Summer Tastes Like Watermelon

My summer memories are of sunny days on Kentucky Lake.  Ski boats, sunscreen, jumping off the dock a million times.  Playing Spoons at my Grandparent's lake house. Homemade ice cream and cold crisp watermelon. 

That pale yellow spot is a good thing! Ripened on the vine. 

That pale yellow spot is a good thing! Ripened on the vine. 

Does any food scream summer more than watermelon?I decided to get creative instead of just chopping it up into chunks like I usually do. I recently tried out some watermelon recipes and LOVED them, so I wanted to share them with you. 

A big plus for watermelon is that it's sweet, feels like a treat, and as the name suggests, is mostly water. A cup of watermelon has just 46 calories.  It also has 20% of your daily Vitamin C, lots of fiber for good gut health, and contains lycopene, an antioxidant.  

To get top notch color and flavor, you have to start with the right watermelon. I never know how to pick the perfect one, so I again turned to my produce guru at Whole Foods, Sean. He never lets me down.  He gave me some tips on picking the right melon. 

1- Look for a yellow spot. I used to think those yellow spots meant it was not good. But it actually is a bonus, because it means the melon ripened on the vine. If there is no spot, it means it was picked early and ripened off the vine and won't be as flavorful.

2- The thump! What the heck does the thump mean? Sean said the thump should be deep.  If it's high pitched, the melon is not good. Listen for a deep thump. 

My new fav. Balsamic, Feta and Watermelon Salad. 

My new fav. Balsamic, Feta and Watermelon Salad. 

I blogged recently about my deep love (bordering on obsession with salad) so I just had to find a salad that included watermelon.  And I was not disappointed. This watermelon, feta and balsamic salad has jumped up the ranks to become on of my all time favs. It hits all the right notes.  Crisp, cold, sweet, with a kick from the balsamic glaze. Find the recipe Here. I added chicken for protein. One other tip, I bought balsamic glaze at Whole Foods and skipped the steps for making it myself.  Much quicker and easier! 

 

Next up, two super easy, refreshing treats. If you're looking for a quick fun little snack for your kids (or you!), grab a melon baller and make melon pops.  I used watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. Freeze until firm and enjoy! I sprinkled a little kosher salt on mine. I come from the school of thought that watermelon is better with a little salt. You cannot convince me otherwise. If someone says salt doesn't belong on watermelon, walk away.  We don't need that negativity in our lives. :)

Frozen Melon Pops. Yummy!

Frozen Melon Pops. Yummy!

The other sweet treat is a watermelon slushy. This hit the spot on this warm Oklahoma afternoon. I froze about 2 cups of watermelon chunks. I added the frozen watermelon, the juice from 2 fresh limes, a little squeeze of honey, and just enough water to help it all blend to my Vitamix. Whipped it up and voila! Once I poured the mix into each glass, I topped it with just a splash of sparkling water.  So refreshing!

A light refreshing Watermelon Slushy

A light refreshing Watermelon Slushy

If you're up for trying some of these, you can grab 2 for 1 Organic mini watermelons at Whole Foods starting today (8/3) through Saturday. Look for those yellow spots, give it a good thump, and grab your melons! Whip up some summery creations for your family and let me know your favs!  I'd love to hear what you think!

I "Mommed" So Hard. Now What?

My daughters and I, December 2015. Francie, left and Chelsea, right 

My daughters and I, December 2015. Francie, left and Chelsea, right 

I mommed hard.  I gave it everything I had.  I have two daughters and I absolutely love being their mom. When they were in school, I spent countless hours at volleyball matches.  I decorated locker rooms, sewed costumes, baked birthday cakes, hosted sleep overs, chauffered my girls all over the country, sat through band concerts, and went to countless parent/teacher conferences. We did shopping trips to Dallas and vacations to the beach.  

 

I spent time with them, prayed for them and hoped they would grow into decent adults (They did. Yay!)  I looked forward, albeit with a bit of dread, to the days when life would settle down. Momming was hard, but I loved it.  It defined me. 

 

Then life did settle down.  “Mom” wasn’t my number one title.  I was no longer the chauffeur.  They order what they want online. We have a constant rotation of Free People and Anthropologie packages arriving on our doorstep. They don’t need me to take them shopping anymore. The volleyball seasons were done, ending with a state championship (go Bulldogs!). We had celebrated all the proms and homecomings. I had hosted family for graduations. All the crazy Mom years were done. Whew! But now that I wasn’t Momming so hard anymore, who the heck was I?

 

I was a 40 something woman who had no self identity.  And when I got really real with myself, I wasn’t happy with what little of me did exsist. I was overweight. I had a good job as a retail manager, but with crazy hours, and I had no close friends. 

 

I had allowed all the mom tasks to give me satisfaction. I had attached my self worth to who my girls were. “Look at how good of a mom I am.” Cakes, parties, proms, state champs! Honor grads! Picture perfect daughters! I am a success! But, it wasn’t me.  It was them.  They were the ones who had been successful.  Yes, guided by us as parents, but I had allowed their good works to define me. 

 

Outfits I sewed through the years. 

Outfits I sewed through the years. 

The “about me” sections of social media all started with being a pastor’s wife and being a mom to my girls. The only “me” I knew was defined by my relationships with my husband and kids.  There was no actual me to speak of.  I had ignored my health.  I was overweight. My only social life was via my kids. Hanging out with other volleyball moms during matches and tournaments.  I loved those women, but without a volleyball schedule to tell us where to be when, we rarely saw each other.

 

Surely I am not the only one to end up in this situation. As moms we have trained ourselves to put everyone and everything else first.  Then suddenly we find ourselves with the time and ability to do what we want, and we don’t have a clue what that even is. 

 

Something had to change. I am definitely a work in progress. I wouldn’t say I have it all figured out on how to navigate the journey from Mom to Empty Nester, but I want to share some of the steps I have taken to becoming content with myself. I started as someone who not only didn't know who I was, I didn't even know who I wanted to be. I am a few years into this, and I am still plugging away as I search for those answers. 

 

Scott and I after finishing the Nashville Half Marathon, May 2016

Scott and I after finishing the Nashville Half Marathon, May 2016

First on my agenda was to lose the weight.  As many of you know, I was on the TV show Extreme Weight Loss. Losing weight was crucial for me to becoming happy with myself.  My weight and health were out of control.  Late nights at volleyball matches and work had become an excuse to eat out all the time and our bodies paid for it.  Once we had the time to commit to it, my husband, Scott,  and I both worked hard to get healthy and in doing so, found a new shared passion for fitness. Not everyone needs to transform so dramatically, but as we grow older, our health should become a priority.  We have no more excuses for not getting up and getting moving a few days a week.  And for women, adding weight bearing exercises is vital to maintaining bone density as we age. Don’t be afraid to grab some dumbbells or a kettlebell on a regular basis. Your bones and doctor will thank you for it.

 

Secondly, I have made a concerted effort to establish friendships. No more surface hang outs with other moms because we’re stuck in a gym together.  A couple of the volleyball moms and I meet for lunch occasionally.  We have each married off daughters and have supported each other through those times. More recently, I just plain old reached out to women who I felt like I could be friends with and who I wanted to spend time with. I bluntly said “I need some friends”. It was that simple.  

 

I have talked to so many women who are in the same boat.  Not having true friendships seems to be a universal theme with women my age. I have always enjoyed spending most of my down time with my husband.  I’ve never been one to want to do a big girls trip or need to chit chat daily. But, I would like a few great women to laugh with over breakfast. Women who are in the same stage of life as me.  Women who I know I can trust if I need to reach out and share a hurt or need. Women I can trust to pray for me and not judge me when I share my true self with them. I am slowly but surely building my little tribe.  It didn’t happen on it’s own.  I had to get vulnerable with others and say I needed them.  Don’t be afraid to revert to that inner first grader who asks a friend to “play”.  But rather than playing barbies or tag, our grown up play is brunch and a brisk walk.

 

Third- Find a hobby.  Something. Anything. Don’t let the tv become your weekend and nightly go-to. And please don’t sit in the same room as your spouse while you both stare at your phones. My husband and I have found that if we don’t purposely avoid the tv, we will automatically plop down and channel surf at night. There are definitely nights we watch tv, but we do make an effort to not let it become all we do.  Since our girls moved out, we have repainted almost the entire house. We have converted a bedroom into his man cave and the office has become the pretty feminine space I have always wanted. 

 

Scott and I after finishing The Warrior Dash

Scott and I after finishing The Warrior Dash

Fitness has also become a healthy habit that drives our time together. We get up early to work out. We hike together. We recently rented bikes in Chicago and did a long bike ride by Lake Michigan.  We’ve biked the Golden Gage Bridge. We have hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park. We canoed in Canada. Our vacations used to involve sitting like a beached whale in the sand. We now look for ways to stay active and healthy.  It feels good to be healthier at 48 than I was in my 30’s. 

 

Find an activity that makes you happy.  Take a ballroom dancing class. Learn to paint. Run a marathon. Whatever it is, don’t just sit on the couch thinking about awesome things you could do.  Do them!

 

Lastly, get your eyes off yourself. I was so consumed with judging myself, I didn't have room to focus on others. I had a raging negative inner dialogue that left me depleted of the energy and ability to get out of my comfort zone.  I was paralyzed with fear of failure, all because of how I looked. That fear did not allow me to do anything outside of my bubble which was completely selfish. Getting my eyes off myself allowed me to serve others.  

 

My small group friends and I after the Color Run, Spring 2017

My small group friends and I after the Color Run, Spring 2017

I host a Healthy Living small group through my church. I love helping women focus on their health and delve into seeing ourselves with the value that God places on us. We recently volunteered at a organization that helps the homeless in Tulsa. I volunteer at my church. Whatever you are passionate about, find a way to serve in that area.  Be a Big Brother or Sister. Foster a child. Volunteer at a nursing home. Get your eyes off yourself and get out in your community. No one cares what you look like, what kind of car you drive or how much you weigh. Serving others brings a satisfaction like nothing else I know. Turn your eyes and heart outward and your self worth will sky rocket.  You’ll no longer be worried about all the trivial things that seemed so important before. 

 

This is in no way a comprehensive list of what I’ve done to move forward. But these are the big steps that allowed me to gain ground and figure out who I am and who I want to be going forward. 

 

Chelsea and I at her wedding, January 2015 

Chelsea and I at her wedding, January 2015 

I’m still a mom.  I'll always be a Mom. It’s just different now. I don’t have to mom so hard. We try to have dinner with the girls once a week. We text. I run into my daughters at church. They are fantastic young women who are much more self assured and have it much more together than I did at their age.  All that Momming worked. Those crazy years were worth it. I loved focusing on my daughters. But these calm, quiet years are shaping up to be pretty amazing too. 

 

Here's to all the Moms knee deep in the hard Mom years. You always hear how quickly it will go by. And it does. Some days it feels like you'll never get five seconds to yourself, or that your house will never be clean and the laundry never done. Then one day, before you can imagine, you'll find yourself on the other side of the Mom game. The diapers will all be changed.  You will have survived potty training, puberty, broken hearts, and the middle school mean girls. Occasionally you'll miss the chaos...then you'll realize you're watching what you want on tv, your house is clean, the laundry is done.  You are healthy. You are happy.  You'll breathe a big sigh of relief for having Mommed so hard and you'll feel the satisfaction of a job well done. 

Feel Good Foods. Can they be healthy too?

If I ask you what your favorite food is, would your answer be a meal that is rich and indulgent? Invoke an emotional response? Pizza with friends. Pasta dinner with your spouse. Brownies. Your mom's chocolate cake. Foods we love tend to give us an emotional boost. They make us feel good.  We feel a connection to them. Our favorite foods are typically high psychological foods. Most of us know the power of chocolate, the love for a good burger, the hug you get from Grandma's apple pie.  

 

But we also know those cannot be every day foods.  We need high quality nutritional foods to keep us healthy. They are high biological foods. Lean proteins, vegetables, healthy fats and carbs.  Often times healthy foods don't give us a positive emotional response.  Quite the opposite.  We often dread healthy eating. 

 

So, what is one to do?  How do we eat healthy and not hate life? How do we balance enjoying our food and fueling our bodies? We find the meals that are both high biological foods and high psychological foods to us. What healthy foods do you love (or at least like) that make you feel good? We have to find meals that we look forward to, that make us feel satisfied but are also nutritionally valuable.  

 

For me, it's salad.  I know how lame that sounds. Who actually loves salad? This girl does! These blazing Oklahoma summers beg for easy dinners that don't involve heating up the kitchen with a hot stove. A cold, crisp, colorful salad gets me every time. I could eat salad every day.  And in the summers, I often do. 

 

They key to not getting tired of salad is to keep it interesting.  Don't get stuck in the rut of iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers.  We can do better than that!  Summer is the perfect time to load up on in-season produce and to make a huge bowlful of yumminess that satisfies even the largest appetite. 

 

Salad can easily go off the rails from healthy to loaded with fat if you add cheese and smother it in dressing, as many restaurants tend to do to add flavor.  But when you've got lots of colorful, flavorful veggies, you don't need those added fats for flavor. I look for a salad with crunch, color and flavor.  Spinach, lettuce varieties, multi colored cherry tomatoes, avocados, corn, broccoli are always good for color and flavor.  Summer is the perfect time to add fruit...strawberries, blueberries, watermelon. And nuts for extra crunch.  

 

I recently hit up Whole Foods to stock up on produce and prep salads for the week. I had a recipe for an Avocado Shrimp Salad (find the recipe here) that I wanted to make. Does anyone else feel my pain when it comes to choosing avocados? They seem to either be hard as a rock, or go from perfect to overripe by the time I get them home. 

Avocado Shrimp Salad- Easy, delicious, and completely satisfying. 

Avocado Shrimp Salad- Easy, delicious, and completely satisfying. 

 

To get some tips for choosing the perfect avocado, I asked Sean, the produce guy at the south Tulsa Whole Foods, to give me some tips. He's a 20 year produce veteran and he was a tremendous help. His top tips: 

- Ripe avocados are black, not green.

- You should be able to push into the avocado with your thumb and feel it give a little. 

- If you push in and the skin seems to pull away from the avocado, it's overripe.

-If you pop the core out at the top, it should be bright yellow/green.  If it's dark, it's overripe.

- If you have avocados that aren't ripe, stick them in a brown bag with a banana to ripen them up.

My perfectly ripe avocados. You can see how dark they are compared to the ones still needing to ripen. 

My perfectly ripe avocados. You can see how dark they are compared to the ones still needing to ripen. 

 

If you've ever got questions about produce, ask! If you're like me, there is nothing more frustrating than getting home and realizing that your produce is either not ripe enough, or already too far gone. Sean at Whole Foods was more than happy to answer my questions and even picked out the perfect avocados for me. 

 

This shrimp salad was DEVINE!  Sweet tomatoes, grilled corn and shrimp. Creamy avocado, and crisp cucumbers.  All the ingredients that add up to a meal that is beautiful, tasty and makes me feel good.  A big salad hug! To keep it quick, I use ready to go salad greens. All the cooking was done on the grill. And voila, a big delicious dinner on the table, without a messy, hot kitchen. This will definitely be in the meal rotation quite often.

 

When people ask me for recipes or for ideas for healthy meals, I always tell them to keep it simple, and find foods they enjoy.  No one is going to stick to a meal plan if they are choking down food they don't like . Take some time to think about food choices that you know will satisfy you, but also provide the fuel you need. Look for those foods that are high biological foods but also high psychological foods for you. Those are the foods that are going to help you succeed in staying healthy. Here's to happy, healthy eating! 

 

 

 

Not Your Momma's Tacos

One of my favorite memes says “How do I stop eating chips and salsa?  Do they run out or do I die or what?” Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost track of how many baskets of chips you’ve inhaled before you even dig into your meal?  Right here! Before I became more aware of my food, calories, macro nutrients, and such, I used to overindulge on so many foods.  Chips and salsa being one of the worst culprits. I had to relearn what healthy eating even was.  How could I find the right balance of eating healthy and not feeling deprived all the time?

After wrapping up my year on Extreme Weight Loss, I realized I had deep-seated issues surrounding food and I sought out a counselor.  She helped me tremendously.  One of the points she made was that we tend to lump food into two categories: Physiologically good and psychologically good.  Physiologically good food is healthy.  It provides nutrient dense calories and fuels our bodies.  Psychologically good food makes us feel good.  We enjoy eating it.  We look forward to it and have an emotional response to eating it.

 

I believe we can have some of both.  We don’t have to live a life that never allows us to eat those feel good foods.  But, the best of both worlds is to find the foods that fit into both categories.  For me, there are a few.  Salad is one of them.  I love a cold, crisp, colorful salad full of tons of seasonal veggies. Add some grilled lean protein like salmon or chicken and I’m set.  I love it.  It tastes amazing, and it makes me feel strong and healthy.

 

Mexican food is another one. Making Mexican food healthy is an easy jump from a plate full of chips drenched in queso, smothered in ground beef and sour cream to a delicious and healthy fajita salad. 

 

And if you are carb cycling, which I did to lose weight, you can easily make it a low carb or a high carb meal.  Here are my tips to make the healthy swap from endless tortilla chips to a satisfying Mexican meal that won’t leave you bloated and full of regret. 

 

First of all, ditch the ground beef.  These aren't your Momma’s tacos.  Grill some chicken, or salmon.  Simmer some ground turkey and add your favorite seasonings (cumin, garlic, red pepper, paprika).  Or one of my favorite things to do is throw some chicken breasts in the crock pot, add a can or Ro-tel.  Easy peasy and ready to go after work. Much leaner choices than that fat laden ground beef we had at school and the fast food joints we frequented as teenagers.

 

Instead of starting with a bed of tortilla chips, start with lettuce.  Layer on your protein, add some onions and peppers.  Then this is where you can make some decisions about whether you want a low carb meal or a high carb meal. Or if you are counting macros or calories, a combination of carbs and fats.  If going low carb, you can add a little shredded cheese or guacamole. If you want high carb, skip the guac and go with corn tortillas, brown rice, or count out ONE portion of tortilla chips.  The chips I use are from Whole Foods.  Fifteen chips has 130 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  Not bad at all.  And yes, it’s possible to actually count chips and not eat an endless mountain of them.  Who knew? This portion was plenty for my meal.

 

Another big way to add flavor and make any meal more satisfying is with salsa.  One issue a lot of people have with eating healthy is that think it’s boring and flavorless.  Plain grilled chicken, broccoli.  There is so much more to enjoy than that!

Salsa is awesome because you can put it on anything.  Anything.  I use it on this fajita salad.  But also a regular salad.  Eggs. Potatoes. Top my chicken with it.  Most salsa has 25 calories for two tablespoons.  25 calories! That’s it!

 

We had the pleasure of trying out some new salsas this week.  My friend, Melissa, at Whole Foods told me they had a new line of salsas and wanted us to give them a whirl and see what we thought.  The line is from Tacodeli out of Austin, Texas.  Can I just say yum?

 

I am a HUGE wimp when it comes to heat in salsa.  I want to like spicy food.  It’s doesn’t bother my stomach, but man! It burns my tongue. I cannot do it. My family and I had three levels of heat to try. And in no surprise, I liked the Mild Salsa Verde the best.  It’s made from tomatillas and has a mild, tangy taste.  Right up my alley.

 

We also tried the Medium Salsa Roja which was a medium heat, fire roasted salsa. It’s got a charred (in a good way) flavor and was borderline too hot for me. And the Salsa Dona, which is different than a typical salsa, in that it is not tomato based, but made from jalapenos and garlic. Scott loved it, of course. He is all about the heat.

 

Another easy swap is to use greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I used to think greek yogurt was gross, too thick, too strong of a taste. But, when I was at boot camp, I quickly realized greek yogurt was an easy way to get protein into my diet and it was a good swap for sour cream. And after a few tries, I really began to love it and now I eat it almost every morning before I workout. Ditch the high fat sour cream for low fat greek yogurt. 

 

Moral of the story, try adding flavor to your meals to keep the healthy stuff from getting boring. We piled out plates high with lettuce, chicken, onions, peppers, salsa, greek yogurt and ate it up with our portion of chips.  Completely satisfying and delicious.  My meal totaled around 340 calories- 9 grams fat, 32 grams carbs, 34 grams protein. Compared to two southwest chicken tacos at “On the Border” having 1220 calories, served with rice and beans. Huge difference!

 

Don’t suffer through a lifetime of bland for the sake of healthy. Ask yourself what foods fit into what category for you, Physiologically good, psychologically good, or both?. What foods do you crave?  What foods make you feel good? And how can you make those fit into a healthy diet? It is always possible to make some tweaks that allow you to enjoy foods that are good for you and taste good! 

Let me know what your favorite healthy swaps are! 

 

 

Goodbyes are Hard. An Ode to Skippy.

I normally blog about being healthy, working out, clean eating...but this one is different. My blog has always functioned under the idea of being healthy, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. And today, for the sake of my emotional health, I am going to tell you all about my sweet boy, Skippy, our family pet of nearly 14 years.  And how we decided it was time to say good bye.

We adopted Skippy from the pound in August of 2003. Scott and I surprised the girls with the cutest little, tan, floppy eared puppy.  He had spent one night at the shelter, having been found in a ditch out in the country, all alone. I couldn’t resist those big brown eyes, oversized ears and wagging tail.  

The day we brought Skippy home.  Who could resist those ears?

The day we brought Skippy home.  Who could resist those ears?

We had two great nights with Skippy.  We had named him (after the color of Skippy peanut butter), the girls already loved him, and he instantly felt like part of our family. But day three brought a huge challenge.  Skippy was very sick and was diagnosed with Parvo, which can be very deadly for dogs.  We were told we had a 50/50 chance of survival if we treated him, or we could trade him in for a different dog at the pound, which was a death sentence for our sweet boy.

What choice did we really have? Having spent $75 to adopt him, one week later we had spent almost $600 at the vet.  We now had a scared, skinny, emotionally fragile little guy on our hands.  We joked that for the almost $700 we had spent, we should have a nice pedigree instead of this scrawny pup with visible scars from the IV and the emotional scars of having spent a week in the hospital.

His need for attention upon coming home from the hospital was huge. This is when he found his voice. Skippy became a very vocal dog. In other words, he was a whiner.  He was needy.  That stay at the vet turned him into a very needy dog. He needed to be petted, always, and he whined when we weren’t doing it. After realizing the whining worked on that, it became his go to command. If he needed out, wanted a treat, needed water, wanted more food, wanted to be petted, wanted on the bed, all of it was gotten by whining.  

It was cute when he came home and we thought it was adorable that he missed us so much. Not cute 13 years later. 

Being scrawny did not stick. Skippy loved food and he was always a bit on the thick side.  He topped out at around 55 pounds but was down to 39 pounds the last few months of his life.

But beyond the whining, he was a sweet dog.  He had the softest coat. He loved to have his chest rubbed. He never met a stranger.  He was sweet to everyone that came into our home, and he wanted everyone to pet him.

We got him a buddy, Rondo, when Skippy was five.  By then we had moved to Oklahoma and were gone more during the day, so Rondo was a good companion for him. He lost weight chasing his new friend around. Rondo was obsessed with Skippy. Rondo wouldn’t eat until Skippy had. He always waited to see how Skippy would respond to something before he would act.  Skippy was his big bro and he loved him.

Skippy and Rondo- about 3 weeks ago. (Notice Skippy's insanely long claws) 

Skippy and Rondo- about 3 weeks ago. (Notice Skippy's insanely long claws) 

One of Skippy’s biggest quirks (and there were many) was that you could NOT touch his paws. Much less clip his nails. I don’t mean he didn’t like it. I mean it was a total freak out if you touched them. A nice, but misguided, vet once said if she took him out of the room and clipped them without me around, he would be fine. She left with him, only to bring him back a few minutes later to tell me she feared he would have a heart attack when she tried to clip them. I don’t know what happened that made him such a fanatic about it, but we spent a lot of money through the years having him sedated for his pedicures. 

We sailed through the good years.  Skippy was just a great, loyal dog. Sure, he was a pain in the butt sometimes.  He thought he needed a treat every hour on the hour and would stand by the closet where we kept them an whine until you gave him one. No mercy. He never gave up. He barked at the neighbor’s dogs and anyone who dared walk past our home. He was a beagle mix (best guess) and he had that Beagle howl. Not always my favorite thing to listen to. 

Four years ago, when Skippy was almost ten years old, we acquired Arthur, our little man. The little spitfire.  A Chorkie; a Chihuahua/Yorkie mix.  His personality is all Chihuahua. He wanted to be the alpha dog, and liked to growl at Skippy to prove his point. There were days when I was sure Skippy was going to eat Arthur.

Skippy and Arthur. This always makes me laugh, posing for the camera. 

Skippy and Arthur. This always makes me laugh, posing for the camera. 

As time passed, Skippy’s hips got old. The walks were shortened to just around the block. The vet visits came closer together. He began to lose a little weight, so unlike him. He had a little cough last fall. I chalked it up to allergies. But after a couple of weeks of this chronic cough, we checked in with the vet. An x-ray and a few tests later and we are told it’s not allergies at all, but congestive heart failure. Skippy had fluid in his chest. We began a regimen of cough meds to try to help relieve some of the pressure in his chest.  

I don’t know that it helped.  His cough escalated through the months, but he did not seem to bothered by it. He still ran around the yard, He ate. He pooped. He whined for treats. Then the whining turned into barking and life got hard. There was no keeping him satisfied. He seemed upset in the evenings. He couldn’t get settled. The cough began to wake us up, as he coughed more and more during the night. 

In a last ditch effort for what I was sure was a few good months we had left, we began to give him a mild sedative to help him get settled at night. The vet diagnosed him with Doggie Dementia. She said some dogs will bark at the wall for hours. We weren’t quite there, but we seemed to be moving in that direction. 

He loved the sun. If he wasn't outside, this was his favorite spot to lay. 

He loved the sun. If he wasn't outside, this was his favorite spot to lay. 

It was hard. He still had really great days. He loved to lay on the back porch in the Spring sunshine. He still loved to follow me around the house and be petted. He wasn’t a miserable dog, lying in wait, ready to go. But his mind and body were failing. He was increasingly difficult. He had lost a lot of weight. The cough was chronic. I realized last weekend it was time to say good bye. Four weeks after our last vet visit. I called the vet the moment I knew, because I was certain I’d chicken out. That was Saturday morning and our appointment to let him go was Monday afternoon.

We had a good couple of last days.  Chelsea, our oldest daughter and her husband came over. We loved on him as much as we could. I didn’t go to church, wanting to spend as much time with him as I could.

Francie, who was nine when got Skippy, was heartbroken. She took Monday off from work to come hang out with us. We tried to make it an epic day. A ride with the sunroof open. A trip to Braum’s for a burger and milkshake for Skippy. A trip to the park. 

Our final hurrah. A drive to the park and a burger and milkshake from Braum's. 

Our final hurrah. A drive to the park and a burger and milkshake from Braum's. 

Then home for some sunshine in the back yard. What do you say to your constant companion when you know it’s good bye?  How do you let him know how much you loved him? Lots of tears, hugs, belly rubs, and sweet words were shared, then Scott and Skippy left.

I had done my research on how to handle the end of life for aging dogs. There is no right or wrong way to make the decision. But once it was done, I had a tremendous amount of peace. I knew we had chosen the right time. 

I read about how to handle the remaining dogs and saying good bye. I wished I could explain to Rondo and Arthur what was happening. Experts say that when dogs can see the body of the dead dog, that they can comprehend the death and recover from it easier. 

Scott brought Skippy home in a cardboard coffin (a box, but coffin sounds better). He took it to the back of the yard, I let the boys out and they made their way down to the box. At first they were hesitant, but eventually they poked their heads in, and sniffed all around. Then they sat right by the box and solemnly stared. They seemed to know to show him some respect. They sat still the entire time Scott dug the hole to bury Skippy. I have never seen those two dogs more still in my life. They had a little doggy memorial service going on. I am sure they absolutely understood and paid their respects. I was so proud of them.

And it was done. After months of stressing about his health, his cough, how we would make the tough decisions when the time came, it was all over. The tough decisions were done. He was at peace and so were we.

Easter 2012. You can appreciate his full heft here. Not a slim fellow. 

Easter 2012. You can appreciate his full heft here. Not a slim fellow. 

We all cried. Scott has always teased me about talking about Boomer, the cat I had for 19 years as I grew up. So many Boomer stories he has heard through the years. Now it’s Skippy’s turn. We’ll be telling Skippy stories for the rest of our lives.  Remember that time Skippy rolled all over a dead bird? Remember how he used to pretend box with Daddy? 

Losing a pet is hard. Life is hard, but you live through it. You pray, you find peace, you make your way. You recover. This may all sound dramatic to someone who doesn’t have a pet. But Skippy was as much a part of this family as I am. He was one of us.

Pet grief is real. I’m working through it. Indulging in this blog is part of it for me. I write my feelings and sharing has helped me. Thank you for reading. I hope you have a pet in your life that you love as much as we loved Skippy. 

Skippy,barely cooperating for Christmas pics in 2015. Our boys have always been a big part of our family. 

Skippy,barely cooperating for Christmas pics in 2015. Our boys have always been a big part of our family. 

 

If you are looking for a family pet, please adopt! We saved Skippy’s life by visiting the shelter that day. There are so many wonderful dogs in shelters all across the country.

 

Donuts and pies and cakes, Oh My!

Ahh. Donuts, cookies, pies, cakes, and all the other sweet wonders out there.  Who doesn't love them?  I know I do.  My husband, Scott, jokes that when we're on vacation, my compass is the donut shop. It's the place I have to try out in any city.  It's true.  I love donuts.  But, I can't have them every day.  That's why I enjoy having them on vacation.  It's occasional.  And I love trying new treats in new cities we visit.

 

Sure, I love sweets. I also love being healthy. I have to find the balance between those two loves of mine. It's a tricky balance that many of us don't do well. For some, sugar is a slippery slope.  One donut and next thing you know, you've had four. And since you've already blown it, you figure you may as well have that ice cream after dinner, and what the heck, those donuts were great, let's have them again for breakfast!

 

For others, you are such a stickler for not indulging, you haven't had anything you really enjoy in months. You freak out over any morsel that isn't "on plan" and you obsessively track your calories, macros, and your fitbit stats to make sure you're doing everything perfectly.   

 

Those ways may work for some people, but most of us need a sweet treat every now and then.  And we want to enjoy it without overdoing it or regretting it the next day.  No sugar comas need apply!

 

I'll share with you what works for me. I indulge once a week. When I was doing the show, we got one reward meal each week. Knowing I could work out my cravings each weekend, I was able to ward off the worst of my cravings during the week. 

 

Scott is off on Fridays and we typically go out to breakfast. French toast, please! We usually end up not even eating lunch, then having a little reward meal, without overdoing it, for dinner.  I also look ahead each week to see if there are any other commitments we have that will challenge my eating plans, and see if we need to adjust what day is reward day.  

 

I know I am only talking about sweets here. But that is my kryptonite. I rarely crave salty foods.  It's all about the sweets. And before you all tell me I am a sugar addict. I know. I am sure I am, but honestly, I am not ready to give it all up forever, I did do a Whole 30 in January and gave sugar up for weeks. It was a dark time in my life and I don't like to think about it. 

 

I like the way Melissa Hartwig, the creator of W30, thinks about food. Ask yourself "Is it worth it?" Do I really want this treat enough to work it off? Do I actually want this (insert your craving here)?  Or can I wait for this? When your co-worker brings donuts, do you really want one?  Or do you think you do because they just happen to be there?

 

Holidays are also a time I think it's worth indulging a little. You don't have to make Grandma's chocolate cake, Aunt Linda's pecan pie, plus 7 layer cookies and a layered trifle, like at Thanksgiving, every time you get together. But when you have family around for the holidays, it's ok to splurge.  No one looks back fondly and talks about the time Grandma served vegetables and dip. We all have great (or cringeworthy) memories of family time spent over a good meal. 

 

For Spring Holidays like Easter or Mother's Day, I love to have a light, fruity dessert.  I make a mean Lemon Ice Box Pie, or this year, I am going for Whole Foods Chantilly cake.  It is AMAZING! 

 

Call me crazy, but I am not a chocolate kinda girl.  I am all about a good sugar cookie, some dense pound cake, or just good white cake.  Yum!  My favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla. Don't judge! I promise I'm not as boring as that sounds! 

Whole Foods Chantilly Cake.  Also known as my personal Heaven on Earth.

Whole Foods Chantilly Cake.  Also known as my personal Heaven on Earth.

 

So, back to this Chantilly cake.  I first had it at a friend's birthday party a couple of years ago and I could not get over how delicious it was. I haven't forgotten it since. It was right out of my dessert dreams. Fluffy cake layers, light and airy icing with fresh berries?  Get in my belly! 

 

My friend at Whole Foods recently gave us a Chantilly cake to enjoy as a family and it was a huge hit.  My daughter, Chelsea, who usually doesn't like cake, because she doesn't like icing (how is this even possible?! If I had not given birth to her, I'd swear she's not mine) asked for seconds.  It's the cake that won her over.

 

Here's my suggestion for this weekend- Grab your family.  Go to church for Easter.  Hide your eggs. Enjoy the outdoors.  Eat some ham and deviled eggs. And have a Chantilly cake.  They are even $5 off now through Saturday, April 15th.  You will thank me. Seriously, you will find yourself emailing me to tell me how your life was changed because you had this cake. Or because you had a great weekend with family.

 

No matter what you decide to reward yourself with, enjoy it guilt free!  It's one day.  One meal.  As they say "Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes.  Eat the cake!"

 

 

I Want to Make Things Uncomfortable

I like to be comfortable.  I think we all do. I spent a great deal of my life wanting to stay comfortable.  It did not serve me well. 

 

Miriam Webster gives us several definitions for the word Comfortable:
a :  affording or enjoying contentment and security
b :  affording or enjoying physical comfort
2
a :  free from vexation or doubt 

b :  free from stress or tension

 

Yep.  I definitely like to be comfortable. I have my “spot” on the couch.  I like physical comfort. No matter the season, I keep my house at 70 degrees. I am often filled with self doubt, so I certainly don’t like to be put into situations that bring on my doubts.  And I don’t think any of us like stress or tension.  

 

But trying so hard to be comfortable was not good for me.  Working so hard for comfort got me to 315 pounds.  Food was comfort, not working out was comfortable.  Challenging myself was uncomfortable.  So, I didn't.  I was all about staying in my comfort zone. 

 

But now?  Now I want to make things uncomfortable.  It's for my own good.  I love to push myself physically, find that daily bit of discomfort.  But even in my willingness to do hard workouts, to sweat all summer in an un-air conditioned CrossFit gym, I still live in my comfort zone.  I know my gym.  I know the coaches, my workout peeps.  It has gotten comfortable to me.  

 

This year I decided to stretch my comfort zone.  Walking into a new gym or a new class is absolutely uncomfortable for me.  I still have that voice that tells me I won’t be able to keep up or I will look stupid.  I have worked hard to silence that pesky little voice, so to challenge myself, I recently tried a new workout.  

 

A friend of mine owns and coaches at an all female gym.  I belonged there for a few years before I did Extreme Weight Loss.  Belonged being the key word.  I rarely went!  I did go during the casting process as I realized if I was chosen for the show, I was absolutely unprepared for any type of workout.  So, I began doing cardio there and met with a trainer a few times.  My friend, Adana, is a tiny, petite little ball of energy and she invited me to try her RIP class.  (RIP? Am I going to die?) Some gyms call it Pump.  Either way, it involves choreographed, high rep weight lifting of light weight barbells. I say light weight, because it’s much lighter than what I would lift at CrossFit.  But, don’t let the “light weight” fool you.  It’s tough!

My set up.  Much lighter and smaller than the bar that I am used to, but so hard! 

My set up.  Much lighter and smaller than the bar that I am used to, but so hard! 

 

The short story is that I loved it.  It was harder than I expected, and was super fun.  Adana is a great teacher and works right along with the class.  The equipment used was a small barbell, the appropriate weights for your level,  a step (like in step class) and some dumbbells.  

 

Each song works a certain muscle group.  We did a ton (like 2 million?) squats. Back squats, lunges, pulses, and it was a booty burner.  Over the course of the hour we worked triceps, back, abs, legs, biceps, you name it.  This workout definitely worked my whole body and left me shaking.

 

What was surprising to me was that I had loaded (ha!) my bar with weights, totaling 20 pounds.  Twenty.  Pounds.  That is all.  And there were many times I wanted to ditch some of that weight.  Which seemed so crazy to me because in CrossFit I deadlift 215 pounds, can clean and jerk 115, back squat 165, but this 20 pounds was killing me.  It is SO many more reps than we would do in a strength workout at CrossFit.  But it felt great to know I was really working each muscle group.  I left there in utter exhaustion, sure I was going to be extremely sore. 

 

When I say choreographed, it’s not like we were dancing around like Zumba, but you are lifting to the beat. Adana would prompt us on the next set of movements.  So, there is that aspect to it, but it was super easy to follow along.  Don't let your inner Elaine (please tell me you've seen the Elaine dance from Seinfeld) keep you from thinking you can't do a choreographed class. 

The classroom.  I am the creeper hiding in the back of the class, taking pics. :)

The classroom.  I am the creeper hiding in the back of the class, taking pics. :)

 

My takeaways- Great workout.  Really fun.  It’s very easy to modify by using less, or even no weight (as some did) during portions of the workout.  So, it would be a great workout for beginners.  I also like that Adana told us several times that if it’s too easy, add weight! You can make it as easy or difficult as you need to.  Surprisingly, I ended up not being sore the next day, so there were certain muscle groups I would go heavier on next time. 

 

If you're looking for something fun to get your heart rate up, this could be it.  What I also appreciate about it, is that is adds the necessary component of weight training.  If CrossFit or heavy lifting intimidates you, this is a great workout to add weight training without the (unfounded) concern of getting bulky with heavy weights. Adding weights will help you add muscle. Or keep muscle as you lose weight.  Keeping or adding muscle is vital to burning calories efficiently.  

After- It's blurry because my arms were shaking.  And please notice how flawless Adana, our teacher, is even after the workout!  #goals 

After- It's blurry because my arms were shaking.  And please notice how flawless Adana, our teacher, is even after the workout!  #goals 

 

I left my comfort zone and lived to tell about it!  I will definitely give RIP another go.  On a scale of 1-5 for ease of starting a new workout, I’d give it a four.  You need just a little direction to figure out the weights and how to get everything set up.  If you’re going for the first time, ask your instructor or someone who seems to know the ropes what you need. 

 

Being comfortable is the easy road.  I am done taking the easy way out.  I am almost four years into this healthy living gig and I don’t think I will ever fully be comfortable with it. And I am perfectly fine with that.  Now, get out there and get uncomfortable! 

My Top Eleven Fitness Memes

We see them all the time.  Fitness Memes.  Funny, poignant, inspiring, sarcastic.  They run the gamut.  I've picked out my Top Eleven (because I just couldn't stop at ten!) Fitnesss Meme favorites, that ring of the absolute truth in my healthy living journey.  I am sure many of you can relate.  Let me know which ones you love!

One Pound at a time.  You gain it one pound at time.  You lose it one pound at a time.  Don't freak out and go off the rails if you gain one pound.  Focus, get back on track.  And don't freak out if you "only" lose one pound in a week.  It's a pound in the right direction! Every pound counts. 

Lesson one in any healthy living journey is realizing you are important and that you HAVE to begin to keep your promises to yourself.  All those years you've spent not keeping your promises to yourself has taken it's toll on your health.  When you tell yourself "It starts Monday", or "I'm going to the gym after work/in the morning"... DO IT!  Don't keep telling yourself one thing and then doing something else. You keep your promises to your friends, your family, your co-workers, now do it for yourself!

I often get asked how long it takes to stop being sore when you start working out for the first time.  My response- If you're doing it right, never!  I am consistently sore! And I love it!  Soreness just means you worked your muscles hard.  They are repairing and getting stronger. We've all had those days when we have to "trust fall" to the toilet and it's OK! But did you die?

Amen!  This is my life.  Starting a workout plan at 315 pounds wasn't easy and my knees hurt ALL. THE. TIME.  Every day.  For months.  Was it because I was doing crossfit and cardio?  Nope.  It was because for every pound you weigh, each step puts 4 pounds of pressure on your knees.  That's right.  I was taxing my knees with over 1,000 pounds when I walked.  Years of obesity took their toll on my knees.  If you have correct form and consistently do squats, they will strengthen your legs, not harm you.  

This is still hard for me.  I work out five days a week at 5am.  I sacrifice a lot of sleep and time at night with my husband to keep this schedule.  Do I look anything like the girl in this picture?  Nope.  Not at all.  I have loose skin, cellulite, big legs...but it's me.  And I have had to learn to accept that at 47 years old and 20 years of being obese have gotten me to where I am.  And where I am is SO much better than being 315 pounds and on a path to long term health problems.  So, let's focus on being the best "me" we can be today, and not compare ourselves to others.  

This!  This, people! This could not be more true.  We tend to reward ourselves and our kids with food.  Good grades, let's get ice cream!  Family is in town, let's eat ALL THE FOOD! Got a promotion, let's go out to eat!  Food is our way to celebrate and reward ourselves.  And for many of us, those "rewards" become a daily habit and we end up in a horrible cycle of rewarding the very body that we have come to hate.  Let's treat our bodies well and not punish ourselves with eating crappy, zero nutrient food.

Oh my goodness!  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this.  Let me reiterate, lifting weights will not make you huge.  Cardio will burn calories, but muscle burns fat.  Isn't that what we want?  To be strong and burn fat?  Adding weight training will do that for you!  Women, do not be afraid of weights.  You don't have to do crossfit or throw around a huge heavy barbell, but PLEASE, add some dumbbells or kettle bells to your workout.  Don't just jump on a treadmill five days a week and call it good.  Weights are your friend!

We all hate burpees.  We do.  But, they work.  The reason they are hard is because they are working your entire body.  So when you feel like your trainer ALWAYS makes you do burpees, there is a reason!  They're going to work for you! So, next time you're doing burpees, don't cuss your trainer under your breath, tell her thank you! She's just got your best interest at heart!

Pretty much.  Some days we feel like rock stars at the gym, and some days we struggle and want to cry.  Or if you're me, you do cry. Working out shouldn't be easy. It should have some level of suckage. If you can cruise through your workout, you're probably not pushing yourself very hard.  I want to push myself.  I want to be out of breath, sweating, gasping for air, muscles shaking when I'm done.  I want it to suck.  And then I want to come back tomorrow and do it again.  

We've all go them.  Those unflattering or downright awful pictures of ourselves.  When you lose 100+ pounds like me, there are definitely some cringeworthy pics out there.  Embrace them!  Use them as motivation to never go back. And on the flipside, if you are in a place that you are not happy with how you look and you never take pictures, get over it!  Your family just wants pictures of you, no matter what you weigh.  Stop putting off family pictures until you lose the weight.  Take the pictures!

FullSizeRender-5.jpg

Had to.  I don't post every day, but as someone who has lost weight and has a passion for staying healthy, I certainly post my fair share of gym pics.  But hey!  I just want to give a reality to what it takes to lose weight and WORK so hard to try to keep it off.  

I hope you like my Top Ten Fitness Memes!  Let me know which ones you can relate to, or drop a comment to let me see your favs! Here's to the meme makers who keep us inspired and laughing all the way to the gym!