Silver Linings Do Exist

For the past week, this was my perch every morning.  Expresso cup (and camera) in hand, alone, or in the company of one or both of my little ones, while the Husband slept, I watched the sun rise.  Day after day, I was graced with the most stunning displays like the one below.

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Until one morning, I woke up before dawn and saw storm clouds in the distance.  As the sky lightened with the impending dawn, I realized that it wasn’t just storm clouds that were approaching – it was a storm.  You could literally see the rain teeming into the ocean.

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I will admit that I was a little disappointed by the prospect of rain on our vacation, but I decided to stay put and watch the show that nature was orchestrating.

And then, just a few minutes later, I adjusted my focus up from the rain to the sky above and saw this – a literal silver lining to the storm cloud.

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This of course got me thinking about life in general.  When we are deep in the midst of a storm, it’s hard to take our focus away from the storm.  But if we look up, beyond the immediate chaos of the storm, we might just see a silver lining.

While I took a break from writing daily intentions while we were away, I found the habit of watching the sunrise was equally, if not more, life affirming.  There is something so soul-touching about literally watching the start of a new day.  So, while watching the sun rise isn’t exactly possible where I live in the city, or given the early morning schedules that we have in our house, I am hoping to do my best to at least incorporate this little ritual into my life at some points along the way . . . until we can go back to paradise and take up where we left off.

I learned a lot more about myself on this vacation too, though.

I learned that I can’t sit still for very long . . . that I do love reading good novels (I made my way through several excellent ones and took a nice break from books of the self-help variety) .  . . that North Americans are far more uptight than our European counterparts when it comes to our kids (7:30 dinner with kids at home . . . no way . . . on vacation . . .absolutley. and they survived . . . and enjoyed it . . . and didn’t melt down) . . . that I can sit comfortably in a restaurant at lunch while wearing nothing more than a bikini and flip flops (when you’ve struggled with your body image for most of your life, this is a pretty big accomplishment) . . . that swimming with dolphins is slightly terrifying and definitely not what I would term “therapeutic” altho they are the most remarkable animals . . . and that there are some really amazing and interesting and wonderful people in this world, and I hope I get to see some of them again . . . oh . . . and I reaffirmed my love affair with champagne . . . because really, champagne tastes good at any hour of the day!

What’s in the Way . . . Is the Way

A few weeks ago, I read this great post on the Zen Habits website entitled “Our Everloving Quest to Control Our Lives”.  What stuck with me from this post was the concept that just when we think we have achieved “control” over our lives, something happens to show us just how little control we have, which in turn can be quite disappointing . . .

Since the start of this blog and the start of the new school year, I have been working through this concept of letting go of (some) control and just letting the universe take over.  Ironically, it has been by implementing some set routines (I’m not ready to give up all my control yet . . .) that I’ve been able to do this.  Little things like menu planning, packing the kids snacks before I go to bed, packing all the activity bags on the weekend . . . all help to free up time so that I can spend the time I have with the kids, the Husband, myself in the best way possible.

That being said, I still face my daily struggles . . . especially in the mornings.  As I’ve said before, my kids wake up early.  Like 5am early.  And the Husband is up at 4:30 to go to the gym.  Which means, as a mom, I’m “on duty” before I’ve had any time to get myself organized.  With my re-newed focus on my nutrition, one area that needed attention was my breakfast.  In the hustle and bustle of having 2 kids up so early, getting their breakfast on the table, lunches (for me and the Husband) made, and everything else that goes on in a house in the early hours of the morning, my breakfast often gets put on the back burner (literally) until 7:30 (which, says the Coach isn’t exactly ideal).

Every morning for the last few weeks, I vow to get my breakfast first thing and then deal with everything else after.  And every morning, I get caught up in doing other things, and end up not eating until far too late.

As is so often the case, a phrase that I needed to hear came up several times over the last week: “What’s in the way is the way”.  Turns out this quote is actually the title of a book by Mary O’Malley that is reputed to be life changing (yup, I’ve added it to my reading list).  While I haven’t read the book, in reading about it, I found this excerpt from it:

“To open to the way things actually are, rather than always trying to make Life be what you think it should be, is the most courageous and healing thing you can do.”

I’ve always worked under the premise that the kids should be happy and occupied doing something before I set to work on the things I need to do.  But after thinking about this quote, I realized, I can have my cake (or at least breakfast) and eat it too . . .

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This is the scene in our house in the mornings now.  No more kids off in the family room playing (aka asking for help from me every 2 minutes and preventing me from getting stuff done).  Instead they’re with me.  They love to peel, chop and portion out fruits and veggies.  So why not engage them in something they like doing that is simultaneously useful???  While they’re doing that, I have time to make my breakfast.  And then we can all sit down and eat together!

I’m not naive though.  I understand that just like everything, this won’t be the scene every morning.  BUT, as long as I’m prepared, I can roll with it and make things work.

And one of the ways I do that is by having lots of breakfast alternatives at the ready so if need be, I can forgo my usual eggs and veggies and grab something that I can get ready in just a few seconds.  Which brings me to my latest recipe . . . nut butter and oatmeal bars.  These work great as bars, or crumbled up and served with greek yogurt.  The Husband even likes these and has been known to snack on them (which is pretty high praise)!

Nut Butter & Oatmeal Bars

  • Servings: lots
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 500g jar of a nut butter of your choosing (I used crunchy peanut butter)

1/2 cup of raw honey

4 cups of organic oats

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the peanut butter and the honey, stirring to combine.
  2. Measure the oats into a bigger bowl.
  3. Prepare a 9×18″ pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  4. Once the peanut butter and honey mixture is melted and well mixed, add it to the bowl with the oats and stir well so all the oats are coated in the mixture.
  5. Press the oat mixture into the pan using the back of a spoon or the bottom of a glass to really pack it in well.
  6. Put the pan in the fridge so the mixture hardens up.
  7. Store in the fridge – either cut into bars, or crumble up and store in a container to use in a pinch.  This makes a lot, so you may want to freeze some of it!

In Which I Discover that I Can be Competitive, but Still Have FUN!

I did the 2nd workout for the Crossfit Games on Friday afternoon.  It was a challenging workout in which you have 4 minutes to complete 25 toes to bar, 50 double under skips, and then 15 squat cleans.  If you can get that all done in 4 minutes, you get an extra 4 minutes to repeat the workout, but doing only 13 squat cleans at a heavier weight.  If you’re interested, here’s the full workout.

I went into the workout hoping to finish just one round.  And I shocked myself when I finished the first round in 3 minutes.  As fatigue set in, the 2nd round of 25 toes to bar got tough.  The skipping was way harder than it should have been.  And I ended up with just one minute to try and get all 13 lifts in . . . I ended up finishing just 9.

As physically drained as I was after the workout, I was emotionally and mentally ecstatic.  I had done better than I wanted to, but more importantly, better than I thought I could do.

By late Friday night, I had recovered enough to take a peek at the Games leaderboard.  To my absolute shock, my score was stacking up to be good.  As in good enough to put me ahead of about 85% of all the participants.

All weekend, I watched the leaderboard, expecting to see my place fall . . . but a funny thing happened, while my name fell down as more people submitted their scores, it didn’t fall down as fast or as far as I thought it would. . . . Hmmmmmmmmm . . . based on the scores, if I re-did the workout, and managed to get in those last 4 lifts, I could move ahead by a lot on the leaderboard . . . cue my competitive spirit and my desire to prove to myself (and those around me) that I am ok at this thing called crossfit . . .

For the rest of the weekend, and especially all last night, I visualized the workout, strategized where I could pick up valuable seconds, and planned how I was going to attack it.  But something just wasn’t sitting right with me.

Before I could get to the gym this morning though, I had a coffee date with a few friends.  As I was preparing to leave, my friends joked with me about how I could get competitive, how I was a true Type A personality and that perhaps there needed to be a qualifier on the extent of my Type A-ness (as in I was Type A to the infinite power).

I was still laughing to myself about it all as I got into the car.  And then I had my a-ha moment.  What wasn’t sitting right with me was that I had, for all intents and purposes, killed the workout.  BUT, I had had FUN doing it.  Since I had no expectation of doing well, I had put zero pressure on myself to do well; I was able to just put my heart into it and do my best.  And it had felt amazing.

I still went to the gym.  I still warmed up.  And it took me the better part of an hour to admit my decision out loud . . . I didn’t re-do the workout.

The way I worked out on Friday, I finally proved to myself that I can still be competitive, but have FUN.  And since there’s no chance of me ever getting to the Crossfit Games, if I’m not having fun doing this, then why on earth would I be doing it?  I can still be Type A (to the infinite power) in the way I handle my training, and preparation for things like these weekly workouts, but I can also turn it off when the work is done, step back, and be proud of my accomplishments.

PS: As of right now, I’m ranked 482/5,283 in Canada East . . . yup, I may be having fun with this all, but I’m still checking the leaderboard!

 

 

The Story Behind My Pull Up Grips

One of my most vivid Crossfit memories is the day I tried to complete the 14.4 Crossfit Games workout.  I was so new to Crossfit, I could barely do 10 toes-to-bar, let alone 50, let alone do 50 after a 60-calorie row.  That workout almost broke me – it is entirely thanks to a VERY calming and patient coach and a super supportive judge (Carlo & Sara THANK YOU!!!) that I persisted through all 14 minutes of torture.

That being said, my hands didn’t hold up so well through that wod.  I was left with torn calluses, on not one, but BOTH my hands.  I had tried to protect them – but no chalk or tape on earth could have withstood the combination of my death grip on the bar and my wild swinging in at attempt to get my toes to touch the bar.

And so I started to investigate pull up grips.  I had a pair shipped from Australia (they were supposed to be the best).  But they just didn’t work for me.  And so, I decided to design my own.  And the result worked!  I’ve been using my pull up grips for a year and half now, and I love them.  They work well for me, they protect my hands, and I find them so comfortable that I’m quite happy to leave them on for a whole wod.  They’re also fully washable, so you can just throw them in the machine if they get a little dirty . . .

As I’ve convinced more friends to join Crossfit, and the AMAZING box I go to – Crossfit AIO  – more people have asked me for their own grips.  I made a pair for one of the guys who told me a few weeks ago that they had literally changed his life.

If you’re interested, I’d be happy to make some for you too!  Just send me an email at nehotson@gmail.com and we can get the process started!

Saying Goodbye to Practice February and How it All Came Together Thanks to the Crossfit Games

For the month of February, I “practiced” on a daily basis.  While I chose a rather broad theme to “practice” (“What would love do”), I found by focusing on this theme, I ended up practicing a whole lot of other, smaller things that I might not otherwise have chosen to focus on, and on the whole, I’m a whole lot happier for it . . . yes, I found joy in practicing.

Let me explain.  When you put things into the context of love, things that might otherwise seem like chores become a lot easier and more enjoyable to undertake.  I found this to be profoundly true when I used this logic on myself.  About half way through the month, I realized that despite eating pretty well, and exercising pretty consistently, my body just wasn’t looking the way it had a year ago, and I just didn’t feel as good as I would like to.  (To put this a bit into context, it’s been a bit of a rough year for me having been put back onto meds for a pituitary tumour after being off them for a year – my hormones are still stabilizing and it seems that some weight gain has been the end result of this medical experiment).

In the past, I would have beaten myself up for allowing myself to get bigger; workouts would have gotten longer, more intense, and caloric intake would have dropped.  But this month, I took a different approach.  I lovingly treated myself like I would treat the Husband or the kids if they came to me with a problem; I was patient with myself, I didn’t blame myself, and I quietly set about finding a solution.  In this case, that solution involved sitting down with the Coach, reviewing my training and my nutrition and getting back into the practice of writing down when and what I eat along with my daily workouts.  With just a few small changes, my weight started to drop, my energy levels started to go up, and I was palpably happier.

This weekend, the Crossfit Games Open started – for those of you who don’t know anything about Crossfit, this is a 5 week competition that anyone around the world can participate in.  Each Thursday night, a workout is revealed, and participants must complete the workout and submit their scores (each workout is scored) by Monday night.  The top men and women in each region around the world go on to compete at a regional competition, from which the top men and women then go on to compete at the Crossfit games.  I participated in the “Open” two years ago.  It was a terrifying yet thrilling experience and I loved it.  Each week I loved seeing how well I completed the workout compared to the thousands of other people in the competition.  But each week I also realized how much work I needed to do in order to get better at Crossfit – I turned something I had loved to do into a chore that I pursed with dogged perseverance, and in the end, there were some unpleasant consequences to my actions.

Once I was able to get back to that place of fun in the gym, and working out for the pure love of movement and physical activity, without the pressure of constantly needing to reach specific goals in specific time frames, I became happier, and more excited about my workouts, and decided never to risk doing another Crossfit Games again.

Fast forward to this Sunday – the first workout of the 2016 Crossfit Games was announced last Thursday night.  Of course I watched the announcement, and was prepared to cheer on all my friends at the gym as they completed their workouts.  But there was NO WAY that I was going to sign up to do it myself.  I walked into the gym on Sunday, expecting to do a partner wod with my training partner . . . but before I knew it, I had barbell at my feet, a judge to my right and a countdown clock beeping out the seconds until the workout began.

This particular workout contained a movement called “Chest to Bar” pull ups.  This means, that each time you pull up to the bar, your chest, at a point below the collar bones, must hit the bar.  Judges are told to hold on to the support of the pull up bar so they can literally “feel” each time you hit the bar.  I’ve said before .  . . regular pull ups are a challenge for me.  Chest to bar pull ups seem like an impossibility.

But, the rush of adrenaline that kicks in during one of these competitions, combined with the amazingly supportive atmosphere of my gym . . . and I managed to eek out FORTY chest to bar pull ups during the course of the 20 minute long workout.  Now, to get those 40 “reps”, I think I tried at least 80 . . . and spent the last 5 minutes of the workout struggling to get the last set of 8 reps done.  When the time on the clock mercifully ran out, my immediate reaction was to get upset with myself.  “Why haven’t you worked harder on your pull ups” … “Why haven’t you worked harder to get lighter” …  “You could have done so much better if you had dedicated yourself to working on your pull ups” … “Why” … “Why” … “Why”.

And then I stopped.

What would love do.

And then I smiled.

If the Husband or the kids had just done the workout I had done, I wouldn’t berate them.  I’d hug them and tell them how proud I was of them, how amazed I was that they’d done what they’d done.  And in that moment, I was able to release myself from the negative self talk, embrace the moment, and be proud of myself.

Sunday night brought my family together ostensibly to celebrate my birthday.  But inside, I was celebrating so much more.

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