giving

Joy multiplies

Summer heat has arrived in Georgia. It’s zinnia season.

Fun fact about me:  I cannot grow anything.  I have been known to kill “maintenance-free” plants.

Everyone else in my family can grow things, though. So we have gardens in our yard sprouting flowers and food much of the year.

Zinnias are some of my favorite flowers. We’ve had small patches of them in the front and back for a while now. This year, without planting or any effort, a huge patch of them sprouted up in our front yard.

When we first got zinnias growing at home, I mainly wanted to watch them in the yard.  I never picked too many. I’d just enjoy them growing there for as long as I could.

After trying that for a while, here’s the cool thing I learned about zinnias:

The more you cut the blooms, the more blooms will grow.

So I try to cut all the new blooms a few times a week. I cut them just above where the stem splits.  These turn into a flood of endless bouquets that spread to friends from life, work, school, family, the gym, and so on.  And the more I cut them, the more blossoms appear and multiply.

It’s like the zinnias know you appreciate them, so they give you more of what you like.

When I think about it, many people are like that.  If you show appreciation for what they offer, they give you more of it. Gratitude matters.

With the zinnias, I also get to see smiles from friends who get a small gift of beauty and knowing they are treasured. Perhaps they, in turn, pass a bit of beauty or kindness along in their own way.

It really does not take much effort to brighten a day.  Joy multiplies and spreads.  Share some of what you have with others. Flowers, treats, even just a simple note can change a mood, an outlook, or make a challenging road more beautiful.

 

 

 

 

fitness and nutrition

Working Vacation (or, Making Vacation Work)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a whirlwind whiplash weekend in Pennsylvania with friends watching our daughters play lacrosse.

I could have completely tossed my diet and exercise habits out the window.  But driving over 10 hours both ways in the course of a few days left my body screaming for exercise and good food.  (Craving those things is a good sign.)

We stayed in a hotel with a gym.  I brought my workout clothes and got up at my usual crack-of-dawn hour. The weather was amazing!  When I went outside, the air was a crisp, cool change from the warm humid mornings in Atlanta.  Then, we just happened to be staying in a complex with some health care buildings.  As I was walking to warm up and get moving, I noticed a trail with some fitness stations along the way.  So, that became my plan.  A little jog and some step ups, incline situps and leg lifts, hanging leg raises, all while jogging station to station. Sweat happened.

Then, I went into the gym and did a quick 21-15-9 of burpees, dumbbell clean and jerks, and sit-ups.  It wasn’t the extreme race or marathon workout that many were doing back home, but it was enough to feel like I had worked my heart and muscles. It felt good.

Of the 3 days away, that was the only true workout I did.  We did some walking at the tournament fields and Hershey Park, but otherwise the two days were rest days.  I worked out all the other days around the trip so it was enough.

The other challenge on the road is eating.

I packed snacks…a few bags of turkey and beef jerky, protein water, chunks of grilled chicken, protein chips, and some random protein bars.  I ate some but not all. I also drank lots of water and sparkling water.

For the most part, I just tried to focus on protein and keep other things to a minimum. Examples:

For quick breakfast on the road I had a Chick-fil-a breakfast bowl with chicken and no hashbrowns.  I ate a 2 good yogurt for snack.  The chicken chunks came in handy on a long stretch of road with few options beside gas station food.

Eating out in Harrisburg, PA, at a local tapas spot – Kale and beet salad, Brussel sprouts with bacon, a small slice of pizza, charcuterie board with meat, cheese, pickles, flatbread, mustard.  Probably over on fat and salt but I could have done worse and it was delicious. Not enough protein but options were limited.

For hotel breakfast (twice): Eggs, spinach, cheese, salsa, light and fit yogurt, coffee with milk. For me, when I’m basically eyeballing things, not really planning eating, and going with my gut, I try to start the day with as much protein as possible and just keep going from there.

It’s not necessarily easy…the options I skipped were many: waffles, Froot Loops and other cereals, bagels, bread, crumb cake, juices, granola, muffins, peanut butter, etc.  None of these seemed worth it and the eggs looked decent.  (I would definitely eat crumb cake, for example, if it was from a bakery.  I look forward to bakery crumb cake at the Jersey Shore later this summer!)

It’s not always a simple win.  The amusement parks we went to the last two weekends were especially challenging for both cost and food quality reasons.  At Hershey Park, after long searching, I settled for a few chicken tenders (more bread than chicken) and a few fries.  Thankfully this was late in the day after decent eating before we got to the park.

An afternoon at Kings Dominion was more challenging.  I could almost stomach the idea of eating Panda Express, but the $15.00 price tag was a deal breaker (and for just one entree!)  I held out until we left, late afternoon, and quickly scarfed down my turkey jerky, protein water, some fresh cherry tomatoes, and Quest protein chips when I got to the car.  Sounds crazy to many, but it works for me.  I felt satisfied and not weighed down.  I was grateful I had packed a few things to have on hand.

And when it was worth it, I did treat myself across the two weekends.  I had top-notch street tacos (although I did skip all but one bite of tortilla since they were not special), I had a great meal with meats, cheeses, an amazingly fluffy buttered roll, and cucumber salad at a German restaurant called Fest, and I had a scoop of homemade strawberry swirl ice cream topped with toasted fluff (the specialty of the house) at Charm School Social Club.  Totally worth it.  And four days later, I’m not mad at myself or the scale. So I’m learning it is possible to keep it sane on the road, get some sweat in, feel good, and indulge when I really want to.  Let’s see how I do on my next journey…

 

 

family

For Dad

 

We sat in the parking lot in Virginia, 7:45 am last Sunday.

“My dad would be so proud of me,” I told the teens in the back seat. “I found the 24/7 taco place.” Street tacos with cilantro and onion on corn tortillas. Authentic. Just like the tacos he took me to eat at one of the first real taquerias in Atlanta over 30 years ago.  “Yelp says it’s a Richmond institution.”

Now, I can’t say I am truly just like him. He’d have ordered the tripe or tongue tacos or other more exotic meats. I’m a carne asada and al pastor girl. He would have gone crazy on the hot-hotter-hottest salsa bar. I chose the only one that said mild.

Dad, who loved to talk about how he didn’t even eat a taco until he was 25. He spent the rest of his life making up for lost time.

Then, after cheering for my daughter and her teammates at a lacrosse tournament, those teen girls and I drove a bit north to Kings Dominion.

Even with his broken body, my dad loved a great roller coaster. He could tell you the history and all kinds of fun facts about any coaster in the country, not to mention the first time he rode it. We even belonged to American Coaster Enthusiasts growing up. So spending Father’s Day at Kings Dominion was a fitting way to honor him. He also loved carousels, band organs, all things carnival and amusement. I don’t ride every roller coaster but I hope I’m getting better at embodying his sense of adventure.

What’s funny is I didn’t start out this Father’s Day thinking “what would my dad do today?” I didn’t set out to make the day a tribute to him.

It was after I stood back and reflected that I saw that some of the ways I do life and travel naturally reflect what he taught me by example.

Cheer for your kids. Be interested in what they like and want to do. Nurture those interests.

Eat at little, out of the way places. Take the scenic route sometimes. Try the local specialty. Support small, family businesses.

Be curious. Ask questions. Listen to the answers.  Ask more questions. Keep learning.

Ride roller coasters and merry-go-rounds. Embrace life’s ups and downs and even the rough, bumpy spots.  Delight in the unexpected. Enjoy the ride.

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awareness

Are You My Type?

Last week, Chick 1 posted about her Enneagram results.

As one of her business partners, she encouraged me to take the Enneagram test to learn more about myself and how I can grow. (And yes, she had to remind me more than once. I’m scattered. It’s a problem.)

Anyway, to mirror Chick 1’s approach, I thought I would share my top 3 Enneagram type areas with some comments…all three of these were basically tied for me.

Type 4: The Individualist

The Sensitive, Introspective Type:

Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental

There are several things about the description of Type 4 that come to mind.  Fours are thinkers and reflect a lot.  I was a philosophy major, and lived “the life of the mind” for many years, well into my PhD. (My Dad used to say I walked around with “a little black cloud over my head” from thinking too much.)

I do love to just sit and ponder things, and I tend to still be reflective in my work at school today.  Fours are also artistic. If you know me, you know I love singing, poetry, and other creative expressions.  Fours try to be distinctive and individual.  No one would believe it now, but I was actually voted Most Original of my senior class!  My crazy Goth-girl-in-Catholic-school is not so pronounced these days…I think some of these traits have actually taken a back seat as I have aged. In my teens and early twenties, I think this would have easily been the dominant type.

Type 2:  The Helper

The Caring, Interpersonal Type:

Demonstrative, Generous, People Pleasing, and Possessive

On my good days and in my heart of hearts, I do really love being generous.  I love writing letters, giving thoughtful gifts, and trying to lift people up. I call these kinds of activities “soul-feeding” for me. I have learned in recent years that time and attention are some of the greatest gifts I can give people I love and care about, even people I hardly know who may be in need.  (And, I do have a bowl of candy in my work space at all times, just like the description states!)  All of these go along with being a Type 2.

But I do know at times in my life I have wandered into unhealthy territory with this tendency.  As I said in a recent conversation with Chick 1, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”   I’ll write more about this comment in an upcoming post, but for now I’ll just say I have, at times, sacrificed my own health (physical, mental, emotional) to put the needs of others first.  I am still working on how to balance my personal needs with those of others.  I’ll also reluctantly admit to being possessive or jealous at times. I have to adjust my inner soundtrack to keep this tendency in check.

I do think it’s funny that my top two appear to be opposites.  An individualist, but who likes to take care of others.  But then I think, I have a hard time accepting care and help from others.  (I dish it but I often can’t take it!) Go figure.

Type 9: The Peacemaker

The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type:

Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

This is the person I am at work, more than any other place. I aspire to be easygoing.  When I left my last job, my boss described me as “steady.” That I was a calm, reassuring presence.  That I never seemed to get too ruffled.  This was a huge surprise to me, since my busy mind is often racing and worried.  I do strive to be a peaceful presence, while hiding the storm and insecurities inside.  And the Type 9 tendency to be creative, again, isn’t lost on me.

A more negative side of this is my tendency to avoid conflict at all costs.  I often worry about conflicts being the end of a relationship.  Some of the feelings and experiences I fear the most are being disconnected from the people I care about. So, I avoid conflict for long periods of time only to explode “out of the blue.”  Embracing conflict as a natural part of relationship and even as a step to growing to deeper connection and understanding is one of my challenges.

At the end, the description tells me to embrace exercise as a way to work through some aggressions.  Thanks, CrossFit!

This is a very different top 3 than Chick 1.  In fact, I giggled when my absolute-dead-last-barely-registered-on-the-scale Type was, you guessed it, Type 8, The Challenger, which is Chick 1’s dominant type.  The other two on the bottom were the remainder of her top 3, the Enthusiast and the Achiever.  I’ve mentioned before how people say we are an odd pair.  Well, in this regard they are definitely right! Exact polar opposites.

More on what those Enneagrams paired together might teach the Chicks in a future post.  In the mean time, I’ll be over here filling up my cup so it can runneth over for others, lifting heavy stuff so I can deal with others with a lighter hand, and being artsy-craftsy in my original / expressive way.

 

Did you take Chick 1’s Enneagram challenge?  What did you learn about yourself and how you might be the best version of YOU?  Share with us in the comments!

 

friendship, giving

Ordering for the Table

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“Can we get saganaki for the table?”

I said it, almost happily. And out loud even, not just in my head. I am usually not the person who orders for the table. Is it a confidence thing? Or just not knowing, second guessing what people might want?  Or someone else beats me to the punch, and takes that chance before me?  Or because right now I am watching what I eat and many times those appetizers are the friedest, sauciest, dippingest, most delectable nibbles that I know I struggle to resist?

The other day, as we celebrated a joyful event in the life of my amazing friend Milagros, we ended up around a table at a Greek restaurant.  Several people had never eaten Greek food.  There were menu questions, unfamiliar words, all kinds of questions and opportunities. (And yes, now I have learned that saganaki is a Greek-American invention, like fortune cookies, etc.)

Saganaki is a guilty pleasure for me. Cheese is a weakness in general.  I remembered when I did keto for a while last year I so enjoyed the saganaki at this restaurant (with no pita.) I figured, why not share this deliciousness with people who have never had it before?

So I did it, people shared it, and tried something new.  Some people thought it was just ok, others found it the same remarkable experience as I do. All of that is wonderful.

So, thinking back over the list above, what was my hangup before?  Probably some of all of them, but mostly lack of confidence gets in my way.  I worry what others might think or want, when really I just need to be bold and order and share what I enjoy with others.  They can try it or not.  In the past, when I haven’t taken the initiative to share, I’ve always felt like it was a missed opportunity to be generous.  Those missed chances I wished I had taken leave me feeling smaller.

I want to be the kind of person who orders for the table, at least sometimes.  And not to show off or be flashy.  I just want to be confident enough to share what I enjoy and stop second guessing myself.  I have no problem with the sharing part, and the confidence part is coming along a little more naturally these days.

Now I am wondering…What are some of the things you share with others that may expand their horizons, make shared memories, become new traditions? Not just food…reading, games, media, activities, and more? What are some new ways I can invite others to share life with me? On the flip side, am I open to trying what people want to share with me?  What do we have to lose?

No matter what, I am so grateful for celebrations and friends to share them with.  Enjoying events and company is so much of what makes life worthwhile.

And cheese makes all of that even better.

 

family

Words to my Mother

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I wrote a Mother’s Day poem for my Mom 27 years ago.  Just weeks before graduating from high school.  All the fighting and sneaking around and lying I had done.  All the awards and trophies and certificates, too.  So many things we had endured, loosely but inevitably connected.

I had chosen to go to college in Ohio, so I was facing being away from her for the first time.  I guess this poem, my gift to her, was my way of showing her that I had begun to understand what she had done for me.  What she had given up for me.  Our bond, which would now be stretched across state lines.

I remember crying as I wrote it, one line in particular.  I remember carefully writing the title in crayon, and smudging it with stuff to bring to mind the kindergarten creations of so many Mother’s Days past.

I laid it on her bed, always neatly made first thing in the morning.  On her paisley pillow, not far from her Pall Mall golds, her ashtray and lighter, the plastic tray filled with her earrings.  There was no fanfare.  I just left it there.

I don’t remember her reaction to the poem.  I’m sure she said thank you, but that may have been it.  With all the flurry of activity around my graduation, I’m sure it just got lost in the shuffle.

Nearly a dozen Mother’s Days came and went before my Mother passed away. At that time, I was pregnant with my first natural-born child and a new Mom to two toddlers. I was exhausted and overwhelmed trying to clean out my parents’ 25-year-old home.

I was sifting through the basket of papers she kept right next to her bed.  Underneath a few People magazines I found file folders with birth certificates, legal papers, these were important things…

then I saw the mauve paper peeking out.  And I knew just what it was. My poem.  Just next to some of the most important things in her life.  My poem.

My mother was not the type to gush.  I clearly got my sentimentality from my Dad.  But seeing my poem in with all her most important papers was all I needed to know.

I nearly lost that paper a couple of times, but eventually I had it framed and it still hangs next to my bed, just like where my mother kept it.  Some of it makes me chuckle now, the overinflated ideas and revelations of a too-big-thinking teenager.  But a lot of it still holds true.  I’ve shared a few lines from that poem below.

Hope you all are celebrating Mother’s Day in whatever way honors the women in your life the best.  Take some time to write words to a woman who has meant something to you.  Our words and our time are some of the most precious treasures we can share.

 

mother

I am born of you

out of a painful love that has

already outlasted my lifetime.

You surround me with your

words and your listening silence

and your arms…

 

mother

we are different stages of the same woman

who learn from each other like learning

from a separate self…

and that is why I say I am always with you – because

I am you

and happy to be, lucky to be

thankful to be

 

mother

what is to be is something we don’t know but I can see that it will involve distance

and I wonder how I will make it –

but I know your love can cover the whole world in its maternal infinity

and your wide arms will tuck me in each night even long after I am gone.

 

mother, (mom)

I would not have this future without the past you’ve so unselfishly given and given.

Thank you for my life. I love you.

-Beth

Mother’s Day, 1992

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perspective

Ready for My Closeup

For as long as I can remember, I have avoided being in photographs.

Don’t get me wrong, I love pictures.  I’d challenge you to find someone with more photos on their phone.  I take photos liberally. (Some might say too liberally).  I enjoy taking pictures of people and sharing those snapshots with them.  In our image-saturated social media driven society, images are powerful (if incomplete) representations of who we are, even glimpses of who we are becoming or who we would like to be.

Why don’t I like to see myself in photos?  Some is a longtime dissatisfaction with how I look.  Some is a resistance to being the focus of attention.  I’m just more comfortable focusing the spotlight on others.

Of course I know that photos have their uses. The nutrition program I am on (Stronger U) encourages photos each week.  I only did the before ones and I’m not done yet so I haven’t taken any more progress-type pics.  You get the idea.  I know the importance and benefit of pictures, but much of the time I still try to avoid them, unless I’m in a large group.

Once in a while, though, I’m brave enough to step out in front of a camera.  Recently, the amazing Milagros offered professional photography services at our gym during the CrossFit Open. At Chick 1’s encouragement, I decided to do it. One of my favorite shots is linked in this post.

Then John, our resident CrossFit Faded Glory positivity promoter, snapped a few of me doing an overhead squat in an earllllyyyyy morning workout this past week. (The early hour shows in my eyes, but the arms…!)

Finally, I did take the usual family pics with my crew on Easter, but asked for a solo one as well.

When I saw these shots, each came as a surprise to me. They don’t match the picture I have of myself in my head.  Instead of spongy and weak, I see someone who is getting stronger, more confident. My inner image needs an update.

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I encourage those of you who are hiding from cameras this week to step in front of one for a shot or two. Pose if you want, or let someone take an action shot of you doing something you practice, something you enjoy.  You may be surprised at how you look. It may also change how you see yourself.