Saturday, April 30, 2011

Taking Inventory of my Tools

I had to laugh at myself this week. I had to pick up Bethany after her play practice at school, so I grabbed a book in case I got there early and had to wait for a while. I know that’s highly improbable, but I like to be prepared. As I was driving down the road, I noticed what I was using as a bookmark for that book… a piece of toilet paper! Oh, great… I could just picture it: Elaine, sitting in the school parking lot, reading while she waits for Bethany, and just as the principal walks by, a gust of wind blows the “bookmark” out of her grasp and directly into his path. (So now you know… I’m always running late and I have a lively imagination!)

The reason I laughed at myself is that we have no shortage of bookmarks at home. As a church secretary, we get catalogs with sample bookmarks all the time: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day… you name it, and a company has probably sent us a sample bookmark for that holiday, hoping we’ll buy up enough for the whole congregation. So, I have a few of those, I have bookmarks the kids made me, and bookmarks from special occasions. I even have an embroidered cloth bookmark from Bangladesh sent to me by a missionary we support. There’s no shortage of bookmarks at our house…but I wasn’t using them. I was using toilet paper!

That made me think about other tools and resources I might have around the house that I’m not using, or using to their full potential. I’m at a bit of a crossroads now with my weight loss. I’ve been bouncing back and forth with the same five pounds for several months now, a very frustrating plateau, and now I feel like I’m getting my fire back, and I’m ready to break through. Instead of grumping “I wish we could afford a gym membership so I could get in swimming practice and take spin classes,” I need to focus on all the resources I have available.
  1. LiveFit Revolution – free exercise, nutrition, support. Alysia Gadson and Jason Lily have put together an awesome program and I know it works. They helped me lose 50 pounds last year, and they’ve been helping me keep it off. Now it’s time for me to ditch the last 30!
  2. Internet friends – I have dozens of friends who are also trying to turn their lives around and become healthy. I keep in touch with them through the LiveFit forums, through SparkPeople, through Facebook, by e-mail and by text message. It’s important to be accountable to others! I need to reach out more when I’m struggling, and let them help me through.
  3. My kettlebells – a good kettlebell workout burns a lot of calories. Lately my excuse has been “I don’t have enough time,” but that’s nonsense. 15 minutes of kettlebells is still a great workout! Get swinging! 
  4. Elliptical – we got an elliptical off ebay several years ago. It’s down in the basement, right in front of a TV… sometimes I’ll use it for an hour while watching Biggest Loser. I need to do that more often… with more shows!
  5. – there are a lot of great resources at SparkPeople – free resources, like food tracking, tracking weight loss, keeping track of how many days in a row you’ve met a goal (streaking), etc.
  6. Exercise bike – another bargain find… $50 for a nice recumbent bike. It doesn’t burn as many calories as the elliptical or kettlebells, but I can read or do crossword puzzles while on the bike.
  7. Exercise videos– more than 30 of them! I could do a different workout every night for more than a month – no boredom there!
  8. Bike – and a very nice bike trail in the area!
  9. My MP3 player – lots of music to listen to while working out
  10. Free podcasts for Couch to 5K workouts
  11. Fresh air outside! I can walk/jog on the roads around my house… pick a corner… .8 miles, 1.6 miles, or 3.2 miles!
  12. I have a treadmill in the basement, so I can go for long walks if the weather isn’t cooperating (can’t run on it, though… it’s more than 20 years old and the belt freezes up if you trying running).
  13. Portable DVD player – can be set in front of the treadmill to provide entertainment for long walks
  14. I have the church gym at my disposal. I could do laps before or after work. Doing more than 50 laps around the gym for a 5K is boring, but it’s a good workout!
  15. Weight Machine – when my husband changed jobs more than 20 years ago, there wasn’t a gym near his new job where he could stop and work out after work, so we bought a home weight machine. It’s a great resource, but it hasn’t been used much lately!
  16. Dumbbells, resistance bands, exercise tubing, balance ball – I probably could have given each of these their own number… but I’ll group them all together as exercise gadgetry I’ve accumulated over the years that could get more  use than it’s getting! I could say that I use the balance ball every day… but then I’d have to admit that it’s only to sit on it next to Bethany’s bed for prayer time each night! Not much of a workout there!
  17. My dry-erase board – I have a big page-sized picture frame on the fridge that I can slip a page into and check off with my dry-erase marker. That kind of “do this today” list can be motivating for me sometimes.
  18. My organizational skills. I’m good at making plans… not so good at following through on them, though! I’m working on it!
  19. Books! I’ve been reading “The Beck Diet Solution” and “Help, Hope and Healing for Eating Disorders.” Both are the kind of book you need to read slowly and take notes, and go back to over and over again.
  20. Prayer. This shouldn’t be at the end of the list. It should be at the top. Losing weight is hard. It’s going to be a life-long struggle for me, and I don’t need to face it alone. I forget, though. Instead of praying for strength, I try to do things on my own. Like I said, I’m working on it!
I've got plenty of tools. I just need to put them to work!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Disconnected Evening

It was strange to leave work today, knowing I was coming home to a house without phone or internet. Yesterday I was running late coming home from work, so I tried to call Bethany to let her know I was on the way home. The phone rang and rang and the answering machine didn’t kick in, which usually happens only when the power is out. The town fire alarm had just gone off, and I could hear lots of sirens, so I figured maybe  a car accident had taken out a utility pole and knocked out power to the house. Nope. I got home and found out that our phone had no dial tone, inside or outside at the box. I called Verizon and found out they couldn’t come out to fix it until Friday. Lovely.

So, with no landline and no internet (we only have dial-up at home), I came home to a quiet house. Bethany was staying late for a play practice, and Ron would pick her up after work. No phone messages, no e-mail, no Facebook. To be honest, I felt sort of lost. I have an ad running in this week’s Pennysaver to sell a clay pot (SchlemmerTopf), so this isn’t the best time for the phone to be out of service. Hopefully if anybody is trying to call, they’ll try again tomorrow when the phone is back on.

Eventually, I felt sort of free. I pulled out my to-do list and started to attack it. I made Ron’s favorite bread, I stripped the bed and put on sheets more suited to our new spring temperatures (and in the process found a sock Bethany has been missing for a while. Apparently it got tangled up in the sheets during the laundry. I found the match in the mis-matched sock bucket and put both socks on Snowball to surprise Bethany when she came home.

I cleaned up my desk area, caught up on paperwork and bills, got ahead on my current puzzle-proofing assignment, and made a big batch of roast cauliflower to go with dinner.

There were plenty of times when I’d think of something I wanted to check on the internet, or a message I wanted to give somebody. Oh, well, I just added it to my to-do list for later in the week. I think having internet access available can really sap my time, since I will go online to look something up quickly and get drawn in for fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes… or more!

So tonight, I’m not really missing the phone and the internet all that much. I took time to smell my “Administrative Professionals Day” flowers. I got myself more organized than I’ve been in a long time. I took time to pray about some things that have been weighing heavy on me today. I did ten miles on my exercise bike.

I’m typing this into a plain old Word document to upload to my blog tomorrow, when I’m back to being connected again. I think that an evening of being disconnected has helped me to step back and evaluate my time management skills a bit more. Let’s see if I can finish off my to-do list by this time next week!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Administrative Assistant's Day

As a church secretary, there are days when I love my job, and days when it makes me want to scream. What better day than "Administrative Assistant's Day" (formerly known as Secretary's Day) to publish a few helpful hints on how to make your life a little bit easier for your church secretary.

1. Give me time to worship on Sundays - so please don't show up at my office door just before the service, expecting me to make a pile of copies for you. Allow me to have some quiet time before the service to quiet myself and get ready for the service.

2. If you have an announcement or item to add to the church calendar, please write it down for me. If you just mention it in passing, I'm likely to forget it or mix up the details by the time I get to my desk. You may say, "Oh, it's just one date...", but I may have three other people stop me with similar requests before I get to my office.

3. Don't grill me for confidential information.

4. Don't use me as a go-between if you feel wronged by somebody. The Biblical thing for you to do is to go to the person who has offended you, and work it out with them (Matthew 18).

5. Read your bulletin. I should have made this point #1. One of the most frustrating things about being a church secretary is the number of times this conversation happens:
"I didn't know there was a church dinner today. How come you don't let us know about things like this?"
"It was in the bulletin for three weeks, announced from the pulpit, and in the announcement slides."
"Oh, I never read the bulletin or watch the slides, and I usually come in too late for announcements."

Yes, I've had that conversation more than once... probably once a month. It makes me want to tear my hair out! 

6. Be gracious in pointing out errors. I try to proofread the bulletin, prayer lists and newsletters that go out, but sometimes errors slip through. Chances are if the prayer sheet on Wednesday night has five typos in it, it has been a crazy, busy night in the office, and a nasty comment about the mistakes might be the last straw that drives me to tears.

7. Let me know if your contact information changes. When I do bulk mailings, if a person's address has changed, there's a charge for forwarding it and notifying me of the change. If you move and let me know ASAP, I can update my lists and avoid any charges. 

8. If you borrow stuff, please put it back from you got it from when you're done. That way, I don't spend half an hour trying to find my stapler! 

9. Be willing to serve! One of my least-favorite parts of the job is when I have to get volunteers for ministries. As of today, we've been asking for help in Junior Church for over a month, and still have a month open. The nursery is always looking for more help. We're about the run the bulletin insert for VBS helpers for the third time, because we barely got any responses the first two times. I hate groveling... and nagging... but it takes a lot of help to keep a big church with lots of ministries going. 

10. Try to keep after-hour calls to my house to a minimum. I understand if there's an emergency and you want to get the prayer chains going immediately, but I have people calling me for addresses for members who moved away years ago, or to ask if they're signed up for something. I don't bring that information home with me. Please call during office hours, or leave a message on my voicemail and I'll get back to it as soon as I get in for work. 

11. Pray for me. The job can be stressful at times, trying to keep hundreds of people informed and happy. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Time for a final push

I had a "aha" moment on Friday. My husband and I were staying at a hotel with our 13-year-old daughter, who was competing in a talent competition on Saturday morning. My puppeteer/pianist/singer is NOT a morning person, so we drove about 2 hours downstate and stayed overnight so she wouldn't have to get up at 5:30 am to leave on Saturday morning.

While we were at the hotel, I took advantage of the hotel's pool and workout room to do 2/3 of a sprint triathlon. I stepped off the length of the pool and calculated that it would take 75 laps to go 600 yards. That took me about 35 minutes. Then I figured I'd do 20 miles on the exercise bike, but the bike shorted out when I tried turning on the fan, so I ended up on the treadmill for a 5K. The trouble is, there was a full-wall mirror in front of the treadmill, so for one hour, I was treated to the view of my legs in shorts. I didn't like what I saw. How come chubby legs are so adorable on babies, and not so adorable on grown-ups?

 <--- Cute!

Not cute! -->  

In a little over 4 weeks, I will be on a Hawaiian Cruise to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I don't think I will be 100% comfortable wearing shorts in public and showing those chubby knees. 
As of yesterday, I had 30 days to go, so I issued myself a challenge: to get out for a jog or walk every day for 30 days, and to stick to healthy eating for 30 days. I plan to jog 5 or 6 days per week, and walk the other days. So far, so good... I've been jogging to the corner and back (.8 mile - but I jog the entire distance). Yesterday I was 11 seconds above my best time. This morning, I beat my best time by 5 seconds. Once I get a little more comfortable with the .8 jog, I will add a little more and then a little more (adding the subdivision across from our house will get it up to 1.1 miles, then to the other corner and back will be 1.6 miles). 

I am upset with myself that I didn't stick to my diet and exercise program more diligently, but I'm not giving up. Little by little, bit by bit, I'll get there! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Back to Basics

It's been a while since I blogged. You know that old saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"? Well, I sort of fell off the diet and exercise wagon, and didn't have much to say of a positive nature, so I was silent.

I got busy and let exercise slide. I got careless and started letting junk slip back into my meals. I avoided the scale a bit too much. On April 1st, I got up and hopped on the scale... and found that I was up ten pounds from my lowest. Not good. Not good at all. Seven weeks away from a dream trip to Hawaii and I was no closer to my goal weight than I was in January.

I decided to recommit for the month of April. I made up a challenge chart so I could check off when I got in my workouts, drank my water, and stuck to clean eating. In honor of April Fool's Day, I called it the "Stop Fooling Yourself" challenge and used a picture of Mr. T to decorate the page.

My first weigh-in, after just three days of working out and eating according to the LiveFit Revolution Phase One eating plan, showed that I was six pounds lighter. Of course, my April 1st weigh-in had been after quite a "bad food day". I was probably retaining a lot of water from the pretzels I ate. 

A week into my new resolutions, I'm feeling a lot more energetic and much better overall. I'll admit, I'm also feeling a bit sore. Yesterday's kettlebell workout used some muscles I haven't used for a while. It's a good sore, though. It shows that I'm making progress.  I'm hoping that by the end of the month, I will be seeing a brand new "lowest weight in more than twenty years" number on the scale. 

The moral of my story? When I saw that discouraging number on the scale on April 1st, I could have given in to the old way of thinking:  "You're never going to get to your goal. You're always going to be heavy. Just give up and eat whatever you want." I didn't give up. I got back on track. You don't need to be perfect to lose weight. You just need to be committed.