Friday, January 23, 2015

The Power of Your Name

The other day, I read a truly powerful post from one of my favorite blogs and she's also the author of one of my favorite books that has been so inspirational to me this last year.

Hands Free Mama is the book by Rachel Macy Stafford

The blog is handsfreemama.com.

The post is about how we gravitate towards using our kids' names in a more negative manner than positive.  I sat for a moment and realized how perfectly timed the reading of this post was for me.

Just the day before, I was pretty upset with my daughter- I instantly wanted her attention and caught myself starting to say , "Nathaniel"- that is my oldest son and he is the one who I most often need to correct or stop from doing something.

This was a powerful moment for me because I realized it was so ingrained in me to get upset with him that even when I got upset with the others, his name just rolled off out of habit.

A few months ago, I committed to writing cards to my kids and placing them in their lunch boxes, as well as just randomly placing them at their chairs in the mornings.  I used to not give my kids' cards on their birthdays because I thought they were a waste of money since they gave them a quick glance and put them down.  But that quick glance, I realized, is enough to commit those words to memory.

I started writing them cards, because written word is meaningful.  Words carry with us.  I know how I feel about my kids and I realized that maybe they didn't always assume that I loved them all the time, no matter what.  I write them cards to let them know they arere special and that they mean something.  I want them to hear my words when they need them.  If they are having a bad day or feeling bad about themselves, I want them to be able to dig down and remember that I told them they were important and special.

Life is hard, especially for a kid, but it's a lot easier, when you have some positive words ringing in the back of your head.

One thing I used to love as a kid was stuff with my name on it.  I had a very favorite decoration for my room that I got in Boston as a little girl, and it was a pennant flag with my name on it.  I used to practice writing my name in cursive all over everything too.  Names are important and they do make us feel special.

After reading that article the other day, it reminded me of how excited my kids get when I give them something with their name on it- a lunch plate, a notebook with their name, personalized notecards, stockings, a card- it's all meaningful to them in their little confused hurried world.

Most recently, I've been making canvases for their bedrooms with their names on them and something special.  I've only completed two so far, but the look on my oldest son's face when he saw his and realized that I made it for him was priceless. I want him to read that everyday and know it's true.

For every bad reaction that causes you to use your child's name, find a good way to counter it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Unicorns

Have you heard about the unicorn that walked into the crossfit box?

It PR'd every lift every time.  It made the top score on the whiteboard, every.single.time!

And, yes, in case you were wondering, it's sweat was glittery and rainbow colored and smelled like perfume.

If only unicorns were real, or if only that were me.

Actually, I'm OK with not being a unicorn and I'm OK with not PR-ing every day or being on the top of the whiteboard every day.

Some days you can walk in and nail the lift- your form is legit and the Earth's gravitational pull is aligned with your movements- there is no stopping you.  Then, there are other days, you come in and you feel like you never heard of a snatch or a clean, let alone have been practicing them for TWO YEARS!

In all honesty, we are just going to have days, days where that bar feels exponentially heavier than the last time you picked it up.  Days when your butt feels so sore, the phrase "below parallel" makes you want to barf.

Some days your knee hurts or your shoulder or your wrist.  It's always on the days when you need to use them too- "oh my shoulder hurts, um yeah those 5 million clean and jerks are gonna go up like butter!"

These are the days your body is speaking to you.  Obviously it can't speak English, but it can speak pain or pleasure.  Learn to know that pain- is it soreness or something more- you should know.  If it's something more, your body is warning you.  Figure out what is causing that pain and work on fixing it.

Maybe you just started lifting heavier and your body isn't used to it, back off on the weight some times.  Maybe you have knots galore all over your body and you just don't make the time for mobility- make it!  Maybe you have been getting by with bad form and now it's taking a toll- take a video- we all have smart phones- watch it and even ask your coach to watch it- maybe there's something you need to fix.

You're not going to feel 100% all the time.  But you can use the feeling of not feeling 100% to figure out what you can do differently.  Just because you're sore or feeling pain or your numbers haven't been going up, doesn't mean you're a toad.  It means you need to sit down and evaluate what your body is trying to tell you.

Every rep, every second you're moving, every time you walk through the door, PR, top or bottom of the whiteboard, you are working- you ARE accomplishing something.  Stop getting mad that you're not a unicorn- go buy a costume if that will make you feel better.

You are not a unicorn, but you can train like one.

You are not a unicorn, but that is ok, because you are awesome NO MATTER WHAT!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On Competitions

Yesterday I did my first individual crossfit competition.

Over the past year, I have done four team competitions and I decided it was time to see what it was like to do one on my own.  This particular competition had an intermediate division which was the perfect fit for me.

Let me begin by saying that just because someone is doing a crossfit competition, it does not mean they are rallying for a spot in the CrossFit Games that are shown on ESPN.  Like any other sport, that is the extremely best of the best.  In my 38 years of life, I have competed in many many things, played many sports games, completed three marathons, but have never received the same awed response from people as when I say "I signed up for a crossfit competition".  I am not really sure why that is.

When I signed up, I set a goal to finish in the top 6 so I could make it to finals.  I like to have goals.

It's always awkward when you walk into the room full of complete strangers, all getting ready to do the same competition as you.  I immediately start to eyeball the competition and size them up.  Hint:  This is a big mistake!

Looking around you see all sorts of people, but the one type that always stick out are the gear people.  You know what I'm talking about?  The people who own every piece of equipment and they have it on loud and proud.  I suppose it's some sort of scare tactic- show up with your knee bands, wrist wraps, lifters, weight belt, crossfit shirt with some witty saying, most often tight pants or a shorter than short pair of shorts to show off that muscle, don't forget the obligatory headband, the illustrious shaker bottle full of magical protein in hand to top it off, and the chest up strut with the butt slightly engaged, because they've got muscle!

Sorry I'm not judgy, but it's something that happens when you enter a room full of strangers you're about to compete against, you assess- most often this is a fear tactic.  This can be good or bad.  Bad if you let it sell you short before you even started, that based off looks and equipment ownership, these athletes are better than you.  Good if you just get a good chuckle and move on.

In workout situations, I work best, focusing on myself and no one else.  When I WOD, I do not look at the clock, I do not look at other athletes, I do not move when they move, I do my own thing.  I do not like to know anyone else's times or scores ahead of time because it adds pressure which usually ruins my performance- I do not perform well under pressure.  Through each of my WODs, I paced myself accordingly, fought through fatigue, and just kept moving.  The slight disadvantage for me, was I was in the first heat and the other girls were always aiming to score better than me.

Here is what I have to say- yes, I was competing against them per say, but in the end, as I've mentioned, this was a group of complete strangers who all walked into a room with me to do this competition.  I considered this a test more than anything else to see how I sized up in this level of competition, to see how my body handled multiple workouts in a day, to see how my training had helped me progress, to see how I let my mind take over.  Working with and against other people, and with other people watching,  pushes you harder- that's what I was there for, the push, the challenge, the intensity, and the thrill.

I made the day about me and my goals.  I worked as hard as I could possibly work and then some.  I set a goal to make it to finals and I made it.  I entered finals as the underdog, many many points behind the others and that is when I said to myself that my new goal was the crush the finals.  I never looked to the side the whole entire finals. I just kept moving and repeating to myself that "I have what it takes" and I ended up taking a second place finish in that WOD and not by a little, a LOT.

Let me tell you something, I did not get on the podium, but in my mind I accomplished what I had set out to do.  I showed myself that I can do multiple WODS in a day and feel great, I pushed as hard as I could, I did not give up, and I left knowing there was nothing I would have done differently.

I encourage anyone who is thinking of doing a competition or doing a race to do so.  Remember, it is a test, but it's not a test of this person beating you or that person being stronger than you.  It is a test to show you how your training is coming along, to help you get stronger with your mindset, to push you to work harder, to show you weaknesses, and most importantly for you to HAVE FUN.  At the end of the day if you walk away saying "I did all that I could"- you win!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Believe

I believe in God.

First of all, before I get started, I would just like to say that I am not writing this to stir up a discussion or argument or details of my belief.  I am writing this because it's true, it's how I feel, and I have recently been feeling compelled to share this story publicly.  If you do not agree with everything I say, or have a negative comment, please keep it to yourself.  Religion and politics are touchy subjects- I am not writing this to convince anyone of my beliefs.  I lead by example and I just want to share this in case someone else is in a similar situation and they need to hear it.

I also believe in Jesus Christ, for those of you who were thinking that.

When I was growing up, starting in fourth grade, I used to get migraines.  They were bad, I'd lose vision in one eye and have to go home from school.  When I was 19, I had my last migraine.  I remember because I used to keep track of how long it had been since I had one, it was one week, two weeks, one month, one year, etc.  To this day, when I see a camera flash or sunburst lingering in my vision, I panic a little that it's another migraine coming on.

In 2011, I got a migraine- 17 years after I stopped getting them!  I panicked.  Three months went by, so I thought it was a fluke, then I started getting them about once a week- they were worse than when I grew up, I had no energy, couldn't take care of my kids (I have 5 by the way).  The worst one was one day when I got in the shower and my daughter pointed to my shampoo and asked me what the fruit scent was- there was a picture of a carrot and an apple on the front- I could not remember the names of these items.  I called my husband at work to ask him and he thought I might be having a stroke.  I kept my oldest son home to watch me, and I ended up being ok.

I immediately decided to get an MRI, I was scared I might have a brain tumor.  I kept getting the migraines- one day after church, my kids and I were at Target buying gifts for needy families that we picked off the tree in the lobby.  I got a sudden onset migraine with quick vision loss- we headed back to church to wait for my husband to finish playing in the band.  I did not even feel safe driving my kids home.  That day, my friend, the pastor, approached me as I burst into tears, worried that if this kept happening that I would not be able to take care of my kids.  He put his hand on my head and prayed for me out loud.  He told me that he thought I was being called to do something great by God and that in retaliation, I was being attacked and stricken with these migraines.

Honestly, I was skeptical.  I believed in God, but I did not have a deep sense of it.  I had always been afraid to believe in God or go to church because I always heard stories of people's faith being tested and I felt safe when I didn't fully commit to believing because I wasn't a threat to be tested.  That week, I did some thinking- I never hear God calling me to do great things.  I never see a sign.  Then, it dawned on me- the first migraine was right after I started going to church.  The next ones, a few months later, came after I decided to join a group of friends who met weekly to read a chapter of the Bible (if you've never sat down to read it or interpret it, don't knock it).  I realized I was getting the migraines the day before the group, or right after I left church.  The last few were the worst, one on the way to buy gifts for the needy, and the ultimate worst was driving to take photos of hospice patients (all children) with Santa for their last Christmas.  In fact, I was being tested.

At this point, I had already had my MRI, I was just waiting for the results.  I broke down crying in my car when the migraine struck on the way to the photo shoot. I decided I really had nothing to lose by putting all my faith in God.  I prayed out loud and asked God to help me, to release me from the suffering of the migraines- for the devil to leave me alone- yes, this is hard for me to say out loud, but for the first time in my life, out loud, I said, "Devil leave me alone.".  Do you know that within five minutes of saying that prayer, my migraine was gone- if you recall earlier, I said they'd last all day.  I was able to go to the photo session, still weak and not 100% myself, but I was able to help.

I have NEVER had a migraine since that day- over two years ago!

MRI came back clean by the way.

My prayer was my recognition to myself and God that I do believe.  There are always doubts or questions, I cannot answer lots of things, and lots of things I do not understand- but I do know I asked for something that day and it was answered because I 100% fully believed in what I was asking and who I was asking it from.

Since then, I've realized, I'm not going to hear a voice calling out to me and telling me a specific direction for my purpose in life, it's happening right before my very eyes.  Things I do, circumstances I find myself in, paths I cross, people I know, people I come in contact with, these are not just coincidences, they were meant to be.

I am an example to my children, my friends, and my family- I have nothing to hide that I believe in God.  

Looking back, it was obvious the something great I was being called to do was be myself- to show that there is still lots of good in this world, to help people, to inspire people to be greater than they are.  If you need a healthy dose of feeling awesomeness, I'm your person.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

We can do hard things

We can do hard things!

I finished a book recently, and this one was of the big take away messages for me.

In fact, I took it away so much, I'm making a canvas of the phrase and hanging it for all to see in my house.

Life is hard, there's no denying it.  Sometimes, we try HARD to avoid the hard stuff, but there's no way around it- things are going to be hard occasionally (or always).

Everyone's hard is different, but we are all equipped to handle it, to do it, to survive, and come out on the other side, saying "I did it".

Sometimes we are faced with hard things we have no choice to do, a test at school, apologizing, saying goodbye to someone we love, having a baby, getting sick, moving.

Sometimes we are faced with hard things we have a choice not to do:  higher level classes, opportunity for growth with a new position in the company, moving for a promotion, change in eating habits, a workout, pull ups, showing up, admitting a wrong.

We can do hard things!

These things we have a choice NOT to do, we can do them.

There is no prerequisite for perfection in the handbook of doing hard things.  (fine, maybe there isn't a handbook for doing these hard things).

There is no requirement for doing hard stuff well, you just have to do it.  

Some of these hard things are going to take courage, they may be painful, because you have no choice.  Some of them are going to require practice and patience, lots and lots of both.

So, you want to try crossfit, but it's too hard?  No it's not!  The hardest part is walking through the door and meeting a bunch of strangers for your first day.

There are lots of hard things at crossfit, but everyone can do them-even you!  Some things are hard, who am I kidding?, most things are hard- you can even make them harder, BUT you show up- that is the hardest part.  You can work hard every time you show up-that is something you can say you did and do every.single.day!  

"I work hard".   

When you work hard, eventually, maybe next week, maybe in two years, maybe longer, that hard thing isn't so hard anymore.  You can look back and say "I did something hard.  I can do hard things."

I had an amazing experience last night of photographing a birth.  In fact, it was the first birth I had ever seen, since all mine were c-sections.  My friend, a fellow cross fitter, had positive affirmations all around the room to keep herself going.  My only advice to her was "remember that workout that was so hard and you were crying but you made yourself finish.  You got this, you can do hard things."

A few weeks ago, I was nervous about doing a swim in a last minute crossfit competition I filled in for- the best advice I was given by one of my friends, "we can do hard things."

I struggle daily with parenting-the kids throw me curve balls all the time, I just keep muttering inside my head, "you can do hard things, you can do them, yes you can."

Whatever hard thing you are faced with, you don't turn your back on it, keep facing it, stare it in the eye and tell it "I can do hard things" until it's the one to turn its back first.

Life is hard- you can do hard things!

**The book I read was Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton if you are interested in a good read.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Giving Up

It really is easy to give up.

Don't do it!

How often have you had the following conversations with yourself?

  "If this happens one more time, I'm going to lose it"

  "I can't do this anymore, it's too hard"

  "I have to stop, I just can't"

  "There is no end in sight, I'm giving up"

Stepping in to do a workout, you already have in your mind how you think it's going to go.  Sometimes you know how you're going to break everything up, so that you can finish without too much pain.

Most of the time, you know that as soon as you get the slightest out of breath or the teensiest bit sore, you are going to stop, slow down, and you tell yourself "it's too hard".

Stop selling yourself short.  The mind is powerful and a force that CAN be reckoned with.  You control your mind-YOU can stop yourself from giving up.

Sometimes it helps to have people cheering you on- when you hear your name and some other stuff, it makes you keep going.  But, what about the times when you don't hear someone else cheering you on.  This is where YOU come in.  This is where you train yourself to NEVER GIVE UP.

You have a voice inside your head, use it to cheer yourself on right to the finish.  You have the ability to tell yourself "No, keep going",  "One more rep before the rest",  "You can do it",  "Don't quit".

Sometimes, that inner voice of yours can even speak out loud and help keep you pushing- trust me, I know! I often scream loudly during a lift, which has in fact resulted in many PR's.

Start your workouts with a good attitude- "I can do this", "I am going to surpass my expectations".  When things get tough, dig deep and get another rep.  Strength isn't just about the numbers you can pick up on a bar, it's about that extra rep or that extra round you put in.  You have the capability, you have to train yourself to push past the boundaries you have drawn for yourself.

If you come in and say I'll get to ten and take a rest, I challenge you to go to 11.  If you get tired and think I can't possibly do one more, I challenge you to do one more before the break.  If you are tired and worried you can't possibly keep moving, I challenge you to keep moving.

We all have tolerances, we all have boundaries- but if you start stretching them a little at a time, before you know it, you will be in that next round.

Yes, that workout was hard, but so was yesterday's, and so will tomorrow's.  Here's the thing, you keep coming back for more, so you know you aren't giving up on the workout.  Now it's time to stop giving up in the workout.  You will be surprised how the body will follow when the mind is leading.

Never give up and fight for every last rep!




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty Brownies

I keep accidentally opening a folder on my computer that has pictures of these brownies that I took about one year ago.  I didn't like think the pictures looked good, so I wasn't going to post them, but every time, I accidentally scroll over them (like everyday)-- I want to make them and I love the pictures a tiny bit more.

Yesterday, I was so excited to find my new favorite baking chocolate, Scharffen Berger, at Target.  In honor of the score, I'm making brownies and posting this recipe.  I refuse to make brownies anymore unless it's with good chocolate.  To me, using bad chocolate is like using margarine instead of butter.

This recipe is definitely my go to brownie recipe and you won't be disappointed either.  If you are looking for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert, you should make these (and eat them all!)
Sweet and Salty Brownies:

Caramel:
1 cup sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP butter

Brownies:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, chopped (60-72% chocolate)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 eggs, room temp (important!)
2 tsp vanilla

1) Make the caramel.  Measure out heavy cream, and set aside, place butter and salt in small bowl, set aside.  In medium saucepan- preferably metal- combine sugar, corn syrup, and water- stir carefully- don't splash onto sides, it can wreck the caramel later.  Cook over medium high heat until it reaches 350' or a dark amber color (like beer)- it will take a while to turn amber, but once it does, it can get brown fast and burn.  You don't need to stir while it is heating up, maybe swirl the pan once or twice.

Once it reaches the amber color, turn off heat and slowly add cream and salt and butter- be careful because it will release a LOT of steam, the caramel may even seem to harden, just keep whisking it until smooth.  Set aside to cool while you mix the brownies.

2) Preheat the oven to 350'.

3) Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  You can also choose to line it front to back and side to side with parchment paper- I never have done this and my brownies have never stuck in the pan.

4) In a bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt- set aside.

5) Put chocolate and butter in a double boiler- set this over a pan of boiling water- stir until the chocolate and butter have melted and are smooth.  **(If you do not have a double boiler- put chocolate and butter in microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second increments, take out and stir each time- longer increments can result in the chocolate burning and drying out. )

6) Keep double boiler over pot of water, turn off the burner.  Add the sugar and brown sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

7) Transfer chocolate mixture to a large bowl- use a scraper to get it all out.  Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined (do not over mix here- this is the difference between gooey fudge brownies or dense cake ones).  Add the last two eggs and mix until just combined.

8) Add vanilla and whisk until combined.

9) Sprinkle flour mixture on top of chocolate mixture- fold in with a spatula or wooden spoon.  There may be small amounts of flour mixture that aren't mixed in, that is ok-Remember over mixing will result in denser brownies.

10) Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Spread about 1/2-3/4 cup of the caramel sauce around the top of the batter- stay about 1/2 " away from the edge of the batter.  Drop the rest of the batter on top of the caramel layer and use a spatula to carefully spread it out.

11) Bake the brownies for about 40-45 minutes total.  After 20 minutes of baking, rotate the pan halfway to ensure even baking.  After 35 minutes of baking, you can insert a toothpick into the center of the brownies to check for doneness- a few sticky crumbs will come out on the pick, but should not be dredged in batter.  Remember, there is caramel in there, so it will be a littly sticky-but when in doubt cook a little longer- I have made these before and taken out when they weren't done and it is hard to finish cooking a half baked batch once you realize you under baked them.

12) Remove from oven and sprinkle the top with sea salt or another coarse salt.

Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations
Caramel recipe from Bakingdom blog.