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And, NO, I was thankfully not in the car.

Sorry for my delay in getting posts up, but I have been side tracked by a hit and run side swipe in the Whole Foods parking lot!!

I found my car with someone else’s paint all over the back driver’s side after finishing my shopping. And just to think that I was wondering how I was going to kill an hour before picking up my daughter and her friend 🙂 !

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First, I took pictures of the car and ground where paint lay everywhere. Then, I ran back into whole foods to see if I could look at their video camera, only to learn that because their parking lot is leased, only an insurance company can have access to it. Grrr!

Just as I was leaving I ran into a lovely police officer who advised me to file a police report.

So, I head around the corner to (luckily) the police precinct, only to learn:

1. You have to have your insurance card and registration on hand, (so I had to go back to the car to fetch it!)
2. My deductible might be higher than the estimate, in which case it doesn’t behoove me to file it, and therefore I will never have Whole Foods video footage.
3. The only way to find out what is best for me to do is to go get an estimate before filing.

But honestly, I just want to watch the videos and catch the jerk who didn’t even bother to leave a message, other than half the paint off his/her car.

I guess I must have needed some adventure today. Lol!! Alas. . .

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nose mouth

Today I had to good fortune of hearing a talk about breathing by Mark Gerow, a NY City Actor, a yoga instructor, founder of Lunarhythms, and survival instructor in the U.S. Air Force.  I was not sure if this lecture was going to be for me, but I heard he was a great speaker.  And indeed he was; he was able to connect breathing to the greater health of our bodies, and I was sold.

Good Posture

Good Posture

I walked in, sat down in the front row, and there he was, body relaxed, sitting up straight in his chair, feet flat on the floor, six-pack illuminated, but not one muscle in his body was flexed.   He began talking about how and where we carry stress – it’s in our mind and it’s shown in our crunched shoulders, shorter breath, etc.  He went on to ask us if we listen to everything our mind says.  Of course some people said yes.  Mark retorted that we’d all be crazy people if we listened to our mind all the time!!  He pointed out how we’ve all been walking around complaining about food, people, traffic, and that we had not left any bagged behind, but have carried it with us.

Of course I think he’s right, not only do I need to let go, I would also be a crazy person if opened my mouth to say and do everything in my head!  I’ve even been working on training my daughter not to say everything she thinks out-loud, because some of it isn’t very nice!!  (Like the time I was telling our neighbor who was moving away how much I’d miss him, and then my daughter says, “Well, I’m NOT!”  Umm, I think that’s exactly what Mark was referring to.)

Other times, my brain gets caught up in irrational spirals of anxiety: I haven’t heard from my husband in 8 hours.  He hasn’t answered his phone, he hasn’t returned my calls, he hasn’t responded to my texts or email, and now I’m tempted to call his secretary.  The realm of possibilities of what could have happened to him overwhelms me.  I settle on the most ridiculous thought of them all . . . he was plucked off the streets of Philly, thrown into the back of the trunk of the car, while his phone gets run over by the car’s wheels, explaining why it went to immediate voicemail.  I know, ridiculous.  That’s why my husband calls me the optimistic fatalist.

I notice that we rarely let go of our stress, and if we’re holding onto it, we are not living in the moment.  We cannot fully enjoy where we are.  Mark explained this using what I call a classic “Seinfeld Example” (which I have embellished a bit):

Classic Seinfeld

Here you are, in a rush for whatever the reason, you’re running late, you have to dash through the grocery store.  You make it to the checkout line, and it’s as long as the lines at Disney World.  You wait for a few minutes, noticing another line next to you moving faster.  You’re breathing faster, your pulse is pumping, your shoulders tense up, and you make the decision to jump ship to the other line.  Oh, but wait!  Now your old line is moving and your new line has not budged.  Your blood starts to boil, you’re almost panting, the devil has begun to possess you, getting yourself into a rage . . . and just then . . . the person in front of you pulls out the coupons, then the checkbook, then there’s an item that needs pricing . . . All this building of of stress just tipped your scales right over to the point you accidentally give the person the finger.

Angry Shopper

Angry Shopper

If only there was something you could do!!

Marks answer is, “There is . . . Focus on your Breath.”

Mark gives helpful tips and research about why and how breathing removes these thoughts, and helps us to remain calmer.

Here are a few key points:

  1. Breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates the functions of our internal organs such as the heart, stomach, intestines, endocrine system, etc. Most of ANS is involuntary and reflexive, meaning we can’t control those systems by thought.  For example, we can’t change the rate of our heart voluntarily or how many endorphins are released.

    autonomic-nervous-system

    autonomic-nervous-system

ANS is known to:

a. in emergency situations, cause stress to require us to flight or flight
b.  in non-emergencies it allows us to “rest” and “digest”

However, breath is one of the few things we can control.  Since breathing (respiratory) is part of ANS that controls the heart, stomach, and intestines to list a few, our breathing can also impact the health of these and other related systems.

2. Breathing in RAISES blood pressure and breathing out LOWERS blood pressure.  Solution: SLOW DOWN your
exhalation.

3. Removing Toxins – there are a few ways that our bodies remove toxins:

a. urine
b. sweat
c. exhalation

According to Mark, breathing removes 70% of our body’s toxins, so if we aren’t breathing well or taking deep breaths, we are causing a toxic backup, making our other organs work harder to remove them.

Pranayama, or disciplined breathing, can reduce stress and improves immune function, and might reduce the incidence and progression of cancer (1) as well as treat depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (2), and more data suggests that it can improve cognitive brain function in those with diabetes (3), and shows a tendency to improve the autonomic nervous system by slowing heart rate and reducing blood pressure (4).  CONCLUSION: Slow, deep breaths can remove toxins and thereby increase your immunity! (5)

Here are a few breathing activities to help maintain an even level of energy, reduce stress, and/or help clear your mind:

The most effective way to breath is in and out through your nose.  (If you are exersizing, you are exempt from this!)

Mechanics of Breathing

Mechanics of Breathing

1. Diaphramic Abdominal Breathing – It sounds more complicated than it is.  All you do is take a deep breath (preferably from the nose) and breath deeply so that your belly expands.  The best way to do this is lying down, place your hand on your belly, and you breath in, you will feel it rise, or you can sit up-right in a chair, with your feet on the floor, and place your hand on your belly.  The goal is to take nice, slow breaths.  Focus on the breath.

2. 3-Part Breath – Take a belly breath from your nose, then fill up your rib cage, and then your chest.  When you get to your chest,  you should have little room for more air.  Then, slowly exhale the opposite way you breathed in – chest, rib cage, then belly.

3. 2/3 Breath – Again, through your nose, belly breath 2/3rds of the way in.  Hold it for as long as you can, and then slowly release it.

4. Slow Release Breath – The most cleansing breath and the breath that calms you the most is the one where there is a slow exhale.  You can do this several different ways:

a. When breathing out through your nose, with your mouth closed, say “ah” the whole time you are exhaling.  Your breath will have the sound of the ocean, and it will help to slow it down. (This one is my personal favorite!)

b. You can breath out of your mouth by making your mouth into a small, oval shape, which again will slow your exhale.

c. You can breath out of your mouth giving a big long sigh.

So, in conclusion to my amazing class on breathing, I am trying to focus on my breathing whether I’m in bed, panicked in the grocery store line, exhibiting road-rage, or just writing my blog.  It is already helping me to change my energy and help my immune system along the way!

Mom & Me Taking Deep Breaths!

Mom & Me Taking Deep Breaths!

Works Cited and for more reading:

(1) KOCHUPILLAI, V., KUMAR, P., SINGH, D., AGGARWAL, D., BHARDWAJ, N., BHUTANI, M. and DAS, S. N. (2005), Effect of Rhythmic Breathing (Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayam) on Immune Functions and Tobacco Addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1056: 242–252. doi: 10.1196/annals.1352.039

(2) Brown, R. P. and Gerbarg, P. L. (2009), Yoga Breathing, Meditation, and Longevity. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1172: 54–62. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04394.x

(3) Kyizom T, Singh S, Singh KP, Tandon OP, Kumar R (2010), Effect of pranayama & yoga-asana on cognitive brain functions in type 2 diabetes-P3 event related evoked potential (ERP). The Indian Journal of Medical Research [2010, 131:636-640]

(4) Pramanik T, Sharma HO, Mishra S, Mishra A, Prajapati R, Singh S. (2009), Immediate effect of slow pace bhastrika pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate.  J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Mar;15(3):293-5.

(5) Hu Li Za Zhi. (2005), The Application of Qi-Gong Therapy to Health Care, 2005 Jun;52(3):65-70.

Autonomic System: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/auto.html

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My Little Family

I had been planning this day for many, many months. As my husband, a non-athlete, took up running almost 2 years ago, I never thought he would stick with it, and as it turns out, he just completed the Philly Marathon less than a week ago. I am so incredibly proud of him and honored to know him, that I had to come up with a way to support his dedication and honor his perseverance . . . A surprise 35th (gluten-free) birthday party with a running theme!
If there’s anything to know about me, it’s that I LOVE surprises, and I LOVE themes. So, with my dad’s help, it all began.
The theme: a 3.5 mile run for my husband’s 35th birthday. His last name starting with a K, the race was titled:

The BEN K 3.5 mile Run

1. We sent out Evites

Invitation

2. We began designing our race shirts. We first designed them with photoshop and then ironed on each one. I ordered iron-on transfers in bulk from amazon.com (18 for around $18) and the shirts from http://www.shirtsupplier.com (around $2/shirt). Since my husband is from Atlanta, I was able to create the old GA license tag with his birth county on the bottom,  the year he was born, and the year it is now on either side of the tag. All the “sponsors” were places that held importance in my husband’s life, whether it was the brand of shoe he wore (or had worn – my mistake!), his favorite breakfast place, or his alma matter.

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3. It was time to think about ordering the bibs from Athlete Race Number:

Of course Ben got the # 35 bib!

ben’s race number

(The bibs we got were a bit pricier, because my dad agreed to get those if we put him as a sponsor. We got 100 bibs for $45.52, but you can just order 100 plain numbers for $22.43)

4. We then drove around to map out the race course that started and ended at my parents’ house. We made maps of the course. We decided to have a 1.1 mile option as well for walkers and kids.

Benk 3.5 mile loop map

5. I ordered the 2 gluten-free cakes from Sally’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Atlanta, Ga. A 13″x9″ sheet cake came to $35. I also ordered a half-sized cake that came in the round. They iced the cake, but couldn’t decorate it. So, I called on my mother-in-law for her cake-decorating help! (By the way, the cakes are amazing!!! None of the guests knew the difference! And my MIL is amazing!!)

GF B-Day Cake from Sally’s GF Bakery

MIL Decorating Cake

6. Ordering the Food – ALWAYS LOOK FOR COUPON CODES!! I learned the hard way, that there are cheaper ways to do things. I decided to have bagels, veggies & dip, fruit, and water. Since I didn’t have enough time to chop the veggies myself due to the fact I was flying in for this, I called Publix (the grocery) who makes wonderful GF platters. (However, if I’d know, you could pick up platters in the grocery store that weren’t part of the catering for half the price. They didn’t look as nice though.) We got both GF bagels and gluten bagels, because they were cheaper and there was no need for everyone to eat GF.

Publix Fruit Platter (M) feeding 16-20 people = $36.99
Publix Veggie Platter (M) feeding 16-20 people = $29.99
Udi’s GF Bagels – 4 bagels for at least $6
Einstein’s Bagels (with 20% whole order coupon) – 13 dozen with 2 containers of spread for $14.50 (pre-coupon)


7. Making the Medals – I made witty race medals for everyone, but the birthday boy. Ben got a 1st place medal from TrophyPartner.com.
The other medals I made using an exacto knife and cardboard. Then I printed up labels with the race date info, slapped them on the back, punched holes with a hole puncher, threaded ribbon from the dollar store through it, and wrote on the front, i.e., from my architect friend I wrote “Fastest Leed Runner”
labeled benk medal

8. The Dollar Store Run – table clothes, platters, cups, napkins, cutlery, bubbles, candles, chalk

9. Creating the Silly Liability Running Waivers for all the many lawyers in the bunch, and whoever signed “agreed” that if they did not cross the finish line, they would pay for our daughter’s education (among other things). That was my dad’s cute idea.

brother-in-law (lawyer) carefully reading the liability waiver with dad

10. Chalking the Race Course – We chalked the whole race the morning of so people wouldn’t get lost.

Dad Chalking Start

11. The Surprise – Priceless!!

Surprised Husband

So, you want to know how I pulled it off? 

I told him that I was going to let him sleep late, and I’d take care of our daughter.  He had no problems with that.  We got up extra early, did everything we needed.  I had the guests arrive in the front to wait in the patio area.  Once they had all assembled, I woke Ben up and had him put on some clothes.  I told him I had made him breakfast and we were going to eat it on the patio outside.  So, this is his face when he made it outside .  .  .

12. The Start of the Race

At the Starting Line

13. The Award Ceremony – At the end of the race, each guest received their special medal and their t-shirt.

14. Ben K Trivia – Food and dessert were complemented by funny trivia all about my husband. We had door prizes to give out with my dad’s logo on them for the winners. One of the questions asked how tall Ben was. We measured him, and the winner got the tape measure!

It was truly an amazing morning! I found this the most fun, because it gave people a reason to be social and get to know one another (and all with-in budget).

Happy Birthday to the most Beautiful Man that I know!

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Christmas time is one of my mom’s favorite holidays, especially because of the lights.  We use to ride to different neighborhoods admiring all the holiday lights.  I, too, got that love from my mom!

So, tonight, with a clear, crisp sky, a half moon hanging above, and many of the people that I love: my mom, dad, husband, daughter, aunt and a few friends went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for their spectacular light show.  In particular, it is a very kid-friendly venue that had my daughter saying, “Come On” throughout the whole gardens.  She didn’t even want to get in her stroller it was so exciting!

We  packed a GF dinner for my daughter and were on our way by 4:45 pm to avoid bedtime conflict.  It was definitely dark by the time we left.

Here were mine and my daughter’s favorite highlights:

1.  A Bonding Moment with Froggy

Froggy on a Bench

2. The Chihuly Fountain (with the half moon hanging over our heads)

Chihuly Fountain

3. The Garden Railway featuring Coca-Cola Trains as well as a Tootsie Roll one

Holiday Garden Railway

4. Lights of Sculpture Dancing to Music

Dancing Lights

5. *S’mores Making – *Note: There is a fire pit where you can roast s’mores that you purchase there.  If you want to make s’mores, bring your own graham crackers (S’morables by Kinnikinnick), chocolate (Enjoy Life), and marshmallows (Kraft).  They provide you sticks, so you’ll have to pay a fee of sorts, but it’s totally worth it.

Fire Pit for S’Mores

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I was completely overdressed for my mid-morning hike in the woods. The day was unseasonably warm, but since I think in a past life I must have been a sun worshipper, it was the perfect day for me, with the low, fall-sun beaming on my face. I was surprised to find a few radiant leaves still clinging to the branches after both Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. Frankenstorm) and Nor’easter Athena hit. The gurgling creek passed by next to me, as if carrying all my worries away.

During the fall season, the big dipper, known as the Great Bear begins to sink lower into the night sky. The Native Americans believed it to be an indication of the change in seasons, revealing that the bear was going into hibernation. So, too, are we. Fall and winter are filled with added darkness, a welcomed relief from the busier, more energetic summer days. Fall brings about a calmer air as the days get shorter, and we spend more time indoors hibernating. It is also a time when I am able to spend more time with myself in reflection. This heaven-sent weather and time spent with the trees helped remind me to pay attention to myself if only for a minute.

I reminded myself to really stay focused in the present, take deep breaths, and enjoy where I was. It’s easy for me to find the cell phone or some other means of distraction since I am a creature who loves people and socialization!

As I walked, the blue sky penetrating through the empty branches, I began thinking about my doctor’s appointment the day before. . .
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A bit of background . . . I have been working incredibly hard to regain my health after being sick for so many years before going gluten-free. It’s clear that the diet was the best decision for my body, but I had still been struggling to feel good every day. Often times from vitamin deficiencies I’d feel exhausted, I would run migraines, have stomach aches, or any number of other symptoms. My AMAZING doctor had me tested for other food intolerances through a stool sample. It came up that I have a super high intolerance to casein, (a protein in dairy), as well as minor intolerances to almonds, avocado, coconut, lemon, etc. I was fairly bummed out to learn this, since it meant removing more food from my diet, which I already found limiting. What it also told me is that I have a leaky gut, meaning that food literally leaks out due to past gut damage. The thought was that if I healed my gut, many of these problems would hopefully resolve themselves.

I revisited the doctor to tell her that I have never felt so alive in my whole life (or that I can remember). I had been doing everything in my power (and still am) to heal my gut as crazy as some things might sounds: I swallow whole cloves of raw garlic, eat manuka honey, drink Himalayan salt in my water, take probiotics and prebiotics, drink something called bitters to help stimulate digestion before I eat, and twice a day I make sure I eat fermented foods. This has truly helped me in every way. The migraines are gone, the stomach aches are resolving, and regardless of how little sleep I get, I still feel good. My mind is clear, and I’m just so happy. Being physically sick clearly affected my overall level of happiness.

In a nut shell, my doctor tells me that I’ve done an amazing job of helping my body to heal. She believes that once I have done such damage to my GI tract, she thinks I will always have to take probiotics and eat fermented foods. I guess it seems like a small price to pay, but the truth was that I was a bit disheartened by the news. For once in my life I wanted not to have to be so mindful.

As I walked though the woods, I allowed the wind to help me clear my head. I allowed myself to be sad, but it was hard to feel sad when I could see the beauty around me, and the strength that my body has been given.

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Every fall I have watched as the trees let go of their leaves, but I didn’t always notice. This day, I was noticing everything. Fall is a time for letting go of what we do not need in our lives, just as the trees let go of their leaves. I attempted to let go of that which I could not control; I tried to let go of my sadness and frustration behind my struggle to heal my body.

I also noticed the trees that had already shed their leaves, standing so naked and vulnerable, which is how I think I often feel when I let go of something I have held onto for so long. Without the leaves to hide behind, there are no pretenses with a tree. It is what it is. When I accept where I am in life, then I am being true to myself; I am truly me as the tree is the tree. The noble tree reminded me to accept and embrace who I am and what I have been through as part of being me. When I do that, I find that I really like me, and it makes me a happier person and a better friend.

The same way that different religions are mindful of the foods they eat – like Jews with Kosher foods and Islamics with Halal foods – being gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free has truly taught me mindful eating. I think very hard about where my food comes from, how I’m preparing it, and the energy it gives me. This would have never been my thought process before going gluten-free. I am truly grateful for this path in life, for the good health for which I have worked hard, and all my friends and family who have supported me through it all. For all the moments I forget how lucky I am, I guess this is the season to reflect, remember, and say thank you.

So, just in case you haven’t paid attention to the seasons, it’s not too late to start!

Thank You!

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