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Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

— lyrics from “Defying Gravity” by Stephen Schwartz

“Defying Gravity”  is quite possibly one of my favorite songs of all time.  I experienced the musical Wicked on Broadway a few years ago and fell in love with the score.  It is such an powerful anthem about believing in one’s self.  I believe it is particularly powerful for individuals who dare to “think outside the box” or who are perceived as non-conformists whether intentionally or unintentionally.  I identify with Elphaba, the misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West, in the “Wizard of Oz” who sings this powerful ballad to her classmate and friend Glinda, the Good Witch of the East before strikinig out on her own in the world.

Although I don’t think I am inherently wicked, nor do I have intentions of breaking ties with everyone in my life and flying off on a broom to a secluded castle to live out my life like Elphaba, I am approaching an age and time in my life when I want to be more independent in my thinking; more focused on my goals.  I want to move away from being a “people pleaser” and try defying gravity by being truer to myself.

The other night, after a particularly aggravating conversation with someone, I was out of sorts.  I raged around the kitchen, searching out a comfort food to suffocate my angry feelings even though I was not particularly hungry.  Instead of stuffing my feelings down, I decided to take a walk and figure out what was eating at me.

I grabbed my gear — iPod, Garmin and brand new sneakers — and set-off into the twilight with no destination or plan.  Within minutes “Defying Gravity” blasted in my earbuds and my pace picked up, my adrenaline surged and my spirits began to literally soar.  Endorphins are a beautiful thing.  I felt very powerful.  I had quelled my anger and made a healthy decision because I could.  When my children were younger, more often than not, I couldn’t just “walk away” from confrontation, aggravation, intimidation and frustration because they needed me to be present and attend to their needs.  So I would “stuff” myself — literally– and push those feelings down with food so I could take care of them and get through the moment.  At this point in my life, the girls are now old enough for me to take a walk, consider what is gnawing away at me and find a better way to respond.

I did my usual route and was at the 2.5 mile mark when I was stopped by a neighbor who inquired how far I had walked.  I told him I was training for a half marathon, said good night and continued along my way.  When my phone rang at mile 3.5, my hubby told me he had made dinner and asked when I would be home.  I thanked him for taking the chore of dinner off my plate and told him to eat without me because I wasn’t done walking.

“OK, ” he said.  “How much longer will you be?”

“Not sure,” I huffed and puffed.

“Be safe. See you soon.”

It took me 3.2 more miles to reach my destination – home – that night.

 

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Goodbye sweet boy

Farewell my furry companion of the past ten years. I am still in shock after your sudden death on December 29th and am numb with grief. Seems everywhere I turn in the house, I see you — your nose prints on the window in the kitchen where you spied on squirrels in the backyard; your little catnip mouse from Santa under the coffee table; and paw prints on the radiator cover in my bedroom where you basked in the warmth of the sun. I miss your rude way of bumping open the bathroom door at inconvenient moments, your ear-piercing demand for food each morning and the brush of your soft whiskers against my face as you checked to see if I was asleep each night. Most of all I miss the weight of your fluffy girth at my feet as I sleep — you slept soundly and totally trusted that I would not kick or roll on you.

You brought so much joy and happiness to our family and will be missed by all of us.

Deep freeze

Puppy McPuppy and I attempted to play yesterday — burn off some energy and stretch our muscles — but lasted only 29 minutes on the field. We play “chase” instead of “catch” because Bitty refuses to retrieve.  I throw the ball; she chases it and sits down to wait for me to retrieve it.  It was a brutal outing,

The single digit temperatures that have thrust the East Coast into a deep freeze are challenging my efforts to “get out and move with intention” each day.

What’s a girl to do?

At the start of the New Year I decided to work on accountability.  I signed up for John “The Penguin” Bingham’s 100 Day Challenge on Facebook.  “The Penguin” is my marathon mentor and author of Marathoning for Mortals, the motivational tome that got me off the couch in 2005 and to the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon in the same year.  He and his wife Coach Jenny Hadfield developed the 100 Day Challenge last year to inspire people to move more and train for running/walking events.

Visit the Facebook page (http://www.teampenguin.com/images/100days_countupcard.jpg) where you will find a sneaker-shaped calendar to fill out and post it as a visual reminder.   The 100 Day Challenge commitment incents me to move and is a great training tool for the April Fools’ Half Marathon in Atlantic City.  This is what is look’s like:

Registering for Joy Bauer’s 10,000 pound Weight Loss Challenge will be an ongoing resource for my healthy recipe search.  My Weight Watcher’s membership is helping me to manage my food portions and choices.   Oh, and I also signed up for Dr. Oz’s program in the fall –have to check back on that one!

As my family settled down to watch NCIS on television last night, Colette commented on the number of weight-related commercials.  We took a straw poll (in honor the Iowa Caucus yesterday) and the survey says:  We all find Mariah Carey’s ad for Jenny Craig beyond annoying!  We are all happy for Jennifer Hudson’s success with Weight-Watchers — we watched Simon humiliate her on American Idol and are cheering her many successes in music, film and weight-loss in spite of his bullying!  I cast my vote for most irritating diet commercial for Janet Jackson and NutraSystem.  Just eeewwww for so many reasons!

On the blood pressure front, I am trying to up my skim milk and fat-free yogurt intake.  Back to having my cereal and milk for breakfast and Greek non-fat yogurt for lunch or snacks.

So, as I sit here thawing from today’s romp through the frozen tundra with the dog, I’m remembering that Santa brought the girls a Zumba tape.  I’ve never tried Zumba, so today may be the day to check out something new.

Started my day by watching the Today Show while snarfing down my java.

Featured stories included an interview with nutritionist Cynthia Sass (the woman behind Prevention Magazine’s  Flat Belly Diet) who discussed the value of making simple dietary changes for better health.  She talked about smaller portions, the benefits of acting more vegan in creating recipes and the power of adding garlic to your diet.  Cynthia brought baked garlic to the table and suggested using it as a spread.  In a research study she cited, a rat pack was overfed over the course of eight weeks and the little buggers gained weight.  When a different group was fed the same diet plus garlic, the rats lost weight and showed less inflammation. Sounds like garlic not only keeps vampires away, but also blood pressure damaging inflammation.

I have always liked garlic.  As a young woman, I thought garlic was only found in shakers and accompanied by salt — thanks, Mom!  I was introduced to raw garlic almost 25 years ago when I decided to host, and cook for, my brother’s rehearsal dinner.  I decided to make rice pilaf as a side dish.  The recipe called for a clove of garlic. Without hesitation,  I added the whole bulb because I had never seen a clove!  The smell of garlic enveloped the house and oozed under the kitchen door.  My husband walked into the kitchen and burst into laughter.

“What’s so funny,” I asked?

“How much garlic did you use, honey?”

“A clove,” I said showing him a bulb.

Needless to say, he was speechless.  I was mortified when he showed me a clove.

So, please hug me the next time you see me even if I reek of garlic!

Also noticed that nutritionist Joy Bauer is trying to motivate her viewers/followers to lose 10,000 pounds.  Being the joiner that I am, I signed-up for her challenge by registering on the Today Show website.  If I’m successful in my efforts (and brave enough to discuss my “starting” weight) I could submit an essay to her and possibly win a trip to the show and a makeover.   Hmmmmm….lose weight and write about it?  Sounds like a familiar theme is emerging for 2012.

In my quest to cook healthier, I visited Joy’s website JoyBauer.com and found this week’s recipe:  Banana Ice Cream!  I love bananas.  They are zero Weight Watcher’s points and are a power food for management of hypertension.  I’ll let you know how it tastes.  Here’s the recipe:

BANANA ICE CREAM
INGREDIENTS
  • 4 banana(s), large, ripe

PREPARATION

1. Cut the bananas into 1” rounds and freeze them in a freezer bag for at least 3 hours.

2. Place the banana slices in the bowl of a food processor. (If your banana slices have been in the freezer for longer than a day, it’s best to let them thaw slightly in the food processor bowl for 20 minutes so they are easier to purée.)

3. Purée the bananas until they are completely smooth and no frozen chunks remain.

4. Scoop the ice cream into a bowl and freeze for another 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Variation: PB-Banana Ice Cream
After the bananas have been puréed, add 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter to the food processor bowl. Purée for a few seconds longer to mix in the peanut butter. Scoop the ice cream into a bowl and freeze for another 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Variation: Banana-Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
After the bananas have been puéeed, add 2 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips to the food processor bowl and mix them in with a large spoon. Scoop the ice cream into a bowl and freeze for another 1 to 2 hours before serving.

2012 will be a year of milestones for me.

  • In February, I will enter my fiftieth year and I am surprised by how very uncomfortable I am about it.
  • October 24 will mark my 25th wedding anniversary to my boy Stephen for which I am incredibly grateful.

The reality that I have lived for half a century is overwhelming (can I possibly be that old?), but more terrifying to me is the realization that quite possibly the best years of my life have passed me by already.  Over the past five decades, I have buried and birthed loved ones; attended and graduated from elementary, high school, college and grad school; bought two houses and sold one; been married to the same wonderful man for almost 25 years; have been a career girl and stay-at-home mother; trained for and completed a full marathon and nine half marathons; am a published author of two short stories; a small business owner; and a special events consultant.

A blessed life for certain, yet I am stymied about what is next personally and professionally for me.  I need to challenge myself to continue to grow mentally, spiritually and physically.

Inspired by the movie “Julie and Julia” and my blogging god-daughter, I am going to fill my fiftieth year with activities and experiences that will prepare me for the rest of my life and I invite you to come along for the ride by reading about my grand adventure in my blog.   No bucket list for me — too morbid — but I do believe that generating a “to do” list is imperative to move me forward.  I read The Checklist Manifesto by a brilliant surgeon and author Atul Gawande earlier this year.  Dr. Gawande believes that no matter how expert (or not) you may be, check lists can improve outcomes.  I am a believer now too, so here’s my list:

  • My daughter Grace has challenged me to do right by my writing by spending at least 20 minutes a day listening to my muse and writing down what transpires,    For Christmas she gave me a small writing journal to carry with me in my purse so I can jot down story ideas.  A touching gift of support and belief in my talents from my eldest child.  What a gift!  I will write each day with the goal of completing and submitting at least two stories this year.

After my blood pressure went off the Richter scale last month, I was ticked-off.  I went to the doctor’s office and had a “heart -to – heart talk” about heart health.  I left with a prescription — to walk my way to better health; to diminish/abolish salt from my diet and to lose weight.  Sobering conversation indeed, but I already knew what I had to do, now I was charged to do it.

  • I commit to training for three half marathons this year and thank my friend Joelle for inviting me to race with her on April Fools Day in Atlantic City.  I hit the streets last week and have logged eight training miles to date and it felt wonderful.  As part of my training, I will cross-train and stretch to improve my flexibility.
  • I joined Weight Watcher’s in May of last year and have lost some weight.  My new goals is to lose 10% of my weight per Dr. Oz’s recommendation.  It can only help my blood pressure and the pressure of my body pounding on my feet as I train for the races.
  • I am committed to cooking more healthfully this year.   Can’t say I’m much of a salt-a-holic, but oh sweet Lord I likes my sugar! I am a baker at heart, but long to become a better cook.   I am going to tackle one new healthy meal a week.  I have already pulled a few recipes out of Prevention Magazine and I invite you to share your favorites with me.

Lastly, I need to nourish my creativity by learning something new…knit one, pearl two perhaps? sew what? iPhone/Mac/Pad mastery?  I don’t want to limit myself by picking only one new activity and welcome any ideas or suggestions.

Journey, ho!

In 2008, I graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College.   Attending graduate school to learn about the craft of writing was challenging and rewarding.  I honed my fiction writing skills, survived workshops where classmates and teachers read and critiqued my work and submitted several completed short stories for publication.  I was surrounded by a community of kindred spirits whose support nurtured my inner writer and encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a published author.

To make my dream reality, I know I must exercise my writing muscles.  — daily.  I thank my dear friend MaryAlice who suggested that I undertake the challenge of writing a blog some time ago and promised to read it.  Special thanks to my daughters who motivated me to begin this journey: Grace who gave me a journal for Christmas and inspired me to return to my writing life and Colette, a brilliant and passionate writer in her own right, whose enthusiasm and imagination for the craft I aspire to emulate.

 

 

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