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4 Books that Made Me Better in 2018

29 Apr

As much as I would like to think that spending my free time lying down and bingewatching Southern Charm makes me a better wife, mother, and citizen, I am pretty sure all the hours I have logged gorging on everything Bravo has not actually progressed me as a person.  That much.  It has made me keenly aware, however, that there is a big difference between a botoxed 37-year-old and an everyday, organic 37 year old.  😦

Don’t hang up!  Don’t click away just because you just found out that I’m 37.  Slash basic.  Don’t be shallow like me!

So, anyway. 🙂 I took some time to read this spring.  Not because I wanted to become a better person. But because our VPN setup was detected and disabled by UK’s media police…hence I got permanently cut off from Bravo.  (You can’t stream that amazingness outside of the USA no matter how hard you try.  And no matter how hard your husband tries for you.)

So books it was. 

In all honesty, I have poured over all four of these titles in the past few months.  They’ve sharpened me, made me feel more professional, and brought me up to speed in areas that actually matter–I hope they can help you as well.  


 

Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer’s Rethinking School is a must-read (or audible download) for American parents of school-aged children. 

Empower yourself to help shape and personalize your child’s education—read this now!

The five-section book covers:

  • how our current K-12 system came to be
  • how to best make the system fit your child
  • ideas for creating solutions for when it’s not a good fit
  • advice for parents whose children may be dealing with disabilities, bullying, maturity differences, and giftedness
  • how standardized testing may legally be declined (though the system doesn’t advertise it)
  • how to choose reasonable alternatives for one or more subjects that are not working

SWB has been my education guru for the past 8 years.  (She also wrote The Well-Trained Mind, The Story of the World, and The Story of Western Science.)  This is her latest work, it is pure brilliance.  

We have no idea how much power and freedoms we enjoy in the United States 🇺🇸 to make the system work for us.  Our schools exist to serve the students, not the other way around.  

If Susan Wise Bauer is reading this, the invitation to tea in the Cotswolds still stands.  🙂

 


 

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper PlaceAndy Crouch.

Keeping technology in its proper place is a necessary discipline for every person, not just the kids.  This is the playbook for how to navigate the buffet of technological temptations that inundate our children.    

Andy Crouch has done the research for you, he laid out all the statistics on technology use in our society.  He reminds us how technology can bring us together and be used for the greater good, but that instant gratification and entertainment can not replace the harder work of developing our minds, hearts and souls.  

He points out how to put various boundaries on technology in order to keep our children engaged in “3-D world” as much as possible. 

This work is full of ideas and concepts to help create a family culture that we love.  It’s written from a Christian perspective, so not all his points will apply to everyone.  However, the wisdom Andy lays out will resonate with people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. 

This leads me to the next great book–the antidote to our technology-driven society:

 


 

The Read-Aloud Family, Sarah MacKenzie

Straight up, Sarah MacKenzie‘s writings/podcasts/blog posts have made me a better mother.  That’s a pretty big statement.  All of her work, everything she publishes, re-energizes me to lead my children toward truth, beauty and goodness. 

The Read-Aloud Family reveals how reading aloud prepares your children for academic success and develops compassion and empathy in your kiddos through stories.  It also addresses how to find time to read aloud, and how to choose titles that work best for your family.  It is full of fabulous book lists as well.  

One thing I have seen from personal experience which she underscores in the book: reading aloud doesn’t have to mean hours per day.  It can be peppered all around school, sports, and social schedules.  She actually encourages reading mere minutes per day–a five-minute portion is plenty to get the ritual established.

Growing young minds, being more present as a parent, and connecting closer as a family in five to ten minutes per day?  There’s not a better bang for your buck.  This is a life-changing (potentially world-changing) habit that needs to be revived in our culture.

 


 

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Morgan Cron

Thank you to my friend Jen Hartney for pointing me to this one.

Turns out, reading a personality assessment in narrative form resonated with me far more than answering a questionnaire followed by a printout of my results. 

This book is worth a year’s fees of therapy and counseling.  

Look, I have been on the brink for a long time.  I have.  But when I read The Road Back to You, I realized something so amazing: I am not *completely* insane!  I am just a 4, which explains everything!  Oh, and that unnamed loved one is a 5, so I am not frustrated at them anymore!  And my husband the 9 godlovehim, he’s great too, and everything all makes sense now.  Most personality “flaws” are just behavioral manifestations of their particular type…not that the flaws are always acceptable, but it helps me to give out more mercy.

Revolutionary.

Self-awareness is crucial for mental and spiritual health.  “What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you– and your relationships.”  Do yourself, your family, and your friends a favor and find out who you are.  This book is such a wonderful tool for amassing this kind of wisdom.  Note: we had a hard time narrowing down a number for my mother.  She was on the line for a few different numbers.  After ruminating over it a few days, she landed on the one that best describes her. 

If you are not instantly sure which of the 9 types you are, it might take you some reflection to land on it.  I, however, am textbook–took me eight seconds to decipher myself.  

 


 

Alright, that’s it.  Have you read any of these?  Please share with us your most favorite bits of wisdom from them.
Thanks for stopping by!  

Leigh

 

So You Haven’t Worked out in a Year.

25 Feb

I have not made exercise a part of my life in well over a year.  Every time I begin to think about which workout to pick, I do a mental down-spiral into a cesspool of despair about how far I have fallen.  You know, back when I was so good at working out.  

When I won THIRD PLACE at the Ft. Leavenworth Veteran’s Memorial WOD.  Boom!

I am at zero.  Maybe even below zero.  Never been lower than this. (Something something two babies in two years something something five kids is hard something something homeschooling something moving from Hawaii to England excuses excuses). 

I don’t have a workout plan to follow or to share with you.  (However, up in our Fitness menu you will find a nice long list of “PRIME workouts” to choose from.  They are all awesome, we did these in a large group class a few years ago in NY.)  I do want to share some highlights that have helped me feel excited to dust off my lifting gloves, get back out there, and even anticipate the sweet pain that is coming as I begin training again.

How did I get back on the horse?  One word.  Fundamentals. 


Step One.
Get a Box. 

Recognize that I want two things: physical fitness –AND– a hot body.  It’s imperative to see these 2 desires as 2 ends with 2 DIFFERENT means.

Go ahead and adopt the mindset that exercise and weight loss are not related.  It’s like I was born hardwired for thinking that exercise makes me lean.  

When you place the burden of weight-loss onto the shoulders of an exercise program, you are already falling behind.  Any earnest upfront motivation will drain away because it is too hard, it’s going to take too long.  A handful of workouts every week can’t make you instagrammably instalean.  

There was a time in my 20’s when training for a half marathon caused me to lose bunch of inches.  I attribute it to a few things, but those inches came back.  The body adapts.  All that intense exercise made me legit hungry and it took about 3.5 seconds to undo the calorie burn from a really good run.  

Running five miles is the exact same thing as eating a donut and a half.  Not eating 1.5 donuts is the same as running five miles.  That’s why I stopped running.  It’s dumb to do it for weightloss.

A clean, dialed-in diet will improve your physique in a matter of weeks.  I am hoping to teach my kiddos this lesson, (in an age appropriate manner) so that they don’t have to relearn this in their 20s or 30s after years of wrong thinking.

Don’t attribute exercise with weight loss.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson in Bright Line Eating goes into this concept with complete scientific research.  Read that book!


Now that we have drawn clear lines in the dirt, let’s go over step two.

Focus on what exercise will do for you. 

Memorize the following, or post it somewhere:

Cardio-Respiratory Endurance.
Strength.
Stamina.
Flexibility.
Power.
Speed.
Capacity.
Agility.
Balance.
Accuracy.
(NB: Again, weight loss is not one of these components)

We had to memorize these in the CF level-one course, and it was one of their koolaid shots I happily chugged.  I’ve listed the definitions of these terms for you at the bottom of this post.  But those 10 words stand alone.  Yes!!  I want those things!!  

Good news.  One four-minute tabata pushup session instantly hits the body with all ten of those components. 

The ship hasn’t sailed.  You might have been off for a while, but it’s parked right here.  Get back on it and get a dose of those ten for yourself.  Right now.  


Step Three. 

Think Positive.

Stop telling everyone who will listen that I am not currently where I used to be.  

Some time in the past, I had a larger, quantifiable measure of those ten components of fitness. It’s intimidating and disheartening.  I am stretching my arms way back into the past, crying out, “I used to be better!!  I am alone in a sea of despair about lost time and look at those chicks over there who are wodding at 39 weeks pregnant and I’m gonna order a “has-been” shirt for myself right this minute.”

Turn around, face forward.  Turn eyes and heart back toward that list of ten.  I want those!  I need all ten of those for multiple reasons!  –to take part in life as actively as possible.  –to enjoy sport and recreation.  –to be able to move heavy things around.  –to do everything in my personal power to maintain/improve my body’s capacity to operate at its peak.  (Its peak.  Not that instachick I keep seeing.  Unfollow.)

 

Take the has-been t-shirt out of the shopping cart.
Also go ahead peel off the “I used to be cool” bumper sticker off the back of the 07 Odyssey.


Four:

Form.

A 15-month hiatus forced me to rework my form from the ground up.  It has been refreshing in a lot of ways (after taking a couple hundred humble pills) to work out slow, study the movements again, and practice good form.  

This is one of the foundations of the CrossFit** method: form is paramount.  Once you have established consistent good form, build upon that foundation with speed and load.

Form.
Then consistency.
Then speed and load.

Rolling it all the way back to the beginning renewed my interest in this hobby.  I’ve been using the pipe or the naked bar to train.  I am actually stoked to re-hone my form…bring it back to what it should be.  After a couple of years of working out like crazy, my form absolutely backslid.  I was getting by with some pretty bad habits.  I don’t think I would have carved out time to fix it.  

The one good thing about losing overall fitness was that the bad habits got lost along with it.  Now, I because I am slower + using a lighter load, I can truly focus on consistent ideal form that I formerly overlooked.  I can’t wait to have amazing new push-ups, proper foot stance, a properly aligned core, fix my early arm pull, use the hook grip every time, reset my lazy running form.  All of it.

A break can be a good thing. 


Five: 

A little actually does go a long way.  

This is something I can attest to because of my age.  I have seen that it does not take hours upon hours of training to make quick improvements in one skill or another.  It is surprising to see how much headway you can make in a short amount of time.

 The couch to 5k program is the perfect example of this… and it applies to every skill in the book.  Can’t knock out ten pushups in a row right now?  I bet you can do 4 sets of three.  Knock those 12 out, and go again tomorrow.  If you want to do pull-ups, you gotta do pull-ups.  😉

Do a little bit a couple of times, you will be able to do more the next time. 

Has this been true for you?  Comment below!


Six.

Know YOUR why. 

I talked about this in the recent clean eating post, and it applies here. 

Part of getting over the mental mountain of a major restart is to clarify your why.  In this endless onslaught of fitspiration (ahem, marketers trying to make money off of you) it’s harder than ever to keep your head down.  The products, the before and afters, the programs, the plans, the PR’s, the results, the finishing times.  It all throws me off my own course. 

I have to be calculated and deliberate about keeping my goals in my direct line of sight.
You can’t have all the goals, and that doesn’t make you a weak person.

I’ll be vulnerable and let you in on the goals for this mom of five living in a relatively isolated situation.

1.  Look good in my clothes–the clothes I already own.  That is completely raw and honest of me.  If I am not entering into any lifting competitions, then do I need or want to work on a double-body-weight back squat?  No…but I sure as heck want to ensure I can keep my guns out if the sun’s out.

lifelong wodnas

2.  WODdates with the man.  Nothing gives more butterflies than grabbing the hubs, sneaking away to our gym, and having a go with Pukie the clown.  Same workout at the same time, It’s GREAT.   It’s exhilarating for me.  It builds solidarity, it’s a shared passion, and we accomplish something productive together.  My goal is to get my fitness levels back up for our WODdates to be back on.

3.  Eventually: return to finishing WODs at rx.

So that’s me.  But whatever it is you are hoping to accomplish, define it.  Goals can change from season to season.  


Seven:

Internalize the difference between a goal and a desire

Goals are attainable, measurable, quantifiable.  You set them, create a plan of attack, and reach them.  Desires are different: aspirations, wishes, longings.

Goals are achievable–they are blocks you can check off.  Desires are arrows aimed at targets.  We can do everything to set up perfect conditions for the arrow to hit that bullseye, but we have to keep our fingers crossed that a rogue gust of wind doesn’t knock it off course.  A desire cannot be a condition that defines my success. 

Fitness goals vs. desires kind of merge into a murky gray-zone… because injury, malady, timing and circumstances can throw things sideways.  So it’s wise to guard your fitness-heart.  How much power am I giving those desires in my life?  It helps to identify what’s in my power to accomplish, versus what I can only cross my fingers for.

Use the power of a strong desire to propel you into doing what it takes to meet the goal you have in mind. Then can begin working on the plan to successfully accomplish the goals.

Good luck!


So, while I am not going to win a third place medal any time this year, it feels fab knowing that each opportunity of exercise is another productive step forward.  It is one of the few things in my day that can’t be undone.  That feeling is the best.

Have you had a long hiatus from exercise?  Do you have any other tips that has helped you get into the right mindset for a solid restart?  Please share in the comments!!

Thanks for reading,
Leigh


Revisit the definitions of the 10 Crossfit General Physical Skills:

 **CrossFit disclaimer: I am using the CrossFit terminology and verbiage because that is the organization that taught me most what I know.  CrossFit lit a fire in me, gave me a dose of motivation for exercise/fitness so large.  I have been impacted for life because of what they have taught and shared.  I have to (and want to) give them the credit for every bit of insight I have gleaned from them.  However, if the word “CrossFit” causes you to recoil…if you have a bad taste in your mouth about it…if you have a preferred/better method for physical fitness, then you’re still good.  Just stay on your favorite method/program you love the most. 

It really only matters to keep moving and enjoy it.


If you don’t like CrossFit, then this will be hugely validating.

Also, this.  

 


Please share, and pin!!  

How to See Light when Walking Through Nothing but Darkness

27 Jan

Leaves use light to make food to nourish the tree.

I had an “aha” moment this morning after a group-chat with my friend who recently lost two pregnancies and her fertility due to complications.  Understandably, she is grieving deeply.  I have had losses myself and know acutely how deep the pain can sear.

Our group was reading John 8:12, focusing on the concept of light.  In that passage Christ instructs, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  We all kicked the idea back and forth when finally, she posed a very good question:

How can this be true when I’ve been walking through lingering darkness, despair, and disappointment?  And, I know many other earnest believers suffering overwhelming, relentless depression.  This verse doesn’t seem to be true.

I was sitting there simply dumbfounded and slightly panicked.  She was right.  Come to think of it, everyone I know has walked through seasons of utter despondency, grief and long spells of darkness.

Suddenly, it dawned on me.  Maybe we were defining the word “light” incorrectly.   Maybe we attached false expectations onto that one word.

Light is a tool.  A guide.  Illumination.  Enlightenment.



Not absence of pain.


“Darkness” is the typical language we use to describe the experience of pain.   It feels gloomy, foggy, oppressive, disappointing, and sometimes endless.   We await a “light” at the end of the tunnel.  But some tunnels do not have a light at the end (here on Earth.)  Some dark things are only resolved by God who will make everything sad come untrue in the fullness of time.

💡Light is knowing that.


Without the Light, we trudge alone through the storms of pain by “using.”  We use.  Not just alcohol and drugs…we use anything that covers over pain for a short time.  Food, exercise, friends, shopping, reading, sleeping are all good things, but they are not good permanent relievers of pain.  In spite of long periods of pain, we don’t need to rummage for fix after fix after fix.  

💡Light points out false remedies.


In the pit of pain, the darkness makes you panic.  It is common to exclaim, “I don’t know what to do or where to turn!”  With this light of Christ in hand, we can know.  We don’t get a view of the entire path of healing.  However, we can determine what to do today.  We advance incrementally, and in hindsight we look back to see our custom-built path for healing well. 

💡Light illuminates the next step.


Carrying the burden of pain increases internal stamina and fortitude.  We develop a core strength only developed through the struggle.  There is another personal reward: a sense of validity, legitimacy, community, solidarity with the other members of the long line of human suffering.

💡Light showcases the sinews of strength the sad journey amassed in you.


Darkness makes it feel like the joy of others is shallow and nearsighted.  If I am in pain, then I want other people to understand and I want them to feel my pain.  A “no-one-gets-me” air proliferates until you are rendered powerless and unmotivated to contribute to anything or anyone.  Only gratitude can push back this clouded thinking.      

💡Light spotlights your blessings, drives out pain-pride.


Not everyone knows where to get this light.  If we have it, we have to share it.  This does not mean just talk about the light.  Light is spread by meeting needs.  Someone is always in need.  An act of kindness or generosity will instantly break through someone’s darkness.  Keep scanning for hardship, and then be an action-taker.

💡Light blazes like a fire.  If someone is cold, build one for them.    


It is going to be increasingly important to be able to identify all sources, facets and conduits of light in a world of viral abject darkness.  I will be all over John 8:12 from now on.  Following Him empowers me with the light for illuminated life.  

Thanks for musing over these thoughts with me.

Leigh


 

These same trees during the dark season are thriving on strength that came from light of days gone by.  They have all they need today to make new buds for tomorrow. 


Read More:

How to Wait Well


Clean Eating versus Heart Satiety

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