Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding My Fit

We have a cute neighborhood coffee shop, the Daily Grind, which has incredible dark coffees and cases full of sweets (including vegan options!) and it is just a cozy and wonderful place.  I love walking there with Liam on weekday mornings and I always envision us sitting together me with my coffee, him with his juice, people-watching, and sharing something ridiculously delicious.  It normally works out to me trying to keep him wrangled near the table without me spilling my coffee or tripping over a table leg.  We stopped in last week before browsing the thrift stores and an older gentleman started talking to me while I was putting up our dishes.  He began by telling me about a friend or relative who had written a computer program and ending up selling it to pay for college.  He kept saying that one day Liam was going to go to college and that computer science is where it’s at.  Being that Liam is only 2 (and was not doing a good job staying out of trouble) – I was trying to just be polite but ended up leaving with a lot to think about.  The moral of his story was to figure out what you want before you go to school.  He had thought about being an engineer - and before he took the steps to go to school - he sat down with 4 or 5 other engineers to ask them questions.  He wanted to know what they loved and what they would have done differently.  He said of the 5 only one was really helpful and it led him into a very interesting career as an engineer.  He said that his chosen field was limited to mostly military and government - so he didn't feel he had a lot of latitude if work wasn't around.  He words definitely struck me and I believe it is definitely something that everyone can benefit from.  

When you are a high school student, most conversations with adults revolve around college and your choices of schools, majors, minors, and all the rest.  I am sure I was asked these questions and I am sure I blew them off.  College never seemed an option for me.  I worked full time and didn’t want to think about more school when I couldn’t even think about the following weekend.  Finances were a part of it (although I know my family would have found a way if I really had my heart set) but it was more the huge decision of what I wanted to go to school for.  In my experience, it seemed you either knew what you wanted to do from around the age of 10 or you went to school hoping to figure it out on your journey.  And then there were those people who went to school and graduated only to be unable to find a job in their chosen field.  This was 10 years ago – I can only think things haven’t changed much.  So do you go to school with an idea of what you really want to do and then have a back-up plan (or 3)?  Or do you choose something you hope will still be a big field when you graduate?  It makes my stomach hurt.  How can a 17 or 18 year old make this kind of decision? 

I began working at a law firm when I was 20 and stayed there for 3 years.  I loved the attorneys I worked for and loved researching and liaising with clients (and using phrases like “liaising with clients”) but after 3 years I was about to have a baby and I realized that family law was too depressing.  I detested too many of the criminal law clients and all other kinds of law were too boring to even begin researching.  While I was busy with having two kids in 15 months, I didn’t think about work, let alone school.  Then when we were buying a house I watched lots of HGTV and I spent my waking moments trying to figure out how to make our house (and others) more perfect.  After writing the Biggest Loser program for our MOMS Club – I thought maybe health would be a career to pursue.  But then I got into this blog and realized how many great non-profits there are in my town alone.  So I think non-profit is where it is at.  One idea that has remained constant is the idea of helping. 

But non-profits are still such a wide range!  I have been researching and came across some websites and blogs (of course) and I have decided to join up with some of the non-profit groups in town.  The Humane Society of Warren County is obviously a very fitting choice for me – my Dad used to call me Ellie May as a little girl because I wanted to adopt every animal I saw.  Another group I am interested in is the FrontRoyal Women’s Resource Center.  They seem to be made up of such an interesting group of women whose goal is to help other women in all areas of their lives. 

I am looking forward to a 2012 that will hopefully send me down the right path – or at least shine some light on my options. I am ready to find my inspiration and get moving!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Life Goals

When I was in high school, a friend introduced me to the writings of Kahlil Gibran.  While his works were published during the first half of the 20th century – his words resonated with me.  And I was a teenager who knew everything.  Some of his aphorisms from Sand and Foam have stuck with me for the last 15 years.  One of my favorites:
“Words are timeless.  You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness.” 
Re-reading Sand and Foam now provided me with a different view of his thoughts and opinions.  I was no longer a teenager looking for an intellectual justification for my angst; I am now a “grown-up” and I am hoping to rediscover that which seized me when I was younger.  It seems I am now looking for that next step. What do I want to do?  I am a Mom – but my youngest is 2 and ready to take off and enter the world.  I have been casually looking for a part-time job in the evenings and weekends but there isn’t much around for someone with limited hours.  Beyond that – I want to do something. I want to act on my passions and find a way to support them and spread the word and feel like I am doing my part.  I happen to have some pretty amazing people in my life who have made choices for their lives and gone on to achieve some of their desires.

Work In Progress Gallery in SoHo
My brother-in-law John Carr is an artist.  Like a real artist.  He lives in NYC and designs for work ( and has recently been able to showcase his personal work at the Work In Progress Gallery in SoHo.  He has given us some paintings and drawings and we get to enjoy them in several rooms in our house. 

John has always been creating images and moved to New York 14 years ago to further his passion.  What an incredible feeling it must be to be great at something you love and to be able to do it everyday.  When asked about what steps he has taken to get there, John says, “Setting aside time after work. Staying focused on day to day goals is very important. A seemingly huge goal is much easier to look at when broken up into smaller ones. Accomplishments beget accomplishments, so I try to stay in that "loop" as much as possible.”  While John has encountered the inevitable set backs, he doesn’t believe it is beneficial to look back.  He has drawn on some words to remember to help him continue to reach his goals:  “You get out what you put in. Everything begins with a thought. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Just do it. Focus on the positive and let the other stuff be.”  Check out some of John's work at
My Grandma has always been able to pass on some great advice whether it was helping me through an argument with a friend when I was a teenager or helping to understand when Zac was diagnosed with autism.  What I didn’t know about her was that she had gone to college at age 48, and in nine years, while working full time, received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  It seems like such a huge undertaking – and it was!  But my Grandma knew that it would pay off in the end.  “I got very tired, but never thought about quitting – it just wasn’t an option.  I loved being in classes and found that the faculty preferred nontraditional students (i.e. old ones) because they were more passionate about learning and were determined to get their money’s worth.  My job involved working with students and their children, so being a student myself meant I could relate to them.  I wanted to be a good example.”  She had some serendipitous things happen that helped her achieve her goals and she advises, “I feel it is important to be open to the good things that come along, and to let others know if you have a need, even if they aren’t a logical person to help you – they may have the perfect answer to the problem.”  This is great for many of us who have a hard time sharing our struggles and asking for and accepting help.  

"A year from now you will wish you had started today" - Karen Lamb

My stepdad Richard set a lofty goal when he was in his twenties.  He decided that he wanted to be able to retire by the age of 48.  While he was in the Air Force, his brother Joseph encouraged him to apply for a job with the FAA.  Richard knew that he would be able to retire after 25 years with the FAA and he took extra steps to save money.  “I was determined to reach my goal regardless of obstacles. The largest obstacles I encountered were the air traffic controller’s strike in 1969 and 1981.  On both occasions I ignored extreme peer pressure and refused to go on strike.  I realized to do so would have jeopardized my job with the FAA.  My instincts were correct: several thousand air traffic controllers were fired as a result of the 1981 strike.”  I have learned from Richard that sometimes you have to make tough decisions and sacrifices in the short time in order to reach your long term goals.  He was able to retire a year early at age 47.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” – Joe Sabah

Karen Whittaker is a Beachbody Coach, Mom, Wife, Blogger . . . the list goes on.  She always has great upbeat posts on Facebook and is one of those women who just seem to have it all together.  When I asked her about goals she passed on some really great tips.  She has set up her home business as a Beachbody Coach and it has taken some adjustments to figuring it all out.  She explains:  “One of the obstacles I've struggled with is trying to do too much. I had too many irons in the fire trying to find what worked for me. Now I've settled on three main components of my business to keep it moving forward successfully, while also building on my reputation for service. I suppose this is a learning experience a lot of people go through and it's best to find these things out for yourself. However, going forward in training people who join my team, I have a six week system, weekly homework for them to learn first, then explore, and then focus. In that way I hope to keep them from getting overwhelmed.  I also struggled with setting my goals too high. I have a busy life. My husband and I have three kids, I have a full time job...I put too much pressure on myself to get to a certain level in a hurry. I am realizing now that slow and steady really does win the race!”  To learn more about Karen and her brilliance check out her blog:  Karen Under Construction and her site

Some sites to check out:  Mindbloom and The Slight Edge

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fitness Goals

If you open any magazine right now, you will read about a Great Get Fit Plan for 2012.  You are going to be healthy and full of energy on your quest to a bikini body!  You will also find articles about making goals and sticking to them (ahem), recipes that will wow, achieving the perfect night’s sleep, how to make more money, and better sex!  But let’s face it – if everyone who read the articles followed the advice and became perfect – we wouldn’t need magazines.  Success at anything requires more than just reading an article and following the steps.  There is something in you that must click before it will all work. 

I am reading this amazing book right now:  A Hand to Guide Me by Denzel Washington.  Yes – that Denzel Washington.  It has stories of being inspired by someone in your life whether it is a parent, coach, or neighbor.  It shows how much impact a conversation can have.  What a difference a little encouragement can make.  How everyone needs a push in the right direction.  Even someone with a lot of drive to succeed had a moment in their life, or someone in their life, and they had a turning point where they knew that they could do more. 

I am hoping that I am finding a turning point now.  Switching to a vegan diet has done a lot for my energy and my spirit and I am ready to move on to the next step.  My friend Jill recommended I sign up for a race or sport to foster my competitive spirit, have something to hold myself accountable (like a race date or team counting on me), and have set goals to reach for (like a training program or practice schedule).  Since I am not athletic and I actually enjoyed running three years ago (before my heart literally rebelled) I have decided to run a 5K on February 25.  Jill is going to help with a training schedule and I am so excited!

Exercise has so many benefits that it seems like a no-brainer.  Besides getting in shape physically – exercise benefits your heart and brain and your other insides.  Regular exercise helps with depression, stress and anxiety, insomnia, low energy, and so much more.  But sometimes it’s hard to get off the couch or make time in our schedules for it.  So I want to bring you some stories of others who did – set and reached their fitness goals.

My friend Andi is amazing.  I totally want to be her when I grow up.   She is a Mom, wife, Realtor®, blogger (check out The FroRo I Know), and still finds time to work out.  She set a goal to complete a half-marathon in under 3 hours and began a 12 week training program.  She had to run at least three times a week on non-consecutive days and sometimes had a hard time fitting in her long runs on Saturdays (I don't know why - she doesn't have anything else going on).  Andi realized that having a running buddy would have helped her deal with running longer than 5 miles and when asked about what she would have done differently she says, "I would have trained 4:1 intervals (4mins run, 1min walk) as this is how I ran the race and it felt great.  I would have had great running shoes from The Running Store from the get go. I would have run a few smaller races during training.  All in all I came in at 2:38 about a 12minute mile for 13.1 miles... it was a great sense of accomplishment and I will do it again next year."

My Aunt Rebecca also took on a fitness venture - in the name of charity.  She participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer several years ago.  The event was 60 miles in three days and she had to also raise $1900.  Through support with the program, friends and family, my Aunt Rebecca was able to finish the walk and raise over $3000!  "I had a pulled hamstring in the middle of my training (and in the middle of a 10 mile training walk). I learned that I couldn't slack off in my daily training and try to make it up on the weekend.  Also - on the 3rd day of the actual walk I had 4 huge blisters. I walked 16 miles, each step painful, just by reminding myself of what was waiting for me at the end -- my family!"  

My Mom is definitely someone who has inspired her friends and family in the name of fitness and health.  I remember her beginning to walk around a neighborhood track and then start to run.  She ended up taking on a job as a certified personal trainer and aerobics instructor and then was the manager of a gym.  She once led my friend and I through an ab workout when we were 13.  Our stomachs were so sore the next day it hurt to laugh!  When I asked her about goals, she filled me in on how she has kept it all up through several major set backs (including foot and knee surgery) as well as maintaining an exercise habit through busy work and family schedules.  "Training for races by setting a structured work out schedule was always fun for me and motivating.  I use a calendar to mark off my daily work outs and hate to see blank days.  If it is an intentional rest day, I will write that down."  She explains:  "All the goals I have set with fitness are not the end of the road.  It is a constant journey without a finish line.  To live a healthy lifestyle is not a set weight or single achievement.  There are ups and downs - on the scale, with time and other life issues - that one needs to adjust to. The biggest issue seems to be gaining and regaining balance. How do you measure that?"