Monday, December 17, 2018

Progress, not perfection: lessons from #last90days

I’ve been thinking about the progress that I’ve made during the #last90days effort I started in October.

Unfortunately, I don’t have double digits of weight loss on the scale to show for it, but I honestly think what I have learned is worth more than looking my best in Christmas pictures. (And that's saying a lot.)

Image result for demotivational quote posters
Theory I do not subscribe to ;-)
  1. Renewed sense of effort. Trip-ups don't completely stop me anymore -- or at least not for long. Turns out that when I'm focused on being the best version of myself, there isn't a lot of room for mental and emotional self-mutilation. Who knew?!
  2. New love for motivational quotes. No, they’re not for everyone, but I love them. And good news: no one is making the people who hate them follow me! What has been fun is having people I've known my whole life and people I haven't met come out of the woodwork saying they needed some encouragement right then. Happy to help!
  3. Education on habits. I don’t want hard or harsh lessons to apply to me, and yet... they do. So when I heard Rachel and Dave Hollis talk about how to break bad habits, I gave it a shot. And I’ve learned — and am learning — that when I do stop and think about how I react to triggers and make a conscious choice to take a different action than what I’ve taught myself, I am starting a new habit. A better habit. I can’t change *what* makes me reach for chocolate, but I can change how I react to what has always driven me to reach for chocolate.
  4. Less concern about what other people think. As a chronic people-pleaser, this may be something I'll be working on for the rest of my life, but even baby steps have been HUGE for me. I'm not sure where I got the idea that making others happy equated kindness, but it's deeply entrenched in everything I am and most of what I do.

    But the fact is: happiness is temporary. Circumstantial. Fleeting, even. And because everyone is different, it takes something different to bring happiness to others -- especially when you surround yourself with a wide range of personalities and skillsets. So my not making sure every person in my life is happy with every interaction every second of the day is not rude. The only person I can truly please is the only person whose expectations and sources of joy I implicitly know inside and out. And that's me. So when I'm showing up for myself and becoming the best Rebekah I can be, the people around me will benefit, too. Long-term. 
So yes, I still want to lose weight as a result of exercising and eating right and drinking water like a fish. But I'm learning that the end result isn't where the valuable nuggets are learned, and that I can love myself in the journey.

Progress is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My week with 41.

The week before George H. W. Bush died, I looked forward to our chats every time I got in my car.

I mean, I was only listening to his audiobook of letters, but still. That sequence of events had me feeling oddly close to our 41st president when I heard he'd passed away.

My interest in presidents' lives was piqued after I read an article about Bill and Hillary's communication style years ago. Since then, I've read a little on Reagan, Obama, W., and FDR. I realize I have several to go, so I'm working my way down -- or up -- that list, in no particular order.

And that's what lead me to listen to All The Best, George Bush -- a collection of letters and diary entries from the former president from the time he celebrated his 18th birthday and enlisted in the military to the early 90s, when he was still meeting up with Ronald Reagan for lunch anytime he was near L.A.

Something about this book struck me, even before this recent news of his death.

You hear phrases about "the last gentleman politician" and "the last of the greatest generation," and y'all, I really think there's something to that.

His cadence, his tone, even the vocabulary used in those readings were so incredibly...respectful. It took me back to conversations with Pop Ball, the Air Force Colonel who entered our family by marrying Nan when I was in high school.

I've been trying to pinpoint the difference between the underlying tone of what this generation said and did, and I honestly feel like it's respect. I admire sarcasm with the best of them, but man -- even GHWB's humor was in check. Fun but not biting. Cheeky but not self-promoting. Happy without being jaded.

This definitely isn't an "Our generation is the worst, the world has gone to pot"-type post. I love technology. I will voraciously consume whatever (sarcastic) humor Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling throw out into the world. And Lord knows we are all always learning that we do, indeed, have to look out for our own selves.

But 41 did all that, while keeping respect for others (and patriotism and satisfaction in a job well done) at the base of all he did. And wow, did he ever do a lot.

I was encouraged last night while watching 41 on 41, a documentary that features his friends, family and even former competitors voicing their experiences with the senior Bush. (And this was made before he died, so it can't be chalked up to the posthumous sainthood we're so inclined to give the deceased.)

Clinton became friends with him -- or rather, he sought friendship with Clinton -- after Bush lost the presidency to Clinton. Obama doesn't have a bad word to say about him. Members of the opposite party still respect how he handled compromises, and decisions, and communication.

His children and grandchildren respect him, and in my most humble opinion, Jenna Bush Hager and Pierce Bush (and maybe others) have inherited or learned his and their grandmother's firm but gentle communication style.

I'm not petitioning to take our world back 20 or even 40 years ago, and certainly not 80. But these widespread, consistent reactions to the death of someone known for his respect and honor are certainly encouraging.

I don't hate social media or smart phones or geomapping. But I am encouraged, more than ever, to use the innovations of today to uphold what's good and right, and to make the world a better place. I know why Bush's generation was called the greatest one -- and it was for good reason.

But we can be known as a compassionate, strong generation, too. For using technology for good. For finishing the job. For humbly accepting when we win, and honoring our team. For laughing at ourselves when we don't win. And above all, for our love.

As the Navy tweeted, we have the watch. Thank you for your example, 41.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Last 90 days, 30 days in

Last month I joined in on #last90days -- an effort that Rachel and Dave Hollis do every October -- and I'm happy to report that one month in, I'm still here for it!

The idea is to finish the last three months of the year the way most of us like to start it: working toward becoming a better version of ourselves.

Thankfully, we're not left up to our own devices on "resolutions" in these last 90 days of the year, but we're invited to join in committing to five preferred habits each morning. They call it Five to Thrive, and since I already *should* be doing most of them anyway, they're not terrible to follow.

So the Five to Thrive daily recommendations are:

  1. Get up an hour earlier than you usually do and use the time for yourself.
  2. Work out for at least thirty minutes.
  3. Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day.
  4. Give up one food category you know you shouldn't be eating.
  5. Write down ten things you're grateful for every single day.

Admittedly, I was doing a few of these already -- namely the water and getting up an hour earlier (most days) -- and I had been working out pretty regularly, so it wasn't like jumping five hurdles at once. But having a prompt, a commitment to these five items has certainly been a game-changer.

Have I done all five things every single day?

Do I ever go off the rails?

Do I feel better when I am doing these things?
Dadgummit, I DO. 

And I hate to admit that. I really do. Because please for the love of all that's good and holy believe me when I say that I want nothing.more than to lay on the couch in my PJs and eat chocolate 24/7.

But sadly, that just doesn't offer the results...endorphins...accomplishments that these blasted Five to Thrive do.

So I'll keep trucking on, here on this first day of November, and see if I can make it through the next 60-ish days (which incidentally include the holidays. Convenient, eh?).

Also, great news -- if you're interested, you can totally start today. None of us need to wait for a Monday or the first of the month or even tomorrow to start ANYthing.

Jump in! Thrive with me.

Monday, October 29, 2018

#ShareFourSomethings -- October edition

Once again, I'm joining in on Heather's Gerwing's #ShareFourSomethings -- a monthly post to share:

  1. Something Loved
  2. Something Said
  3. Something Learned
  4. Something Read
October is my most favorite of all the months, and something I loved about it this year was the time I had and intentionally took to breathe it in and really enjoy it. 

Yes, it's the month I was born in, but maybe that makes me appreciate it a little more? It probably also helps that here in the deep south, "fall" is such a foreign concept that I celebrate any change in leaves' colors -- even if that means they're dead. 

Even now, with a few days still left in the month, I'm savoring chatter about Halloween and costumes, and looking forward to the holidays with excitement.

Something that was said that is still resonating with me will probably seem small or silly to anyone else, especially anyone with different character traits. But I've been doing a lot of hard internal work during the past year or two, digging into some of the whys and hows that affect and contribute to the whats and wheres of my life. And so with that, I've come to realize some things that weren't so obvious to me before, but that are incredibly important to me now.

One of those concepts that keeps ranking higher and higher for me is being still. 

Calm. Content. Peaceful. 

These are not words commonly used to describe me. 

I'm pretty sure I've been a ball of anxiety since the day I was born, so when I ran into an acquaintance from years ago who said I "seemed very chill, so peaceful," I pretty much took it as the best compliment I could ever receive. (Thanks, J!)

Something I learned in October? How to narrow it down...there's so much. As part of the difficult internal work I mentioned above, I've been doing a lot of listening. Not just to IRL people in my world, but also to audiobooks. So in true trendsetter fashion, I finally jumped on the podcast bandwagon that's been rolling around for a decade or more now. I find that I still can't focus well if I just randomly try to listen, but if there's an author I love who only has four books and I've breezed through them, I can see if he is interviewed on any podcasts, and hear more of his communication style. (Again, breaking news on the Something Learned front, I know.)

Do you have a favorite podcast? Since I'm now in the know, I'll be taking recommendations from here on out!

Now for the really tricky one...something I read.

I love reading, and have been devouring more books  than ever lately. From inspirational to fiction, there's a lot to choose from, but I'd have to go with the autobiography co-written (and co-read, if you're into audio) by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush: Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life.

No matter what your political views are, I recommend you check this out. From stories about living in the White House to the basic human ties of sibling love and rivalry, the book is a great one. I particularly adore everything about the Bush girls relationship with their grandfather.

Did you learn, hear, love or read something in October that stood out to you? Comment here, or if writing's your thing, link up to Heather's blog with one of your own.

Happy fall!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

#ShareFourSomethings -- September edition

I'm participating in my friend Heather's #ShareFourSomethings concept -- a monthly post to share Something Loved, Something Said, Something Learned, Something Read.
In September:
Something I loved was...

...getting to be with my family on my Daddy's birthday.
We kicked off the month with a visit to Mississippi for (and on) my dad's birthday. All the stars aligned so that everyone was off work and available to be there. Even though it was rainy, we had such a nice visit.

Something that was said was...
"'re doing a great job."
Simple and to the point, no flowery language, but still so heartfelt and so very needed. I appreciate being appreciated -- and knowing that I am contributing.

Something I learned was...

...a little more about the Enneagram. This new-to-me personality assessment isn't rocket science by any means, but it does require some digging in, and it seems that the exploration could last forever. (I'm still not rock solid on which of the nine types I am, but I'm leaning toward nine itself.)
And something I read was...

...all the things Kelly Corrigan publishes.
I don't know why it took me a while to come across her, but her writing style is up my alley, and I love her insight on life, death and all the things in between.
Although I love all of her books, the first one I read is The Middle Place, and I can't get enough of it. 
If you're interested in linking up your #ShareFourSomethings post, feel free to visit Heather's blog! If you don’t have a blog, feel free to comment with your own four somethings are. We all have four somethings to share!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

HIIT me baby, one more time.

I haven't wanted to put this out there (or buy new clothes) until I thought I was fully committed, but I have an announcement.

I'm no longer just donating to the gym. We are now in a relationship.

For some reason, it took trying exercise as a reprieve for anxiety for me to really get into it, and wouldn't you know -- it works! If only someone would conduct some research or write an article on this or something. ;-)

I'm limited to a certain type of bike at the gym because of a foot impediment, so really getting a good workout was taking more time and some creativity...until I tried HIIT. High-intensity interval training is not newj -- it has been around for ages -- but I just learned about it in the past year.

Image result for hiit timer appThe idea is to alternate intense bursts of exercise with shorter periods of rest, then repeat.

The result? I definitely get a more intense workout using this method. I sweat more, my heart rate gets much higher, I'm able to burn more calories in one sitting, and I just feel the overall burn. It's like getting a better bang for your buck, without dedicating any more time to that exercise.

So how do you get started?

I'm sure there are much more structured and beneficial approaches, but I literally just searched for HIIT in the App Store and found a free timer.

The one I selected has you warm up for 10 seconds (yellow-gold timer), go at a normal rate for a certain period (green timer), then gives you a window of time to exercise at an intense rate (red timer). If you're using earbuds or want to look at something else on your phone while working out, the timer will run in the background and alert you to the next phase with a traditional kitchen timer sound. On the bike, I like to have the timer up on my screen so I can keep track of which intensity to exercise at while still focusing on audiobooks or podcasts.

Do you have experience with HIIT or other resources that might help? I'd love to hear about it!

HIIT and I have been connecting for a few months now, so I'm thinking this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Goin’ To Carolina in my Mind: How to Help After Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence, photo courtesy of CNN

It’s hard to watch disaster strike and not know how to help.

When our house flooded a couple of years ago, I swore I would use the experience for good. Unfortunately, that means offering tips because others are going through one of the worst times in their lives.

If you're like me and want to help friends and family affected by Hurricane Florence but aren't sure what to do, here are a few things that helped us in the hours and days when several feet of water sat in our house, and in the weeks and months after floodwaters receded.

For people who are still in their homes and are in danger of flooding:
  • Put valuables in a high place, like the top of a closet. If they have a second story, that's preferable.
  • If you can get out:
    - Fill your car up with gas.
    - Park one vehicle in spot that’s higher than where your house is.
    (If you’re under curfew, stay put. Please follow your local law enforcement's rules. Seriously.)
  • Put these things in a garbage bag and keep them close:
    - Important papers
    - Special pictures not on digital file
    - Jewelry
    - Electronics that would be difficult or expensive to replace, or that house your only copies of files. (I still mourn my waterlogged external hard drive with pictures from the last 15 years of life and friends and travel.)

If you know someone whose home has flooded:
  • Start a GoFundMe for them. This feels odd to even type -- even after we benefited from so many people's kindness -- but whether or not your affected friends have flood insurance, being able to access funds quickly will be invaluable as the weeks and months after this weather event go by. Some people will prefer to do something "tangible," like donating some of the items listed below, but I speak from experience when I say that every $5 donation helps with insulation, paint, contractor fees, cabinet pulls, groceries...the list goes on.

    And the sooner the GoFundMe is active, the better. People across the country will see footage on the news and will want to help. A friend did this for us, and we are forever grateful.
  • Secure a storage unit nearby that hasn't been flooded. They'll go fast once the waters recede, and if anything can be salvaged from a flooded home, it will need a place to stay during the rebuilding. Also, people who have flooded may be given furniture or may be able to purchase some, and they’ll have to put it somewhere. It's better to pay for one month and not need it than to realize you need one when none are available.

If you are nearby and can get tangible items to people whose houses have flooded, some immediate needs after the flood may be:
  • Gift cards (Home Depot, Lowe's, grocery stores, restaurants - fast food and sit-down, hotels, Visa)
  • Bath soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Hygiene products
  • Laundry basket
  • Non-perishable food
  • Clothes (underwear, pajamas, gym clothes to gut/rebuild the house in, tennis shoes, work/school clothes, work/school shoes)

Please keep in mind that until your friends and family have settled into a temporary space, they will not have any place to store even the smallest things. The most helpful thing for us was when friends offered to hold onto our items for us, and told us to let them know when we were ready for them.

Some immediate tangible needs after the water recedes as they clean and restore their homes may be:
  • Contractor-grade trash bags
  • Heavy-duty work gloves
  • Tools to gut their house (pull up flooring, tear out sheetrock, etc.)
  • Tables to put items on that they will want to save.
    These tables may be used for a long time afterwards -- we were still using one from our church when we moved back into our house 9 months later and didn't have countertops yet!
  • Ice chest(s)
  • Brooms
  • Shop vacuum
  • Rubbermaid bins to save salvaged items
  • Rake(s)
  • Hand sanitizer

Please keep in mind that until your friends and family have settled into a temporary space – and maybe even after – they will not have any place to store even the smallest things. It’s so nice of people to want to give tangible things, but it’s so hard to find a place for anything when you’re in this situation.

Things that can help anyone who is affected:
  • See the GoFundMe note above.
  • Encourage anyone affected to keep a binder or expanding file for all documentation. It will be a long process, and they may have to move into more than one temporary space during the rebuilding. Starting out the process with that organization in place will be helpful.
  • Start an Amazon wish list for them. They will have many needs over a long period of time, and it could be helpful for you to move forward with a list of basics that they can edit and populate as they have time (which could well be a month from now in between work, rebuilding a house, and other responsibilities).

#prayingforcarolina #carolinastrong