Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oh, the Insanity ... Week 1

The beautiful culprit!
Sunday, a day of rest. Right? Well, that has taken on a whole new meaning after the week that I've had. It's been crazy ... check that ... it's been complete INSANITY!

Before I get to this week, I have to let you know how I got here. Well, it started a couple of years ago. (And for those of you who already know the story ... I'm sorry for dragging you through this once again. Feel free to skip ahead.) I decided to get healthy for my 40th birthday. And I did -- losing 41 lbs. and feeling better than ever.

Year 40 I continued to do pretty well and even lost another 10 lbs. by my 41st birthday. Year 41 wasn't that great on the health and wellness front. I just fell off the wagon and enjoyed eating whatever I wanted and the only exercise I got was running my mouth. The result ... a nice 25 lb. gift for my 42nd birthday and a bridesmaid dress that doesn't fit.

My solution ... dig out those Insanity DVDs that have been sitting in a basket on my TV stand for almost a year and git er done!

So, at 5 a.m. on Monday, April 16 I strapped on my heart rate monitor and my Champion sports bra and pushed play. The program starts with an assessment of your fitness level called the Fit Test. I've watched the Fit Test many times, so I knew what was in store. Let's just say ... I've done better on other tests and I have no where to go but up!

On Tuesday, I was up before daylight and at it again. The first workout is called Plyometric Cardio Circuit. Throughout the video, Shaun T., the gorgeous and beyond fit instructor, tells you to go at your own level, to just keep moving, get water when you need it and don't compromise form for speed. Well, he didn't have to tell me twice. I obeyed, but still pushed myself to get a good workout in -- at my own level.

Wednesday, there was Cardio Power and Resistance and I honestly don't remember much about it. I just know I worked as hard as I could and was glad that it was over. (Tomorrow's workout is this one, so I'll be reacquainted with it soon!)

Thursday was Cardio Recovery and when I saw that on the schedule I was elated ... until I did the workout. He slows everything down and it's not as long, but a slow squat with pulses in the middle is far from easy, so I was still rolling my eyes and fighting the desire to curse during this workout.

Friday, I was proud of myself for making my 5 a.m. wake-up call five days in a row. I was rewarded with the wonderful Pure Cardio workout. Now, I have to admit that I love cardio exercises -- especially when I'm more fit and can keep up. But this was just brutal and I took more time jogging in place than I care to admit. But I still kept my heart rate up and burned calories and I kept saying in my head that one day I was going surprise myself by completing all the circuits.

Saturday was the Plyometric Cardio Circuit again and I cannot explain how much I despise those darn Level 1 drills! But I'm determined that one day, I will get at least one done. Yes, I will.

So, what are my thoughts after one week. It's an intense, crazy, sweat-inducing workout. And while it's hard, I'm looking forward to continuing and to seeing what my results by on June 17, the final day of the 60-day program.

And zipping that dress on June 2 would be nice, too! See ya next week!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Love-Hate Relationship with Writing

(After a two-year case of writer's block -- I'm back. Enjoy!)

I have a confession to make … I hate writing. Well, maybe hate’s a strong word. Actually, I don’t hate writing. There’s nothing better than sitting at a computer when you’re inspired and words are coming from your brain quicker than your fingers can keep up. Unfortunately, there’s usually a process before all that free-flowing nirvana! And that’s what I hate!

Last month, I volunteered with the College Summit program as a writing coach. College Summit is a national nonprofit organization that partners with schools to strengthen college-going culture and increase college enrollment rates.

During a four-day workshop on a college campus, rising seniors get the opportunity to learn more about college life, themselves and then use that information to draft a personal statement that can be used on college applications. I got the opportunity to experience dorm life (you have to see it to believe it) and work with an amazing group of students (Team Keela).

My challenge was getting the students to buy into something that I’m not a fan of – the process. (But I have to admit it’s more fun when you’re facilitating and not actually doing it.) Here’s how it works. Without any background information, students are asked to write for 20 minutes. The only direction they’re given is to keep writing about whatever is on their minds. Then they’re asked to read what they wrote and their peers are asked to listen for “nuggets” that they would either like to know more about or have questions about. We do this twice and then hopefully one of those ideas becomes the start of a personal statement that “shows” but not “tells” us what the student stands for as a person.

I can’t tell you the number of times I asked them to trust the process and to continue to push through writer’s block and fatigue. As a writer, I fought against the urge to fix things for them and to suggest imagery that would make their stories stronger. At one point one of them asked what I wrote about in my personal essay for college. I thought about it and honestly couldn’t remember – but that was almost 25 year ago and I’ve done a lot of writing since then. Right?

In the end, Team Keela had four really strong personal statements (you’ll have to ask me about my 5th student, it’s too much to even write about here) and Facebook friends for life! The students are rewarded with a banquet and dance on Saturday. I had to pick excerpts from their statements to read. It gave me great pride to read their writing because they worked really hard. From the student who compared her failed first attempt at baking a red velvet cake to failing at life when you aren’t focused, to the volleyball star who wrote about the dig she missed and how she never gives up, to the 5’8”, 185 lb. all-region linebacker who plays BIG – Team Keela rocked! I’m not a competitive person by any means, but I wanted them to shine during their moments on the stage and they did because we trusted and worked through the process.

Coming back to work, I found my latest PRSA Tactics newsletter waiting for me and there was a piece about the writing process in it. Veteran communicator Ann Wylie talks about writing step-by-step to write better, easier and faster. Wylie says by using prewriting, freewriting and rewriting steps you’re less likely to suffer from writer’s block, more likely to meet deadlines and unlikely to get stressed out in the process. It’s nothing new to me, but a great reminder that I’ll try to do more of as I look for yet another angle to tell a very familiar story to keep my readers engaged.

There’s definitely a thin line between love and hate. This girl definitely loves writing and I will probably always hate the process! (But maybe a little less now.)

Team Keela minus its coach on banquet night!

Friday, June 12, 2009

20 and counting ... watching the weight go

Hey! Remember me? I know, it's been a while. But the day after my last blog post, I embarked on a very important, and somewhat time-consuming project -- ME! Even though I began the year talking about battling the bulge. It was March and I hadn't really done a thing about it. While I love Bob on The Biggest Loser, his book and plan just wasn't the thing for me.

Lucky for me, a co-worker and the best friend of my supervisor were doing Weight Watchers and having success with it. Personally, I know that Weight Watchers works -- I've done it twice before and seen great results. Unfortunately, I returned to my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle each time and like my girl, Oprah, gained it all back and then some. So, I became a member of Weight Watchers for the third time on March 25 -- and there are 20.2 lbs. less of me around these days.

Each Wednesday, I look forward to stepping on the scale and claiming my "sticker" for the week. I'm just like a pre-schooler about those stickers! I've got three "5" stickers, and I can't wait to get to next Wednesday's meeting to get my fourth star and more importantly the elusive 10 percent keychain that I never quite got to in my first two attempts. (And yes, I weighed that much and still weigh that much! Since it doesn't even take a math whiz to figure that out. LOL)

Since March, I've also been working out consistently for the first time in more than 10 years. From walking in the park, to hitting the elliptical and treadmill, to shaking a tailfeather in Zumba class -- I try to get some kind of cardio in five days a week.

I have to admit that I don't see much of a difference when I look in the mirror. I guess that's because when I look in the mirror I see a thin Keela. It's not until I see a photo of myself that I realize that I've gained 50 pounds in the last 10 years! And I haven't really taken any pictures because I don't want to be disappointed when I still can't tell a difference.

What's most important is that I feel so much better. And my clothes are fitting much better, or falling completely off me.

I'm happy about my success, but I also know that my journey is just beginning. So, I'll continue to work at it. And I'll continue to celebrate my 1 or 2 pound loss each week because I know that those little numbers add up to a lifetime worth of results.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, John!

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 39th birthday. People who work, live and Facebook with me, know that I stretched that day into a whole week of celebration. I got gifts, lots of cards and well wishes, and was reminded of just how blessed I was to have such a great bunch of family and friends.

Today, just one week later, I'm reminded once again of how blessed I am. Unfortunately a great tragedy serves as the reminder. While I thought I'd be sending birthday wishes to my high school classmate, John Detouche, today, I've been sending e-mails and posting information on John's funeral, which will be on Thursday.

John was in a fiery car crash on Friday afternoon -- a beautiful, first day of Spring forever marred by this loss.

John was one of the funniest people I have ever met. So today, I'm trying not to mourn his passing, but to celebrate all the great times we shared in middle school, high school and afterwards.

I will forever remember those days riding the bus to football away games. Once, the bus broke down on the way back from some really small town beside a corn field that looked like scenery from Children of the Corn. (Jokes weren't that funny on that night. I wanted to be at home.)

If John wasn't joking with his boys, The Four Horsemen, he was singing or doing some of the best impressions of Riley Jackson, one of our defensive coaches, that's ever been done.

John was also a great dancer, something you wouldn't expect from a big, burly defensive lineman. (The Four Horsemen all thought they could rap, dance and entertain.)

I'll also never forget the pride and joy he felt when his true love was elected Homecoming Queen. We really should have made him a crown, too -- 20 years later he was still reminding Arlette that she won because of him.

After high school we all went our separate ways, but several years later, John and I ended up working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield together. He was still that funny guy, but the jokes were now about his wife and kids. He was all grown up. Around the same time I was obsessed with all things Jackie O and JFK Jr. and I started calling him, "John John" -- he hated it -- which only made me call him that even more.

It's been years since I've seen John, but thanks to the ever popular emergence of social networking sites, we traded e-mails and posts most of last year. I was even "lucky" enough to be one of his responses in his profile on our high school's site -- even if it wasn't true! I acted like I was mad about it, but the truth is, as a writer, I can't get enough of seeing my name in "print" regardless of what it's for.

John leaves behind two sons, his Mom and many family members and friends who I know are still trying to understand his leaving us so suddenly, way too soon. I hope that they see all the wonderful memories and thoughts people are sharing on various websites. I also pray that God brings them comfort and peace during this difficult time.

Today I pulled out the yearbook from our senior year. It was in my computer desk because of planning and stuff I've been doing with our class website since our 20-year reunion last summer. Flipping through the pages, I found these words from John scribbled beside his picture for Most Wittiest ... "I wish you all the luck in the world (because I can't think of another person who needs it more! just kidding!)." Once again he was wrong. I was already the luckiest person in the world because I was blessed to have him as a friend.

Happy Birthday, John John! We love and miss you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Now a major motion picture

So the Oscars are on tonight. I haven't watched it in years, but I love the fashions and wrongly predicting the winners. As I was looking at the paper this morning with the Oscar ballot, I noticed a book on my shelf, The Reader, now a motion picture that has at least two nominations (Best Picture and Kate Winslet, Best Actress) this year. And it reminded me of my "thing" with books and movies.

First of all, the book is always better than the movie. Actually, I have one exception. I liked Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in the movie, The Object of My Affection, more than I liked the book. But I digress.

Here's my thing. Because I feel the book is better, I won't watch a movie if I want to read the book. And since I haven't had much free time to read lately, I've collected quite a few books and haven't seen quite a few movies. Here's a list of a few:
  • Cold Mountain
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Chocolat
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Mystic River
  • The DaVinci Code
  • No Country for Old Men
Then there are a few movies that I don't own the books, but I won't watch the movies until I've read them including The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

And there is a movie that I've seen because I couldn't wait, but the book is on the shelf ... The Devil Wears Prada.

And there are books that I've enjoyed that have been made or are being made into movies that I'd like to see ... The Secret Life of Bees, Little Children and coming out this year, Push (I think the movie is called Precious) and The Lovely Bones. I'm happy about these, even though I'd like to re-read Push and The Lovely Bones before the movie. Oh well, the cycle never ends.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One and ... done

There's a baby boom going on in my little world. In the last few months close friends, relatives, colleagues and coworkers have welcomed little bundles of joy into the world. And a couple more are expecting. I've enjoyed seeing the baby pictures and buying the baby gifts (especially for the little girls).

Couple that with the woman in the news who recently gave birth to the 8 babies and the fact that Preston is two years old and I get the "little brother or sister" question more than ever and I basically have baby on the brain!

So, if you haven't asked and were wondering ... the answer is, "Nope, I'm done." I guess I didn't get the gene that the woman with the 14 kids got -- I've never had the desire to have lots of kids. In fact, for years and years I was convinced that I'd be fine without even one. And then Preston came along. Those first few months were very difficult. I loved Preston more than I ever thought possible, but I also missed my Mom so much that it hurt. My grandmother made plans to come and stay with me and Mark after Preston was born, but she had to go in the hospital just before and her health continued to decline after that. So, most of the time I was alone because Mark was working third shift and quite frankly overwhelmed. I had family members and good friends who were a big help, but I couldn't help but envy girlfriends who had their mothers there for them during such a special time. Now with both my Mom and grandmother gone, I can't imagine having another child.

I also can't imagine having another child because I wouldn't be able to love him or her the way I do Preston. I used to always ask my grandmother how she did that with nine children. And she always said that she loved them all the same. While I would never call her a liar to her face, I didn't buy that for one minute. It was clear to me who her favorites were. She may have loved them all the same, but she sure "liked" them differently. To me, it would be like cheating. Thank goodness other women don't have this flawed way of thinking because there would be a whole bunch of only children in this world.

Then there's the age thing. I will be 39 next month, which means I would have to get started really quickly to have another by age 40. Not that there's anything wrong with that, women do it all the time. But my hair is already graying and I don't want my child to have to tell his friends that I'm his Mom and not his Nana.

I must confess that I do get a tiny little pang every time I see a baby girl. I always thought I'd be buying lots of pink stuff and eventually Mommy and me outfits. And even though I ended up with a baby room with a jungle theme instead of pink and brown ladybugs -- I'm good. One day I'll convince a friend or family member to use that pattern. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the trials and jubilation of raising a little boy and continue to give this response to those who think we should have another, "Why mess with perfection."

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's a Man's World

One of the things I love about my job is communicating to our employees about the various community service activities the company supports. Right now, we happen to be supporting the American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk campaign, just in time for National Wear Red Day which is next Friday, Feb. 6.

Earlier today an employee complained because an announcement about National Wear Red Day failed to mention that heart disease was the number one killer of men, too. It's a national event that I thought was well known and because we've promoted it for the last couple of years, I didn't include information about the origins of the event. (For the record ... that wasn't in last year's announcement either, but I guess that one got by him.)

I usually let things like this go because you can't please everyone all the time, but today I became quite angry about it. And when I'm angry -- I cry. And that messes up my eye makeup, which just makes me even madder! (And I probably wouldn't have cared if I hadn't lost my grandmother to heart disease last summer and this will be the first year I walk in memory of her instead in honor of her.)

Because Mother raised me right, I'm going to give this man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's never heard of the Go Red for Women movement. Maybe he's never seen a red dress pin. Maybe he doesn't know that almost 500,000 women died from heart disease last year. Maybe he doesn't know that the symptoms of acute heart attack are slightly different in women. Maybe he doesn't know that women are more likely to have neck and shoulder pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and shortness of breath in addition to chest pain. Or, that silent heart attacks are more common in women and because these symptoms aren't normally associated with heart attacks that women seek medical care later than men. Maybe he doesn't know that because of the Go Red for Women movement, many people are losing the perception that heart disease is a "man's" disease, women are becoming more informed and lives are being saved.

To make a long story short, I revised the announcement to provide background on the Go Red for Women movement. To do that, I had to use the word "women" several more times. (Okay, that was snotty of me, but I was a tad bit emotional.)

I've drawn the conclusion that this man has obviously not gone through the pain of losing a woman he loved to a heart attack or stroke. Perhaps he lost a male loved one and that made him as passionate about my exclusion of men as I was about my inclusion of women.
Whatever the case, I hope he never has to feel the pain of a 10-year-old girl who awakes one Sunday morning to find her Mom unresponsive in the bathtub because of a stroke that caused her to fall unconscious and drown. And I hope he never has to visit the hospital room of the woman who means more to him than life itself knowing that she is drawing her last breaths because congestive heart failure has caused liquid to fill her lungs. I wouldn't wish either of those on my worst enemy.

So on Friday, Feb. 6, I hope that everyone will join me in going red for women, including my fellow complaining coworker.