Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Things (but starting with 8)

8 - The number of times per day I say "sorry" when I have absolutely no reason to be. Why do so many women do this? Watch this commercial by Pantene, showing how ridiculous it is and why we need to stop! We have nothing to be sorry for, ladies!
7 - The number of days until my next blog post, as I'll be frolicking in the land currently inhabited by my two BFFs. 

6 - The number of times I ate ice cream last week. The majority of my meals were nice and healthy, but ice cream tastes at least 10 times better during the summer, making it that much harder to resist.
5.5 - The number of hours I'll be willing to stand in line for my first Shake Shack experience.
5 - The number of times I laughed per minute watching 22 Jump Street last week.
4 - The number of points the US World Cup team currently has. Good luck on Thursday! You can DO it!
3.5 - The number of weeks until my nephew is due!

3 - The number of times, on average, I wake up during the night–and two of them are usually because Ladle thinks it's fun to yowl as obnoxiously as possible during the early morning hours. No wonder I'm so tired all the time!
2 - The number of weeks until my birthday (plus one day)!
1 - One very good reason to get to know people in your apartment building: so when you're locked out at 12:30 AM, approaching them as a sweaty, blubbering mess begging to be let in, they don't look at you like you're insane and they're a little afraid of you and of letting you inside. Just FYI:)

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Favorites

I love working out at home, but I sometimes get bored with my DVDs, and buying new ones can add up pretty quickly. Enter YouTube.

Uh, yeah, that's been around for how long now? But I have always been turned off by trying to find workouts on YouTube. First of all, there are just so many, making  it overwhelming. It's also hard to know which ones are any good and which ones are just wasting your time.

My desperation for something new finally drove me back a few weeks ago. I'm still trying to wade through everything, but so far I've found five people/channels I really like. They have videos lasting anywhere from five to 50 minutes, so I'm having a lot of fun mixing and matching. Here are the five I'd recommend at this point in time! Enjoy!

1. Fitness Blender, a husband-and-wife team. 
 Easy instructions and different intensity levels. Videos can also be found on their website.

2. Rebecca Louise, an enthusiastic trainer with an awesome British accent.
Check out her personal website here.

3. POPSUGAR, featuring different trainers and offering a lot of variety.
Check out the entire website here.

4. Cassey Ho, demonstrating her "POP Pilates" routines.
Warning: she's a little too enthusiastic, and her voice can be hard to handle. Check out her personal website here.

5. Jessica Smith, a personal trainer with her adorable sidekick, Peanut.
 She gives great direction and offers the right amount of encouragement and enthusiasm without being annoying. Check out her website here.

Happy experimenting!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'm going back to high school

After attending my sister-in-law's high school graduation a few weeks ago and then featuring my high school English teacher as last week's glimpse, it’s no wonder high school has been on my mind lately.

For some people, thoughts of high school induce nightmares, if not a chilling shudder or two. Other people are forever stuck in their "glory days," unable (or just unwilling) to face reality. For me, I guess it’s a little of both, but also neither?
Overall, I really enjoyed high school, but I definitely have a few memories (and choices) I’d love to erase.

We often hear, “She’s nothing like she was in high school,” meant as a compliment for someone, and for a lot of people, I guess it probably is a good thing. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize I actually wish I was more like my high school self (insert groans of anyone who knew me in high school). Of course, some things are still the same; my personality really hasn’t changed much. But on the other hand, I do hope to have matured a little bit these past eight years or so (no comments necessary).

You’re expected to progress as you get older, which usually means high school is a time to explore different versions of yourself and start to really learn more about you and other people. College is this intensified times 100. Post-college, you know who are: a confident, independent being who has the whole world ahead of her and is going places. At least that’s what we used to believe, right? Well, I never seem to do these things correctly, and as I look back I seem to have regressed in some significant ways. Case in point:

*I have always been more chunky than thin. Never fat, but pretty good at carrying around an extra five (or 10) pounds, which doesn’t seem like a lot—unless you’re 5’2”. Did I care in high school? Nope. I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that I was surrounded by plenty of slender and downright skinny people, but that was them, and I was me. 
 *I don’t have an ounce of fashion sense .Never have, and probably never will. Did I care in high school? Of course not. I wore things I loved, whether that meant a glittery, silky, that-doesn’t-belong-anywhere-but-directly-under-a-disco-ball top or cargo pants and a boxy sweatshirt. I loved my clothes and how I looked and felt in them, and that was what mattered.
Uh, hello, it was HOLLYWOOD day. Get it?
No one got it.

 *I have always been generally uncomfortable around people, but in high school I was loud (sometimes obnoxiously so) and talkative–for the most part. Trying new things has never been my forte, but in high school I was involved with a ridiculous amount of things, and I had wonderful experiences and met wonderful people doing so. I also wasn’t afraid of doing anything “too weird.” If I wanted to do something or act a certain way, I did.

To summarize, I was confident. I had many smart, talented and beautiful friends and knew talented people, but I didn’t let that hold me down—again, for the most part. I’ve been plagued by self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember, so it’s not like I didn’t have any confidence struggles. They’ve just gotten much worse.

Things started to change in college. I spent a lot more time comparing my body to others’ (I don’t know how to phrase that without it sounding a little weird, sorry). I realized I didn’t look “as good” as other girls, and thus began my up-and-down, love-hate relationships with food and exercise.

I realized other people had opinions about me and weren’t afraid to share them (with others, at least). I realized a lot of people are a lot smarter, talented, prettier, funnier, more capable, etc. than me. I realized I had more flaws than I was ready to admit. I did become attached to the student newspaper and lived for it, becoming almost over-confident in that respect while also becoming anti-social outside of it and my classes. I forgot my worth in many other  aspects of my life.

You're obviously familiar with the direction my post-college life has taken, as it's the basis for this blog. Upon not reaching goals or milestones I [somewhat naively] planned on reaching and then watching other people attain not only what I was hoping to, but also several other accomplishments I wasn't even aware I needed to achieve, I have shriveled into a little shell where I doubt everything I think, do and say, and keep as many people out as possible.

I'm not sure why I've reacted this way when faced with the doses of reality I've had so far, and I'm not proud either. Could it be the false sense of security we grow accustomed to in our high school and even college communities? Am I just "weaker" than most people? Slower to adjust? Too sensitive? Am I just someone who doesn't know how to function outside of her comfort zone? 

It's probably a combination of all these things, but one thing I finally know for sure it is not is that I'm not good enough.Think of someone you know who always seems to know exactly what to do or say at exactly the right moment, someone you are often envious of or intimidated by because you couldn't possibly compare. She might be brilliant and have a few better ideas than you, a better education than you, she might have better self control, she might just have a better genes than you....but so what? 


I am just as good or worthy as anyone. The catch is that it's just not in all the same ways as others. My differences and character traits might make me weird or awkward or slower in reaching certain goals, but they do not make me unworthy. My high school self knew that, and I'm hoping she can teach me to live that way again.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Favorites

There's nothing quite like a father's love, and for those of us lucky enough to have experienced this, Father's Day is the perfect opportunity to let our dads, grandpas or other father figures to know their examples, wisdom and guidance have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

My dad was blessed with two, and then three sisters, and then three daughters. It may not have felt like such a blessing during a few of the hundreds of tear-filled outbursts that occurred regularly with me and my sisters, but he is certainly a blessing to us. Here are five favorite lessons from him.

1. The value of hard work. I may be pretty lazy sometimes, but any work ethic I do have, I owe to my dad. Growing up on our buffalo ranch, my dad would work hard all day at his day job and then come home and work hard outside and around the house—giving us our share of chores, of course. My dad doesn't give any project he works on less than 100 percent, so the same was (and still is) expected of us. Sure, we had plenty of time for fun and games, but we learned how much sweeter that is after completing a job well done.

The day he became Dr. Wes.
2. The value of education. There wasn't much of an emphasis on education for him in his youth, but as he pushed himself and continued to pursue higher education, it became one of the things he cherishes most, so of course it has always (and still is) been something he reminds us of pretty often. 

3. Doing the right thing—no matter what. My dad lives behind-the-scenes, taking care of all the little things that no one else thinks about to ensure the bigger things can actually happen. I dreaded going to practically any event we were somewhat involved in because I knew we were going to be the last ones to leave since my dad would make sure everything was cleaned up, complete, etc. 

He also lives by sticking to his moral code, even if doing the right thing means doing the most embarrassing, unpopular thing. This was a tough rule to follow sometimes, especially in high school, but what a great lesson to have learned so young.

I'm sure he didn't plan on me becoming quite so cat-obsessed,
but he still built my precious kitties a cat tower
for Christmas!
4. An appreciation for animals/nature. A science nut, my dad never misses an opportunity to educate anyone who will listen (or us as kids even when we weren't listening very well) on anything from why a tree looks the way it does, to why a certain butterfly species is going extinct, to how the new shopping mall we're excited about is hurting the environment. It's been so eye-opening since most people don't think twice about things like this.

5. The importance of family. Growing up, we were all required to attend one another's sporting events, band and choir concerts, and everything in between. Supporting and respecting our family members was an extremely important principle in our home. Friends will come and go, he says, but your family is always there for you. "We're all you've got," he has told me plenty of times, and I really couldn't ask for anything better.

Don't forget to tell your dad, "THANK YOU" this weekend!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

Not many people would actually choose to go back to high school, so we are lucky to have the brave few who do: high school teachers. We're even luckier when they're like Mr. Ken Gardner. 
He just finished his 13th year as a coach and English teacher at Jamestown High School. I took a couple of classes from him, but even if I hadn't it would have been impossible not to get to know him—and not just because of the size of the school and town. 
 He was always out in the hall talking to kids, serving as a coach, student council adviser, attending (and announcing at) sporting events, dances. . . pretty much everything. And there was always a genuine smile on his face, concern for students' well-being, a joke for someone having a rough day, and advice for anyone in need of guidance.
An all-around great guy with a good heart, he has some pretty excellent insight for us below.
Current job: High school English teacher, boys’ and girls’ cross country head coach, boys’ track and field head coach, student council adviser.

Dream job: Professional actor.
First job ever: Lawn care (mowing, raking, trimming, etc.).

First "grown-up" job: High school teacher/coach
my current job.

Why did you choose a teaching career? I went to law school for a year following college and student teaching.  While there, I realized that a life as a teacher would provide me with a much more balanced outlook on life.   
When do most people go to a lawyer? When things are pretty bad: someone has committed a crime, someone is getting divorced, someone has died, etc. As a high school teacher/coach, yes there would be challenges and defeats, but there would also be the success stories to balance things out.

More specifically, what drew you to teaching English?  What originally drew me to English was the freedom that I had to choose the content through which I could teach and connect with my students.  Unfortunately, much of the freedom has disappeared.

What is your favorite part about your job? Something new every day: a new success, a new problem to solve.

What is the biggest challenge? Parents. Name a problem that a student has, and I will be able to tell you how the parents have caused/contributed to that problem.

How has the teaching profession changed since you started, and how do you envision it changing in the future? The field of teaching has become more and more legislated.  With all the new rules and regulations, the art of being a great teacher has largely been legislated away.

What advice do you have for someone pursuing a similar career path? Don’t teach summer school. Get away and recharge the batteries!

What do you enjoy most about coaching? Seeing a student-athlete mature, commit and make good decisions.

Do you have any advice on being a successful coach? Have a good plan, but be willing to adjust.

Any running tips? Listen to your body. Sometimes, a recovery day can be just as important as a hard workout.

What do you wish you knew when you were 20? How hard it is to find the right woman.

When you are 50, what do you want to be able to say when you look back at this moment in your life? That I made the right choices, both professionally and personally.

How do you define success? By the number of people whose lives you changed for the better.

Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally, and why? My dad, Kenneth C. Gardner, Jr. He was a high school teacher with a passion for what he did.

What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time? Reading, biking, attending concerts.

What is number one on your bucket list? Attend an Olympic track and field meet.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chocolate chip.

Thank you, Ken!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Favorites

I don't know what it is about music in the summer, but it always seems a little extra specialwell, probably because winter is horrible and summer is not. And it's a lot more fun to sing along to a song that's blasting when you're on a boat or driving around with the windows rolled down instead of while shoveling snow or praying the car heater will kick in before you reach your destination instead of the second you arrive.

All week, local radio DJs have been discussing what will be the '2014 Song of Summer.' From what I've gathered through them and the many speculations online, the main contenders include Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," Paramore's "Ain't it Fun," Ariana Grande's "Problem," and Calvin Harris' "Summer."

Honestly, I think the only deserving one out of these and the others I didn't bother naming is "Fancy," but I'm also hoping for something a little easier for me to belt out at the top of my lungs when it plays every 30 minutes. My current obsession is Magic's "Rude," and that will probably be my personal summer song since my mind will always just automatically go there when I hear it.

As I await the next overly-poppy pop song that everyone but me will grow to hate, here are 15 favorites from summers past:

"I'm Gonna Be" - The Proclaimers (1993)

"Waterfalls" - TLC (1995)

"MMMBop" - Hanson (1997)

"I Want It That Way"  - Backstreet Boys (1999)

"It's Gonna Be Me" - NYSNC (2000)

"Complicated" - Avril Lavigne (2002)

"Hips Don't Lie" - Shakira (2006)

"Umbrella" - Rihanna/Jay-Z (2007)

"Leavin" - Jesse McCartney (2008)

"Airplanes" - B.o.B/Hayley Williams (2010)

"Rolling In The Deep" - Adele (2011)

"Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen (2012)

"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye/Kimbra (2012)

"Cruise" - Florida Georgia Line/Nelly (2013)

"Closer" - Tegan and Sara (2013)


After reading back through this list, I feel the need to remind you I am not 15 years old. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DOs and DON'Ts of getting back on track

I'm BACK after a week of shoveling a ridiculous amount of "food" into my face, a day and a half of food poisoning-fueled misery and a week of attempting to recover from said misery (aka no workouts and lots of plain, white carbs). 

I could NOT have handled that Jordon Almond.
I've never experienced that before, and while I know it was from something specific I carelessly scarfed down, I think it was also a pretty big wake-up call from my body, begging me to stop treating it so poorly by giving in to every tiny (and not so tiny) craving.

As you have probably realized, I am anything but consistent in my quest to maintain a truly balanced, healthy lifestyle. And Jared hears this just about every Monday, but I've never felt more determined to eat smarter and really just treat myself better. Getting back on track after a slip-up is never easy. I know better than almost anyone.

With all of my "starting over" experience, I have discovered some things that work and many things (obviously) that don't. Here are some tips from yours truly, but please keep in mind I am obviously no expert and this mostly serves as a reminder list for what I should be doing!

DON'T feel so hopeless (because it will seem that way at the beginning) that you just give up completely and go back down the path of drowning your sorrows in whatever calorie-laden grub you can get your hands the fastest.
DO eat! The worst thing to do is suddenly eliminate several food groups or vow to follow an absurdly restrictive diet. 

DON'T compare yourself to others or even yourself five or 10 years ago. I have a picture from four years ago I look at more often than I want to admit and wish I could go back to looking like that, but I need to base everything off of what I am now and what I can be in the future. That is the only "competition" involved.

DO realize it takes time - just like any other hard thing in life. 

DON'T copy someone's diet or workout routine because it probably won't have the same effect on you. Definitely use plenty of people and sources for ideas and motivation, but don't blindly follow your friend, roommate, yoga instructor or favorite celebrity.

DO come up with a better motivator than the mirror. I think one of my big problems is that I base my desire to eat and work out better off of simply wanting to look better. But it's about so much more: your health, your energy, how you feel, etc. What has recently struck me pretty hard is that, as a Christian (and in most religions, I believe), we are taught that our bodies are temples - essentially gifts from God. Looking at it that way, I would feel pretty terrible choosing snarfing down garbage over treating my body in the respectful manner it deserves, especially since there are certain things I never partake of (like alcohol, tobacco, etc.). So why do I justify a tub of ice cream as OK when those things are not?

DON'T start too strong. Whether you've missed a week or two months' worth of workouts, don't jump back in too fast because it will backfire.

DO set realistic goals that you can follow on a long-term basis (well, basically forever). Start slow and gradually work your way back; you'll be more likely to keep going and continue to improve your fitness.

DON'T reward yourself with food. For me, food = reward. I need to transition to food = nutrients that fuel healthy living, not just pleasure.

DO learn to listen to your body. I never bother to listen to my body because my mind is always screaming, "TREATS!" But it was loud and clear last week when it was screaming, "STOP!" It is a process, though, so be patient.

DON'T just wing your workouts. Plan them at least a week in advance so they're built into your schedule and you know what you're going to do.

DO incorporate new classes, exercises, running routes, playlists, etc. They challenge your mind and body.

DON'T feel like you have to tell people that you're trying to make a change. A lot of people say it helps hold you accountable, and if it does, great, but you should be doing it for yourself in the first place, and that should be enough.
DO post motivational quotes, pictures or other reminders in places you'll actually see them. I have plenty of these sitting on Pinterest, but I only see them if I'm on Pinterest. Hang them on mirrors, the fridge, your car, make them your phone or computer background.....anywhere you look often.

DON'T forget the power of sleep! When I get obsessed with making sure I follow through with every workout, I'll stay up until 1:30 AM if that's the only time I have to exercise....only to then get four or five hours of sleep and completely reverse any of those benefits.

DO ask yourself how you will feel after eating something before actually eating it.

DON'T get mad  at yourself or overreact when you end up not making the smartest choice, whether it's skipping a workout or forgetting that portion sizes also apply to desserts.

DO forgive yourself because you will never be perfect . . .

. . . but DON'T make excuses. I can rationalize anything. Don't.

DO take care of and love yourself because you deserve it, and DON'T you forget that!