Always Ready

Brrrrrrrrr!! Whoooooshhhh!!  After yesterday’s temperature reaching almost 70 degrees, winter has returned. It is in the 40s with wind gusts up to 45 miles an hour.  I was up half the night listening to the wind attempting to shake the house and everything in it.  When I woke up and looked out the window, tree limbs were being tossed around like a ship in a storm. I said a silent prayer that none of the large branches would come down on our cars or house! So far, so good!

This wacky weather in New Jersey is making outdoor activities difficult.  I try to walk our dog, Scraps, every day at least once a day.  He is a terrier with a lot of energy! This morning, as I listened to the winds and watched the weather on TV, I pondered whether or not I would be taking him today.  Scraps seemed to sense my hesitation and almost immediately, his ears perked up, his tail started to wag and he looked at me with an expression of pleaing, “It’s not that cold! I’m ready! Let’s go!  It’s just a little wind! What’s the problem?”

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So, as usual, I gave in and bundled up. There seemed to be enough time between the strong gusts that I could at least take him around the block.  I opened the door and put out the American flag as I do every morning, making sure it was secure. Scraps was anxious to get started and started to pull to being the walk. Almost immediately, I regretted not putting on my gloves.  It felt like it was in the 30’s again.  Ugh! I pulled my hat down further over my ears and started moving.

The neighborhood was littered with garbage cans since today was garbage day. I shivered a little and pulled up the zipper on my coat to my chin. BRR!  Scraps, however, was trotting along without a care in the world.  Wind? No problem!  Cold temps? Don’t be a sissy!

A few minutes into our walk, a gust of wind came and blew the top of a garbage can a few feet in front of us, just missing him. Scraps pinned his rather large ears back (I guess to keep the wind from blowing in them) stopped, lifted his leg on a tuft of grass and kept right on going, happy as ever.  For a split second, I considered turning around but then realized that Scraps is like that in any kind of weather. He is always ready to go for a walk. It could be 100 degrees out with 90% humidity (and yes, it does get that hot in NJ) and he is ready to go.  It could be snowing and even sleeting out, but he is always, always ready for a walk.  If I was willing to take him, I bet he would even walk in the pouring rain (well, maybe with his coat on).

I once read an article that we should try and be more like our dogs. It focused on their love of play, long amounts of sleep and being a loyal companion.  I would like to add one more thing to the list – to always be ready to walk/exercise and truly enjoy it as much as he does!  No matter what!

 

New Year, New Idea

Happy New Year! Well, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you are almost one full week into keeping it! How are you doing?

I was not going to make a resolution this year. Usually, I vow to eat healthier, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. And every year, I do it for a few months and then tend to go back to my old habits. Can any of you relate? I did not want to set myself up for failure, as terrible as that sounds.  So this year, I did not make any resolutions…until I read a blog written by Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

If you know anything about the show, you know they are a deeply religious family from Louisiana. It is really an amazing story and one that exemplifies the American Dream.  Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, literally went from rags to riches based on an idea, hard work, and the grace of God.  The first two seasons were my favorite ones because they were less scripted but I still watch the show.

This family has had a profound impact on my life. In fact, I credit them for bringing me closer to God, but that’s for another post. Anyway, Missy is Phil’s daughter-in-law and has gone through struggles of her own with her daughter who was born with a cleft lip and palate. This family stands strong however, and does something I think is brilliant.  Instead of making a resolution to improve their appearance or to stop a bad habit, they choose a verse from the Bible as their resolution for the year. And they do it as a family. What a great idea! There are so many short and simple verses that tell us to lead a good life. Why not choose one of them to  focus on? We will not only improve ourselves, but the lives of those around us.

I started to examine myself and one of my biggest issues is worrying about things that may or may not happen.  I have gotten better about realizing that all things are in God’s hands and that worrying does absolutely NOTHING but rob me of peace, but I still tend to do it. Sometimes, I am good during the day and then when I go to sleep at night, the “what if’s?” start creeping in my brain and prevent me from sleeping.  My mind starts racing and a million different thoughts come into my mind.  I hate that!  I know many of you can relate. An alarming number of Americans (including a growing number of children) are on medication for anxiety and depression. While it may be human nature to worry, some of us take it to the extreme.  But the verse below tells us to live in the present and not think about what we cannot control in the future.

Matthew 6:34:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

And there it is! That’s the one. That will be my resolution for 2017. It will be a challenge, but that is what a resolution is supposed to be – a challenge to make you a better person. If you want to try this, you can simply google “Bible verses on…anxiety, depression, fear, love, etc.”

Whatever you resolve to do, I wish you the best of luck!  Hope you all have happy and healthy 2017!

 

I Don’t Know What to Say…

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. Today’s post is a little depressing – just warning you. If you live in the Northeast, my mood right now is reflective of the gloomy weather we have been having. Almost a full week of rain is enough to make anyone a little sad. But the sun is coming out in two more days.  Or so the weathermen say…

Have you heard of Caring Bridge?

It’s an online journal for cancer patients so that their families can keep friends and family updated on their loved one’s progress. I have two friends who have Caring Bridge Journals set up for them. Both of them are younger than me. Both are in their 30’s. One was in her 20’s when she was diagnosed. Both now have cancer ravaging through their bodies despite years of chemo, radiation and other medications that are wearing their bodies down. However, these girls have a strength and determination that is unwavering. They are amazing and I admire their strength and courage.

Last night, I was telling my mom about one of my friends and she said, “It’s just not fair.” And it’s not. Cancer is terrible at any age, but when someone who is younger than you gets it, it really hits your heart. My heart is aching for my friends and their families.

Cancer has touched all of us in one way or another. I have lost several family members and friends’ mothers to cancer. My grandfather died of lung cancer at 53. My grandmother died of complications due to Hodgkin’s disease at 59. My dad’s cousin died of lung cancer that spread to her brain. She was 52. Three of my very close friends’ mothers are gone due to this rotten disease. Unfortunately, I could go on and on and on about how cancer has touched me personally.

My sister-in-law had thyroid cancer, but is now considered a “survivor” after almost 10 years of treatments, two surgeries and medication. I know there are more survivors and hope my friends will be added to that list one day.

When I hear that people have cancer, I am sometimes unsure what to say to them and their families. I usually tell them that they are in my thoughts and prayers (which is true) and that seems to be good thing to say, but sometimes I want to say more and am not sure how to do or say it. So I say nothing.  And then I feel guilty.

One of my uncle’s favorite sayings is, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I keep that in mind when I read the updates on their conditions. And I pray the right words will come out of my mouth to show them my support, love and concern.  Words can mean a lot.  I just need to find the right ones.

 

All You Need is LOVE!

 

Today is a day that is all about love and whether or not you have a sweetheart, there is love all around you.  Open your eyes and your heart and see it.  And feel it. And know that giving love can be just as rewarding as getting it.

I am extremely fortunate in that I have always felt love from God, my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew,  friends and even my beloved dogs! I now feel a love for and from my husband that is more powerful than anything I could have imagined. It is a wonderful feeling that warms my heart and soul.

But, for many years, I did not always see how much love was around me. I wanted the wrong person to love me and sometimes for the wrong reasons.  I saw my friends go through this as well in our numerous years of being single.  But now that I am older and wiser (I think),  I have realized a few things:

  • You cannot make a person love you.
  • It is never wrong to give or show a person that you love them.
  • Love is the strongest force on earth.
  • Letting someone love you is not always easy.
  • Being in love is wonderful, but it should not define who you are.
  • You have to love yourself first. No matter what.

So, as you celebrate Valentine’s Day (or not), remember those around you who love you not only today, but every day. And love them back. As the Beatles said, “All You Need is Love.”

 

Snow Days!

Okay, if you live in the Northeast, you might be sick of those two words.  In fact, you might resist the urge to even say them since we have had so many so quickly.  And it’s only February!

On Wednesday, while I was working from home (now that I am a consultant, there are no more real snow days), I saw on the news that parents and kids were going stir-crazy and that parents were walking or driving out to places where kids could play.  That made me stop and think.  Was I ever bored as a child when it snowed? Did my mom have to take my brother and I somewhere to be entertained? The answer is unequivocally – NO.  In fact, I rarely ever remember being bored when I was younger and especially not in winter!

When my mom would let my brother and I know that we had a snow day, it was a a cause for celebration!  Vince and I savored an extra day off because we used to PLAY.  All day. If it was really nasty out and we ran out of pretend games like Batman and Batgirl or having stormtroopers invade the family in my doll house, we would break out board games.  My personal favorites were Monopoly, Parcheesi, and Pokeno.  We also played card games such as Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War and Spades.  My mom would join in with those games as well, which was great!  When we were able to go outside (which we both preferred), our imaginations ran wild.  If we were not running from the abominable snowman, we were trapped on Plant Hoth (I was always Princess Lea, he was Luke Skywalker and our neighbor was Han Solo). We also went sledding, held running contests in the snow, made snowmen and snow forts and had snowball fights.  And, yes, we also helped shovel the driveway. In fact, my parents got us each our own red shovel.  Hmm. Now that I think back, I guess that was smart parenting move.  No excuses for EVERYONE not to help out!  But we just loved being in the snow and having fun!

Bored?  A need for entertainment?  My mother having to take us some place to be entertained on a SNOW DAY? Not for us!  Our house (inside and out), our imaginations and our games were all we ever needed.

The Birds, The Bugs and Me

Lately, due to the heat and because I can no longer seem to sleep past 5:30 AM, I have been going on very early morning jogs/walks.  I have always liked working out in the mornings to get my day started and watching the town stir from its sleep and awaken for another day.

My town is about 10 miles from New York City. It is small – only 4 by 4 square miles, but it represents many towns in New Jersey in terms of being extremely well (and overly)-populated.  I did not grow up in a town that had tons of people, so living here has been quite an adjustment.  If  I walk during the day, I smell the fumes of cars long with freshly laid tar (they are endlessly working to improve our streets).  I hear horns beeping, trucks roaring  and children playing the streets.  People are everywhere;  driving all over town, walking down the streets and sitting outside their houses or cafes enjoying the summer sun.  It takes several minutes to cross the street and I often have to dodge people walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk or with baby strollers along with fellow joggers/walkers and people walking their dogs. I guess it’s good because some days, it feels like an obstacle course!

Mornings, however, make my busy little town seem to somewhat of a desolate place.  The only sounds to be heard are those from birds and bugs.  I hear the birds calling to each other, squirrels with their high-pitched squeaks warning others that I am coming and of course, the heat bugs. I am not sure what the scientific name of these bugs are , but I call them heat bugs and have since I was a child. I remember my father telling me that when you hear a buzzing going duh-duh-duh-duh (say that REALLY fast) in the early morning, it is going to be a very hot day. And he was right.  Every time I hear that bug, I know it’s going to be a scorcher.

My latest walking route has me going down side streets with houses that are very well kept with lush lawns and beautiful landscaping.   I love looking at these houses and wonder who is living inside. I wonder what the inside looks like and who lives there.  As I walk past the charming older houses with lovely front porches, I see squirrels and chipmunks scurrying around getting their breakfast and likely storing up food for later on in the day.  I sometimes smell the alluring scent of pancakes or bacon coming from an open window. Mmmmm.  (They smell so much better than tar.)

Occasionally, I will see another person. Usually, it’s someone walking his/her dog or someone dressed in pajamas, opening their front door to get the morning paper.  Other than that, it’s just me.  And the animals, birds and bugs.  It’s tough to believe that in just a few short hours, the town will be filled with people much like raindrops fill a puddle.

And then, my quiet little town will become the bustling little city that most people know it to be. The squirrels and chipmunks will stay out of site.  The sounds of the bugs and birds will simmer down as if they do not want to compete against the sounds of the cars and trucks and people. And I will continue my day with a smile on my face. As if I have a little secret that no one else knows about.  And I will look forward to the next morning.  When it’s just the bugs, the birds and me.

 

 

For the Girls…

Today, I am thinking of all the wonderful women I have in my life from my mother and mother-in-law to my aunts, nieces, cousins and friends.  While I am not an expert on life or have a degree in philosophy, I do have some tips that I hope will make their day a little brighter. I am very blessed to have such strong and amazing females around me.  Taking the words of Martina McBride…”This one’s for the girls.”

Ladies,

1.  Don’t settle for ANYTHING or ANYONE.

2.  Do what makes you happy.

3.  Believe in yourself and you will be successful.

4.  Love yourself and your body just the way it is.  Do not compare yourself to the altered images of models in magazines and on TV.  They are altered. You are real!

5.  Cry. When you need to and when you want to.  It is not a sign of weakness.

6.  Take time for yourself, especially those of you who are mothers with careers.  I admire working moms more than any other group of people.  You are my heroes!

7.  Find something to smile about each and every day.  Hopefully, you won’t have to look too far!

8.  Do not waste your time with a person who puts you down – be it a boyfriend, friend, relative or husband.  People treat you the way you LET them treat you.  If a person is always negative or makes you feel badly about yourself, end that relationship and move on.  You deserve better!

9.  Enjoy the company of other women.  When a bunch of women get together, there is always laughter, smiles and great times!  GIRL POWER!

10.  Ask for help when you need it.  Women today are expected to do it all from being mothers and wives to having successful careers and running a household. When you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. It’s OKAY!!

 

 

 

Friday Favorite – An Old School Cooking Machine

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The other day, I was going through all of the “stuff” in our basement and found an a George Foreman Grill.  It was dubbed the “lean, mean grilling machine” and was very easy to use.  All you had to do was heat it up (by plugging it in) and put the food on the grill plate, close the machine, grill for 4-5 minutes and the food would be done.  I would grill chicken, veggies and even fish.  I remembered how quick the cooking was, how easy it was to use clean and wondered why it was in the basement in the first place.

I decided to break it out and cook some chicken. I took some chicken strips, added a little olive oil and cajun seasoning and grilled them for about 4 minutes and voila!  They were juicy and tender and delicious!  After tasting that chicken, I decided that I had neglected this grill for too long. Until we can fire up the real grill when the weather warms up, the George Foreman is back as my favorite cooking machine! It’s reliable, quick, easy to use and lends itself to healthy cooking.

NOTE #1:  If you have a larger family, you might want to cook the food in batches since most of the grills cook up to four servings.  I know for sure that they are sold in Kohl’s (where there’s almost always a coupon) and on amazon.com.

NOTE #2:  There are a ton of ways to season chicken or fish. If you do not like it spicy, you could make some other combinations such as olive oil with:

salt and pepper

garlic salt and pepper

Italian seasoning

lemon pepper seasoning

Montreal chicken seasoning

poultry seasoning

The possibilities are endless!

Works for Me!

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There are many bits of advice on how to lose weight, get healthy and stay healthy.  I always read articles online or in magazines that talk about losing weight. I am not obese, but tend to put on a little bit of weight here and there, especially in the winter.  These are some of the weight loss tips I have heard over the years:

Don’t eat eggs

Don’t eat carbs

Count calories

Count carbs

Eat carbs with protein

Focus more on protein

White foods are terrible for you (breads, pasta and potatoes)

Wheat bread and pasta are better for you

Do cardio first, then weights

Do weights first, then cardio

Do a little cardio first, lift and then do the rest

You need 35 minutes of exercise 5 times a week

You need 45 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week

Continuous exercise keeping your heart rate up is best

Interval training is best

It’s better to exercise in the morning

It’s better to exercise at night

Don’t eat past 7:00 PM

It does not matter when you eat, it’s what you eat

Eat a huge breakfast and make your lunch and dinner smaller

Eat three meals a day

Eat six small meals a day

Eat small bits of food every 2 hours

 

AHHHHH!!!! No wonder people give up!!

 

After many years of hearing all sorts of theories (as I have come to regard them as), I have found a few things that work for me.

1.  I count calories.  Susan Lucci, who played Erika Kane on ABC’s “All My Children” was asked how she stayed so trim all these years.  She said her secret was calorie-counting.  And I agree! Based on my height and weight, I try to eat between 1000-1300 calories a day.  I also try to get my calories from nutritious foods.  By doing this, I noticed I can eat way more if I eat something that is good for me versus something that is not. I created a calorie chart and record my caloric intake everyday.  There are tons of apps for phones that will give you the calories of pretty much any food right at your fingertips and will track them for you as well.  I prefer writing them down to putting them in my phone, but that’s just me.

2. I measure my portions.  That scale in the picture above was a great purchase.  I had no idea how big my portion sizes were before I started measuring. For example, the serving size for pasta is one cup.  I think I was eating about 2 cups before I began realizing what one cup looks like. Ouch.  This scale is fantastic. It’s an OXO 5 lb kitchen scale and I got it at Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s $29.99 and of course, I used a coupon (they always have coupons!)  The base comes off so you can clean it and you do not have to put foods right on it.  You can put a plate on the scale and zero it out. Then, you can add your food to see how much it weighs.

3.  I exercise in the morning. It gives me more energy and there are less excuses for me not to it later in the day. Plus, I am more of a morning person, so it’s easier for me.

4.  I prefer varying the intensity of my workouts.  The days of just walking at one speed and incline are over for me.  I jog here and there along with walking and adjust the incline if I am on a treadmill or find hills to walk up if I am outside.  I also love biking and cannot wait for the warm weather to arrive to enjoy that as well!

5.  I eat 4 meals a day.  I eat breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner.  I also try not to eat quite as many carbs as I used to, but I will not give them up. EVER!

6. I forgive myself if I cheat.  I like sweets and I am not giving them up.  I might just have a bite of something or only eat one cookie instead of 2 or 4 (I like to eat things in even numbers).

 

Well, that’s it.  After spending way too much money over the years on different kinds of products and trying all kinds of diets and exercise routines, I have finally learned some strategies that work for me.  Maybe some of these will work for you as well!!  Good luck!

Nude Pics – Is your daughter sending them?

There is a new and disturbing epidemic that is happening with our children.  Boys are asking girls to send nude or semi-nude pictures to them via their cell phones and the girls are doing it – willingly.  Inevitably, the boy cannot resist and sends the picture to half the people in his contact list. He becomes known as a stud and the girl becomes known as a tramp.  And this happening in middle schools and high schools where the ages of the children usually range from 11-18.

One of my best friends is a high school guidance counselor and I have heard her talk about this for the past few years.  Several of the girls sent pictures of themselves thinking that only their boyfriend would see it (how naive)  and others sent it just because they were asked (for attention?).  She often gets the parents of both parties involved and there are a lot of tears and embarrassment. A few times, legal action was taken because the student who sent the pictures was 18 and the girl was underage.  No matter the situation, the damage was done.

This weekend, my niece told me about a girl in her class who sent a picture of her breasts to a male friend who proceeded to send it to half of the people in the school.  She is now being called a “whore” and gets taunted by the other girls every day and many of the boys snicker and whisper when she walks by. At 11 years old, she has ruined her reputation. And she is only in 6th grade.

The fact that seemingly so many girls are willing to share their bodies at such a young age is extremely disturbing to me. Parents and teachers need to talk with girls about not using their bodies for attention or love.  I know that is a tough thing given all they see on TV shows, in music videos and all over magazine covers, but they must realize that their private parts are just that – private.

I will never forget my mother giving me a piece of advice I have followed all my life.  She said, “Don’t ever do anything that prevents you from holding your head up high as you walk down the halls.”  That was one of the most valuable things she ever told me and I wish more girls would heed that advice. We all knew girls in high school who did things that caused them to have terrible nicknames and bad reputations. Back then, it was for fooling around or “going all the way” and people had to decide whether or not they believed the boy or the girl.  Today, kids can SEE the evidence.

Girls must be more respectful of themselves and their bodies. They must understand that one bad decision can lead to years of misery.  All with a click of a button.