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Exercise: Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t. However, exercise wakes my body right up, so I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.

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Faith moves

Ok. Ok. I’ve been slacking on my blog. In all fairness, I’ve had an unusually busy May with two work travel trips, Mother’s day and my birthday. May was also very emotionally draining. May served as a painful reminder that my mom is gone. I felt as though I was grieving all over again during my birthday weekend. Eventually, it passed, but it took its toll. I’m still not getting enough sleep. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up at work. I’ve decreased the duration and intensity of my workouts mostly because of my long work days. However, I did kiss goodbye my love affair with pastries, cookies, and other sweets and stopped eating them cold turkey.

I also made a monumental decision in May that is exciting and daring – my son and I are going on a week long mission trip to Haiti. When I learned our church was planning this for July, I knew I had to go to commemorate my mom, especially since July is the one year anniversary of her passing. Knowing I’m finally going to visit the island where my parents and siblings were born has eased some of my sadness from missing her. The sadness has been replaced with excitement.

Initially, I thought I would go solo, but my son, Caleb, said he wanted to go too, which surprised me…even after he learned what we would be doing. I’m really impressed that he knows the purpose of the trip is to serve and he is still all in. I’ll write more about the trip in later posts. I wasn’t completely sure how we would produce funds for both of us, but I made a faith move. We sent letters to family and friends asking them to donate on our behalf. I knew there was no turning back once I emailed the letters. We’ve already gotten some donations. Caleb is looking for a summer job to help, plus he wants to save for a new laptop.

June came with a lovely visit from my sister early in the month. What’s so sweet is she’s promised to visit us in Austin every year like my mom used to do. My mom has come to Texas more than anyone on either side of our families, which magnifies how much she supported me.

As much as I’d like to maintain some balance in my life, something inevitably comes up that tips the scales, so I have to adjust. For example, after my kids dental appointment this week, we learned one needs braces and the other needs several fillings for all the cavities in his mouth. Really?

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Sleepy head

I’ve had a couple of people say to me lately, “You must be up all night with all of your responsibilities”. I’ve paused for a moment to ponder the question, then respond with a confident, “No, I sleep like a brick”. There’s more to this story that isn’t pretty. For the hours I do get to sleep, I sleep soundly and deeply. That wasn’t always the case. I would be up in the middle of the night ruminating over the days events or worrying about various things. I think it’s a small victory that I’m able to sleep. However, I acknowledge that I need more of it. I often say that I’m chronically sleep deprived. My Fitbit goal is 7 hours of sleep per night, but I’m averaging about 6 hours…not ideal. Thursday night, I only got 4 hours and 58 minutes. I paid the price.

Yesterday, (Friday), I planned a pancake breakfast for my team. I also had back to back meetings all day. We had our team meeting with breakfast (I made the pancakes) and it was a long, but productive meeting. By 10:15am , I was beginning to feel the exhaustion. At 11am, I had a meeting with other managers and we participated in an ice breaking activity. We actually talked about what we did for self-care. Sleep wasn’t on my list at the time, but it needs to be. For the rest of the day, I literally had meetings every hour except noon and 4pm. By the afternoon, I found myself dozing off at my computer. Dare I say, at one point, I dozed off while looking up something for a staff member and SHE WAS IN MY OFFICE. It was a quick doze and sleep deprived people may know what this is like. I just had too much going on yesterday with very little sleep.

I’ve noticed that even while driving, I become very sleepy. Needless to say this is dangerous. I’ve also expressed my concern about possibly being anemic to my husband. I have a doctor’s appointment with my oncologist this month and I will share my concerns.

I love that my Fitbit shows me how much sleep I’m getting and also tracks the amounts of REM, Light, and deep sleep. Each stage is so important and impacts memory, rejuvenation, and healing the body. My husband bought the Fitbit for me for the purpose of tracking my sleep. It’s been over a year since I’ve had it and I still need to work on a good sleep plan so that I can feel refreshed.

In the selfie attached to this post, I think I look refreshed, but the truth is that I was likely sleepy. In fact, I wake up sleepy. My remedy last night after I got home was to go to bed early. I tend to awaken early every day despite the time I go to bed. Today, I can tell that I slept well, but there seems to always be a slight deficit. I’ll continue to work on my goal of getting more sleep despite all of the responsibilities in my life. In fact, I need sleep to deal with my responsibilities. I may even go back to sleep after writing this blog post. Sadly, it’ll mean I’ll miss my Saturday morning Zumba class, but sleep is a priority too.

I encourage everyone to take sleep seriously. Gone are the days of sacrificing sleep to get more done. There’s plenty of research demonstrating the benefits of sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. I want to function at optimal levels and getting enough, quality sleep will help me achieve this.

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Spicy escapade

I love to buy most of my spices in bulk from Central Market. I don’t go to Central Market often, so when I do, it’s a treat. There’s a turmeric tonic drink I have on rotation in the early mornings for its healing and detoxification properties. I ran out of turmeric. I had a stressful January. February wasn’t looking much better. On this particular day, I took advantage of being in Central Market’s vicinity and went on a spice shopping spree. Mind you, at that moment, I was feeling overwhelmed with life, but I enjoy grocery shopping. I’m the type of person that studies the sales flyers, peruses through the isles, and reads ingredients for every single item. Two communication exchanges occurred during this shopping trip that made me really appreciate the impact people have on each other.

I walked into the bulk spice section and felt slightly amused and annoyed (they were in the way of me getting my spices), watching a swarm of people navigate the bulk spice section. It was lunch time, which explains the crowd. I walked up and let my eyes scan for turmeric. I didn’t see it and the attentive worker who was managing the section asked if I needed help. I told him what I was looking for and he followed with an unexpected question: “for healing purposes or cooking?” I had never been asked such a question and proceeded to tell him it was for healing, describing my turmeric tonic. He enthusiastically told me about a type of turmeric the store started selling a few months ago and what makes it different from the other types of turmeric. He uses it too. I was intrigued and thankful that I was learning something new. A minute later, another shopper approached me and said, “I’m glad you asked about turmeric because I’m going to get some too”. I bagged a few more spices and walked out of the bulk spice section feeling a little more perky. That was Exchange #1.

I headed towards the produce section for some salad fixings. Central Market has beautiful produce. Then, a thought hit me right in the midst of shopping: “I haven’t had watercress in a while”. I discovered a few years back that not every store sells watercress. One time, I had attempted to make my mom’s Haitian soup recipe…watercress is a key ingredient. After trying several grocery stores, I found the watercress at Central Market. Here I was again, looking for what I couldn’t find. I spotted a grocer unloading lettuce. He was an older, brown-colored man with a very serious facial expression. I asked him about the watercress. He pointed and described where. That’s when I heard his accent…likely African, but from where? I tend to pick up on accents and like to ask people where they’re from. Given his stance and my mood, I decided to spare him. I proceeded to shop. Next up was lettuce. I headed right behind him and picked up a big head of organic green leaf lettuce. I was getting excited about my salad. After placing the lettuce in a plastic bag, I was headed for something else, when the brown-colored grocer, with the African accent, approached me with a giant head of green leaf lettuce. He said, “This one is bigger”, and handed it to me with a smile. I put the other head back and practically skipped out of the produce section. That was Exchange #2.

There are a few key points I take away from this shopping trip. In terms of customer service, there are people that take pride in their work and do it well. In my opinion, customer service has become a lost art over the years. I even wanted to write a book about it at one time. It’s refreshing to see that good customer service is not dead. Another point is no matter how stressful life is, you need to take time to pay attention to and enjoy the little things. And finally, we have the power to impact others every single day with small acts of kindness. So go do that.

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The boss

There’s a phenomenon I’ve been experiencing at work since becoming the boss to people who were once my peers. It’s been awkward for a few, but most have embraced it. One person on my team told me she was “relieved”. That made me smile. I don’t want to narrow it down solely to haters being haters. I’m constantly self-evaluating and self-regulating to ensure I’m communicating clearly, articulating my expectations constantly, and setting people up to succeed. Despite my best efforts, some people just don’t want to get on board. I can’t please everyone and that’s not my goal.

As I’ve been evaluating what changed for a few people since I’ve become the boss when we were fine as peers, it occurred to me that it is more so the other person’s issue, but I’m fascinated by the reactions. I do empathize because I’ve experienced being passed over for a position and it hurt my ego tremendously. Notice I typed that it hurt my ego, and by that, I mean my work persona. I used that energy to clarify my career goals and make myself better. The next time an opportunity for advancement presented itself, I was not passed over. The situation may not involve competing for the same position and not being selected, but my point is that some people allow change in others to affect them in a negative way. Some become bitter and callous when a better strategy is to focus energy on determining why the other person’s change is causing them to feel insecure and then actually do something positive to repair the insecurity.

Additionally, I think when people elevate or advance, whether that be at work or in life, some people can’t take it because it causes them to question themselves and what they’re doing. It is good to question or self-evaluate, but there really is danger in comparing yourself to others. The danger is to your own self-esteem. I know most people do it, but we need to work towards breaking the habit of comparison. I go farther when I focus on competing with myself rather than others. We can’t see all the mitigating factors that put a person where they are, so we’re at a disadvantage already.

Be happy for other people when they succeed. Your time will come. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t be callous. I’m not just saying that because I want people to be happy for me. I believe we all have our own paths to greatness and there’s plenty to go around. Sometimes the negative feelings/behaviors/energy occur because people feel left out or that there aren’t opportunities for them. Turn negative energy into positive energy and take advantage of opportunities to self-evaluate and change. Even if you determine that you’re ok, you may need to change your environment so that it’s a better fit for you.

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I’m back

No matter how chaotic my life gets, I’ve found that keeping up with my writing centers me. I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster ride at work and at home, so my blog post writing has stalled. I’m back, and if it’s any consolation, I think about writing on my blog often and the lessons I’ve learned from the week that I’d like to share. I just hadn’t had the time to actually write or is it that I haven’t prioritized writing in my long list of priorities? At work, I often talk about prioritizing the priorities. We do this daily as the demand for our expertise is high.

Writing is on my personal calendar slated weekly on Saturday mornings. I’ve simply been ignoring it to catch up on sleep, to ruminate over the week’s events, or to mentally strategize on managing a host of situations.

How could I ignore something that feeds my soul? No matter what I’m going through and what I do to cope, writing is the thing that brings me back to who I am. I don’t have to get paid to do it. It actually makes me better at the job I get paid to do because writing helps me synthesize my thoughts. Self-awareness, introspection, critical thinking are essential in my current position. Writing my thoughts, feelings, ideas, fears, joys, has helped shape me to who I am.

Due to my hiatus, I fear I may have lost some followers. I hope not and I hope to gain some new ones because I’m back on my Saturday morning writing grind, come rain or shine, or life changing event after the other.

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Gratitude 

I’ve had a wonderful time enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday being in the house with my family. For an introvert like me, it has been a slice of heaven. I’ve read, slept, cooked, and watched mind-numbing t.v. My children might feel otherwise. Unbeknownst to them, I’ve been soaking up their chatter, laughter and conversation. I didn’t host anyone for dinner this year, which hasn’t been the case for a long time.  It was just us and that was plenty. 

I’ve read countless articles on the benefits of being grateful and of expressing gratefulness  and I absolutely agree. I’ve also read passages on being grateful for all experiences, good and bad. In the past year, I’ve experienced so much (breast cancer, mom’s death, husband’s health struggles, son’s struggles in school) and I’m still here to tell you about it. I have 2 healthy children and a husband who loves me.  I’m healthy. I have the support of my family and friends. I have a job with health insurance. I have peace of mind and contentment. I can go on, however, I want to point out that wish I could turn that grateful button on when I’m in the midst of a gut-wrenching problem or one of my self-inflicted ruminating tirades. 

For me, it takes work to be grateful. In case you are one of those people rolling your eyes at what I just typed, hear me out. I believe being grateful and expressing gratitude is a practice. I have an awareness that there are some mental deficiencies in me that trigger self-sabotage and other unpleasant outcomes if I don’t keep them in check. I constantly have internal conversations with myself to lighten the atmosphere in my mind because I can “go there”.  Inevitably, no matter what perceived turmoil I’m experiencing, eventually things settle down and I can see the whole picture for what it is. 

If it takes work for you to be grateful in the midst of challenging times, don’t despair. I suspect I’m not alone. Be persistent with your positive self-talk. Surround yourself with the things and people that bring you joy and remind you why you’re grateful. Spend time alone. Let go of things you can’t control. Read books and articles on gratitude. Pray. Repeat…