My Coming of Age Story

When I was 13 years  old my mother turned 48 years old. Then two days later, she died from a stroke and brain aneurysm she had suffered a couple weeks prior.  This as you might imagine was a turning point in my life.  It is the point at which my perspective on life and living was permanently altered.  However, this was only the beginning of my coming of age.  Thanks to my family, my father, my sister, my brother and others who supported me, I was able to navigate my teen years and young adult life with relative ease despite my loss. Don’t get me wrong, I had the normal ups and downs of growing into adulthood, friendships gained and lost, heartache, discovery and self-realization.

As an adult I have learned many lessons personally and professionally. Some lessons were hard and some were fraught with adventure.  Some knocked me to my knees and some lifted me higher. When I got married there were more lessons. When I turned 40, more lessons. Becoming a mother, still more and more lessons.  Yet, none of this was my coming of age.

July 22, 2018 I am the same age as my mother was when she left this earth.  For many years I pondered how I would feel upon reaching this milestone.  I  can honestly say that I feel like I have just begun my life! I have accomplished so much yet at this point in my life I feel like there is so much more.  There is more opportunity to give to others. More creativity to live the life God has designed for me. More faith to accomplish the desires of my heart.  So as I enter into another year, I want to share three lessons that I learned from my mother and have lived for myself.

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes to the bone.  There is so much ugliness in this world. It comes from the heart and it is permeating. People often described my mother a beautiful person. She was definitely radiant. But her beauty came from the inside out. She cared deeply for others. She took care of our elderly neighbors and opened our house to our family and friends.  She volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and she taught school children. I have never met anyone who had a bad word to say about her. This is a testimony to her beauty. If I can be half as beautiful as she was I will have accomplished a lot.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. Ok, so I know that this originally came from Thumper’s mother in the movie Bambi, but it is something my mother would say often.  As a teen and young adult I am sure I went through a bit of a mean girl period but this saying has stuck with me and it is something that I tell my daughter often.  I have learned that our words have power. What we speak has the power to transform lives.  I want my words to always speak life into a situation or a person.

Lastly, Enjoy Life!  I learned this from the way that my mom lived her life. She loved, she laughed and she taught me to do the same. Yet, there were many plans and dreams she never realized. There are many special moments that she never witnessed. Life is short and for some it is shorter than we would want or expect. Learn to find joy in everyday. Learn to laugh despite the common ups and downs of life. Learn to smile and be open to the possibilities that life has to offer.

I have spent the last 35 years waiting for this rebirth! I am at a point in my life where I am fully accepting of who I am. I have earned the life I am creating for myself and my family. I am confident in who I have become.  I recognize areas for growth and am willing to change the things that I deem as necessary to continue my pattern of growth. This is an important milestone for me because I feel like I have finally come of age.

When did you feel like you came of age?

Building a Simple and Effective Home Gym for the Busy Mom

I always considered myself to be a pretty fit and active person. When I got married I did what most newlyweds do… I cooked and I ate and I packed on a few pounds! I knew that I wanted to shed a few of the pounds I had gained as a happy newlywed. I would go to the gym sporadically and saw sketchy results. Then, I had two children in two years, which changed my wanting to shed a few pounds to needing to lose at least fifty pounds! As a new mom with a toddler and a newborn there was no way I was going to the gym, even though in my mind I saw myself getting up at 5am every morning, going to the gym and getting my pre-baby body back. You know, like all those other moms out there…. Anyway, that vision did not became my reality. I realized that I was going to have get started with what I already had.

When I decided it was time to get in shape and lose the baby weight, I gathered the various equipment I had scattered all over my house and discovered that I had a pretty effective home gym. I found that you can get fit at home with no or minimal equipment that won’t break the bank! The equipment that I have includes, dumbbells, a stability ball, an exercise/yoga mat, a jump rope, and resistance bands. I use each of these in various ways to create a great workout!

I have three pound and five pound dumbbells. I use the three and five pound weights when I do squats to make them a bit more challenging. Place one weight in each hand. As you bend your knees into the squat position, lift your arms in front of you to shoulder height. Do three sets of five to start. If you can do more, increase the number of reps per set.

Although my stability ball has become more of a toy for my kids, there are some excellent core exercises that can be done using it. A simple and easy one that is very effective is crunches. To do this, lay back on the ball with your feet firmly on the floor. Place your hands with your fingertips to your ears, so you do not strain your neck and gently and smoothly lift your head pointing your chin towards the ceiling.

My exercise/yoga mat is of great use, especially since my entire house has hard wood floors! I use it for everything from sit-ups to crunches to planks and more. When choosing a mat, make sure you choose one that has enough cushioning to be comfortable and enough of a grip so you won’t slide around while exercising.

Another simple tool is my jump rope. I have to admit my rope has been under utilized. However, recently I took it along with me to my family reunion. Mostly because I had packed a jump rope for my daughter and I wanted to show her how to use it. I got a great workout on the go! That is the beauty of the rope. It is compact and travels well. With this in your arsenal there is really no excuse not to get a workout in. If you don’t know where to begin, try this jump rope workout by FitnessBlender.com. http://www.fitnessblender.com/v/workout-detail/Jump-Rope-Weight-Loss-Routine-20-Minute-Home-Cardio-Workout/8u/

Another compact and easy to use item are resistance bands. They can be used for a total body workout. I primarily use them for my arms but they can be modified to workout your legs as well. Two of my favorite resistance band exercises are a simple curl and a shoulder press, although I know I could also do this with my weights. You can also combine those two exercises to make your workout more challenging. Resistance bands come in a variety of colors which correspond to different weights. They can be bought individually or as a set. Again they also travel well eliminating excuses.

Since starting to work out a few years ago I have added Kettle bells to my arsenal. I plan to add these final items to my home gym to continue to add variety to my workouts, a Chin-up Bar, and a Bosu Ball. Kettle bells are the most trendy and popular workout equipment these days. Beside being on trend they provide an excellent upper and lower body workout. A chin up bar provides a full workout for your arms, shoulders, back and chest. They are available in sturdy varieties that don’t require being screwed into your doorway and they are compact enough to be stored under your bed. Lastly, the Bosu Ball is another piece of stability equipment. It looks like a stability ball that has been cut in half. It can be used in a variety of ways to build your core muscles.

Often people don’t embark on a journey to fitness using the excuse that they can’t afford a treadmill or a gym membership. The reality is that three out of four gym memberships go unused any way. I have introduced you to eight must have items for your home gym. If you purchase one item each month, you will have your complete home gym just in time for summer! Remember to be fit and have fun!

What is your favorite at home gym equipment?

Make the most of the Holidays

Five Ways to Make the Most of the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years mean big family meals and holiday office parties. Not to mention the eggnog, cakes and pies which can all put a strain on our waistlines.  These Five Ways to Make the Most of the Holidays will help you enjoy the holidays and all they bring without regrets.

Make the most of the Holidays
Five Ways to Make the Most of the Holidays

De-Stress and Get Rest:

The holidays can bring stress from fighting traffic, hours of shopping for food and for the perfect gift.  Stress can add inches to your waistline. Stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels which can interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease. Avoid the rush by making a list of all that you need to get before you leave the house or better yet shop from home.  Online shopping is a way avoid the hustle and bustle and find some great deals. Sites like Amazon give you the option to shop from the comfort of your home and save time, gas and money. Many grocery stores offer a shop from home option and they will deliver your items right to your door.

During this holiday season take the opportunity to de-stress by drinking a cup of herbal tea, diffusing your favorite essential oil, lighting your favorite candle or simply taking a walk.  Also remember, that rest is the key to rejuvenation. Getting enough sleep during the holiday season might be a challenge but your mind and body will thank you if you maintain as regular a sleep schedule as possible.

Drink Your Water:

Water is vital to maintaining your health and wellness. It is also important to maintaining your waistline.  While you are out and about this holiday season, carry a bottle of water with you so that you can remain hydrated. Often we mistake thirst for hunger. By staying well hydrated, you will also avoid those moments when the food court calls your name. Drinking water will also help you to keep your mind sharp and your body energized.  Many of us indulge in holiday spirits during this time of year. Many alcoholic beverages contain high calories. It is recommended that you drink  more water when you are consuming alcohol than normal.

Eat Before You Go Out:

Whether you are going to the mall or to a holiday party, eating a small snack an hour before you leave the house can help you stay on track.  Have a small healthy snack like cheese and apples, or a green smoothie. By eating something before you go out, you won’t be so hungry that you are tempted to eat everything in sight.  You will be able to be social without piling three of those little plates with food.  Also, eat slowly. It takes your brain about twenty minutes to realize it’s full.

Get Moving:

Over the next few weeks, our schedules will try to dictate how much exercise we get.  Try to maintain your exercise schedule. However, if getting to the gym seems like an impossibility, finding unconventional ways to keep moving will help you stay on track with your exercise plan. Walking the mall, taking the stairs and parking further away from the door are practical ways to get in some additional movement.  Other ways to get moving include, getting outside for a walk, raking leaves or shoveling snow.  Ultimately,  just don’t let the holidays keep you from maintaining your exercise routine.

Enjoy Time With Family and Friends:

The holidays can be a whirlwind of rushing from place to place but being with those we love is the best part of the season.  Take the time to recognize those you love and be thankful for all that you have been blessed with. If you are able to have your loved ones around you, if you are able to share a meal or give a gift, you already have the full measure of what the holiday season is all about.  So. if you eat that extra piece of pie or have double servings of stuffing, be kind to yourself.  Enjoying the moments of celebration in life will do more for you in the long term.

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Summer Workouts

Outdoor Summer Workouts

I have always enjoyed outdoor and water activities.  I guess you could call me a “water baby”.  However, I have recently found two Outdoor Summer Workouts that I love and that keep me motivated.  The first is good old fashioned walking and the other is Aqua Zumba! Walking is a great way to get outside and get your heart rate up. It is accessible to just about anyone who want to get in shape. Aqua Zumba is also a great way to get moving and is also an activity that just about anyone can participate in.

Outdoor Summer Workouts
Walking the Track

 

Walking

There are many benefits to a regular walking routine.  According to the Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walking can help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve your balance and coordination
Walking Benefits
The Benefits of Walking
Photo Credit: Prevention.com

For me, walking gives me time to relax my mind. I find that as I walk, my creativity flows, I gain insight into situations and I am able to talk to God and be focused enough to hear Him answer. I recently discovered an amazing walking group that allows women of color to connect with each other, walk and be social activists within their community.  The GirlTrek website describes their mission as “a groundbreaking 3-year-old national nonprofit that mobilizes women to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives through a habit of daily walking. Through grassroots organizing and award-winning social media campaigns, GirlTrek supports thousands of walkers, over 400 neighborhood-based volunteers, and inspires an ever-growing network of 200,000 supporters through social media. GirlTrek’s health movement is fueled by active role models, street organizers, authentic partnerships, and a whole lot of hustle!” I walk everyday anyway, why not add the component of grassroots organizing.  Through the GirlTrek Facebook page I was able to connect with local GirlTrekers. Ironically, we connected at Aqua Zumba!

Aqua Zumba

In my city, the Parks and Recreation Department operates swimming pools citywide.  They offer free swimming to kids and adults alike throughout the summer.  In addition, they also offer swimming lessons, and exercise classes like Aqua Zumba!  This class at my local recreation center is free. If you were to take a similar class at a fitness club you would pay at least $35 per month for the membership fee. If you are not a “swimmer” it doesn’t matter because you are never fully submerged in the water. You may get splashed a little but your face and hair don’t go into the pool.

There are great benefits to water workouts like Aqua Zumba. Besides being fun, the Zumba website cites the benefits as “There is less impact on your joints during an Aqua Zumba® class so you can really let loose. Water creates natural resistance, which means every step is more challenging and helps tone your muscles”.  So far I have taken two classes this summer and I love the group aspect of the class, I love the music and the instructor, Kenyetta was full of energy.  She says, My mantra is to foster a community where everyone can have a great time once they enter my class or the pool…to leave all that you have on your shoulders at the door..and dance as if no one is watching!.”

The other great part of this class was that after all of the walking I have been doing, it is an excellent way to tone my muscles without putting too much impact on my joints. If you want to take a class check into your local recreation centers or the Zumba website.

What are your favorite Outdoor Summer Workouts?