Thursday, April 21, 2016

Let Go of the Oars

Let go of the oars. 

The quote originates from New York Times best-selling author Esther Hicks and for those of you who haven’t heard of her, Hicks’ teachings were the original inspiration for “The Secret” and she’s noted as contributing to a global paradigm shift in consciousness.

Have you ever thought that perhaps everything you want is downstream, not upstream like we assume it to be? In America, particularly those of us working in Corporate America, we are programmed to work hard and rest less. When the going gets tough and life fails to live up to our expectations, we paddle harder and faster. We assume if we try harder, everything will be resolved and our goals can be achieved.

Here’s why I struggle with this philosophy. Life isn’t meant to be hard. We shouldn’t have to constantly be struggling. I like to believe that while it’s never perfect, life is intended to be calm and enjoyable. I wonder – what if we let go of the oars?

Once we do, the boat (our life) will likely turn itself around and allow the current to carry us downstream.

It has taken me years to comprehend the concept that sometimes we need to surrender, relinquish control and just let-go of our beliefs on when or how things should happen in life.

I can recall plenty of hard times when I found myself yelling (to no one in particular) WHY. Why me? Why is this happening? Why am I experiencing such pain. The greatest disappointments come when we cling stubbornly to the ideas of what our lives should look like.

These are the moments when it’s so important that we let go of the oars and let our boat take us downstream.

Stop fighting the current, stop exhausting yourself paddling upstream.

Let it go. Breathe. Have faith. There is a plan for you. Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

I Am Who I Am, Because You Were You

It's often you hear people say, "I'm working on who I am," but how often do you hear someone say "I'm working to understand WHY I am the way I am?"

With 32 years of life under my belt, I finally feel as though I have a good grasp on WHO I am. I'm a daughter to two wonderful human beings. I'm a giving and attentive girlfriend to a wonderful man. I'm a friend to some really freakin amazing women. I'm a mommy to the cutest fur baby in the entire world (though I may be biased!). I love the feeling of a workout that makes me want to pass out (maybe I'm a bit of a masochist as well?!). I'm career-minded and driven as hell. I've built walls thanks to some painful past experiences. Despite those times, I have a resilient and loving heart. I can be fiercely independent (sometimes out of necessity rather than choice) and I strive for greatness in all aspects of life. 

But the real question is - WHY am I the way I am?

I've given a lot of consideration to this lately. And I think I may know the answer. A little background...

Growing up, I was extremely close to my maternal Grandmother. Lillian - a spitfire redhead (whom my Grandfather so kindly nicknamed "Red" even though she hated it...), raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was quite possibly one of the most remarkable women I've ever know (tied with my own Mom, naturally). I truly could go on and on about all the reasons we all loved her so - but for the sake of brevity, I'll say that I believe a majority of why I am the way I am, is because of her. 

As I was approaching college graduation, my Grandma (Grammy as I loved to call her) asked me what I wanted. Most of my friends were asking for money, new cars, wardrobes for their new careers, a place to live if said career didn't pan out... but not me. 

I asked for letters.

"Write me letters, Grammy."

"About what, Madela?"

"Everything. Write to me about growing up. Write to me about your love story with Poppy. Write to me about how you felt when Mommy was born. When I was born. Write to me about how it felt to lose Poppy after more than 50 years. Just write to me."

And write, she did. 

It was just this week that I decided to take down my memory box I store all things of sentimental value - and pulled out the one and only letter my Grammy wrote to me. 

After reading it, I have no doubts about WHY I am the way I am. I am me, because she was she. 

"My little Jenny asked me to write. So here I shall. 

Born in the early 1900's on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, NY. My parents were immigrants, my mother came from Russia and my father came from Lithuania. I remember living in a tenement house where the toilet was in the hall. We had electricity but we also had a coal stove to cook on.

My father died when I was very young, 12 years of age and my mother though she had no skills did not go to work, as she was not a citizen of the USA and could not read, so she depended on her brothers to support her.

We moved to Brooklyn when I was 13 years old and decided then that I was going to excel in my schoolwork. My favorite subject was math and then I decided to become a bookkeeper. I married young, but because of Pearl Harbor my husband was drafted into The Army. I took a position working at the NY Port of Embarkation for the US Army. 

After the war and having 3 children to raise, I decided to make something of myself. When my youngest was 12 I went back to work and together with my husband we started saving money and built up our nest egg. I believed working was good for ones mind and self respect.

My motto is to be accomplished even in old age. Keep the mind going, don't become lackadaisical. Give a good appearance of one's self, be friendly and make a living based upon accomplishments. At present, though I am in my late 70s, I am still active as Editor and Vice President of my temple's newsletter. I am respected, acknowledged by the congregants and am happy that in my latter years, I keep myself active and enjoy my family and friends. I am a grandmother of 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren." 

 I hope reading this inspires you to find out why you are the way you are, and I hope your journey is also full of love and wonderful memories.


Monday, April 11, 2016

A Girls Trip to Austin, Bathroom Reno and Life Lately

Is it really mid-April already? WHERE is the year going??

I recently returned from a girls weekend to Austin - that city has been on my list for awhile and I'm so thrilled I finally made it! So speaking of trips with friends... HOW much of a buzzkill is it when you take a trip with friends and realize you're completely incompatible travel buddies?! Maybe you like to get up early and explore and your friends are night owls. Maybe you don't love being out all night drinking and they do. Whatever the differences are, I feel like it's rare to take a trip and just hit it off 24/7. Thankfully - this was one of those trips :) While I didn't get in any gym workouts, I did pack my resistance bands and do a mini-workout one morning while the girls got ready. I tried to go for a run, but after taking 5 steps out the front door it started to rain. Fine. Twist my arm into enjoying some tasty meals and a few libations. FINE! I was just SO grateful to be away for a few days, getting to know these ladies even better over tons of laughs, a few cocktails, and plenty of good eats.

Speaking of tasty meals - if you live in Austin or happen to find yourself there - do yourself a favor and check out Elizabeth' Street Cafe. Literally the BEST bahn mi I've ever had.  While not pictured, trust that it was amazing. Egg whites and mushrooms in a crusty baguette with diakon radish, carrots and topped with sambal (spicy chili sauce). The lump crab rice paper wraps pictures below were super delish. 

Another fun spot worth checking out is Cafe NoSe at the South Congress Hotel. While I realize it's not necessary for food to be "pretty" - let's just admire how beautiful that piece of lox and hardboiled egg toast is!! It had the perfect combo of salty (from the lox and a few capers) and sweet (check out that thinly sliced apple!). Such a neat spot for brunch (they made a mean Americano) with friends.
Lump crab rice paper wraps with yummy dipping sauces!
So pretty AND tasty!

While we're on the subject of food - I have been LOVING getting back into cooking. It's been fun testing out new, healthy recipes and not stressing because all I can eat is plain, flavorless food. Don't get me wrong - while I'm home I am still pretty cognizant about what I'm eating. I still measure everything to ensure my portions are on point and I still don't cook with any oils or butters - but I'm having FUN again. And after the roller coaster of comp prep and life after the show, it feels really nice.
Arugula, cherry tomatoes, quiona and soft-boiled egg!
Old-fashioned oats blended with egg whites!
I've been testing out tons of recipes and techniques (I've never tried poaching my own eggs for a protein packed salad topper and boy I'm glad I did!) and purchasing new "foods" (including the PB2 powder I mixed with water to top my oat/egg white pancake you see above). I've been loving tons of new finds thanks to the new Sprouts that opened near the house. That reminds me I'm long overdue for another "What's in my cart" post!

As if life hasn't been busy enough, I decided to renovate my master bath. Considering the house is from the 1970s, my bathroom is teeny tiny. Despite wishing it was larger, it has been fun picking out all of the finishes and re-conceptualizing the space- including a dark tile floor that happens to look like wood, black pebble for the shower floor (HELLO free foot massage!) and a beautiful marble herringbone for the shower walls.

From this....
BYE BYE Bathtub!

New shower! Note: manly hand is in fact my contractors - not mine :)

Herringbone shower in the making!
I'm super excited to see how the bathroom turns out. Last fall I renovated the rest of the house,  but funds ran low - so this project has been awhile in the making. I'll be sure to post some new progress pics as things come along. My new vanity should be arriving soon, bead board will be going up, and some new chrome fixtures will be installed in the next week or so!

And since this post seems to be photo bonanza, why not include a recent shot - Just me. Having fun whipping up tasty and healthy meals, hitting 5 intense workouts a week, and working to enjoy the little moments in life a bit more and worry about the future a little less :)

Happy Monday - hope yours was productive and eventful, too!


Monday, April 4, 2016

4 Ways I Make Health and Fitness Part of My Every Day Life

Have a buddy. Having a friend meet you at the gym or check out a new spin class is a really great way to keep yourself accountable AND have fun. You share the experience (what’s that saying about misery loving company?! Ha!) AND if time permits, you can enjoy catching up over coffee, lunch, shopping, or a cocktail (not every time, but nothing wrong with a weekend mimosa here and there!). This past Saturday I met a girlfriend for spin and afterwards we hit a local Mexican spot and sipped a tequila on ice, ate a salad and went shopping afterwards. We got in a great workout AND spent time together. Working out with a friend will no doubt push you harder and even broaden your horizons and make you try a movement or class you wouldn’t have otherwise. So go – call a close friend and make a workout date!!
Switch it up. I’m grateful to live in a large city like Atlanta, where ClassPass has more fitness-related classes to take then you could possibly imagine. Within the last 7 days I’ve taken a few Pilates reformer classes, a 90 minute hot yoga class, some intense spin classes, crossfit-style bootcamp, and a yoga class focused on hip and hamstring flexibility. It’s been so fun listening to my body and uncovering strengths (holy strong quads and holy flexibility – I was basically a human sweaty pretzel for the duration of my hot yoga class!) and also realizing I have weaknesses (nearly puked once during spin and also came to the realization I have the hand eye coordination of a toddler). Sure, I still lift in the big box gym and won’t deny my trusty deadlifts and squats for long, but its fun having fun with fitness. You meet people along the way, you see new parts of town, and you challenge your body in ways it’s never been challenged before.
Get creative in the kitchen. Boy how I missed cooking last year. One of the best ways to take your nutrition into your own hands is to quite literally, put nutrition in your hands. Hit the farmer’s market and scour the aisles for fun, unique produce you’ve never heard of before. Spend an hour a week looking up new recipes to try. And experiment! Try a new cuisine or eat a few vegetarian meals throughout the week. Not only does it feel good to eat good, nutrient-dense food, but there’s no reason it can’t also be fun!
Listen to your body. Sometimes I’m just not feeling it. Sometimes I know my body needs rest – and now I listen to it. If you have pain beyond normal muscle soreness, listen to it. If you’re just being lazy, well, get off your ass and move J Even if it’s just a walk through the neighborhood – working out gets those endorphins flowing! There are times when I KNOW my body is craving an intense lifting session or a kick-butt kickboxing class. Other times I feel tight and stressed and know how wonderful 90 minutes of hot yoga will feel. Get in touch with your body and nourish it from the inside out!

I hope you put into practice at least one of the ways I make health and fitness fun. There are far too many ways to take care of yourself – so if what you’re currently doing isn’t fun or you feel like you’re in a rut, CHANGE. Taking this approach is more holistic and will address your overall health and fitness. Making it fun and committing to living a healthy lifestyle will make working out will feel less like a chore and more like a blessing!