Because Super-Crazy-Making is Happening Here

Summertime has reached fever pitch in the Halverstadt house!

Barclay campus students are soon to return to Haviland, which is wonderful! This also means that my husband is (and I’m sure many other BC employees are) operating on overdrive. My girls are so over being at home and, you know, together…and I am so over pretending to be good at this mom thing. So it’s getting exhausting (and I apparently get headaches now too), and in searching for the silver lining today, here’s what I came up with: The summer cold we all caught – I’m the only one still trying to kick it two weeks later (which, in mom world, is a good thing).

Let’s not discuss the fact that Joel did eventually catch the cold that had me doped up on NyQuil for a week and a half – and had it for like 10 seconds. (It’s for the best, really.)

The point is we could use some prayer in the Halvey house. Mostly that I don’t flip my lid and make the decision to send my babies off to boarding school just 12 days before the grade school is back in session, but also for health and peace and encouragement in what I desperately hope is just a short season of craziness.

I hope you all are having a great summer and looking forward with joy and excitement to the start of a new school year! And to my friends who are also counting down to the minute until school starts…#youcompleteme

Made for Each Other (Encouragement, Part 2)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Anyone with a basic understanding of biology knows that the human heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body – all the way out to the tips of our fingers and toes. But once it delivers its load of fresh nutrients and oxygen to the body, how does the now-depleted blood make it back to the heart to be replenished and recirculated? There is no official “pump” in the human body to make this happen. In order for the heart to perform its function to continually pump nutrient-rich blood throughout the body, it must rely on the squeezing actions of other muscles to encourage the used and depleted blood back in for refilling and redistribution.

In other words, without the powerful movement of the muscles in your calves to help push it through the one-way valves of the veins, the blood that has been forcefully pumped into your legs and feet would have great difficulty making its way back to the heart against the pull of gravity. Similarly, the human spirit functions better with the ongoing support of other humans. Without this regular, intentional action it can quickly become difficult for an individual to operate successfully in joy and positivity against the negative pull of stress, insecurities, and unkind words.

While our true value and worth always comes from God alone, and not the perceived approval of man, we also have a responsibility to uplift and encourage one another in ways that are pleasing to our Heavenly Father. God created us with emotions, and He created us to love one another and to need one another. He created us to function as one body, made up of different parts, as the Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12. In the same way that our physical hearts function better with the support of our lungs; and our bones function only with the encouragement of our muscles, we as individuals in the body and community of Christ function better with the support and encouragement of those around us.

Ultimately, we are responsible for our own attitudes, our actions, and our responses to the emotions that are hard-wired within us, but let’s not forget our responsibility to support one another and promote the better function, the joy, and the peace of each person we have the privilege to impact. Let’s not forget our role in helping one another make it back to the heart of the Father. Today, let’s be the encouragement that someone needs to refresh and replenish the working of the Spirit within.

 

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)

 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (NKJV)

 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Corinthians 12:23-26 (NKJV)

 The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

 

Lord,

Thank you for creating us to function as a beautiful community, and not to spend our days going it alone. May we honor the love and plans you have for each of us, and operate with the heart of Christ toward one another. When we find ourselves lacking the encouragement our spirits so strongly desire, let that be a reminder of our duty to supply the encouragement needs of those around us.

It’s in Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen

Half-Baked Book Review

I’m reading this book, Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle, which my mother-in-law was kind enough to let me borrow approximately fifteen months ago, and it’s so good and sweet and funny that I just have to talk about it. I’m not quite finished reading it yet because I don’t really have that much time to read these days, and I can sometimes be easily distracted when I do sit down on the toilet and attempt to read. I catch myself fifteen minutes later contemplating bizarre and irrational scenarios, like if I died today and Joel buried me in the Haviland cemetery we’d only be transitioning from roommates to neighbors. But anyway, discussing a book on my blog before I’ve finished reading it probably makes my book review completely unreliable, but nobody’s paying me to do this so I can be a zero-credibility book reviewer if I want to. (Hey, should I start a book review segment on my blog? I’m thinking maybe “the girl with the schizophrenic blog” could be my niche.)

Sparkly Green Earrings is about motherhood and I can’t help but appreciate that there are other moms in the world who seem to think that motherhood is amazing but has maybe become a little over the top. (Because I don’t care how much you “treasure every moment” of raising children, you did not seriously enjoy that moment when your toddler just peed on the kitchen floor while you were trying to cook dinner, and nothing you say can make me believe that you did.)

I realize that a statement about what motherhood has “become” is kind of bold from someone who doesn’t particularly remember all that many details of her childhood and her parents’ parenting other than that it was good (which is happy, but also peculiar since my parents had to force me on any given day to come up with something (or three things) positive about my situation or life in general).

The fact that I’m not the only mother who thinks motherhood is crazy hard and crazy exhausting and crazy crazy (and cares to write about it), and the fact that she feels that way with one child makes me feel pretty good about the fact that I felt that way with one child. (And then went ahead and had another. And another. It’s a bit masochistic, but it’s generally a sanctioned masochism.) She also makes me feel not so bad for flip-flopping from a helicopter mama who didn’t allow Hannah to climb stairs by herself until she was like ten, and a hands-off mama who sometimes lets her two-year-old change her own diapers and doesn’t know whether to laugh or call the paramedics when the kids accidentally pop a wheely in their Barbie Jeep that Joel souped up with an actual car battery.

We were recently at a wedding reception at which I found my life enriched by an unreasonably tall man dancing with a remarkably short woman. They both looked like they were old enough to know better than to drink so much alcohol, and they probably thought they looked pretty smooth swaying wildly across the dance floor while onlookers wondered whether he’d ever be able to stand up straight again and whether she’d still be alive and kicking when he finished dragging her across the room by her head while smothering her in his belly button. (It’s possible that that is not actually what was happening, but I’m pretty sure it is.)

Sparkly Green Earrings is kind of like that. It’s mostly sweet, unashamedly real, and delivers just as much life-enriching laughter as the hold-me-closer-tiny-dancer couple without me even having to put on pants and makeup and leave the house. Her writing and her stories are easy and comfortable and funny like that, and she’s like a kindred spirit who understands that you can love Jesus and life can still be funny at the same time. I think if I knew her, she might even appreciate my belief that God enjoys a good practical joke as much as the next person because he sees fit to put together two people with a two-and-a-half foot height difference.

Or to create me with the inherent urge to dance in public. (Because gangly white girls are notoriously amazing dancers.)

Or to put someone waaaay at the end of that almost empty high school social studies hallway back in 2001 to witness that one (supposedly) smart girl face-surfing across the tile in the fifteen feet between her classroom and the drinking fountain. (That was me, by the way, and unfortunately there are very few career opportunities in face-surfing.)

Or to give moms only two hands and give children at least seventeen. (Most of them are invisible.)

I just imagine our loving God up there giggling with delight while He adoringly watches a third trimester pregnant woman try to clip her toenails.

The point I’m trying to make, and soaring wildly past – before I step away from my desperately needed revisions to do cartwheels and handstands in my dining room and jam to my go-to Pandora station (which is “Ross Lynch Radio” and there’s no explanation for that that can make me seem cool or stable) – is you should read the book. It is fantastic – and even on those days when my mind is obsessing over the thousand things I wish I could do or say or have or, or what I should have done or said differently, or what the future has in store, or what that person must be thinking, or how long I have before the kids find me hiding in the bathroom with a book – this one is enjoyable and easy to read and makes me giggle, which I think is my favorite thing to do, so when it happens life feels pretty good.

(I realize that this whole post was only like three sentences, but I’m not really feeling grammar today, so I’m sure you all will manage.)

It’s a good book. The end.

 

Update: (I haven’t even posted this yet, so I’m technically updating myself.) I finished the book. It was amazing. I cried. I laughed and cried at the same time. I’m also retiring from writing. Melanie Shankle has said everything I will ever have to say, and better than I would have said it. I’ll see you all again after I reinvent myself as a travelling paper-mâché architect.

Fitness Challenge: The Thighs Have It

Bobby Vinton is in my head singing “Mr. Lonely” right now.

I heard crickets – crickets! – in response to our first fitness challenge, but I did it anyway. (Bono is joining Bobby Vinton for an uneasy “Mr. Lonely”/”With or Without You” mashup, by the way. You seriously do not want to hear my life soundtrack. Did I mention I have a life soundtrack?)

I even did this challenge during our recent unexpected trip to Ohio, on which we slept two nights at roadside rest stops. I did cat/cows, planks, and pushups in the van. Call me dedicated because it’s a nicer word than desperate. How else was I supposed to work off the four – F O U R – Krispy Kreme doughnuts I ate on the drive back? (Only because Joel made me throw away the last one.) I need you to know that Krispy Kreme will be my cause of death.

Anyway… despite my urge to save face after having to converse with myself on that last challenge, I’m going to go ahead and put another one out there. I really, really want you guys to embrace the first challenge though. We are talking about abs. Do the plank! It’s only a minute, and you don’t even have to lie on the floor and use every ounce of your core strength just to avoid damaging your low back while you lift the ungodly weight of your legs over and over again, all in the name of good abs. (Don’t take offense. I’m pretty sure everyone’s legs are unreasonably heavy. I’d like to meet the unstable human who decided it would be a good idea to lift them like that.) But the plank works, and it’s simple, and planking for a minute doesn’t make me want to hurt people the way double leg raises do.

While we were in Ohio I got to visit briefly with my sister Andrea, who looked straight at me and said “I hate the plank.” (Et tu, Brute?) But she also reminded me that everyone might not know the importance of muscle in the process of burning fat. So let me touch on that for a minute.

Muscles are key components in the battle against excess body fat because using muscles burns energy (including that which has been stored up in the body as fat). Your muscles are always working to maintain your body’s posture and function, whatever position you are in, and therefore they use energy whether you are actively moving or not. This and other involuntary vital functions are the reasons we burn energy just by existing (roughly 1800 – 2000 calories every day), even without any intentional exercise. So while the majority of calorie burning is done involuntarily, and you don’t have a whole lot of control over the daily metabolic demands of your liver and large intestines, you do have some control over the fat-burning potential of your body’s skeletal muscles. Translated into what’s-your-point-ese (that’s not a real language. I just made that up.):

  1. Muscle uses more energy than fat tissue does. Replacing fat tissue in the body with toned muscle increases your body’s fat-burning ability. This is true even during rest, while your muscles work to keep your body from turning into a pile of bones and viscera. (Ladies, this is why men lose weight so much quicker than we do, once they give it an honest try – men naturally have more muscle mass than women, and with it greater fat-burning potential.)
  1. Using the larger muscles in the body is the most effective way to burn extra energy (ie: fat). This is why walking is a great exercise for weight loss. The muscles in your legs and tush are your most massive and powerful muscle groups, so exercises that engage these muscles will be most effective in burning fat (stored up energy) in your body.

Our fitness challenge for June is going to focus on both of these factors, but first I want to throw in a little side note – these fitness challenges are meant to encourage lifestyle habits that will increase fitness, strength, muscle tone, and overall well-being. If weight loss is your foremost goal, nothing is going to help shed weight as effectively as eating less calories than you burn (I speak from experience). We can talk more about weight loss challenges, if anyone wants to – but you guys have to talk to me!

In the meantime…we are going to use the mega-muscles in the thighs and tush to burn fat, and we’re going to use them with excellent form and focus to increase the tone and muscle mass in these fat-blasting heavyweights. (Heavyweights…see what I did there?) We’re going to do squats! Yay!

Okay, I’m not really that excited about it either. This idea is not very original, and I mean really, they’re not that much fun. But they are worth it. As an added benefit – strengthening the muscles in your legs builds support for your joints. I had a friend point this out to me quite a while back when I almost quit Zumba (gasp!) thinking I had inherited my dad’s knee problems. Once my legs gained the necessary strength, the knee (and ankle) pain stopped altogether. That alone is worth making a habit of strengthening the legs.

As always, form and consistency are of the utmost importance. Do your squats every day – one or two sets of 15 – and track them on paper with a tally or a check mark or whatever works for you, so that you can see and celebrate your daily progress. Do them slowly, and squat as low as you can go without falling over or letting your knees wobble. Tuck your hips and keep your weight on your heels to focus the movement into the hamstrings (back of the thigh) and glutes (butt), rather than the quadriceps (front of the thigh). Do your best to keep good posture. Shoulders back, back straight – no hunching. I prefer to do most squats in a wide stance so I can balance and do a nice deep squat while keeping good form, but feel free to switch them up however you’d like. Just do your best. Take a few minutes each day to chip away at toning the fat-burning superstars in your legs and rump. This really is nothing compared to some of the crazy fitness challenges I’ve heard of and even done myself. I know we can handle it.

If you’re feeling plucky – Do this Butt Lift Challenge also. I love the challenges Cassey Ho posts on her blog. She is a bubbly and encouraging person and she motivates her followers to work hard and push beyond self-imposed limitations. Her challenges don’t use outrageous numbers of repetitions, either. Even at the end the month, when the reps have increased, they can still be done in a reasonable amount of time with attention to form and without wondering if this is what death feels like.

Remember, we are adding this month’s challenge to the perpetual challenge from last month. The water/plank/pushup challenge is the only one that will remain indefinitely. From this point forward what we add to that challenge will change each month. I also plan to add an extra “plucky challenge” (see previous paragraph) to each month’s regular challenge. I hope you’ll choose to do it along with the regular challenge, but w hatever you decide to do or not do, let’s discuss what we are doing as we go. I’d love to hear what you think. Who’s doing these with me? (Is anyone doing these with me?) What’s working? What are you feeling? Do you hate it, or love it, or have fantasies of hurting me while you plank with a full bladder?

Jump in here and stick with me. I believe we can do this and make a positive difference in our health.

 

P.S. I just discovered that I can add a contact form to my posts. (Hey, that girl is so tech-savvy – let’s give her a blog! Anyway…) You can use the form below to contact me directly, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving comments on the site. Or, as always, feel free to leave comments in the comment section…below below.

Walk-Ins Welcome

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

I went to the dentist a few weeks ago for a routine cleaning, and the whole time I was in the chair my hygienist gushed about my healthy teeth. She praised me for taking excellent care of them, and was taken aback with delight when I told her how frequently I brush (which I actually under-exaggerated because the real number rings obsessive-compulsive). At one point, she actually said that it was a pleasure to work in such a healthy mouth. When the dentist echoed her sentiments, I joked that I might start scheduling extra dental visits just to hear good things about my teeth and dental habits. I walked out of the office knowing I was doing something right, and encouraged to “keep up the good work.”

In contrast, without frequent and fervent words of affirmation, it is often very challenging to stay encouraged and keep moving forward in other areas of life. Logic would tell me that I should not wrap my feelings, attitudes, and actions around the approval of other humans, yet without verbal affirmation from those around me I am quick to begin wondering if I am doing anything right, or succeeding in any way. In my own life, this creates a desire to spend my time with those people who make a habit to affirm and encourage with positive words and responses to who I am and what I do. But whether I’m feeling encouraged by raving reviews on my dental hygiene, or discouraged by lack of commentary on how marvelously I’ve washed the dishes today, God desires to speak encouragement into the depths of my soul through the truth of who He created me to be (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10, Jeremiah 1:5).

As silly as it is to think of going to the dentist just to hear encouraging words, it is a good reminder that I should be scheduling extra appointments with the One who always has good things to say about my identity, in His Word. God’s office never closes, and His schedule is always open to those who desire to see him (Jeremiah 29:12-13). The lasting and satisfying support our souls so deeply crave is always readily available to us directly from the Author and Creator of every good and wonderful thing.

 

14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[a]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Psalm 139:14

 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galations 3:26-29

 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

Colossians 3:12

 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved… 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12

 

 

A prayer for my friends:

Lord,

Thank you for giving us your Word to tell us, and consistently remind us, who we really are in You. Please let the truths of your love and acceptance penetrate and resonate in the very depths of our souls, regardless of the feelings and circumstances of life. Thank you for being the original and the faithful author of encouragement.

It’s in Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen.

Fitness Challenge: Pilot Episode

On Mother’s Day I had s’mores. Plural. Then we put the kids to bed and ate ice cream (not the kind you have to shake) straight out of the carton. I don’t want to hear your good-for-you-it-was-a-special-occasion-everyone-needs-to-cut-loose-once-in-a-while’s. On Saturday evening I went to a graduation party and ate cake. Before that I helped Joel wipe out his large peanut butter cup “concrete” from Freddy’s. On Friday I ate my mother-in-law’s cookies – plural again – and a really big, fancy chocolate covered strawberry. I can’t recount all of the transgressions of the previous week, but there were copious amounts of chocolate chips and marshmallows involved on several occasions. Last weekend was graduation weekend for Barclay College here in Haviland. At the banquet on Saturday, I left my dessert untouched on the table in front of me the whole time! When I got home and realized I still had to put the kids to bed while Joel stayed to clean up the banquet, I cured my stress and fatigue with chocolate chips (curse those chocolate chips!). There was a reception after graduation on Sunday. I ate cake there too. I warned you about this.

So here’s this month’s fitness challenge: When you see me with something sweet, run – do not walk – RUN to smack it out of my hand. Then run away.

It’ll be like smacking a honeycomb out of the mouth of a grizzly.

Growling. And big teeth.

I tower over a lot of people like an actual grizzly too, so there’s that image.

I’m usually a gentle person though, so you might be okay. Maybe bring some coffee to trade.

Anyway, all kidding (and partial kidding) aside, since I had four enthusiastic “Go for it!” responses on the fitness challenge proposal – which is an overwhelming 33.3% increase over my usual three-response average – I think it’s only right that I get us going right away with our first challenge.

Like I said, these challenges will be simple, but consistent. I’ll essentially be sharing with you the challenges I set for myself each month on my monthly goal sheet.The most important point of focus with these will always be good, quality movements. I have experienced that a modest amount of exercise with focused attention to good form, performed consistently, produces greater results than excessive repetitions of an exercise performed poorly.

What I mean by that is if you’re doing squats, don’t do 150 squats poorly and quickly – and then never do a squat again because you didn’t see any results from your torturous effort and you hate squats now. Instead do one set of 15 squats each day. Do them slowly and pay attention to your body. Plant your feet and keep your weight on your heels. Keep your core muscles tight for balance. Tuck your hips and make every effort to make your hamstrings and glutes do the work, rather than your quadriceps. Squat as low as you can (remember – slowly), but really, really as low as you physically can without falling over or letting your knees wobble. Squeeze in the glutes and hamstrings when you come back up. That’s it. It might seem like a lot to think about for a squat, but it is worth it for actual results without excessive wasted effort. Do 15 every day, unless you decide you want to do more. But make them all count! Do it for a month and then pick a different exercise for the next month, to work a different muscle group. That’s pretty much what we’ll be doing with these challenges.

Over time, you will notice muscle tone in the areas you have been consistently working. If you are losing weight as well, you will be pleased with the muscle that starts to surface as the extra weight comes off. More importantly, you will be building strength and endurance in your muscles. You will like the way you feel and the greater ease with which you can do everyday things like climbing steps or carrying small children.

Okay, so all that bossy stuff out of the way – we are already a third of the way through May! That’s okay though, because we need to lay the groundwork for our fitness challenges anyway. So this month’s challenge is to make a few simple perpetual changes. I said perpetual. But if you can’t handle the thought of perpetual, then commit to doing it for the rest of the month, reassess at the end, and decide whether you’re willing to commit to another month.

Your first challenge consists of two perpetual changes for the good of your overall health and well-being.

Number One – Drink at least 64 ounces of water every day. This water thing is nothing new, so out of laziness I’m not going to list all kinds of reasons that we need to drink water. Just do it, because you’ll feel better when you do than when you don’t. You’ll likely eat less too. I usually keep a full 16 ounce glass of water out on the counter. (I happen to enjoy my water at room temperature.) If I take a sip to swallow some vitamins, I make it a point to drink at least half of the water in the glass. If I see my glass sitting there throughout the day and realize haven’t been drinking from it, I pick it up and drink it – the whole glass. Then I mark down that I drank it, and fill it right back up. I typically keep a piece of paper for tallying my water every day, or I won’t be able to keep track of how much I’ve had. Lately I’ve been inputting the ounces of each glass of water into my fitbit app as I finish it instead of tracking it on paper. Do whatever works for you, but make sure you can keep yourself accountable to this.

If you’re already a water lover, then you have one less change to worry about. If you don’t typically drink a lot of water, be patient while your bladder adjusts (just sayin’). But it will adjust and you won’t have to pee every fifteen seconds for the rest of your life.

Number Two – Plank every day. When you wake up every morning, roll out of bed and into a plank position. You can do it. Then it will be out of the way for the day, and if you accomplish nothing else all day, you have at least done the absolute most effective core strengthening and toning exercise ever created. (That may not be factual, but it is my strong opinion based on personal experience.)

Hold your plank position for a minute, preferably, but at least 30 seconds. You can plank on your hands and toes, on your elbows and toes, or on your hands and knees. However you can manage it, but you have to push yourself. Be honest with yourself, or you won’t see the results you want. If you can’t plank for a minute on your toes, can you plank for 30 seconds on your toes and another 30 seconds on your knees? Push a little harder each time. It’s only a minute. You WILL be able to do more at the end of the month than you could at the beginning. BUT however you do it, do it with good form. Straight back – no butt up in the air, no back sagging down to the floor. You should feel your whole abdomen working to stabilize this position. That’s it.

If you’re feeling plucky: I was actually lying when I said “that’s it.” I don’t want to scare anyone away, but what I really want you to do as part of your perpetual plank plan, is follow it with some pushups. 10-15 pushups on your knees or on your toes or half and half, as long as you push yourself to do one better than you did the day before, until you can do all of them on your toes. Do these half cobra pushups some days. Do pushups with your hands out wide some days and your hands under your shoulders other days. Do them with your hands in a triangle under your chest, and do up-up-down-downs some days, but get them out of the way first thing. Strong arms and upper body are important, and unlike those in the legs, these muscles don’t have the “built-in” strengthening advantage of carrying around the weight of the body on a regular basis.

Remember good form, or don’t bother. Your back should still be straight. You should still feel your abdomen supporting your posture. Bend your arms down to 90 degrees, or until your chest touches the floor if you can. If you can’t go that low in a full pushup, do them on your knees until you are strong enough to do them with good form on your toes. You will make better progress with a strong pushup on your knees than with a weak one on your toes.

If you’re feeling sore: I lied again. That’s still not it. Before I plank, I always do several cat/cow stretches for my back. I am thoroughly convinced that this is one of the main reasons that I don’t have a sore, achy back. It is an excellent stretch, and this video (from about the 7 minute mark to about the 10 minute mark) is great for focusing on good form for maximum benefit. This part of the challenge is not hard at all and it’s for the good of your mobility. It’s a great habit to keep. I usually do a quick child’s pose after my plank too, for a little break before the pushups.

That sounds like a lot (and I don’t plan on all of these posts being so long), but don’t freak out. The whole process takes about three and a half minutes in the morning:

 

Roll out of bed (to hands and knees, actually – not plank position)

Do three slow cat/cow stretches

Plank for one minute

Do fifteen pushups

 

Done.

Now you’ve got your back stretched, your blood flowing, and you’ve increased your upper body and core strength before you’ve even emptied your bladder. Go you! If you don’t do any other exercise program at all, you are still improving little by little each day. That’s it. For real this time.

I realize that I called this two changes, and it seems like four. The cat/cow stretches have become part of my plank habit for over a year now, and I strongly recommend attaching the two exercises so that they both become a daily habit. I also count the pushups as part of the plank routine (they are always written on my goal list as “plank/pushups”). So let’s call this the plank process. It counts as one.

I  also strongly recommend keeping track of your exercises each month. (Completely unrelated…how many times can I use “strongly recommend” before it loses it’s potency?) It doesn’t have to be a fancy or complicated system. I pick a page in my notebook (the one I always have around for to-do lists, grocery lists, and random things I want to remember to write about someday), and I write down my goals for the month. Each day that I accomplish one of my daily goals, I make a tally after that item on my list. On the days I don’t do an exercise, I mark a little X instead of a tally. The X’s aren’t meant to be discouraging – they are for keeping track, because losing track is an excellent way to lose motivation.

So there it is. The ground work. Can we do this? Tell me what you think. We can use the comments as a forum for encouragement and support, sharing our accomplishments, results, progress, and struggles as we go. Are you in?

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

I don’t usually feel the need to put up a blog post on holidays and special occasions, but I just had to today. It’s Mother’s Day, and although not a whole lot changes from the day before Mother’s Day to Mother’s Day, it’s been a pretty good day just knowing how blessed I am. Three of us still can’t kick the low-grade fever we’ve had going around for over a week, one of us can’t seem to stop throwing up during the night, and all of us could use a good nap. But I got to talk to my Mom this morning, who I consider my own Lorelai Gilmore (other than being 27 and married when she had me, but my Gilmore lovers know what I’m talking about). I got to take a walk (in the rain) with the love of my life who is fully to blame for making me a mother, and the reason I never have to go it alone. My girls snuggled and hugged and kissed me and gave me those mischievous smiles and left lip prints on the TV for me. So I can’t really ask for more.

But the reason I have to post is to share this:

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Hannah made this for me at school, and it’s amazing. You should know I’m not really the sentimental type when it comes to hanging onto things, but this one I think I’ll keep.

First of all there’s this:

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She gave me a coupon to count to 10!

And this:

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Who knew!? She won’t touch The Little Mermaid movie with a ten-foot pole, and she wants an Elsa bed, an Elsa trampoline, an Elsa kitchen, and an Elsa bouncy house (anybody know where I can get one of those?) for her birthday, but I guess Ariel is her favorite Disney princess.

But this. This is my favorite:

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This is awesome, right!? Is there really anything better than a wholeheartedly sincere backhanded compliment? This right here made my day.

So, to my Mom, my Stepmom, my Second Mom who I was blessed with when I married Joel, Andrea who’s the Elsa to my Anna, my Aunts who love and support and help me and read my blog :), and all the amazing women I get to call friends, Happy Mother’s Day! May your days be filled with love, hugs, rainy walks, kisses on the TV, and all the backhanded compliments you can handle! I love you lots.

 

Update: I just found out why I’m Ariel. I can’t be Elsa, because Hannah is Elsa! She made me Ariel because she thinks Ariel is beautiful. *swoon* Love her! (Ariel must put makeup on too.)

This Blog(ger) Will Self-Destruct in 3,2,1…

Playing Uno with a four-year-old and a six-year-old when you’re running a fever is excruciating. And my two-year-old screeches like a prehistoric bird. I think I’m dead, but my fitbit says I still have a pulse, and the fitbit never lies. Except when I flap my arms like wings to pad my step count. But I digress. Enough griping.

Friends, someone should probably stop me. I’m thinking – thinking – about adding a fitness challenge segment to my blog. Remember this post about how impossible it is to pick one word and stick to it as the lighthouse for all of my goals for a whole. entire. year? I want you to understand that I was not kidding. I’m not changing the word I selected (against my will), which is “focus,” but I am about to prove the inconsistency of my nature that will not allow me to settle on one course of action for any great length of time.

This is a humor blog. One that is devoid of any practical use or purpose, and funny only to me and a handful of people who share my DNA (literally). BUT I’ve recently added to my devoid-of-any-practical-use-or-purpose-and-funny-only-to-me-and-a-handful-of-people-who-share-my-DNA-(literally) humor blog, a DEVOTIONAL READING segment. Because I love Jesus, and so do you, and maybe there’s actually a purpose to those posts. That was, like, a week ago. Now I’m thinking I might add a fitness segment. Try not to get whiplash. It might help to think of it as a blog with multiple personalities and a short attention span.

I’m also thinking about (really really thinking, obsessing, and taking actual steps toward) going back to school. This is my version of focus. I’m hearing Billy Joel’s River of Dreams in my head.

This could go terribly wrong. That may be an exaggeration. But anyway, I may be, and most likely, very probably am taking on more than I can handle, and will write a few more posts and then stop writing altogether and shut down and contemplate a new life-course for the next six months. There’s also the fact that I’m not actually a fitness expert. I’m really not even a fitness-kind-of-sort-of-know-what-I’m-talking-about-er. And if you know how I handle stress (which most of you do because of that whole most-of-my-readers-are-my-parents-and-sisters-and-aunts thing), then you know that I’ll most likely shut down (read: stop exercising, reading, writing, improving, showering, and getting out of bed-ing) and start eating everything that doesn’t run away when I bite it.

All that being said, I DO have A LOT of experience with gaining and losing weight. And I have been researching, practicing, and learning on the subjects of healthy eating and effective exercising for quite a few years – whether or not I’ve been effectively implementing what I’ve learned. I also have some useful knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology, Musculoskeletal Anatomy, and Anatomical Kinesiology, thanks to massage school. None of that actually makes me qualified to try to teach anyone about fitness, but it is possible that I have one or two useful things to share. Maybe.

I’ve finally started to figure out a few things that work. Now I’m not sure that anyone in his or her right mind would want to take health or fitness advice from me, since I’m finding myself – again – at that place where I’ve reached my goal weight and must figure out how on earth I’m supposed to stay here. (Seventh time’s a charm, right?) I’m also a self-confessed sugar junkie – in ways you DO NOT want to witness – which means I’m always just one whiff of a cookie away from a total relapse into a sugar-induced vortex of darkness and despair.

So, I need you guys to talk to me! Tell me if I should do this, or tell me to forget it. I don’t want to waste everyone’s time or inbox space, so talk to me. But here’s my thought. I think it will be mostly a simple monthly challenge. It won’t be complicated with all kinds of weird exercises and strange or ghastly amounts of repetitions (not that I’m hating on those challenges – there are several of those that I go back to regularly to get things moving in the right direction). It will probably be just one or two exercises to perform every day, consistently, so we can start to see some positive results.

I feel like I want to share this because it works. It is practical and doable and it works! It might be fun to do it as a community of friends. But just so you know – I’m doing these challenges with or without you (feel the love).

 

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

 

Without counsel plans fail,
    but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 15:22 (ESV)

 

Talk to me!

Too Stubborn for Subtlety

for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

 Ephesians 5:14 (NIV)

“This van is a mess!”

I had only heard it as a complaint. Every weekend Joel would climb back into the van and comment on the disorder I hadn’t had the time or energy to correct while toting kids and caring for the house over the course of the week.

“They make this mess while I’m driving. How am I supposed to stop them?”

But that was an excuse, and though it seemed to me like an insignificant thing, it was a continual source of frustration for both of us.

The reality is, I was caught up in my own interests and busyness, and unable to hear the cry of my husband’s heart to help him bear this responsibility. Though I always reasoned that cleaning the vehicles would be easier for him, without children attached to him every waking moment of the day, I believe this burden – to vacuum and clean up the food crumbs, papers, toys, and clothing covering every surface of the vehicle he had not stepped into since the last time he had cleaned it – was weighing on him and causing him to feel overworked and underappreciated.

When recently my heart became heavy to seek ways to show more love to my husband, this thing that seemed so insignificant was one of the first issues to push into my mind. I could finally hear clearly that all this time Joel had been asking such a simple task – to pay more attention to the condition of our family vehicle – that would do so much to draw our hearts back together and encourage unity in our marriage.

Becoming out of tune with the hearts of those most precious to us can cause stress, frustration, and heartbreak, and often stems from becoming out of tune with the heart of God. But being out of tune with the heart of our Heavenly Father has consequences both earthly and eternal that separate us from the love and inheritance of our Lord and Savior.

In chapters six through nine of the book of Revelation, the Lord reveals to the Apostle John the many plagues that will fall upon the earth and mankind in the last days. These include the destruction of one-third of the earth’s vegetation and waters, one-third of the sun and moon and stars ceasing to shine in the heavens, swarms of locusts with tails like scorpions, and a heavenly army charged to destroy one-third of all mankind with fire, smoke, and brimstone. These events could easily be the stuff of the most disturbing of horror stories. Even so, Revelation 9:20 tells us that after these things take place, mankind will still not repent, put away all other gods and obsessions, and turn their eyes and hearts to Jesus.

We may read these words from the comfort of our couches or kitchen tables and find it hard to believe that anyone could ignore such warnings and tribulation, but in our current day we are in possibly even more danger of ignoring God’s gentle nudging to repent, recognize the ploys and distractions of our crafty enemy, and turn our hearts fully toward Him. So let’s keep our eyes on the blessed eternity offered through salvation in Christ and guard diligently, keeping watch for the subtle and cunning ways of the enemy who seeks to distract and destroy.

Ephesians 5:8-20 (NIV)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14  for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

A prayer for my friends:

Lord,

Thank you for choosing to remain near to us, and to gently nudge us back into your presence when we wander off. Teach us to tune in to Your life-giving Spirit each day through Your Word and open communication with you. Thank You for Your grace, forgiveness, and countless opportunities to direct our hearts fully toward you while we eagerly await Your return.

It’s in Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Items Required for Mowing the Lawn on a New Used John Deere Zero-Turn Riding Mower: A List

More devotional readings coming soon (Lord willing), but in the meantime…I can’t help myself.

I hope you all will find this extremely helpful! I’ve done this once now, so I feel I can speak on the matter with authority. Here’s what you’ll need to get the job done right.*

*Some items may not be necessary for men.

  1. Ponytail holder.
  2. Hat.
  3. Sunglasses –but not the diva kind, or they won’t fit under your “Tractor Supply Co” hat – or goggles, or a full-face motorcycle helmet if you have one.
  4. Floss – but only if you sometimes forget to close your mouth when you work, or like to smile for no reason, or both.
  5. An empty bladder, or a catheter.
  6. A high-quality/high-intensity/maximum support sports bra – the kind that costs a small fortune and requires a SWAT team to get you into.
  7. Not-yoga-pants pants – because the itchy grass pieces will poke through to your rump in that mamsy-pamsy getup.
  8. Sunscreen, or long-sleeves and a turtleneck – unless by some luck of DNA you’re NOT a pasty marshmallow capable of reaching tomato-red in 6.82 minutes flat without even touching the tan zone.
  9. Maybe a little mascara – because “Man! I feel like a Woman!” (This in my best Shania Twain twang.)
  10. Rose-colored lenses – because there’s a learning curve to the whole zero-turn thing, and the chevron pattern doesn’t look as good on your lawn as it does on your towels.
  11. A fresh pair of undies (unless you opted for the catheter) – for after the first few turns you make while you figure out the throttle and the hydrostatic steering thing (hint: slow and steady makes it through the race alive. And serpentine is better for outrunning crocodiles than for mowing lawns).

 

Once you get the hang of it, and learn to do it with your mouth (and your eyes) closed (it’s really windy in Kansas), it’s actually a lot of fun!

#bestlawnintown

Well, #bestlawnjustoutsideoftown

maybe