Eat More, Move Less, Gain Weight…Duh!

We all know the mantra, “eat less, move more, lose weight”. It is universally true, but that doesn’t make it easy to do. I was doing rather well in my goal to get fit and lose weight in the process. Then I started training for half-marathons and my body changed, if not my weight. I put on more muscle and burned a lot more calories…but I also ate more to fuel that work. It is shockingly easy to eat more without even realizing it. My real problem came on when I stopped training. I didn’t really mean to, but life intervened and I’ve not yet gotten around to re-balancing and fitting my workouts back into my daily life.

Looking back over the last six months, it’s clear to me what has happened. That is when my younger daughter started high school 15 miles away from home. It’s about an hour and a half for me to drive carpool, picking up two other girls, driving through rush-hour traffic, and then driving to work.  Fortunately I don’t have carpool every day and recently we added a fourth girl and my duties have shrunk further. Even so, on days I have carpool, I have to add the lost hours back into my workday leaving less time for workouts.

Starting in November, my daughter joined the Freshman basketball team and between practices and games, I’m driving even more, and almost on a daily basis. Fortunately, one of the other girls in the carpool is also on the team, so we do a lot of ride-sharing. As basketball wraps up, softball is starting. I have no one to share rides with for softball…so on to the end of the school year.

Just last month, I added a class of my own…back to school! Now I have even less time to workout. It is time to re-balance, for sure. I am not in a position right now to cut back at work or school, but I do know that I waste a lot of time on things that don’t support my goals but provide stress relief without all the effort of going for a run. I know that I can carve out time for getting back to a healthier fitness routine.FitBit Tracker

I am going back to basics and setting a new starting point. I stepped on the scale and recorded the disappointing results in my fitness app. I started tracking my food too. A clear pattern emerged immediately. It wasn’t a surprise, but seeing it on my computer makes it more real to me. I eat too many calories, more than half of which I consume after work. I do not get nearly enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. I am not drinking enough water. Taking a peek at my FitBit data, I am not moving much at all.

So, little by little, I will make improvements and reclaim some balance in my life. Changes, especially those that require more time and energy, are always disruptive, but time to take a deep breath and find a new routine that supports my goals.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the determination to never give up on your goals!

 

No Such Thing As A Typical Day

Today wasn’t a typical day, there is no such thing  for me lately. It was a day full of family, full of work, full of school, and full of complications.

I started out with an early meeting by calling in while I packed my lunch. I packed my backpack for school, including a protein bar, and decided to leave it at home to pick up later. At work, I was immersed immediately.

This week, my global colleagues are in town, so my focus turned toward them and their reason for being here. Simultaneously, I had to focus on a crisis. Oh, then there was my normal job…and some people-related projects that I needed to complete.

E-mail got the triage treatment and so did meetings. I went from meeting to meeting, ending up in a personnel meeting. I had carpool duty to get my daughter and her friend from basketball practice, but I couldn’t leave until I’d given my input on a particular issue.

When I got out of the office it was a quarter past four. Snow started falling as I walked to my car. I had to scrape some ice off of my car and I started worrying about the roads. I hit the highway during rush hour traffic and the snow continued to fall. Traffic crawled along. I called in to my next meeting, and my next. I arrived at my daughter’s school after five.

The girls were hungry, and wanted to stop for pizza, but I was trying to get to my own school by 6. I called into my final meeting of the day and dealt with even worse traffic and weather. I told my daughter that I didn’t really want to go to school…I hate being late. She, of course, told me that I had to go…no excuses! She got a kick out of throwing my own words back at me. After dropping the girls off and having my daughter run in the house for my backpack, I slowly drove to school a few miles over slippery roads. I was over half an hour late.

I slipped into the classroom as the professor was showing some of the students a well screen. It didn’t seem as if I’d missed much. Perhaps class had started late. I was dreading another quiz…it still takes me quite some time to puzzle through my homework. I know that the quizzes are his way of gauging whether or not we understand what he is teaching us, but they are stressful none the less. I’ve finally realized that we will get a quiz every week, but that doesn’t make me any less stressed.

At first glance, the quiz was something I hadn’t been able to do on my homework and I started to feel some panic rising …but he’d just shown us a chart related to the problem and suddenly I realized that maybe I did understand how to do it. I got to work. I plotted my data, drew my line, found my constant, and started solving equations. I was careful with my unit conversions, something drilled into me way back in college. Finishing up, I looked around and I saw that I was the only one who was done.

The professor hurried over to check my work. He smiled and handed it back with a nod of approval. When others finished, he checked theirs and made comments like, “that answer is way too large” or “that answer is way to small”…mine, it seems was “just right”.

After class, I packed up my backpack and walked back to my car. I took a deep breath of the icy air and smiled. I’m getting it, I really am!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the wonder of a lifetime of learning!

 

 

Getting My Second Adulthood Started: Back To School

When I first decided that getting a (third) masters degree was my path to late-life happiness, I thought I was unique and that I’d get a lot of odd looks and serious ribbing. Surprisingly, I found a lot of support and many similar stories.

I really only need look to my own mother and father to see examples of   growth after fifty. At fifty, my mom was pursuing a Doctorate (something that I am obviously not cut out for…Masters degrees are my “thing”!). My dad, since turning fifty, has published a book, written two memoirs, become a certified financial planner…and, I can’t fail to mention, jumped out of a plane and gone to Spain to run with (or watch) the bulls. (What happens in Spain, stays in Spain!)

When I started to tell my own peers, however, I really was surprised. All in their fifties, I’ve found such similar stories to mine. There’s a friend who shattered her hip in her late thirties and now wants to get a Masters in exercise science. Then there is the friend who found that by going to a personal trainer during a difficult time of life,  found a life couch as an added benefit and now wants to pursue both. Even my big sister is now pursuing a Masters…one which, like mine, draws upon her unique background and points her to an interesting and unique future.

Here I am, 26 years into a corporate career in purchasing, starting a Masters in Environmental Science. I started out completely bored in high school, looking for the most difficult college degree I could find. I looked to either aeronautic or chemical engineering. I ended up with chemical. It was a real challenge, one for which my high school didn’t fully prepare me.

When I graduated, in 1986, OPEC fell apart and the demand for chemical engineers plummetted. I got my MBA instead of a job. From there, I ended up in purchasing. With less than a year under my belt, I found that my company would pay for me to get a masters…so I got a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering. Why not? Degree in hand, I found a position working with my company’s suppliers to improve their manufacturing processes.

Years later, I find myself drawn to water. There are water crises everywhere…too much, too little, too polluted…but where I live, there is 20% of the world’s fresh water…The problems and solutions are unique to each location…moving fresh water around the world is not the solution.

I am at an age and at a point in my career where I just want to follow my passions…but I really want to make a difference too. For me, the answer is a new Master’s degree…for others, it’s something different. For all of us? Following our hearts!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and may your personal journey fulfill your personal legacy!

Still Time To Celebrate

I took three weeks off of work and go back tomorrow. I had plans, oh did I ever, and today I was feeling some remorse at not accomplishing “anything” during my break. With a little retrospection, though, I realize that I had a lovely time, very low-key, very different from my regular busy schedule.

I spent three days driving to and from St. Louis to help my daughter pack up her dorm room and move out. She’s off to Spain in a few days for a semester. What I feared would be a grueling trip, turned out to be way less stressful than I had feared and allowed me time to enjoy my daughter’s company uninterrupted for hours at a time. It also allowed me time to visit my sister in Chicago, where I crashed both nights of the trip.

I’ve spent a lot of time the rest of my break driving my younger daughter to and from basketball…school stops for a while, but basketball never does. Rather than drive home between drop-off and pick-up, I stuck around. Twice I did grocery shopping, for our Christmas dinner and then for New Year’s Day, when we have a special family meal to kick things off right. Then, I went to the local sub shop and ate a sandwich while reading a book. Not a bad way to spend my time at all.

Christmas was filled with traditions, old and new. I went to Carols and Lessons with friends and we all met back at my place afterward where we talked and laughed and really enjoyed the time with one another that we so rarely get. My daughters and I went to Mass on Christmas Eve, put out cookies for Santa, wrapped gifts, filled stockings, and slept-in on Christmas morning. We opened gifts and cooked all of our favorite holiday foods, then ate the fruits of our labors.

My son came home a few days later, and then my mom arrived. We had a mini-Christmas with them, then on to New Years Eve when we stayed in and drank our bubbly apple cider or champagne and toasted one another. New Years Day brought the pork and sauerkraut recipe, repeated every year that I can remember.

Tomorrow, I go back to work and back to crazy. There will be carpool for school and basketball, and hopefully a class or two for me at night. Work will start-up at a fever pitch and I may be traveling as well.

Tonight, however, we have one more celebration to go. We’re celebrating a milestone birthday, belatedly, with my mom. Dressed up, ready to go. Snow has finally shown up, and we’ll have a lovely dinner out before settling down in a house full of family and love before the chaos hits in the morning.

Find the Joy in the Journey…celebrate the moment, and don’t worry about the To Do List for a change!

 

Dissecting My Daughter’s Favorite Music

For the most part, my younger daughter listens to music that could almost be considered wholesome. She favors One Direction, Five Seconds of Summer, and Little Mix. Little Mix in particular writes girl-power songs that even I find inspiring. She likes a lot of other popular songs, and particularly favors Ed Sheerhan. I like his songs too, very catchy, but I don’t always like the subject matter.

Lately, my daughter has been trying to improve my musical literacy by playing songs while we are in the car and quizzing me on the singer or band. I’m not very good at it, easily mixing up bands, new and old. She’s always amazed when songs from my own teenager-hood come on and I not only know the artist, but all the words as well.  It’s a very narrow band of time over which I have this talent and it seems there are far more bands now than then.

The other day a song was on the radio with a refrain that went something like, “let’s get high” sung over and over. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes. It is my job to point out the inappropriateness of some lyrics, but these were just too obvious. She advised me that I often blew her mind, complete with hand gestures around her head to show said mind blowing open to the obvious, with my succinct descriptions of songs. Remember, Mom, when you told me that A Team was about drugs and prostitution? Yes, I do, and also the girl freezing to death. Tough message.

We recounted how I didn’t care for Stay With Me  by Sam Smith because it’s about one night stands and I get annoyed with myself for singing along to Rude by MAGIC! (what is with all the punctuation in band names, anyway?) because it objectifies women (I know, it’s “old-fashioned”). I listen to the music and enjoy it. I even sing along. There are many talented artists singing about tough subjects, but some are just self-indulgent. Regardless, as long as I get the opportunity to teach a few life lessons along the way, I’m copacetic.

So, I told her, well, then there’s that song about the guy giving a girl a scar. What song she asked? The one where he says if she feels like falling down, he’ll carry her home. Well, she informed me, there’s nothing about a scar in that song, which by the way is We Are Young by FUN. Oh, yeah, I knew that. She started to sing and when she got to “asking about a scar” she looked at me wide-eyed. Then she got to “I know I gave it to you months ago”…and, well, mind blown.

I am a creature of habit…I listen to the same radio station all the time, but when my daughter is in the car, we listen to a variety of stations. When that’s not enough variety, my daughter plays songs from her iPhone over the car sound system through a bluetooth connection. She’s expanding my musical tastes and I’m making sure that she actually listens to the lyrics. It’s a true partnership. The best part is that when I drop her off somewhere, she’s sure to switch the music back to my station before getting out of the car.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and those rare moments when mom and daughter can simultaneously belt out the latest hit along with the radio!

Teaching My Son To Cook

I probably waited way too long to teach my son to cook. My daughters just seem to have picked up the basics without formal instruction. My son, well, he figured out how to make a few things, mainly college-subsistence meals like Ramen Noodles and boxed Mac & Cheese. He even branched out to rice and beans, but I don’t know if that was so much a recipe as just figuring out how to make rice and dumping a can of beans in for good measure…by which I mean protein.

Now he’s boomeranged back home and I find the need, if not the time, to bring him up to speed on some basics so that he can be a contributing member of the household, beyond the occasional chauffeuring stints. He does do his own laundry…but he cycles through his entire wardrobe first. This sometimes results in weather-inappropriate clothing, but I leave that to him.

I decided to focus on two family recipes. The first was lasagna. Now, a noodle in this dish is also called a lasagna, but multiple noodles are lasagne…so, a language lesson in a cooking lesson! It comes from my grandmother who was not known for her cooking prowess…she got the recipe off of the box of lasagne. Regardless, it has become a family legend and one of my best dishes. I wanted to share this “crowd pleaser” with my son.

It is really a simple recipe, but it is a bit time consuming. The first time around, I procured all of the necessary ingredients. I enlisted my son in making the sauce…the heart of the dish. It is redolent of Italian sausage, garlic, tomatoes, and basil. Meanwhile I cooked the noodles and prepared the ricotta/romano/egg/parsley layer. Together we assembled the layers, noodle/ricotta/mozzarella/meatsauce then a repeat of the above. Into the oven to bake.

imageThis time around, I had already purchased all of the ingredients and challenged him to find them prior to the start of cooking. I’d say he scored a “C” in this exercise. Nevertheless, he took the lead on the sauce and did manage some measuring and stirring on the other parts of the recipe. I would say that our first time, he did 30% of the work and 10% of the thinking. This time, he did more of both. I do believe that if he took the recipe to the grocery, he could manage the list. I also believe that he could subsequently make the dish all on his own…he might panic a bit, but I have confidence that he could master it.

For our second dish, we made something that my family calls, “Mexican Rice and Bean Soup”. I have no idea where this recipe came from, but I suspect it came out of a magazine in the 1950’s given it’s inappropriate claim to being “Mexican”. It is a comfort-food recipe which is a bit of cutting of onion and pepper, and browning of breakfast sausage links, and a lot of dump-and-stir to finish it off. It is lovely with some corn bread. We went the Jiffy route on that, although I have my own homemade recipes that are even better.

Life lessons are priceless…

Find the Joy in the Journey…especially when you pass along lessons that come back to bless everyone involved!

 

 

 

Knowing When to “Say When” and When to Say “Hell Yes!”

I felt an odd mixture of adrenaline and regret as I walked through the Health Expo to get my race shirt. Passport in hand, I stepped up to get my bib, one that I wasn’t planning to use, so that at least I could get my shirt. I’d paid $75 for the privilege. It’s a lovely, silver shirt…one of my “colors”. Now I don’t know if I should wear it or if that would be dishonest.

When I signed up, in a moment of exuberance along with two colleagues, I was in the midst of training for a different half-marathon, my fourth and one that I actually ran. Since then, I have had a series of set-backs, minor ones, but enough to cause me to break training.  I made the tough call between running untrained and gutting it out just to say I did it, or knowing when I am not prepared and humbly admitting it.

I’ve only been a runner for two and a half years. I’ve gone from huffing and puffing for 90 seconds at a time when I started Couch to 5k back in June of 2012, to running four half-marathons. I need to find the happy medium, which I think is running about 3 times a week for three to six miles at a time. Maybe when that is my normal, training for another half-marathon will come more easily and not be a huge commitment and change in my life. Or maybe, I’ll have more time in my life later and will want to dedicate some of that to training. Meanwhile, I want to run because I enjoy it and it makes me feel healthy.

I never really did 50 things by the time I turned 50, but I sure did a lot more than I would have otherwise. I didn’t even envision running a 10k, much less five 10k’s and four half-marathons. I’ve read more, listened to more music, de-cluttered a lot (but never enough), gotten my affairs in order, and much more, all while working full time and raising my family.

Now it’s time take a step back and take a long view of the rest of my life. I see a new path in front of me. Running will be a part of it, and so will my family, and all the rest…but I am coming to a point where I can see passion and fun intersecting with meaning and purpose.image

So, here’s to the next chapters in my life! When I was at the Expo, I saw a Superwoman skirt. I didn’t see the point in the skirt without some sort of matching top, so instead I got a shiny, orange, ruffled skirt to wear in the Halloween 10k I signed-up for to keep me in a good running frame-of-mind and to assuage my guilt at skipping the half.

I’ve come to learn that “balance” is not really possible if you want to experience as much of life as possible, so here’s for trying new things, finding passion and fun, meaning and purpose.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even if part of that is running in an orange, sequined skirt every once in a while!

 

Permission To Change!

Early this year, while training for a half-marathon that I would run in April, I signed up for the Detroit International Half-Marathon. I was sure I’d be able to run the half in April, take a couple of months easy, then ramp back up for the October race. I ran the half in April and it was a bit of a struggle. I’d had to do most of my training on my treadmill, but I’d gotten outside in late March and early April for the really long runs. I ran the race, no walking, and was happy to finish strong, if a bit slow.

Then summer came and my daughter played softball and travel basketball…fitting in a few small runs a week was a challenge. When that was behind me, I dutifully started into the Hal Higdon Half-Marathon Training Plan. I was fine for about the first half of the training, but then several physical setbacks got in my way in completing the long, weekend runs. At one point, I decided I could leap-frog the training and catch back up. That worked, until I had more setbacks.

Finally, I was faced with a decision…run the race even though the most I’d run in my training was six miles, or decide not to run the race. Now, I know I can gut it out…mind over matter, but why? I’ve decided not to run the race. Instead, I’m going to redirect my energy. It’s amazing how much more easily I can slip on my running shoes for a three-mile run than for a six to ten-mile run. The shorter runs are not only easier to schedule, but are energizing rather than draining.

With the specter of exhausting runs behind me, I’ve got time and energy to get back to my 50 by 50…or even to expand beyond that. National Novel Writing Month is coming up fast…I know I’ve tried/failed for many Novembers to get my novel down on paper, but this year I took a new step. This summer, I went to Northwestern University and attended a book writing conference. I have a lot of ideas about how to re-start and re-write my novel to make it better.

I’m feeling renewed energy to do the Holidays up right this year…my kids are getting older and starting to leave the nest…but not too far yet. They are still all home for the Holidays. So, I have pumpkins to buy, Christmas card photos to take, holiday fixings to plan, and in about a month, a Christmas tree to put up.

Mostly, though, I am gearing up to make a big change…and I give myself permission to change; to pursue a new course in my second adulthood. More about that later, but I will say that finally figuring out what I want to be when I “grow up” is liberating and exciting.

So, here’s to good health and good exercise habits, here’s to knowing my limits, here’s to trying new things…

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy in finding that path that leads to your own road less traveled!

 

Thanks For Gold Elite Status–Mi Tocaya

Early in my career, I tried to learn Spanish. I got pretty confused with French words, which I hadn’t realized I’d known, popping into my head instead of the Spanish as I tried to converse with a classmate…she had the same trouble with Italian. Oddly, we were having quite a conversation with full comprehension until the instructor overheard us and got annoyed.

I learned the rudiments of Spanish and still remember some of it more than 20 years later. One word that I learned from my Columbian instructor, which I found so novel that I’ve saved it in the back of my brain for just such a time as this, is tocayo…tocaya for the feminine. It is a word that is used to indicate that another person shares your first name.

For years now, I’ve lived a half-mile away from a woman with not only my same first name, but also my same last name. I’ve gotten her mail, gotten her vote (she got mine, not to worry), and been confused for her at the bank, pharmacy, and even doctor’s office. Once, the electric company combined our accounts thereby putting my Social Security number on her account. I met her one time at the polls where we were standing next to each other in line. I’ve not seen her since, although we go to the same church and obviously shop in a lot of the same places.

Altogether it has been something of an annoyance to have this particular tocaya. The other day, however, I got Gold Elite status at Marriott. It seems that she forgot her rewards number and when she called to find out what it was, she was given mine. I called Marriott a couple of years ago when I started to get e-mail reminders of “my” upcoming stays. Other than securing my account with a PIN and removing my credit card information, there was nothing else they could suggest. They did not offer to call the other Laura and inform her of the mistake.image

Meanwhile, she does quite a bit of traveling and all of her rewards points flow into my account where they are automatically converted to frequent flier miles. And now I’m Gold Elite. I feel like planning a trip to take advantage of the perks of Gold Elite, whatever they may be. Upon investigation, the perks are room upgrade, lounge access, and internet upgrade. There are a few others that are probably not useful to me like discounted long-distance and fax.

As you can see from the photo, this perk only lasts until the end of the year, so I need to plan fast! Alas, my problem is my child…not a problem child, just that I am tied to home lately. I used to travel for business, where I would inevitably stay at a Marriott property since it is a preferred provider to my company. I used to be Gold Elite on a regular basis…not any more. Now, I have a 14 year old daughter and no back-up plan for child, or shall I say, teenager care. I don’t mind asking if she can spend a night or two at a friend’s, but when I travel I like to go far and wide and stay a week or two.

I’d love to return to Quito or Dublin, or (oh yes!) Paris…but if I have to wait a few years while my daughter grows up, so be it. I can dream in the meanwhile.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the pleasure in dreaming!

Do I Know You?–The Rule of 150

I can’t help but feel guilty when I don’t remember someone’s name, or even worse, don’t remember someone at all. It happens to me almost daily. No, I’m not suffering from memory loss, although it sure seems that way, I am just dealing with the rule of 150.

This rule, the rule of 150, is also known as Dunbar’s number after British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar. He derived the number from observation and extrapolation from brain-size experiments. We humans, on average, can maintain 150 relationships. This includes past friends with whom we want to maintain a relationship. In today’s world, 150 friends seems woefully inadequate. Think about it…how many family members do you have? How many classmates from high school, college, and grad school? How many from your work environment? How many “friends” on social media?

The first time I heard of this rule, was Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. He talked about W. L. Gore and Associates where they limited their factories to 150 employees. Everyone knows everyone else at the plant. If the company gets more business than one factory can handle with 150 people, it opens a new plant. The management has desks in the middle of the plant. Everyone knows everyone. They know their names, they know their personal stories, they care about each other. When a recession hits, the workers cut their own hours so that no one has to lose their job. It was a great business case. Their decision to limit their factories to 150 was based on trial and error, but it also provides supporting evidence for Dunbar’s number.

In my job, I probably interface with several hundred people on a semi-regular basis. Each time I change jobs at work, I am once again confronted with meeting several hundred new people. Having changed jobs about 10 times over the years, I have met, literally, thousands of people. I am not exactly a recluse, so I do have friends and family to remember, too. This is all to say that having met thousands of people in my life with whom I needed to have a relationship with for at least a short time, it is not so surprising that when an old business colleague pops up after many years, I generally have no idea who they are without a few hints. This is more true of people outside of my own organization, but even within my functional organization, there are about a thousand people.

So, although it is awkward, I generally re-introduce myself to people I haven’t seen in a long time or whom I know but can’t recall their name. I once said this to a mother of one of my children’s classmates to be slapped down with a “I know who you are, we’ve met, like, a thousand times!” This was done complete with an eye roll and then she turned her back on me for the rest of the event. Oh well. At work, when I re-introduce myself, I usually get a smile and a re-introduction from the other person. Sometimes I get a look of disappointment and even rarer, a deadpan response of, “we’ve met before”.

From now on, I’m not going to let it bother me. I do not need to know a thousand people and I don’t need to remember most of the people I’ve met only a handful of times. My circle of 150 is rich with family, friends, and people whom I’d like to get to know better.

Find the Joy in the Journey…