Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Priority Check

Brushy Mountain Trail - GSMNP
November 10, 2012

I could write about successfully navigating the next six weeks while remaining true to your healthy eating plans, but it seems everyone else is writing those posts and there is absolutely nothing I could write any to offer anything different and certainly not better.  For me right now, the issues seem to revolve around another set of priorities causing me to take stock and carefully consider the ways in which I am spending my time.  What are the things about which I am most passionate and are those the BEST things?  What, if anything, has become a time gobbler (pun intended!!) that needs to be refined or changed?  

In the 2 1/2 years that I've been writing this blog, I've only been through a "blog" crises once, but knew even at that time (as I know now) that stopping wasn't an alternative.  I love writing the blog and have no desire to leave BlogLand anytime soon.  If anything, the ideas keep coming and I look for ways to expand.  But I've got to do a better job with time management because, as we all know, writing and reading blogs can become quite addicting at the expense of other real life things calling for our attention.  

For me, the thing that suffers when my BlogLife gets out of whack is my morning quiet time.  For decades, this ritual has been the most important hour of my day.  As my morning devotional time goes, so goes the rest of the day.  Until the blog came along, it was a non-negotiable.  And it is STILL a non-negotiable.  But over time, I've developed the habit of "checking the google reader" before settling in with my Bible and/or whatever devotional material I'm working with at that particular time.  And funny, how there's so much good stuff in the reader that I glance at the clock and an hour has past.  It's time to get Bill up, make the smoothie and head out for our walk.  

So there's priority check #1 - Nothing else happens until the morning quiet time is done.  On busy days, this may mean I NEVER get back to the google reader or to a post I'd planned to write.  I reinstated this priority a week ago and was immediately able to tell a difference in my attitude, actions and behavior. 

Tomorrow, I will reach my 350 mile 2012 hiking goal and that's another explanation for my very sporadic blog posting.  I am hiking the heck out of these two feet and loving every minute of it.  We've had a phenomenal autumn with ideal hiking weather and it's not over yet.  Remember that there was a time back in September and October when I was questioning whether I'd be hiking at all because I was in so much pain from an unexpected Rheumatoid Disease flare-up.  I am so full of gratitude for the turnaround that I make no apologies for the fact that being outside right now is a top, TOP priority.  Those who truly know me, understand that I feel most alive and in touch with both myself and my creator when out on a trail.  I am thankful for a spouse who doesn't fully "get it" about the hiking, but knows he experiences the same "high" when he steps out onto a stage and raises that conductor's baton to lead a group of musician's in a masterful performance.  He goes with me when he can (as long as it's not over five miles - LOL!), but has NEVER minded my going with others or resented the time I spend on the trail or the amount of gas I use getting there.

Priority check #2 - I will maximize every opportunity I have to spend time outside.  Everything else can wait.  I'm a good organizer, planner and disciplinarian.  The laundry will get done, the bills will be paid, we won't starve and no responsibilities to anyone will be neglected.  I'm not selfish - I just know that I'm better when this passion is fulfilled.  You either understand this or you don't!!

Priority check #3 is going to be a bit harder to explain, but I'll try.  In the past year, I have lost the extra weight I had regained since my 65-pound loss in 2006-2007,  I have now maintained at or very near goal weight for several months.  I am thrilled with those new healthy eating habits.  I became ecstatic in July when Bill joined me in changing some habits and starting a regular walking routine.  Not only did he feel better almost immediately, but it gave us a built-in 40 minutes every morning to communicate with each other.

But the one thing that doesn't seem to have changed is that my life and thought patterns still revolve almost 100% around food.   Yes, the thoughts are much different, but I'm still TIRED OF IT!  I can't get away from it whether it be my surroundings or my own mind.  Over the past year as I've reassessed and reevaluated, I've come to learn that I am actually a very simple eater.  I don't need or demand a three-course dinner every evening.  I'm not, nor will I ever be, passionate about cooking even though I've come to realize that it's something I can do well when I choose to.  I'm just as happy with a bowl of cereal for dinner as I am when Bill (an excellent cook who LOVES doing it) prepares one of those three-course dinners.  Problem is, I can't get away from it.  Everywhere you turn, it just seems as if life revolves around food.  

Disclaimer:  Please don't anyone take offense.  This does NOT in any way, shape or form apply to any of you, my precious friends who write about food.  That is the focus of your BLOG.  For the most part, I only know that aspect of you.  There is much more to you than your blog and I strongly suspect, there is more to your life than what I see you write.  

So my last Priority Check for today is a concentrated effort to reframe my mind and my conversations towards subjects other than food.

I want to wish each of you a joyful and happy Thanksgiving.  I hope that it is a day you anticipate with a smile and warm memories.  We certainly do.   For us, this Thanksgiving has taken on a more somber note as twice in the past two months, we've personally dealt with a tragedy in life of someone we care about.   On September 16th, this accident changed forever the lives of two people we've known since they were teenagers.  Jeff's wife, Kim, who was driving in front of the van and witnessed the accident which killed her husband, was a member of the youth group at a church Bill worked at during the 80's and early 90's.  Jeff came along a bit later and as you can see, they had grown into adults working as Youth Directors in a church of their own. On Monday, one of Bill's students was killed in a horrible house fire leaving her three children without either parent.  Music majors, because of the time required spent together, become a tight-knit group and this was no exception.  Bill is totally exhausted after two days of dealing with his own grief while helping bewildered college students (many of whom this is their first experience with death) begin to cope with theirs.  Kristina was with them one day, gone the next.

I don't write any of that to be morbid.  Thanksgiving is a day of joy and these things serve to make us even more grateful for the gift of being able to approach it in that way.   My family is healthy and happy.  My heart almost explodes to think about it.   I have friends here and all over the US who love and care about me.  What more could I possibly want?  Absolutely nothing!

But that isn't the case for everyone.  Somewhere close to you is someone who looks toward the holidays with dread, sadness or a myriad of other emotions.  I'm asking you to think through your life and find at least one person who might NOT be looking forward to Thanksgiving and even less, to Christmas.  Make a call, give a hug, write a note, do SOMETHING!  Just don't close your eyes to the suffering around you while luxuriating in your own pleasure!  

Share with me one non-food related priority you'd like to reevaluate!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Safety Net

Meigs Creek Trail - GSMNP
This is creek crossing number one of 17 on this 3.5 mile trail
October 31, 2012

Sometimes, just getting a post started is the hardest part for me.   In this month of Thanksgiving, I am so totally overwhelmed with gratitude for consecutive days in which I feel normal and are relatively pain-free that words simply fail me.  Once more, let me thank so many of you for your kind words of support both in the blog and through email.  I simply remain in disbelief that restarting a medication after a four month break made that much difference in such a short amount of time, but it did and I refuse to question it.  I am just thankful for it and in introspect, will take no moments for granted plus pray that I can be the friend and support system to others that so many have been to me.  Pain comes in many forms, it shows no mercy and is absolutely no respecter of persons.  Never, ever take one moment of your health for granted.  

Barbara Berkely, who blogs at Refuse to Regain, posted one of the best articles I recall on the fine art of weight maintenance.  You can find it here.  Barbara has some pretty harsh stances on eating not all of which I agree with, however, she writes with great wisdom about the challenges involved once one moves from weight loss mode into weight maintenance.  I love her acronyms, D.U.M and S.M.A.R.T.  You'll have to read the article to learn about them.  I'd already been doing some thinking as to how I planned to navigate my first holiday season as a maintainer.  

It didn't take long to realize and become comfortable with the fact that I will approach it by doing exactly what I've been doing for the last year.  I have established a final goal weight, plan to stay within a two pound range of that goal weight and have determined that my "scream" weight will be five pounds above the goal weight.  

I view "holiday" eating in the same way that I view travel/vacation eating.  For me, nothing changes.  If I start trying to fit in extras or compromises, I'll be at that scream weight and beyond before you know it.  I'm not willing to let that happen.  It is not worth it.  

Each of us has to develop the plan that works for us individually.  The important thing is to establish your plan for holiday eating NOW.  One of my favorite one liners applicable to most any life situation, but TOTALLY applicable to this is, "failing to plan is planning to fail."  No matter where you are in your journey, much damage can be done in the next two months leading to major discouragement and remorse come January 1.  Please don't let that happen to you.  

 Creek Crossing #4

During the weeks of difficulty in getting my RA under control, hiking never lost its joy, but it certainly lost some of its pleasure.  I was also made to confront the idea of having to strictly curtail my hiking or getting to the point of not being able to hike at all.  These thoughts were not pretty and were the days when I reached my lowest point.  So to be back on the trail week before last with Becca and then twice last week with another hiking friend from my church at times brought out emotions so deep I could hardly contain them.  I felt strong and energetic.  It felt good!   And to be blessed with so many friends who are willing to adjust their pace to mine and lend a hand when I need it.

 Creek Crossing #7

Meigs Creek Trail is one of my favorites because in all of its 3.5 miles, you are rarely away from the sound of rushing water.  Those 17 creek crossings are challenging, but fun and with low water in the park, we felt they would be easily rock hopped or might require changing into water shoes for wading.
Creek Crossing #14

Sandy did quite a number at the higher elevations dumping record breaking snowfall amounts unheard of for October.   It was difficult for me to be out having such a good time when so many were (and are) still suffering.  But the beauty of being out in the woods on a clear, sunny day listening to the gentle crunch of my boots in the snow and reflecting on the many reasons I have for celebration right now brought the pleasure I'd been missing and an indescribable joy!  

Grapeyard Ridge Trail - GSMNP
November 1, 2012

You really can't see it so much in this picture, but the grin from ear to ear says it all.  We call it the hiker smile and my friend (who took the picture) told me I smiled for the entire 7.6 miles of this trail!  I don't doubt it for a minute!

What Are YOU Smiling About Today?
Tell Someone You Love Them, Be Active, Pay It Forward!