Mourning the end of a Chapter

Last week, I was driving along VT Route 30 towards my house, like I do multiple times every day.

One would think I was engrossed in whatever informative topic was on Vermont Edition that day, as loud voices were blaring through the stereo speakers. I’d bet you could hear it clearly from outside the car.

The sound reached my ears; but not one detail seemed to register.

Instead my mind was preoccupied with a jumble of incoherent thoughts. When at one point, out of nowhere, I snapped. Tears welled up in my eyes, and streamed down my cheeks, as they are now while I write this post, remembering the exact moment in the car when the meaning of those jumbled thoughts finally came to light.

the road to realization...

the road to realization…

I had started to reminisce in my mind about my current life, like it was already gone.

Why I did this?

It all stemmed from a decision made a few weeks ago.

A decision I thought was an easy, no-brainer, positive decision, because it is something I’m excited about, and ready for:

To go back to work part-time.

But what struck me while I was driving just then is that:

One very important chapter in my life ended: The stay-at-home mom years

And another chapter has just begun…

I thought I was a strong person; this weird feeling I couldn’t seem to shake last week took me by surprise because my whole life has been all about change. I have moved multiple times, held many jobs. Met so many different people. I thought I was the queen of coping strategies. Always just fine in the end.

But what’s clear to me now?

Transitions are hard for all of us, at any age.

I don’t recall ever thinking about my life as a book. And each major change, a chapter.

But that day in the car, thoughts moved from the excitement of starting a new challenge, to the fact that this chunk of time I had home with my son, fully dedicated to him, is now over.

And I’m a bit in mourning.

These past few years were certainly not perfect.  It was hard actually. There are so many good things about being there for your kids all the time. But for someone like me, who had always been career-minded, in control, and aware of my strengths, parenting full-time has this sneaky way of zapping any level of confidence you ever thought you had.

Strangely enough, while I never thought about my own life in chapters,  I have always looked at my mother’s life this way, and that has given me hope throughout my stay-at-home years, because she has gone through many reinventions. I have watched her morph before my eyes from a stay-at-home mom, to a student going back to get her MBA, and then to a computer sales-woman in the early 80s, selling beastly-large systems in a mostly male-dominated industry. She owned a retail business when we lived in the Newport RI area, and then became a whiz in the technology field in Silicon Valley. And just last month, she retired, and who knows what the next chapter will bring for her, no doubt there will be more.

Whenever I felt down about my worth, or productivity, or satisfaction at this stage of my life, as a woman, home with her child, reflecting back on my mom’s evolution through the years taught me:

Life today is not what it’ll be forever.

There’s still a long way to go.

Perhaps finally having the ability to visualize these chapters for myself is a sign of aging long enough to see when life patterns emerge, and also, visualize them in hindsight.

I started writing last year, because I love communicating with all of you on challenging topics, and this has been an amazing creative outlet, and has also helped combat the lack-of-positive feedback I sometimes feel when parenting, or managing the household. Making the commitment to write has also been instrumental in gearing me up for schedules and deadlines again, because I knew the day would come soon, where I would want to baby-step back into a career.

And so when I was offered this new opportunity, one I know will allow me to use some now-dormant talents but on a part-time schedule, I barely hesitated to sign that contract. I am ready to get those brain muscles working again, restore confidence I once had, but most importantly, make these positive changes without abandoning the much more balanced life I have now, or my hands-on parenting style in the process.

Is that too much to ask? I’m not sure…

This decision to return to work part-time will be a good one in the long run. It’s just a little bittersweet.

I have to think more about prioritizing everything that’s important; this will be the hardest part.

I’m scared as I think about my life now, and how it has evolved over the last few years. I hardly recognize the old me, the full-time career mom. I was so out-of-balance then, only concerned with my son and work. Today, my world has expanded. Along with family obligations and career aspirations, I have hobbies, I have likes and dislikes, and non-work issues that are so important to me.

I now also know it’s essential to look after myself; a priority that wasn’t even on my radar back then.

Regressing back is not an option.

As a perfectionist, with the desire to be great at everything I do. I worry, with one more priority in the mix:

What if I can never be great at anything…will I need to settle for just being good?

I want to be a great, present mom. One who is patient, and actively participates in activities.

a recent selfie of my buddy and me...

a recent selfie of my buddy and me…

I want to be a committed spouse, who is not just one/half of a parenting tag-team, we need to be supportive to each other as individuals, and as a couple.

I need to continue taking care of myself. You better believe I won’t be slacking off with exercise, or eating well.

I love to write, think about health, and motivate others. Will I still have the time?

and now…

I have to figure out how to do great in my new job.

Sounds like I’ll need to make some amendments to those goals I set earlier this year,  take inventory as I go, and decide what stays, what might go, and where I need to manage my time more efficiently.

Those watercolor classes I took last month were so fun, but I’ll have to hold off for now.

Perhaps I won’t learn Spanish this year.

Maybe my blog posts will be shorter and less frequent. I hope not, but it’s an option.

What about volunteering at the school? That’s so important too.

Will have to see how it all goes…

I was talking to my friend Tienne at Silverleaf Journal about this new challenge a few weeks ago, when she alerted me to the fact that I’m going to be living the dream of most women.

Really? I had no idea.

According to a Pew Research poll, most working mothers today wish they could work part-time.

But sadly, 74%  of moms who work outside the home hold full-time jobs instead; only 26%  are able to get their wish and work part-time, because the opportunities are just not there for them.

So I will consider myself lucky.

While I may still be in mourning over the abrupt end of the most significant chapter of my life so far.

And deep in thought about the changes I need to make.

I’m hopeful I can make it all work.

I’ll still strive to be great at whatever I choose to focus on; not just good.

As I turn the page and begin this next new chapter…

How do you handle your work life balance? Do you work full-time, part-time?

Or are you at home, but seeking something more? What options do you think are ideal?

Here is some additional research on work/life/mom balance I found useful, you might too:

http://www.workingmother.com/research-institute/what-moms-choose-working-mother-report

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2009/10/01/the-harried-life-of-the-working-mother/

http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2013/04/02/lean-in-carey-goldberg

School Vacation Routine for Parents

WP_20140220_038-001I went about planning this vacation all wrong.

I assumed just because it was my son’s school vacation, it was mine too.

We originally planned to meet my mother in Arizona during February break, but I had a talk with Brett a few weeks ago, when I would have had to purchase the tickets, and he said he’d rather stay home.

Winter airline travel is no picnic, and it’s expensive. I also know how much Brett likes to be home, and treasures days he does not have to rush out the door, so I said I didn’t mind. We can stay home and relax.

I had visions of day trips to nearby museums. Enjoying time outside in the snow…

But our story most likely resembles yours. It has snowed almost every day and temperatures until yesterday have been frigid. The roads have been a slippery mess and driving has been unsafe.

Nearby museums require at least an hour drive, more like two, on small windy roads.

So we have been house-bound for most of the week. And while my tolerance for enduring cold is decent, Brett’s, no matter how beautiful the snow, isn’t as robust.

If I could include a soundtrack to our most picture-perfect outdoor activities, you would hear:

ahh, the happy photo...but then...see below:

the happy photo, but then:

“Mom, my snowshoe keeps falling off”

“Mom, I put my hand in the river and now my glove is too wet”

“Mom, when do you think you want to go inside?”

He does try. But as a parent, it helps when you are both excited about an activity, not always having to force it. My patience for playing the part of the cheer-leader for our party-of-two, is wearing thin.

So while having to make the best of Plan B each day this week, at least the evenings have been fun. Like so many others, as soon as the child hits the sheets, the husband and I have been greedily binge-watching Season 2 of

it fell off again??!

it fell off again??! Can we go inside?

House of Cards.

Sometimes we’ll watch two, sometimes 3 each night.

I can stay up late, right? I don’t have to get up early, it’s vacation week!

Just like everything else I planned during this vacation so far, it sounded good in theory, but in reality?

Not what I envisioned.

Brett’s internal clock is about as accurate as the atomic clock, as he has been waking up before 7 each morning, as if for school, and because it’s abnormal for me not to be up before him, he heads straight up to our room looking for us.

This is great for my husband, because he should be up by now anyway, getting ready for work.

But me? I need a little more sleep.

I have been cranky and uninspired. And taking it out on Brett.

It took me until Thursday morning of this week, to finally remember a rule I set for myself last year, and adhere to every school day. But I forgot, I need to stick with the rule on vacation days too.

Whenever I see topics in the news about school vacations, it’s always about the big issues. Like: what do parents do with kids over vacation when they have to go to work? Or about how expensive it is to actually travel during vacation. You also hear about how kids are off routine on vacations, and then have a tough time transitioning when it’s time to go back. Sometimes there are debates about whether we should have so many school vacations at all.

But what isn’t often covered?  I’ll break the silence as so many parents are hesitant to admit they are struggling.

When kids are on vacation, how does this affect us?

The parents.

Not just with scrambling the work/daycare/camp logistics, but how do we, as parents, stay sane when our routine is compromised?

Yes, we all know we need basic requirements, like food, air, clothing, electricity, shower, etc.

But there are other important needs we all have too.  Here’s what I know about myself as I start each day:

I need time to myself.

I need a strong cup of Peet’s coffee or two.

I like to read the news and do a little writing to wake up my brain.

If someone interrupts me, or tries to ask me questions before I’m suitably ready to receive outside input: I’m impatient. I snap at them. I’m defensive.

If I start the day like this, usually my motivation and creativity that day are compromised.

So, that rule I mentioned earlier, the one I set for myself on regular school days?

It’s that I force myself to wake up at 6 am, before everyone else. I have this time to myself, to think, to write, to wake up, before waking Brett at 6:40.

When he sees me? Shiny, happy, mom.

This vacation week? I should have known better than to think I could stay up late and sleep in. It just doesn’t happen, and that’s why I haven’t really been at my best.

I have a few other non-morning, non-parental requirements that will cause me angst, and you won’t want to be around me if they are compromised including:

45 minutes to an hour of exercise

Time to talk with my husband (or at least watch a mindless show or two with him), uninterrupted each night

15-20 minutes of reading time.

And that’s it, I don’t ask for much. But at least have these needs identified, and am telling the world.

We spend so much time pleasing friends and kids and spouses, and learning what makes them tick.

But it’s so important to stop and take time to identify what you need.

What makes you happy?

What makes you irritable, or stressed?

How can you organize your day so you have the best chance of having a good one?

And remember, once you identify them, try not to take a vacation from them, unless you want to learn once again, like I did, how necessary they really are.

Last night, my husband was bummed because I declined one night of House of Cards and went to bed early. This morning, I woke up at 6 a.m. and had my coffee in peace.

And managed to get a few words written.

And was happy to see Brett when he woke up early.

This post is a little shorter than most, but you’ll have to forgive me,

I’ll adhere to my routine for the rest of the week, but my kid is still on February break, and it’s not snowing.

We may actually make it out of the house today…

.

I hope if your kids are on break this week or next, this will be a reminder to you to look out for yourself.

Do you have other suggestions on how to stay sane while home with kids on vacation? Or if not with kids, how you deal with lack of routine on vacations and breaks in general?

My Year in Writing: 7 Lessons Learned

winterriver

A year ago this week, on a snowy morning, similar to today, I nervously hit the “publish” button for the first time and shared my first blog post.

I had been writing for a few years, but my readers were a select, extremely supportive group of like-minded folks who were into talking about health. That to me was safe; everyone was always encouraging.

But opening up to people I do know? What would that be like? You have to think:

What do I want people to know about me?

How personal should I get?

What if people hate my writing?

Or disagree with me?

Or think I’m weird because the subjects I bring up like health, exercise, foods, parenting and self-image, are often unsettling.

Or what if they just don’t care at all?

But last year I was on this goal-oriented kick. I wanted to do something more challenging. And scary. My father died a few years ago, and I missed hearing his ever-reasonable advice. And so thinking about the one phrase he used to throw at me all my life, I decided writing and sharing my ideas, struggles and insecurities with friends, neighbors and family members, would be character-building. And I should just do it.

So here I am, a year later, wondering:

how the heck do you even measure character?

I’ll elaborate instead on what I think I have learned from the year, and we’ll circle back to that later…

Learning #1: Writing identifies concerns; keeps them top of mind. Sharing holds me accountable.

Are you the kind of person who loves a good challenge? Who tackles big problems head-on?

My husband is a bit like that. He’ll buy every book or relentlessly search the web until he finds answers and then develops a plan of attack.

Unfortunately, that’s not me. I’m an avoider of problems. If I identify one, I’ll think about it for a few minutes and then promptly put it out of my mind for another day. And often that day never comes.

But when you write it down, it’s different.

My biggest concerns seem to be ones that have no answer. They involve a constant balance. Thinking and re-thinking. And the recipe for success isn’t always apparent. Sometimes you think you find an answer, and then it changes on you.

How do I stay healthy over time? What if I’m bored with exercise and don’t want to do it. What if my kid is driving me nuts?What about adding back a career, how will I do this without losing myself in the process? How do I not gain weight on vacation when I want to eat everything in sight? How can I be there for my child when he needs me? How can I be happy with myself, and how I look, as I age?

See? All tough questions. But if I look back on a post where I made public resolutions. Or if my sister-in-law calls and asks about my latest fitness slump. Or if my friend stops me in the school parking lot and mentions she’s going through the same issue about too much sugar and too little activity with kids, and let’s talk. It all helps keep me on plan, and holds me accountable.

Learning #2: My motivation for fitness appears to be seasonal.

I make room for formal exercise each day, but there’s a big difference between being excited about it, and just going through the motions. As I look back throughout the past year, I can see a trend vividly in my writing. Every spring and fall, because I’d rather be outside, doing what I love best: hiking, taking photos, foraging for mushrooms, hanging around in the river and just enjoying the scenery, I start to resent strength training.

I did some research on exercise and seasonality and learned that athletes have on-seasons and off-seasons, as well as different expectations about their fitness level during each season: they have an in-training weight, and an off-season weight. And this varies sometimes by 5-15 lbs!

My take-away? I need to think like an athlete and just go with the rhythm of what I want do each season, and not worry that I’ll be losing a little strength. Going outside gives me a mental break, and that’s important And, like an athlete, I’ll just pick it up the tougher workouts again during an official training time.

I wouldn’t have identified this issue at all if I hadn’t written about it.  I know this will be tough, to adopt a new mindset, but am grateful I was able to at least identify the problem and work to resolve it as I think about the upcoming spring season. Alleviating the angst will be welcome!

Learning #3: Parenting challenges often intersect with my own, and help me grow as a result.  

I was hesitant to write about parenting concerns because I thought they were off-topic. But what I realize now is that we can’t be one-dimensional. No man or woman is. We can’t just think about work. Or health. Or our kids, in silos.

They all intersect and our needs are stronger at different times of the year, to deal with the challenges of all of them. I have found often when I work out parenting-issues I end up drawing conclusions on my own concerns in the process.

For example:

When I was struck by Brett’s sugar problem in school, it made me re-think my own foods and the activity I get throughout the day. His peanut allergy keeps us reading labels and although is a terrible problem to have, it has helped us choose healthier foods in the process. Brett’s inability to sit still and his solution, helped me find one of my own when I realized I had been sitting too much.

I could go on and on about this one! We adults, we are just big kids, and have similar concerns. It took writing about them to see this more clearly.

Learning #4: I have inspired my family. Maybe some friends too…

I’m sure a few of you have tried to have conversations with a spouse or other family member about eating well. Or starting to exercise. But nobody will ever make the effort until they determine it’s a priority for themselves.

I know this to be the case because I was like this. And I have attempted to encourage others who are not remotely interested. I have since learned my lesson and will not even discuss health topics unless they bring it up first.

Instead, I have been leading by example, building a fitness habit and thinking critically about every food that makes it into our kitchen. It has taken awhile, but my husband is fully on-board. I think his positive-health check and encouragement from his doctor a few weeks ago really helped too. It’s almost like a race now, he’s started the year in full force: making time to workout most days, even if he only has a few minutes. The biggest surprise has been his pro-active research on super-foods, and introducing them into our kitchen.

Using what I have learned in Spark, by John Ratey,  and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, I have been talking to my son about the importance of moving and exercise and spending time outside. These conversations, and reinforcement on the same subject in his health class in school is helping him pro-actively seek movement when he needs it and he is having fewer focus problems in school.

As for friends, I hope the topics discussed here have helped inspire you in some way too!

Learning #5: Personal stories are best, and sharing gets easier over time

As a writer, I’m a reader, and a consumer of many different types of media, from news, articles, other blogs, magazines and books.

There are way too many articles I click open, and the message falls flat. As a reader, I’m not engaged. Someone is speaking at me, giving advice, but they aren’t actually with me. They don’t seem to get it.

I hope whatever I write is something others can relate to, and have found the more personal my stories are, the more personal and amazing the discussions surrounding the topic. 

Once another blogger friend mentioned she gets lots of comments like “great post!” or “nice!”. While any feedback is great, I am so thankful I’m generally blown away by some of the responses, details and sharing I get from readers, and thank each and everyone of you for adding to the discussion. As much as I like telling stories, I love hearing yours too, and your experiences, solutions and the open dialog can help all of us.

Now, I don’t hesitate as much before I press that publish button. I have learned, you never know who your writing will touch, so you might as well just say it!

Learning #6: The community I have met through writing has been essential.

I had no idea when I started writing how many amazing people I would meet.

And that these people, some in other countries, some who I have never met in person, but talk at length to about similar concerns, have been essential to my life.

I learned a few years ago health is a touchy subject. Most people don’t like to talk about it, so I would keep concerns to myself. Finding a community of awesome folks like Maggie and Marlene, and Chris and Tina, Jess and Lara, and Carolyn, Angie and Tienne, oh my this is getting long, but I could go on and on and on….

They have all been essential to my thought-process, and a pleasure to know.

I’m excited in year 2 to build more of a community and add to the experience.

Learning #7: Good Health is an enabler.

Health is not something I want to think about all day long.

One of my biggest challenges with exercise has been determining that point where I can get the most, best overall fitness in the least amount of time.

And of course I want to eat well, but not too much. And we all love foods that aren’t great for us. Where do splurges fit in?

As much as people like to think staying healthy is intuitive, I don’t think it is. As we get older, our bodies do slow down. We need to adjust what we eat and how much activity we get. That in itself is easier said than done, bench-marking what we need appears to be a moving target!

Good mental health helps too. How can I be a good parent if I’m not happy with myself? If I am not participating in activities I enjoy? Or setting new goals or challenges for myself?

For once, I am not avoiding the hard topics that have no answer.

I’m writing about them. And keeping them top of mind.

And hope to set up a good system so I don’t have to think about it so much, and I can move on to just living life.

I have said many times to myself when I need a pep talk:

Good health is not a given; it’s a choice. And my choice.

Good health will enable me to fulfill all my other goals and dreams.

In my 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Yes, I’m planning to get there, and to be independent like many of the other awesome women in my family.

After all that, what do you think, did writing help me build a little character this year?

So wish my dad was still here to live it with me, as he was one of my biggest health inspirations.

Perhaps I can’t measure it accurately, but I do think he’d say yes.

Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. What do you do to keep health top of mind? If you don’t write, do you have a creative outlet that helps you stay focused?  

Thanks again for your year of support,  reading and sharing!

Lessons from my son: Fidget more, Sit Less

SONY DSC

I’m consistently awed by the wisdom I have gained from my child. And this past week, I can add more of that to the list, where his instincts were on target to solve one of my problems, while my preconceived ideas fell short.

From the moment Brett pulled himself up for the first time at the age of one, he was on the move. He has many amazing qualities, but his inability to sit still?  That is not one of them.

Or so I thought.

SONY DSC

just like Brett on his ball…1-2-3, 4-2,3-6-0, 2 1/2, 0

We were first alerted to his fidgety tendencies in Pre-k. He was constantly swaying into people’s space. Not quite able to keep in that single file line. And always a bit out of step in the circle. He reminded me a bit of Tacky the Penguin, have you ever read that book? Unlike all his penguin friends, Tacky marched to his own drum.

Brett is in third grade now, and has definitely improved. My theory is he spends all the energy he can muster during the school day trying to do the right thing, but once home, he is all over the place.

At mealtime, it’s always a challenge.

We have an open living room, dining room setup. And so when it’s time for us to sit down to eat, he’ll show up for a bite, then he’s gone the next, launching himself off the couch or scooting across the room. A few years ago I bought him a product called a disc-o-sit (nicknamed the wiggle cushion) hoping this might keep him in his chair so he could at least move and sit at the same time, and it did help for a few years until it was replaced by something even more fabulous in his eyes.

When Brett was about 6, My brother Greg visited. At the time, he recommended I learn to use an exercise ball. Inspired, I went out and purchased my own big red stability ball. But once Greg left, I didn’t really know what to do with it, and it seemed too big for me.  It promptly went downstairs out of sight, out of mind.

A few months later, I purchased a new exercise program and received a blue stability ball as a bonus.

Oh great I thought, just what we need, two stability balls taking up space downstairs!

The blue one was smaller than the red one, and Brett took one look, one jump on this thing, and the two were inseparable. Until that is, a week later he happened to bounce on the ball while holding a bamboo skewer, pointed down. In a matter of seconds, the blue ball was no more…

Brett was horrified; he ran downstairs, found the underutilized big red ball, that was actually a little smaller now, deflated from inactivity. And this has been his savior ever since, and a permanent fixture in our living room. He rolls the red ball to the table, next to his chair, while eating. He bounces or lays on it, or sways back and forth. He’ll stretch forward or hang backward. He bounces while watching movies, just hanging out talking and while listening at family read time before he goes to bed.

When friends and family come to visit, they think this is odd.

a little balancing practice...

a little balancing practice…

Why is he not able to sit in his chair?

At meals, kids should sit. When you are reading together, kids should sit and listen.

When watching a movie, shouldn’t he be sitting on a couch?

Why do you let him do this?

You must be pushover parents…

Brett and his intense need to move around and fidget are on my mind this week, as I try to solve a similar problem of my own.

Newly-inspired by the goals I set a few weeks ago, I’m finding in reality, a few of my goals cancel each other out. Here’s the dilemma: I just don’t know how to live an active lifestyle if I’m on my rear-end writing. Or learning to paint. Or learning a new language.

When I sit for long periods of time, I think about Brett and his need to move.  This must be how he feels every day: restless, uncomfortable, trapped. I feel if I sit for as long as I need to write something, or research, or study, I’ll grow roots! My legs and rear-end begin to numb. I can feel my thighs expand, soften, as I sink further and further into that chair…

Thinking it through this week, I realize there are two separate issues to address:

1) I need to maximize time spent off the chair, ensuring I’m getting the extra movement I need to balance out those big blocks of inactivity.

2) And I need to see if there are workstation options that may help me not feel so awful when I do sit down for long periods of time.

I started my search for answers, realizing immediately there’s no shortage of media coverage on the topic of sitting. I learned through many sources that sitting too much makes you die sooner, and that it is also considered by some as “the new smoking.

Then I saw an article in the Daily Beast that actually got me thinking about combating issue #1. The article recommends people incorporate a variety of squats at random times throughout the day. For example, instead of sitting around on the couch watching commercials during a TV show, get up and squat. Or take a 10 minute break at work, to get in a few more. And perhaps while waiting for a train, you might try a few more. In no time, taking advantage of these breaks can add up to a substantial amount of activity.

There is one part of the article I don’t agree with, and that is the assumption these movements can replace formal exercise: for me, that wouldn’t work. But the wheels started spinning, and I began to experiment. Not just with squats, but with lunges, and stretches and balance moves…

Here were a few places I started to add activity:

  • Lunge or Squat while folding laundry
  • Plie squat and hold while blow drying my hair
  • Random kicks while standing around thinking. That one worked well except for the time when I clipped my dog in the jaw –oops! Note to self for next time? Watch for family members before trying…
  • One legged balance poses and wall squats.
  • Squat while emptying the dishwasher.
  • Squats in the kitchen while waiting for my pan to heat up.
  • And of course, lots of static and ballistic stretches while standing.

Awesome, this will work! Now onto issue #2, assessing my workstation…

As I researched different chair and desk options, I came across the term Active Sitting.

According to Wikipedia:

Active sitting occurs when seating allows or encourages the seated occupant to move. Also referred to as dynamic sitting, the concept is that flexibility and movement while sitting can be beneficial to the human body and make some seated tasks easier to perform.

I found a variety of chairs designed for active sitters, how does one even choose? But then I came across this article in the New York Times , and had to laugh that the possible answer could be staring me right in the face.

I looked up from the computer, scanned the room until I located it off in the corner. The big red ball.

I walked over, rolled it back to my computer and was about to take a seat to test it out by my computer.

Brett caught me in the act.

Are you going to sit on my ball?

Embarrassed, I said no. Pushed the ball back over to him, and took my regular seat in the dining room chair.

I thought about the old wiggle-cushion. And the red ball. And how we used to try so hard to make Brett sit in his chair until finally giving in because we just didn’t want to fight it anymore. How is it that my kid knew he need to move, or fidget, to restore his active/sitting balance throughout the day, and was drawn to Active Sitting all along.  He found his answer instinctively, where we adults have to research at length to find the answer from supposed experts.

Adults have been making fidgety, active kids feel bad for not being able to conform to the right way, the expected way of sitting properly, when repeated evidence shows the right,  proper and expected  way, over time, is really very wrong.

Get a load of this quote I found about fidgeters, also from Wikipedia:

Fidgeting is considered a nervous habit, though it does have some underlying benefits. People who fidget regularly tend to weigh less than people who do not fidget because they burn more calories than those who remain still. It has been reported that fidgeting burns around an extra 350 calories a day.

I don’t know anyone who would mind burning 350 additional calories just by some extra movement, do you?

Perhaps it’ll look funny for all of us to be moving, lunging, squatting, standing, kicking, fidgeting, and balancing all around the house, but I think it’s a good plan to set in motion, starting now.

My son has proved to me yet again, his instincts are spot-on.

And we will once again become a household with two big stability balls floating around the living room.

Only this time we’ll know what to do with them!

How do you combat inactivity throughout the day? Are you a fidgeter? Or too sedentary? What types of lessons have you learned from your children?

I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts and please share this post. Once you are done with that, get up, stretch, and 10 Squats please!

Don’t Call Them Resolutions

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Last year I set a goal to write two posts each month, and as of 12/30/2013, I’m on the verge of not meeting my target.

Any person with a blog will tell you two posts a month isn’t exactly a strong showing. I had to alter this goal a bit too, originally I had this set at every-other-week, but unable to achieve the pace, I didn’t abandon it altogether, but changed it to two per month instead.

Next year, perhaps the goal will be 3?

I have lots of excuses this month, primarily the fact that December happened, where we all tend to get sucked into the holiday void: end-of-school year events, holiday shopping, spending time with visiting relatives. The kid is home from school, and just being  “off” the typical schedule does it every time.

But the clock is ticking…and I want to end the year on plan!

Setting goals, or Resolutions, at the New Year.

We all love to do this, don’t we?

I personally like the term goal setting,  because a goal sounds like something you can work towards. Where a Resolution sounds much more definite. To resolve something. To be resolute. I tend to shy away from any declaration of intent without wiggle-room. Nothing in my life ever seems to get resolved. And even if it did, some new problem would likely unravel in its place. Because that’s what the life of an adult, a parent is all about. For instance, you won’t find me saying something like I WILL exercise every day for ONE hour. Or I WILL NOT drink wine during the work week, or I WILL drink eight glasses of water each day. Or I WILL sleep 8 hours each night.

While these are all admirable changes people make to live a healthier life, this wish list is one bound to fail very, very quickly…

Because sometimes I only have 30 minutes for a workout.

And sometimes I just want a glass of wine on a Monday night.

And honestly, I find it painful to drink that much water and I’m too lazy to keep track anyway.

And it’s really hard to go to bed early every night when my child doesn’t even get to bed until 9. We all need time to ourselves.

Nobody is perfect. According to Journal of Clinical Psychology Study, only 8% of New Years Resolutions are actually achieved.

By setting goals to work towards, I can feel confident even if it takes awhile, I’ll achieve some level of benefit along the way, just by trying, and by declaring very publicly, to all of you, this is my intent. But because I don’t expect 100% resolution, I won’t feel the need to abandon them in disgust when I can’t keep up….

So here’s what I’m thinking for 2014 :

For my Health: Continue to make formal exercise part of each day, but focus on quality rather than time spent. I feel like I have been on auto-pilot these past 6 months with exercise, and have experienced a bit of an off-season. But I have a new fitness challenge (p90x3) that I can do at home, is not time-consuming but should keep me moving every day and interested because it’s something different and should be a challenge.

Where I really need improvement is sleep. I don’t get enough. At least a few nights per week, when my husband decides he wants to turn on a war movie or some uninspiring TV show where I know I’ll fall asleep on the couch, or be compelled to play online Scrabble throughout, I’ll pro-actively go to bed instead.

And sadly, I have enough evidence that sugar after dinner interrupts my sleep, so dessert will be the exception, not the rule in the coming year.

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As Chief Health Officer of the family, need to keep him active…

I’ll also keep up my role of Chief Health Officer on the family level, ensuring everyone else stays active and eats well most of the time. I do need to work on honing my skills as a cheerleader, but without being too preachy.

For my Family: Over Thanksgiving, when we were visiting my brother and sister-in-law and niece and nephew, we tried one little experiment: on Thanksgiving day, devices had to be put away. From the second we woke up, until about 11 am, we spent most of our time answering questions about what was allowed and what wasn’t. We finally just gave up; at least the kids were actively engaging with each other while on their devices…

I’ll have to get buy-in from my husband on this, but while home, I have noticed we aren’t much better. We need to set some device limits to get the attention back on each other. Tom, if you are reading this? We can talk about it tonight…

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Couldn’t resist putting in this photo from last week…bonding time w/devices!

For my extended Family: Be a better Sister, Aunt and Daughter. I thought when I stopped working outside the home I’d miraculously get better at correspondence. But guess what? I’m still horrible with remembering birthdays and calling and keeping in touch. It’s because I’m disorganized with basically everything except my workouts and my son, and I am not much of a phone talker. But this year, I will set up a reminder system and you will all see an improvement!

For my Girlfriends: Where are all of you??! We are all stuck in a void, being moms and prioritizing everything else.

But making time for each other? That’s what keeps us sane. I have been thinking a lot about the Four-burner stove story detailed by David Sedaris. Where each burner represents a priority.

And how so many of us turn off that friendship burner in lieu of everything else. Thanks Jen at and yadda yadda yadda..I made alliyah, for alerting me to this concept earlier this year. I’m here if you are, and maybe I won’t chat for hours on the phone, but will be in touch and hope to see you all in person this year! I want to keep that burner going for years and years and years…

For Personal Improvement: A few years ago, I went on this kick where I forced myself to try activities I thought I would always dislike. I wrote about that here.  This was a great motivator, because I found out I truly didn’t dislike many of these activities, I was just either too lazy or unmotivated to work at learning something new. Over the last few months I took my eye off this target, but want to bring it back.

I’m going to start by taking my friend Lynn’s watercolor class, anyone want to join me?

I’m going to ski more with my son this winter.

And after visiting with my step-daughter Brooke and her husband Wilson, I realized I really should learn Spanish. Wilson is from Ecuador, and while I don’t think I need to be fluent, there is no reason in the world that I should not at least attempt to learn some of the language. I stopped myself mid-sentence as I explained “But I don’t speak Spanish…” and thought to myself, this excuse does not fly, it’s never too late to learn…

Writing has been great for me, and I’m proud even if I’m not as prolific with my posts as others, this has been a great discipline to keep me focused throughout the year. Being “fit” to me does not just define what physical shape I’m in. It defines whether I’m a fit parent. A fit friend. Being fit can define happiness, and satisfaction. It’s a general state of being. And reflecting here every few weeks helps me see if I’m on the right track.

Whether I can make it to 3 posts per month next year? I’ll think about it…

Goal setting experts will probably say there are way too many items on this list.

But I’ll keep them all there anyway, because they are all items I aspire to achieve.

I’m not expecting 100%, just progress…

Because these are goals remember, do not call them Resolutions!

And by the way, writing this post? I just met my 2013 target…

Do you set goals each year? How do you judge success? Do you have a tough time keeping them top-of-mind? Would love to hear your stories and input!  And Happy New Year!

My Year-end Health Report Card

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It’s really great that I set doctors appointments a year in advance, because it means I won’t forget to call and make appointments.

But then, a year later, I am horrified when these appointments pop up unexpectedly on my Outlook calendar at the most aggravating times.

For some reason, all of them seem to come in a big wave at the end of the year.

And it causes me a lot of anxiety.

When I was younger, I took my good immune system for granted. I would go to an appointment and expect everything would be ok. And it was.

I remember when first out of college and well into my first career job with health benefits, laughing about the fact they really weren’t benefits at all, because I never used them.  I would go years sometimes between appointments with no repercussions. I guess I was one of those snarky kids Obama is trying to get to sign up for the new health plan to pay for the rest of us. Back then I thought I was invincible.

Never a cavity. No glasses. Normal height. Normal Weight. No broken bones. Not high-risk for anything too odd.  Normal, normal, normal…

But then a few years ago, something changed.

It’s like as soon as you turn 40, suddenly, even if healthy, you start getting the call-backs.

It started with my first call-back after a mammogram, that left me anxious for a good month, as I had to come back in for an ultrasound and then wait for results. Then for the first time in my life last year I had a call back after a Ob-Gyn visit, that resulted in a follow-up, something called a colposcopy that was pretty horrible. Even the hygienist at the Dentist’s office last year had me worried when she thought my gums looked a little blotchy.

What could that be? What am I doing wrong? Why am I falling apart? I began to wonder…

So now, in 2013, I don’t take normal for granted anymore and I’m please to say, so far so good!

I have two down already, Ob-Gyn last month, where I just received a letter in the mail saying I’m A-OK for now (happy dance!). And I just received a  thumbs up from the Dentist on Monday. Although I don’t think I did anything different this year, they told me I somehow stepped up my game.

The last reminder just popped up on the calendar when I logged in this week:  The Yearly Physical.

Typically the yearly physical is where I shine. I’m highly aware of everything I eat. I treat exercise like my career. My doctor, who likely spends all day warning people that they need to stop eating fast food and soda and start walking every day, or at least getting up from their computers once in a while, looks at me and says “don’t change a thing!”.

His only recommendation last year? Take a Vitamin D tablet, because in Vermont, we get no sun.

But the part that drives my anxiety sky high, is something you would never, ever guess.

It’s that I absolutely, positively, detest numbers.

And when I get that end of year report card from my physical, showing all my numbers–normal or not–they drive me into a highly-competitive state.

I suspect this is on account of my career as a marketer. If a number ever crosses my path, it gets swept up into a pivot table in Excel and sliced and diced 20 different ways, categorized and analyzed over time. And if there is any variation at all, I’m awake at night thinking about why, how and what if?

And the worst number of all for me is that silly one every doctor takes as soon as you walk through the door.

The one you get when you step on a scale.

Over the last two years, knowing my obsessive behavior in response to numbers, I have been working hard to rid my life of them. I had used calorie counting for a few years and stopped. At one point I micro-managed my nutrient intake (and yes, there was a way-too-detailed pivot-table involved) to ensure all my numbers were where they should be: protein, carbs, fat, sugar, sodium, etc…but eventually stopped.

And about 2 years ago, I unceremoniously relegated the bathroom scale to the downstairs closet. Because any fluctuation in my weight would make me think I need to bring back all the numbers to manage it. And I don’t want that anymore. Adopting the if-the-clothing-still-fits attitude seems to work well for me.

But when you go to the Doctors office, you can’t avoid it.

When I visited the Ob-Gyn a few months ago, although I felt slightly dumb, I asked the nurse if she would mind if I turned around so I couldn’t see the number on the scale, and asked her not to tell me. She was ok with it.  But with a yearly exam, I’m not sure that’ll work, because BMI, body mass index, your height and weight ratio, is all anyone really seems to care about. My husband actually told me yesterday they had a meeting about changes in the health insurance, and that BMI was now going to be tracked for our health plan from now on.

So the anxiety has started in anticipation of learning for a fact what I know in my mind already: that I have gained a few pounds.

Even though I know I’m ok. I’m healthy.

And that fluctuation is normal.

I’m going to have to turn on every coping skill I possess to keep this knowledge from driving me numbers-crazy once again.  But I’ll also be proud I didn’t let my appointments lapse, and that I do not take my health for granted like I used to do when I was a younger adult.

Every year now I get my health report card:  if anything does go wrong, we catch it early and then hopefully move on.

At least until next year, when I start to see those new appointments pop back up on the calendar, and the worrying cycle begins once more…

Do you find Doctors appointments make you anxious? Do you keep up with all your appointments now, or do you need to get better at that? Would love to hear your stories and discussion…

Rethinking Thanksgiving Traditions

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In a few days we’ll be trading leaf-bare Maples for Palm Trees.

And we will be leaving the jackets in the car at Albany Park & Fly; they won’t be needed.

Instead of rolling in leaf piles, the kids will be swimming in the pool. Splashing. Laughing.

On morning walks we won’t be shivering, or stomping through frost-covered grass and dried out goldenrod, surrounded by silence, and perhaps a few crow calls. And no need to check for ticks after we come inside. Instead we may be walking along the Bayshore. Sun beating down on us. Other walkers, and runners, dogs, and cars streaming past. We will look out over the bay, to the city skyline. Then turn to look the other way, and we’ll admire the beautiful homes, flowers and landscapes, one after another lining the street.

So different, in every way, from home in Vermont.

my niece with an anole!

my niece with an anole!

When the sun comes up, the little lizards, anoles, will be out. The kids will be on the lookout. Chase them down and in the case of my son Brett, who still has one for a pet from last year, perhaps if he’s fast enough, he can catch one.

Then there is the annual ladies day in Hyde Park, spent primarily at Anthropologie, maybe then to Williams-Sonoma for a last-minute gadget for the big feast, and then out to lunch and coffee with my mom and sister-in-law Brooke. This takes place while the kids, my husband and brother Greg take Brett, Jake and Anna on an adventure. This year, Tom has booked a Dad/ kid guided fishing trip.

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my nephew Jake fishing last year…

While my mom and I catch up all the time, Brooke and I don’t get to talk at length as much during the year, and this girls-day is one of our valued times to reconnect. To really talk. About everything. This is a day I now think about often throughout the year while at home, and anticipate, as that once a year treat.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Florida  is a rather new tradition, as of the past few years.

Although I traveled often for work over the years, whenever I had visited Florida, I just remembered highways, shopping centers, tourist traps and convention centers.  But when my brother and his family moved to the Tampa area for work a few years ago, and I visited for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised.

The trees were all really cool. Sprawling. Huge. I had expected all the homes to be cookie-cutter planned developments but they are the opposite.  Each home in the neighborhood seemed unique in it’s own way. And it was warm! I love Vermont but after the fall leaves turn brown, and since we don’t even get much snow anymore, the late Fall through Winter time-frame, I can take or leave….

trading in the down coat for short sleeves and shorts...

trading in the down coat for short sleeves and shorts…

I grew up in Rhode Island, and remember Thanksgiving as being relatively traditional. At least in the sense that it was cold outside, and when I looked out the window, what I felt and saw: the cold, after-the-harvest look of the fields and trees, was probably similar enough to what the Pilgrims felt in nearby Massachusetts.

My parents moved to California in the mid-90s, while my brother Ken was in Minnesota, Greg moved around often, and I stayed on the East Coast. Thanksgiving became our time to get together; and as California became the new destination, we had to rethink our definition of what a traditional Thanksgiving might look like. It felt odd at first to be experiencing mild weather at this time of year. And instead of spending most of the time outside, we would see the sites: The CA Academy or Science, the Aquarium, The Zoo, Alcatraz, the Airplane museum. And endure endless traffic.

But many years have since passed. We all have families and complications with school vacations, conflicting schedules, and in-law families competing for time. Add that to the cost, inconvenience and the amount of time needed to travel for an entire family, going to California just isn’t all that convenient.

It is no longer a given that we all get together at Thanksgiving.

Location and attendance lately had become kind of a free-for-all, until my brother Greg offered to take whoever was willing to show up. Sometimes it’s all of the families. Sometimes just a few.  Florida happens to be one of the only places we can fly direct, and be there in a few hours, so Tom and I have decided as long as they’ll take us, we’ll show up!

There are other new traditions we have developed over the last few Florida Thanksgivings. Particularly about food. And how could I write an essay without the mention of health?

When I think back to past Thanksgivings in California, we didn’t get much activity. We took dog walks each day, but they weren’t what you’d call heart-pumping activity. And we visited the Redwoods in Muir Woods numerous times. Although there is a trail, because of the different ability levels we had with kids and parents in tow, the hiking wasn’t exactly strenuous. We do all have one thing in common in my family-we love our red wine.  And we love snacking.  We would hang out in my parents open kitchen-dining room-family room. The game would be on. The cheese and crackers and tortilla chips and wine would come out…a little earlier than we are typically used to. My parents frequented wine country, and always had some new vineyard find they wanted us to try. On one of the days, the guys took a long bike ride along San Francisco bay, but we ladies? Nothing.

The result: Endless snacking.

And activity? Not so much.

We always felt like blobs at the end of the week.

More recently, in Florida, much of this routine remains the same. As soon as Greg picks us up from the airport, we typically hit a Starbucks, and then stop at the local wine shop to select what we need for the week. At home, the Boursin cheese and brie and salami and crackers emerge on a tray; while we do our best to eat it all, there appears to be a never-ending supply to keep munching on. And we do keep munching…

a little poolside reading w/Anna

a little poolside reading w/Anna

But there’s one difference.  Instead of sitting around, we are all so much more aware of ensuring we stay active. And while we indulge in a big way, we bond over keeping fit as well.

When I exercise at home, I typically work out solo. But part of the new Florida tradition involves poolside workouts with my brother.  It was a few years ago, where Greg urged me to try a p90x workout with him. I was scared. But his enthusiasm and assurance it wasn’t beyond my ability, helped give me the confidence to try it with him, and that experience prompted me to tackle the full program when I came home. Last year, we did something a little different:  the brother/sister poolside workout. No video this time. It’s too nice outside. Greg takes the lead; but I make suggestions, and we learn from each other, each morning. I was self-conscious at first, a few years ago, having the whole family walking in and out while we are out there in plain sight, looking super-unattractive. But after a while I got used to the commotion of other family members dropping by to watch, or even participate for a few minutes. My mom sometimes stops by for a little stretch or a yoga pose. Macy the Golden Retriever or Sweet Pea the pug may drop by too, and a few times I found myself in plank, or coming up from a push-up to find myself nose-to-nose with one of them.

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workout audience, Macy and the Pea

And it’s not just the two of us. There appears to be more of a silent understanding now. Just because we are not in our regular routine, it doesn’t mean we have to slack off in all areas. By keeping active, we won’t go home feeling awful, and that’s so important. The poolside workout isn’t for everyone: Brooke usually heads out to see her trainer. My mom takes walks and does some light weights. Tom disappears to go fishing early on some mornings and takes walks. We are together, but we know nobody will miss us if we need to run off for 45 minute or an hour on our own, to ensure our individual needs are met to balance out all the crazy eating.

As I think about next week and the Thanksgiving table,  I can picture it now.

Greg is tending to the turkey, smoking in his prized Green Egg.

my brother and the prized Green Egg.

my brother and the prized Green Egg.

Tom and I are making roasted root vegetables; and perhaps we can sneak a few sweet potatoes and turnips from our Vermont CSA into our luggage, to share the harvest…

Brooke is making the sweetest most decadent yam casserole, that she learned to make at home with her mom in Oklahoma.

My mother makes her Minnesota Wild Rice Soup.

And we top it all off with a few apple and pumpkin pies, and perhaps a run for Ben and Jerry’s once the kids are asleep.

We’ll get up the next day, and after another poolside workout, we’ll head for the airport.

We are stuffed, but don’t feel so bad.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like outside. Or how authentic our meal or whether the Pilgrims did it this way…  our latest evolving tradition includes the best of everything: family, time together, indulgence with foods and wines (because it wouldn’t be fun without that…).

But also a respect for each family members different approach to health.

Our new-found tradition to keep inspiring each other every time we get together, and keep cheering each other on is a good one.

Our Thanksgivings for the last few years have been in warm sunny Florida, but regardless of where they may be in the future, this mutual respect for health as a family will ensure we’ll all be there for each other, making new memories and traditions, for many, many more years to come.

And I for one, am thankful.

How have your traditions changed over the years? Traditional or not? Does your family help inspire you to stay active? Or the other way around?  Do you wish you could be more active during the holidays? Would love to hear your thoughts and stories!

The Halloween Switch-a-roo

Last month in my post, My Flawed Sugar Compromise, I wrote about how my son is grasping the fact that too much sugar is not good for him and taking action. On that same subject, I wanted to share my friend Eve’s account of a recent after-Halloween event we attended together that started with good intentions…but in reality had mixed messages….hope you like it, and let me know what you think of this “buy back” program. Are there events like this in your town that you have attended?

Eve O. Schaub

It never ceases to amaze me how utterly maddening the search for Sugar Awareness can be. Just when you think you’ve found her, she dodges away licking a lollipop and singing “Got-cha!!”

I’ll give you a for instance. As we all know, Americans just experienced one of the most unabashed displays of sugar worship known to our calendar: Halloween. As I’ve mentioned before, despite the sugar onslaught I do love Halloween. In our house we devote an inordinate amount of time to Costume Development… for example my older daughter Greta decided to go as a medieval princess character from a favorite movie. Consequently a large portion of my October was spent communing with yards and yards of burgundy velveteen while Greta patiently sewed imitation pearls to the bodice, one… by… one.

Ilsa, meanwhile, announced early on that she wanted to go as “a pair of pants” with her…

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The Fitness Blues

When I first started this journal, my idea was this would be the place for me to work out my thoughts about staying healthy through the years.

And I wanted this to be about me as a woman; not a mom.

I didn’t want, more than anything, to be a mommy-blogger.

Not that there is anything wrong with mommy-bloggers, I read and enjoy many of them. I just thought because so many women, once they become moms, become so absorbed in being caretakers, keeping track of households, careers, kids, etc, there needs to be a place to voice our concerns. Because as often as we get swallowed into everyone else’s drama,  we too are people who matter. We need to be strong, healthy, and yes, happy too, if we are going to be good support for our families.

And if anyone cares to read what I write, if they don’t know this already about themselves, they can be reminded of this fact too.

But as I look back at my last few posts, actually most of them from this summer on, would put me in that mommy category. Parenting issues have invaded my brain. And as much as I would like to mull-over interesting  issues and health trends, I often become interrupted.

Hmmm, should I continue to pursue intermittent fasting? I read it’s really healthy and helps you ward off disease, but after trying it for a few months, I need to re-evaluate…

Oh, time to pick up my son from school….

I need to find a local veggie source for the winter, need to research all the options.

Are you going to town today, can you pick up prescriptions at the drug-store?

My friend Maggie told me about this company, 23andme, about how you can get genetic testing for your family and find out if you are prone to Alzheimer’s and other diseases? Can you imagine doing that? Would I ever consider it?

Hey, get off the computer, you have been playing Minecraft way too long…

I need to reschedule that yearly exam I cancelled last month…

Actually, Brett needs his well-check too, I’ll schedule that first.

I’m unmotivated right now and need to create a new exercise program before I build a new habit of laziness, what should I do?

Don’t forget, come early for the Halloween Parade at school today!

Where does the time go!

Often as soon as these questions come to mind, I’m forced to come down from the clouds, back to the school, back to the doctor’s office, back to finishing the last Harry Potter book with my son. Back to helping him do his homework, and lecturing him about the need for balance with screen time.

And these questions are forgotten for weeks, unresolved, until I bring them up again and start the same cycle of putting them off, putting them off…

Oh yeah, and did you know, we are out of toilet paper too? 

Argh! The indignity of it all…

I just want to concentrate for just a few minutes…my health and sanity are at stake!

There isn’t typically an immediate downside to putting off finding answers to some of my health questions.  But one of them has finally become a problem.

It’s that one about about needing to find a new exercise program. Because I’m in a big slump. Completely unmotivated.

I’m one of those people who does well with a planned exercise program. I need a schedule telling me what to do each day. If I have a schedule, no questions asked, like it or not, busy or not… it gets done. And for the last few years, I had been happily switching off between a few programs (P90x and ChaLean Extreme) where I have three days of using weights, and then the rest of the days I have a mix of outside walks, hikes or some variety of strength training and yoga.

But last month as I reached the end of my most current program schedule, as much as I love them both, I couldn’t bear to continue. The workouts were getting redundant; I have done each of them, in 3-month intervals, 3x.

So I decided to be unscheduled for a few weeks, to think over what to do next.

Each time I tried to take the time to research something new, I was disappointed. First of all, if you try enough of these programs, they all start to seem similar after awhile and it’s just hard to choose. I think, but if it’s so similar, why don’t I just do another round of what I have already?

But I don’t want to do another round. I’m bored.

Decision, interrupted. 

I began to take hikes up in the woods behind my house every day. October is so amazing in Vermont, I need to enjoy it.

The view at the top of my October hikes…

These hikes were challenging, and a welcome change from scheduled weight lifting.  And when your mind drifts a million miles away in parent-land, just feeling that air. Seeing the colors. The different trees. The feeling I get when I reach the top of the little mountain and look out at our cute little rural valley, it’s intoxicating.

But the beauty doesn’t last too long. As I look out the window today, and see the leaves almost all down from the trees. The wind is whipping, and it’s pouring out. And the need to answer my question about what next comes back to the forefront, because I’m not going out there…

I have read it takes 21 days to build a habit.

And after my wonderful month off, mindlessly rambling in the woods, I realize I took a few days too many. I lost my good habit. The one where I’m all for the challenge of one armed push-ups, army crawls, vertical jumps, chin-ups, right angle poses and hip openers, and heavy weights.

Instead I am left with the new habit of just wanting to move around mindlessly, not having to think too much, or work too hard. When I’m particularly unmotivated and it’s cold out, I even started strapping on the headphones, grabbing my kindle fire and streaming Orange is the New Black on Netflix, while mindlessly moving my legs on the elliptical.

When I’m done, I don’t even remember working out. It just isn’t all that satisfying.

This IS really good exercise. I know you are all thinking that.

But I won’t be hiking or walking much in the winter. And I’ll be bored if I am on the elliptical more than once or twice a week.

When you are in a slump, the first bit of advice a fitness expert is going to tell you is that you need to mix it up. Well, I’m trying. I agree with that advice.

But here’s the problem I’m starting to see. I need to stay motivated not just for 3 months or a year, or two years, I need to stay motivated to workout for LIFE. I have been in-tune with my health, making sure it is always a priority, for about 5 years, and I’m in this slump already.

What happens in 10 years? Or 20?

How am I going to keep mixing it up FOREVER?

Another bit of advice I hear from fitness experts, and try to add to the equation to pick me out of this slump, is that I need to set goals.  And I totally agree! I set goals all the time. But here’s the challenge. It’s all fun when someone wants to lose weight. Hooray, I lost 10 lbs! Or 50 lbs. I have reached my goal!  That’s so motivating!  But what happens when you are the same size for a long time. And you just need to stay there?

And then when you first start working out you can set goals like: I want to run a 5K, or a half-marathon. Or I want to increase my weights. Or I want to lose 2 inches off my waist. And you have reached these goals already. What’s next?

Keep going?

Make the challenges harder?

How long can I keep this up?

Do I want to keep this up?

And is it safe? Injury is not an option.

Thinking about how I might respond to these questions, about how far I really need to go with these never-ending goals to stay motivated, I am reminded of a phrase from one of my favorite workout videos, where Chalene Johnson tells us assuredly:

You are an athlete now!

Me, an athlete?

Because I show up every day and work hard at fitness? Hmmm…

I’m flattered by the idea, I hadn’t thought to categorize myself this way.  But it worries me too, because the more I get swept up in setting and achieving new goals, quantifying progress, looking at exercise as a sport, a competition or a job, or thinking about me, an athlete, the harder it is to ever feel like I am succeeding.

I don’t want to continue keeping score.

How do I show progress, without being so into it?

Without having to quantify every bite, every weight, every personal best?

I don’t want to think like an athlete…or a professional. I can’t lift more than I am already. Get more fit than I am already, unless I make a decision to take it a step further…

And I don’t need that.

I am after all, just a mom.

Decision on how to proceed?

Interrupted, once again, for now…

What types of tactics do you use to help get you back into the right frame of mind to stay motivated? Do you feel the need to continually one-up your goals? Or do you just not think about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…