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Summertime Blues

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By Karen Hendricks

I’m going to be honest—It’s been a real struggle for me to write this summer and keep the blog rollin’. Oh I’ve had topics planned… but life has gotten into the way. I know everyone can relate to busy summer schedules that fly by! But as busy as this summer has been, it’s also been an unusually sad one. And that has really thrown me for a loop.

It doesn’t feel “normal” to be battling the blues during the summertime—typically a happy, fun, easy-going season filled with sunshine. I consider myself to be a very positive, uplifting person but I’ve been struggling lately…

During the first week of June, my daughter suffered an injury during a soccer practice. Thankfully, she didn’t have any broken bones, but she was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise. We didn’t realize how much it would affect her—and through a ripple effect, all of our family—in limiting her activities for the entire summer. It wasn’t something that she bounced back from—as we first thought she would—right away.

As a parent, I think that I have felt every bump, bruise, hurt and injury to come through every one of my children through the years… Have you ever felt that way too? This summer’s injury has just weighed so heavily on my heart… it pains me to see her limited in her activities because she is normally highly competitive, extremely athletic and always on the go. Her wings have been clipped for the summer. So that’s one component of my summertime sadness.

Also on the medical theme, I’ve been struggling with some health issues. Thankfully, I hope they are behind me… as I had surgery in early July. Anesthesia is an unpredictable, crazy thing… while it makes some people goofy, it left me feeling very blue—something I am not used to, and compounded due to the worried state of mind I was already experiencing due to my daughter’s injury.

Between my daughter and I, we’ve racked up more than 25 health-related appointments, just during the months of June and July. Not the way I want to spend my summer!

Now there have been some bright spots: A wonderful daytrip to our annual family reunion, beautiful mornings that have inspired me to go running, challenging and enjoyable freelance work projects, several lovely lunch dates with girlfriends, peaceful time spent gardening—and reaping the delicious rewards of the garden!, recuperation time when I was actually able to read an entire book!, a fun summer morning spent picking blueberries with friends, a rewarding experience two of our children had during a week-long mission trip with our church youth group, and even a getaway that my husband and I were able to enjoy (just the two of us!) during our children’s mission trip.

In between these bright spots, I’ve been focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, and trying to be the best mom and wife that I can be to my family, day-to-day. Hopefully things are looking up. My daughter had promising medical appointments yesterday, I am feeling better, and the love and prayers of close family and friends are carrying us through.

Stay tuned for upcoming family-focused blog topics, “as we return to our normally scheduled program.” But until then… feel free to share your stories and advice.

  • Have you ever experienced sadness in the summertime?
  • Doesn’t it feel unnatural?
  • How did you cope?
  • Do you think it’s comparable to the seasonal blues that affect people over the Christmas holidays?
  • As moms we often set the tone for our families, so how do you shake off the blues and stay strong and positive during times of crisis? 
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Going the Distance

Looking across the Gettysburg Battlefield, on the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K race course

Looking across the Gettysburg Battlefield, on the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K race course

By Karen Hendricks

I crossed something off my bucket list last week… it was something I honestly never thought I’d accomplish especially given my age. Not that I’m over the hill, but getting back into RUNNING at the age of 44 while juggling a family and career isn’t something that naturally fits right into an already-packed, super-busy schedule.

However… Last week I ran my first ever 5K. Can I just take a minute to say “I did it!” 🙂

I have always wanted to run a 5K, planned on doing them in my teens when I ran high school track. But when I was 16, I fell down a flight of stairs and cracked one of my kneecaps. Thus ended my running days. Until recently.

I tried to get back into running several times in the 20s but the twinges in my knee came back every time. Then came career, kids, and no spare time to even consider thinking about running. But for the past several years, taking a mixture of pilates, yoga and ballet classes, plus staying active with walking and biking, I honestly feel stronger and healthier now than ever before. So, keeping my fingers crossed, I slowly got back into running over the past year. It felt great to run intervals, interspersed with periods of walking, as I totaled 3-5 miles. Finding the time isn’t as much as a challenge now that my kids are a bit older (in their teens). One of the easiest ways for me to work walking and running into my schedule is to do it while my daughter has soccer practice at a park. But my favorite time of day is first thing in the morning—what a great start to the day. And the kids are certainly capable of getting their own breakfasts if I’m gone for a little while!

So I was feeling good, pretty happy to have “running” back in my life, but a 5K really wasn’t on my radar screen. Like most things in life, it isn’t until something is staring me in the face, that I think it might be a good idea!

My daughter Kelly is extremely athletic and runs a local 5K every year, either winning or placing in her teenage age group. This year she was signed up and ready to run, but about two weeks beforehand, she sprained her foot. A week before the race, it was obvious that her foot wasn’t going to allow her to run as usual. So, in a light bulb kind of moment, I decided I should change her registration to my name (and my age category!) and run the race instead. I’d always wanted to run a 5K, right? No time like the present. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” Did I mention, it was one week before the race?

My family’s reactions varied… my husband was supportive but concerned I was going to hurt myself. My daughter Katie was excited and volunteered to take photos to document my journey over the finish line. My daughter Kelly laughed, but then offered her runner’s insights throughout the week, as she explained how to tackle certain sections and hills on the race course. My son Kyle was pretty flabbergasted about the idea that his Mom might actually be able to run a 5K.

The gorgeous setting of the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K

The gorgeous setting of the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K

Every other day leading up to the race, I ran three miles and surprisingly, my times weren’t terrible. I wouldn’t embarrass myself too badly. No pain in the knee either. I continued my ballet workouts on alternating days, taking extra time to stretch, although I honestly didn’t have muscle cramps or pains. I rested completely the day before the race.

I figured I couldn’t back out, if I told people publicly about my plans. So the day before the 5K, after I picked up my runner’s packet and bib number, I posted my picture and the following message on Facebook:

5K

I was completely blown away by all the Facebook love that followed… words of encouragement, support and well wishes. It was awesome! The positive power of social media at work.

Then came race day. The forecast was ideal—cool morning temperatures with partly cloudy skies (no bright sunshine). However, upon waking up that morning… rain. Oh joy.

I convinced myself that I would run, rain or shine. But thankfully, about 10-15 minutes before the 8 am start, the rain stopped. What an adrenalin rush, to be part of a crowd of runners, 700 strong, at the starting line. To hear the sound of that many footsteps, along with cheers from the crowd of families and friends lining the course… it was music to my ears.

Here I go...

Here I go…

Several things helped to pull me along as I ran: first, the beautiful course which winds its way across the historic Gettysburg Battlefield; thoughts of my supportive family and friends—especially all those encouraging Facebook messages; but perhaps most of all, it was a drive within myself. Once you’re a mom and have survived those “marathon” days when your children are sick or going through difficult situations, I think there is absolutely nothing else on this earth that you cannot accomplish. There is nothing as challenging, trying and rewarding as being a mom. Running? I got this. Physically and mentally.

Crossing the finish line! Woohoo!

Crossing the finish line! Woohoo!

While my time didn’t win any awards, I felt as though I had a gold medal around my neck as I crossed the finish line. There were four times on the course when killer hills forced me to walk—I allowed myself no more than 100 steps at a time. I finished as runner #531 out of about 700, and I was 35th in my age group. My final time was 34:22… right in my target zone between 33 and 35 minutes. It meant a lot to have one of my best friends, fellow OTMGR blogger Mary Ann, at the finish line with my family as well!

And now I have a new goal… to keep working and improve upon my time for next year. Yes, I think I’ll be back! And now that I’ve said that publically… I have to do it!

After the race: Still smiling!

After the race: Still smiling!

 

For more information on the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K, sponsored by the YWCA of Gettysburg and Adams County, click here.

For more ideas on fitting exercise into your daily routine, click here for my previous post Work it Out: Finding Time for Mom

Check out my fellow blogger Jen’s 5K experience “5K… Hurray!” here

Feel free to share your advice with our community… how do you find time to run or exercise? Have you set a 5K goal? Do you run 5Ks regularly? We’d love to hear from you…

 

Living With Lyme (Part 2): Preventing Tick Bites

This post, originally published in May 2013, still contains very timely information as we approach summer 2014. We are republishing it today in hopes of spreading the word and continuing to educate families about the prevalence of Lyme Disease, in conjunction with May’s Lyme Awareness Month. 

By Mary Ann Filler

Are there changes that you should make to live a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps you need to get more sleep, drink more water, or eat healthy and exercise to lose a few pounds. Information about healthy living can be overwhelming and confusing. But one fact is certain–prevention is the key to good health. And yet many of us do not take measures to ensure our health. In fact, sometimes it takes a major “wake-up” call for us to take action and make positive changes.

I’m going to address a subject that seemingly may not apply to you. If you or a loved one doesn’t have Lyme Disease, you may wonder why you would need to concern yourself with what I have to say. Of course, it is your choice to take heed or not. However, I hope that you will educate yourself and take precautions before you have no choice! “They Won’t Get It Until They Get It,” is a common saying in the Lyme community. May this saying NOT apply to you!

As mentioned in my first “Lyme” blog, Living With Lyme (Part 1), Lyme Disease is both difficult to diagnose and treat.  In his book, Lyme Disease Solution, Dr. Kenneth Singleton suggests that for every case of Lyme Disease that is currently detected, there are as many as ten or more cases of Lyme Disease that go undetected or undiagnosed.  These cases often result in chronic Lyme Disease, which causes debilitating and many times irreversible disease that is difficult to treat.  As a result, preventing Lyme Disease should be a high priority for everyone.

What are some measures you can take to prevent Lyme Disease?

 Be Aware that Ticks are Your Enemy

First, be aware that the primary vector for Lyme Disease is the bite of a tick.  The majority of information in the news perpetuates the belief that only the tiny deer tick, also known as the Blacklegged Tick, carries the Lyme bacteria.  In the interest of time, I’m not going to debate that belief; I’m just going to state that I don’t believe ANY tick is a good tick, and that all ticks have the capacity to carry and infect you with disease.  AVOID ticks if at all possible!

Note:  While not popularly held by “the mainstream,” it has also been suggested that fleas, flies, gnats, mites and mosquitoes may also transmit Lyme disease.  It is certain that these pests do transmit other diseases and it makes sense to avoid them as well.  In addition, humans have possibly passed Lyme and other tick borne diseases along in pregnancy and via blood donation or organ transplant. 

Know Your Enemy

A tick is a tiny parasite that feeds on the blood of animals and people.  They do not have wings and cannot fly or jump.  Ticks get around by walking or hitching a ride on an animal.  When the tick latches on to get a blood meal, it may transmit a bacteria “cocktail” that it obtained from a different host in an earlier feeding in the life cycle.

Life Cycle of a Tick

Life Cycle of a Tick

The length of time that a tick needs to be attached to transmit disease is somewhat debatable; most sources agree that it takes 24-48 hours.  Regardless, proper tick removal (how to remove an embedded tick properly) is critical to preventing the tick from infecting you with disease.

Tick Size Comparison

Know Where and When to Expect Ticks

Since a tick bite is the primary vector for Lyme Disease, you will want to know that tick bites may occur ANY time of the year, but most often during early spring to late summer.  As the weather gets warmer, ticks become more active and more likely to bite.  Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs.  Small animals including birds, mice, rabbits, squirrels or chipmunks can carry ticks on to your property.  In addition, if you have a pet dog or cat that frequents your yard or walks in suspect areas, they may carry ticks in to your home.

Caution Tick Habitat

Take Precautions Before Going Into Potentially Tick Infested Areas

When frequenting areas that are potentially tick infested, wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be seen.  In addition, pick clothing that is made of smooth or tightly woven fabrics making it more difficult for ticks to latch on to you.  Tuck your shirt in to your pants and your pants in to your socks.  Of course, long-sleeved shirts, pants and closed toed shoes are preferred.

 Choose a Tick Repellant that is Right For You

Applying a tick repellant helps to reduce the chances of getting bit by a tick, but you will have to decide which repellent is right for you.  Many sources will tell you to spray yourself with a bug repellant that contains DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).  While DEET is an effective agent for tick repulsion, caution must be used when applying it, as it can be toxic to the nervous system, and it’s not the most pleasant to use (not to mention the environmental impact).  Avon has a product line that repels ticks and is DEET free.  However, it still contains a chemical called Picardin.  There are natural alternatives including essential oils, but unfortunately little testing has been done to show that these alternatives actually work to repel ticks.

While many people are aware that they should spray their skin with tick repellent, they are unaware that treating their clothing may be one of the most preventative measures available. When sprayed on clothing and camping gear, Premethrin is highly effective in repelling and even killing ticks as well as other pests.  Premethrin treated items kill ticks on contact.  However, Premethrin cannot be applied directly to your skin.  Spray clothing (especially socks and shoes) and gear a day before you will be heading in to the woods.  Once clothing is treated, the Premethrin is still effective through 6 washings.  Premethrin can be purchased on-line or in stores that sell outdoor gear.  As with any chemical compound, follow the directions for use very carefully.

Tick-habitat-sign

Take Extra Precautions If you Spend Time in forested areas.

If you camp, hike, or hunt, you may want to consider purchasing clothing that is pretreated with Premethrin by checking out Insect Shield Clothing (www.insectshield.com).  Pretreated clothing can be washed up to 70 times and still be effective.  When hiking, stay on the path as much as possible.  Also, use a hiking stick to push any branches that may be across the path out of the way.  Spray all sleeping bags and tents with Premethrin.

 What Should You Do After Spending Time in Potentially Tick Infested Areas?

 After an activity in a potentially tick infested area, when arriving home, immediately place all clothing in the dryer (prior to washing) on high for 1 hour.  The high temperatures from the dryer will kill any ticks that may be hanging out waiting to latch on to you or your pet once inside your home.

If you are camping, remove your clothing and place in a plastic bag; close the bag with a plastic tie until you can get home.  Loose clothing lying around a tent or camper may provide an opportunity for ticks to latch on while you are walking around or even sleeping.

Shower as soon as you are able using a brush.  Do a through tick check.  Ticks can hide under armpits, behind knees, and in the hair.  Having another person check in difficult to see places would be the most advantageous.  Of course, an adult should inspect children closely.  Caution:  ticks may look like a small freckle and can be almost undetectable!

Tiny Tick!

Tiny Tick!

Apply a Tick Treatment to Your Pet

If you have a cat or dog that spends time outside, make sure to apply a tick prevention strategy to them as well.  As with treating yourself, you will have to decide which tick treatment is best for your dog.  Of course there are the once a month applications of flea and tick protection or the flea and tick collar.  However, if you’re looking for a more natural/chemical-free approach, you may want to consider, Natural Flea and Tick Defense.

If you prefer, you can make your own spray using essential oils.  One source for recipes and ordering essential oils is experience-essential-oils.  This source recommends using a dog shampoo that is infused with essential oils when you bathe your dog as an added precaution.

Again, the efficacy of many of these items is debatable.  Our family has chosen to use natural alternatives and to create a tick free zone in our back yard for our dog.  Unfortunately, I no longer walk my dog off of our property due to an increased risk of picking up ticks.

 Modify Your Landscaping to Create a Tick Free Zone

Harvard Health recommends doing a “tick drag” in your yard to determine whether or not you have ticks.  Attach a square yard of white flannel to a 3-foot stick and tie a rope to each end of the stick.  Drag the cloth over the lawn and leaves, and examine it for ticks that have latched on.  Do this several times.  Use a cloth mounted like a flag on a stick to determine whether you have a tick problem in your bushy or grassy vegetation.

Reduce your risk from getting a tick bite on your own property by clearing shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation away from patios, play areas and playground equipment. Clear leaf litter and mow regularly.  Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from areas where you and your family spend time.

If you think you have a tick problem on your property, University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center, suggests a dual action treatment plan for your property that includes host-targeted Tick Tubes and the habitat-targeted perimeter spray.  When used together in a program, they provide outstanding protection from tick encounter, especially for backyards.

To be honest, prior to being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I thought very little of tick bite prevention.  Now, our family has taken action to reduce the likelihood of getting a tick bite.  We have hired Natural Lawn of America to spray our lawn.  The company has a more organic approach to lawn care and pest control.  In the upcoming months, we will also be placing Tick Tubes on our property.  We keep our lawn mowed and clear leaf debris.  In addition, our dog is no longer allowed to venture off of our property for walks, and he is treated with the shampoo mentioned above.  I personally believe that preventing your pet dog or cat from encountering ticks can be one of the biggest precautionary measures you can take.  I haven’t done any hardcore research, but I understand that veterinarians are encountering tick borne disease in dogs in record numbers.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late…

At this point, I would encourage you not to wait to incorporate the tick prevention strategies that apply to you.  If you will be spending time in the woods this summer, I cannot stress enough the need for you to protect yourself and your family members.  Please do not wait until it’s too late!

Web Sources:

http://www.rodale.com/natural-tick-repellants-protect-your-yard?page=0,0

http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/wisconsin-ticks/on-people/

www.ilads.org

http://www.tickencounter.org

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/lyme/lyme-faq.shtml

http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/fact_sheet.htm

http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/recognizing-and-avoiding-tick-borne-illness.shtml

Addicted to Technology?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Karen Hendricks

We use the word “addicted” in association with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, coffee (caffeine) and—sometimes in a teasing way—decadent foods like chocolate. But do you think it’s possible to become addicted to technology?

More and more research is pointing in that direction, saying that we are impulsively checking our phones and other devices as soon as emails “ping” into our inboxes or texts light up our screens. What do you think? Are there times when you feel addicted? Do you ever feel as though your children or spouse are “too connected?” Do you have rules or boundaries set for phone usage in your house?

I brought up this topic over the dinner table a few nights ago. Yes, we try to have dinner together as a family every night… it’s not always possible with sports schedules and other activities, but the majority of the time, we are successful! I think it’s one of the keys to family communication and connectedness. It’s also a sacred time, meaning that devices are not allowed at the dinner table. Rarely, there are exceptions, such as when my husband gets an emergency call from his phone service… or when we’re expecting a call from our college age daughter… but face-to-face dinner conversation is more important.

So, over dinner, we talked about Sundays and how they are probably the day when we use phones and devices (iPods, Kindles, etc.) the least. Sundays have a family feel to them, with our day typically beginning at church, progressing into our Sunday noontime tradition—brunch—usually with pancakes or waffles, and always bacon. Always. Afternoons are spent getting together with friends, watching sports together on TV, catching up on homework, doing fun projects around the house, taking walks or bike rides around our neighborhood, cooking Sunday dinners or baking special treats. It’s a day to recharge our batteries, but unplug from devices.

We don’t have a strict rule about phone or device use on Sundays, but we talked about how it’s just kind of evolved that way. And for that I am grateful. I cherish Sundays for their enriching family moments and want to preserve and protect these special days. Being unplugged allows us to unwind and reconnect with each other in some of the most binding ways: talking, sharing, laughing, touching, hugging and… loving each other.

Tell me what you think… I’d love to hear about your strategies and tips for keeping phone/device use in check. Feel free to leave a comment below!

Work it out… Finding Time for Mom

The crescent moon yoga pose stretches arms and side abdominals...

The crescent moon yoga pose stretches arms and side abdominals… Image: Licensed under Creative Commons by Jessmyintyre

By Karen Hendricks

One of the most challenging things nearly all moms face: finding time to exercise. Why is it, that we are all so busy, yet struggle to make time to stay fit and healthy?

It’s hard… I get it! I think the main reason most moms don’t exercise often enough is because we put our family first and ourselves last. Nearly two years ago, when I made radical changes to my professional life, jumping “off the merry-go-round” of 60 hour workweeks meant a commitment to becoming healthier in mind, body and spirit, for my health as well as our overall family’s health. Trimming and toning my professional life translated into the need to trim and tone my body as well. Today, I am happy to say that I am 15 lbs lighter and feeling much healthier, thanks to a (mostly) whole foods diet and regular exercise routine. And because I’m taking better care of myself, I’m better equipped to take care of my family.

Here are 5 tips that I slowly introduced into my daily routines that I hope can help you accomplish your fitness goals too:

1. Walk as often as you can. Think about opportunities throughout your daily routine when you can lace up your sneakers and walk. My town now has a walking path so I will often walk into town for errands rather than drive. Also, while my children are at various sports practices, rather than driving home, I will more often stay at the fields and walk during that time period. It’s a great opportunity to show your children that you enjoy exercise as much as they do. Other benefits: you might learn more about your children’s sports of choice, you will definitely save on gas money driving back and forth to practices by staying put, it’s also a chance to enjoy music—bring along your iPod and ear buds, or you might forge new friendships with other moms by walking together.

2. Define your “wheels” in a new way. Biking is another great way to get around! Along the same lines as walking your regular routes (above), think about your routines and see if you can replace even just one car trip per week with your bike. For example, I have a grocery store just a mile from my home. On those occasions when I only need a handful of items (and they can easily fit into a backpack), I bike to the store and “kill two birds with one stone.” And a little extra weight on the back adds to the workout on the bike ride home! Biking with your family is another great option—you’ll be staying in shape and enjoying family time together.

3. Sign up for a class or join a fitness center. If you make this commitment, you’re more likely to follow through… because you’ll have a set schedule to hold you accountable and because you’ll want to “get your money’s worth.” Quite often, gyms and fitness centers offer special introductory rates. A few years ago, when my daughters were both enrolled in dance classes, I took a pilates class that ran simultaneously—that made it easy to fit into our family routine. I absolutely loved it! Pilates focuses on strengthening your core—your abs and back—through quality movement (not quantity) and proper breathing technique. After trying Jazzercise, Zumba and other more aerobic classes, I found that pilates provided a much more peaceful, refreshed frame of mind, as well as the toning and strengthening my body needed. Another benefit to pilates: It builds long, lean muscles which are more flexible, rather than bulky muscles produced by weight-bearing exercises. Once you have taken classes by a licensed Pilates instructor and have learned most of the essential exercises, you can truly continue on your own at home by devising your own routine or by using DVDs. I located a few beginners’ YouTube clips if you’d like to give it a whirl:

Beginner Pilates Workout – an introductory workout especially helpful if you’ve never done pilates before.

How to Get a Pilates Body in 10 Minutes – a short pilates routine to use when you’re tight on time. Yet, it hits every major muscle group! 

Stretchhhhhh.... Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stretchhhhhh…. Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Yay for yoga! Many people confuse pilates with yoga, and it’s true that there are similarities. Pilates is defined as “physical conditioning involving low-impact exercises and stretches” while yoga is “a series of postures and breathing exercises practice to achieve control of the body and mind; a school of Hindu philosophy with physical and mental disciplines.” (Dictionary.com) If you take yoga classes, you may need to shop around for a yogi that suits your needs as a leader. Several friends of mine have enjoyed the physical aspects but have clashed with instructors’ religious beliefs. I did not have this issue; my pilates teacher would often switch between the two and mix things up during class. She used yoga primarily as a way to focus, center and truly “listen” to your breathing and meditate before and/or after the hard work of the pilates exercises. The benefits of yoga go far beyond exercise—yoga is said to heal aches and pains, boost immunity and keep illness away, improve sleeping habits and much more. Click here to read “38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit.”

5. Step it up! This winter’s miserable, cold weather made it nearly impossible to get outdoors to walk or bike on a regular basis. Feeling “cooped up” indoors, I discovered an easy way to fit exercise right into my morning routine without freezing to death: step aerobics. Again, using a multi-tasking approach, I have found that “stepping” is a great way to start the day when combined with the distraction/enrichment of watching the morning news (I’m partial to the Today Show). I started out with simple step routines for about 20 minutes and gradually increased to 30 and 45 minutes. I keep a water bottle close by, and by the end, I feel energized plus I’m prepped on the news of the day.

Steps do not need to be complicated; you can simply step up and down, across and backwards, or side to side across the step. However if you’d like to graduate to more complicated patterns, there are some great ideas on YouTube, or again, take a step aerobics class at your local gym, and then develop your own routines.

Jamie and Tracey of Breathe Repeat

Jamie and Tracey of Breathe Repeat

A few more resources:

Click here for “Breathe Repeat,” a blog website focused on all things yoga. This is a great resource I subscribed to, after taking yoga classes from Tracey and Jamie at a conference in New York. 

Our blogger Jen shares her advice and inspiration to moms who want to train and run a 5K – Click here for her helpful post.

Stretching throughout the day is a wonderful stress reliever! Click here for our blogger Jennifer’s post “Brain Strain: What We Can Upload to Unload.”

Wishing you all the best with your workouts! Feel free to share your tips, advice and ideas below. What works for you? 🙂

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with… Carrot Soup!

IMG_6120FB By Karen Hendricks

Amidst all the holiday baking, gooey goodies and indulgence…  I’m going to offer a sweet, healthy—and probably unexpected—alternative: Carrot Soup.

I won’t deny, I enjoy a delicious snack of Christmas cookies at this time of year, but I also like to balance things out, so-to-speak. It’s way too easy to overindulge, over the holidays!

I discovered the best kind of recipe—one that’s both easy and healthy—for Carrot Soup. Actually, I found two recipes on Pinterest and have merged the two into my own unique version. It ties into nearly every current, healthy eating trend:

  • It’s vegan for those who only eat plant-based foods
  • It’s a great option for those on the “clean eating” diet of whole, unprocessed foods (I’ve been trying to incorporate more of this approach into my family’s meal planning)
  • Carrot soup contains cancer-fighting antioxidents
  • It’s a colorful food, for those trying to “eat the rainbow”
  • And it’s a satisfying solution to “Meatless Mondays”

Carrots are sky-high in Vitamin A, with a good dose of fiber, Vitamin C and potassium too. One of my favorite things about this recipe is the taste of fresh ginger… delish!

We have been pelted with early season snowstorms here in central Pennsylvania (and it’s technically still fall!) so warm soup is definitely in order, already. There is something about warm soup that seems to magically warm my soul as well.

Carrot Soup

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 c sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato – try using a russet potato or a sweet potato, your choice, peeled and chopped
  • 6 c vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • Cracked black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
  • Plain yogurt and honey for garnish

1. Use a food processor to chop all of your veggies. This is time “off the merry-go-round,” after all. Save time wherever you can so you can spend more time with your family! 🙂

2. Cook the onion in the olive oil. Use a large stockpot if you will be cooking the soup on your stovetop. Or, simply use a frying pan for this step and then cook the soup in your crockpot.

3. After 10 minutes, or when the onions become soft, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. If using a stock pot: add all ingredients. Or, transfer onion mixture to crockpot and add all ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer until the carrots are tender. This step could take up to an hour on the stove. Turn your crockpot on low and let it cook all day.

5. Puree with an immersion blender directly in your pot or transfer several batches into your blender to puree.

6. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey. Don’t skip the honey… it’s a bright note that really brings out the ginger and carrot flavors and ties them all together.

Serves 8

(Abridged from Women’s Health Magazine and Food Network, via PopSugar)

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A spoonful of plain or Greek yogurt adds a nice element of creaminess…

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Don’t forget the drizzle of honey 🙂

A few more tips:

  • This soup is satisfying, but if the male members of your family are like mine, they would probably appreciate a steaming loaf of homemade bread as an accompaniment. A hearty whole-grain or oatmeal bread works well.
  • I have tried both the russet and sweet potato in the soup and they both work well. I personally prefer the sweet potato flavor. Either way, the potato thickens the soup a bit and adds additional nutrients and flavor.
  • I have doubled the recipe and then packaged up the leftovers for easy-to-reheat lunches or frozen them to send off with my daughter to college, for a stash of “Mom’s Meals” in her freezer.
  • This recipe always reminds me of the first time I tried carrot soup, several years ago, in a New York City restaurant. I was on a weekend trip with my daughter and we ate at a fantastic Italian restaurant for her birthday. As an appetizer, we both tried Carrot-Orange Soup. What an awesome combination of flavors, with the addition of citrus. I haven’t tried adapting this recipe to include the orange flavor, yet… but stay tuned!

Join the conversation and let us know…

Which soup recipes do you turn to over the winter months?

How do you combat over-indulgent holiday eating habits?

The Immortality of My Parents

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

I gently chided my husband – again – about how he continues to leave the light on in our master bedroom closet once he has exited, as well as the night light above the toilet when he is finished using the bathroom. “But it’s not me, it’s the gremlins,” he emphasized. Now, where had I heard that before???

When my father was alive, blaming similar occurrences on “gremlins” was his way of doing one of two things: either explaining away the great mysteries of life (Where in the world did I put my glasses/car keys/pair of scissors I just had in my hand? Those blasted gremlins again!); or, trying to “get out of” some trouble around the house that for some reason was always inevitably his fault.

In that shared moment with my husband, I realized what I had known all along as I watched my father near the end of his life: that Dad’s life really wouldn’t ever end. It would continue to live on in me, in my family, and in others, since he had touched so many lives in his personal and professional life. I also realized that over the years I have taken on many of my father’s ways – similarly moving about the house and interacting with my family, that it is almost as though he is here with me daily.

Somehow I still can't leave the house without putting on lipstick or lip gloss! Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Somehow I still can’t leave the house without putting on lipstick or lip gloss! Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In fact, in so many ways, I now catch myself carrying on a lot of my folks’ “parent-isms.” So much so that I am beginning to wonder if they actually are immortal! Here’s what I mean:

  • The “gremlins” have apparently followed me from my childhood home to my house.
  • My son breaks out into song with, “Ooo, Eee, Ooo, Ahh, Ahh, Ting, Tang, Wala, Wala, Bing, Bang.” Is that a real song or did my Dad indeed make that up? I refuse to Google it to find out.
  • When my son was showing me something and said, “Look at this, Mom,” I responded, “I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.” Ugh! Another bad Dad pun!
  • I’m beginning to tell the jokes from Reader’s Digest and claiming them as my own.
  • When I am getting ready to run an errand, I frequently pause for one last look in the mirror – My mother’s question, “Where’s your lipstick?” resonates in my ear. I choose lip gloss instead.
  • I keep picking out white shirts for Andrew to layer under his long-sleeved shirts and sweaters. Mom is infamous for saying, “You can wear white with that,” when my sisters and I would approach her looking for color matching ideas.
  • I catch myself posing larger than life questions and considerations to my son as both of my parents were prone to do. Like a 4-year-old really gets my explanation about aging as to why I cannot simply leap out of bed and somersault across the floor at 6:00 in the morning too. “And you too one day will be old.” Yes, Dad – I know that now!

My dad passed away on October 3rd this year (click here for “A Gift from My Father”). Those of you who have also lost a close relative or dear friend know that all the “firsts” (holiday, birthday, anniversary) without them are especially tough. My family and I have held fast to having our own holiday time at home versus traveling out of state between various relatives. We believe it is very important that our son wake up in his own house for holidays and experience the family traditions we have established. At Christmastime, we would visit my parents on December 27th or 28th to exchange gifts since they live less than 3 hours away, yet that was the extent of celebrating holidays outside of our own home.

This Thanksgiving, however, we decided to stay with my mother in my childhood home and join her, and my sister and her family, for the Thanksgiving meal. It all seemed “fine,” yet there definitely was a presence missing. My sister puts out little name cards at each table setting so everyone knows their seat, and when she came across the card that said (“Pop Pop”) she and I both had to take a breath. I sat next to my mom, yet oddly, didn’t know what to say or do. I just kind of reached over at one point and put my hand on her arm, hoping she would somehow know what I wanted to say but couldn’t.

The day after Thanksgiving, my mom and I visited Dad’s grave site and met the gentleman there who would help us choose a headstone that would be eventually shared by Mom as well. It was a bitterly cold day, and the man was far too chatty and cheerful for me. The morning there exhausted and annoyed me, and by the time my family and I arrived back in Maryland that evening I was emotionally drained. I slept most of the weekend.

We have all heard of having a “Blue Christmas.” This is also a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, and is a tale of unrequited love during the holidays. It has become popular Christmas music that causes us to think about anyone we are missing during the holiday season. Here are a few tips I am finding helpful in keeping cheer amidst feelings of melancholy:

  • Create a “tribute” table or other spot in your home where you can see your loved one and have their presence more easily felt.
  • Talk to your loved one (yes, out loud!) every day. Tell them what is on your mind and what you are feeling, whether it directly pertains to your relationship or not.
  • Call family and friends who are still with you and reminisce. Cry together, or laugh as you remember the good times.
  • Find fun activities to join in that are separate from the things you used to do with your loved one. Sometimes a shift in routine can be a welcome distraction.
  • Let yourself feel your emotions, yet try not to become bogged down in them to where you are feeling prolonged feelings of sadness and loss. If that does become the case, find an unbiased professional to talk with, help you sort your emotions out, and cope. After all, losing a loved one – especially around the holidays, is tough.
Setting up a 'tribute table' for my father has been helpful. I can "see" him every day and more easily talk to him. I burn a tea light candle for him daily, and have decided to keep the table up for one year.

Setting up a ‘tribute table’ for my father has been helpful. I can “see” him every day and more easily talk to him. I burn a tea light candle for him daily, and have decided to keep the table up for one year.

I watch my husband and son from our dining room window – building a snowman and enjoying a friendly snowball fight in the first snow of winter. Yet it is more than this present moment I see. I see into the future as well – when my little boy will have grown and one day experience the loss of us, his parents. Will he hurt as badly as I do now? What memories will he hold dear and cling to when we are no longer in front of him? I don’t know. Yet if I am successful at continuing to pass on those delightful little parts of my father and mother, which I am so thankful for and which are now parts of me, my son will have plenty of them to keep him warm.

A time of happiness as we watch our young son grow and become close as a family. Yet what losses will my son experience in the future?

A time of happiness as we watch our young son grow and become close as a family. Yet what losses will my son experience in the future?

Are you dealing with feelings of loss or sadness this holiday season? Feel free to share your story, as well as ways you are coping and helping to bring a little cheer to this time of year.