well then. It was only after I attached the arms that it felt like there was a bit too much fabric under there. We'll see how I feel about it when I actually begin wearing it this winter.


Even though school is on the horizon, I thought I'd try to get in one more read before my summer break officially comes to an end. My friend, Marianna, gave the book, September, by Rosamunde Pilcher 5 stars on her Goodreads page. After reading a few other reviews, it seemed like just my kind of book! I'm almost halfway through and was captivated by the Scottish setting and Pilcher's descriptions right away. It took a while to get all the characters straight, but I think I've got them all by now. Now, I'm just waiting to see what will happen. There's been so much character introduction and background information that there hasn't been a great deal actually going on. Still, I'm sticking with it, because I do love the setting she's created and am curious to see what she'll do with plot.

Of course, once I was in the library, I couldn't help but sneak a glance at a few other book covers that caught my eye and, oh my, that is a slippery slope. So, instead of just having this book, I've got two others in line after it. I wonder if they'll just end up making a trip back to the library never having been opened. I hope not, but am thankful that they'll still be there if and when I want to read them again. And... if I do get to them, it's certainly more fodder for participating here!  What are you reading? Send me a note here in the comments, or feel free to friend me on Goodreads; I love to talk about books!

Hope you're enjoying your week. It's a hot one here. Not to bad being inside putting the finishing touches on my school planning. Have a great day!

Monday, August 19, 2013

40 Days of Fitness Reboot: Arms - Days 11 - 15, Hello Kombucha & Tofu for Breakfast!

Day 10 - W - Day Off; I didn't really want to take this day off, but I needed to get a hair cut in the morning and then a big grocery shopping was on my agenda. Later, I also had rehearsal for singing at church on Sunday, so I just took a pass.

Day 11 -  Th - 45 minutes of yoga that kicked my butt. I wanted to quit right before the last sequence, but I stuck it out, shaky arms and legs and all, and was darn proud of myself! :)

Day 12 - F - Ran 2 miles; a sweet, new mix on my playlist made for a fun run!

Day 13 - Sa - Busy, full day. Did manage to squeeze in a few sequences of "Sun Salutation" for about 15 minutes. Better than nothing!

Day 14 - Su - Day off

Day 15 -  M - Headed downstairs to yoga with a not-so-happy attitude. I didn't want to do the same routine again, but as all my other yoga workouts are on VHS, and our VCR is finally dying (maybe it can be fixed - it's a combo with our DVD player - but it ate the last tape we put in there and I didn't feel like dealing with that this morning), so I ended up doing the 35 min arm and leg routine. I focused on lasting all the way through the long, challenging Downward-Facing Dog holds and on doing the vinyasas with greater precision to make things more interesting. I also thought about THIS:

I LOVE this! Actually, I love all the GT Kombucha drinks that I've tried. I get it as a treat for myself now and then whenever I go to the co-op. It's a naturally fermented drink, so it's slightly fizzy and tangy. I especially love drinking it after doing yoga, because I feel so good... and it tastes like nothing else... and it feels so good when you drink it! Mmmmm! So, last Wednesday when I had to do my shopping, I bought 2 bottles for myself. At around $3.30 per bottle, it's not something I buy regularly; it's definitely a treat. I savor every bit! I had half while shopping, since I'd forgotten my water that I usually bring with me everywhere and I'd gotten thirsty. It was extra incentive to keep going with the shopping that I don't particularly care for. That day, I had the ginger flavor - SO good! I rationed just half for myself and then saved the other half for my next day post-yoga session. I'd like to learn how to make it someday, but my plate is waaaaay too full to attempt that right now, so I'll just have to stick with my special treats every once in a while.

Today, after finishing the yoga I didn't want to do (but felt really good afterwards - of course!), I rewarded myself with half of this yummy kombucha mango flavor (the other half will be my reward later in the week) and this for breakfast:

This is total comfort food for me and I have it more for breakfast than cereal. It's funny when I think about things that are comfort food for people. Comfort food looks very different in different cultures and I believe the same could be said for a plant-based vs. an animal-based diet. Things that are often foreign to others (nutritional yeast, tofu, quinoa, tempeh, almond milk, etc.) are staples in our household (lol - even Blogger is not recognizing the word, "tempeh" here in my post!). My girls are also so inspired by Japanese culture, that nori seaweed and miso are also comfort food in their diets. Onigiri is a common snack here at home (Maia shows you how to make it here on her blog).

This morning's breakfast was extra-firm tofu sauteed in roasted sesame oil with frozen, chopped spinach and ginger on seasoned quinoa with a little soy sauce. It was really quick (which is why it's so easy to make frequently) because I'd made a big batch of quinoa ahead of time for us to use during the week. I usually alternate between a big batch of quinoa and a big batch of rice, usually 6 cups. Between Paul using it for his lunches, and we for our breakfasts and lunches, it's usually all gone by the end of the week.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be pretty hot, so I'm going to try to get out for my run early. Then it's school clothes shopping day! Every year Grandma Jeanette sends the girls some money (when we lived near her in Florida she went shopping with us! - even better!!) to find a few new things. Since they're given a set amount each year, they've become savvy shoppers. We're starting at a second-hand place this year, since the girls can get so much more bang for their buck!

Here's hoping your week is off to a good start! I'm raising an imaginary glass of kombucha to you! Delicious ~ let me know if you give it a try!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Planning Your Day the Backwards Way

Warning: Long Post Ahead!

As always, I hope you will find it worth your time to read and be blessed!

Image courtesy of adamr/

As many of you know, I love a good planner and there are so many fun, creative ways to have all the information you need nowadays at your fingertips. Despite the enumerable technological advancements made in helping one get a grip on one's schedule, I remain a paper girl at heart. Part of that may stem from the fact that I don't own a smart phone, but I am seriously not willing to pay that price at this point in my life. Besides, the techie way is not all that pretty. I like pretty. I like cursive. And stickers.

See? Isn't that nice? :)

Presently, I have a system that works well for me. As my needs change of course, my system changes and it always takes a good chunk of sit-down time to make the transition from one schedule to another. As our new home school year looms is a little over a week out, I've been in serious planning mode, because the way our life looks right now is going to be very different come September.

Years ago before I was a mother and even afterwards when I had smaller children, a monthly calendar really met all my planning needs. I often wondered if I'd ever be the person who would ever use the hourly planning charts. Frankly, it seemed a little bit ridiculous and a lot restrictive.

Oh, how times have changed.

This year I am not only planning my own homeschool schedule, but I will be taking into account two homeschool co-ops, PSEO college courses for my older daughter, and my own college schedule. We can't forget church and church commitments (for me it's greeting once-a-month, singing once-a-month, and preparing communion once every few months), youth-group activities, Bible study, and community volunteering commitments. Did I mention exercise? How about groceries and menu planning and actually cooking the food. Blogging? How about a shower? I have a feeling that last one belongs closer to the top of the list!

So as you can see, in order to juggle my days, I need some serious structure. I don't want to give anything up yet. I believe that although looking at the schedule I put together last night was a little overwhelming at first, I think I really can do it. I am not, however, afraid to let some things go if need be. I have pared down my schedule to just the bare basics in the past and I'll do it again if I can't swing it. But that is what the plan is for. And so far... it looks good on paper. lol! Famous last words, right?!

I started planning hourly this way when, last year, I was having a hard time getting dinner on the table before 8:00 p.m. some nights. And then it was late after clean-up and there was hardly any time for me before bed and before I needed to start all over again.  I needed to have down time, to feel I was actually having some form of real life or pleasure in my days; that I wasn't just ticking off a list. I know others feel this way. And yes, there are times - periods, even seasons - in our lives that things just are busy. But they should not - and usually cannot - be sustained. Last year, I knew I needed at least two, sometimes 3, hours to just be before bedtime. I wanted that time to knit, to read, to watch something, or even just gaze at pretty things on Pintrest and dream.

 I started by planning backwards.

I marked in the time that I wanted to have in the evenings and knew that dinner therefore, needed to be at a particular time and making dinner therefore, needed to be at a particular time and that would mean that I needed to start things earlier. On some days that meant starting dinner at 3:30 in the afternoon. And that was okay.

It was okay, because the best thing about having a plan, is not that it restricts you. Contrary to what I imagined previously, the plan actually frees me to be fully in the moment!

Before planning my day this way I might sit down, tired, after the days activities, to have a cup of tea and look at e-mail or what have you for the next hour or so. It was the "or so" part that got me in trouble every time, because though I knew I should be "allowed" some time to relax in my day, I never knew how much and there would always be this niggling feeling in the back of my mind telling me I should get up and start supper. But when? And heaven forbid if I didn't already have a menu. Staring in the fridge is a time-waster and more than once I've forgotten that the "quick meal" I was going to throw together actually had the words, "bake for one hour" at the end of the recipe.

Now, however, I know that when I am cooking I am not supposed to be doing something else. Likewise, when I am relaxing, I can fully relax because I know the times I should be working are already taken care of.

Over the past few weeks, as I have learned what our new schooling schedule requirements are going to be, I have been filling them in on my "Tracking My Week" sheet. I just needed an overview of what I am in for after Labor Day. Some of our schooling, such as the co-ops, won't actually start until that week even though we're starting on the 26th of this month, but I needed to see what was going to fit where in my days to see if things were actually even possible.

So, I start with the things that I must do and work the more flexible things around them. I know that this sounds so common-sense as not to even really be worth a long blog post like this, but I still think that many people only pay attention to those main things that they must do and then let the rest slide, even if those things are things that we say are priorities in our lives. Things like exercise, planning time, family or couple time, or rest, just get pushed aside when we are tired and don't want to think about what could fit where. And then we get unhappy and unhealthy and wonder why we can't manage to stick to our exercise plan or diet or why we feel distant from our partner or are grumpy with our kids. These kinds of things are important to put into your schedule too!

This is why the monthly planner with a 1.5 inch square just won't cut it for me anymore. I realize that at some point I will not need to have my hours spoken for, but for this season of my life it remains important in order to achieve the balance in my days that I seek.

There are some blank spots in my schedule and for that I am thankful! Part of that is that I don't know yet what kind of time commitment my new class will require of me. I also suspect that some blanks that are filled may not require as much time as I've allotted to them and that would be a bonus too!
Notice, also, that I've scheduled in a time for planning, because I simply really need to keep on top of it in order for things to go smoothly.

 In addition, and something I'm SUPER excited about, is that I've planned an entire ten weeks worth of dinner menus! I've planned the last two weeks of August and then the month of September's menus will be repeated in October. I'll switch things up at that point to reflect more seasonal and holiday dishes. So, now I just need to look at the following week's menu on Friday when I plan and add any needed items for a grocery stop on Saturday.

Also, the last Saturday of the month I have already penciled in a "Food Prep" day for August and September. I plan to do just that: chopping and freezing some items, baking a few items and mixing up doughs for the freezer, cooking and freezing beans, and topping off some baking and seasoning mixes.

As noted, schedules regularly need tweaking and they, like our lives are always a work in process. I'll try and give an update somewhere in September so I can see how it's all going. For right now, I'm encouraged and even finally, a little bit excited now that it seems I may just be able to juggle pretty well after all!
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