Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is this really it?

I would like to think that I'm not the only person who ever wonders, is this really it?  There has to be more to life than this right?  I have the required basics of life; food, water, shelter, but there has to be more to life than that, right?  I may have the basics, but most of the time I still feel unfulfilled, and lately the this really it...has echoed loudly in my ears.

That question may sound as though I am unhappy with life, but that's not true.  I'm not unhappy, I just would like to think that there's more to life than I'm experiencing now.  Finding more means searching for more, in an active and healthy way.  This year I've embarked on three major challenges.  I call them major challenges, because all three require changes in routine, changes in behavior and changes in thought.  I'm calling 2017 my "get yourself together" year.  I'm three weeks in and things are looking promising.

Challenge 1:  Improve my spiritual health.
I don't think anyone is ever finished growing in their spiritual walk.  I don't think God designed us that way.  I believe He designed us to ever seek Him, causing our journey to walk with Him to be an ongoing experience.  My journey this year is being aided by the 365 Day Daily Bible Reading Plan that Park Plaza Church of Christ distributed to its members just before January began.  If followed, the plan will lead me through reading the entire Bible within a year.  This challenge has been presented to me before and I've seen many different plans for reading the Bible through in a year.  So far this plan is working for me.  Each day I read a section of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.  So far, so good, I've not missed a day yet and each day I find encouragement and enlightenment in those scriptures that show me I am on the right track.  Hopefully that will continue.

Challenge 2:  Improve my physical health.
It's no secret that weight loss is a battle for me, in fact I would argue weight loss and weight management is a difficult challenge for everyone.  I decided to view this challenge not just as weight loss, but as establishing healthier habits.  It's not just about shedding pounds, although if I make healthier choices, that should be a handy by-product.  It's about having better energy and feeling better about myself.  I am working to internalize the thinking that "God doesn't make junk."  Three weeks in and I've managed to average weight loss of two pounds per week, almost entirely eliminate pop and sweet tea from my beverage choices, and exercise 3-5 times per week.  I have more growth and improvement to do in all of those areas, but I'm proud of myself for the efforts I've managed to maintain for three weeks.  Hopefully that will continue.

Challenge 3:  Improve my financial health.
I told my mom recently that one of the most frustrating things for me about being single is not having someone to help talk through financial matters and choices with me.  If this was something I was going to tackle, I knew I would need help.  I had to find someone to talk to about my choices and who can give sound advice.  I have a good job, and resources to meet all of my obligations, but as many of my educator friends know there isn't much wiggle room after that.  I knew I needed help to find wiggle room, and to improve my financial health.  I've found help and a path that I can follow. While I am at the very beginning of my journey, I hope that the early encouragement and success I've found will continue.

Life is hard.  I don't think I am alone in my thinking.  Life is hard.  It is constant choices, followed by the consequences of those choices and more choices to change those consequences that cause consequences of their own.  I know there is more to life than a day to day existence, hopefully the challenges I'm taking on this year will help me live a more healthy and fulfilled life.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Living Out Loud on Social Media

If you know me well, you know that I struggle in social situations.  I have a hard time with small talk and pleasantries.  I have a hard time getting to know people.  I'm not at all confident when introducing myself to people.  When I took the REACH coach job, my partner and I were supposed to visit and introduce ourselves to all of the districts in our assigned region.  I was sick!  I'm not sure what how I thought I was going to meet all of those people, but the prospect of introducing myself to people gave me such anxiety.  Lucky for me, God blessed me with a partner in Carri Simunek who was willing to walk through doors first.  Every school we visited together, I asked her to walk through the door first and make introductions.  Throughout my two years in that position, I learned how to be more confident and how to introduce myself.  I got better at small talk and pleasantries, but it does not come naturally for me at all.  I still have to work at it.

Where I have found that I can be most transparent and where I am the most comfortable is on screen.  I am one of those.  If you were to say I hide behind the screen, you probably wouldn't be wrong.  I'm better in print.  Social media posts, emails, texts....all kinds of print.  When I first joined the social media world my sister, Kayla, had to talk me into creating a Facebook account.  I was very unsure of the whole thing.  I didn't figure there would be anyone that would want to be my friend.  It was all about being social, and I wasn't.  What I have found though is that social media allows me to live out loud.

I don't post everything I think or do (thank heavens right?).  I do however show more of my personality and more of my reality through social media than you'll get in a few brief encounters with me.  I've discovered that my posts work as conversation starters for me when I'm face to face with people.  So thank you for reading, thank you for indulging my culinary adventures, my reading challenge and embracing me as I live out loud.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Challenge of a Reading Challenge

If we're Facebook friends you know that I am in the midst of a 2016 Reading Challenge.  I've always been an avid reader.  I remember leaning over the side of the bed with a flashlight, reading a book strategically placed under the bed, in a room I shared with my sister, when I was in elementary school.  As a middle schooler I remember hiding my book inside the textbook I was supposed to be reading during class.  In high school I backed off of pleasure reading significantly because the reading demands for my AP English class consumed all of my time.  As a college student and adult I rediscovered pleasure reading and turned my love for it into a career.  As a reader however, I have tended to have a narrow lane.  I find an author or series I like and read everything that author or series has to offer, over and over again in many cases.

In 2014 I decided to challenge myself to get out of the habit of reading the same things over and over.  I decided I would read one fiction book, followed by a nonfiction book, alternating throughout the year and attempting to read 50 by the end of the calendar year.  I gave up on the alternating at some point during the year and ended up reading 36.

In 2015, I found two reading challenge lists on Pinterest that I thought I would try.  The first, the Popsugar 2015 Ultimate Reading Challenge, was the one I stuck with the most.  The second, also by Popsugar is 50 Books, 50 States:  A Literary Map of America.  I discovered if I read the 50 states list, I would also satisfy the requirements of the Ultimate Reading Challenge list.  Piece of cake right?  The titles are all there for me.  Except the reader inside me kept me going to back to titles that were comfortable and justifying their fit into the reading challenge.  In February of 2015 I got derailed in my quest for 50 books.  After my brother died I stopped reading.  For months I would not pick up a book. Part of my grief journey included not allowing myself to feel pleasure.  I felt guilty for being happy or satisfied, so I avoided things that I enjoyed, which included reading.  After regular counseling, time and self-reflection, I began doing things I enjoyed again and in the latter part of the year, I pushed and speed read, managing to read 37.

In 2016, I found a new Reading Challenge List, still from Popsugar, the 2016 Ultimate Reading Challenge.  After reading five books in the last week, I'm currently sitting at 19 books completed.  Here are some challenges I have in getting this list done... 1) If I don't start with the reading challenge criteria, the book I select often doesn't fit the list.  (Only about 12 of the 19 are on the challenge list.)  2)  When I am working, I read less.  3)  It takes me a lot longer to finish a nonfiction book than it does a fiction one.

I'll keep plowing, but given how far behind I am, it is very likely that for the third year in a row, I won't hit 50 books.  A failed goal.  Again.  Maybe I should aim for 38?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

George H. W. Bush Presidential Library

On Saturday, my mom and I visited the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Texas A & M University.  It was my first visit to this library and to College Station at all.

One of the cool things about presidential libraries, at least for me, is that I learn so much while I'm there!  I had no idea that President Bush isn't originally from Texas, or that he held numerous federal government jobs and posts before running for president himself.  It was an excellent visit.  I enjoyed getting to share this one with my mom.  Here's a sampling of what we saw....

Oval Office Replication

A small scale replication of parts of the White House

At the exhibit where I learned that at one time George H. W. Bush was the head of the CIA, we were able to scan our hand and watch this TV screen as it focused in on exactly where we were standing!  I'm the one closest to the bottom of this picture.

If you're ever down in the College Station area, you should stop at this presidential library!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Daily Scripture Writing

I've never been good at daily Bible reading.  I was envious in college of those that could start a plan and stick with it, because that's not something I've ever been able to do.  Start a plan...yes.  Finish a  Then on Friday I saw the picture below posted by my friend, Kristen Chapman for a July schedule of daily scripture writing.

This was very interesting to me.  I enjoy handwriting notes or letters.  The literacy professional in me knows that the act of writing creates memory traces that help me better recall the things I've written.  The writer in me just enjoys the feel of a pen or pencil moving across the page.  This scripture writing plan allows me to put something I enjoy...writing, with something I'm not very good at...daily scripture reading to hopefully create a new routine that fosters my spiritual growth.

After seeing the picture and reading some of Kristen's friends' comments, I knew this would be a blessing for me, so I went looking for the source.  I found the blog, Sweet Blessings.  I began my scripture writing on July 1st, and it's already been a blessing to me and it's only been three days!  I'm sure I'll change and tweak how I do it going forward, but for now, I'm spending time with God daily and that's the important part.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Food Blogging in My Future?

Uh, probably not.  So since getting back to this blogging business and sharing my attempt at healthy eating, I've had people ask questions about what I'm eating.  I'm going to share this week's recipes with you, but before I do there are some things you should know.

     1)  I do not make up my own recipes.  I am a recipe follower.  I find recipes with ingredients that I like and recognize, then read the directions.  If it's not too complicated I give it a whirl.  Key point -- I have to recognize the ingredients.  I once thought I would branch out of my comfort zone and purchase saffron for a recipe, thinking I would add to my spice cabinet.  That was until I got to the spice aisle and a small container of saffron was $19 and some change.  Uh, no thanks.  I'll stick to what I know.
     2)  I often have culinary disasters.  It takes me forever to cook or make anything because I have terrible knife skills and tend to cook everything too hot which sometimes causes small fires.  Just one, in my oven, and it wasn't really my fault, the coil was faulty.
     3)  I'm trying.  In opposition to #1, I am trying to branch out and try new things.  I'm still not purchasing saffron any time soon, but I am attempting to expand my palate.

I love Pinterest.  It took me a long time to love it, but now that I understand how it works, I'm on Pinterest daily.  I use it primarily for recipes, entertaining and education.  Occasionally I'll look up hair styles I wish I had, home decor that would look good in a house that's nicer than mine and outfits that are way trendier than I am, but mostly I stick to recipes.  That being said, the three things I prepared tonight are all Pinterest recipes.  It is very easy to get lost on Pinterest and to find things way too difficult to execute (at least for me), but if you're patient you'll find what you're looking for.

I posted on Facebook last week that I was trying Overnight, Refrigerator Oatmeal for the first time.  I've discovered I love it!  I can make it the night before (important because I am not a morning person) and enjoy it in the morning.  Since I typically have a breakfast burrito from Sonic, where the carhops may or may not recognize me and know my name, making my own breakfast is a big deal.  Last week I tried blueberry and maple syrup, this week it's apple and cinnamon.  I found this recipe at The Yummy Life.  There are several flavors to try, I'll eventually work my way through them.  It's very easy to do and once you get in a rhythm it doesn't take long.

For lunch for the rest of this week I am going Greek so to speak....or maybe Italian, but that didn't rhyme.  Since one of my get healthy goals was to reduce my carbs I'm trying not to eat bread.  That rules out sandwiches for lunch.  And since I'm not big on big leafy salads all the time, I have to be a little out of the box.  I found a recipe for Antipasto "No Bread" Roll-Ups on Organize Yourself Skinny.  There are some new ingredients involved here for me.  I like hummus, but haven't had red pepper hummus and I've not had roasted red peppers either, so this will be a bit of an adventure.  My ham and turkey aren't smoked like the recipe called for, but here's how it turned out...

I paired my roll-ups with a cucumber Greek salad that I found on Belle of the Kitchen.  The new ingredient for me here is Feta cheese.  The gamble with all of these new ingredients is if I don't like it it's a waste of money and when you're talking about $4.50 for about a cup of cheese, that's a risk.  In this case I decided it was worth the risk, I would just be cautious about how much I used until I knew I liked it.  I wanted to make a different recipe that included a creamy dill dressing (using Greek yogurt) but I didn't have any dill and a third trip to the grocery store in two days was out of the question.  This is plan B...

Put it all together, add a few olives on the side and voila....

I'm sure I'm not doing all of this healthy eating thing right.  I know I have a lot to learn, but I'm trying to make use of what I have already learned to at least make decisions that keep me away from the drive through.  According to my probably unreliable bathroom scale, I'm down a little.  Down is good.  I appreciate all of the support and kind comments I've received, it is helping me maintain the stick-to-it-ness that often eludes me....

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Travel Plans

I love making travel plans!  And being the Type A, detailed individual that I am, I make a lot of them.  When traveling to Philly a few years ago for instance, I had a map of the area, an itinerary for each day, and as many attraction tickets as it was reasonable to purchase ahead of time.  I'm a planner.

So when I decided that I deserve a vacation just like everyone else, I started planning.  I had dates sort of kind of in my head.  I had destinations sort of kind of in my head, but nothing firm.  I started by talking to my mom.  She and I had already been talking about the possibility of taking a trip together, but hadn't really settled on any destinations.  We essentially have a long weekend to work with, because of her work schedule, so we had to choose a place that we could get to and from in a day or less of travel time.  We starting playing with possibilities and finally landed on Galveston, Texas with a stop in College Station on the way.

Why College Station you ask, because of the George H. W. Bush library.  I've written before that I hope to visit all of the Presidential libraries, of which there are currently thirteen.  I've been to five so far, and my sixth awaits in College Station.  While most people collect stamps in their actual passports, I collect stamps in this passport....

A Passport to Presidential Libraries...I've mentioned this passport in blog posts before and I'm sure that tips the nerd scale a little more, but there it is.  I have a relatively childish way to document my visits to Presidential Libraries.  I'm looking forward to picking up another stamp in College Station at the George H.W. Bush Library.

Following the Presidential Library mom and I will be headed to Galveston, Texas to enjoy the beach.  Now, I know that some of my facebook friends are concerned about the flesh eating bacteria recently found in Galveston, but you should know that the bacteria is contracted by getting into the ocean with an open wound or eating raw, contaminated seafood.  Since I have no open wounds that will be exposed to ocean water, nor do I eat raw seafood, I feel confident that my trip to the beach will be a bacteria free experience.  Besides that, a large goal if my trip to the beach is laying on the sand with a ocean water involved, just lots of sunscreen.

I have a few more details to sort out, but overall, mom and I are set.  Vacation here I come!