family


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!

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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.

Unfortunately, a lot of kids today spend the vast majority of their time at home in front of the tv or computer. And, their parents do too. According to most studies, adults are also spending more time in front of the tv.

The link between too much “screen time” and obesity is well documented. Study after study has shown that our kids are spending more time watching tv, playing video games, and sitting at the computer. And, they are heavier than ever.

Kids who regularly watch four or more hours of tv per day are more likely to be overweight. (At first blush, four hours seems like a lot, but when you think about a child watching an hour or so in the morning, an hour after school and two hours later in the evening, it doesn’t seem so crazy outrageous.) It’s widely accepted that more time in front of the tv or computer increases one’s odds of being overweight.

Most of the research that’s been done in this area suggests that screen time causes obesity (at least what I’ve read). Makes sense. You’re sitting there like a big lump and then you become a big lump.

Still, I wonder if there’s another possibility. Could we have this whole thing backwards? Perhaps the increase in tv time is a symptom rather than a cause.

Obviously, screen time isn’t active. Participating in sports, playing outside or even playing board games does more to build healthy bodies than watching tv. While plopped in front of the tv, kids burn fewer calories and are also more likely to snack (fast- and junk-food commercials don’t help). The result is weight gain.

But what if kids watch so much tv because they have low energy to begin with? What if the food they eat leaves them without the energy they need for other activities?

Is screen time the chicken or the egg?

Why do kids watch so much tv nowadays? It’s often suggested that parents use the tv as a babysitter. Parents are either busy with other things or off at work, and the kids are left in front of the tv. While this may be the case in some families, most of the parents I know are far more involved in their children’s lives (and concerned about their children’s health) than parents of my generation. Not that my parents weren’t concerned, they just weren’t as consumed with childrearing as we seem to be today. Someone coined the phrase helicopter parents to describe the way we hover around our children. Whether or not the term describes you, chances are you are more involved in your child’s schedule, school work, and other activities than your parents were involved in yours.

So, what’s going on? Could it be that we are all watching more tv because we’re eating a bunch of crap that leaves us with little energy?

Consider this: Americans eat more processed food than anyone in the world at any time in the world. The average American eats 31% more processed food than fresh food. A 2005 study found that 90% of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed foods.

While most of us ate processed foods growing up, there wasn’t the plethora of processed food options there is today (and there was no such thing as high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified crops, etc). (The processed food industry really took off after World War II as our culture became more consumer-based and has been growing ever since.) Eating this much processed food is a relatively new phenomenon.

Processed foods provide less nutrition than whole foods, tend to be high in salt and sugar, and also contain preservatives and other chemical additives. Because they contain a lot of simple sugars, processed foods cause a quick increase in blood sugar followed by a crash. The crash leaves us feeling depleted and tired. Combined with the lack of nutrition, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling rather sluggish.

And there’s not a lot I want to do when I’m feeling depleted, tired and sluggish. Except, of course, watch tv.

What do you think? Is screen time the chicken or the egg?

 

It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

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