Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A coworker of mine recently turned me on to a web site that has an interesting approach to food tracking, support networks, competition, and goal setting for weight loss. It is called The idea is that you and a friends or family make a bet with each other to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date. You goal weight can be up to you. The difference is your group sets a wager for the end of the challenge. You can also challenge each other to mini bets along the way such as exercising three times during the week, eating 3-5 vegetables a day, drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day, etc ( BTW, Dr. Oz says that the theory of drinking water to lose weight is a myth, unless it is simply to make you fuller.)

Everyone in the group must weigh in on a regular basis. The rules state every day, but, my coworker’s group does it only once a week on a specific day on the honor system. (You need to trust the people in your group). The web site provides tools for tracking your progress including graph charts and a message board. Your group can choose to make your activities public or private.

According to the creators and Spark People, a health and fitness motivational site, research shows that people who are willing to make their weight loss efforts public, pay attention, and enjoy themselves in the process are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. You can read the specifics on the research page. I thought this sounded like a fresh idea for losing weight. Now, I just have to find the right friends to join me in my ongoing quest. Best of luck to those who are brave or free spirited enough to give it a try.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How can I do more?

For a long time now, I have had this nagging feeling, something that is pulling at me to do more. This isn't about fulfilling any particular goals for myself but rather to do something to help others. It's a need that I've felt on almost a daily basis for years now, but sadly, I've never really acted on those feelings and done anything significant to help other people.

In truth, my husband and I are pretty darn lame when it comes to charitable works for our fellow man. This is something I feel very guilty about. I'm Catholic, but it's not a Catholic guilt kind of thing. I guess I simply feel that I've been very fortunate for my entire life, and I firmly believe that those who are more fortunate should help those who aren't. I know that the world is teeming with people who face life struggles every day. For me, it's been easy street. I was born to loving parents whose feet were firmly planted in the American middle class, a place of stability and prosperity; my brother and I never wanted for much during our youth. We were offered wonderful opportunities for education. I attended a private high school and small private college, was even able to study abroad for a year in Germany. Later on, after I became a high school teacher, I attended a grad school program that took place during my summer vacations over a period of several years in Austria.

Now don't get me wrong. By no means am I attempting to brag by sharing all of that with you. I'm simply illustrating that, in many ways, I feel I have lived a charmed life in comparison to the challenges people around the globe face, often times for basic needs such as food and clean water. This bothers me. But I've never been brave enough, or simply just expended the energy, to take the steps necessary to do something about it.

A couple of months ago, I was watching one of my favorite TV shows: Bill Maher's Real Time. One of Maher's guests was Peter Singer, author of the new book, The Life You Can Save. I must confess that I haven't read this book yet, but I find it intriguing and plan to do so. I thought I'd share what I know about it with you. Singer is a long time writer and researcher about world poverty. In the early 70s, he wrote an essay about the topic and this book is a response to the critics of that essay. Singer calls us to action to bring about an end to world poverty and essentially makes the cause a moral issue. He cites the following example: If you were walking by a river and saw a child drowning in it, and all you had to do was jump in and grab the child to save her, you'd do it. If you would see a child in distress like that, your gut reaction would be to do what you could to rescue that child. Doing anything less, simply standing by and watching the child die, would be morally reprehensible. Singer compares this situation to world poverty. If you would see a child dying from starvation, wouldn't you do whatever you could to save that child? The fact of the matter is, we don't. We all know for a fact that people around the world are dying from hunger and preventable diseases due to poverty every day, yet many of us, including myself, do nothing about it, even though we are financially stable and spend money on things that are really fully unnecessary. Singer says that this is morally wrong. For those of us who live in affluent societies, it is easy to simply look the other way, to go on living our daily lives and take care of our own. He states that we do help others when trouble is at our doorstep. For example, Singer cites that after Hurricane Katrina, when we all saw the horrifying pictures of the residents of New Orleans suffering so terribly, many of us donated to relief organizations for that disaster. (My husband and I, in fact, donated to the Red Cross.) However, when it is a world away and so far removed from our own daily lives, we are not so quick to give. Singer goes on to suggest how much to give without greatly sacrificing one's own financial well being.

Peter Singer's book is truly a calling, a challenge. I, for one, intend to read the book and hope to live up to his challenge. Perhaps you would like to do the same. Visit his website at for more information.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Do Moms Cry?

I am not a crier. I don't well up at sappy movies. I don't tear up at emotional stories. However, when my older daughter graduated from high school, I cried. When my younger daughter graduated from preschool, I cried. What is it about our kids that make even the most stoic among us to become puddles on the floor?

Well, I can't speak for the millions of mothers out there but, I think I have it identified for me. When I see any of my kids reach a milestone or participate in some huge event, all of the work that it took to get them there comes rushing back. It's such a relief to have reached the goal that the pressure releases like air coming out of a fully blown balloon. And that makes me cry.

So what about you? Are you a crier? Do your kids achievements make you cry? If so, why? Inquiring minds want to know:-)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tune in Next Week

I apologize, but, I did not get to write my blog for the week. I considered writing one on my day off tomorrow, but, let's face it...How many of you, our readers out there are going to be tuned into read what I have to say the day before a long holiday weekend? I also was having a hard time coming up with something last minute and I don't want to devalue your time, by having you read something that you may not find worth your while. So what I am trying to tell you is, tune in next week for something new from my realm. I appreciate your patience and have a great memorial day weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Nut Job's In The Dressing Room

I've been feeling a little down on my luck lately. In the last month, my husband and I have had to replace our computer and dishwasher, and yesterday, we woke up to no hot water. I had been watching the dollars disappear from our savings account and was totally annoyed that we'd have yet another expense to fix or replace a potentially defunct hot water heater. Well, let me tell ya', that was nothing compared to the horror I experienced later that day.

After having successfully avoided this task for the last five years, I bit the bullet and went shopping for a new swimming suit. I'm so overdue for one. I've been wearing the same suit I bought when I was three months pregnant five years ago. Yes, that's right. The logical conclusion that you can reach from that is that, right now, I weigh approximately what I did when I was three months pregnant. I am very annoyed with this fact but apparently not annoyed enough to do something about it and lose the weight. So, anyhoo, the swimsuit I've had for the last five years is now finally a bit too big. Actually, I'm not even sure that is totally accurate. It may just be that it's so old and worn that the fabric just isn't as taut as it used to be. In any case, it just doesn't fit well anymore and it's worn out enough that it's embarrassing going to the pool with it on. (We live in Texas where it's already in the 90s - ergo this talk of swimming.)

So, off to the store I went. I picked out a few suits that I thought I might look decent in and went into the dressing room. I got naked, took one look in the mirror, and...OH, THE HORROR! I couldn't believe what I was looking at - it was me, but fat and really very unsightly. But, I thought perhaps there was still hope. Maybe, just maybe, a brightly colored swimsuit would cover up some of the folds of flesh. Ok, NO. Not at all.

In fact, I looked so awful that I actually found myself laughing at my image in the mirror...cracking up, really,...and making all sorts of loud exclamations of disbelief at what I was seeing: "Good Lord, I am SOOOO FAT!!" "How did this happen?? I AM A COW!!" "Where are my muscles? Have they gone on vacation or something?? They are gone!" "WHEN did this happen? When did I morph into....THIS??" And all the while I was laughing hysterically.

Suddenly, I heard two store clerks laughing, and I heard one say softly to the other: "Dude, there's a nut job in that dressing room."

I guess I can take solace in someting. I may be fat, but my hearing is still top notch.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Three Phases of Hair

Ever since I got my new haircut, I have been struggling. It doesn't meet the three phases that I have for my hair:

1) Occasion Hair: This is the hair you wear to events (i.e. weddings, TV appearances, etc.)

2) Normal Hair Day Hair: This is the hair you wear to work and around your everyday life.

3) Non-Glamour Hair Day Hair: This is the hair you wear when you don't care. It's the hair you wear to the gym and painting your living room.

Now, my new do looks good in Occasion and Normal however, it takes too long to do. I have a house full of people this summer and my bathroom time is limited. And, my Non-Glamour is full out hat hair. I mean, I can not in any way shape or form walk around like this! And it frustrates me because I spend most of my summer in #3.

So, this is going to be a long hot summer or I had better go shopping for more hats!

I know that this is my second post about hair but, everthing is right with the world if my hair looks good.What about you? What makes you feel put together?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Introduction to Yoga

This was my second consistent week of working out four days a week. I changed up my routine by taking my very first yoga. Here are a few random thoughts that crossed my mind over the 1 1/2 hr session:
  • How long do you seriously expect me to hold this pose?

  • Are those my feet or someone else's feet I smell?

  • My leg really doesn't bend that way.

  • Boy, is it hot in here. Now, this pose I like.

  • The man next to me sure has a lot of naval hair.

  • Can you keep your Pranayama breathing down please- I am trying to fall asleep.

But seriously, my first experience was a lot of fun even if my favorite pose is one that I already knew - the child's pose. I am hoping this alternative to the gym will provide not only a chance to strengthen my body, but, serve an even better source of stress release. I am just beginning, but, I have already grasped that practicing yoga is as much about breathing as it is about movement. I am enjoying finding more things my body can do. So far, so good.

Incidently, there are a number of good (and some bad) yoga videos on Youtube that will show you some of what I learned. This link will lead you to the best according to Waylon Lewis. I also thought I would share the info about my instructor Lindsay since it also explains some of the other benefits of yoga. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Drowning In Our Stuff

We have too much stuff. It's like a disease, really. Something we want to be cured of. My family has simply way too many possessions for the size house we live in. Although our house is a decent-sized one story, about 2200 square feet, we don't have a basement (CURSE YOU, Texas!) and our storage area in our home is very limited.

Both of my part-time teaching jobs are over for the summer, and now that I have significantly more time on my hands, I've begun the battle to reclaim my house from all of the things that have cluttered it up over the years.

Right now, I'm concentrating on my son's playroom. I actually find the amount of toys this child has abhorrent. A small army of children could play with all of the things in his playroom and not get bored for weeks, I kid you not. My son is 4 and from the get-go, we were not the smartest parents about toys. We didn't do the recommended-in-every-baby-book-around method of boxing toys and rotating them every few weeks. So, things just kind of piled up. We've put away the baby toys, but he still has an incredible amount of stuff that is currently age appropriate for him. And what's funny is that he doesn't play all that well with his toys. Most of the time, he seems a bit uninspired with all of the playthings at his fingertips.

I would imagine this is pretty common (ok, readers, is it really?) for his age, but it doesn't make it any less nerve-wracking to me. So, I'm on a mission to clean out his toys - throw away any junk and keep and organize what's left. There are two closets in our playroom and a few shelves that all desperately require my attention. I know I could probably throw away and/or donate at least half of what is in stored in them, and that's what I plan on doing over the next few days, probably through the weekend.

Let the good times roll...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I hope all the mother's of the world, enjoy your day today. I know I am. These two beautiful girls are why I qualify to celebrate today. They are both special in their own way and I couldn't be prouder that I have them to love.

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Mood Has Improved

I apologize for not posting last week, but, it was another one of those evenings when my work and transit schedule resulted in my walking in the door at 8pm with dinner still waiting to be defrosted. By the time we ate that evening I knew any inkling of a story had left my brain. The good news is now that spring is back, I have noticed that I am moving forward once again. My mood has improved and I have begun to notice the things I love about living in Chicago once again. So, I have decided to embrace my photography skills (or non-skills given that I am very out of practice)and begin developing a photo journal of many of them.

Hopefully, you won’t mind my sharing this perpetual log of things I love about Chicago from time to time. First and foremost among the places that I love to spend time would be Chicago’s gorgeous lakefront. Here is a photo of me and Ben approximately nine months after we started dating outside the Shedd Aquarium (my most favorite tourist/museum attraction).

This photo was taken on an unusually warm fall day in October (I remember this because it was close to my birthday and usually, it is quite overcast). The sailboats in the background have started returning in the last couple weeks, so a new photo is definitely in order. I will share this with you soon.

By the way, thanks to those of you who shared your thoughts with me on having children. I appreciate your tactfulness with the sensitive issue and know that I have some thinking yet to do, but, right now I am fairly certain children are still in our future…just not the immediate future. Hope everyone is taking time to enjoy the weather in their own ways and that all of the mothers out there will be granted a well deserved day of serenity on Sunday. Perhaps, someday I will be able to count myself as one of you.

Structured Summer Fun

The countdown is on... Only a few more weeks until school is out for the summer. I haven't decided yet whether this countdown is precursory to a nuclear bomb going off in my household or more akin to that of a rocket blasting off to fun and adventure for three months of summer vacation.

Summer vacation is a big deal around our home; it's not just something that affects our four-year old son, Kurt, who attends preschool twice a week and a German preschool on Saturdays. My husband is a high school teacher, so he's home for the summer, too. This means our entire family is home and will either really get on each other's nerves or genuinely enjoy one another's company for three months that have the potential to be excruciatingly long or a whole heckuva lot of fun.

The days that my son is home from preschool - Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday -are usually good days, but sometimes things don't go so well. My son is a very active, curious little boy who probably needs a bit more structure than I provide for him at home. As an only child, he gets a little lonely oftentimes, and on the days we don't see any friends, I am his only playmate. He doesn't play that well on his own yet (some days are better than others in this regard), and I find that he is still pretty needy of my attention. I'm a pretty laid back person who often times lacks the skills needed to effectively stucture and maintain order in my days. I usually just roll with the punches, but sometimes the hits my son can dish out are a little rough...

This summer, I've decided that I desperately need to put some significant structure into our days. In an effort to save some money and give my son a break from school (3 days a week was a lot for my little guy this year), we won't send him to any kind of summer "camp." The last two years, Kurt attended summer "camp" at his preschool two days per week for about half of the summer. We also visited my parents for three weeks, so that took care of basically the entire summer vacation. This summer, Kurt will have swimming lessons in June every day for a 10-day session. We'll also go on a two-week vacation. Other than that, we'll be here at home. So, I need to figure out some ways to provide some structured activities into our days before all hell breaks loose and I lose my mind.

So far, I only have two ideas to provide some routine into our summer days: every Tuesday, we'll attend a science and math storytime at the library from 2-3 PM, and every Friday morning our playgroup gets together. I have a few other ideas, too, but they are not day or time specific. For example, my son just started riding a big-kid bike with training wheels. I figured, the three of us could all go for an early morning bike ride after breakfast before the day heats up to Hades-like temperatures (we live in Houston). It might even be better to make this an evening activity, perhaps a few days a week, so that my son doesn't get too gassed out before his mid-morning swimming lesson. I'd also like to include a few swimming days in our week, as our subdivision has a pool and my son just loves to frolick and play in the water.

That's all I've come up with so far. I'm wondering if any of you have some tips as to how to provide more structure to my days with a preschool aged child. I'm open to any and all advice. :0)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Good Hair Day

There is nothing more annoying than a bad hair day. It just takes the sharp edge off your day. You feel less confident, not put together and self-conscious. It is very distracting! Conversely, you can conquer the world on a good hair day! Everything is right with the world when every hair is in place.

But, what happens when you have a good hair day and no place to go? Doesn't it seem like a waste? You wake up on a Thursday, do your hair and...perfection. I mean, you could get married in this do! And then, nothing. You have monumental great hair and it's same old, same old. No one appreciates the magnificence at the grocery store. People could care less at the post office. Not even a second look at the dry cleaners. It's like singing the perfect aria in an abandoned auditorium. It's a shame.

I had one of these last week and it kind of bummed me out. Then, I decided to turn it back to where it me. Who cares if no one appreciates my good hair? I feel good. I know I look good. So this good feeling is all mine and that's enough and that's ok today.

Just as long as it looks this good when my husband takes me out on that romantic dinner...