Monday, January 29, 2018

Remembering 2017

I always seem to struggle getting started on my year-end blog post. What in the world did I do last year? Will people be interested in what I have to say? Maybe I should give up doing this. How am I going to come up with anything? I didn't do anything special enough to write about. These are the thoughts that enter my head.

Then I take a deep breath and begin to list things that I did. This is followed by more thoughts entering my mind. Okay, that's a start, but it's not enough. No, that's too long to write about. I can't include that. It's too trivial.

What's with all this negativity anyway? That's not who I want to be. So I follow the advice of so many writers - just start writing.

It's true what they say. Once I get started the thoughts begin to flow and out comes an entire year of fun-filled, inspiring, and challenging experiences that helped shape the person I am today. Suddenly, all the questions and negative thoughts disappear. I don't necessarily have the answers to those questions, but having those answers simply don't matter anymore.

So, on Stephanie's birthday I present to you my year-end post for 2017!

1. Adaptive Climbing - Adaptive Climbing was new to me. I found out about this through my Spina Bifida support group and we made it one of our monthly activities in 2017.  It was indoor rock climbing with assistance and it was an epic challenge for me! My yoga experience helped me get as far as I did up the wall. Mentally, I stopped to take deep breaths when I needed to. Physically, some of the positions I had to put my legs in felt like yoga stretches. I didn't climb all the way to the top, but there's always 2018! ;-)

On a related note, the adults Spina Bifida group really took off in 2017! We averaged about 10 participants per event, which took place almost monthly. It is a rewarding experience to lead this group because I can see what a difference it makes for those who choose to participate. A few people in the group have helped me plan activities. We are not just a group anymore. We are a group of friends. We already have tentative plans for every month in 2018!

2. Full Year Without Blood Sugar Medication - 2016 was the year I was given the okay to stop taking my blood sugar medication, but 2017 was the first full calendar year I went without it. This is a path on which I plan to continue. Sometimes my blood sugar is in the normal range and sometimes it's just slightly above the normal range. Either way, I am accomplishing all of this only with healthy lifestyle habits and no medication. I've come a long way! I am grateful also that I have been able to share what I've learned throughout this journey with other people and I plan to expand on that in 2018.
Deepak Chopra
3. Meeting My Heroes - If you had told me in 2017 I will meet Deepak Chopra in person I would have brushed it off and called you crazy. Deepak Chopra has been one of the most influential people in my life over the past six years. It is largely through his teachings that I learned how to live a life of inner peace and joy, which continues to be a work in progress. To see him speak and then meet him afterwards was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I've ever had.

In 2017 I also had the opportunity to meet Jay Beagle from the Washington Capitals. I used to be able to meet the Caps more often when they practiced closer to home, but that all changed when they moved to a different practice facility. What a rare treat this was! I also got to see them practice just before the playoffs started, which is something I had been wanting to do for a long time.

Meeting Jay Beagle and seeing the Caps practice was all in the same birthday week when I also saw Beauty and the Beast at the local dinner theatre. This is one of my all-time favorite movies and I'm so grateful I got to see it live! I met the stars of the show, Belle and Beast, afterwards. A memorable week, for sure!

4. Writing - Pen to paper writing seems to almost be a lost art. It is something I've always enjoyed doing and I picked it up again in 2017. I wrote handwritten letters and thank you notes. I also started keeping an analog agenda book and a Gratitude Journal. I even wrote nonsense just for the sake of writing! I plan to do more pen to paper writing in 2018.

5. Photography and Cook-off Contest - In 2017 I entered two kinds of contests for the first time - photography and cooking/baking. Of course I wanted to win both contests, but I also entered for the purpose of expanding on two things I enjoy doing.

For the photography contest, I entered five photos which were among countless other photos that were voted on by the public. For the cook-off, I entered my blondies. I did not win either contest, but I enjoyed both of them. I learned a lot from the feedback I received and also from seeing other photographs and menu items that were entered. Putting into practice what I learned, I would enter both kinds of contests again when given the opportunity.
Mother's Day Love

Every year I complete this post I am always amazed at everything I've done in 12 months, and of course these are just some of the highlights. Some of it was planned, some of it was not. At the beginning of a new year, it's difficult for me to imagine living up to the year before. Then I realize it's not meant to be lived up to. It's mean to be enjoyed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Good Times

Seven years ago today Stephanie left this world.  In memory of her I'd like to share with you one of my favorite memories. Get ready to laugh!
I often spent a couple of nights at Stephanie's house on my vacations from teaching.  One of the things we loved to do was go shopping.  Walmart was a favorite store of ours, not just for their products (that was actually just a minor part of our adventures), but mostly for the the fun we had while there.
I would always use a motorized scooter while shopping and Stephanie would sometimes hang on to my scooter.  I'd drive and she would just glide along next to or behind me in her manual wheelchair.  It was like a mini two-car train.  This is how we'd cruise through the store.
One day when we went to Walmart we spent a whopping six hours there.  Six hours!  I honestly can't remember what we bought.  I just remember the fun time we had cruising through the store and laughing at pretty much everything.
Of course, after six hours of shopping one gets hungry.  There was a McDonald's in the Walmart, so we stopped there to eat.  We enjoyed a deliciously unhealthy meal that satisfied our hunger.
After that, we began heading out the door to go home.  I drove the motorized scooter out to her van so I didn't have to walk that far.  When we got to her van I realized I was missing something.  It wasn't our purchases.  We had all of that.  Can you guess what it was?
My crutches!!  I left my crutches in McDonald's! 

I had them in the basket that was attached to the motorized scooter I was driving, but for some reason I had taken them out and put them on the floor in McDonald's.  I'm sure there was a legitimate reason for this, I just can't remember what it was.
After we were able to contain ourselves from laughing hysterically, I went back in the store to retrieve my extra pair of legs.  Thankfully, they were right where I left them.
To this day I always think of this experience when I drive the motorized scooters in stores.  If you see me cruising in the scooter chuckling to myself, it's probably because I am remembering this day.  I can't help but giggle when I think of it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Remembering 2016 on Stephanie's Birthday

It has become a tradition for me to reflect on the previous year on Stephanie's birthday.  It seems to be getting tougher every year for me to sit down and type.  I spend a lot of time reflecting, but not too much time putting it all into words.  I'm always glad I did it, though, because it helps me reflect on what I've accomplished over the years.  This year I am starting this post just two days before her birthday with the intention, as always in the past few years, of publishing it on her birthday.  Here are some highlights.
1.  Zumba Instructing No More - The one and only resolution I made at the beginning of 2016 was to follow my heart.  I made a promise to myself that I would remain open to change even if it's totally off course from what I had planned. 
And so it went for Zumba instructing.  I had the time, but my heart was not completely invested in it.  I struggled to learn the choreography.  It wasn't coming easy to me, so if I was going to follow through with my goal of instructing I knew I had to invest more time than I was.  It got to the point where I wasn't enjoying it anymore.  That was when I realized I had to take a step back and make a change.  I had a great deal of support, but I eventually decided not to pursue it.  I pondered it the entire year and in December I finally canceled my membership.  I have no regrets about going as far as I did with it.  I tried something new, met new people, and up until I got tired of it, I had fun.  I have a new appreciation for Zumba instructors.  They have the kind of passion for it that I simply did not have.  I wholeheartedly believe that when you're truly passionate about something you will find the time and a way to make it happen.  With regards to Zumba, that wasn't me.
Now that I'm not analyzing every piece of music I hear (that's what I was doing when I was trying to learn the choreography) I am once again enjoying taking classes.  I still go twice a week and I have no intention of giving that up.  I even had the opportunity to take a Master Class and dance with an amazing instructor who came all the way from Lithuania! 
2.  Spina Bifida Association of the National Capital Area - 2016 was the first full year I was a member of the board.  I am the only one on the board who has Spina Bifida.  With them, I went bowling for the first time in I don't know how long.  I couldn't help feeling even more "important" that is was on a military base.  My main goal as a member of the board is to organize activities for adults with SB.  Last year I planned two activities - game day where we played board games and a day in October when we went for a stroll in the park.  With the exception of January, events such as these will be planned once a month in 2017.  On the date that Stephanie passed away (six years later in 2016) I donated to this all-volunteer organization.   

3.  Painting - For the first time, in 2016 I participated in Paint Nite and I did something similar at a different local place.  I did spring and summer paintings and I hope to eventually complete the set with fall and winter works of art!
Just three weeks after one Paint Nite, there was a rare and devestating flood in that area.  I'm grateful to have played a small role in restoration efforts.  I participated in a couple of benefit opportunities.
4. Photography - in 2016 I continued taking walks almost daily and this year I developed an strong interest in photography, especially of nature.  I started taking an online photography class that I'm still enjoying.  Knowing how and having the confidence to use the manual settings on my camera have opened up a whole new world of photography for me! 
5.  Diabetes Medication No More - 2016 was the year I was given the okay to stop taking my blood sugar medication!  I went for a three month period without it to see how I would do and I continued to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.  I tried to eliminate my cholesterol medication, but my LDL went back up.  So, I'm back on my cholesterol medication, but continue to do well without the diabetes medication.  This was a goal I had almost from the time I found out I had Type II Diabetes in 2009 (after I got over the initial "feel sorry for myself" phase).
So, 2016 was both a year of letting go as well as exploring new experiences.  I am excited about the possibilities for 2017 as I continue to live in the present, but look toward the future!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chocolate Chip Pecan Blondies

*Choose organic whenever possible.
       1 cup unsalted butter
       1 cup maple syrup
       2 large eggs
       1 vanilla bean
       1 ½ cups flour
       1 teaspoon salt
       1 cup dark chocolate chips
       1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

            1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
            2.  Toast (heat in oven) pecans for 10 minutes.  Set aside and let cool.
            3.  In a large bowl, beat the melted butter with the maple syrup.
            4.  Scrape out vanilla bean.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla bean.
            5.  On low speed, mix in the flour and salt until just blended.  Do not over-mix.
            6.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips and pecans. 

7.  Transfer the batter to 9-inch square pan.  (I use stoneware.)

            8.  Bake for 40 minutes, until top is lightly golden and a fork inserted into middle until it comes out relatively clean.  (Ignore melted chocolate.)

9.  Let cool completely, cut into 16 squares, and remove from pan. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Remembering 2015 on Stephanie's Birthday

Happy Birthday to my Best Friend Forever, Stephanie!

Wow.  I was starting to feel bad about not getting this post up sooner, then I realized I published my 2014 year-end post on the same date last year - Stephanie's birthday.  Whew!  So I'm not late.

I shouldn't feel bad about this anyway.  The reason I haven't posted it sooner is because I've been spending less time on the computer and more time experiencing the real world...and getting healthier in the process!

Let's take a look back at some of the highlights of another fulfilling year.

1. Zumba Instructor Training - In 2014 I took my Zumba experience to another level.  With the encouragement of my instructors, family, and friends, I took the training that certified me to teach.  I am not sure in which capacity I want to teach it yet, but I am excited about my options.  One idea I have is to somehow use it to support charities rather than teach an ongoing class.  Time will tell and the possibilities are endless!

In addition to the exercise aspect of Zumba, I also got certified to teach the nutrition component - Plate by Zumba.  I am so excited about this, as healthy, delicious, and easy-to-prepare food is one of my greatest passions!

2. Walking - 2015 became the year of the walks for me.  In early April I began walking almost on a daily basis.  I feel stronger than I did before, both mentally and physically.  I remember thinking to myself, "I'll work my way up to being able to walk to my Zumba class."  Turns out I didn't have to work my way up.  I was successful the first time I attempted it!  Now, walking to Zumba isn't enough!  When weather permits, I walk 20-30 minutes.  I thought summer would be most challenging, but as long as I got my walks in early in the morning (which is when I prefer to walk, anyway), I was fine.  The real challenge has been winter with all the cold and snow.  Come spring, I know I will appreciate my nature walks even more!

3.  Tree Planting - My walks inspired me to do something different in memory of Stephanie last year.  I arranged to have five trees planted to mark the five years it's been since her passing.  These trees will breathe new life into the world and will be a reminder of the life Stephanie lived here on Earth.  It is also a reminder of how she spiritually lives on in my heart.

4.  Advocating for People with Disabilities - Last year's Walk-N-Roll event was an even bigger success than the previous year.  My team raised more money than we did in 2014 and we came in first place for fundraising!  The team was also the largest one I've ever had.

In addition to this, in November I was asked to join the board for another spina bifida group and I accepted.  I was also able to convince my favorite grocery store, which is locally owned and sells produce that is only organic, to purchase a motorized scooter.  This makes shopping so much healthier, easier, and enjoyable for me! 

5.  Defeating Diabetes - This one probably deserves an entire post or even a series of posts.  Without a doubt, my greatest accomplishment of 2015 was defeating diabetes.  The news came in December that my A1c was within the normal range.  This is the first time it's been in the normal range since I started checking it on a regular basis almost seven years ago.  I am on the high end of normal and I know that it could go above normal again.  I will continue working on it so that I eventually need not worry about it going into the pre-diabetes range again.  On a related note, 2015 was the first entire calendar year in I don't know how long that I didn't have any soda!

Every year when I write my year-end blog post, I wonder how I'm going to continue to grow the following year.  It sometimes seems like an impossibility.  Much of what I accomplished in 2015 was not on my agenda early in the year.  The lesson I take from this is that I should follow my heart, go with the flow, and have the courage to change if something I'm doing doesn't feel right.  Things will work out exactly the way they're meant to if I allow them to.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Taking a Break

Dear Readers,

I will be taking a break from blogging for the remainder of June so that I can focus my attention on other things.  Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on my blog.  I sincerely appreciate your support.  I invite you to take this time to read previous posts you may have missed in the past or reread ones you've enjoyed.  You can also find me on Etsy by clicking here.  Take care and see you in July!