Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shop Till You Eat

I recently went to the mall with my mom and my two kids. Have I ever mentioned that I hate to shop? (Almost unnatural for a woman, I know.) What’s there not to like about crowded parking lots, congested walkways, long lines, fussy kids, and loud store music? Maybe I am not normal to avoid these things, but after spending the day at the mall I found that I really enjoyed myself. Surprisingly.

The kids had fun, which results in me having fun too. Among the talking dogs, Christmas decorations (yes, they’re up!), escalators, and carousel ride, my kids enjoyed themselves.

But they did get hungry. Have you ever tried to find nutritious food in a mall? We ended up at Jamba Juice and a pretzel shop. Not the best and not the worst, I suppose. The pretzel shop had no whole grain options, sadly. You would think nobody is interested in being healthy at a mall. Is that true? Do other people besides myself long to find nutritious food while they shop?

We’re nearing a very busy season for shopping. How many trips to the mall will we make over the next several weeks? Will we be able to avoid the fat, salt, and sugar of a food court menu?

The holidays present enough opportunities to over-indulge. We don’t need more opportunities for goodness’ sake! Next time I go the mall I think I’ll bring a granola bar and apples for my kids. Or maybe avoid the mall altogether!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I must be the world’s worst multi-tasker. Give me a job, I’ll do it. Give me another job while I’m doing my first job, and I’ll fluster about and fail miserably at both.

Dinner was supposed to be easy after my busy day, and it would have been if I hadn’t set myself up for failure by multi-tasking. Instead of waiting in the kitchen for the food to get hot enough to turn down to a simmer, I used the waiting time to put some laundry away. You probably can guess what happened—I burned the food.

Life as mom would be impossible if I didn’t multi-task some of the time, but when it comes to my children’s safety, I have to make sure I have no distractions. But distractions can come easily when you’re doing a mindless task.

So I have developed strategies to help keep me focused and pull me back to details I forget when I’m multi-tasking. For instance, one strategy is using a kitchen timer on even extremely basic tasks. If I had set the timer for 60 seconds while I was cooking the other night I would not have left it on high heat to be burned. Timers are a great help for those of us who are lousy at tackling two things at once.

Sticky notes is another help. Little reminders written and placed where they’re most needed can help stop me from making a mistake.

I don’t know if anyone else suffers from a one-track mind, but if you’re like me, you need these kinds of tips.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visiting Temptations

My mom has been in town the past couple of weeks. She lives over 2000 miles away, so it’s a real treat for us all. The kids love having Nana around, especially because she’s apt to hand out gum rather liberally. I enjoy walking into the kitchen to find the dishes have been washed. The best, of course, is the long talks and the unparalleled attention for the kids.

There is, however, a drawback. Do you know how hard it is to maintain 1500 calories a day when your mom is in town? She wants to cook for you, take you out for coffee, and make cookies for your kids. Meanwhile you want to impress her with your fabulous cooking, which I might add isn’t always the low-fat kind. Ice cream is purchased because you can’t have a guest staying without some desserts around. And there is the must for any visitor to California—a trip to In-N-Out Burger.

The past few days have not been my best health-wise, but not my worst either. I am still trying, in spite of not making the 1500 mark. I suppose with Thanksgiving right around the corner that I am setting myself up for some weeks of no weightloss progress. But if there is one concept that I have tried to share this past year of blog-writing, it’s that you should try even when you fail. Keep trying. Going over the allotted calories will happen, especially at this time of year. Still, keep trying. It always pays in the end.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Garbage Day

Garbage Day at our house comes every Monday.  It’s not always easy to gather up all the trash late on a Sunday night.  Sometimes we forget, and other times we just don’t feel like it.  But one way or another, we manage to get it out there for the early morning pick-up.

It’s a good thing that garbage is collected mechanically these days because no doubt ours is nastiest smelling bin on the block.  From the dirty diapers to the old floor scraps dropped by sticky little fingers, it just plain stinks.  No wonder we manage to get the bin out there even when we don’t feel like it.

The recycle bin is much nicer.  It’s filled with things like rinsed-out jars and glossy junk mail.  Even the outward appearance is better.  Instead of the mucky-green color of the garbage bin, it’s a cool clean blue.  It stands with dignity and pride next to the less desirable garbage bin.  I can only imagine what kind taunts it would be making if it could talk.

I think my body is kind of like one of the bins.  Week after week I toss stuff inside, and what I eat manifests itself into a very desirable or very undesirable body accordingly.  Even the outward appearance is affected by what is inside.  Healthy and wholesome foods and drinking plenty of pure water produces a body of healthy dignity.  You can probably imagine what kinds of foods result in a stinky garbage bin for a body.

So the next time a triple-fried something-rather appeals, think garbage bin.  Do you really want a body like that?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hiding the Exercise

The gym isn’t exactly the favorite place to go when you’re overweight and out of shape.  More likely you want to work out alone in a very dark room.  While that’s not a bad idea, a little courage might be in order too.

Going to a gym has many benefits.  Being around active people makes you work harder.  Exercise machinery is available that would usually be too expensive to own.  You can vary your workout with cardio and circuit, which helps to make a healthy heart, burns fat, and builds muscle.

Gyms also usually have classes you can take that will make exercise fun.  When you become a regular goer, it’s harder to miss because of the support of friends who check in on you.  Working out with others usually motivates us to intensify our moves and go for longer.

However.  Going to a gym or class can require courage.  It’s not easy to walk into a room full of fit people and approach a machine you have no idea how to use.  Learning the moves of an aerobics class can feel intimidating. 

The first time is always the hardest.  If you keep at it though, pretty soon you will be the gym expert and might have a chance to show someone else the ropes.  You might feel like you look funny or that you stand out, but what better place is there to be than where you can change all that? 

Whenever I see someone who looks out of shape working out at a gym, I feel a tremendous amount of admiration for that person.  I recognize the guts it takes to be there and the effort required to exercise.  Chances are that most of the fit people are thinking the same thing.  So don’t hide.  Only good things can come if you face your fear head-on.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hiding the Food

Anybody who has small kids is probably just about immune to all embarrassing moments that come. For a child, nothing is taboo. They talk very openly—and loudly!—about the more private things in life, like using the toilet. They leave snotty messes on your shoulder, and they blurt out awkward observations at the wrong time.

Unlike children, adults have a knack for hiding things that might make us look weird, incompetent, or weak. We know how to put our best foot forward and at least appear to have it all together.

Think back to the times when you have eaten the worst. Was it at a social gathering with a room full of people? Most likely not. More likely, it was at home when no one else was around. If I’m eating badly, I usually don’t want anyone to see me!

Hiding eating is one of the areas of danger for living healthy. If we are hiding when we eat, then mostly likely we are eating for reasons other than energy, hunger, or even pure enjoyment. Hiding food is not enjoyable. It’s usually guilt-ridden and depressing. I speak, of course, from my own experience!

If secret eating is an area of temptation for you, I strongly advise getting an accountability buddy. If you really truly want that ice cream or those chips, eat it in the presence of your buddy. It will make it more enjoyable. And it will hinder the endless gorging.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I tend to look for bargains, to find the best price possible—sometimes at the expense of quality.  But my husband Jay looks at it from another perspective.  He uses something he calls “utils” to decide whether something is worth buying or not. 

A util is a business term that represents one measure of quality, balanced against what it costs.  Cost is measured by money, convenience, time, and effort.  A product that has high utils is a product that gives a high amount of usability and enjoyment with a relatively low cost.  Something with low utils is a product that has high cost and low value. 

When making a purchase, Jay considers the utils, and it guides him in making a decision.  By considering the cost vs. the benefits helps weed out the ridiculous and impulsive buys.  It also eases the buyer’s remorse after a big purchase.  If we just bought a new car, we’ll be happy thinking about the utils we’re getting from it because it is worth the cost.

Utils can be used in eating and spending calories too.  Is the enjoyment and physical benefit of a food worth the calorie and fat cost?  Am I getting high utils on the snack I choose? 

Think about the following two examples using utils for snacks and desserts.

Snacks.  The purpose of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack is to help sustain our appetite, and boost our energy during sluggish times.  Therefore, a snack with high utils will be one that gives high amounts of both energy and sustainability for a low amount of calories and fat.  Milk is a good choice since it contains both sugar for energy and protein to sustain us.  A donut, on the other hand, will guarantee a sugar crash, giving it low utils.

Desserts.  Utils can be defined in terms of enjoyment and pleasure.  When I decide to eat a luscious piece of pumpkin cheesecake, I think its utils will be worth its cost in calories and fat.  However, eating the dessert often will cause its enjoyment to decline, and soon the cost will be higher than its value.  Eating too much dessert will give it low utils.

I think I like this way of looking at buying and eating.  It’s simple logic.  Sometimes I make things way too complicated.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

McRibs and McMarketing

Pumpkin spice latte.  Peppermint ice cream.  Hickory Farms sausage.  The McRib.  Eggnog.  What do these have in common?  They are foods that are enticing for one big reason: they are only available at certain times of the year.

Simply put, we fall in love with these foods because we can’t always get them.  Why do I get tempted to buy a carton of eggnog, even though it’s like drinking melted ice cream?  Because I know that I can’t get it any other time of the year, and something about that makes me passionate about it.  I might even make an extra trip to the grocery store to get it.

I suppose with food, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  But I can’t help but wonder if it’s all a big trick.  I can see the marketing managers from these companies getting together and planning out ways to make us buy.  Do they know that taking something away for nine months will make us buy more in the three remaining months than we would have for a whole year?


My goal this year is to only buy what I truly like, and not what I am afraid I’ll never get another chance to taste.  It will come back next year, after all.  I don’t have to go hog-wild with seasonal temptations or I just might start resembling a hog!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Candy Candy Candy

Your kid comes home from trick-or-treating with a bucketful of candy.  As a health-conscious parent, you let them have a couple pieces, and hide the rest until tomorrow.  Then you carefully ration it out.  There’s only one problem: you have a constant candy around just waiting to be eaten, not by your kids—by you!

When I shop, I usually don’t buy candy or sugar.  What few treats I do buy usually at least have some nutritional value—vitamins, raisins, fruit snacks, etc.  I like it when my child wants a piece of fresh fruit, and gets excited when I give it.  That’s their candy.

Then comes the day when they get to go ask people for candy from door to door and come home with more than they should eat in a year.  I personally think the trick-or-treating experience is fun for them, and I enjoy taking them.  The aftermath is what I need to think through.

I am sure as the kids get older my strategies will change.  For now, I plan to ration out the candy, slowly giving less often and less amount.  I want the candy out of the house by one week. 

As for my temptations, I plan on choosing wisely.  If I am to have a piece, I will try to make the best choice.  Did you know that red licorice has fewer calories and sugar than other sugary candy?  Did you know that 3 Musketeers has less fat and calories than other candy bars?  This week may be full of candy temptations, but at least I can choose wisely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Week, My Knight

I have been working at a daily plan of eating no more than 1500 calories, but isn’t it interesting how so very many opportunities arise that attempt to thwart my efforts? 

Last week is a perfect example.  Monday went just fine, but by Wednesday I was so tired and stressed that I took liberties to eat a little more.  I needed the extra energy, didn’t I? Thursday didn’t go well in keeping calories down because I invited my inlaws over for dinner.  Who can stay good when there’s a special dinner and dessert, not to mention a very hectic day of planning it all out?

Friday was a harvest party at church with lots and lots of chocolate and a not-so-healthy dinner.  Once the dinner got me over my calories, what was the use in denying myself a piece of chocolate from huge buckets full of candy?  Saturday was another hectic day of rehearsals, babysitters, eating out, and a concert to sing in.  Sunday was a similar day as Saturday in its busyness.  And don’t forget all the trick-or-treat candy!

In short, if I wasn’t very determined I may have just given a whole week over to very unhealthy eating.  Fortunately, I have something on my side.  I have a husband who is being very supportive of my efforts and really has been encouraging me to stay on track.  He even promised me a special gift if I can keep to 1500 calories for 45 days.  He tells me it’s okay if I mess up on a day, and that I can pick up where I left off tomorrow.  Essentially, he is my knight, and together we’re fighting off my temptations.  (I guess that makes me a knight too!) 

So a big thank-you to my husband for helping me make it through a difficult week.  Hurray for the start of a new week, a new month, and a new chance at meeting my goals.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Final Month

This coming Monday will be the beginning of my final month of blog writing.  My goal was to write for a year and to get healthy doing so.  It has been a rewarding year for me, and I feel blessed to have so many friends supporting me.

Last year when I began this journey I was pumped.  I have wanted to write my whole life.  It might be my longest dream in life.  I remember telling my elementary school teacher my goal to become a writer.  She responded by telling me that she fully expected to someday see a book in her classroom with my name on it as author.  The dream has been there for a long time indeed—but producing the dream is always another matter altogether.

The other dream I have had for almost as long is the dream of being healthy.  As a child I probably called it something like “being thin” or “skinny,” but in essence I wanted to feel good and look good.  Working on these two life-long dreams this past year has been exciting, difficult, and rewarding. 

A little more than a week after I proclaimed to the world that I planned on blogging for a year, I became seriously overwhelmed.  I regretted ever promising myself that I would stick to such a goal, and even more regretted announcing it to everyone I knew!  I had only written for ten days and I was already running out of ideas.  I really thought I had bitten off more than I could chew.

I hit some bumps in getting healthy too.  But when I look at the year as a whole, I see more successes than failures, and I am rewarded with the progress I’ve made.  Seeing a picture of myself at the beginning is one way to measure how far I’ve come.  (I’m glad I didn’t delete all those unflattering photos!) 

So as I go into this last month, I have just two final goals.  First, I hope to finish in top gear and ideal eating.  And second, I hope I don’t start repeating myself or my stories. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not Too Serious

Part of being healthy is being emotionally healthy.  When I am busy, life can seem all-serious.  There is a constant list of tasks to do, and I have a hard time getting everything done if I am too casual.  So I focus, block out distractions, toughen up, and get it all done.  I might be so successful at doing this that I forget to relax and enjoy things. 

In the busy go-go-go stages, time slips by at an alarming rate, and we wake up to find that we have no positive memories of it.  Life was like that for me when I was in college.  I was very busy and stressed, and I have few memories of those hectic days.  Most memories I do have, unfortunately, are negative ones due to mistakes I made in my overly task-oriented state.  But there is one memory that stands out that is beautiful.

I was in a small choir of only 24 singers, and we spent our rehearsals in serious concentration.  The music we sang was not easy, and our director expected a lot out of us.  I liked the choir, but it was a task on the long list I had.  I really didn’t have the energy to pause and enjoy it. 

One day something different happened, though.  We were singing a song that was slightly less demanding musically, and suddenly someone started to sway to the music.  It spread throughout our entire group until we were all swaying to the beat, almost dancing to the music.  At that moment, I realized how much I really enjoyed singing.  It was more than a task.  It was more than something to check off my list.  It wasn’t something I had to take super-serious every minute.  It was fun!  That moment became one of my lasting and best memories of that time in my life.

 It is very easy to take life too seriously, to demand perfection from ourselves and from others, and to stress when things don’t go the way we think they should.  Sometimes we think we need to get away in order to stop stressing.  But we don’t need a vacation to relax or to create lasting memories.  Opportunities to dance to the music are available every day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Being Cold

It rained last weekend here in Sacramento.  It was rather a pleasant change to wake up to dark clouds and rain beating against the windows.  We turned on the heater for the first time in over half a year, and it smelled like Christmas. 

If I talk about the weather a lot, it’s because weather effects my health in many ways, from mood to energy to exercise to appetite.  Dark clouds make me want to curl up with a book and light candles.  Rain makes me avoid leaving the house.  Sun makes me want to work in the garden. 

When I lived in a colder climate, I felt cold almost all the time.  October always seemed the worst because my body was adjusting to the cooler weather.  Those days were always damp and chilly.  No matter how I bundled up with thick socks and boots, my feet were always cold.  I just could not get warm.  Wait—there was a way.  Exercise.  Whenever I exercised, I burst through that constant chill and I was warm!  It was enough to provoke me to work out rather often.

Contradicting this notion, whenever I felt cold, I also didn’t feel like working out.  I wanted to bundle up with a blanket.  I remember turning my electric blanket to high, and waiting in agony as I slowly warmed up.  Even then, my feet stayed cold.  Miserable!

It’s definitely a good thing that yours truly is now living in a warmer climate.  Still, we have winters.  We are ranging from 50s to 60s this week, a bit cool for me.  While being cold doesn’t make me want to exercise, it still provides an incentive: getting warm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Honeymoon Girl

Recently I made a photo book of my honeymoon.  It’s been four and a half years, and it’s amazing how much I’ve forgotten in that short time.  I have a series of highlights that I think about, but studying the pictures brought back many small details.

From a purely unsentimental standpoint, our honeymoon wasn’t perfect.  Merely hours after I promised to love, honor, and cherish my new husband in sickness and in health, he put my vows to the test by getting sick.  Very sick.  The stay-in-bed-except-when-needing-to-run-to-the-bathroom kind of sick.  We had to postpone our flight to Hawaii, and it cost us over $1000 to do so. 

After an afternoon in the emergency room, we managed to fly out for our tropical paradise.  When we arrived it was raining harder than rice at a wedding.  The rain persisted for four days. 

During our last weekend, the sun broke out and shined her brilliance.  My now-well husband and I grabbed the opportunity to pack in as much adventure as we could.  We went hiking to an isolated waterfall that only helicopters and hikers like us can find.  Of course the people in the choppers who passed by couldn’t actually get the close-up view we had.  It was beautiful and romantic.  Everything a honeymoon is supposed to be.

Seeing the pictures brought back feelings I had as a newly married woman.  Worry for my sick husband, determined cheerfulness at the rain, and happiness that I had such a wonderful man to spend my life with.  Another feeling I experienced while sorting the pictures—shallow as this sounds—was jealousness at the fit girl I was.  Could it be only 4 ½ years?  I suppose two pregnancies will take their toll, and the reward is worth the sacrifice.  Still, the girl in the pictures was thin and energetic.  I can’t wait until I’m there again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Special Treats

Naptime.  It is one of my favorite times of the day.  The kids are sleeping, I am able to focus on my list of to-dos, and everything is peaceful.  The first few minutes of naptime, I feel a sense of relief that I made it through another busy morning and afternoon.  I feel like I deserve something.  A treat.  Something special to reward myself and celebrate the quite peace of sleeping kids.

Just what should I have for a special treat?  What will give me that satisfying feeling of a small indulgence?

From the time I was a small child I learned that special moments must have special treats.  My family made Friday nights our “treat night,” which usually meant ice cream.  Now that I’m older, treats are still important.  More recently I’ve discovered ways to have a treat without having the calories.  Flowers, for instance, instead of chocolate.  Or a shopping reward instead of an eating reward.

Here is one important concept that I have realized about edible treats: the specialness of a particular treat depends on what I eat the rest of the time.  Here’s what I mean.  My goal right now and for the next few weeks is to eat no more than 1500 calories a day.  When naptime comes I sometimes treat myself to a cup of iced tea and a white cheddar rice cake.  It tastes wonderful.  I feel like I’ve really had a treat. 

Switch gears to a day when I’m overeating, setting no limits for myself, and indulging in any food I feel like having.  My kids go down for a nap, and the tea and rice cake don’t appeal to me one bit.  I want candy corn or something that’s really a treat!  But candy doesn’t satisfy.  Usually even chocolate doesn’t satisfy on those days.  Special things in life are only special if I don’t spoil myself.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Working Up a Do-Nothing Appetite

There is a particular activity out there, something that grabs ahold of you, sucks the energy out of you, and keeps you sitting on the couch for hours. It keeps you from doing the cleaning, it takes away the desire to exercise. It even puts a stop to your social life.

Sickness might do all that, but I’m not talking about a virus. I’m talking about a good book. Do you ever get trapped by a good book? For me, reading has much more of a pull than TV or even the internet. It’s addicting. It’s gripping. It’s the ultimate time-killer.

Before I had small children, I sometimes would use a Saturday to do nothing but read. Pleasant as those days were, I always felt a bit rotten and sluggish at the end of them. I wished that I had done something other than sit all day.

Now that I have small kids I don’t exactly have the option of designating an entire day to reading. Occasionally my husband will take the kids and allow me a few uninterrupted hours to read. Those days are blissful, but I still can feel somewhat drained after a long period of time doing nothing. It’s kind of like the feeling after a long road trip. Chances are eating wasn’t hindered, which means you have a bunch of calories just sitting in your gut waiting to be used.

My idea for these fabulous reading days is this: If I am so blessed to have several hours to sit and read, my body will appreciate it if I get some movement and fresh air before crashing for a few hours. It’s like working up an appetite for a big feast, only it’s working up a sit-and-relax appetite. It’s enjoyable to sprawl out with a book when your limbs are tired and your lungs are exhausted. Next time I sit with a book, I plan on pumping out a workout first. I won’t feel so lazy either.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do Healthy Eaters Have to Eat Salads?

I hate folding socks. Everyone probably has a chore that they hate more than any other. For me it’s matching socks. Sometimes I might even leave a stack on the bed for somebody else to deal with, especially since my husband wears socks way more than I do.

Another chore I dislike is making a salad. What a bunch of work! It’s so much easier to pour peas into a bowl and throw it in the microwave or even to stir-fry up some bell peppers (pre-cut of course). Making a salad requires me to wash the lettuce, dry the lettuce, cut the lettuce, and clean up the scraps and water mess made from the lettuce. And this is all before I have even started adding the more tedious elements to the salad, like chopped onion, tomatoes, and cucumber.

It’s fun to complain, especially if you think people can relate. Can you? Lately I have made a decision about this second dislike of mine. My decision is that I need to make salads more often. Perhaps, after all, inclination to avoid them is just laziness. Salads provide a great source of raw nutrients, the best kind. And when I eat one, I feel like I’ve really munched on something substantial.

I was complaining to my husband the other day that I have been feeling sluggish, especially in the mid-afternoons. (I really am not a complainer in anything but socks, salads, and the occasional ailment, I promise.) He suggested that I eat more salads. So I am putting lazy-complaining aside and doing it. To my great surprise, I’m enjoying it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moving Backward

I was thinking back recently of my son’s birth and the difficulties that came into our family. My daughter was one month shy of turning terrible two, and she was already proving the saying true. In preparing for our newborn to arrive, we moved Eden out of her crib and into a new bedroom a month before Lance was born. After he came along and turned her world upside-down, life went just a little crazy for all of us.

We all know babies are supposed to wake up frequently for feedings, but our two-year-old was waking up at dead hours of the night too, if for no other reason than she could. Two kids waking up throughout the night on different schedules is not going to produce a happy or healthy mommy.

One night after finally getting Lance to fall asleep around 1 am, Eden came barreling into our room around 2. And I had enough. While I can’t stand the adage, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” I think it applied in this case. Thus CHANGE occurred in the Joseph household. Eden was put back into her crib, and everyone slept much better henceforth.

The reason I bring up this story in a health blog is that I learned a lesson that can be applied in more areas than just life-with-a-two-year-old-and-a-newborn. One lesson is that it’s okay to change policy if it’s not working, no matter how backwards it might seem. Plowing ahead gung-ho might be a recipe for burn-out. Another lesson is that part of caring for others means caring for self. (If I didn’t get enough sleep, I was a lousy mom.) And another lesson, something that seems like progress might not be progress at all if it’s not working. In fact, it may just be wishful thinking.

I think about my health strategies and apply life lessons like these. Some health advise works, and some doesn’t. I may have started something that I didn’t finish because it wasn’t working. Sometimes going backward on something is actually moving forward.
Moving Backward

I was thinking back recently of my son’s birth and the difficulties that came into our family. My daughter was one month shy of turning terrible two, and she was already proving the saying true. In preparing for our newborn to arrive, we moved Eden out of her crib and into a new bedroom a month before Lance was born. After he came along and turned her world upside-down, life went just a little crazy for all of us.

We all know babies are supposed to wake up frequently for feedings, but our two-year-old was waking up at dead hours of the night too, if for no other reason than she could. Two kids waking up throughout the night on different schedules is not going to produce a happy or healthy mommy.

One night after finally getting Lance to fall asleep around 1 am, Eden came barreling into our room around 2. And I had enough. While I can’t stand the adage, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” I think it applied in this case. Thus CHANGE occurred in the Joseph household. Eden was put back into her crib, and everyone slept much better henceforth.

The reason I bring up this story in a health blog is that I learned a lesson that can be applied in more areas than just life-with-a-two-year-old-and-a-newborn. One lesson is that it’s okay to change policy if it’s not working, no matter how backwards it might seem. Plowing ahead gung-ho might be a recipe for burn-out. Another lesson is that part of caring for others means caring for self. (If I didn’t get enough sleep, I was a lousy mom.) And another lesson, something that seems like progress might not be progress at all if it’s not working. In fact, it may just be wishful thinking.

I think about my health strategies and apply life lessons like these. Some health advise works, and some doesn’t. I may have started something that I didn’t finish because it wasn’t working. Sometimes going backward on something is actually moving forward.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Bike and I

I just sold my old bike, a woman’s bike, to a man who said it would work just fine for him. Hey, I didn’t argue. Parting with it brought back memories from college, where I used to commute to school.

The setting was Portland, Oregon, and I was going back to school to get my master’s degree to become a teacher. I lived in Southeast, and I would ride my bike down to the waterfront, across the Hawthorne Bridge, and up the other side to Portland State University. I rode rain or shine. Believe me, it rained more than it shined.

The ride home was always the most difficult. There were steep hills coming up from the river and past the Ladds. These hills often required that I get off my bike and walk, especially at the end of a long day at school. I wasn’t in the greatest shape back then. One day in particular I remember it was raining hard, it was cold, and I was walking my bike, drenched. That bike and I have quite a history.

I wonder what my new bike has in store for me. I am creating a history every time I strap my kids into their trailer and tote them around. My old bike helped me to get healthy and fit. Perhaps my new one will too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Better Than a Vacation

At this time three years ago I had just given birth to my first child, just moved to Sacramento from the rainy Northwest, and had quit my job to stay home with my child.  My life slowed significantly after moving from my fast-paced life in Portland, and I took lots of walks, trying to get back into my normal state of health after pregnancy. 

Autumn walks in Sacramento are nothing like Portland.  Instead of cold, damp streets filled with fir trees and wooden houses, I was passing white stucco homes with red-tiled roofs, lazy palm trees, and an open blue sky.  I felt like I was on vacation in some tropical paradise.

Two years later, the vacation was over.  I had another newborn, an emotional two-year-old, extra fat that didn’t want to fall off, and I was missing my home in Portland fiercely.  Many areas that I had received fulfillment were gone—my career, singing, and nature hikes to name a few.  I missed my friends.  Amazingly enough, I even found that I was missing the rain (but only a little bit).

It is the tough times in life which seem to motivate us the most.  When I felt like my life was a vacation I was not terribly motivated to do much of anything out of the daily routine of caring for my child.  But when I reached an emotional low one year ago, I started to explore ways to brighten the future.  Could I reach out to my new acquaintances to make deeper friends?  Could I write a blog about getting healthy to motivate myself?  Could I join a choir to keep my singing skills honed? 

Earlier this morning I went on a bike ride pulling my two kids in their trailer.  I passed stucco houses and palm trees under a sunny blue sky.  It doesn’t exactly feel like vacation.  No, my days are much too productive to feel like that!  Instead I have the happy feeling of purpose and fulfillment.  I am growing in my new career, my new friendships, and my new environment.  And the weather is not bad either.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Recently at a well-child visit for my daughter, I asked her doctor about her weight. Dr. Hannah said Eden is average for height to weight ratio, which I was glad to hear. Since I was always chubby as a kid, I am concerned that Eden stays within the average limit. The doctor explained that the key years in a child’s growth to watch weight is 6 and 12. If a child is over-weight at these ages, most likely he or she will be over-weight his entire life.

Next I must have struck a nerve. I told the doctor about my own childhood struggle with weight, and was concerned that it would carry on to my daughter. Dr. Hannah shot down the idea completely, saying that genetics play a very small role and that the most important factor is exercise.

While I would be glad to believe her, I simply don’t buy it. I have seen too many families that have one slim child and one over-weight child, both who eat the same foods. I have seen my own tendency for extra weight, especially during times of pregnancy when I seemed to gain weight just by smelling the food. There are so many factors in weight, such as hormone level, metabolism, energy level, and even personality that stem from genetics.

I think my kids’ doctor is right about one thing: exercise really does matter. Exercise and healthy eating is the only way to fight against those unfortunate genetics if they’re tipped against you on the scale. I do like a doctor to be honest and straight-forward with me, however; in other words, don’t tell me genetics don’t matter because you think it’s what I need to hear. Genetics impact our weight, and we will work to eliminate the disadvantage.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Keep it Going

Daylight is getting shorter and those after-dinner walks are almost out of the question now.  The other day I barely managed to mow my lawn after our evening meal, and I was in almost complete darkness for the last half of my endeavor.  Yes, it was a bit patchy the next morning. 

Exercise during the darker half of the year can be a challenge.  Many people don’t enjoy going to the gym.  Darker days mean less energy from the sun, and more of a mood to sit and sip a hot drink than to be active.  Getting up early in the morning is difficult enough without it being dark, now it seems almost impossible.  Evenings are cut short too.

As the active challenges increase, here are some suggestions that will help keep us moving.  First, develop a system.  If that means going to the gym, aerobics class, or video workout, do it at the same time of the day so it feels routine.  Before beginning the workout, pump up the adrenaline with some fast-paced music.  Don’t skip the stretch if you can help it.  Stretching is the reward for the effort you put into getting up and going.  It’s the time when stress falls off and contentment sets in.  Remember you’re not sitting out in the sun much these days, so take advantage of these mood-boosting moments whenever possible.

Although it is tempting to put the workouts on hold during these months, we will be so glad later if we stick to them.  Keeping active will help curb winter weight-gain and depression, and will boost productivity during a time when we might want to lag.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just What I Needed

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I have lost 30 pounds since last January. My goal to lose my pregnancy weight by the end of this year has been going well. Unfortunately, I have not made any more progress since my last update. It’s one thing to write about health, it’s another to achieve it. I have somehow lost a focus, in spite of knowing in my head what to do.

I have been trying to discover why I have been lacking the drive to refocus. Day after day slips by, and I continue to fall short of the mark. Not enough exercise, too many calories, eating after 7 pm, not counting my calories…. I know I can succeed, I just need to get driven so I will succeed.

Recently I joined a community choir group which meets on Tuesday evenings. The rehearsals are pretty intense so I don’t have much opportunity for visiting with the soprano sitting next to me. The small opportunity to visit comes during our ten minute break. Tiara and I struck up a conversation during our break this week during which she told me she has lost ten pounds in the past four weeks. She talked about her calorie counting, exercise struggles and successes, and sometimes going off track but getting back on.

I found everything she said to be so motivating! It was then that I realized that I am in need of some outward motivation. I can reach inward and try to find my reasons for wanting to lose, and it’s important. But I also need some people cheering me on, telling me their own stories of ups and downs, and ultimately their successes.

Thank you, Tiara! You are an inspiration to me. I told her I would write about her in my blog (and she consented). I truly feel a renewed purpose since our talk.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

My husband’s family owns an appliance store, so he doesn’t always work the traditional Monday through Friday week. Yesterday he took his Saturday—AKA day off—and we decided to take the kids to the pumpkin patch.

I highly recommend doing this sort of thing during the week instead of the weekend if you can help it. There was virtually no one there, so we had a free run of the place. It may have helped to have a few kids there though. Eden didn’t have the four-year-old cousin to run around with like she did a few weeks ago when we went to Fairytale Town, so she was much less energetic. Still, she really loved jumping in the bounce castle and sliding down its slide.

While we were riding around the huge farm on a hayride, it began to sprinkle. We have had only a couple of rains since last spring, so it is slightly ironic that our outing would get rained upon. But it was warm and passed quickly, and Eden was excited with the splatters came.

The kids were pretty tired after the hayride. Let me rephrase. The adults were pretty tired. We tried to get going home, but our rather fussy kids wanted more fun, so we managed to hit a few more stations—more bounce castle, a climb up the hay ziggurat, a trip to the tomato gardens where Eden and Lance managed to each pick and eat one (I’m not sure if that’s allowed!), and a stop to pet some animals. The animals were a horse and a stray cat. (I think both kids were more impressed with the cat than anything else they saw all day.) Before we left Eden purchased a small pumpkin.

The day was fun, but hectic as all outings are with small children. I didn’t mention the trip to the bathrooms at the last minute, courtesy of our three-year-old, or the one-year-old who got a diaper change in the trunk. I didn’t mention that there was a loud pumpkin launching canon that scared both kids into tears. Nor did I mention our boy who kept running off to the other side of the farm, or our girl who thought the dirt was more entertaining that the pumpkins. That stuff is already almost forgotten, and I took tons of pictures to remember the rest.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Too Much Heat

I recently read an article about laptops slowly injuring people’s legs. A few people experienced blackened and damaged skin on the upper thighs, and they had one thing in common—they had sat for several hours each day with a laptop on their laps. These injuries were caused by moderate heat, not hot enough to burn the skin, but prolonged exposure did the damage. The damage has been found to rarely even result in skin cancer.

I love to write my blogs with my laptop perched on my lap, keeping me warm. I suppose I’ll have to start being careful, or at least make sure I don’t sit there too long. The same damage can result from heat pads. Again, I am a lover of those!

While we could really get worked up about many things that have the potential to being “harmful,” I think the lesson here is to be moderate. Just about anything in excess will have a negative effect.

When I was younger I always thought my mom worried too much. Whenever she started trying to limit my adventurous streak, I used to say, “Mom, it’s dangerous to walk down the street because you might die.” There is a healthy balance, of course. A person can be too carefree and end up stranded on a mountain or something (yes, this is an inside joke which you should understand). Then there are people who live their lives in such fear of getting cancer by this chemical or that pollutant that they forget to enjoy themselves.

My point, I suppose, is this: make wise choices daily and enjoy living.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Takes Heart

A few years ago I made a big mistake—one of those impulsive purchase kinds of mistakes. I walked into a weightloss clinic and wanted to be thin so badly that I bought the whole package—lifetime membership and everything. Two weeks into the new diet plan, I quit. I didn’t agree with half of their philosophy about food, I was constantly hungry, and I wasn’t connecting well with their “nutrition” consultants. I wanted out.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my money back. Well, I ended up getting half of it back, but in the process I lost about $300. All I have to show for that money is the conviction that I’ll never do that again!

Although at the time I felt like a martyr for losing all that money, looking back, I see my expensive experience a bit more objectively. I realize that I wasn’t completely in the right. I walked into that clinic wanting to be thin, but not wanting to put effort into it. I wanted a magic system, not hard work. So I threw the money in, thinking that would do it.

It is easy to spend money—on a gym, a diet, organic food, a personal trainer, a diet consultant—but it is the hard work that will find success. Don’t make the mistake I did and assume that money and a program will make you healthy. The programs are just tools. It takes heart to use the tools and find success with them. So while I still don’t like losing that money, at least I recognize how not to waste it again.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Free Foods

I am a huge fan of freebies.  I subscribe to a blog written by a local woman who posts great deals in the Sacramento area and online.  She often includes free stuff.  I just signed up to get Kashi cereal bars, wrinkle-fighting eye cream, and Glade air fresheners, all for free.  It has me going to check the mail a lot more often.

I have heard of some foods as being freebies.  Free foods are foods that have a high enough fiber count and low enough caloric and fat count to make it virtually insignificant calories.    

My sister Jillian is big on these foods.  Jillian has lost 153 pounds, and part of her recipe for success is to never run out of free foods.  She says she makes at least two grocery store runs a week for fresh vegetables.  They are always on hand at her house.  When she exhausts her calorie intake at the end of a day, she pulls out the free foods.  “I have a limited amount of calories for each meal.  At the end of a meal if everyone else is still eating, I can nibble on free foods,” she says.

These free foods include some of the following:

Low-calorie fruits: apples, blackberries, cucumbers, grapefruit, melon, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Low-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, squash, and watercress.

Packaged foods: fat-free salad dressing, fat-free vinaigrette, popcorn, rice cakes, sugar-free Jell-O.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Matter of Taste

Do you ever munch, and munch, and keep on munching when you are not even hungry? Many times we blame emotions or compulsive behavior on why we overeat. But there may be simple, logical reasons too. Sometimes it has little to do with emotion, and all to do with our physical reaction to food.

Our tastes buds are one of the biggest reasons we eat. Do you ever eat a salty, garlicky dinner, and spend the subsequent hour nibbling on more foods to get rid of that aftertaste? Sometimes a simple need to cleanse our palate gives us reason to overeat.

Then there’s the food-that’s-so-good-I-can’t-stop-eating-it. Lay's Sour Cream and Onion potato chips used to the have the slogan, “No one can eat just one”—and they were probably right. Foods that are temporarily addicting usually have salty and savory flavors. As soon as our taste buds get a sample, they crave more. A cleansing of the palate would be the solution here too.

See the two lists bellow. “Problem foods” are foods and flavors that may cause a person to overeat, based on after-taste or a temporary taste-bud craving. Note that not all these foods are bad foods—some of them are quite nutritious. “Solution foods” are foods and flavors that will help cleanse the palate, and to help stop the momentum of snacking.

Artificial sweeteners Apple
Cheerios Celery
Cheese Cucumber
Chili peppers Fruit sorbet
Chocolate Grapefruit
Curry Green pepper
Coffee Gum
Garlic Lemon
Milk Lime
MSG Lotus tea
Onions Mint
Potato chips Orange
Salad dressing Parsley
Salty foods Toothpaste
Soda pop Water
Spicy foods

Monday, September 27, 2010

Double the Workout

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went on a long bike ride along the American River Bike Trail. We strapped the two kids in the bike trailer, hoping they wouldn’t fight or get too bored. It’s not easy to find activities to push us physically when our kids are both toddlers, but this seemed to be working.

The trail was surprisingly beautiful. I didn’t expect much since it’s in the middle of the city, but the area is a nature reserve and with the trees it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We crossed under a freeway here and there, and watched a train go by—Eden loved it!—but it was mostly just us, nature, and a few cool bikers who zoomed past us in their skin-tight biker shorts.

We rode until we were satisfyingly tired and the kids were getting a little fussy. There was a picnic table off the road in the shade, and we pulled out our lunch. After eating and trying without success to catch the squirrel that came to visit, the kids piled back into the trailer and off we went.

It was then that I realized that we would have to bike the entire distance back to the car. It’s one thing to run on a circular track until you get tired; it’s another thing to get tired and realize you have to retrace your way back to the starting point. We were only half done! I felt every muscle in my legs and my rear end, believe me.

It actually wasn’t too bad though. I have now formed a new strategy: if you want to push yourself to go longer and harder in exercise, go on a trail instead of a track. It will force you to exercise longer. I would have stopped at the picnic table if this had been a track. Instead I got double the workout.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Keep Moving

My daughter Eden recently went to an amusement park called Fairytale Town. It was an enchanting place to explore, and she was fortunate enough to have her cousin Evan with her. Alone she would have wandered around in mild excitement at the attractions, like the moat-enclosed castle, the humongous shoe with a slide, live pigs, and pirate boat. But with Evan at her side, the two of them were literally screaming with anticipation for what was next. They ran up to each fascination, climbed, jumped, slid, and ran off to the next.

I was glad that the park had many attractions because it kept them enthralled for hours. Halfway through the adventure Eden abandoned her shoes. Apparently they were bothering her feet. It wasn’t until later at home that I saw the huge blisters on each foot. One was white and puffy, the other was raw and red.

As soon as Eden saw the sores she began to complain about the hurt. The complaining escalated until she was wailing on the couch and refusing to move. In her biggest whiny voice she proclaimed, “I can’t walk!” I refrained from rolling my eyes, having witnessed her run quite unaffectedly through the many attractions at the park.

I can’t be too hard on her because I have my moments when I nurse my wounds. It can be very easy to use this ache or that ailment to drop my active intentions. I lie on the couch sometimes, inwardly screaming, “I can’t walk!” I suppose I need a mom, rolling her eyes at my dramatics. Telling me that if I can manage to walk to the refrigerator, I can manage to walk a mile and back. Or perhaps I need an energetic cousin to inspire me to run with excitement for hours.

Eden eventually got off the couch, and within a minute or two she forgot about her owies. Even if I don’t have a coach cheering or jeering—or whatever I may need at the moment—I still can be my own coach. When I get up and start moving I usually forget the reasons I had to stay on the couch within a minute or two.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Break

I was care-free and independent last weekend. For the first time since my first child was born, I left my kids for more than a couple of hours. I flew 2000 miles away to St. Louis, Missouri, to visit with my parents and sisters.

I didn’t know what to expect when I left. My one-year-old Lance may be outgoing, but if someone other than mommy or daddy picks him up he cries his little heart out. My daughter is doing better with other adults, but she has been struggling with some other 3-year-old issues such as toilet training.

When this opportunity came to join my sisters in a trip without kids, I knew it was exactly what I wanted—even needed. Unfortunately, my husband discovered he was needed at work, and it didn’t look like it would work out. My reaction to the disappointment surprised even me: I felt crushed! Somehow I needed this trip even more than I had realized.

The answer came from Grandma, my husband’s mom. She generously rearranged her schedule to watch the kids so that I could go. (Hurray for Grandma!) All I had to do was have a good time, and not worry too much about the kids.

It was easy to relax and enjoy myself because every time I called them, the kids were happy and content. They were having such a good time, in fact, that I began to wonder if they missed me at all! But it really was a blessing, and I was able to get the much needed break.

I confess that I did not eat the best. But I am back home, back on track, and feeling oh-so-refreshed. My healthy goals are easier to shoot for than ever. Sometimes a time away is just what we need to continue the sometimes laborious path of being successful.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Five

We just lay there a few moments, too weary and cold to move. Slowly I became aware of my surroundings, the scratchy rock beneath my back, the tuft of wild grass at my feet. We were perhaps three-fourths the way to the summit.

I looked down from where we had climbed and noticed how much closer everything looked than it actually was. The trees below us hardly seemed any great distance away, but we had just expended nearly all our strength to make it from there to here.

As we gazed around, unexpectedly we saw it. Running off the ledge was a rough path. I sat up. I was having a hard time thinking clearly, and suddenly I wasn’t sure what to do. Should we take it? Would it evaporate as our previous trails had done?

In our muddled state, we did the best thing we knew to do. We stood and prayed. I simply asked God, should we take this trail? I felt a warm presence at my back, gently nudging me forward, and I knew that God had answered my prayer. I told Laura, and she said she had gotten the same answer.

Within a quarter mile of walking we spotted a small stack of rocks, balanced one on top of another. A quarter of a mile farther we saw another such formation. These were markers from some other hikers. Someone had been here. It was a real trail.

Then we saw the thing that will always make me marvel. It was a three-foot wooden post that was the only official marker on the main trail. The small trail we had found had brought us to that very spot. We had found the main trail at last!

The descent is a blur in my mind. I remember we veered off the trail a couple of times, but found our way back. After we were below the timberline we entered a mist of clouds, but the temperature was warmer. When we heard the river for the first time, I made a joke about it just being the wind in the trees. We finally saw the bridge, and then Laura’s car. We were safe.

Before leaving we took time to write in the hikers’ log the time that we returned, and added, “Trail hard to find on the way down” next to it. In the car was a delicious gallon of water and energy bars. We blasted the heater the entire 45 minutes to my house, arriving at 6:00 am.

That experience changed my life in many ways. Soon after that I moved to Portland and went back to school to get my master’s degree. I became much more active physically. My faith in God grew stronger. I pushed myself to try harder at everything.

I feel that my mountain experience taught me how to live deeper and fuller. Through it I had been forced to exceed my expectations, and my eyes were opened to vast more possibilities. I would never want to go through that night again, but I will forever say that my experience on the mountain blessed my life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Four

I was so cold I could hardly move. I was inching my way up a steep wall of sandy rock. Somewhere up there above our heads was the trail that would lead us down the mountain to safety, but I was no longer sure I had it in me to make it that far.

We no longer tried to stay together. We did what we could do, at the pace we could. Every breath was a prayer, and every step was of hope that we would soon find the trail. But doubt was creeping in. I couldn’t think straight. I was just too cold.

Unconsciously I made small goals for myself. If I could just get to the next rock or the next ledge, I could rest for a moment. Numbly I repeated this over and over, and slowly I rose higher. I had lost all sense of time. It must be one or two in the morning.

Finally I really thought I could not go any further. I clung vertically to the mountain, wishing I could lie down. My limbs were moving so slow that I almost wasn’t moving at all anymore. Up about fifty feet there was a rocky ledge. If I could just make it there, maybe I would let myself give up. This could be my last goal. I was just too cold and too tired. I would lie down and stop.

The promise of letting myself give up was enough of an incentive to make me move slowly up to that ledge. With the anticipation of being able to finally have a spot to lie down, I climbed hand and foot over hand and foot. I was vaguely aware of Laura about twenty feet below me, slowly moving as I was.

Then I reached the ledge. I grasped it and pulled myself up. I lay down on my back, heart pounding. A few minutes later Laura collapsed next to me. We had done all we could. Now it was up to God to answer our cries for help.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Three

After resting an hour or two under our blanket of evergreen branches, I woke to feel my skin crawling and my limbs shaking from the cold. It was the middle of the night and we were lost on a mountain. Ants were climbing all over my back and down my legs, but I was too tired and cold to care. It was time to get moving again. We had to find the trail.

We did not talk as we climbed again. We prayed, we concentrated on moving, and we tried to ignore our shaking limbs. Soon we were out of the protection of the trees, and the cold wind slapped us with full force.

I was getting clumsy with my movements and stumbled several times. I tried to move my arms and legs faster, trying to warm up, trying to get there faster. After a while of that I would have to stop on all fours, heaving. We needed to rest again, but there was no where to stop. We tried hiding from the wind underneath a large boulder, but there was no protection there. I was cold enough to be on the brink of hypothermia. Would I die in the cold out here? I had to keep moving. There didn’t seem to be a choice.

I don’t think I have ever been faced with such a terrifying experience. If the circumstances would have been any less critical, I would have said it was impossible for me to climb any further. It is amazing how much further we can go than we think is possible. It was one of the many lessons I learned that day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Two

Part Two

Every once in a while a person wants something so desperately that she convinces herself that she has it. I knew that if we found the river, we could follow it to our car. I stood staring at the large evergreen limbs beating back and forth and the darkening sky, and then I heard it. Rushing water. The river was somewhere near us!

I tried to convince Laura that I heard water for a good five minutes, but she didn’t buy it. She said it was the wind in the trees. I didn’t want to believe her, but slowly reason returned and I knew she was right. We were way too high to be near that river. I needed to calm my over-active imagination and think. What should we do?

I turned and looked at the peak of the mountain that loomed up larger than ever before us. Really, we couldn’t climb it again! We were way too tired. We were out of water and food. It was too cold. It was getting dark. Yet in spite of the millions of reason we had not to climb up again, it seemed to be our only solution. We had to find the trail or we would be stuck here all night.

Before taking a single step we clasped hands and prayed. Our spirits buoyed, we lunged forward to tackle the mountain for the second time that day. Up the sandy ravines, scaling the rock formations, grasping for crevices. We thought of plenty of jokes and songs to sing that seemed to fit our precarious circumstances.

The burst of renewed energy lasted about two hours. The sky was black now and we were cold. Across the horizon a perfectly round white moon torched the sky and illuminated the hills. A blanket of fluffy clouds curled around valley floor. It was beautiful.

We were too tired to keep moving. There soon would be no more trees, only the sheer mountain against the angry elements. If we were going to rest, the time was now. We made a bed out of evergreen branches and huddled together to keep warm. Looking in our pack we found that we had a small packet of Starbursts, which we shared. Then we rested.

Continued tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lost on the Mountain

This week I will tell a story of an experience I had while hiking several years ago. Each day will be another part of the story, concluding on Friday. Enjoy!

Part One

It was a beautiful September day nine years ago when my cousin Laura and I decided to hike to the top of Mt. McLoughlin in Southern Oregon. Neither of us had tried it, but we had heard good things about the 5.5 mile climb.

Being the end of summer, there was no snow but the air was much cooler as we climbed. We did not mind, since the sun and exercise made us quite warm. This particular trail was not formally maintained, but enough hikers had gone on before us that we knew when to switch back and forth. Most places on the trail gave a clear view of the summit.

After gulping down tons of fresh air and entertaining each other with some amusing conversation, Laura and I propelled ourselves up the last few steps, having gained 4000 feet in elevation. We were now at 9500 feet. We stood there on top of the world, looking out across the rolling hills. Off in the distance you could see Mt. Shasta, and in the opposite direction were the Cascades and Mt. Hood. What a glorious feeling! Truly there is nothing so beautiful than to see the vast earth at such heights.

It was nearly dinnertime and the sun was getting lower in the sky. As much as we would have liked to drink in more of this beauty, we needed to head down. Our light lunch was long gone, along with our water. Suddenly a warm bath sounded very inviting.

It was a bit more difficult to find the trail on the way down. It almost looked like a maze in places, with many trails heading off into various directions. We decided that many of the pseudo-trails were likely paths created by the snow when it had melted last spring. These run-offs made it very difficult to find our route, but we headed down in the general direction we knew would be right, figuring we would encounter the trail eventually.

The going was not easy without a trail. We had to climb over large boulders and scoot down a couple of steep sandy ravines. Each new obstacle seemed to present a promise of the trail being just at the bottom, just out of sight. But each time we were disappointed to find the trail was not there at all. Finally we stopped moving downward and began traveling horizontally around the mountain.

By this time we had passed below the timberline, and the ground was thick with fallen twigs and roots. At last, looking up at the pale pink sky, I came to a weary standstill. With the cold wind whipping around us, we finally admitted what we had been denying up to this point. We were lost.

To be continued tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Foods

Easy Thai Curry with Chicken

1 Rotisserie chicken
1 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp curry paste (Thai Kitchen)
1 Tbsp sugar (opt)
1 cup fresh basil
Lime (opt)
Jasmine rice

Pull meat from a rotisserie chicken in medium-sized pieces. Spoon a few tablespoons of coconut milk into a skillet over medium heat. Stir in curry paste. Add sugar, remaining coconut milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, add chicken, and warm through. Stir in a cup of fresh basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Season for Change

It feels so much like autumn today. Don’t you love the word autumn? It is so much better than the word fall. Since I live in sunny California, I enjoy the anticipation of the cooler weather much more than when I lived in the Northwest. Living there, I was sad to see summer go, always thinking it was just too short! Now that I live in a climate that has well over six months of warm weather, I’m excited to see change.

The air is crisp and clean. I have opened most of the windows in the house, letting the curtains billow as the breeze sweeps in. Most of the sky has thick clouds, suggesting there could be rain, although I think that probably won’t happen.

I have decorated my house in blues and browns, perfect for autumn. Maybe I’ll find some colorful leaves to display. They will have to be fake leaves of course, since the trees around here are still bright green.

During autumn I can make butternut squash soup, pull out the long-sleeved sweaters, and sip an eggnog latte. It is not uncommon to see orange lights springing up all over the place. My kids sleep longer because of the darker hours. It is a wonderful time!

Let’s celebrate the change of season! As the days get darker, our hope can feel brighter because we are on the cusp of a wonderful season. I know that it is still technically summer, but I’ll say it anyway. Happy Autumn, everyone!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Better than a BandAid

This morning as my two kids were taking baths in the kitchen sink, I suddenly heard a scream, followed by another scream and another. Then both kids were crying their little hearts out. I was standing about two feet away and rushed to them as quickly as I could. I immediately discovered the trouble. Lance, my one-year-old, had grabbed the faucet lever and turned it to hot. The poor kids were under a stream of scalding water!

After a big fluffy towel, lots of hugs, and cups of milk, both kids quieted down. They were fine, just a little stunned. So was I. Two feet away is two feet too far, I guess!

From the time we are kids, we are treated for scrapes and owies much like I treated my kids. When we’re hurt, we want attention, comfort, and food! Unfortunately, we do not always have access to a hug, and eating can pile on more hurts if it gets out of hand. So what can we do to comfort ourselves when we are in pain?

Here are a few ideas that might help if and when we get an injury and need some comfort:

Look through a photo album of good memories and people you love. This takes the mind off the pain, and may release chemicals that reduce the pain-processing areas of the brain.

Inhale green apple scent. I have read about studies that have linked a sniff of green apple to reducing pain of a migraine headache. Who knows if it works, but it’s worth a try.

Assume the best. Studies have shown that people who were told to expect pain to be mild-moderate reported less pain than people who were told to expect moderate-severe, even when the procedure was the same for both groups. (I certainly wouldn’t sign up to be a guinea pig in that study.)

Spend time with your BFF. This could be the most affective way to help with any pain, be it physical or emotional. An extra hug can change the horrible to manageable.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Refuse to Lose

Last June at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, American John Isner rivaled the French qualifier Nicolas Mahut in what was to be the longest match in tennis history. After four sets on Tuesday evening, play was suspended due to darkness. The match was tied at two sets a piece.

The final set resumed the following afternoon. During the course of the afternoon, the record for the longest match was broken. The score board became stuck on 47-47 games and later went dark because it wasn’t programmed for higher numbers. As the evening light faded, the match was again suspended with a tied score.

Play resumed again on Thursday, when at last Isner defeated his opponent. They had played 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days with a total of 183 games.

There had to be a loser, but neither man wanted to be the one who lost. These are two men who live life to win. Neither would accept losing, even after hours upon hours of a deadlock.

Tennis may not allow two winners, but both players are winners in my book. How much determination it must have taken to keep pushing, and to refuse to lose. What an inspiration. I might not have the skill to play like Isner or Mahut, but I can have the heart to try as hard as they do.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It Could Always Be Worse

There is a Yiddish folktale about a poor man who is feeling overwhelmed living in a small hut with his wife, mother, and six children. He thinks life just can’t get any worse so he goes to his Rabbi for advice. The Rabbi instructs the man to bring one of his goats inside the house for a week. A week later the man returns with even worse complaints. So the Rabbi instructs him to add a chicken. Again the man returns distraught, and the Rabbi instructs him to add the family cow into the house. The man returns completely agitated. Then the Rabbi instructs him to release all the animals. A week later the same man returns, joyful and content to be living in such a state of peacefulness.

Life is sometimes stressful and hectic, and we have every reason to feel agitated from time to time. Still, it never hurts to keep a healthy perspective of “It could always be worse” in the back of our thoughts. Sometimes I play a cheering-up game that goes like this: (Fill in the blank.) At least I don’t have to deal with _____________ or _____________.

The other day I was riding in the car with two grumpy kids, and was feeling rather blue myself. I looked out the window and saw a young man riding along the sidewalk in an electric wheelchair. He had no movement below his neck. And I suddenly felt that my troubles were very minor.

There are times when life piles up and feels overwhelming, even when we have loads of blessings. There are times when we feel down and discouraged. But it’s really not that bad, is it? After all, it could always be worse.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Dear Readers,

As of Monday, September 6, all Facebook blog posts will be dispatched through the My Daily Avocado Facebook page. If you want to keep reading the daily posts, there are a few different ways to do it.

First, you can go to and click on the word “Like.” You will become a fan and receive all blogs and posts from My Daily Avocado.

Second, you can go to and enter your email address to be sent the blog each morning.

Third, you can follow the blog on

Have a wonderful and healthy Labor Day Weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Counting Calories, Day 4: Why keeping score works

Call me competitive, but I always like keeping score in a game. There is something powerful about seeing the numbers in writing, especially when you win. And if you lose, you can show your opponent how close of a match it was, or that you would have won if the game had ended five minutes sooner. It is all there in writing after all.

I loved being a student because I’d get that wonderful thing called a report card. I was always excited to get an essay back from a teacher because if you turned to the last page you would see that little letter with a circle around it indicating your grade. Some teachers used a fat red pen, like they were shouting at you on paper. But my favorite teacher always wrote our grade in pencil. It showed he trusted us. Those small penciled letters were the highlight of my week.

Knowing that someone is keeping score or writing down a grade makes me try hard. I love to see those winning numbers, bold or quiet. Perhaps this is why writing down my calories is so effective for me. I see the marks; I am pleased with myself. I hardly ever have the heart to splurge into an eating frenzy when I know I will write down what I eat. In fact, recording the numbers provokes me to make the right choice consistently.

So why don’t I write down the numbers every day for every food I eat? It sounds like the ticket to success. I smile when I ponder that question because I really do know the answer. When I want to succeed, I write down the numbers. When I feel like throwing caution to the wind and giving up for the day, I don’t write the numbers down. So the real question is, do I want to succeed?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Counting Calories, Day 3

My husband had the day off so we decided to go to Ikea. I was looking forward to finding some house decorating items and I was surprised that Jay was so willing to go. After we arrived at the store I realized why he was so willing to traipse along. I found him in the remodeling area working on work stuff—on his day off. After he had his fun working, it took us quite a long time to make it through the maze of a store. By this time both kids and parents were tired and hungry.

We decided to make use of the in-store food court. I chose what I thought to be the most sensible item on the menu—a buffalo chicken wrap. It consisted of white chicken breast meat, wrapped in a tortilla with lettuce and shredded cheese. Try as I did later, I could not find nutritional information to tell me how many calories I ate. So I tried piecing it together.

As far as I could tell the wrap had no sauces or mayonnaise in it. It was also a bit dry. I ended up dipping it in barbeque sauce.

Chicken breast meat: 129 calories
Flour tortilla 10 inches long: 234 calories
Cheese: 90 calories
BBQ sauce: 30 calories
Green lettuce: 5 calories
Total: 488 calories

It was a bit more difficult calculating the one meatball and three fries I ate, or the four licks of ice cream I had because my daughter was letting it melt too fast. Even the calculations I did make were guesses to a certain extent.

Later on my husband, ever the internet research guru, found the calories listed for the buffalo chicken wrap off of a website from someone who claims to know. 275 calories. I guess I overestimated by a long shot. Maybe I’ll go have another one.