Gregorian Chant

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I hope you don't think I'm a fruitcake, but I'm listening to Gregorian Chant on Pandora (the irony isn't lost on me) as we speak.

There is something so simplistic, yet something so powerful about this antiquated music form. It's deeply soothing, deeply spiritual and deeply grounding even though it's orchestrated without any accompanying music whatsoever. It takes any anxiety or tightness and melts it away. The resonant, meditative quality leaves you feeling like you have an innate sense of well being and purity.

The music brings me back to the safety and incense of the Catholic church I grew up in, the wooden pews, the skyward ceilings and the melancholy yet artful stained glass windows; a constant in my life.

Giving In

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One of the most important things you can do on a diet is to splurge. Yes, you heard that right. This can even applies to any other regimen you put yourself on, be it anything from budget to fitness-related.

Take the family that gets themselves into financial trouble by eating out almost every night. Instead of completely cutting dining out of their budget, they'd be more likely to abide by a revised budget if they penciled in restaurant meals once a week. A woman should never have to completely eliminate chocolate from her diet. She should indulge even once a day on a small piece of rich dark chocolate. Better yet, expensive dark chocolate. That way it really feels like a quality satisfying luxury, but one that's under control. Take dining out of the budget and chocolate out of the pantry, and you basically set yourself up for a binge. We all strongly desire what we think we can't have. Of course, these indulgences shouldn't happen after every single meal and shouldn't be in giant-sized proportions. Just a little something...

Portion control is important as is the quality of food eaten, but just as important are those moments when you surrender. No one can stick to a budget or fitness plan without a little fun and indulgence built in.

The Loss of a Much-Smaller Child

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I participated in a mourning ceremony yesterday. Wait, one died, thank heavens! But it was a mourning ceremony nonetheless. I went through my son's clothes from this past year and brought out all the new 24-month/2T stuff (whatever the heck the difference is). Some of my favorite little outfits went to the thrift store pile. Only a few pieces made their way to the attic for that just-in-case incident that another little fellow would join our family. As I went, the pj's got a little longer, shirts got a little wider and shoes took up more space in the top drawer. While I don't need to hang on to four bottle of Desitin, especially since potty training is in the works, I have a really hard time putting them in the donate pile when I really still want to be able to use them.

Hunched over for two hours organizing and purging that tiny little wardrobe not only did a number on my physical body, it also affected my store of momma emotions. That minuscule sweep of time from chubby thighs to long, stringy legs; that span of time between immobility and unstoppable energy; that wisp of time that carries the needy infant to the self-sufficient toddler passes nearly without notice until you're caught off-guard eliminating that tiny-hood from your mind and home.

A mom must really prepare herself for that constant evolution. She must steel herself against that trap of continuously feeling loss that she could let herself fall into. But she must also revel in those miraculous moments where she notices that something she had a tremendous part in creating is truly thriving and all those doubts about having a healthy child fall away.

Is an active job a workout?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I had a small argument with my dad about this. After a trip to the doctor, we was told his chances of having a heart attack were off the charts due to a combination of factors, including smoking, high cholesterol/triglyceride/everything readings, eating a full bag of Cheetos in one sitting and sleeping every hour he wasn't at work. My dad was previously a construction worker for over 20 years of his life. The man has some pipes. But he also has quite the belly and much-too-high cholesterol levels.

I know construction work can be exhausting. But just because you work in an active job doesn't mean you earn rights to eat anything you want. Just because you lift heavy objects all day does not give you license to neglect other body parts and your flexibility. Just because you only eat a small amount per day doesn't mean that calorie allowance should be filled with filth. And just because said lifting builds muscle, it doesn't mean you are getting any cardiovascular exercise, elevating your heart rate for an extended period of time. There is a HUGE difference. Let's not even get me started on the smoking, daddy-o!

And dad refuses to switch from white foods to whole grains; refuses to eliminate popcorn drowned in extra butter melted in the microwave; and refuses to eat most foods from the produce section, and that's just a start. He swears he doesn't eat that bad, but a real, honest food log would tell an entirely different story. I don't mean to rip on him, but I just have a hard time not getting mad. Now that I've made healthy trades and sort of jumped over to the "healthy" side, I absolutely hate excuses and I am easily saddened by situations where people decide not to take care of themselves. I suppose that's because I've done a lot of reading and research about how certain foods and exercise affect your health. Unhealthy people have probably not done so (or ignore the facts) and don't really understand what they're doing to their bodies.

I've helped when I've been asked. It's a gentle subject and I know the worst thing I could do is persist. I've given him a diagram of exercises to help strengthen his back and alleviate his pain, which I'm pretty sure ended up as a coaster. I made an entire booklet of information for him about healthy nutrition, because he couldn't afford to go to a nutritionist. Even though I was asked, I was still insulted (basically told I didn't know anything) and the book was completely ignored (i.e. discarded). Hours and hours of work down the drain is enough to make anyone angry.

When I became a mother, I lived, breathed, spoke, thought, and constantly worried about my health and that of my child. I think that's a natural reaction for a parent. I can't imagine losing anyone this close, especially for reasons that are within their control. I can so clearly see this teetering on a tightrope and it nearly makes me sick. I don't want to see my daddy hurting, especially like this. Please pops, can you do better than this so we can enjoy your presence for much much longer?

Nice Excuse

Friday, May 14, 2010

My foray as a backup hand model got me to thinking...ok, that sounds much more glamorous than it really is...But anyway, knowing that I could be called upon to put my digits on display, I keep a nail file, cuticle pusher and bottle of lotion within reach at my desk. Usually this is one of the first areas of my body to get neglected when time is at a premium. But this little modeling gig gives me a great excuse to keep those extremeties in presentable shape.

This got me to thinking of good excuses to get anything done. Lose 12 lbs, pen a fashion article, increase the amount in your emergency stash or teach your baby the ABC's. A great way to get any of this done is to think ahead to an event or deadline that you want to make. Plan a vacation and think about what you want to wear on that vacation. Then, keep that mental wardrobe in mind every time your butt plants itself on the couch. Reunions, vacations, momentous birthdays, and style trends you're dying to try make wonderful excuses to get off the couch. Writing contests or publishing calendars make wonderful motivators to sit down and finally polish off that manuscript. Milestone calendars provide a great push to help get your child to learn his alphabet. A hosted party is enough to get anyone's home in tip-top shape (or at least the debris out of sight).

These clean fingernails sure are inspiring!

Tracey Anderson Method

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So, I've been reading a lot about celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson lately. Just like other things I've written about, it seems once I hear about something, I'll hear about it a few times. Tracy Anderson popped up in my inbox twice in one day, so I thought it would be worth checking out.

There are devout followers and extreme skeptics of the Tracy Anderson Method. Tracy emphasizes the itsy bitsy dancer body, which of course isn't for everybody or every body. The claims made are that she has over a decade of research under her belt, but I'm very curious as to what and how trustworthy this research actually is. And some of the nutrition plans of hers that I've come across sound sketchy. And who on this Earth, besides Madonna, has two hours six days a week to work out? Just sayin'.

Anyhow, Tracy places a wonderful emphasis on improving strength and sculting a sexy body without worrying about adding bulk. It's a wonderful high rep/low weight method to try on alternate days from your low rep/high strength training days. Don't mistake the low weights as a workout for pansies, because some of them can be very hardcore. The method also has some similarities to Pilates, but with a much more diverse set of exercises. For one, Pilates puts focus on the core, while Tracy Anderson chisels out arm and leg muscles as well.

Althought I don't think the complete plan is sustainable, I am a proponent of variety. So, I have incorporated a few of Tracey's methods into my workouts this week.

Here are a few places where you can find a few free workouts from Tracy:

1. Daily Candy recently posted four workout videos with Tracy. This is a link to the "Tracy Anderson" search results. There are four different targeted workouts from which to pick and choose. Tracy guides you, but you have to pause the video to eke out the indicated reps by yourself.

2. Just type Tracy Anderson in YouTube to bring up several free 10-minute-ish workouts.

3. The home page of the Tracy Anderson Method Website offers a free workout video if you enter your email address. No gimmicks or hassle, or I wouldn't have signed up myself.

4. Self Magazine published a wonderful arm workout by Tracy several months ago. Print the slide show and do in your living room.

Check out Tracy's website and studio images. People are paying $900 a month to work out with her on funky pully systems and cube-shaped frames. She also made a series of workout DVDs you can get on her website or Amazon. For now, I'll just take advantage of the free online workouts, thanks.

Our Kids Live on the Wrong Side of the Tracks

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We definitely live on a less savory side of town. A few blocks either way, and we're in a little bit crustier surroundings than we'd like to expect. Fights heard through open windows are raspier and more public, lawn "care" is a word used much more loosely, dogs look a little more menacing, eff-bombs are dropped at a higher frequency, homes are marred by more broken windows and passing faces look slightly more hardened. Sometimes the only thing that's the same as the manicured lot is the smell of fabric softener coming from the basements.

When a rock was thrown through a neighbor's window last year, just for entertainment, even my husband commented that we need to get out of here. We generally feel safe with the presence of our pit bull, but I'm not sure how I'd feel without him. Walking the baby in his buggy at twilight is not as frothy as it sounds in these parts. You bring along your cell phone and rough-looking dog and throw your shoulders back as special unwritten signage that you won't be messed with.

Protecting my kid is the basis of nearly every single decision or act I make on a daily basis. When the tornado sirens went off last night, the only thing I wanted to do was teleport my son somewhere with blue skies, whether I was left behind or not. It's funny these silly ways that parenthood changes you.

Bravo Nike

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nike, of course, has it right. "Just do it." Whoever came up with the slogan in that marketing office deserves some sort of all-star award for this all-encompassing idea. Every single effort we make in our lives boils down to this elemental statement.

Whenever I'm in the midst of a crisis, personal lapse, writer's block, weight creep or any other stall on a personal end, I commit myself to researching the problem and developing a solution. I'm just very proactive like that. The trouble is, sometimes I know the answer, I just don't act on it. I know exactly what will make my stress more manageable; I know exactly what to listen to when I need a creative jump-start; I know that tracking food always takes the weight off. Sometimes the ideas seem too simplistic to really work. Of course sitting out in nature dissipates stress, but sometimes I'm just too bummed to get out from under the covers when I've convinced myself nothing will work anyway. Now, I'm a pretty resourceful and self-motivated person in some areas, but sometimes it all boils down to just doing it.

I've always had an immense desire for change, a raging internal drive to take myself to the next level in my profession, hobbies and relationships. I take grueling effort to research, list, calculate and produce solutions for everyday problems. Perhaps a publishing prize would be within reach if I actually sat down to write. Perhaps my PR for running would get better if I stuck to a training plan and ate only Running World-worthy food.

It's all a matter of just doing it.