Fire

I was cleaning out the office and stumbled upon this poem I wrote–probably a couple years ago? I like it still, so I typed it up here.

fire

Strike the match
to feel the warmth.
No thought.
No chance.
No flicker.
No dance.

And nothing.

Try again
Won’t give up.
Hope for flame
Play the game.

A spark flies–

It dies. 

And nothing.

No more chances, no more turns,
Why won’t the fire burn?

Strike three.

EXPLOSION!

The fire–it warms
The fire–it soothes
The fire–it burns.

Keep it burning, burning, burning
Stop the yearning.

Beads of sweat
Engulfs the body
Not dead yet.
Alive.

Alive!
Flames swirl ’round
Desire found
Combination combusts
Explosion erupts

It rips and ruptures
Tortures and touches
Voice is head

Without a word.

Eyes require 
Single desire–

Burn.

Just burn. fire

To Be a Family

Sometimes, we need to break ties to get the best out of life.

I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I was really pissed. Actually, I was pissed AND upset. I was disrespected over, and over again; taunted, teased, laughed at, and talked about. By those I trusted. So yeah, I was beyond pissed. Beyond words, really. So I did what was best for me. Some call it “selfish,” but most call it smart.

Remove yourself from jealous negativity if you’re surrounded by it.

I did. And my life has never been better.

Here’s what I wrote in my “Pissed Off” emotional state:

I’ve heard the word “family” thrown around loosely over the past couple of weeks, and many of its “uses” sparked a bit of curiosity within me. So I spent some time looking into the definition of what “Family” really means.

by rachel_pics

First of all, Dictionary.com gives several basic meanings of family and the first seven reference parents, children, and/or blood relation. To be exact, definition number one states, “A basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.”

And definition number two says, “A social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for.” I could list all seven but it would be pointless–they all say roughly the same thing.

After definition number seven, Family starts to take on some new meanings: here’s where things get interesting.

Family goes on to be defined as “A group of related things or people: the family of romantic poets; the halogen family of elements.” This says to me that a bushel of apples can be called family. A pile of New Kids on the Block cassette tapes from the 90s? Strippers? I totally see “family” here.

Next is “A group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and frequently, live together.” I love this one. Basically it’s saying if you’re a jackass and I’m a jackass, because we have similar attitudes, we’re family. Or it’s saying that because you like to eat wings every Tuesday night at your local wing-ding dive, and your college psych professor likes to eat the same flavor wings you do at the same bar on the same night, that YOU two are family as well! Love it. I hope he gave you an A, by the way. Since, you know, you’re family and all.

How about “A group of products or product models made by the same manufacturer or producer.” Does that mean that all chicks who lift weight, cut to 800 calories a day, and get boob jobs are all family? I mean, if they go to the same gym and see the same local doc for their implants? OMG, are all my Lululemons family because they’re made from the same manufacturer?!!! Oh I knew there was a reason I loved them so much! Seriously people, who’s koolaid are you drinking?!

by ramsey everydaypants

Even Biology offers us a definition of family: “The usual major subdivision of an order or suborder in the classification of plants, animals, fungi, etc., usually consisting of several genera.”

by KdB1-2

Family.

And definitely not last but finally on my list of best picked definitions, the slang: “A unit of the Mafia of Cosa Nostra operating in one area under a local leader.”  This one’s great. Who are you operating under? Who tells you what to do day in and day out? Do you call that person family? Did you also know that one of the original uses for “familia” in the 1400s was for a servant? Hmmm….maybe those “uses” I heard muttered sheepishly under breaths this past week make sense now after all.

by b3d_

These are my favorite definitions out of the 20+ provided. Why? Because these are the ones that get misconstrued and re-worded, used to suit one’s own well-being, and twisted into serving the needs, wants, and guilty pleasures of others. My point is, don’t throw around words just because you think your definition and your usage is the same one that everyone should believe and follow. Or better yet, don’t call me “family” unless you’re prepared to understand my definition of what the word means to me. When I hear the word “family,” I think of several translations:

A family cares for my well-being, no matter what I do, where I go, or who I do it with.
A family understands my decisions without hesitation or questions.
A family respects me for the individual I am, and respects the person I want to be.
A family challenges me to become even better because they believe in me.
A family accepts my flaws without criticism.
A family accepts my success without jealousy.
A family doesn’t gossip or talk about my choices to others.
A family supports me; a family does not set out to destroy me.
A family accepts my friends, my decisions, my life: ME. Just the way I am.

by akunamatata

Even still, perhaps the best definition of family isn’t mine. Maybe the best one of all is the one that I found all the way at the bottom of the website under Cultural Definition:

“Humans belong to the same biological family of hominids.”

I know that in this world, this time period, this society, and this culture, we cannot all live happily ever after. But dammit, we’re all human beings. We all make mistakes and we all learn from them. We all make decisions, and we all have our own unique definitions that we use within our lives. But if we could all take a step back for a few short seconds, take a breath, and think about what it might be like to be in the shoes of someone else for a brief minute, maybe–just maybe–we would understand each other a little bit more. Maybe my sense of family would mean a little bit more to you, and maybe you would understand me a little bit more. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so hurt because I thought those who were my family, proved otherwise. And who knows, maybe one day we may forget the other even existed, while in the grand scheme of things, life goes on.

Bottom line?
Who are we to judge one another? Who are we to inflict hurt upon those who are only trying to help? Once you’ve grasped the true understanding of what it means to call someone your family, then you can start answering my questions. I know that I’ve learned many lessons over the years, and I’m still learning. But one thing is for sure: family does and does not have to be blood. And those who are true family are few and far between. Once you do find them, hold on to them, treat them with respect and understanding. And love them…exactly as they are and for who they choose to be. by KdB1

For All the Moms and Dads

First appearing on Strong Figure

I wrote this back after the Newtown Connecticut shooting. I thought that my personal site was a better fit for this post, so I’m happy to add it here. It’s never to late to remember a loss, reflect on the living, and cherish the ones we love.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~William Shakespeare

I often wonder what kind of mom I would be if I had kids. Would I push my same nutrition and fitness goals on my own children if I had them? At what age do you start educating a toddler on the differences between the sugar in a piece of fruit or the sugar in a piece of candy? How do you raise a little girl to love herself and her body but encourage her to make smart food decisions so that she is a healthy little girl–on the inside and out? Do you just let little boys eat whatever they want because the metabolism of a boy is incredibly better than a little girl? What about genetics? I wonder if I’d pass along the short, squatty, sucky metabolism genes that I’ve got. If I had a boy, I’d want him to receive the muscle-building genes but not the short genes. If I had a girl, I’d want her to receive the good hair and skin gene, but not the crappy metabolism one. Even though I don’t have kids, I think about what kind of mom I would be. I really hope I’d raise healthy kids who don’t hate me for not allowing the sugary cereals or cabinets full of Pop Tarts and Chips Ahoy cookies. I wonder if they’d ever even notice that the muffins are gluten free, or that other kids are allowed to have soda whenever they want. I wonder if I’d push too hard and make them hate me, turn them into binge eaters, and spend the rest of their lives fighting obesity and disease; and then I wonder if I would be their inspiration, their go-to for answers, and their role model of mommy fitness. I wonder about all of these things every now and again, and sometimes–sad to say–I’m thankful that my life is easy and I don’t have to make these tough decisions.

But what I can’t stop wondering about lately are the moms and dads who just lost their babies in Newtown. As a high school teacher, I complain all too much about all my bad days, and I reflect way too little on the good. As a teacher, I look at the others who stepped in front of bullets to save their classroom children. And as a teacher, would I be so brave? I keep thinking of the faces of the kids in my classroom. Even though they love to drive me crazy, they’re just children. Even at 16 and 17, they are still babies–to me, to their parents, to the world. Of course I would try to protect them. And I think some of them would try to protect me too.

I think it’s so sad that violence–especially gun violence–is starting to become commonplace in our schools. I don’t blame the NRA, and I don’t blame separation of church and state; I’m not going to get political or religious on you–that’s not my style. But it’s so scary to think that students are shooting students, young adults are shooting their teachers, and grown adults are shooting babies. Little 6 and 7-year-olds. I can’t stop thinking of the terror of those poor children. Or the teachers who tried to save them. Or the ones who were led to safety being told “keep your eyes closed” so that they didn’t see the bodies of their dead classmates on their way out. How much psychological damage has been done to these poor children? Will they ever feel safe again?

And my heart is just broken for the parents of those who are gone. Absolutely broken. As nothing more than a member of society, I can’t begin to wrap my head around the feeling of loss, sorrow, grief, anger, pain, and shock that these parents must be dealing with. I wonder how they’ll survive. I wonder how many siblings don’t understand that they won’t see their brother or sister on Christmas day. Or ever?

I remember losing my dad a couple of years ago and feeling the worst, most intense, soul-wrenching pain that I could never in words describe. And I believe that feeling must be tripled for these moms and dads right now. When I lost my dad, I remember wanting the world to mourn with me. I refused to move forward for a long time, and sometimes I catch myself still in disbelief, shock, anger, sorrow, and still refusing to let go. I hope the moms and dads know that the world will never forget, and the world will never be the same again–even if it must move forward.

There are a lot more angels in heaven right now. I have a strong sense that my dad is up there teaching them to play ball, passing his intense kindness to all who come his way. I imagine a world full of puppies and kittens, laughing children, and loving adults. I imagine zero violence, 100% peace, and a perfect, wonderful, joyous setting. I imagine that it’s Christmas time all year round. I imagine these things because that’s the only way for me to deal with the loss, the pain, and the disbelief. I believe in what “must be” to shield myself from what is: a world of hate, violence, gunmen, and tears.

My grandmother once said, “Who would want to bring up a child in a world like this?” and at times like this I believe she may be right. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t have children. If I do, maybe I’ll teach them how to eat properly and how to exercise. Maybe I’ll teach them about books and how to write poetry. Maybe I’ll just teach them that I love them–each and every day–and that in a world full of violence, they’ll always have a place to call their home, and they’ll always be surrounded by love. I’ll teach them about the grandfather they never knew, and I’ll tell them that he’s waiting for us all. And when that time comes, it will be we who are the lucky ones again.

To all my friends and readers who are parents, God bless you, thank you, and my heart is with you. To all the teachers out there, you are a hero each and every day–no matter how tough the “bad days” are. And to anyone who has ever felt a loss, may you feel warmth and comfort again–and soon. I believe John Donne said it best when he wrote Meditation 17:

Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Tips from the Pros

Whether you’re an aspiring writer, a grad student drafting a thesis, or a worker bee trudging through your nine to five, here are a few tips that are bound to either enlighten you in some small way, or at least make you giggle. Maybe both?

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”  Mark Twain

I personally think that we should all try this in conversation. “That’s a very damn good essay you’ve written little Johnny! A+!”

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou 

Boy can Maya Angelou tell some stories. And what a poet! Have you ever read “Phenomenal Woman”? It’s my favorite. Beyond her poetry, do you have a story that needs telling? I’m still waiting for mine.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Mark Twain

It’s amazing to me how many smart yet funny things Mark Twain came up with. He is truly one of America’s greatest.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemmingway

Is it just me or this “so Hemmingway” of him to say this? I feel like I need a glass of wine.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” Kurt Vonnegut

A lesson we can all take with us in life—courage, bravery, trust—sometimes we just have to let go. Try something new, believe in what we can’t see, or let go of what comforts us most. Who can say we’ve lived until we’ve “jumped off cliffs”?

by twicepix

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Feature image by bengal*foam

Meet Me, the Writer

When I was in college, I had to write a paper for my comp class called “Myself as a Writer.” Over ten years later as I teach Advanced Composition to high school juniors and seniors, I read them my paper about myself, and I require that they write the same paper about their own writing styles. The paper–though many don’t like to write it–helps them open up to me on several levels. They get to write to me, introduce themselves, and say “Hey, I’m not perfect but I’m here to get better.” I get to see just how well they write, and I even get to see how much effort they will be willing to put forth into an assignment that receives nothing more than a participation grade. Most of my students thoroughly enjoy writing, and the ones who don’t, end up taking the class because they realize they should be a better writer–especially before going off to college.by tonyhall

I’ve realized several things about myself as a writer over the years:

1–I write to release emotion. Mom always said that she could count on me to leave my thoughts lying around the house while growing up. I still feel guilty about my 11-year-old birthday letter. “Dear Mom and Dad, this was the worst birthday I’ve ever had.” I wouldn’t dare speak the words aloud, but I had no problem leaving them on paper. I apparently didn’t get my Crossfire game that I so desperately wanted that year. I didn’t know that they had actually bought it and were saving it for Christmas. Mom was right, I was a spoiled kid.

2–I write to be heard. I don’t have a loud speaking voice; well, not most of the time anyway. In fact, I can actually be a bit shy and have been mistaken for “stuck up” several times. But my voice is in my writing. My expression, my humor, my sarcasm–or lack of it–is found on paper. When I need to say anything important, ever, it will be on paper first. Expect a brainstorm, a rough draft, lots of scribbles, arrows, and a well-crafted final copy. It’s the only way I know how.

3–I write my best at night. I have no idea why. I’m also much more emotional at night. It must be something in my hormones because I’ve been this way my entire life. I used to write poetry when I was in middle school, every night before bed. Eventually I ran out of rhymes and got bored with myself so I started journaling. I got out of the habit during my later high school years and all through college due to so much homework writing, but I’m happier than ever to find that old habits really do die hard. I still do and love very much, writing at night. I suppose this is now my new journal–and as it happens, it’s 9:37 at night.

4–I write because it’s who I am. I don’t know what else to do. If I’m really excited about something, I thoroughly enjoy expressing my enthusiasm for anyone else who may want to share my joy. I really write well when I’m sad, though, and well–it just makes sense, doesn’t it? Sadness has created masterpieces. Stephen King sure does not come off  to me as a happy-go-lucky guy! I write bold and daring speech when I’m really angry–irate–or flat out PISSED about something. In fact, one time, I think I started a blog just out of sheer pissed-off-ness. I’m not sure if pissed-off-ness is an actual word, but when I’m mad enough, it should count. I wrote some really cool poetry in a pissed off state.

5–I get to leave a piece of me behind. I might title myself “a writer,” but in reality, Shakespeare said it best when he wrote,

“All the world’s a stage.
And all the men and women merely players; 
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

In this world, I’m nothing more than a player on a stage and I only have a few small parts. The dog loving, wine drinking, CrossFit competing, obstacle course racing, book reading, healthy eating, and writing about all of it in the meantime, part. I’m just a small fragment of an enormous world, taking up a little bit of space and trying to leave my mark on something–anything. And I think that’s pretty damn cool if you ask me. To know that I can leave my experiences to the world ahead of me…well you just never know what kind of impact that will make on the future. The likelihood  of course, is none. But there’s always hope. And writing gives me hope. Hopes, dreams….and while they may be nothing more than words on a page, there’s just something magical about the way they come together. That’s why I do it, and that’s what I’ve learned about me.

Me, as a writer. Welcome to my small little world, my few scenes on the stage, and the adventures of my journey. I hope you find something worthwhile in your time spent here with me.

 

Images by juliejordanscott

So God Made Laila

I’m a dog person. I haven’t decided yet if I’m a kid person; I’m 32 and I feel like I still have a few more years left to decide that big one. But for now, I’m a dog lover.

I grew up on a farm, always around animals. We had chickens that slept in trees and ate cat food, cows that let me rub their backs and tickle their noses, and we even had a funny little opossum that liked to show up on Friday nights to search for leftover dinner scraps. I always loved animals. I loved the three cats that mewed around the house for the majority of my lifetime on the farm; I loved feeding the chickens and watching them jump from Dad’s arm to my own in hopes of grain held in my tightly closed fist.

We had a couple dogs–in my late teens: Tippy and Nash. They used to run the farm–literally “run” the farm–but one day they got out and never came back. Dad loved Tippy. That dog followed him wherever he went. I think I’ll always feel guilty that he got away. Nash was my dog–the trouble dog–who would leave for days on end and return long enough for sleep and a good meal. I’ll never know what happened to them, but I think I’ll always feel guilty about it.

A few years later, my boyfriend at that time brought home a Jack Russel–Harley. Harley drove me crazy–he ate all my shoes, my chocolates, and chewed anything he could get his paws on. I remember waking up one morning and Harley was on his back–head on my shoulder–sound asleep. It was the sweetest awakening I had ever come to. I started to fall in love with him…but when my ex and I split, he took the dog.

Four and half years ago, I decided to get a puppy. A puggle! I decided. I searched pet-finder  determined to rescue a dog, and after weeks of searching, I found a person in Richmond who had decided to foster a pregnant puggle…and momma had just had her babies. I drove the almost three-hour journey to find my little one. When I saw the litter of little black snugly squirmy pups, I wanted them all! After what seemed to be nothing more than an “eenie meenie miney mo” scenario, I chose one, wrote the check, and promised to return for her when she was eight weeks old.

The next six weeks passed with awful slowness. I started purchasing doggie beds and toys, organic foods and treats, and dog training books. I set up a room in which she would stay both at night and during the day while I was at work; I didn’t want to crate train her, I wanted her to have more room to move. I was going to be the best mom ever.

Her name came to me while I was lifting weights one day. I need an “L” name, I said to my friend. I wanted an “L” name because I had a cat named Lulu and I thought it would be cute.003 What about “Laila”? I said, thinking about one of my all-time favorite novel characters. Within seconds of saying her name, Eric Clapton’s “Layla” came on the radio. “That’s a sign,” my friend said. “You’ve got to name her Laila now.” He added, “I like the spelling, too. It translates into ‘night’ and ‘princess’.” Perfect! I thought. My beautiful, dark as night princess. I could not WAIT to get her into my arms.

I should have known on the drive home from picking her up–when she would not stop chewing up the gear shift–for over two hours!!–that I was going to be a momma with full hands. We got home very late, and I couldn’t bring myself to put her in her new room I made for her–she had cried almost the entire drive (when not chewing up the car)–I wanted to hold her close and let her know she would be okay. I mean, she was only eight weeks old and it was her first night away from her mom and litter-mates. I felt awful. Of course I would hold her all night! 2346_1113326272844_7557_n

The following day I learned quickly that this little pup would not be left alone one second. I couldn’t breathe on my own. I couldn’t even shower  on my own. She actually tried to climb into the shower with me because sitting on the other side of the shower door was too far away! My very first day with her and I was forced to buy a crate. I had to take her with me of course, and I went to Pet-Co and bought a little crate so that I could do things like take a shower. Sleep. God forbid, leave the house.

Leave the house. Oh.My.God. I couldn’t leave the house! She cried hysterically! Howled! Screamed as if tortured! Oh how it broke my heart! And chewed things, ohmygod again! I had to spray down my whole house so she wouldn’t chew everything! Furniture, rugs, toys, it didn’t matter, she destroyed it all! And potty training?! Eight months. Eight long freakin’ months to potty train her.

One day I cried. I thought, I just want to take her back. Why is it so hard? She’s just a dog!

Five+ expensive pairs of shoes–destroyed.
Several pieces of furniture–gnawed down.
She wasn’t a puggle by the way. Did I mention she grew to be a pit-lab-boxer mix? Oh yeah, that happened.
Countless FULL trash bags–strewn everywhere.
Chewed my exercise equipment, made a pile of it, put her non-chewed up bone on top as if to say “F-You for leaving”–Yep. Smartass dog.
Locked me out of my townhouse in the middle of the night with 20+ inches of snow on the ground–yeah, she did that too. She’s a freakin’ genius, that dog.

That Laila. 317

And then one day, something magical happened. I don’t know what it is now, and I still couldn’t tell you if I tried, but one day, a year, maybe two into this new relationship of ours, something happened. I loved her. LOVED her. Like family. Like a kid. Like my own flesh.

I look at her now and I see so much loyalty in  her eyes. I see her wait for me every night, at the bottom of the stairs; she won’t go to bed til I’m ready. She sleeps by my side…and has always, for the past four and half years. I’ve moved to new places and she’s moved with me. She guards my door, barks at strangers, won’t let me near the door when it rings for fear of an intruder, and she has even fought for my safety. She kisses me when I tell her I love her, and when I’m feeling down, she places her chin on my shoulder and just sighs deeply. She wags her tail when I walk into the room and she puts her paw into my hand as we sit on the couch together. She knows I’m her mommy. And I know she’s my baby. When my own dad died, and I cried, and cried, and cried; Laila sat beside me, with her head on my shoulder and whimpered too. She felt my pain. She’s my baby. She’d give her life for me, and I’d give mine for her. Some people may call me crazy, but when I look at that beautiful face, her eyes speak with more love than I think I’ve ever known.

Thank God she picked me out that cold day in January. I can’t imagine my life without Laila.

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You don’t have to tell me twice, but in case you want to know when God made the dog, it happened on the 9th day…after the farmer. ;) Watch the sweet yet funny video below, “So God Made a Dog.”

Tell me, what’s your favorite doggie moment? Do you have pics? Send them in and I’ll share them on my page! 

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protein

Spinach for Popeye, Spinach for Me

On the way home from the gym late this evening, I noticed a beautiful full moon. And it occurred to me that strange things always seem to happen when a full moon is out: the JMU kiddos (go Dukes!) always tend to party a little harder, my dogs always seem to be a bit more restless, sirens tend to wail all night long (I hear them right now), and I always seem to feel a little bit more “puffy and bloated” than usual.

Ok, I’m totally making up that last one, but I promise the rest are true. While I’d like to convince myself that the pull of the Earth’s tides in correspondence with the full moon are also pulling my fat cells into overdrive, I’m pretty sure my feelings of “softness” are coming from a little too much indulgence over the Thanksgiving holiday. Not to mention that I did not end up working out as hard as normal/or as I had planned. No worries…a little time off is great for rest and muscle building, and bloat happens to the best of us. Good news is that it’s an easy fix. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know I eat really low carb six days of the week, and pick one day a week to have a little carb splurge. And by little, I mean I eat everything in sight. ;) It works well to replenish glycogen stores that are depleted during the week. Some people employ this same theory–called carb back-loading–except they splurge five to six days per week and eat low carb for one or two. The catch with back-loading is making sure that you lift very very heavy every day that you splurge. Also, the splurges are controlled to a small degree: you don’t eat carbs all day, just after training: You deplete glycogen during the day, lift ridiculously heavy in the evening, and then refuel at night. But I love back-loading for the one reason that it works around the holidays. I wanted to eat carbs for three days and I actually ate them for four. My five foot tall frame probably indulged a bit more than I should have and I didn’t do much lifting. Thus, I think I might have softened my look a bit. I won’t lie, I’m not perfect. I splurge on sweets–I love them–but I know I can also practice what I preach and fix the damage. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I thought I’d post my “fix-it plan” just in case anyone else might be looking for a few low-carb meal ideas that are easy to stick to and not too bad for taste. One of the ways to shed a little fat is to deplete glycogen stores by eating ultra low carb. The best way to do this is for an extended period of time. I typically refuel once per week to aid in muscle growth, but for a quick fix and a great way to re-start my plan, I’ll simply extend my six days to ten so that I’m prepping my body for fat loss. Would you dare to eat ultra low carb (30 grams or less) for ten full days? I’m planning on throwing a Thanksgiving/Christmas meal (I call it my Thanks-Mas dinner) on the 15th so I might even extend my low-carbness til then. Can I hold out for 17 days? And who dares to take this challenge with me?

What do I do? Steph’s Typical Low-Carb Day:

  • I skip breakfast but I drink probably 20 ounces or more of black coffee. Why skip breakfast? If you haven’t read the latest on skipping breakfast for fat loss, read it here: Skipping Breakfast. You can also find more information by clicking here: Dangerously Hardcore, as well as here: Carb-Backloading.
  • For lunch I think I’m going to switch back to an old standby: spinach, tuna, and almonds. I know, it’s incredibly boring but it works. Spinach is FULL of vitamins, fiber, minerals, etc. And just look at Popeye! Hello muscles! ;) And tuna is PACKED with protein. Usually over 26+ grams for a can. I get my good fats from almonds but my downfall is eating too many. I’ll be sure to count out a small handful to pack in my lunch. I think 14 almonds equals about 100 calories. Apple cider vinegar is what I use to pour over my spinach and tuna and plain mustard adds all the flavor I need. I know it’s nothing crazy, but I’m not about packing a crazy different lunch every day that takes hours of prep time. I mean, it’s 11:40 right now and I’d really like to get at least six hours of sleep tonight. Less, if I decide to do some intervals in the morning. (Is that still likely at this point?)
  • As a snack and pre-workout energy boost, I’ve created a shake that I ADORE. Call me crazy but again, it’s super simple: 1 cup plain (30 calorie and sugar free) almond milk, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein, and 1 scoop of Amazing Grass Supergreens (chocolate flavored). I love this concoction. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals, high in protein, low in sugar and carbs. This shake, coupled with a cup of coffee, is usually all the energy boost I need for a stellar workout.
  • For dinner, I used to struggle with this one. I’m at my HUNGRIEST at night. But lately I’ve found a meal that’s quick to prepare, tasty, and even filling too. I buy ground turkey, cook it up with low sodium taco seasoning, and have a heaping helping over top a steamer bag of veggies. I top the whole thing with medium (I like a kick!) organic salsa, and I try to cut back on the cheese when my will power holds strong. This is a great dish, and I had no idea how well taco meat mixes with brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and spinach. (I alternate between these veggies because they’re my favorite, super good for me, and when I like something I stick with it. I don’t change things very often.)
  • Some days (like today) I’m so busy I can get by with just this. Others, I need a little more. My go-to snacks for eating low carb are cottage cheese (I could eat cottage cheese three times a day if I let myself) and hard boiled eggs (dipped in a spicy sauce of some sort–usually mustard.) Again, neither are exciting but both are simple, quick, great for on the go, and high in protein, low in carbs.
Extras
While this will make up the bulk of my diet, there are a few REALLY important elements that I need to add–and too often forget about during a busy day. These are super important (did I just say that twice?!) and I–as well as all of us–need to remember these tips!
  • Get SLEEP! Ugh, I never get enough sleep. I’m running a website that’s brand new, working a full time job, and teaching gym classes on the side. Oh and WORKING OUT! Let’s not forget keeping a somewhat neat house, preparing for the holidays, taking care of three animals….sleep is the last thing on my to-do list, and the first thing to get neglected. (It’s now 11:51).
  • drink WATER. Most of my bodybuilding companions are pounding a gallon by the time they even get to the gym. Some days I do really well and some days I don’t. My goal is to get at least 96 oz. That’s about three water bottles for me. (A gallon is about 120 ounces.) Today I think I’ve had 64 plus 20 ounces coffee (I know, that doesn’t count), and some pumpkin spice hot tea. (I know, that doesn’t count either.) So I really need to step it up and make sure I hit my goal.
  • Take my VITAMINS. I’ve experimented with so many supplements and vitamins over the years that it’s a miracle I’ve narrowed down my list to my favorite go-to items: A multivitamin, fish oil, and glucosamine are probably my most important. I sometimes add D3 and a B complex if I can remember those, too. Now if I can just figure out a way to remember to take all of these each day, life would already be better.
  • Drink a POST WORKOUT SHAKE. Ok, this one isn’t that hard to remember, but I need to be better about it. Some days I just rush home from the gym and start dinner. I think I would actually eat less if I made myself a protein shake first. My shakes are also very simple: whey, ice, water, leucine (an amino acid) and some unsweetened cocoa powder. Simple. Effective. DO IT.
Workout Goals:
I workout every day, but it doesn’t mean I can’t set new goals for myself. Just yesterday I talked to one of my bodybuilder friends and he gave me about ten different exercise ideas to add to my routine. I spent about an hour or more today just reformatting my plan to squeeze in as much in as possible. I’m also DETERMINED to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier each day (it’s now midnight) so that I can do some fasted cardio. One of these days I want to do an article on the benefits of fasted cardio, but until then, just know it’s great for aiding in fat loss, and it’s in my plan. I also want to add more HIIT to my lifting plans…incorporate maybe 10-15 minutes of HIIT each day as my warm up to lifting. Making myself do HIIT more often will definitely help me see results.
If I can employ all these ideas and tips into my day, I know I’ll be well on my way to a leaner, fitter, tighter, ME. And isn’t that what we’re all here to find? I don’t just want to be STRONG, I want to be a FIGURE: a figure of success, a figure of power, and a figure of great, toned, well-developed muscles. Who’s in? Who’s accepting the STRONG FIGURE challenge?
Let us know! What’s your go-to meal? Give us some inspiration or some fun recipes in the comments section below.
Like this post?  Visit me over at Strong Figure. When it comes to health and fitness, this site is my baby.
PS: It’s now 12:20 and I’m officially off to bed. I’ll proofread in the morning. (After cardio?!)

Featured Image by SweetOnVeg

What Are You Doing Online?

Did you know…

that 30 percent of the world’s population is online? Over 79 percent of the United States is currently online and 35 billion minutes each month is spent connected to the worldwide web. In the US alone, the average internet user spends 32 hours per month online–that’s at least one hour per day! And do you know what people are doing online? Over 63 percent of the time spent online is being used for networking, reading content, and searching.

So what does this mean for your business?

It means that over two billion people could be searching, promoting, or reading content off your website–right now. Internet marketing is larger than ever right now. Google–the largest search engine–is searched over one billion times each day.

What exactly are people searching for?

Eighty-three percent of searches are related to health or hobbies. Do you have a hobby that you can showcase online? What about health or fitness? It’s January–if you don’t have a resolution, someone does and that person may need your advice! My hobby happens to be fitness–particularly lifting weights and eating low carb. Check out my site–designed by Walker Logic, over at Strong Figure!

Speaking of hobbies, how many people like to try new products? Seventy-eight percent of online users are searching for information about new products. Maybe you’re a technology buff and you know all the in’s and out’s of the newest, latest devices? Publish your thoughts online! You don’t have to be a stellar writer, you just need opinion, a little bit of fact, and trustworthy advice to give. Freelance writers are just waiting for you to “search for them” and hire them to write your content for you.

Aside from New Year’s resolutions and trying out new products, 76 percent of the online population is reading about the news. NEWS! You don’t have to be a hired journalist to report the news–all you need is to be “in the know” and have an opinion that others would want to read. Maybe you know a lot about politics and you have your own rant on the previous election that you’d like to announce. What better way to release those thoughts than to broadcast your opinion to over 2 billion people?! Maybe you could care less about government actions but you just can’t stop yourself from getting caught up in the latest Kardashian gossip? People who love to gossip always have an opinion. Maybe it’s time to put yours to the test.

Whatever it is you’re doing online, billions of others are doing the same. And who’s to say that what you have to offer isn’t better than anyone else? Whether blogging, promoting your company, appealing to shoppers, or just promoting your agenda, we’ve got a forum for you. It’s YOUR personal site–designed just as you see it.

Contact us to see just how we can help you further your networking and marketing goals in 2013. Don’t wait until someone else has stolen your idea–the worldwide web is waiting for your contribution!

We want to know–what do you spend most of your time online doing? Emails? Business? Social Networking? Shopping? Pinning? Let us know in the comments section below!

In the meantime, check out this awesome infographic on “How People Spend Their Time Online.”

Reference: http://www.go-gulf.com/blog/online-time/
online-time
Infographic by- GO-Gulf.com Dubai Web Design Company
Featured image by Kevin Zollman

The View from Above

I look to my left, and there’s a man–a kind of large one–with his head tilted in my direction, mouth slightly open, and snoring just loud enough for me to hear but not bothering anyone else around us.  I look to my right and I see another man–eyes closed, head resting aginst the seat back, arm on the fold-out table, and not snoring.  He looks quite peaceful, still.  I look out the window on my right beyond the non-snoring man and watch the red flashing light of the plane’s wing light up the darkness, and I wonder how many people can see us from the ground. The light–the red–the flash–seems so bright outside the window, against the distant stars, but I know all too well from my life on the ground that the blinknig looks like nothing more than a long-distant wink from the sky.

The man on my left coughs. I assume he’s awake. He stops snoring, but I don’t look at him. I do look back to the man on my right. Still sleeping. Still silent. Still perfect. His thumb twitches. I think to myself how I can’t live without him. He shifts, folds his arms, leans his head toward me and directs his face to the window. His eyes are still closed but I doubt he’s sleeping.

The big guy on my left is snoring again. I still don’t look at him, but I do look back out the window. The red flashes illuminate the wings of the plane but all I seem to focus on are the stars. And I can’t help but find myself wondering, “am I…could I be…just for a moment…a little bit closer, a little bit nearer, to the man I’ve been aching to see?” I wonder if, just for these few hours that I sit here in the sky, if he’s watching me–the same way I watch this man to my right–or listen to this man on my left. I wonder if he feels a little bit closer to me as well–as if I popped up for a brief visit. Maybe he’s laughing at me because he knows it’s foolish to think that a plane ride will bring me closer to him. Maybe he feels sorry for me for the exact same reason. I think he might be…proud. Proud.  I think he might be proud. Of me. Of the person I’ve become over the past 30 years. Of the person I’ve grown into since he left.

I think he approves of the life I’m building for myself and I think he even approves of the man–the quiet man, the perfect man–on my right. The perfect man–that I can’t live without–wakes up, adjusts the arm rest, puts his head on my shoulder. He smiles and kisses my arm and I know I’m right. And I suddenly feel like a pretty lucky girl. Because I have one perfect man to love me, protect me, and live my dreams out loud with me; and I have another man, doing the exact same thing, within me. And that man–the best I’ve ever known–is saying to me, “You looked beautiful this weekend–standing on the cliff, overlooking the ocean; I was with you then, and I’m with you now.” And he’s grinning, because, well, that’s what he does when he’s happy. And he’s happy because he knows I know his mind, his thoughts. And as my plane starts its descent, he’s taught me that the sky isn’t where I’m closest to his heart, his heart is within me and beats through mine and lives through me. And he says to me, “If you listen, I’m always talking. Sending you love, hugs, and approval. You told me not to worry about you, so let go of worrying about me. I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m your dad,” he says. With a smile.the cliff