Nov 072013
 
My one Halloween-clothing purchase this year was a pair of hilarious glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas for my son.

My one Halloween-clothing purchase this year was a pair of hilarious glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas for my son.

It’s a new month and a new time change to boot! Before I launch into some new topics for November, it’s time to recap the posts on homeschool organization from September and October.


HOMESCHOOL ORGANIZATION POSTS

This post earned a “retweet” from Carolina Pad, one of the most innovative producers of school supplies. I was honored.

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BOOK REVIEWS:

Continuing the education theme by enhancing my own education on organization and writing.

It is also part of my ongoing education to witness how kind and generous these successful authors are in recognizing all of their reviewers. What an example to follow!

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ORGANIZATIONAL PRIORITIES: HEALTH

It is time to get ready for cold and flu season. If you haven’t had your flu shot yet, there’s still time but get on this now before Thanksgiving travel season brings with it traveling germs.

OTHER TRICKS AND TREATS OF OCTOBER

I shared with you our Halloween costumes this year but there were other celebrations going on behind the scenes as well.

TREATS

We’ll start off with the positive, there were many treats of October

Diplomatic Skeletons

A coloring sheet at the Dem Bones event.

A coloring sheet at the Dem Bones event.

Our local library held a wonderful event for October. In Fredericksburg, Halloween is a polarizing holiday. Some people celebrate it with relish (like us) and others find it demonic and against their religion. Our local library wading carefully into this fray, created an event called “Dem Bones.” While having applications to Halloween, they kept it strictly an informational event about skeletons and the bones in the human body. I thought it was a brilliant idea and an excellent example of Virginia’s “purple” state diplomacy. The children built skeletons out of Q-tips and filled in a diagram with the names of various bones.

The last activity, however, was the best. The children laid down on a long sheet of butcher paper and had their bodies traced. They then cut out various bones and pasted them where they went. It was a little creepy at first to see my children reduced to their bones but also a chance to appreciate the beautiful complexity that is the human body. The skeletons made terrific Halloween decorations and also give me a record of my children’s height. It will be fun to unroll them next year and see how much everyone has grown.

My skeletonized children.

My skeletonized children.

Dancing Skeletons

We made a trip to Richmond to celebrate Latin Ballet of Virginia‘s Dia de los Muertos festival. My children have greatly enjoyed their summer camp and I thought it would be a great enhancement to my children’s Spanish lessons.

I know almost nothing about Dia de los Muertos, which means “Day of the Dead.” From what I observed, it is sort of like a cross between Halloween and All Saints Day. It is a chance to remember those who have died but also have a little bit of fun with skeletons and costumes. The costumes and decorations are elegant and poetic, almost tragic, remembering loves lost. There are altars with colorful flowers and photographs of loved ones who have passed on. It was an interesting twist on Halloween and I quite liked it. One author predicts that Dia de los Muertos festivities will become more and more infused into American Halloween traditions over time.

Lawanda Raines Giunti, stunning in her Dia de los Muertos costume.

Lawanda Raines Giunti, stunning in her Dia de los Muertos costume.

Making lollipop spiders.

Making lollipop spiders.

A tiny skeleton shadow box on one of the altars.

A tiny skeleton shadow box on one of the altars.

More skeletons with flowers.

More skeletons with flowers.

The elegant Ana Ines King in her Dia de los Muertos costume and my daughter, the Spanish "prodigy."

The elegant Ana Ines King in her Dia de los Muertos costume and my daughter, the Spanish “prodigy.”

Some of the dancers remembered us from summer camp. The best moment, however, was when my 5-year old proudly announced to the always elegantly dressed Ana Ines King, director of Latin Ballet of Virginia, “I speak Spanish too!”

“Oh dear,” I thought, since our Spanish is still a meager collection of words at this point.

“Oh, really?” Ms. King replied, amused at such a statement. “Como estas?”

My daughter looked at her and smiled, having no idea that she had just been asked, “How are you?”

“Yes, we know a few words . . . ” I interjected. The only phrase that was immediately coming to mind, however, was the title of the story we were reading that week, ” . . like palomitas de maiz.”

“Oh,” Ms. King said with a smile. “Palomitas de maiz are delicious.” To my great joy, I had pronounced it correctly enough that she understood what I said.

“Popcorn!” my little one clarified and was so proud of herself for demonstrating her expert knowledge of Spanish. I was proud of her too for having such confidence.

TREAT-LIKE TRICKS

Semi-professional photos

My copyright "violation" notice.

My copyright “violation” notice.

I took some “school” photos of my children in our backyard amongst the fall leaves and had them printed at Wal-Mart. When I went to pick them up, the clerk told me that there was a copyright issue with the photos. Copyright was a particular interest of mine in law school so I knew there was absolutely no copyright issue. “I don’t understand,” I said. “I took these photos myself in my backyard.” At this point, two other clerks came over to examine my photos. They pulled out each one and started discussing the merits of my photography. “Yeah, I guess these aren’t professional pictures.” While it was at first an honor to have my personal photography confused for professional portraits, it then became more like a forum for open criticism as they pointed out the various flaws of my pictures. One was too fuzzy for their taste and in another I didn’t airbrush out a small wound on my son’s forehead from his latest escapade. I left with mixed emotions about my pictures.

The Meaning of “Fundamental”

My challenge for October was to complete the free course Google was offering called “Digital Analytics Fundamentals.” This was pitched as a course where you would gain a greater understanding of Google Analytics, which is the tool most websites, including mine, use to track data such as how many visitors you are receiving, which posts are the most popular and what keyword searches people are doing to find your website. I liked the word “Fundamentals” in the title of this course and hoped it would be a very basic introduction. There were 6 lessons to complete and Google estimated this would take a around 4-6 hours to complete.

Lessons 1-3 were fairly simple and were basically a business overview of why you strategically would use a program like Google Analytics and how you would structure it at a high level. Then in Lesson 4, we dove right into using the software. You had to set up a test account and figure out how to do the tasks described in the lesson. There were no easy step-by-step directions. You just had to figure it out yourself. If you are a programmer or a system administrator, this would probably be easy but it took me quite some time. Clearly Google sets a higher bar for “fundamental.” Lessons 5 and 6 built on these concepts and were equally challenging. There was a time deadline to finish all the lessons and I ended up trying to cram them in on the last day. I ran short on time and decided that I would try my luck on the exam even though I hadn’t finished every single one of the lessons.

I was fortunate that most of the exam seemed focused on the first 5 lessons. You had to score at least 80% to pass. How did I do?

Results of my Google Digital Analytics Fundamentals exam.

Results of my Google Digital Analytics Fundamentals exam.

I did pick up several key pieces of information from the training . . . nothing that sheds light on the Holy Grail of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) mind you, but some things that will help me personally with my data analysis.

TRICKS

The Fredericksburg area lost access to its Civil War battlefield parks during the shutdown.

The Fredericksburg area lost access to its Civil War battlefield parks during the shutdown.

Honestly, the biggest and only “trick” of October was the government shutdown. While we weren’t directly impacted by the shutdown, it gave us all a good scare and made us a bit more cautious in our planning.

Have an tricks or treats or lessons learned from October that you wish to share? Please do so in the comments.

 Posted by on November 7, 2013 Monthly Recap Tagged with: ,
Sep 052013
 

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It’s back to school week and this week we are adjusting to the new demands of our homeschool schedule. This month I will be devoting to educational topics as there are certainly a lot of organizing challenges that go along with school. But first, I wanted to briefly recap summer’s blog posts.

As with last summer, my children and I were busy traveling and participating in various camps and educational opportunities. Last summer, I had a great time with all these activities but simply found it too overwhelming to blog about any of it. This year, while I wasn’t able to keep to any predefined schedule, I did manage to blog about the interesting things we have seen. I am glad to have this as a record for our family and glad that many of you have commented that you were interested to hear about these adventures as well! I also learned on Twitter yesterday that Virginia set tourism records in 2012. It will be interesting to see if this holds for 2013 as well.

This summer was packed with various birthday and other celebrations for our family. While most of these events did not hit the blog, I shared with you the simple Father’s Day cards we sent this year. Having some simple, non-stressful homemade crafts up your sleeve is one of the best skills to develop as a mom and these cards definitely fall in that category. From the many amazing aunts and grandparents I have and have been fortunate to have, I have learned that taking time to remember all these small events–even when you are tremendously busy yourself– means so much more to the recipient than you will ever know. So, if you are one of those people who faithfully sends Facebook birthday greetings or emails or even snail-mailed cards during the holidays, and you aren’t sure if it is worth the bother, allow me on behalf of the universe to say that it has made a world of difference to someone to be remembered so kindly and thank you for your efforts!

I posted about our family room flooring project, replacing carpeting with stained-to-match hardwood flooring. Over the summer, as we did some entertaining in our home, we received several positive comments on how this project turned out. We are still allowing the floor to cure at the moment but are making grand plans for moving back in around Christmastime.

I gave a report of my first time ever visit to the homeschool convention sponsored by HEAV. I continue to benefit from so much of the advice and information I received there. I would highly recommend that any homeschooler ensure they are attending a conference like this once a year.

I also gave a report of my visit to the National Gallery of Art exhibit on Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes. While you may or may not see a connection between the arts and organizing, I find the arts a tremendous source of inspiration. I also hope that my small efforts in blogging may encourage more people to incorporate more art into their own lives. In a prior post, I wrote about our visit to The Washington Ballet’s spring performance at TheARC.

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This post was favorite-d and retweeted by The Washington Ballet on Twitter and I also was enormously thrilled to receive this comment on the post by one of the young male dancers in the show.

Yesss thanks for the compliment on my Technique nd how i was a standout

I reviewed the fantastic book and pattern book companion for The Broken Circle: Yarns of the Knitting Witches by knitter and author Cheryl Potter. Ms. Potter left a kind comment for me:

Thank you for taking the time to read my book and write a review. I love hearing what readers think of The Broken Circle and the patterns that go with.
Cheryl

It is one of the great rewards of a blogger to receive a comment like this. Authors and prospective authors, please take note that you can earn yourself tremendous goodwill by trying to comment, Tweet, etc. with appreciation for each positive review. I continue to be enamored of the Skye’s Traveling Cloak pattern from her book. Over the Labor Day weekend, Ms. Potter had a terrific yarn sale going on in her Potluck Yarn Shop and I picked up some amazing hand-dyed yarn from her Potluck Yarn collection to make it with.

In other comment news, it was fun to get a comment thread going on my old post about topiaries. A reader commented with a question about how to read Mike and Marliss Stribbling. Mike Stribbling himself commented:

We do not have a website but if you need info on Topiary drop us a line and we will give you all the help you need within 24 hours

Behind the scenes, I connected the reader with Mike’s email address. If spam weren’t such an enormous problem, I would post it here for everyone. Mike sent me a nice note that he enjoyed my post as well. It’s always fun to see how people connect with words that you have written.

So, while we still have 16 days until summer officially ends, we, like most families, are transitioning into a fall mode at the moment. This month will give you a little peek into how school works in our house as well as share some clever education ideas from others and discuss how our routines in general are changing with the seasons. Hope you enjoy!

 Posted by on September 5, 2013 Monthly Recap Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Aug 302013
 
Do we love Virginia?  Yes, we do!  Discovering the Love wagon in Ashland.

Do we love Virginia? Yes, we do! Discovering the Love wagon in Ashland.

While my 20 days in Richmond series is a bit of a departure from my regular organizing-themed posts, I hope you have enjoyed this portrait of a Virginia summer. Today, I will wrap up our journey and provide some highlights and a summary.

On Day 20, we revisited another of our favorite spots, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts but it wasn’t exactly a repeat because there was a new exhibit to enjoy.

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Dorothy and Herbert Vogel were an ordinary couple in New York City. He was a postal worker and she a librarian. They loved the arts and they devoted one of their salaries to the purchase of art. They purchased numerous then-unknown artists in the 1960’s and 1970’s, focusing primarily on drawings as that was all that would fit in their small apartment. Herbert passed away in 2012 but the Vogels left an incredible art legacy. They have built one of the greatest collections of 20th-century art and inspired and supported numerous artists in the process. Their collection was so great that they were able to give 50 works to one art museum in each of the fifty states. This exhibit showcased the 50 works the VMFA received.

The most fascinating works in the collection were by minimalist artist Richard Tuttle. His works literally looked like one stroke of a pencil or one blob of paint on a piece of scratch paper. Tuttle’s works weren’t appreciated at first and the Vogel’s support of his work meant the world to him.

A Richard Tuttle line drawing.

A Richard Tuttle line drawing.

Richard Tuttle's thoughts on his patrons Herb and Dorothy Vogel.

Richard Tuttle’s thoughts on his patrons Herb and Dorothy Vogel.

Richard Tuttle watercolors.

Richard Tuttle watercolors.

I also loved this quote about Martin Johnson’s work, particularly the part about the human need to label everything.

Explanation for Martin Johnson's work.

Explanation for Martin Johnson’s work.

After we visited the exhibit, we randomly explored the museum. My son found greatest interest in lying on the floor and gazing out of the enormous glass windows. I found myself drawn to the curator descriptive signs for each artwork as much as I was to the art itself. The quotes and explanations on these signs gave me so much to think about.

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Quote by Jean Olivier Hucleux who made paintings so realistic they looked like photographs.  I like the "erasure of the artist" language.

Quote by Jean Olivier Hucleux who made paintings so realistic they looked like photographs. I like the “erasure of the artist” language.

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Reflecting on our 20 days in Richmond.

Reflecting on our 20 days in Richmond.

After our leisurely time in the museum we took a final picture ending our adventures and spent the afternoon enjoying our daughter’s camp final performance.

The last memory of our adventures in Richmond.

The last memory of our adventures in Richmond.

20 days in Richmond ended up being a summer camp for me as much as it was for the children. While I have seen so many neat things, there were two things that I ended up gaining from this experience that I did not expect.

1) I learned to get out of a routine. You would think that it is much harder to get into a routine but the reverse is actually the case. Humans are creatures of habit. We like to know exactly what is going to happen and when. When you take that away and allow yourself to be surprised moment to moment, it forces your brain to become more flexible and open your thinking.

2) I have learned to keep my eyes open and appreciate the little things around me. Now that I have thoroughly appreciated what Richmond has to offer, I find myself looking for new adventures in my own community here in Fredericksburg. My new awareness has allowed me to see possibilities that I have literally just been driving past. While at the local shopping center the other day, for example, I discovered a Civil War hiking path that has probably always been there but I am just now seeing. We hiked it with friends this week.

So, to quickly recap how we spent our time for 20 different days in Richmond, despite 100 degree heat and traveling with small children on a budget, here you go:

Day 1 – Confederate War Chapel and Hiking the Trail to Texas Beach
Day 2 – Virginia Historical Society and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Day 3 – Virginia Holocaust Museum and Maymont
Day 4 – Chimborazo Medical Museum and Virginia War Memorial
Day 5 – Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the “Pop Jet” fountains at Short Pump Town Center
Day 6 – Hiking the Virginia Slave Trail
Day 7 – Richmond Radio
Day 8 – Didgeridoo Concert at the Virginia Public Library and Three Lakes Nature Center and Aquarium/Park
Day 9 – Poe Museum and Great Shiplock Park/Canal Path
Day 10 – SPARC Performance at Dogwood Dell and Monument Hunting
Day 11 – Henrico: Crump Park/Meadow Farm, Courtney Road Service Station, Forest Lodge, Walkerton Tavern
Day 12 – Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor Battlefields
Day 13 – Beaverdam Creek Battlefield, Chickahominy Bluff, Armour House, Dabbs House
Day 14 – Henricus and Dutch Gap
Day 15 – Virginia Center for Architecture and Meadow Farm Museums
Day 16 – Ashland
Day 17 – Drewry’s Bluff and Fort Harrison battlefields
Day 18 – Malvern Hill Battlefield
Day 19 – Virginia Historical Society and Redskins Football Camp
Day 20 – Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Of all these adventures, the only ones with admission charges were Henricus, the Poe Museum and the Wesselman exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. All the rest were free! Aside from occasional minor parking fees and two snacks, our only other expense was gas. For almost nothing in cost, we had a million dollar time.

I appreciate the comments I have received this month, particularly my loyal commenters Lou, Mir, Dia, Amy and Ruth!

Mir commented:

I am in awe of all the wonderful history you have taught me the past 3 weeks.

I had no idea I would be learning this much history either! I find history was much more interesting when I was walking the ground where the historical events occurred. It wasn’t just dry facts in a book. Even if there was not much left, seeing the same rivers that John Smith crossed and the creeks where thousands of Civil War soldiers died gave history a new relevance.

I am also glad to have found a new reader, Dawn, from Henrico County who lets us know that Henrico County is putting on plenty of Civil War 150th events starting in September 2014 (remember the Overland Campaign was in 1864) and that you can visit http://www.civilwarhenrico.com (website launching soon) for more information or http://www.visithenrico.com/.

As my parting thought on my adventures in Virginia, I have created this one-page (double-sided) Ruly Free and Cheap Guide to Richmond, organizing most of the information I have learned into a tourist-friendly guide. I hope you download it and share it with others who may be interested.

Thanks for traveling with me! What a summer it has been!

 Posted by on August 30, 2013 General, Monthly Recap Tagged with: , , , ,
May 312013
 
A chance sighting outside my kitchen window--a doe nursing her tiny fawn.  Spring is here!

A chance sighting outside my kitchen window–a doe nursing her tiny fawn. Spring is here!

It’s the end of May! Time to recap this month’s posts and share some signs of spring.

Guest blogger Christie Maruka provided style tips for wearing white this summer. I have bookmarked this list to use during my closet editing next month. The weather has finally shifted to hot after vacillating from hot to cold. I kept finding myself dressed for the wrong weather this month—the simplest of organizational problems.

Our salmon-colored azaleas are always the last of the azaleas to bloom.  Quite a show this year!

Our salmon-colored azaleas are always the last of the azaleas to bloom. Quite a show this year!

In May I made progress eliminating a lot of the small nuisances around my home. I am helping to build my cleaning and organizing routines by experimenting with different methods to find what works and what is easiest for my home.

The gorgeous pink and white peonies.

The gorgeous pink and white peonies.

May was an interesting month for planet Earth. There were two less than desirable acts of nature. The tornado in Oklahoma was beyond devastating but has triggered so much inspiring generosity. The cicada invasion locally has intensified. The cicadas are now “singing” about 12 hours of the day. “Singing” would imply a pleasant noise, which sadly this is not. Their “song” sounds more like a 10 police cars with sirens responding to a terrible highway accident miles away or a distant car alarm. Apparently the cicadas are both blind and deaf so all they are responding to is the vibrations of this cacophony. When a Baltimore-based contractor came to our house this week, he puzzlingly inquired, “What is that noise?” Apparently, there are few cicadas in Baltimore right now. It is more of a Virginia thing. Even one of our neighbors mistook the singing for an alarm going off. Fortunately, it is mostly a white noise kind of sound.

The red peony which blooms at the same time as the pink and white one creating a sort of Valentine's mix.

The red peony which blooms at the same time as the pink and white one creating a sort of Valentine’s mix.

May was also a month of celebrations. We cherished all the maternal influences in our lives and celebrated the work of The Washington Ballet changing the lives of children in southeast D.C.

Rhododendron in bloom.  The only downside of our garden is that everything blooms at the same time in early spring!  Wish we could spread this out a bit more.

Rhododendron in bloom. The only downside of our garden is that everything blooms at the same time in early spring! Wish we could spread this out a bit more.

Organizational items of note from around the web.

  • Hack Day – In an interesting counterpoint to routines, the Kickstarter blog posted about their company’s annual “Hack Day.” Hack Day is a day with “no rules” to experiment and try new things. They let employees loose to try short 24-hour projects to improve something about their workplace or entertain a particular passion. At the end of Hack Day they share all the innovative projects that have resulted. I love this idea and think it would be a great morale and creativity booster, either in a workplace or in your own home.
  • A clever article from babycenter.com called, “Is it normal that my toddler’s obsessed with organizing things?” caught my eye. The number of occasions my children have displayed this behavior can probably be counted on one hand. They are generally solidly in the disorganization column. However, in light of our past discussions on OCD, I thought this quote from the article was worth sharing as a helpful measure to us all on distinguishing organization from OCD:

“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), on the other hand, is debilitating rather than empowering. Instead of using organization to gain an understanding of her world, a child with OCD uses her compulsion to keep the world — and the extreme anxiety and fear that it causes for her — at bay.”

–Penelope Leach, child psychologist, quoted in “Is it normal that my toddler’s obsessed with organizing things?” babycenter.com

Itea bud with cicada carcass.

Itea bud with cicada carcass.

Finally, this month, I have had a chance to think a bit more about my theme word for the year, “routine.” I have continued my diet and exercise routines and will give that progress report tomorrow. This month, my big breakthrough about routines, however, was inspired by my fitness routine. If I slack off my exercise routine for even one day, I notice a huge difference in my strength and stamina and my general well-being. I don’t think I am addicted to exercise because it still requires a huge amount of willpower on my part to even do it, but this fitness experience has taught me a couple of key lessons.


1. Many goals that are worth achieving require constant daily attention.
I also like to think of this insight as “Everything is like a muscle.” You could exercise one every 90 days for 2 days at a time, for example, but would you really gain fitness that way? 8 days of intense exercise per year is certainly better than nothing but it is hard to see how you would really make forward progress with that method. Almost every skill you can think of requires practice and mastery on a daily basis. Routine is the way we prioritize the endless list of things that we could be doing into a structure that reflects what is important to us.

2. Routine does not have to mean mindless repetition; it can be an indication of how well you know yourself. Everyone’s life becomes overwhelming at one point or another. When catastrophes happen and things get off track, it helps you keep going to have a routine that you know works for you to fall back on. For example, there were a few days this month when I had so much going on that my diet and exercise slipped. Since I know what the routine is that works for me it was easy to say to myself. “Ok, today is a new day and here is the eating and exercise plan.” There was no stress about what to do or how it would work out. I had a tested routine to get started with. The key is to personalize the routine. You can’t just adopt someone else’s plan. You have to experiment and find what works for you.

3. Routine in one area becomes motivation for routines in other areas. I am glad that the fitness routine is the one I figured out first. It has been rewarding to put energy into something that then gives me energy back. I have more stamina to tackle all the aspects of my life and now my job is to figure out how to best focus that extra energy. If you are struggling with setting routines in your own life, look for something you are already doing routinely to inspire you to take that same dedication and energy and apply it to something else.

I hope you take some time to think about your month—what went right and what went wrong and where you want to go for June. For many people, June is a huge transition month when schedules and routines have to change. Don’t let this time of year frustrate you. Identify the routines that can stay the same for you and the areas that will require flexibility and change.

On to June! As always, thanks for reading and commenting!

 Posted by on May 31, 2013 Monthly Recap Tagged with: , ,
May 012013
 
Adding some additional outdoor exercise lately to whip the garden into shape.

Adding some additional outdoor exercise lately to whip the garden into shape.

It’s the last day of April and time to check in on my weight maintenance progress as well as recap the last two-months of posts focused on diet and nutrition.

You may recall that my theme word for the year is “routine.” Without intending to figure out a diet and exercise routine that works for me, that is exactly what happened over the last two months. You may have noticed that I didn’t post a routine checklist for April. Because my mind was so focused on maintaining the weight loss I had achieved in March, I didn’t really feel up to working on all my routines at once. I think this focus really helped me. Now in May, I really need to add back in new routines, particularly for cleaning up around the house and working on the garden, which have suffered.

Below is a blank May 2013 daily routines checklist. I changed the format a bit. If you are using these charts, please let me know what changes you would like to see in them.

Before I reveal to you how my weight loss maintenance has been going, I wanted to combine some lessons learned with a recap of the past posts.

1) If the inspiration strikes, act on it! When I received the offer to review the DDP Yoga system, I wasn’t really planning on a big weight loss or exercise focus to my blog. I don’t know why I was so enthusiastic about the program but I am so glad that I let that energy carry me. Diet and exercise require an intense amount of self-motivation so if the inspiration strikes you, go with it! Don’t wait for it to come again at a more convenient time. It may not!

2) Hard change requires a bit of anger. The last thing I wanted to have to do on my health regimen was go on a diet. I don’t like restricting my eating patterns. At the time, I was listening a lot to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, and he always emphasizes that you know you are ready to change when you get so angry and fed up with a situation to the point that you yell out, “I’ve had it! I’m not living this way anymore!” At that point, you are ready to commit fully to whatever changes you need to make to get your desired result. I was thinking about that when I kept stepping on the scale and seeing negative progress despite my exercise diligence and made the commitment to try a diet. It was that feeling that helped me continue my diet despite changing conditions like the snowquester and to take it to the next level by limiting myself to just 1200 calories per day. And with that level of focus and dedication, I achieved success, losing first 7 pounds, then 4 pounds, then 1 ½ pounds, then an additional 1 pound for a total of 13 ½! I faced up to some hard lessons during this process including realizing that dieting or calorie restriction is something that will continue to be necessary as I age.

3) Keep perfectionism in check. It is so easy for us to want our bodies to look like models or athletes since those are the images we are faced with every day. Yet we don’t really want to make the sacrifices these people make to look like that. Portia De Rossi’s book exploring anorexia helped me to realize that the key endpoint of exercise is to focus on achieving a skill or getting better at something. Exercising to achieve a body type is almost impossible. Also, we have to be realistic about our own time constraints to exercise and fix special diet-friendly meals. Parents, in particular, may be suffering from sleep deprivation or lack of energy and may have a harder time sticking to a diet. Pick an achievable weight loss. It’s so much more motivating to hit your goal than to be endlessly seeking a goal you can’t achieve.

4) It’s the big changes not necessarily the small changes that matter. While I spent some time agonizing over small changes like using whole wheat flour in my pancakes or coloring healthy hard boiled eggs or swapping out snacks for my kids, or reviewing the difference in fortified versus non-fortified processed foods, in the end, I’m not sure these changes made a whole lot of difference in my weight maintenance.

5) It’s hard to override human nature. When I first went off my diet, I had a great time eating! I showed you the paintable Easter Egg sugar cookies I made for my daughter’s preschool class and the Matzoh lasagna and matzoh lemon cake we tried.

6) You must have a pleasurable distraction if you are going to diet! When I am not eating, I am knitting a lot more. I made Easter sweaters, have completed another project I will share with you later and am halfway through a third knitting project. I had no idea how much time I spent eating! I also spent some time bargain shopping.

7) Be open to alternative interpretations of your results. While I knew my diet was giving me success in the weight loss department, I wanted to know if it really was healthier. My blood test results helped me to realize that my diet still could use a few tweaks.

8) Even when you are successful, keep looking out for new things to try. I keep reading just about every article I see about healthy eating and exercise habits. I get new ideas all the time. I try them out, like eating more parsley and drinking green tea. I was also introduced to fasting, the latest form of dieting through Dr. Michael Mosley’s PBS series. Ramit Sethi also hosted a webchat with his personal trainers and it was eye-opening to see how many women were facing the same problems. Why can’t I lose weight? How do I get these pregnancy pounds off? The trainers made an interesting recommendation that people try 16 hours of fasting per day and noted that estrogen is a challenging hormone when it comes to weight loss for women. It was about then that I realized that dieting often comes down to a “what” or “when” decision.

9) Each person is different. My experience trying to help my husband eat a healthier breakfast was a failure. When it comes to weight loss, we are all motivated by different things and have different taste buds. It’s important to keep searching until you find a routine that speaks to you. I received many positive comments on the 400 calorie salad recipes that I shared, including a humorous one from my dad that 2 or 3 of those together would make a good meal!

10) Normal people have a lot to think about besides diet and exercise but that is not an excuse for why we can’t be successful. In our family, for example, I had to spend some time in April doing some detailed financial research to audit our accounts, get our taxes filed, review our college savings strategy, review our retirement savings plans, research ideas to improve our investing strategy and plan our children’s summer educational activities. I could easily have said that all this stressed me out and derailed my diet but I didn’t let that happen.

So now for the moment you are waiting for . . . did I manage to maintain my weight loss in April?

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Yes I did! But it wasn’t as easy as these numbers appear. The first week after my diet, I managed to regain 5 ½ pounds eating a lot of Easter candy and lemon cake! I realized that something had to change. I contemplated going back on my salads but didn’t have quite enough willpower to do that. So I decided to continue with the one part my diet that was easy for me, the breakfasts. I also decided to experiment with fasting and added a one mile walk to my exercise program. So here is the “formula” that is working for me.

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If I don’t do every single one of these things every single day, I will gain about one pound the next day. This program works for me because it allows me to eat what I want and the exercise is enjoyable. I love the one-mile walk because it warms up my muscles. I also have fun with my children along the way. After the walk, I like to do my 30 minutes of strength exercises right away while my muscles are still warm. It really helps with my yoga stretches.

I can maintain this diet even if I am on vacation or otherwise not in control of my eating situation. If I have to, I can bring a bag of chia seeds and mix them with water for my breakfasts. I can also switch up the timing of the fast period, etc. if there is a special feasting event. My diet does not really impact anyone around me except that occasionally they will have to accept that I am not eating and will be sipping my water. Over time, I may have to cut down the “forage period” to keep my weight in check but it seems feasible that I will always have at least one hour a day when I can eat whatever I want to. So I don’t have to “cheat,” I just have to wait!

I keep improving in my fitness and that is exciting. My legs feel strong and light. It sounds weird but it feels like it takes so much less energy just to do basic things like walk and climb stairs in this condition. My flexibility is returning. It has taken 60 days worth of exercise to finally feel like my muscles are loosening up. I even had one yoga-related injury along the way! I sought the help of a chiropractor who told me that my hip flexor muscles are too tight and that I need to work on stretches to loosen them. As I understand, the hip flexor muscles connect to the abdominal muscles in some way and as my abs are getting stronger, my hip flexors seem to be getting better as well.

Going into May, I feel confident that my new diet and exercise routine is under control and that it will take less effort to maintain what I have established. Now to tackle other areas of my organization that need addressing!

How do you feel going into May? What would you like to accomplish? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on May 1, 2013 Monthly Recap Tagged with: , , ,