I Need Some Soul Comfort…Do You? (Giveaway)

The last two weeks have been quite an adjustment for my family. I accepted a new position with a company that requires me to work outside of my home. I’ve been working full-time for the last six years, but my office was based in my house which offered me a little more flexibility with scheduling.

Don’t get me wrong, there were challenges with working from home as well. I would find myself working almost all the time because I didn’t have a clear start and end to my work day. My kids complained that I was always on the computer and I often found myself working all hours of the night.

And I know I’m blessed. The company I’m working for now is wonderful. The people are so nice. The work is great.

But it’s still a change and change of any kind can be stressful. I feel guilty because I’m not at home as much with my kids. And finding time to work out and eating healthfully is definitely more challenging. The days seem shorter and my to-do list is longer.

I’m not unique. These are issues many parents struggles with.

Do you?

Brave girls soul comfort

I heard about a recent online class called Soul Comfort offered through an extraordinary organization called The Brave Girls Club and they’ve graciously given me free access to their class and the opportunity to share the news with you along with the opportunity for YOU to attend for free!

Soul Comfort is a fresh new concept using art and journaling as a means to relax and comfort yourself and to get grounded while dealing with the craziness of every-day living.

This course if full of beautiful projects to fuel your creativity in very simple and easy ways that are meditational and relaxing , beautiful comforting things that will have your soul infused into them so that you want to keep them forever.

The instructor, Melody, promises to teach you some new habits of creativity mixed with simplicity (I love, love, love to create…it’s so therapeutic!) and that all the supplies you will need will fit into one fabric tote bag so that you can take it with you where ever you go! You’ll learn new ways to journal and the process will be relaxing, fun and simple. You’ll also have the opportunity to interact with other participants through a private Facebook page.

I can’t wait to attend! Here’s the down low:

  • Supply List - simple, inexpensive supplies
  • Register Here - tuition $99
  • Class begins September 24. Access the online classroom through January 2, 2014.
  • Divided into 4 segments, with a new one released every two weeks to give you lots of space to breathe

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A Giveaway!

Doesn’t this class sound wonderful? How would you like to attend for free? One lucky reader will get a pass to class at no-charge. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what is it about ‘Soul Comfort’ that makes you want to take this Brave Girl class?

That’s it…easy, peasy! I’ll pick a winner at random on Sunday, September 22, 2013, at noon CST.

The Brave Girls Club and this class fits perfectly with my motto:

Be Brave, Be Fierce, Believe.

Remember my friends, you are awesome and deserve to make time for yourself and to follow your dreams. I believe in you!

I am so grateful to the Brave Girls Club to be given the opportunity to attend this class free-of-charge, share the details with you and offer a free class to one, lucky Still Living The Dream reader. 

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A Proud Mom

This journey – motherhood…it’s an emotional one.

I get a bit reflective at milestone moments. No doubt many are experiencing one or another this month with the school year ending.

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Jackson left the house this morning as a 5th grader. When he came home today he was no longer an elementary school student. He’ll start a new journey in Middle School this fall.

Exciting, for sure.

Scary…a bit.

Sad? No…but still – today was the last time he and his sister, Annie, will attend the same school together. It’s the last time I will see  him walk the halls of the school he felt comfortable in…secure.

Before summer gets crazy and we dive into a new adventure this fall, I want to pause just a moment to say…

Jackson – I’m so proud of the young man you are becoming.

I am privileged to be a part of your story. No matter what adventure awaits you I want you to know that even when I’m strict, I am cheering for your success. I whispered in your ear the moment you were born, “Hello handsome. I’m your mommy and I love you.” Hear it when you feel scared or alone and know that those promises I made that day we first met I will keep forever.

That I will stand by you and love you no matter what.

And I will never, ever make you eat asparagus.

 

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Celebrating World Immunization Week with Shot@Life Champion Julie Marsh

It’s World Immunization Week and I recently had the privilege to visit with Shot@Life Champion, Julie Marsh. She is amazing and the work that she is doing along with Shot@Life to help educate, advocate for and donate vaccines to help save the lives of children in developing countries is extraordinary.

Shot@Life rallies the American public, members of Congress, and civil society partners around the fact that together, we can save a child’s life every 20 seconds by expanding access to vaccines. By encouraging Americans to learn about, advocate for, and donate to vaccines, Shot@Life aims to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life.

The organization is celebrating their first birthday along with their many accomplishments such as:

  1. helping ensure that thousands of children around the world reached the milestone of celebrating a first birthday by receiving life-saving vaccines
  2. sending over 26,000 letters to Congress
  3. growing the movement to include more than 190,000 supporters

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Shot@Life Champion, Julie Marsh is VP of Operations at Cool Mom Picks, a shopping blog for parents, focused on small, independent businesses and fabulous design. A project manager by trade, Julie has three children, lives in Colorado and writes about things that interest her at JulieMarsh.net.

 

 

Jenn: Tell me about how you started working with Shot@Life

Julie: I started my work with Shot@Life last year for Blogust – the blog relay for good, in which 31 bloggers posted over the course of August 2012 (one per day) regarding the positive impact of vaccines on our lives. I had previously written about public health, diet and exercise in particular,  and relevant policy issues. In my Blogust post, I also discussed my undergraduate studies in health sciences, as well as recent reading about political events in Africa and the resulting health and social issues.

While so many public policy issues seem thoroughly overwhelming, vaccination is a simple, elegant, low-cost means of saving lives. The benefits of such a small action are truly enormous.

Jenn: How did you continue your work with advocating for vaccinations for children?

Julie: After Blogust, I attended the Social Good Summit sponsored by Mashable in September 2012.  It was an amazing learning opportunity concerning the use of social media in cause advocacy, with topics ranging from Giving Tuesday to the new Half the Sky Facebook game, and speakers including UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Grammy winning musician Angelique Kidjo, children’s book illustrator and measles eradication advocate Sophie Blackall, and Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Nicholas Kristof, among many others. While my primary focus there was to learn more about vaccinations as they relate to public health, I was astounded by all of the public health issues that are gaining traction via social media channels.

julie marsh with florence

In October 2012, I was invited to visit Uganda as a guest of the UN Foundation and UNICEF (you can see her day by day documentation beginning here on her blog, JulieMarsh.net.) and in February 2013, I participated in the 28 Days of Impact to help raise funds for Shot@Life. Specifically, I covered the story of Florence, a young mother I met in Uganda who was characterized by a doctor there as a “model mother.” Her determination to do the very best she could for her children, overcoming obstacles that most American mothers can’t fathom, has become another driving factor behind my advocacy for vaccines.

Jenn: Why do you feel it is important to become involved with this issue?

Julie: Effective public health policies (and frankly, personal health strategies) necessitate taking the long view of society and of our own lives. Doing the right thing, both individually and collectively, is not always cheap or easy. In fact, the longer we live without regard for our future, the more difficult and expensive it will become to take care of ourselves — again, both individually and collectively.

Maybe I can’t convince people to adopt a healthier diet or exercise regularly, because the cost and difficulty of these may seem prohibitive in the short term. But vaccines are cheap, easy, and the global public health payoff is immense.

You can learn more about Shot@Life, the work that they do and how you can help online and on Facebook. You can also follow the birthday celebration on twitter at #birthdaybash and learn more about other Shot@Life Champions on Storify.

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Moving Forward Past The Goal

I’m a little nervous.

This weekend I’m signed up to run a 10K. I haven’t been running as much as I should and I haven’t been watching my diet as closely as I should. It’s so easy to become misguided when there’s a great Mexican food restaurant on every block and a new gourmet cupcake bakery pops up daily!

So Monday morning I laced up my running shoes and forced myself to hit the track. My music on my phone wasn’t working and I was mad. I was mad that I hadn’t been working harder and now I was going to have to run in silence.

With all that silence comes reflection and the conversation with myself wasn’t all that positive.

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“Why don’t you have more will power? Why do you still struggle with making good choices with food? Is it always going to be so challenging? Will I ever get ‘good’ at this? Will I ruin everything I’ve worked so hard for?”

There comes a time after you get to your “goal” when people stop telling you that you are doing a good job and that you look good. I knew it was coming and I knew it was going to be hard. Because comments like those gave me strength to do well….to continue working hard.

And I wonder, no I actually worry… do I have what it takes to keep this up – by myself?

I know I have to. I know it’s up to me whether I sink or swim. But there’s that girl that’s still 55 pounds heavier inside me and she says, “you CAN’T do it Jenn, so just stop trying…just GIVE UP.”

And when I hear her I know two things for sure:

1. I don’t want to be that girl again

2. This will be an on-going journey for me. I will struggle, sometimes more than other times, but I will have to work hard at this. For. Ever.

So running on the track Monday I worried that I wasn’t going to be ready for the 10K on Saturday. I thought maybe I would just run the 5K with my family and that would be ok.

But then when I finished one lap, I told myself that surely I could run two. And when I hit two, I told myself that I was almost at three. And then three laps turned into 4 1/2 miles. It wasn’t pretty….but I did it. And If I ran 4 1/2 miles on a track without music or people around to motivate me, that it’s possible that on Saturday I could run two more miles. It’s possible and that’s progress.

And while I was stretching afterwards…I realized that I needed to tell the heavier me who thinks I can’t do it to shut the hell up. That today I did it and maybe I will tomorrow, too. And I’m going to have to take it day by day like that for awhile. Because while I haven’t gained any weight on the scale, I don’t feel as strong as I did – so I need to rededicate myself to this journey.

And I’ve got today, this moment, to make a good decision. And then I go on from there.

I said my mantra several times on the track. I’ve got to remember to say it at other times too.

Be Brave. Be fierce. Believe.

Believe. Because I have to continue on this journey for me and my health and my future.

I can’t go back. I just. can’t.

Do you struggle with weight issues? Have you met a goal and regressed? What do you do when the positive comments stop coming from others and your forced with just the thoughts you’ve got running a muck in your own head and they aren’t particularly positive? 

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I Will Be Brave….My Journey to Good Health.

Recently I posted this picture on Facebook along with this caption.

35 pounds. Gone.

And I got an outpouring of support from people who congratulated me, complimented me and asked me how I did it.

It’s been a journey I’ve been taking since July. It’s a journey I’m still on. I have more weight to lose and then I need to work on keeping it off. But as of today, I’ve lost 35 pounds. On my short frame of 4’10″, it’s pretty significant. And so I’m celebrating that success.

Part of my success has been through making healthier food choices and limiting my calorie/fat intake. I do this through Weight Watchers and I’ll talk more about that later. The other element has been exercise. For me, what has worked has been hitting the track to run/walk and doing Jazzercise.

I’ve been getting ready for a 5K run with my friends…using the Couch to 5K program. It’s been a great way to ease my body back into exercise and running. Before July I wasn’t moving much at all and could barely walk around the track at the YMCA. Today I’m able to run around it four times.

You start off by running just a minute or so at a time, alternating between running and walking. Slowly the amount of time you run increases. Yesterday I ran two 8 minute runs with 5 minute walks in between. Tomorrow I’ll be running 20 minutes at once.

An app on your smartphone tells you when to start running and start walking.

It started with a step and I continue my journey one step at a time. The most important thing is that I make my health and exercise a priority. Which often means doing it first thing in the morning before work and other responsibilities can take over. And sometimes…I just have to push other things aside and trust that it will all be there 30 minutes to an hour when I get back because my health is too important.

But it’s hard. And sometimes I struggle. And when my friends can’t join me on a run – sometimes I listen to music that inspires me and sometimes I let the moment and feelings take over and cry. I’ve come a long way but I have a long way to go and many steps to take. And sometimes it’s really overwhelming.

But I will be brave.

I was by just posting that picture of myself above in a workout tank and pants. My curves are still there…I’m not at my goal weight. But I’m making progress.

In upcoming posts I’ll be talking about more of what I’m doing including programs I’m involved with, recipes I’ve enjoyed, how I eat well while eating out, traveling and making good food choices, etc. Unless otherwise indicated, I don’t have any official affiliation with companies and programs mentioned in my posts. I’d love to hear about what you’d like to know, so give me a shout below with questions.

Will you share the journey with me?

 

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Bake It Forward With Some Free Sugar (A Giveaway)

Many of you read my post about Imperial Sugar’s Bake It Forward Program and wanted to know what recipes I used to bake the cookies for my mom’s tin.

I found great oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookie recipes from Weight Watchers.com. They were delicious and both types of cookies are only 2 points plus each! I’ve been on the Weight Watchers program since July and am making better food choices in order to loose weight. My mom has always been careful of what she eats, too…so while she’s not dieting like me, I knew she’d appreciate these goodies. (She loved them!)

I was so happy to hear that many of you wanted to Bake It Forward like I did for my mom. On the website, you’ll find information about the program, how to get and register your own tin, recipes, coupons and more.

As a special incentive to get you going, Imperial Sugar has given me free sugar vouchers for five of my readers!

A Giveaway!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment to tell me who you are going to Bake It Forward to. (And if you want to share a great cookie recipe with us, too – please do!!)

Because the free vouchers expire at the end of this month, I want to get them in the mail to you soon – so this giveaway ends Friday, September 21, 2012, at noon CST. I’ll choose five readers at random who will each get vouchers for $8.00 towards Imperial sugar products of their choice.

Be looking for the name of the winners and check your email box Friday if you enter…because I’ll mail the vouchers to you as soon as I get your mailing address, giving you plenty of time to visit the grocery store before they expire!

Want an extra chance to win? Just leave me a separate comment for each of the following you do below!

  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want to Bake It Forward with free @ImperialSugar from @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/09/bake-it-forward-with-some-free-sugar-a-giveaway.html”
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Baking It Forward – To My Mom in New York

Sometimes having a blog can be so rewarding…. an outlet that allows me to share with you so many things. Products, books, crafts and recipes I love. Funny stories about marriage, parenthood and life in general. Fun places to travel, both within and outside the city of Houston.

Other times it’s a burden.

Like recently. When I’ve wanted to share with you something significant that’s been going on in my life but instead I’ve chosen to gloss over it. Filling recent posts with giveaways and back-to-school stories. And sometimes, not posting at all.Because writing something down makes it real. And I haven’t been ready for real.

Until today.

This morning I found two cookie recipes online and then went grocery shopping and filled my cart with items like sugar, flour and butter. I pre-heated my oven to 350 and dusted off the Kitchen Aid mixer. And as I put together the ingredients to form a perfect treat…I slowly came apart.

My mom making a teddy bear to send to my aunt when we first heard she was sick.

The cookies are for my mom.

She had just barely recovered from her own heart attack last April when her sister, my aunt, called with news that she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. After a month of chemo, the doctors delivered the worst news possible. There wasn’t anything that could help. My aunt was given just three months to live.

My mom took a leave of absence from her own job to fly across the country to help her. (My aunt never married and doesn’t have any children.) Over the last couple of months her health has deteriorated and my mom has been there by her side to help her go to the rest room, feed her through her IV, rub her back and hold her hand while she cries.

This week marks that three month mark her doctors predicted would be the end. And we know in our hearts that they were right. She doesn’t have much time left.

Me and my aunt during our visit this summer.

I visited to help for a bit during the summer but I don’t know how much help I really was. I struggled with my own emotions and while I kept them in check while I was there; hugging my aunt goodbye for the last time was almost too much to bear. I cried the entire trip back home. My sister has been able to travel up to help several times and my aunt and uncle have been there to help, too.

But it’s mom who has been my aunt’s main caregiver. She’s so strong and calm and ever present.

But I know she’s tired. And she’s sad.

I have developed such a deep respect for what those who take care of ill and aging family members go through. The sacrifice they make to take care of someone else.

I hope the cookies I baked and the care package I send will bring her comfort. That she will feel loved and cared for while she is loving and caring for her sister, my aunt.

I got the idea from Imperial Sugar’s Bake It Forward Program. I’ve been lucky enough to do some work for them this summer and through my affiliation with the company I heard about tins you can get from them and then fill with goodies and send to someone who needs a smile. The hope is that person will then be inspired to fill the tin with goodies to send to someone else and that the tin slowly travels from person to person.

I registered my tin and then after my mom gets her cookies, she can send it to someone else and track it. I know that she has many people that she can give it to like nurses and aides that visit the house to check on my aunt and my other aunt in Massachusetts who recently lost her mom and is caring for her sick father. But because I don’t want my mom to worry about baking more cookies, I sent her a second batch to fill the tin and pass it on!

You can check out more about the Bake It Forward movement on their website. I think it’s a great idea. It motivated me to send my mom a care package and also, to finally share what’s been going on with me…with you.

Do you have someone who could use a smile?

Disclaimer: While I have done some other work for Imperial Sugar, the idea to post about my experience with The Bake It Forward movement and all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own. I’m thankful that their idea inspired me to bake for my mom and hope that my story inspires others to do the same. 

 

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Boot Camp Day Five – A Bump in the Road

For those of you just joining in on my boot camp experience, I signed up for a one month boot camp class with a groupon deal I bought. I’m really, quite seriously, out of shape. I’m heavier then I’ve ever been and haven’t been doing much of anything vis a vis “exercise” lately.

With my friend, Patti, by my side and the promise of a scooter from my husband (you can read more about that here) I’m determined to finish out the month. By then I’m hoping I will have lighted a fire that will spark me to continue down the road to good health.

photo courtesy of flickr: veggiefrog

So this is week 3 and I usually go twice a week; on Tuesday and Thursday.

My partner-in-crime called Tuesday morning (which would have been day 5) at 4:30 a.m. to tell me she had a headache and wasn’t going. Dressed and ready to roll, it only took me 3 1/2 seconds to decide to go back to bed and skip it too.

The power of a work-out partner is strong, ya’ll!

Determined to get in 2 classes this week, I woke up early Wednesday and waited for Patti to pick me up. When she didn’t text me to say that she was on her way, I got worried. When she didn’t respond to my texts, I remembered that she had been to a concert the night before. Patti was sleeping soundly.

I was on my own. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it took a lot to get in my car and go there alone.

And I was proud.

For about two minutes. And then the hardest work out of my life started and I ceased to think straight anymore. We ran around the park track in formation and then did “slingshots” where the back person sprinted to the front. I had a hard time keeping up and at one point dropped out of formation. I felt like a failure but my trainer kept by my side and pushed me.

Then we did pull-ups and I discovered I have absolutely no upper body strength. Good to know. Tears trickled down my cheeks as I struggled to complete just two. My trainer pushed me to do four.

Then we did inverted push-ups and lunges and more running and bench kicks and more running. And at the end…we pushed monster truck tires across the pavement. I’ve never been so happy to see 6:00 a.m. in my life … time to go  home.

But I was proud.

Until I woke up this morning and my arms and calves hurt so much that all excuses aside, I just couldn’t go to boot camp today. I felt bad about skipping BUT then I remembered that they hurt because I was out there working and I should feel good about that. And I should listen to my body.

I’m going to take a walk today. And then I’m going to boot camp three times next week to make up for only going once this week.

I’m learning that road blocks aren’t always bad. As long as I make a new plan and keep moving forward.

 

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Boot Camp Day Three – A Step In The Dark

I’m on my second week of boot camp, day three.

It’s kind of been a surreal experience because it’s so early. This is what I walk up to at 5:00 a.m.

That big ball of yellow in the upper left hand corner is a big street light….casting a weird haze over the darkness of the side street by the park where we work out.

I like it because I can barely make out the faces of those working out by me, which means they can’t really see me. And that gives me a lot of comfort. Because I’m fairly certain the sight of me working out isn’t that pretty!

Going from lunges into jumping jacks then to push-ups and crunches, basketball jumps, high knees and running sprints….I’m definitely pushing myself in ways that I haven’t in years. And except for the occasional glance up to my friend, Patti, for support or to the trainer for explanation (“you want me to do WHAT?!!)  - I don’t chit chat. It’s not a social thing for me (which is weird because I make everything social).

From 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday I concentrate fully on getting myself back to where I know I can be.

But it’s hard. Being there means and going through the motions is making me face the fact that I have let myself get so out of shape. When we have to run laps, I have to stop and walk to catch my breath. When we do push-ups I can’t finish them all. Even when we do jumping jacks (albeit a lot of them!) I can feel the pain in the arches of my feet.

It’s going to be a long road. I have a journey to take that I know will eventually need to include more than boot camp twice a week.

But this step in the dark is a start.

The beginning of good things to come.

Have you taken a step out of your comfort zone lately? Has it been scary? How do you feel after taking the leap? 

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Boot Camp Day Two

Life List #45 – Get Healthy. 

So I got up again at 4:30 a.m. again today and went to boot camp.

Day two – check. Yay.

But I’m starting to believe that the challenge in completing this month will be less about the “getting up early” and more about “the intense workout”. Maybe it’s because it’s only five hours since I finished this morning’s 50-minute exercise and I’m having trouble walking.

And standing.

And exerting any kind of energy. It hurts to type this, for pete’s sake. And I don’t remember working out my fingertips specifically.

So I’m starting to worry a little. But I’m not giving up. I even purchased a new pair of running shoes yesterday since my previous pair were about four years old and made my arches hurt. (By the way – when did running shoes get so expensive?!) Anyways I was really happy to have them this morning when I was one of the first to fall out of the plank position and had to “run” a lap as punishment. Yes – I used quotes around “run”. Because I’m not sure you could call what I did a “run”. But I made it around a full lap. And I didn’t puke.

That was “fun”.

Day two of boot camp is also day one of summer vacation, by the way. So needless to say we haven’t had a chance to fall into our summer schedule/rhythm yet.  I’ve only had to put out three fights between my almost first-grader and almost fifth-grader.

Thankfully they don’t know that I can’t chase them yet. If they find out…I’m toast. Please don’t tell them.

How’s your summer going so far?! Moving any mountains? Making any progress towards your goals?

Day-by-day, my friends. Day-by-day.

(ouch. hand cramp)

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