Health Matters

Today, I urge you to step  back and take a moment to reflect on your health.

Are you taking care of yourself?
By taking care of yourself, I am not only asking whether you eat and drink well and generally avoid stepping in front of moving traffic.
My question is, are you really taking care of yourself?
Are you doing the things that will ultimately contribute to your body and mind being healthy and supporting you, allowing you to thrive and have a long and fruitful life?
Are you nurturing your body and soul with good food, exercise, meditation, human connection, and engaging in activities you are passionate about?

If not, please consider re-evaluating your priorities.

If you find yourself frequently stressed, overworked, tired, and dissatisfied, please know that it is in your hands to live the kind of life you love.
It might mean taking baby steps and getting there over a period of time, but any improvement is still improvement.  

Today, decide to take a 20 minute walk. Decide to eat a salad along with your meal. Decide to ditch the soda and drink some water instead. Decide to let go and realize that you cannot control every other driver out there on the road, so just enjoy the ride, enjoy the scenery, enjoy being alive.

Decide to live differently, and by doing so, know that you are making not only your own life better, but you are also giving more of yourself to your loved ones. You will be with them more fully, with more clarity, and hopefully, for a longer period of time.

If you’ve made it this far through this post, I urge you to let me know in the comments section below what small change you can make in your life in order to take care of yourself better.
Do you think you can take a yoga class every now and then? Maybe wake up half an hour earlier to get in some physical activity before the craziness of your day begins? Maybe you can take 20 minutes just to be by yourself, close your eyes, and focus on filling your body with breath? Or maybe you can swap out one of your weekly meat-based meals for a vegetable-based meal instead?

(Note: This is really relevant to me in my life right now, and would make me feel so much better to know I was able to make even one person consider doing something for their health.)

To your health!

Snot and Smiles

Still a little fussy, still a little snotty, but definitely the winner in the battle against the RSV + double-ear infection bug.

That’s ma boy.

Z Beatles T-shirt

Back in the Running II

The secret to work-life balance is to admit to yourself (and your family!) that it does not exist.

One day, the scales will tip in the favor of work. The next, they will (hopefully) tip back in the direction of life/home/family. And sometimes, when the universe does give you a little more from the life side of the equation, you have to prioritize and realize that you can’t do everything.

New personal objective:
– Stop multitasking and trying to do everything all at once. It only creates a version of you that is bursting at the seams of sanity, barely held together by flimsy threads of sometimes-awareness.

– Focus on a smaller number of achievable goals each day and each moment, and do those things really well.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and although I have been running, it’s nowhere near the amount of running I should want to be doing, especially in preparation for a half marathon. And the measly runs I was able to get in have felt forced, labored, hard.

This week though, I feel strong. I think a big part of it is getting in a long(er) run on the weekend, which sets the tone for the coming week.
After not being able to get a run in for the last couple of weekends, this weekend I came back with a strong 7 miler on Sunday. I had wanted to do 10, but this time, instead of letting myself get disappointed, I made my peace with the universe and decided: 7 is just fine. Good enough, verging on perfect even.
(Reminder: You are perfect just the way you are.)

The weather was perfect, my iPhone was loaded up with all the latest Fresh Air interviews that I needed (still need) to catch up on, and my wonderful spouse had selfishly sacrificed his planned run, staying home with our 2 little Energizer bunnies, so that I could go out and pound the pavement.

And pound the pavement I did!
I kept going and going, only turning around to come back home because I knew we had a million other things to do that day (like go here) and only very limited time.

I am a firm believer in the power of positivity – positive thoughts beget even more positive thoughts, which hopefully beget positive actions and a more positive life. Being able to get out and have that hour of solo time to reflect and get some perspective was transformative – the rest of the day turned into a positivity-fest and ended in myself, husband, 2 boys, and sisters all in a heap on the boys’ bedroom floor, laughing uncontrollably as we watched Baby Z make the transition from infant to turbo-baby.

Phew! This one moves like you wouldn’t believe – in a split second he zips from one end of the room to another, bulldozing anything that stands in between his little body and whatever it is he wants to pounce on (and probably put into his mouth) next, like:

His brother’s toothpaste

 

His brother (!)

Or even… His auntie’s dinner!

In other news, big brother N had some shining soccer moments this weekend, scoring a couple of awesome goals and loving the idea of being a part of a team.

From strength and love an angel is born

I have a friend. (Surprising, I know. Hear me out, though.)
This post is a letter to that friend, who is someone I wish all of you could meet, if only for a day – you would sit down and have some lemonade, a nice long chat, and come out of it a better person, just by talking to her.

Dear Friend,

You and your family recently welcomed a tiny little being into your lives, experiencing the magic of adding one more person to the world whom you will love with every fiber of your being. Congratulations, dear friend, to you and to us, for with her birth you impart upon us all a lesson of love, strength, and super-human perseverance. You are an inspiration.

You are one of those people who springs to someone’s side the moment they need you there, sometimes before even THEY know that you need her there. Your presence is nourishing and loving, and you impart a strength, confidence, empathy, and morality that rub off on people and make them want to be better versions of themselves.

When you are around someone you are fully present: you are engaged, committed, and completely real. You bring a love of life with you to every interaction, and possess an unwavering sense of who you are and what you believe. You are unfazed by chaos (complete opposite of me, obviously), and handle the craziness that life and other people may throw your way with ultimate grace, compassion, and patience. You are accepting of everyone, and can make a person feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued all in one quick exchange of words.

I wish I could say half of those things about myself.

In 2004, you were diagnosed with breast cancer. A devastating diagnosis for anyone, let alone a barely-30 year-old woman who is vibrant, active, and one of the healthiest people I know. At the time, I had only known you for a few months, I was going through my own major surgery (on my jaw – obviously a blip compared to the gravity of my your situation), and generally was not equipped to know how to handle something so large, so life-changing, so scary.

So, I said what little I knew how to say, and did my best to be a good friend in your time of need.

I fell short.

Over the coming months and years of our friendship, I came to realize how little I truly contributed to your well-being at that time. If I could turn back time and throw myself into being the type of friend you would have been had the tables been reversed, I would do it in a heartbeat.

With strength that left me in complete awe, you overcame the diagnosis that threatened your life. You took it all – the chemo, the treatments, the medication, the surgery, the poking and prodding and testing and uncertainty, and you turned it all on its head, showing that cancer who was boss.

You won, and you won by a landslide.

Over the past 8 years, I’ve watched you grow even stronger than you were before your diagnosis, and I am humbled by you. I watched you, determined to grow your family, get pregnant with and give birth to two amazing boys. I watched you mother them with admirable patience and wisdom, wondering all the while whether I would have been able to handle being in your shoes without losing my mind. You never did. You only got better.

Last year, during a particularly challenging phase of my pregnancy and life, you came to visit me for a weekend. Youleft your family – husband and two baby boys (twins!) – and hopped on a plane for ME.
Honestly and truly, that was one of the nicest, kindest, and most considerate things anyone has ever done for me in my entire life. We reconnected and it was wonderful. Your presence helped me recover my sanity, and helped me regain perspective on what is truly important. You reminded me that I need to remain true to my self, and committed to the path I paved for my life.

The pictures of your newest little angel have melted my heart, making me yearn to be by your side at this time. I wish I could be for you what you have been for me, friend.

I can still taste the salt in the air when I close my eyes and think about our long walks along the ocean. I will forever dream of the day when we will walk together once more, this time reminiscing about days past, and looking forward to the many exciting milestones in the lives of our little ones, as they grow and take center stage.

Congratulations, my dear. You and your family are in my thoughts and heart.

Thank you for letting me be part of your life.

Slow-cooker lamb with rice

Dinner this past Sunday was one of those dinners that just begs to be shared with others. I wished that I could invite you all to dinner that night – I admit I am not one of those people that appreciates or loves lamb or really meat for that matter, but even I enjoyed this meal!
Since I can’t feed you all virtually, I can at least share the recipes and maybe one day you will attempt this yourself – your families will thank you, yum yum yum.

Here’s what dinner looked like on the plate:

Leg of lamb dinner

On the menu:
Appetizers:
– Homemade guacamole + chips
– Green salad with tri-color bell peppers

Main:
– Slow-cooked leg of lamb
– Golden raisin apricot rice “pilaf”

Since there’s a lot to share here, let’s jump right in:
Read more of this post

Cake! Cookies! And Green Smoothies?

As I attempt to up my activity level in preparation for the April half-marathon I told you all about last time, my body’s natural reaction is panic: Need! Calories! Bake! Carbs! Now!
So, obviously, I make excuses like “Oh poor husband, he was at work all day and then in class until 10:30 pm, I’ll bake him a cake as a surprise!” But of course, I have to find a way to lighten up the recipe, and friends, I DID! I am sharing this recipe with you because as a non-chocolate fan, this was one “light” chocolate cake recipe that is worth sharing.

First some visual context:

Chocolate Cake

Moist, light, and NOT SWEET – just right.

Ok, yes, I had some, but let’s be honest. I bake for other people’s happiness, smiles, and the occasional hug.

In actuality, I am on a bit of a health kick, and trying to get some more of those great dark leafy greens, healthy vegetables, and other “real” foods bursting with vitamins and antioxidants (I sound like an infomercial). Here is what was for breakfast (and snack) yesterday:

This was my second green smoothie since I set the be-more-healthy (and stop eating my kids’ leftover snacks) intention, and I LOVED it. It contained avocado, cilantro, spinach, kale, cucumber, blueberries, apple, banana, lemon, water, and a tiny bit of protein powder. I actually FELT healthy all day long.

The next day, and in preparation for Big Z’s arrival in the SLC (brother visiting us for a couple days!), I decided to double my batch of hazelnut-butter chocolate chip cookies. Here we go:

Saturday morning, I continued in my quest for additional mileage. Things weren’t going my way at first so I wasn’t able to get out as early as I would have liked to, and I almost gave up on the whole thing. Then I pushed myself to go, knowing that I always end up feeling better once I’m out there, and I did! No vibrams this time, as it was all on-road running, and I’m not ready to hit the pavement/asphalt with no support yet. Baby steps :)

Daily vibram mileage: 0
Total Daily mileage: 5.8

Recipes to follow soon!

How NOT to Argue

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a good person. Or, at least, an emotionally balanced one.

No, seriously.

Let’s take a step back.
So, after living with someone for a number of years, you get to a point where you learn things about them and about their personality.

Illustration:
I live with a man who is brilliant, smart, funny, infinitely logical/analytical, and impressively determined.

He’s also stubborn. As stubborn  – no! more stubborn – than long-ruling dictatorial regimes that think they can continue to stay in power and determine the fate of their people without repercussion.

Needless to say, I’m not much of a pushover, so this state of stubbornness tends to cause many a “heated” discussion in our household.
It’s gotten better with time though, where I’ve learned to sometimes just let things fly right over  my head.
I need to REALLY be in a good mood for that to happen, though, since my fuse is usually so dangerously close to the explosiveness that is my brain. This means I’ve gone on many passionate tirades where I take a comment he’s made and, within minutes,  work myself up to a point where that comment has just caused the earth, moon, and sun to stop revolving, dooming us to imminent death and destruction.

Over the last 4 years, I’ve discovered that when it comes to child-rearing, we are generally on the same page – i.e. we both want to raise a respectful, considerate, emotionally intelligent, confident person.
We disagree on pretty much everything else.

Case in point:
1) Me: “I don’t want our son watching violence on TV or in video games.”
Husband: “There have been no scientific studies that prove that watching violence in TV or video games makes children more violent.”
Me: “I don’t care about the scientific studies, it just makes logical sense that the violence from the screen is unnecessary and is not age-appropriate, and I don’t want him watching it!”
Husband: “Meh.”
Me: “#*%&#*&#_(@^&#@()^*#@(^#@_&^(#@&@#(_!!!!!!!!”

2) Me: “We need to be more strict about speaking Arabic at home, in order to give our son the advantage of being as close to bilingual as possible!”
Husband: “Let’s get a Chinese tutor for our son!”
Me: “It’s important for his sense of identity that he can connect to the Arabic language and understand it!”
Husband: “Identity bla bla bla. Let’s get a Chinese tutor for our son! Chinese is going to be the language of business and the economy in the next century! Who needs other languages?”
Me: “It would be great if we could teach him Chinese, but SERIOUSLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU CAN’T YOU JUST PRETEND TO LISTEN TO WHAT I’M SAYING AND JUST RESPOND TO HIM IN ARABIC?! It’s NOT that hard, you grew up speaking it, remember?!”
Husband: “Meh. I’m going to go check craigslist for Chinese tutors.”
Me: “OMG! ONLY if you promise we will spend time with him to teach him Arabic!”
Husband: “Meh.”

Fast-forward to the other night, when we were having a similar discussion on the importance of a set bedtime.
You can guess which one of us thinks that having a set bedtime is important to ensure a child gets enough sleep and is used to a certain routine/pattern, and which one of us thinks he should just go to bed when he finally claims he’s tired. Which, for our son, will probably never happen, since he equates admitting tiredness to admitting full and complete failure to be in control of everything. (I’m so sorry for passing on that gene, baby).

So, the summary of this whole story, and why I question whether I’m a good person (or emotionally balanced), is the way I handled the discussion. I resorted to the lowest of the low of argument immaturity.

Husband: Walking out of our son’s room, after going in to “check on him”, which he does about 20 times a night, just so he can steal kisses and look at our son’s sleeping angel face. “By the way, he’s still awake. Even though we put him down like 40 minutes ago.”
Me: “That’s because you keep going into his room and bothering him.”
Husband: “He’s not tired. We shouldn’t put him to bed when he’s not tired, or else he won’t sleep well in his bed anymore.”
Me: “No. He needs to know that there’s a set bedtime and his body will get used to sleeping at or around that time.”
Husband: “Bedtime is overrated. He shouldn’t go to sleep unless he’s tired.”
Me: “Ok. THAT’S IT. LISTEN TO ME: Do you want to know what happens to kids who don’t go to bed at or around a consistent bedtime? Do you? Do you?”
Husband: Silence…
Me: “THEY TURN INTO PORN STARS. DO YOU WANT OUR SON TO TURN INTO  A PORN STAR?”
Husband: …………………………”I think you should go to bed. You look kinda tired.”
Me: “Fine! GOOD NIGHT!”

I think I may have been able to handle that one a little bit better, don’t you?

45 Minutes

That’s all I had in between the time I got home tonight from work (at which time my husband and son were already home and looked like they were going to starve, since it’s so hard to start a fire out here in the wilderness where we live, and hunt down some sort of protein form to eat, skin it, clean it out, and cook it over the fire. I mean, that’s the only reason they would look that hungry, right? It’s not like we have a cold box that can store food over the course of days and even WEEKS in the freezer compartment, and a device that actually CREATES fire for you, do we? Someone should invent those things).

So, needless to say, I spent the 45 minutes trying to come up with something for us all to eat before I had to jump on a conference call for a project that I’ve been asked to lead. Unfortunately, the project is so complex and has so many moving parts that it hurts my brain just thinking about it, and the timeline is so short that we were probably already late since the day the project started.
Yes, it’s been a long week.

Thus, you can see how my posts have been dwindling, as has any hope for creativity I’ve ever had (or pretended to have), as also has my patience for anything and everything and anyone.

Except, guess what? Baby is growing at neck-breaking speed and my belly has started to make a clear appearance. This is the phase where people at the gym are usually trying to pretend they’re not staring at me when I’m on the treadmill, wondering if I could really have THAT much of a beer gut (and if maybe I’d just had a few before coming to the gym for a run?) or if I might be carrying some life form in there. I like to make sure to burp a few times as I’m running, just to confuse them even more.

There you go. You should know how much I care about you all since I just spent more time writing this than I have talking with friends and/or family on the phone over the last week.

And now off to get a few hours of sleep before I have to wake up at 4:40 am again.

Before I Was Born

Before I was born, they looked into each others’ eyes and were overcome with pure adoration.

Before I was born, Love Story was their theme song, and it played in the background of every scene of their picture-perfect, fairy-tale love affair.
Before I was born, logic was secondary. Love made the world go round.

A proposition was made, but was immediately met with rejection. A hunger strike, torturous, painful love, and insomnia-riddled nights ensued, bringing them to the point of no return.

Then finally – families succumbed to love and there was acceptance, or at the very least, agreement. Hands were joined in a joyful, hard-earned union, and a new life began.

Now, years later, washed-out, yellowing picture prints stare back at me from the tattered pages of a bright yellow floral picture album. Pictures that give me a glimpse into who they were, and what they had.

A smile so broad it lights up the whole world, completely overshadowing the existence of anything or anyone else in the background. A hand holding a chin so lovingly it is as though that chin were made of the most fragile of porcelain, and could break with the slightest miscalculation. An embrace so filled with passion it is as though nobody in the history of the world had ever embraced before, or would ever embrace again.

In those pictures, those treasures from a past life, I see who they were – before I was born. Perhaps somewhere, some times, in spaces and moments my eyes are not witness to, they become those people again. Perhaps life has not taken it away, but has merely weathered it, making it a more durable love. A practical love. Perhaps one day I will understand and know.

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