creelight3720https://enlightenedsocialworker.wordpress.comI created this blog to share my journey of continual self discovery and enlightenment. I am a wife, mother, problem solving professional, and licensed social worker. I'm Haitian American, was born and raised in Chicago, and unexpectedly ended up living in Texas. Like most people, I'm complex and have many layers. In managing life ups and downs, I strive to incorporate self-care strategies into my everyday life. I've learned some hard lessons along the way that have enlightened me. I hope the tidbits that I share will enlighten others to put themselves first and incorporate self-care strategies into their daily lives.
God is the light that shines through me and I shine the brightest when I'm helping others.
2021 isn’t going to disappoint us is it? On this Tuesday, February 16, 2021, my household has been without power since 5:30 pm on Monday. This means no electricity, no heat and no hot water….no hot food, no hot tea or coffee, and no warm showers. It was cute when we were scrounging for candles amidst the sea of boxes because we’ve been packing for our move to the new house next month. We found a flashlight for which we have no batteries. We have plenty of matches. When I woke up this morning after an uncomfortable night of sleep, to say the least, it was 5 degrees. The 5 or so inches of snow that had fallen on Sunday was still frozen on the ground. This is no longer cute. We’re FREAKING COLD!
Let’s face it…Texas isn’t used to this kind of weather and we’re in for it at least until the weekend. Almost half of Austin is without power. This weather has broken 30-year old records. Growing up in Chicago, the only way the city would shut down was due to a blizzard which was rare. Here, most everything is shut down, at least on my side of town. People are furious! I’m not going to bash the electric companies and the like. My heart goes out to those who are aging, young babies/children, and those who are ill. I’m not angry…just trying to survive until power is restored.
I warmed up this morning by getting dressed in warm clothes including my winter hat and fuzzy socks. I was so pleased to catch the last bit of warm water in the pipes to wash my face. I put one of my exercise DVDs in my laptop, put on my gloves, and racked up some steps and zone minutes (Fitbit). I cleaned up the kitchen area a little after my husband, Bryan, and son, Caleb, warmed up in their vehicles. Caleb has heated seats in his car. Nice!
I’ve decided to have a positive outlook. My agency closed our offices across Texas. I generally appreciate being forced to slow down. Also, it’s almost like we’re camping indoors. Keep in mind, I’ve never been camping. We have plenty of non-perishable foods, toilet paper, water, and general necessities. I’m not worried about the fridge and deep freezer defrosting in the garage because it’s very cold out there. It’s about 50 degrees in the house. The fridge in the house is losing cool air but it’s fine for now. I can always move items to the garage.
So as I lay in bed under 3 blankets, I’m making lemonade out of 🍋s. The good news is that this will all go away by the weekend! I may have a different perspective if we have to spend another night without power. I’ll let you know how it goes.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks with packing for our move to the new house next month. I had a rough week and was determined to do some serious self-care this weekend. I did all of the things in this post except go to a farmer’s market. I also managed to get some great deals on items for the house. I’ll share all things “new house” soon.
Normally, on Sunday night, I spend a couple of hours prepping for work, but not this Sunday. I made a promise to myself to start work earlier on Monday morning. This Sunday was for self-care.
Just what I needed…a 3-DAY WEEKEND to rest and recharge. I’m taking advantage of every minute. The intensity has been high at work for a couple of months as we implement programs across the state. How fitting it is to AMP UP my self-care routine during Labor Day weekend! I’ve been working hard at work and home. I strive to be a shining example to my team, colleagues, and family of managing IT ALL while simultaneously taking care of myself. My constant reminder to my team is to “take care of yourself”.
Self-care entails so many different things, but in my blog site, I share what works for me. I like to keep it simple. I do things within my budget, if money is involved. I hope you pick up some of my ideas to create a self-care plan that works for you.
On this last Monday of January 2021, the first day of my work week, these three words have been ringing in my ears for weeks: “DO HARD THINGS”. I know it’s easy to do “familiar things” and “comfortable things” but what about “hard things”? Well, silly rabbit (nod to the Twix cereal commercial from back in the day), there’s a reason why doing hard things is hard, but there are also benefits.
A couple of months ago, I received notice I was asked to present on one of the programs I oversee at a stakeholder meeting in the last week of January…this week. Nothing unusual here. This was a task I could delegate because despite the fact that public speaking on occasion is part of my job, I do not enjoy it. I’m mostly an introvert who likes to be behind the scenes. However, I’m strong in representing my programs so when duty calls, I often perform.
There are people on my team who don’t like public speaking more than me. I decided I would do the presentation with backup. As I was reviewing the presentation content with my backup, in our discussion, I literally said ” it’s because I do hard things”. I don’t remember the exact thought that led me to say that, but she agreed, with relief. Otherwise, she would be the speaker for the presentation.
Some may look at me and think it’s not difficult for me to do public speaking because I do it well, but OH CONTRARE. I’ve learned long ago if I wanted success (as I saw it because success is subjective), then I couldn’t stay stagnate, where I was, without trying. Doing hard things doesn’t mean it gets easier over time either. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s hard every single time.
Every time I’ve done the exercise DVD in the cover photo, it was hard. In all realness, I haven’t done that DVD in a few months, but when I was doing it a couple times a week, I did it because I wanted the benefits of a stronger body. About a month ago, in my blog post “Shaking Things Up in 2020”, I wrote about my experiment with changing my exercise routine because I felt my routine was stagnate. For a while, I’ve gravitated towards “familiar” and “comfortable” exercises, but I was getting bored and no longer seeing results like I had previously.
As you embark on this new week whether it be the start of your work week, school week, or whatever, think about what hard things you will tackle. The hard things may lead you to what you’re looking for or need.
I “do hard things”…things outside my comfort zone (such as public speaking) because I want to increase my strength mentally, physically, and spiritually. My return on investment is much greater than if I decide to stay mediocre or stagnate.
If you want to excel in any area, “do hard things”. Your hard things may not be hard for someone else but that’s not the point. They have to be hard things for you and no one can tell you what that is but you.
What hard things will you be tackling this week or year for that matter?
January is the month for setting the stage for the new year. It’s the month to decide on new habits and habits to let go. I selected the word “decide” because it is a simple decision when the emotion is taken out of it. I’ve identified some things I’m going to be intentional about in 2021 (you can read about here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021). I’ve listed my goals in one of my phone apps and am still working on my vision board (completion by the end of January). I’ve identified some pictures and decorations for my vision board. I just need to put everything together.
Every January, Pastor Randy Phillips from my church LifeAustin (https://life.family/) challenges us to set the tone for the new year by fasting for 21 days. I’m not going to go in depth on the principles, but fasting, (i.e., giving up something you love for a set period of time) allows you to focus what God has done in your life and what you want God to do in your life. Abstaining from a thing, especially when you want it or are used to having it, causes you to reflect on why you’re sacrificing the thing. This is the simplest way I can explain it.
Truth be told, I’ve had a love/dislike relationship with social media for years. I love I am in contact with family and friends from all over the world. I likely would not know what some of them were up to if it weren’t for Facebook. I love seeing their updates. I love being creative with my page and posting what I want. I love sharing inspiring messages and pictures of myself and family. I love seeing inspiring messages, pictures, and comments. I love accessing all of my favorite magazines and following sites that interest and inspire me.
I dislike being exposed to hateful and thoughtless comments. I dislike not being able to control what comes across my newsfeed until I “unfriend” or “unfollow” the offender. I dislike the constant advertisements. I dislike the strong potential for comparing your life to someone else’s newsfeeds. I dislike certain posts which are triggering for me. I dislike messages of wanting more, being more, and doing more. If you’re like me…attempting to be content in this life, then social media can be a difficult place to be.
A few months ago, after about 11 years on Facebook, I decided to join Instagram which I still haven’t fully learned how to use. I’ve said numerous times I could only handle one social media account at a time because it can be all consuming. However, once I learned my teenage daughter had an Instagram account, I had a nagging need to join so I could keep tabs on her. It turns out that she doesn’t post that often, but still.
What I discovered, to my surprise, is that just about everybody I know on Facebook also has an Instagram account. Go figure! There are only a couple of friends/family I know on Instagram who are not on Facebook, so I’m glad I can keep up with them. Overall, Instagram is not that triggering for me like Facebook. But then again, I gravitate to Facebook more since I’m used to it.
While Pastor Randy was stating possible ideas of what to fast, a light bulb hit me when he mentioned social media. I had been annoyed by some posts lately, anyway. So, I decided to fast social media for one day a week through January. I’m also fasting meat consumption for one day a week. This is my second week.
The fast evolved to abstaining from social media five days last week instead of just one. I was encouraged after the first day to see how long I could go. I started on Monday thinking I would set a positive tone for my week. Another parameter I set for my fast was social media specifically refers to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I’m not sure if my blogging site is considered social media, but I didn’t include WordPress or YouTube.
Some initial observations on the first day are: *Scrolling on social media is a habit. *Scrolling is a mindless activity for my hands. *Scrolling is a mind numbing activity that can suck hours from my day.
It was on the second day I abstained from opening the app at all. I thought I would have to uninstall the app from my phone for lack of self-control, but no need when I became conscious of my actions. Another observation was fasting from more than one thing at the same time/on the same day was too much for me. On day one, I prepared my lunch as usual and included meat out of habit. I decided to change my meat fast to Wednesday. I just realized I forgot to meat fast this past Wednesday so I’ll change it to Friday. Oh well. I’ll give myself some grace. In life, you’ve got to be flexible.
Update: My fasting also includes daily prayer and bible reading.
I’m believing God for a lot of positive things in my life this year. This makes me look forward to 2021 and all the possibilities.
What are your thoughts about social media? How does social media impact your life?
Happy New Year all! One thing that’s not changing in 2021 is my love for cooking. It’s day 10, a Sunday, and here’s a TWIST… at 8:00 p.m., I made a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles for dinner. Sunday is the day where I usually put forth effort to make something a little more extravagant. I almost didn’t make the grilled cheese sandwich. I ended up seasoning my 2 bone-in chicken breasts a little later than intended because I’d spent hours packing. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re moving into our new home in a couple of months and I don’t want to wait until the last minute. I was on the fence about what to make with the chicken breasts anyway – chicken tortilla soup, a pasta dish, chicken and rice, or chicken pot pie. I can use each breasts for a different dish.
We had a wonderful Christmas at our household. In my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020 , I indicated that I would be making rib roast for the first time at Christmas. When I think of Christmas dinner, I think people tend to make something special. Well, I was NOT feeling that rib roast and it was probably the most special meat I had in the freezer, so I changed my mind. Chicken enchiladas, shrimp fajitas, and black beans sounded like a winner to me.
On Christmas day, my niece on my husband’s side visited us from her Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. She didn’t want to be alone for the holidays so she joined us in Austin. She loved my enchiladas. I was especially pleased since I rarely make them.
My husband bought a huge tub of pre-sliced vegetables from the grocery store. I don’t normally buy pre-sliced vegetables because it’s much cheaper to buy the produce and slice it yourself. However, one thing I’ve learned in 2020 is to give myself a break. Those pre-sliced vegetables made my life easier on Christmas.
My son, Caleb’s, comment after he confirmed the food was delicious: “Why did you make so much black beans?” I don’t know. I got excited I guess. They were so good. One of my goals for 2021 is to reduce my cooking portions. I have a heavy hand. I inherited that from my mom. You can read about some other goals I’m working on in 2021 here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021.
One thing I’m getting better at is repurposing leftovers. I’m proud that my daughter and I ate up that big ole pot of black beans because I hate to waste food.
It’s an American southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day for good luck. There is also a Haitian tradition to make soup joumou on January 1 as this day is also Haiti’s Independence Day from France. On the Haitian American sites I follow on social media, I could see many Haitians were preparing to make this soup. The main ingredient is pumpkin or a vegetable in the squash family. A few years ago, when my mom was still alive, I asked her if she had ever made soup joumou. I don’t recall her making it growing up. My mom didn’t know about the soup which I thought was interesting. I shared some leftovers I made with my mom and she didn’t like it. I think my aunt on my father’s side made a version of this soup. One day, I will ask her. Whatever the case, I decided to go with the black eyed peas instead. They were delicious.
After watching a few YouTube videos, I felt confident about making the Prime Rib Roast. I think I called it Chuck Rib Roast in my Fall Food Chronicles 2020 post. For my first time, it came out pretty good. I’m so glad we had a fairly small piece because it turned out to be a lot. Would I make it again? I can wait until next Christmas, maybe.
My husband loves to buy me gadgets. One day I will write a blog post of them all to share. I used the mandolin he bought me for the first time to make potatoes au gratin with our Prime Rib Roast dinner and my life changed. Why has it taken me so long to use that thing?
New Year’s dinner was special indeed. My plans for food in 2021 are to make new recipes, create new recipes, eat simply, eat more plant based, and foster a healthy relationship with food. What about you? What are you cooking up this week?
What a year…though 2020 has not been a miserable year for my household. We received closure on some very important financial matters that had been looming for years. My small family of four spent more countless hours together in 9 months than we ever have. It’s been mostly enjoyable and comforting. In an unprecedented move, the state agency I work for sent thousands of employees home with laptops in March. I love the experience of teleworking. In April I took the COVID-19 test and the results came back negative. It turns out I came down with a very bad case of bronchitis. You can read about experience in my most read posts of 2020: COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in. In August, we signed papers sealing the deal to build our new home which is an experience we’re having for the 2nd time in our lives. The plan is for this house to be our retirement home. I’ve written about these experiences all year. Thank you for being there with me as I navigated 2020. If you haven’t been there, WELL, you’ve got some catching up to do on my posts.
2020 has revealed some very ugly and unfathomable views and actions of people in America. From my perspective in my 47 years of life, this is the most politically divisive I’ve seen the country. People have gone so far as to ascribe God to a political party as if God is American and takes sides. I generally tend to avoid politics on my blog, but 2020 has shown me anything goes. I still won’t dwell on it in this post. The deaths of people who are black at the hands of law enforcement caused thousands of people (around the world) in sheer FED-UP-NESS to protest, mostly peacefully, during a PANDEMIC. Thankfully, normal, every day people are able to capture the atrocities on their cell phones; otherwise, how would we know and how would we know people are being held accountable? I’m too young to have grown up in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. While attending my all black high school in Chicago, we learned about civil rights and the works of many notable people who are black during the movement such has Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many others. I’ve seen countless video footage of speeches and protests. 2020 was eerily similar, which begs the question: how far has this country really gotten?
I feel a great deal of sorrow for all the lives lost and for those suffering. Heroes also emerged in 2020, particularly in the healthcare industry. The grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers also came through for all of us. I know people are ready to put 2020 behind them and move forward. I think it’s healthy in times of uncertainty and global unrest to shrink into your corner of the world…to the things you have more control over. For 2021, I think instead of “goals” and definitely not “resolutions”, I want to use the term “manifest” to describe what I envision for my life. I might change it but it sounds good to me for right now. I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 for a few months now and thinking about what I want to manifest. Some of it is already in process. I find that when I’m thoughtful about what I want to manifest and go as far as to capture it on a Vision Board, it’s more likely to happen. There maybe some research to support this, but I’ll save for another time.
If you have never put a Vision Board together, I think you will find that it will help divert your attention from the sorrow in the world to something that will actually be beneficial to you. Creative activities tend to have that effect. It’s also a great tool to keep you accountable and focused. It takes some planning to create a Vision Board though, so if you’re considering it, I hope you’re up for it.
You’ll need to ask yourself some practical questions and make several decisions on the following such as:
What are your goals or what do you hope to manifest?
What will you use for the board (poster board, cardboard, etc.)?
Where will you get the pictures (old magazines, newspapers, online pictures, etc.)?
Do I have enough supplies (scissors, glue, tape, poster board, glitter, etc.) and where will I get them?
When will I work on my Vision Board and when do I want to complete it?
I created 2020’s Vision Board in January 2020. I purchased most of the supplies from the Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and I used old magazines for the pictures. Of course at the time, I had no clue how 2020 would materialize. Several times throughout the year, I did review my Vision Board and contemplated progress. I even wrote blog posts about my financial progress which you can read about here: 2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole and Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In 2020, I was most successful in accomplishing financial goals. I also kept up with my exercise goals and cooked/ate healthy most of the time. There are a couple of pictures of women who signified that I would put more thought into my wardrobe selections for a more polished appearance…not that I struggled with that previously. I accomplished this goal also.
There were some things I didn’t accomplish, one of which was travel. You probably can’t tell because of the lighting, but there are two pictures of tropical beaches. My plan was for my family to vacation on a Caribbean Island somewhere. The pandemic threw that dream out the window…at least for 2020. Also, there is a phrase “care more, stress less”. I did demonstrate caring more in 2020 by donating finances to different causes I don’t normally contribute to. This was not planned or reflected in my Vision Board but 2020 inspired me to help more people when I could. However, I still need to seriously develop a plan for managing stress. In my last post, Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021, I shared some of the areas where I struggle regarding stress.
I asked my husband, Bryan, to buy a poster board for me while he was at Walmart, so I have that. I’ll probably start on my 2021 Vision Board in the next week. I’m still asking myself what I want to manifest.
I’d love to know if you plan on creating a Vision Board if you haven’t already. I know some people start early. What do you most appreciate about the experience? What goals did you accomplish in 2020?
Be proud of yourselves folks. We made it to 2021! Making it through 2020 means you can overcome anything. Well, in Texas, we still have a few minutes, but I’m counting it early. I was trying to explain to someone this morning that 2020 felt like it flew by rather quickly, yet was excruciatingly long at the same time. How could that be?
How could a year that was traumatic for so many people worldwide, be one of the best years of my life? Only God knows. There is not much I control in this world. What I can control are goals I set for myself and my attitude. Every year, I strive to be better and grow, which entails taking inventory of my life. I came up with a short list of things I’m letting go of in 2021 and I’m sharing with you. I hope my list inspires you to let go of some things no longer serving you too.
I was introduced to the book the “Bait of Satan” through my Life Group in the fall of 2020. A Life Group is comprised of a small group of couples from our church who gather for several weeks to study a lesson together. The book really opened my eyes to offense, how it manifests, and destroys relationships. The concepts are totally counterintuitive to how most people (i.e., Christians), including myself, think. This is a must read, especially if you are a Christian.
I will forgive people immediately, whether they are aware or not, and move on.
On my 2020 Vision Board, I glued the phrase “Care more, stress less”. I’ve been practicing not caring too much about what people think of me for years now. I need to work on the stress less.
I need to stop stressing over my work “to do” list. I put in ample hours. It’s a never-ending list. I will put in my daily hours and then cut it off.
I need to stop caring so much about my family having a homecooked meal every day or leftovers of a homecooked meal. I live with two teenagers and a husband who loves fast food. They don’t care.
I will instead cook smaller portions of mostly healthy meals I want to eat.
Bad sleep habits
I will not slouch around until 10:30 pm to get ready for bed.
I need to be ready for bed by 9:30 pm during the work week. Period. “Being ready” means I will have taken a shower, my pajamas are on, and I’ll have a book in hand and am in the bed by 9:30 pm…no phone or laptop.
Getting enough sleep is a cure for just about everything.
It doesn’t happen often as I’m usually very confident, EXCEPT in situations where I’m with people who I PERCEIVE are very knowledgeable. I’m surrounded by smart people on a daily basis, but it’s certain people. Time to unpack that and let it go.
Also, no more second guessing or doubting myself.
The physical weight that causes me to be overweight and puts me at higher risk for certain diseases.
The mental weight of perfectionism.
The mental weight of anxiety.
The mental weight of things I can’t control.
I’m developing a plan to be much lighter.
For not being the parent I think I should.
For not being the wife I think I should.
For not being the sister, aunt, friend, cousin, etc….I think I should.
For not doing everything everybody else thinks I should.
For taking time for myself.
I will work on more positive affirmations and self-talk and acceptance.
I’ll follow up with a post on my vision for 2021. What are you letting go of in 2021?
Cheers to another year full of opportunities, the unknown, joy, peace, blessings, and light lessons!
Today was a pretty uneventful Christmas Eve. I slept in, worked out for an hour, and watched a few videos on YouTube. Then mid-afternoon, I decided to take a nap, headed to my bed and proceeded to spend several more hours watching YouTube videos and scrolling through my social media channels periodically. I felt that my body needed to do nothing and I actually listened. My husband, Bryan, picked up pizza for dinner so I didn’t cook. After I recuperated, I wrapped the rest of my Christmas gifts, straightened up the house a little, and began preparing for our Christmas meal. It’s going to be so good and a departure from what I said I was going to cook in my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020.
Yesterday was Bryan’s birthday. We started the celebration on Tuesday, a few hours after my doctor’s appointment, rather than Wednesday. His birthday is the same day as my mom, Solange’s, who passed away 3 years ago. It was a bittersweet day. Although my mom didn’t celebrate her birthday for religious reasons, it is still and will forever be her birthday. On Wednesday, I actually forgot it was her birthday until Bryan said something indicating he remembered. His memory has greatly improved in the last year. The reason why he has a problem with memory in the first place is due to hydrocephalus.
I felt bad for a little while because I forgot it was also my mom’s birthday. I had received some news that I was preoccupied with. My sister sent a group text to my siblings and myself indicating that she was missing our mom. I expressed how much I missed her too.
I was reminded that aside from this global COVID-19 pandemic, which has many people anxious and on edge, this time of the year, the holiday season, is difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones and friends, lost jobs, have strained or no relationships with their families, and/or don’t have a lot of money to get their kids what they want, let alone put food on the table. Many people have lost their loved ones due to COVID-19.
Some messages during the holiday season are that this is the season of sharing, caring, togetherness, giving, kindness, and gratitude. But there is also loss, grief, despair, depression, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, and people who act unkind, impatient, and entitled.
It bothers me that people, including myself sometimes, lose sight of the real reason for Christmas, which is to celebrate Jesus’s birth. Jesus lived a life we can never fully live up to on this earth. Yet, there is pressure, at least depending on how you look at it, for people to spend money on gifts….a lot of money on gifts. I was at a retail store recently and to see how people were frantically looking for stuff to buy really struck me. Why do we feel so compelled to show people how much we love them by buying things?
I’m not sitting on my high horse looking down on everyone else either. I participated and bought my family gifts too, but we had some lean Christmas’s in my life where we got very creative. For us, this pandemic is a walk in the park compared to what Bryan and I have been through. In fact, our circumstances helped prepare us for it. My perspective has really shifted on what’s important in life. What’s important to me is keeping myself healthy so I can care for those whom I love and who love me. It’s also to ‘pay it forward’ and lend a helping hand when I can.
Last Christmas, I budgeted for gifts, but it was a lean Christmas. Bryan hadn’t worked in 3 years due to his health condition. The year before he did work for UPS during the season for about 2 months so we could have a great Christmas. That we did! Bryan had his first grand mal seizure in November 2019. He had another one in January 2020. My greatest lesson in these last few years is how precious life is. All of the other stuff is just extra. To be ALIVE is a blessing. To be able to help others is a blessing. I’m grateful that we had those hard times because I appreciate even more that we’re in a good place now.
My message in this post is for anyone who is struggling or grieving a loved one…cast your cares on God. I know it’s not easy, especially as you live through challenging times. Life is hard…so hard that I work to not let any bitterness or coldness settle into my heart. But if you can find one small thing to be grateful for, it will help. Praying and having people pray for you will help. It may not take you out of your situation immediately, but it will help ease the pain. And you will be better on the other side of it.
From my family to yours, I wish you a warm, bright, PEACEFUL, JOYOUS, and LOVE-FILLED, Christmas! Our gathering is usually small with Bryan, our 2 kids, and myself, so we didn’t have to make any modifications. However, I know many families are missing seeing each other. Hopefully, next year will be different. My family and friends and I have already been making plans to see each other in 2021.
I’d love to hear how you are spending the holidays. If you celebrate, what are you cooking for Christmas dinner? Mine is gonna be so good!
Just because 2020 is coming to a close doesn’t mean it’s too late to shake things up in your life and try new things. Every new year, I position myself for growing and conquering new things. I’m a constant learner. 2021 will be no different despite experiencing the worldwide struggles and pain in 2020. In November, I completed a 7-Day Vegan challenge and posted about it for the full 7 days. I immediately followed with a 1-week ‘no spend challenge’. You can read about the impetus for why I chose to do that in the post No spend challenge. I will likely do another ‘no spend challenge’ in January as I build up my savings.
Also in November, I decided to challenge myself by trying new exercises. I don’t mind exercising at home as I’ve done that for years (yes, prior to COVID-19) and have had results. I own a variety of exercise DVDs plus with YouTube, there are many free options for exercise. My goals have been to increase the number of calories I burn, reduce my resting heart rate, increase flexibility, increase my daily steps, tone my muscles, and increase muscle mass.
Since teleworking, I’ve really been enjoying YouTube. I subscribe to a few exercise channels that uplift me, but I still tend to gravitate toward the same types of exercises. My favorite is anything cardio, particularly dance. I also enjoy kickboxing, free weights, and step aerobics.
I exercise 6 days a week in the mornings before work and have done so for years. I’ve said to people many times that exercise functions as my coffee because I don’t drink coffee. Exercise perks me up and helps me feel accomplished. It’s not just a habit, but exercise is an essential part of my self-care practice. I’ve exercised for years without losing loads of pounds because losing weight hasn’t been my primary goal. Being and staying fit and healthy (mind, body, and spirit) is my ultimate goal. HOWEVER, if I’m being honest with myself, I do want to tip the scale in the weight loss direction, even by as few as 10-15 pounds.
There is so much information on the best approaches for weight loss and I’ve got to tell you, many of it is conflicting. For every article I’ve read or video I’ve seen about managing food (portions and types) as the most effective component to weight loss, there are articles/videos indicating exercise is the key. For every point of view that indicates eat less and move more, there are points of view that indicate it’s all rubbish. What about hormones? This is a strong consideration especially for women over 40 like me (I’m actually closer to 50).
What I find the most confusing is that ‘they’ claim science and research is behind it all. Though I spend a lot of time reading about nutrition and fitness, I’m not claiming to be a nutritionist or exercise coach, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt. What I do think is that people need to educate themselves and learn what gets them the results they are looking for. In this post, I’m sharing my approach on determining what works best for me.
Earlier in 2020, I found Kukuwa Fitness on Youtube and I instantly fell in love. Every time I did their African dance routines, I was smiling and motivated. It also provided me with a lot of steps which helps me reach my daily step goal. My challenge in November excluded doing my normal routines whether from my video library (except for those I hadn’t done in at least a year), Zumba Fitness, or YouTube. This meant I had to put Kukuwa Fitness on hold because it became part of my routine though I only started with them in early 2020.
For this challenge, I wanted to try exercises I had never done before mixed in with different versions of weight training and cardio. So for two weeks I tried new fitness routines.
I’ve never been flexible, but I notice I’m even less flexible as I’ve gotten older. Part of a healthy fitness regimen is to stretch the muscles and allow time for recovery. I used to incorporate Yoga into my weekly routines, but I’ve relaxed that over the years because I’ve gotten addicted to high intensity dance and cardio. I appreciated the lengthening moves in Barre. My body needed that. YouTube was my first introduction to Barre.
I enjoy strength training with free weights. I even dance with very light dumbbells at least once a week. The routine in the picture worked muscles from different angles which I appreciated. What I noticed with weight training is that I don’t get many steps. I think this is another reason why I favor certain routines – I can clock in more steps with dancing or fast walking rather than being mostly stationary with heavier weights. My Fitbit has been successful at ingraining in me the need to get my daily step goal. I need to figure out a balance because weight training requires proper form and technique. It’s not about getting the steps in. Perhaps on weight training days, I will also walk to get the steps.
Dance is my all time FAVORITE exercise and even with the variety of dance I do, there is the risk of repeatedly doing the same moves. Different moves challenge muscles in different ways. Though I’m very familiar with Latin dance as a previous Zumba Fitness instructor, every instructor has their own style and flavor. This routine was fun and effective in keeping my heart rate high and providing ample steps. Did I mention how much I love Pop Sugar Fitness on YouTube? They have a library of many types of exercises and variations.
I first came across Xtreme Hip Hop on my Facebook page. Back when step aerobics was popular (maybe late 1990s and early 2000s), I loved it. I was excited to see someone bringing back step aerobics with a new flavor. For Christmas 2019, my husband, Bryan, bought me a new step bench because I had gotten rid of mine years ago. I had talked about wanting to get into step aerobics again. Despite watching for months, November 2020 was my 1st time trying Phil’s routine on YouTube. It was fun and effective at keeping my heart rate high and providing lots of steps.
Walking is a great exercise for getting in steps. I also find walking is great as a recovery exercise. From the spring through early fall here in Austin, Texas, Bryan and I enjoy long walks and hikes on different trails several times a week. Once the weather hits below 70 degrees, such as now, I don’t like to walk outside because I’m sensitive to cold air.
I recently found a new walking platform on YouTube which helps me complete my daily step goals. I’ve added these walking routines at the end of the day. Even though I exercise in the morning, I’m still not able to get all my steps in by the evening, especially when I’m in meetings all day. A 15-20 minute walking routine in my living room led by Rick helps me accomplish my step goal.
What I’ve presented in this post are just a few of the new routines I tried. I learned the body gets very comfortable with the same old routines. It’s up to me and you to shake things up to get the most benefit from exercise, to increase fitness, and challenge the body. I have many other goals with fitness besides just losing weight.
I found that this challenge inspired me to continue to try new exercises although there are definitely some I don’t like or prefer. It’s about balance and doing routines that will keep you motivated and delivering the results you’re looking for. I hope this post inspired you to be more thoughtful about exercise and try new routines. Keep moving!
This is my season! As much as I love warm weather, I really do LOVE a change in season. I think mostly because I like transition, change, new things, and fresh ideas. Growing up in Chicago, fall has always been my favorite season. Not only are the colors outside vibrant and beautiful with the falling leaves, but there’s a crispness in the air that brings about an indescribable ummmph. It’s also sweater weather…..MY FAVORITE. I’m good with layering up as long as I don’t have to wear a coat. I’ve already had to wear my coat a couple of times here in Austin, Texas. Let’s hope not too many more times.
I haven’t posted since the week of Thanksgiving, so you might be wondering what I’ve been up to. Aside from being CRAY CRAY busy at work, I’ve been visiting our new house currently under construction, dreaming about the day we move in, giving and gifting, reading, trying new workouts, and mostly minding my business. In the midst of all of that, you better believe I’ve been cooking, though not too much on the actual turkey day.
In my previous post Thank-FULL, I mentioned that we were doing something different this year for our Thanksgiving dinner and WE DID. We ordered our food from a restaurant, picked it up, heated the precooked food in the oven on Thanksgiving day, and ATE IT UP THE WHOLE WEEKEND! AND YOU KNOW WHAT!!! IT WAS DELICIOUS! Ok. No more caps….just my excitement from remembering how much I enjoyed it and enjoyed not being exhausted from cooking. I did make 2 sweet potato pies and a big pot of mixed greens though.
What would fall be without a steaming pot of homemade chili? I decided to do something really different. I enjoy a chili stuffed baked potato on occassion, but I was very curious about how it would taste with a SWEET potato. It’s interesting because I had been craving chili and sweet potatoes simultaneously so I put them together and WHOILA! It was like a party in my mouth, especially with the added touch of guacamole. I’d do that one again. Leftover chili is in the freezer.
My mom, Solange, surprised me one time when I was in my twenties. I thought I’d tasted EVERY dish she knew how to make and ONE DAY, she layed it on me. She made pigeon peas and rice! I had never heard of pigeon peas. It was so delicious. She showed me how to make it.
I’ve only purchased pigeon peas in a can. A couple of months ago, I purchased a large bag of basmati rice that was on clearance at my favorite grocery store. This was my first time using basmati rice in the dish and it held up nicely. I think I prefer it with jasmine rice though, but IT’S ALL GOOD.
We eat a version of tacos for dinner every week. I believe my daughter, Elise, can eat tacos every SINGLE day. She loves simple beef tacos, but I think my chicken tacos are becoming her favorite. I cubed and seasoned chicken breasts, pan fried them, added onions, garlic, jalapenos and plenty of spices, toasted tostada shells in the oven, and added shredded cheese and a lovely pre-shredded cabbage slaw with red onion. Delish!
I mentioned in previous posts that I shop the sales ads at my favorite grocery stores. It’s how I maximize our grocery budget. For the last few months, I’ve been finding great sales on meat despite the fact that groceries have generally gotten more expensive. I purchased a couple of packs of steaks (T-Bone and New York Strip) and I’m so glad I did. As my normal process when preparing meat, I made a flavorful marinade and allowed the steak to soak it up for a day or two. I used my cast iron skillet to develop a nice crust on both sides, then finished it in the oven. YUM!
Since I didn’t make my dressing recipe on Thanksgiving, I decided to make some for Sunday dinner. I think I can make dressing in my sleep, after all, I’ve been making it for over twenty years. I was talking to one of my mentees about Thanksgiving prep and she mentioned that she had never made a full Thanksgiving meal herself although she’s married with children. She said that her mom has taken on the tradition after her grandmother passed away. I didn’t have that luxury as a married woman because we moved to Texas, away from our families, right after we got married, so I learned to cook all the Thanksgiving favorites.
I purchased this cookbook at a gift shop in the mall about twenty three years ago and it was been my best friend during the holidays. I’ve always gotten compliments on every dish I’ve made for potlucks from recipes in this book.
Sometimes you have a taste for fried chicken…at least I do. I don’t regret for one minute making my fried chicken wings…neither does my family.
I attribute all of my cooking to my mom. You may want to read my post Solange taught me how to cook to get more insight into what I learned from her. Cubed steak was another inexpensive meal she made when I was growing up. I rarely make it (maybe once a year), but this is what my husband, Bryan, said he wanted for dinner when I asked last weekend. In case you’re wondering, it was very tasty though Bryan thought it needed more pepper.
The secret to flavorful food is to give the meat a running start by seasoning it in advance and just letting it sit in the glorious rub, marinade, or brine for an extended period of time from a few hours to a few days. This does take foresight and planning, but it’s worth it. Bryan put this lovely roast in the crockpot last night on low. When I got up in the morning, the setting had automatically changed to “warm” but I turned it back to low and let it simmer all day. At around 4:30 pm, after my last meeting for the day, I peeled and boiled the gold potatoes and put them in a pot with garlic cloves and water on the stove. I roasted the veggies and baked a few rolls. Dinner was easy, peasy, and decadent.
I do love desserts but want to reduce my sugar intake, so I’ve been thinking of healthier versions of desserts. I’ve been craving dishes like apple crisps. I also love pears and decided to roast them with a bit of maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and walnuts. It looks dry, but when I cut into them, the pears were juicy. I served with a dollop of light whipped cream. It hit the spot!
All of these dishes have a slight twist from what I normally make. Perhaps the fall season has gotten my creative juices flowing. I’m excited about our Christmas meal. I’m realizing that I can’t think of the name of the meat we bought because it was my first time buying it, but it’s going to be so good.😁 (Update: chuck rib roast) Can’t wait to share the picture of our meal with you.
What have you been cooking up? What are your plans for the holidays? I would love to hear from you.