Wanna be my (fitness) pal?

IMG_6107I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and finding it the kind of book that I am irresistibly drawn to writing in the margins. I think if I took amphetamines and lived in New York City, I could be a lot like Gretchen. I’m not saying she’s on drugs, just that she has waaaay more energy than I do.

What really got me was when she openly admitted she is a big fan of Benjamin Franklin’s daily virtues charts. Franklin measured himself daily on thirteen virtues that included sincerity, temperance, and humility. He gave himself a little dot on his chart for each day he felt he succeeded in each of his virtues.

Rubin wisely points out that we often talk about goals when we should be talking about resolutions. A resolution gives you a fresh start every day. A resolution is presumably something you want to continue doing for a long time, if not the rest of your life.

Charting your resolutions is a way of reinforcing them daily in your mind. You can’t push it to the back burner when you are looking at a chart every day and having that urge to be able to put a little check mark of accomplishment.

You’ve probably also seen studies mentioned in the media that say people who chart their food intake are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than those who don’t. From my personal experience of years (I’m talking twenty-plus years!) of watching my weight, I can attest to the power of logging what you eat to keep it real.

Yesterday I ate a handful (okay, it was a couple servings) of jellybeans that someone at work had left out on the table. I logged in what I ate on MyFitnessPal and was horrified to realize I was over my calorie allotment for the day by about a thousand calories! Aghh! Without that reality check, I’d probably be telling myself that I’m eating just fine, nothing to worry about (even though I felt rather sick and shaky after all that sugar).

I have myfitnesspal (goodmorninggirl) and Fitbit and I’d love to be your pal if you’re looking for a buddy to work on your fitness goals. I’m hoping we can encourage each other. I’d also love to know what else you’re charting (or are Gretchen and I the only nut jobs who do this?).

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Smart advice from a successful woman

blog isaacscherylbooneLast week, I wrote about the importance of sharing our setbacks and challenges with other women, and this week I’d like to add to that one very successful woman’s advice to high school students.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (best known for the Oscars!) spoke to a student audience where I am a teacher, but I found her words encouraging and inspiring for people of any age.

The film industry is a daunting one to break into, but Boone Isaacs decided her passion for movies made all the hard work worthwhile. She started at entry level, but she gave every job her all, telling students the best way to make headway in a new career is to make yourself indispensable.

A lot of top executives make it sound like they were destined for greatness on one long trajectory of success, but I appreciated Boone Isaacs’ honesty in stating that she flitted from job to job until her mid-twenties because she didn’t know what she wanted to do.

“Every experience matters, the bad ones as well as the good ones,” she said. “The bad makes you appreciate the good and realize what you don’t want.” Nothing you’ve done has been a waste because it is all essential in creating the person you are today.

She also openly stated that she still struggles with maintaining a positive outlook, saying that her first instinct is to tell herself why something won’t work before rewriting her mental script to a more positive message. I find this tremendously reassuring: If someone who has gained this level of career success has her doubts, it makes it seem normal for me too.

She told students that even though she is asked all the time about barriers in her field based on race or gender, the biggest issue is the obstacles we create ourselves.

“People put up their own barriers, such as ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not smart enough,’ but the barriers that you create, just know that you can also take them down,” she said.

My favorite quote in her hour with us was “Why not me?” No matter what you are dreaming of doing, instead of thinking how audacious it is to imagine yourself achieving your most far-off goals, say, “Why not me?”

Photo credit: http://www.oscars.org/about/board-of-governors

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start. 

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Peace be with you

“Peace be with you.” These are words I have spoken countless times over many years – only on Sundays around 11 a.m., of course – but it wasn’t until very recently that I began to reflect upon what that phrase means.

The new pastor of our church wrote a greeting in our monthly newsletter suggesting we add something to our daily practices during the season of Lent, rather than taking something away. Her bulleted list included many activities that would be easy for families to do together, so my children and I considered the ideas and voted to share the peace every day in our own home.

I wrote “Peace be with you” on an index card with a black Sharpie and taped it to our alarm clock so that we wouldn’t forget this new daily ritual. Each night before bed, I look my boys in the eye, hold their faces, and say “Peace be with you” and smile as I hear them say it back to me. Then they face each other and do the same. This is the most touching part, because how often really would you see two boys, brothers no less, offering each other peace and hugging?

Sometimes at church, the passing of the peace seems rushed and devoid of meaning. It’s a race to shake the hands of everyone in the pews ahead of and behind us, and I’m often wondering, “Do my hands feel cold?” “Am I smiling enough?” “Did I already shake her hand?”

At the same time, this is one of my favorite parts of our Sunday church service. I would feel funny in my daily life to go about wishing peace to people, but it’s totally normal and expected at church. I’m already considered kind of out-there for being a vegan; I don’t need “hippie” added to my labels. But if I could wish my fellow humans anything in this world, it would be peace – peace within and peace without, a sense of being loved and comforted and blessed that fills each person until it overflows and radiates outward and lights up all of humankind so that we can trust each other and wish each other well.

Expressions of peace are common to many religions – they are the heart, really, of our relationship with whatever form of God we believe in – but even those without religious affiliation can appreciate peace. I’m hoping to work up the nerve to sometimes say “Peace be with you” rather than “What’s up” or even “Have a great day” to those I meet in my daily travels. And I vow to really mean it when I say those words each night to my sons, and to all of the people I greet and shake hands with on Sunday mornings.

 

Photo credit: stock photo by markuso at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away. Divorced mom Adrienne gets pregnant after fooling around with a lonely mortician. He wants to marry her and raise the baby together, but she has other ideas. 

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Be careful, your mood is contagious

You know the phrase, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It might be a southern saying, but it’s just as true in my northeastern home.

I’m in the midst of reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, in which she at first struggles to justify why a happily married mother needs to take the time to seek out happiness for herself. Her conclusion is that her own happiness is not a selfish luxury, but a necessity to bring joy to her whole household.

I agree. I notice that on the days where I am short-tempered and impatient, my kids react by looking glum, shuffling their feet to get out the door, and sometimes even snapping back at me. I hate to think of them traipsing off to school this way. On the mornings where I wake them with kisses and songs, we all manage to leave the house on time with smiles on our faces.

When I bring positive energy into my classroom, it comes back to me with students who answer questions and don’t moan and groan over assignments. I connect with my coworkers when I smile and look them in the eye rather than mumbling hi and walking on by. In my personal relationships, my loved ones seek me out to talk and spend time with me when I show enthusiasm and joy.

Every interaction with another person is an exchange of energy. Pain and sorrow is meant to be shared, and we need others to boost us up when we can’t pull ourselves out of a bad situation. Sometimes it’s hard to smile when I’m angry, feeling let down, tired, or otherwise hurting, but those are the days it’s most important of all to smile.

Try putting aside your everyday grumbles and notice how differently people respond to you when you tell them you’re great (even if you’re just okay). You may bring a smile to their face and they may bring one back to yours.

 

Photo credit: stock photo by tigger11th at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away. Divorced mom Adrienne gets pregnant after fooling around with a lonely mortician. He wants to marry her and raise the baby together, but she has other ideas. 

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpg

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s

 

 

 

 

Give respect to your passion

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What’s the thing you most wish you could do, but it means so much to you that you put it off or push it to the side? What’s that one thing you want, but you’re afraid it will get ruined forever if you don’t do it right?

For me, it’s always been writing. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White was the first book I remember reading that filled with me with longing… if I only I could write like that. Then I read White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and swooned. In the years that followed, there were many others. I recently finished reading Me Before You by JoJo Moyes and had the same experience.

For many years, writing fiction felt like a fragile bird’s egg I held in my cupped hands. The idea of breaking that egg caused me to avoid my truest passion by majoring in journalism and starting a career in nonfiction because it didn’t seem so precious to me. I loved the creative outlet that news and feature stories brought, but there was a desire in my heart that wouldn’t die, telling me to go ahead and write a novel.

I finally did so a few years ago, and as I work on my second novel now, the same fears dance around in my head. What if this is the one that everyone hates? What if even my friends think eww, but don’t want to say it to me?

I’ve decided to put away those fears once and for all. I don’t need them telling me what not to do anymore. The fear of writing manifested for me in a lack of time and organization to devote to my craft. Sure, I’m a single parent with a teaching career, and I don’t have a lot of time to write, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. What I found is that I was often putting everything else ahead of writing, even things like scrubbing down the refrigerator.

Instead of having an office for my writing, I used the side table in my dining room to throw my writing notes in with a teetering pile of kids’ schoolwork, bills, and other papers that have varying levels of priority. I wasn’t giving respect to my passion.

I may not write in an office, but I recently made my writing more official by devoting a small bookshelf exclusively to my notes and files, my copies of Writers’ Digest, and the binder that organizes my work-in-progress. The boost of knowing there’s a physical space in my house devoted to writing has fired me up to keep at it, day after day. Instead of hiding my writing with the rest of my household detritus, it has its own orderly space.

What can you do to respect your passion? Make a space, even if it’s a little one, so that you can see the evidence of your biggest, fondest dream every day. Don’t hide your passion in the corners of your life.

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

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What a month of yoga did for a regular person…

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In a rare fit of consistency, I decided to practice yoga every day for a month. I am not a yogini, but an average, works-out-a-few-times-a-week kind of woman. I told myself that I would commit to just 15 minutes a day, nothing crazy. In the process, I started to feel better physically (less tension in my neck and shoulders, no more back twinges) and I learned some new things about what I could accomplish.

  1. I can make a new habit. Doing yoga every day taught me that if I can do this every day, then I can do other things every day too (like write, read to my kids, make sure the dishes are done before bedtime). It gave me confidence that I can build other little habits into my routine. My drive toward self-improvement sometimes gets out of control, but keeping my expectations modest actually boosted me up rather than left me feeling hopeless, like I did in the past when I’d get overwhelmed trying for things that were big, long-term commitments (writing a book, running for a half hour straight) without breaking them down into manageable chunks.
  1. I can be realistic. Last January, I tried to do yoga every day, but I made grandiose plans. I was going to build up to an hour a day and I was going to be doing the advanced classes and be able to master every pose in the yoga app I was using. This time around, I didn’t make any promises about what I’d accomplish from doing yoga, just that I’d do it. Better done than perfect, I say. We are always taught to focus on our desired outcome, but sometimes the goal is so far off that it can feel overwhelming. If I keep this up, maybe I will get to advanced-level yoga, but even if I don’t, I’m still reaping the benefits of daily practice. The rest would just be cool party tricks anyway.
  1. I can follow a schedule, but I don’t have to be rigid about it. Generally, I go through a cycle of classes: strength, relaxation, combination, flexibility, repeat. But sometimes I feel really tired and crummy, and I give myself permission to do the easiest routine (the relaxation one, of course!). Because I’m a teacher, most of my day is pretty much set into blocks of time, and that regimentation carries into my home life as well. But I learned with my commitment to 15 minutes a day of yoga that sometimes I’d have to do it in the morning, sometimes at night, and sometimes I’d have to skip something else that day so that I could still have time for the yoga.

Some days yoga has been life-changing, and others, it’s just another thing to cross off on my to-do list, but no matter what, I’m feeling better.

If you are interested, the app I use (for the iPad) is called Yoga Studio.

The picture is me in lizard pose, and by the way, doing yoga does not look as sexy as it feels.

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpg

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s