pounds & persistence

my journey toward fitness and wellness and faith

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Vacay!

The hubby and I just wrapped up a wonderful week at the beach with his family. Every year, his parents rent a house and invite all 3 of their kids and their kids’ spouses and their kids’ kids (otherwise known as grandchildren for those of you keeping track) to stay in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And every year, none of us want to say no. That’s how we find ourselves, every year, trekking 8, 9 and sometimes 10 hours when the traffic is really bad, to wedge all 12 of us into a pretty piece of beachside property.

It was a really relaxing week this year, partly because all the weeks leading up to it were so stressful, especially for my hubby. But we really enjoyed the time with the family and the time together.

One of the most amazing things about my hubby is that he makes me braver. He’s got my back and he’s going to be there for me no matter what, and he’s not afraid of my weaknesses, which somehow makes me stronger. This trip had its moments of insecurity. One afternoon, in response to my begging for an “adventure”, he took me to the Hatteras Island Lighthouse, which is the tallest lighthouse in North America (according to the signs). I thought we’d just look at the lighthouse, tour the little museum, take a few pictures and head home, but he had other plans. When we got there, he headed straight to the ticket counter to purchase 2 tickets to climb to the top. This was problematic for me since I’m afraid of heights. Terrified. But I did it and he stuck with me the whole way up and, the more difficult, way down. I felt really brave.

Before we left for the beach, I had this weird flare up with my sciatic nerve and it hurt to even climb stairs one morning. As I laid in bed that night, crying with the fear that this was a complication of the MS and that, one day, I might not be able to walk because of it, he held me. Then, on vacation, one of our family members commented that they thought it was a good idea for us to travel, to take some of the fabulous trips we’ve talked about, because down the road I might not be able to as easily. This is certainly true and was said with the best intentions, but all those fears came back in an instant and all I wanted to do was curl up and cry. Instead, my husband tells me that it’ll be ok, that we’ll figure it out, that a little mobility issue wouldn’t scare him away. He’s truly my best friend and he makes me stronger when I don’t feel strong enough. I’m so lucky to hang out with him!

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Hanging out

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At the Hatteras Island Lighthouse

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The tallest lighthouse in North America

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245 ft. up!

Future

We’re on VACAY! It feels long overdue, especially for my wonderful husband, who works too hard and is often too stressed. We’ve been talking about and looking forward to this vacation for a while. It’s going to be peaceful. Restful. Stress free. I even managed to get all the things on my to-do list complete before we left, scrubbing the house from top to bottom and sending my application for graduate school off to be processed.

However, just a few hours after we arrived at the beach, I received an email from the school to which I was applying stating that I had left one or two important pieces of the application out by accident and that I would need to submit these before they could review and consider my application. Well, crap. Already it hadn’t gone as planned. As I dutifully sat down on the first full day of our long anticipated vacation to work on these missing pieces, I began to think about why I was engaged in such a frustrating and, at times, laborious task. The easy answer? For our future.

In my school district, we have been on a salary freeze for several years. Ever since the bottom fell out of the economy, they’ve refused to pay the teachers a penny more. Initially, most teachers just felt lucky to have a job as the unemployment rate was skyrocketing and so many people were losing their houses , their retirement and their financial well-being. But as time has dragged on and the school district has begun to pony up money for everything, including some seriously frivolous and seriously expensive textbook purchases and raises for higher-ups, teachers are once again rumbling with discontent. This lack of pay seems like a lack of importance and teachers can feel that they are not being compensated, or valued, as much as they could be. I know I often do. And the only way to remedy this in the near future seems to be with increasing education. Wanna make more? Get a higher degree. And so, for the safeguard of our future and to help our family be just a little more financial secure, I labor through the grad school application on vacation.

It’s interesting the sacrifices you make for your future. I’m now willing to eat spinach in a breakfast smoothie and trudge away on our new elliptical for an hour, about 55 minutes longer than I’d like to, for my future. I’m willing to forgo an expensive vacation or fancy jewelry, even on a special, gift-worthy occasion, for our future. I’m even willing to take time away from the people I love most to sit in a darkened classroom rehearsing again and again educational principals I’ve heard countless times for my future. We do these things- workout, eat right, get enough sleep, save our pennies, invest in our education- because we hope that they will pay off in the future. But we aren’t promised a future.

The future always seems to hold such possibility. It’s something we love to dream about, fantasize about. When we retire, if we win the lottery, when our kids grow up, when the house is paid off, the car is paid off, the debt is paid down… But life is full of curve balls and these dreams sometimes do not turn into reality. When I was first diagnosed, this is one of the things I felt so keenly. The pain of losing my dreams. The pain of having my future, the future of my fantasies, taken away. The drudgery of contemplating a new future, a dim future, a scary future.

Even now, I am susceptible to this. Last week, my sciatic nerve went all haywire on me and, for a day or two, I had pain just walking, let alone climbing the stairs. I knew the pain. I had felt it before. I knew that it could be caused by the incredible amount of sitting I’d done in the recent summer training’s I’d had, combined with the new, more strenuous exercise I’d been doing. My mother has had the same issue many a time, and it wasn’t foreign to me at all. And yet, my first thought was my MS. I felt weak and useless and scared and I cried as I fell asleep. I felt like constant health issues, pain even, were all that my future held. No matter how ridiculous I knew this was, I couldn’t shake this feeling that my future was not, would not become, what I wanted it to be.

In light of all this, I’ve learned recently more and more how to live in the present. All the planning and plotting and tending to my potential future, or even lack thereof, leaves me exhausted and discouraged. And for what? I can’t control it. I can’t prevent it. I can’t shape it or define it or make it the way I want it to be. I can only be responsible for today, today’s choices, today’s worries, today’s decisions. I can only make the best of what I have now. This is why, in the Bible, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow and to take care of today. In Matthew 6, he says ” Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

How true is this? Today, in this moment, even on vacation, I have enough to worry about, enough to do. By fretting about the future and all the different “what-if”s, I rob myself of the enjoyment of this day, this moment. It doesn’t add even an hour to my life. My future is in the hands of one much larger than I, much grander and more powerful than I, of one much wiser than I. It certainly isn’t in my hands! And right here, right now, this is what I am responsible for, what I need to make the most of. What I need to do now is focus on the present and not worry about tomorrow. Hopefully, by taking it one day at a time, my future will materialize all on it’s own, and it will be a far better future than I could have even dreamed of.

Breakfast Recipes

OK, so this blog is titled POUNDS and persistence. Lately, I’ve focused so much on persistence, you may have thought I forgot all about the pounds. Oh no, I haven’t forgotten. They’re still there, starting me in the face every time I shower, eat, buy a new swimsuit… it’s still very much about the pounds. But since my diagnosis, it’s also been about the health. I’d love to shed the extra inches, if not just to look better naked and strut that in front of my hubby, but I care more about choosing good things to eat and exercising because it’s good for my long-term, overall health. While some people think this way naturally, are maybe genetically predisposed to think log-term and care about what’s good for them 10 or 20 years from now, for me, it’s been a whole new approach.

In any case, I’ve been making small but steady changes to my diet, some of which have been informed by the research I’ve done on MS and various MS diets, and some of which have been informed by just basic good rules to good living that most of us are aware of. For example, I no longer eat red meat. I’m eating protein, don’t you worry, but a lot of the stuff on MS diets I had read suggested that you forgo the red kind of meat and therefore I’m abstaining. This is hard when we pass an Outback Steakhouse and I think of all the delicious beefy steaks I’m missing out on, but generally this has not been TOO difficult as there are usually some kind of turkey or chicken or veggie substitute for more red meat items. Even my husband has learned to like a good turkey sausage or ground turkey tacos, so my largest hurdle there is behind me.

However, I’ve been struggling a bit with breakfasts. I have to eat in the morning. You’re supposed to break the fast. And people who eat breakfast have generally less pounds to lose than those who don’t. And it’s the most important meal of the day. And, most significantly to me, if I don’t eat something and I just consume 8-10 oz of coffee with my multi-vitamin and fish oil supplements, I will be incredibly nauseous and potentially vomit later, which is really not convenient in the middle of teaching first period. Therefore, I eat. But I haven’t been wowed by what I’m eating. In fact, since I’m really not a morning person, I usually stumble downstairs and grab anything that doesn’t require much effort, say a banana or some instant oatmeal, while I watch my coffee brew and wait for my dogs to do their business. Much more work than this, and I just can’t manage it. But this morning meal is boring, lackluster and, perhaps, nutritionally dull. So I’ve been looking for something else.

Given that it’s summer and therefore I have more time to prepare something interesting, I’m thinking of giving this recipe by Skinny Taste a go. It looks suspicious, but she claims that it is delicious and she has never steered me wrong yet. Additionally, I’ll be giving my body so many vitamins and nutrients I suspect that it will preform better for me and even be happy with me later in the day. Let me know if you find any other yummy breakfast options…

Skinny Green Monster Smoothie
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 1 • Serving Size: about 2 cups • Old Points: 5 pts • Points+: 6 pts
Calories: 253.4 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carb: 38.6 g • Fiber: 5.5 g • Protein: 17.5 g • Sugar: 18.4 g
Sodium: 236.7 mg 

Ingredients:

  • 1 small frozen ripe banana, peeled
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp Better n Peanut Butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

Directions:

Place all the ingredients into the blender, add ice (optional) and blend until smooth.

Celebrity

As many of you may already know, yesterday Jack Osbourne announced that he has recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I wasn’t aware of this, as I rarely follow celebrity news, until a friend told me and then I looked it up. Apparently, just three weeks after his new daughter was born, he noticed some signs that something was off, such as numbness and vision loss. He went in for tests and low and behold, it was MS. He has said in a recent interview that he was shocked, angry, sad… all the things I would expect him to be. Then he says that he decided that this wallowing wasn’t helping, so he was going to have a positive attitude, and learn to adapt and overcome. He also has great hope in the medication he’ll be using and in changes to his diet and exercise routine.

I’ve SO been there, so I could understand these comments and even sympathize. What I couldn’t wrap my mind around, however, was his very public sharing so soon after his diagnosis. I mean, his daughter was just born in late April, which means he’d have noticed his symptoms mid-May and been diagnosed sometime around there. 1 month later, the magazines are printing the article. There’s just no way I’d have been ready to go with something this life changing so fast. And more than that, he’s taking CRITICISM! I mean, if you read any of the websites running the story online, people are commenting after the story and many people are criticizing him or even his family, as if his sordid past or his father’s drug use have anything to do with this disease. People have said that he’s just seeking the spotlight, as if anyone wants to have THIS news to share publicly. People have said that he is touting one course of action, drug therapy, and he should be touting another such as holistic medicine or acupuncture or organic veganism. In the midst of an incredibly difficult and personal time, he is actually facing negativity and anger instead of just support and well-wishes. I can’t possibly imagine how he is doing that or even why!

But as I was talking with the hubby last night, it occurred to me that perhaps, because of his celebrity status, he felt he had to share this information publicly. Maybe to use his status to raise awareness. Maybe to raise funds. Maybe to spur researchers on to a cure. Or maybe, just as likely in my mind, because he figured that the media would eventually find out about it anyway and he wanted to control the flow of that information. Which makes me sad for him.

One of my biggest frustrations during the confusing time of my diagnosis was the prying of other people. I shared the news with select individuals, either because I trusted them and needed an outlet to share or because I felt that our relationship was close enough that they had a right to know. And several times, I was sorely disappointed by the fact that they chose to share this information, MY information, with others. Just last week, I went to visit an old colleague who I was close to and who I have missed and when I shared my diagnosis with him, he was already aware. Not because I’d had an opportunity to share this very personal, very real struggle with him. Because he had already been informed by someone who I thought I could trust. I felt betrayed. I imagine that, at some point, someone would have leaked the information about Jack Osbourne to the media and he would have felt betrayed too.

Why do we feel the need to do this? Why, in our society, are we so consumed with the goings-on in other peoples lives, things which do not concern us, things in which we do not need to meddle, that we compromise their privacy. I have another friend who has been diagnosed with a terminal neurological disease. Most of the mutual friends and acquaintances we have do not know. He co-workers can not know. She will not even share with me the name of this disease. She guards over this with great secrecy, because she’s been burned before. Because her trust has been violated before. Because she’s been betrayed. And I feel sad for her that many times she must have suffered along through things, the emotional toll of this disease, the physical toll, because she was too afraid to share with others who might betray her trust to someone else.

I understand that Jack Osbourne is a celebrity and therefore he must be braver than the rest of us. By releasing this information all at once to everyone in the public, he can’t really be discriminated against in his work place, as I am so afraid I will be. But he can still be pitied in conversation by acquaintances. And he can be judged. And he can be underestimated. And so I admire his bravery in announcing this news publicly, especially so quickly after his diagnosis. But I also think that I, for one, would never, ever want to be a celebrity and have all that scrutiny, that lack of privacy, that invasion of my emotion, placed on me. I guess I’m just too private a person.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

Summer is here! The sun is out and so is school! In honor of this, I am making ch,ch,ch,changes! First, a new look. Fresh for summer, I decided to put some RED in my hair! It’s bright red, almost kool-aid color, but I’m diggin’ it.

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A new ‘do wouldn’t be enough of a change, however. This blog is all about POUNDS and persistence, and what better way to shed some pounds and prove my persistence than with some exercise. My hubby has been talking quite a bit lately about getting some kind of exercise machine in the house so that he can use it too. He swears that since he got a promotion at work in September, he’s not only been more stressed but also less fit, as he is no longer getting the kind of physical exertion he used to. And so we went to look at treadmills and ellipticals and stationary bikes and after much measuring and speculating, ended up with an elliptical trainer!

 The ceilings in our row home basement are low and so we needed to put any exercise equipment on the upper floors, and a treadmill would just have too much impact to go in an upstairs bedroom. So, we ended up rearranging the office to now look like this…

We’ve had it for almost two weeks and, except for the days directly before or after the bike race, I’ve used it every day. My hubby is also loving the convenience, though neither of us really loves to work out. However, getting to watch our favorite shows on the iMac while we sweat sure does help! Hopefully, this step, coupled with the red meat free diet I’ve been embracing, will help me shed pounds AND feel well. Baby steps really…

We Did It!!

I know it could sound haughty and arrogant and self-centered, but I’ve got to say that I am so freaking PROUD of myself. And Anna. And, of course, my mom and dad and even sisters Tessa and Brie, but mostly Anna and I. We did it. We completed 30 miles. We really weren’t sure we could.

Friday afternoon, the afternoon before the race, Anna and I had agreed that we would meet at my house early to try to beat some of the traffic going over the Chesapeake Bay bridge. No matter how early we left, however, we were destined to sit a spell in bumper to bumper misery simply because the Chesapeake Bay bridge is the primary route to Ocean City and to all other ocean front towns. And because it was the last day of school for Anne Arundel County students, so many families would be celebrating. And because that last day of school was a half day. I  too felt like celebrating, as summer is just as much a welcome break for the teachers as it is the students, and my celebration apparently would be to complete a 30 mile bike ride. I was beginning to think that my mother HAD really started to rub off on me…

The drive was long but lovely and we kept each other company the whole way. We checked into our enormous hotel room and promptly took a short nap. Anna and I awoke to our parents knocking on our hotel room door, prodding us to the race registration check-in and dinner. They were excited and animated and, even here on the Easter Shore at a bike race they’d never participated in, knew some fellow cyclist. As Anna and I exchanged knowing glances, they introduced us to RUNNING friends that were now also CYCLING friends who we just HAD to meet. Figures. At the race registration, however, we discovered that, because of the generosity of my family, I had raised $1000 and now qualified for a “Top Crab” jersey, which I would get to wear throughout the race. I was just hoping to raise enough money to meet the $300 minimum for entry and not have to pony up any of my own funds to cover the difference, so this was unexpected and very special. I was getting pumped.

After an upbeat, fun dinner with Mom and Dad, Anna and I headed back to our hotel to wait for Brie and Tessa to arrive. When I called Tessa months prior to the race and asked her if she’d like to pedal it with me, she tactfully replied that she wouldn’t be able to carve out the time for training leading up to the race because of her other obligations and, therefore, she would definitely not be participating IN the race. But neither hell nor high water can keep Tessa away from any event where all her other sisters are assembled, so she registered as a volunteer, left the babies with her hubby and trekked to the Eastern Shore. When I first mentioned the race and the idea of volunteering to Brie, she didn’t even hesitate. She immediately registered as a volunteer and began contacting the appropriate people to make sure that both she and Tessa could be stationed at the same rest stop. They showed up, wine in hand, after a full day of work and a long drive out the Chestertown, MD, ready to volunteer their hearts out.

The morning of the race, Anna and I were nervous. The race organizers had provided all meals for registered participants and volunteers, and so we would be eating in the cafeteria with the other would-be racers. Neither Anna nor I had ever wished so fervently that we had only volunteered for something, not actually participated in it. I managed to choke down my eggs over the butterflies in my stomach while Dad cracked jokes and made conversation and Mom sorted out last minute details, like where the start line was and what time they actually had to begin the race. Since they were participating in the Metric Century ride, a 62/63 miler as it were, they would start before us and, after some serious prodding on Mom’s part, they headed off in the direction of the start line. Tessa and Brie returned to inform us that they had to ship out to their assigned rest stop, but they wished us well and assured us that we would see them as soon as we could managed to pedal to their stop, hopefully still upright and coherent. Anna and I were alone and a little apprehensive. We were freaking out. We got our bikes, checked the tires, added air, adjusted a chain that had partially come off, all of which made us feel tough, but did not calm our nerves. At 9:00, we set off from the start line.

The first 5 1/2 miles we had to cover before we reached Brie and Tessa and their promised rest stop were largely very flat and not that difficult. It took a few miles to readjust to being on a bike again, and our rears complained during that entire adjustment period, but by the time we pulled into Kent County High School, we were feeling ok. We spent just a few minutes chatting with Brie and Tessa, or rather, guzzling water while they talked to us, and then were off again. Shortly after we left their encouraging smiles, however, we discovered the hills.

We weren’t expecting hills. We had been told, by our mother no less, the woman whose brain child this whole adventure was, that this course was flat. In fact, I distinctly remember that as a selling feature when she was pitching this idea of a 30 mile bike ride to me. And there they were anyway- hills. On the second hill, Anna informed me that we were walking to the top. I dutifully hopped off my bike- there would be no leaving one man behind. We guzzled our gatorade and pushed on, hill after hill. We walked just one more hill and seriously considered turning around, right there at whatever mile we were at, and starting back for the finish line, when we ran into an encouraging cyclist who assured us that the half-way point, and therefore rest stop, was only 1/2 a mile further. We trudged on. “1/2 a mile” might have been a slight exaggeration on the part of the cyclist, but she was well-meaning and we pulled into the second rest stop exhausted and discouraged. And heard someone calling our names.

As we feebly dismounted onto shaky legs, our mother, beacon of all fitness, called excitedly over to us, all smiles and enthusiasm. I could have strangled her with her helmet strap. She looked so happy and not nearly as drained as we were, despite having completed over 30 miles already that morning. Our father was no better, all chatty and positive. For them, this seemed to actually be FUN. All Anna and I wanted to do was find some shade to curl up and give up. But they brought us lunch, complete with SANDWICHES and COOKIES and SODA! After 30 minutes and the best sandwich of my life, Anna and I felt like new women ourselves and understood our parents buoyed spirits. We even enjoyed seeing them and hugged them before they headed out on their final half of the race.

The next 7 miles were hard- the day was so damn hot!- but not impossible and we learned to master the art of removing the water bottle while pedaling, drinking, and then replacing the water bottle while gliding. We felt accomplished. We pulled into the rest stop at mile 22 happy to see that it was the same rest stop as earlier and that we would see Brie and Tessa again. In fact, they took care of us from the moment they saw us, helping us off our bikes, getting us drinks in the shade, filling our water bottles and even taking our bikes over the mechanic at the stop for more air and a thorough once over. They did not, however, cave to my plea that they stuff us and the bikes in the back of Brie’s Ford Fiesta and take us to the finish line. As we climbed on our bikes for the final miles, however, we felt remarkably better.

At 1:00 on the nose, we pedaled across the finish line. Even with our long breaks at the rest stops, we were able to finish in 4 hours, which was much better than we thought we’d do. As we pedaled the final leg of the race, Anna even began planning for next year, began talking about how much fun it’d been and how nice everyone was. As if on cue, some of the more experienced, better cyclist came along side us and began chatting with us, keeping us company for a few of the final miles. There was music and medals and sandwiches and Rita’s mango italian ice in the shade.

Two by two, the rest of our family began to show up and assemble, relaying their accounts of the day. Tessa and Brie had great stories and a little bit of sunburn from the rest stop; Mom and Dad had great fun and photos from their ride; Anna and I had a huge sense of pride and accomplishment and a gratefulness that we had survived. But we also realized that we had all enjoyed ourselves. We realized that we had all gotten something positive from the experience. We realized that this was the first time just the 6 original Foster Family had been away together since before Anna’s engagement 6 years ago. And we realized that we would do it again, may even ask for donations again, next year. Prepare yourself now, we may come a knockin’!

Ready for the Race

"Top Crab" jersey

Best Volunteers EVER!

All the "Fierce Foster" team

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