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Faith

It doesn’t usually take much to make someone else’s day better.

This past Sunday, Grace and I stopped into my real estate office to make some copies and grab some paperwork. While there, a co-worker’s 7-year-old son asked me if he could make me some coffee. I had already had my morning coffee so politely declined.

As Grace and I made our way to my office, we talked about how disappointed the boy seemed when I said no. I decided to change my answer. Clearly it was important to the boy, and nobody was going to force me to finish the cup of coffee (of course, I did that on my own). Grace ran back and told him I’d changed my mind and within a few minutes a delicious cup of coffee was delivered to my office by a very excited 7-year-old. He was obviously proud of making and delivering the coffee on his own. (And, it was a delicious cuppa joe. He deserved to feel proud.)

How easy (and automatic) it had been for me to say no thanks when simply saying yes made a significant difference in his day. Uggh, how often do I let these opportunities pass?

Not my friend Jill. One of the many things I love about her is how she embraces life and creates fun within every day. Like the time she bought two matching long, blond wigs for us to wear in spin class so we could emulate our instructor’s trademark hair shaking. Or the Halloween when she showed up at my house in a gorilla suit and stripper heels. She didn’t make a peep and it took us quite awhile to figure out who she was. Or the many times she’s shown up to work-related meetings in funny, inappropriate, or just completely ill-fitting outfits.

Everyday holds the promise of laughs and smiles for Jill and she makes an effort to create and inspire fun for those around her. And, it works!

Yesterday was her annual Easter Egg Hunt–seriously one of the highlights of my year (and I’m pretty sure one of the highlights of every child who attends). Although her event has grown and become not so small (ponies, alpacas, bunnies, goats, pigs, chickens, the Easter Bunny, and a mariachi band were all in attendance this year), the concept is simple.

So thank you, Jill. Thank you for the Easter Egg Hunt and for making my life brighter. Thank you for reminding me that I can inspire, encourage and create fun in my life and in the lives of those around me. In these tough economic and social times, that’s no small feat. You are truly an inspiration and I couldn’t love you more.

Be well!

It doesn’t usually take much to make someone else’s day better.

This past Sunday, Grace and I stopped into my real estate office to make some copies and grab some paperwork. While there, a co-worker’s 7-year-old son asked me if he could make me some coffee. I had already had my morning coffee so politely declined.

As Grace and I made our way to my office, we talked about how disappointed the boy seemed when I said no. I decided to change my answer. Clearly it was important to the boy, and nobody was going to force me to finish the cup of coffee (of course, I did that on my own). Grace ran back and told him I’d changed my mind and within a few minutes a delicious cup of coffee was delivered to my office by a very excited 7-year-old. He was obviously proud of making and delivering the coffee on his own. (And, it was a delicious cuppa joe. He deserved to feel proud.)

How easy (and automatic) it had been for me to say no thanks when simply saying yes made a significant difference in his day. Uggh, how often do I let these opportunities pass?

Not my friend Jill. One of the many things I love about her is how she embraces life and creates fun within every day. Like the time she bought two matching long, blond wigs for us to wear in spin class so we could emulate our instructor’s trademark hair shaking. Or the Halloween when she showed up at my house in a gorilla suit and stripper heels. She didn’t make a peep and it took us quite awhile to figure out who she was. Or the many times she’s shown up to work-related meetings in funny, inappropriate, or just completely ill-fitting outfits.

Everyday holds the promise of laughs and smiles for Jill and she makes an effort to create and inspire fun for those around her. And, it works!

Yesterday was her annual Easter Egg Hunt–seriously one of the highlights of my year (and I’m pretty sure one of the highlights of every child who attends). Although her event has grown and become not so small (ponies, alpacas, bunnies, goats, pigs, chickens, the Easter Bunny, and a mariachi band were all in attendance this year), the concept is simple.

So thank you, Jill. Thank you for the Easter Egg Hunt and for making my life brighter. Thank you for reminding me that I can inspire, encourage and create fun in my life and in the lives of those around me. In these tough economic and social times, that’s no small feat. You are truly an inspiration and I couldn’t love you more.

Be well!

My name is Faith and I have an addiction. An addiction to planning. I can’t stop. Not just a casual, keep-things-orderly kind of planning, more serious planning.

How serious? Serious enough to count my planner among my most prized possessions. Serious enough to spend a decent amount of time contemplating which type of planner works best for me (I went back to paper three years ago after five plus years of using electronic.) Serious enough to plan almost every minute of every day (there’s a lot to do, don’t want to waste a single minute). Serious enough to schedule not only appointments in my personal planner, but exercise, meals, meal prep, and even nights at home.

(Let me explain that last one. Between my appointments with real estate and wellness clients, yoga teaching, and Grace’s skating practices and Girl Scout meetings, evenings at home are hard to come by. About six months ago, I took to writing “nothing” on one evening per week to ensure that we are able to spend at least one evening at home each week. It’s worked well. I highly recommend.)

I obviously enjoy planning. Planning is good. It makes me feel organized and in control. It helps me to make the most of my time–which, as a single mother who works full plus time, is a valuable commodity. And, it reduces stress. It makes me happy. Mostly.

While there is no question that planning improves the quality of my life, there is a point at which the planning leaves me feeling claustrophobic. And, sometimes just plain tired.

I recently read a blog post about what makes some people luckier, and by extension more successful, than others. It was guest written by Erik Calonius on one of my favorite blogs by Jonathan Fields.

Calonius referenced a study conducted at the University of Hertfordshire to determine behaviors of people who considered themselves lucky versus those who considered themselves unlucky. Both groups of people were given a newspaper and asked to look through it to determine how many photographs were inside. On average the unlucky people took two minutes to count  photographs, whereas the lucky ones had a photo total in just seconds.

Calonius explains: “How could the “lucky” people do this? Because they found a message on the second page that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” So why didn’t the unlucky people see it? Because they were so intent on counting all the photographs that they missed the message.”

The researcher, Richard Wiseman summarized his findings in this way:

“Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner, and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through the newspaper determined to find certain job advertisements and, as a result, miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for.”

The post got me thinking. And wondering how many opportunities I’ve missed because I’ve been so focused on my plan. How many amazing people have I missed meeting because I was rushing off to my next appointment. How many beautiful sights, heart-warming stories, and meaningful looks have I failed to notice?

So starting this week, I have a new plan! (You didn’t think I’d give it up, did you?) My new plan is to reduce my planning and to leave time and space for luck, opportunity, and magic. Clearly, this will involve not just less planning, but cutting back on some activities as well. And that’s okay. I’m ready. I’m ready to stop always working the plan and planning the work. I’m ready to be more open to chance and spontaneity.

Starting with today. This morning, I ended up with two hours between appointments on the other side of town from my home and office. In the past I would have either found a yoga or exercise class to fill the time, or driven back to the office (spending almost an hour in the car to get about an hour of work time). But not today. Instead, I parked myself at a coffee shop. Sure, I caught up on emails and blogged so it wasn’t like I was completely wasting time. But I also allowed myself time and space to be–just be–rather than focusing primarily on crossing items off my “to do” list.

Time to be. What a beautiful concept!

Be well!

An important study about human exposure to bisphenol-A or BPAs and phthalate or DEHP was released this past week.

First the bad news: BPAs and DEHP are chemicals used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It has long been known that chemicals leach out of plastics and collect in the human body, but up until recently it was believed that the amounts were safe. (Really? Who decides that any amount of chemicals collecting in our bodies is safe?)

In recent years that assumption has been questioned as the chemicals have been linked to numerous health issues including cancers, heart disease, diabetes, male infertility and prostate problems, and brain development issues in fetuses, infants and children. The chemicals act as hormone disruptors.  Previous studies have shown that 90% of us have BPAs and DEHP in our bodies!

The majority of human exposure to BPAs and DEHP comes from diet: food and beverage packaging and storage.

Now, the good news: the study found that subjects were able to significantly reduce the presence of these chemicals in their bloodstream by eating less food from plastic containers and metal cans.

What can you do to minimize your exposure to BPAs? Following are 10 tips:

  1. NEVER microwave food or beverages in plastic containers. Heating plastic increases the leaching of chemicals. The term “microwave safe” means the container won’t melt in the microwave. It has nothing to do with whether it’s safe for you.
  2. Replace your plastic food storage containers with glass. I have found great sets at both Costco and Target for under $20. Not only are they safe, but they look much nicer than plastic and hold heat longer.
  3. Stop buying plastic bottles of water. Instead buy a stainless steel bottle (be sure it’s not lined with plastic). Not only is it healthier, it’ll save you money.
  4. Pack lunches in stainless steel thermos containers (again not plastic-lined).
  5. Use fresh fruits and vegetables and dried beans rather than canned whenever possible. Second best option is buying brands that do not use linings containing BPAs. Some vegetables–especially tomatoes–are difficult to find without BPA (the acid causes the metal cans to rust). Can your own tomatoes at the end of the summer.
  6. Freeze fruit and vegetables in the summer and fall for use throughout the winter.
  7. Replace plastic cups, dishes and utensils with glass or ceramic. If you aren’t willing to get rid of your plastic dishes, avoid putting them in the dishwasher or microwave and throw them away if they are scratched or chipped.
  8. Use wax paper or aluminum foil instead of saran wrap and plastic bags.
  9. Use canning jars to store food.
  10. Replace your plastic baby bottles with glass ones, and buy toys made of natural materials whenever possible (rather than plastic).

Be well!

At a recent family gathering, my 10-year-old daughter Grace was monkeying around with an older cousin when he started teasing her about her belly. Poking her stomach and asking whether she’s been eating too many cookies.

(Note: Grace is not overweight. She’s a very active, strong, healthy child. She has, however, filled out around her middle this year as most girls do just before heading into puberty. She has expressed some concern about her thickened middle, but so far has been satisfied with my explanation about growth–oftentimes kids grow out just before they grow up.)

As a mother, you always hate to hear your child teased. As a mother who has struggled with weight issues and disordered eating most of my life (and desperately wants to spare my child the same), I prayed that he would stop.

As the taunting continued, I panicked. My instinct was to tell him to stop. To cover his mouth with my hand. But, I didn’t want to make a bigger deal of the situation and bring even more attention to it. I desperately wanted him to stop though. I cringed every time he said it and I watched anxiously for Grace’s response.

And, of course, he did stop. The entire episode lasted less than 5 minutes.

I managed not to say anything until Grace was out of earshot, but then shared with him that Grace, like all little girls (and boys too), is sensitive about her body. It was a pleasant exchange. He apologized (which wasn’t necessary, I just wanted him to be aware) and commented that he’s noticed how sensitive his girlfriend is to comments about her body.

Thankfully, the teasing didn’t seem to phase Grace anymore than if he had been teasing her about the color of her eyes.

But I know better.

I know that the teasing about her belly stuck with her. Just as every negative comment about my body (even those that weren’t intended as negative) stuck with me. It got tucked somewhere in the back of her mind and is lurking there.  And, unfortunately, it will be supported and strengthened by lots of other comments, observations, media images and advertising messages.

Although this one incident was small–just a blip on the radar screen of her life–these small incidents accumulate and build. And our kids are paying attention. Close attention.

An ongoing study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that 40% of 9- and 10-year-old girls have tried to lose weight. Another study found that 53% of 13-year-old American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” The percentage grows to 78% by age 17. Shockingly, anorexia’s mortality is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.

God help our girls (and boys). They are up against a lot.

So I’ll continue to be on guard and work to strengthen Grace’s defenses. I’ll try to instill in her the importance of being strong and healthy rather than being thin. I’ll support her as she finds and cultivates activities that are healthy and make her feel good about herself.  I’ll continue to emphasize healthy eating and exercise habits. I’ll encourage her to question media messages about female bodies.

And I’ll pray.

photo courtesy of Highview Pastures

Although I don’t buy 100% organic produce (probably closer to 85-90%), I do try to buy 100% organic and grass-fed or free-range meat. Not only does it offer significant nutritional advantages over conventional meat, I believe it provides a better life for the animals.

Conventionally raised animals are typically fed a diet comprised mainly of grain and corn. Like humans, animals that eat a high carbohydrate diet are less healthy than those that eat more vegetables. The animals are also usually crowded into factory-like farms, whereas grass-fed and free-range animals are allowed to move around more freely and maintain their natural behaviors.

Grass-fed meat is healthier. It contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat while its overall fat content is lower. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been linked to easier weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, overuse of antibiotics in livestock can result in antibiotic-resistant strains of infections. (Actually the issue isn’t even confined to livestock.  A study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality found that when vegetables were grown in fertilizer derived from the manure of antibiotic-fed livestock, the vegetables absorbed antibiotics.) And, although it has not been clinically proven, many believe hormones in meat and dairy contribute to early onset of puberty in girls (early puberty has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer later in life).

To protect us as much as I can, I buy all of my beef  from Cedar Summit farm in New Prague, Minn., my Thanksgiving turkeys from Highview Pastures farm in Farmington, Minn.(by buying directly from the farm I end up paying pretty close to what conventional meat sells for at the grocery store), and my chicken from either The Wedge co-op or Kowalski’s.

Recently, however, I was at Super Target getting some other things (Super Target has great prices on Amy’s Organic Kitchen line) and noticed the Gold’n Plump Natural chickens. Hormone and antibiotic-free (but not free-range), I decided to give it try. It was priced well and I figured it would save me a trip to the co-op. And, it was hormone and antibiotic-free–which seemed to me the most important things to avoid.

(Side note: I make a whole roasted chicken almost every week. Not only do we love it, I use the rest of the meat for pasta, quinoa, pizza and other dishes through the week. I freeze the carcasses to make chicken stock (which I use to cook brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, etc) and soups. I’ll be teaching/presenting this concept of  “A Week in the Life of a Chicken” on Sunday May 1 with my friend and colleague Jen Antila of Catalyst Cooks.)

I didn’t really give the source of the Gold’n Plump chicken much thought as I prepared it for roasting (easiest recipe EVER–see below) nor as I brought it to the table. As soon as I began to carve it though, the difference was obvious. The chicken was far fattier than the free-range ones I usually buy. Once we started eating, the difference was even more clear. It had far less flavor than our usual chickens.

So, while I saved myself about a $1.50 on the Gold’n Plump chicken, I got less actual meat, less flavor and less nutrition. I won’t be doing that again!

Easy Easy Roasted Chicken

  • whole chicken
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • carrots
  • onions
  • potatoes

Drizzle bottom of roasting pan with olive oil and then place the chicken into the pan (I truss my chicken, but it’s not necessary.). Chop veggies into approximately 1-1/2-inch pieces and place around the chicken. Drizzle veggies and chicken with olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Place in preheated 380-degree oven for approximately 1-hour (depending on size of chicken–internal temperature should be 180F). About 15 minutes into baking time, I add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan which keeps everything moist.

Enjoy and be well!

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