Compassion and justice aren’t optional

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Many times in my life, several things I’m working on or doing converge into one lesson. The things I’m reading, thinking about and doing seem to fit nicely together so that I can “kill two (or three) birds with one stone,” so to speak.

Today I was determined to make my Bible and devotion time a priority:

Get the dogs fed (sweet mercy, most days that’s gotta be No. 1 in my household), microwave my refrigerated coffee (No. 2? Most definitely!), then the Bible App.

I hate to admit it, but I’m STILL a work in progress. (Note to self: You always will be.)

I still haven’t disciplined myself to do Bible first, email and social media notifications second. Still working on that.

But I’m going to put that discussion aside for now, because today at least two of the things merged.

The things?

Day 6 of the 30-day Practice in Public Challenge. that I’ve been participating in.

Day 1 of a devotional reading plan in the Bible App. I did this same 40-day plan four years ago, but as I finished my latest plan, rather than search for a completely new one I decided to take a look back at the 68 plans I had already completed.

The plan “Restart: Compassion and Justice” caught my eye because: 1) It touches on issues that I think are extremely important in our society, especially lately. 2) My pastor started a new sermon series last Sunday called “The Invisibles: Seeing the People that God Sees.”

The scripture for Day 1 is Genesis 1:26-27 (I read it in the New Living Translation):

“Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

And from the commentary:

“As we understand and live this out, our lives reflect the One who created us. Instead of oppressing others, we empower them; instead of building fences, we get involved in the lives of others and work toward their good. We stand up for justice, speak out for the powerless, and love the unloved.”

My question (primarily to myself, but to all of us):

What I am doing, other than believing (and occasionally stating in public) that racism, bigotry and favoritism are wrong? That looking down on someone who’s homeless, mentally ill, in prison — or maybe just “different” from us — is NOT okay.

What am I doing to show “the least of these” that I care, that God cares? That no matter what society says they are — broken beyond repair, unworthy, unlovable — God says they are created in His image and, therefore, are of INFINITE value. No one can put a price tag on that which God has determined is invaluable.

His redemption covers all of our brokenness. It covers our sin, our struggles … our bigotry, arrogance and apathy.

But the sacrifice God made for our sin (Jesus’ death and resurrection) doesn’t give us license to spend our days living for ourselves, as if being redeemed means freedom from responsibility.

So, what am I going to do this weekend to “stand up for justice, speak out for the powerless, and love the unloved”?

For starters, I’ve just taken 30 seconds to add a reminder to my Google calendar. Monday I’m going to contact a local agency where I’ve been wanting to volunteer. This agency helps the unwanted have life. I need to be a part of that again, as I was 30 years ago when I had more energy and optimism. It’s time to hit refresh.

And I’m going to spend some extra time thinking through this question with more intention: What else can I do?

So that’s me.

What are YOU going to do?

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Book review: Back to Bremen by Cecelia Wilson

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The following week our orders arrived at the house. Our family had been directed to leave Bremen for reassignment to Saxony in eastern Germany, which had been spared the bombing the majority of the country had sustained. The larger the family, the more likely permission was given to evacuate, so we would be one of the first families leaving our neighborhood. … I remember being sad and excited at the same time. None of us wanted to leave, but we were also more than eager to escape bombs, death, and fear.

– Excerpt from Back to Bremen

By the time Edith Ropke was 3 years old, she was well acquainted with the horrors of war.

In 1939, Edith, seven of her eight siblings and their mother, Marta, could not have foreseen the devastation they would experience as they endured evacuation, separation, hunger, illness and loss before making the weeks-long journey back to their hometown of Bremen, Germany.

With Father conscripted to service — whisked off in the middle of a family meal — the rest of the Ropke family had to carry on with Mutti (Mother) and eldest brother Gunter, not yet 10 years old, in charge.

(That is, until just before Gunter turned 14 and was, himself, ordered to report for duty.)

Throughout the six-year journey that unfolds for us in Cecelia Wilson’s Back to Bremen, Marta Ropke’s mission was to keep her remaining family together, and safe.

Each child knew by heart Mutti’s mantra: Always stay together.

That mindset, Marta’s humor amid challenging situations, and her fierce love and determination to see every family member safe, is at the heart of Back to Bremen, the true story told with heart and skill by Cecelia Wilson.

Most of the World War II books I’ve read are told from the perspective of the soldiers or the Jews or — in my favorite book of all time, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom — the families trying to save Jews from Hitler’s brutal Nazis.

In the case of Back to Bremen, the story is told from the perspective of a German girl whose family was thrust into the thick of it and remained …

Well, if I went any further I’d be giving away too much. (I hate spoilers. Don’t you?)

You’ll have to buy the book, read Edith and Marta’s story, then come back here (or, even better, visit the author’s website) and tell us what you thought of it.

I’m serious. Buy it. Read it. Share it.

OLD MEMORIES

My family and Cecelia’s family have been friends for 45 years — since the Taylors moved to Batesville, Ark., in 1972. We met at church, and church (a different one in a different town) is exactly where Cecelia met Edith Ropke Harris, whose story is told in Back to Bremen.

Edith and Cecelia sat for many hours over servings of popcorn and Dr Pepper, Cecelia marveling at Edith’s stories and taking copious notes, grateful that she and her friend had finally found the time and the circumstances to make good on Cecelia’s promise to tell the tale of Marta Ropke and the journey back to Bremen with her children.

I had the privilege of meeting Edith and one of her daughters, Barbara, at a book signing a few months ago. That’s how long ago I promised Cecelia I’d read and review her book.

SIGH OF RELIEF!

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a friend says, “Do you like my new haircut” (and you don’t) or, “Do these pants make my butt look big” (and they do)?

I had a twinge of that feeling when I found out that Cecelia had published Back to Bremen.

I knew she was a part-time writer — I’d read one or two of her pieces in Searcy Living magazine — but when I heard that she had published her first major book, I was a bit nervous to read it.

I was afraid it wouldn’t be good.

And because I have an extreme aversion to false flattery, I would have to find some way of being a good friend without lying. Or I’d have to avoid Cecelia and her family for the rest of my life.

To join the Witness Protection Program or something.

Imagine my relief when I turned the last page and knew beyond a doubt that I could give the book a good review.

In the span of 36 hours (interrupted by church, sleep and feeding the dogs and people in mein Haus), I read the book, phoned Mom and gushed about it (she then read it and phoned Cecelia’s mom to gush about it), and fell asleep. The next morning at work, I gushed about it to my co-worker, who was also at the book signing, but I didn’t know this because I was too busy listening to Cecelia’s fascinating stories of the book, her writing career and the publishing process. (I’m a geek that way.)

LIVING HISTORY

It was such a joy to meet Edith and Barbara at the book signing. I asked Edith a couple of questions, had her and Cecelia sign my copy of Back to Bremen, introduced myself to Barbara, and marveled that I had the privilege of meeting someone who lived through such a time in our history.

If you’re on Facebook, take a look at Cecelia’s video of Edith talking to Fred Hilsenrath, a fellow survivor of WWII, as they converse for a few minutes in their native German.

And here’s where you can buy the book.

Go on. Buy a copy now! Then let us know how you like it. Comment here or on Cecelia’s page, wherever you’re the most comfortable. Be sure to like her Facebook page while you’re there.

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Could you use some help being more productive?

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Sometimes I’m amazed at how distracted I can get.

Even two years after reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (my favorite book of 2015), I still tend to have too many plates spinning in the air.

Michael Hyatt's free Personal Productivity Assessment

I’ve learned to say no to a lot of things. In fact, I’ve used my tip sheet “8 Tips for Saying No Graciously” as my subscriber freebie for the past couple of years because I want you to understand the importance of saying NO to the nonessentials and YES to what moves the needle in finding your purpose and living it out.

If you’ve hung around To Well With You (or me personally) for any length of time, you know that I follow Michael Hyatt and have learned a lot from him. He bills himself as “your virtual mentor,” and that really fits. His courses, books, podcasts, blog posts and other resources have taught me so much – it’s like a college major! In fact, he’s where I first heard about the book Essentialism.

Despite learning the importance of saying no, I still need occasional reminders to focus on what’s important. (I’m a WIP – a work in progress!) And I strive to pass along what I’ve learned and provide tools to help you do that, too.

PRODUCTIVITY ASSESSMENT

Michael Hyatt has created a Personal Productivity Assessment that takes just a couple of minutes to click through.

He created the short quiz to give you (and me) clarity in nine areas of your life, identify the areas that need improvement and help you get to the next level.

Take the assessment by clicking here, then come back and tell me how you did and what NEXT STEP you’re going to take to move the needle in the area(s) you need to focus on.

Wanna know how I came out in the productivity quiz?

Visit the To Well With You Facebook page, where I’ll start a conversation and share my results.

Also, please SHARE this post with a friend and invite her/him to take the short assessment and join the conversation. Remember, it’s FREE. 🙂 

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Well Well Well tips & tools – 09/04/17

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I haven’t brought you a Well Well Well in a while, so I guess it’s about time I do something about that.

Well Well Well is a way for me to share three tips, tricks, tools or other resources that I think you’ll find useful, informational or inspiring. And today I got a little carried away, so our “three” will be three themes, with sub-items. 🙂 Here we go:

SPIRITUAL

Some may call it serendipity; I call it a kick-in-the-pants by the Almighty. Read Meeting with God in the Airport, then come back and tell me if you’ve ever had an experience like this and how you responded.

ART/GOOD READS

As usual, I’m reading too many books at once, but I’m enjoying all of them. Here are two of the books I’m still reading (you might even say savoring), plus one about which I owe my friend a review.

I’ve been taking in a lot of content about creativity, writing and art lately. These are two of the books on my Kindle app:

Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. I follow Jeff and, in fact, helped him promote Real Artists Don’t Starve when he published it early this year. The more of Jeff’s content I consume – books, courses, challenges (including one I’m participating in right now – my500words) – the more I like him. If you’re any type of artist (writer, musician, painter, whatever) who wants to make money with your craft – or you need someone to help you understand why it’s OK to make money as an artist – read this book.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. Before the session on writing that I taught at last month’s Megaphone Summit, I asked my fellow Arkansas Women Bloggers for suggestions on books to give away. This was my third time to lead a class at Megaphone, and I always like to give away books. A Million Little Ways was one of the suggestions. I had never heard of it, but I’m truly enjoying looking at ways I can use my particular skills to serve my audience and help each person realize her/his God-given potential.

… And then there’s my friend Cecelia Wilson’s book, the true story of a German family displaced by World War II. Cecelia and I grew up in the same church, and our families have been friends for longer than we care to admit (but that doesn’t mean we’re old! 🙂 ). When Cecelia spoke at a local event this summer, I sat in the audience, bought the book, met the 81-year-old woman whose story Cecelia told (I met Edith’s daughter, too), and fell in love with Back to Bremen. You don’t have to be a World War II buff to enjoy this book; it’s the story of a mother’s love for her family. Check it out.

And I promise, Cecelia, I’m going to get that book review written soon!

CULTURE

Racism in our country weighs heavily on my mind, and the recent events in Charlottesville, Va., stirred me up again. Here are two posts about racism from a Christian perspective (actually, three, because I’m linking to a post I wrote a couple of years ago). In the second one, I urge you to make the time to watch the 22-minute video:

Responding Biblically to Racism by Bob Lepine of Family Life Today.

On Taking Sides Like Jesus Read it, watch the video, and decide to do something to help make the situation better.

We Are Every Tribe, Tongue and Nation, one of the guest posts I wrote in 2015 on Seth Godin’s Your Turn Challenge blog.

In the words of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was martyred at the Charlottesville rally:

Heather Heyer quote: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.Check out these links, then come back and let me know what action you’re going to take.

And, if you’ve found any value in this post, please share.

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Not your father’s PB&J – 3 healthy riffs on ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly’

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My dad had an orange vinyl recliner where we used to sit and eat chocolate ice cream together.

Usually, this meant I slurped down my ice cream out of my little blue plastic bowl, then I’d climb up beside him in the recliner and “help” him eat his.

It’s one of my absolute favorite memories of Dad (and the photo above is probably my favorite picture of us).

A love of chocolate ice cream is one of the many things I inherited from him. Besides our mutual affection for writing, a lot of those loves – both good and bad – include food.

Peanut butter and blackberry jelly is high on that list.

But Dad had health problems, partly brought on by diet choices, and I’m trying to avoid that legacy. I’ve spent the past few years educating myself on the negative effects of sugar, refined carbohydrates and modern grains (even “healthy” whole grains), and what I’ve learned is enough to make me seek out healthier alternatives.

When Debbie Arnold, a real food blogger and the curator of Foodie Friday for the Arkansas Women Bloggers, announced this month’s  theme, I immediately started devising ways I could put my own spin on “Peanut Butter & Jelly Time.” My aim was to:

  1. Make “peanut butter and jelly” recipes that are healthful and delicious.
  2. Think outside the breadbox. I interpreted “peanut butter” as any kind of nut or seed butter and “jelly” as any fruit that you might pair with those butters, whether that means a sauce with a bit of natural sweetener or just plain ol’, naturally sweet fruit.
  3. Make grain-free (possibly gluten-free), low-carb riffs on the theme.
  4. Get you to try something new. (I tried a new thing; see below.)

I think I succeeded on the first three, but I’ll let you be the judge. No. 4 is entirely up to you.

Here’s what I have for you today:

  • Nutty Crunchy Grain-Free Granola.
  • Almond Butter Fruity Toast with Sprouted Grain Bread.
  • Maple Almond Butter Cookies (modified from my 2009 recipe).
  • Bonus recipe: Suzy’s Coffee Protein Smoothie (doesn’t contain a fruit that is typically found in jelly, so it’s a stretch to include it in a PBJ post!).
A few notes:
  • These recipes are limited only by your imagination and the fruits and nuts available to you. With fresh fruit, pick what’s in season to make it more affordable, available and delicious. (And don’t forget to #BuyLocal.)
  • Use whatever nuts, seeds, dried fruits and sweeteners/binders you want. Can’t decide between pecans and walnuts? Use both – I did! Honey, molasses or maple syrup? Yes, please! For the fruit, I went with cranberries because it was the only dried fruit I had on hand that didn’t require chopping. (Prunes, anyone?)
  • This was my first foray into eating sprouted-grain bread, although I had been wanting to try it. Sprouted grains can offer more health benefits and be less allergenic for those sensitive to gluten. I’ve been limiting grains for a few years, so this was a good way to eat a sandwich without veering too far off the path.
  • You’ll notice that almond is my go-to butter in all the recipes. I’m not trying to say peanut butter is unhealthy, but I’m in the middle of a doctor-prescribed 60-day elimination diet that forbids legumes, so peanuts are out for a few more weeks. I don’t think I’m allergic, but many people are. I keep almonds, walnuts and pecans in my freezer. (Plus, we have pecan trees in our yard.)

If you’re trying to tame the sugar monster or conquer a carb addiction (it’s a real thing), I hope you’ll start thinking outside the breadbox, as I’ve done for the most part with these recipes.

(Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for the bonus recipe. You’ll need to click through to my other blog, Suzy & Spice.)

So let’s get started.

Print Recipe
Nutty Crunchy Grain-Free Granola
This granola recipe is versatile, because you can use whatever nuts, seeds, dried fruits and sweeteners/binders you want. The first time I made it, I couldn’t decide whether to use honey or molasses, so I used both! Couldn’t decide between pecans and walnuts, so … both! For the fruit, I went with cranberries because it was the only dried fruit I had on hand that didn’t require chopping. (Prunes, anyone?)
nutty grain-free granola
Course Snacks
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20-22 minutes
Servings
servings
Course Snacks
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20-22 minutes
Servings
servings
nutty grain-free granola
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix nuts, seeds and coconut in a large bowl.
  3. Mix in dried fruit.
  4. Add coconut oil, sweetener (syrup, honey or molasses) and salt, and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  5. Spread mixture evenly in jelly roll pan. Granola should be no more than an inch thick.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring every 8-10 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool before breaking into pieces.
  8. Store in air-tight container.
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Print Recipe
Almond Butter Fruity Toast with Sprouted Grain Bread
Sprouted grains can offer more health benefits and be less allergenic for those sensitive to gluten than with conventionally processed baked goods. This is a good way to eat a sandwich occasionally without veering too far off the grain-free path.
almond butter fruity toast
Course Sandwiches
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
serving
Course Sandwiches
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
serving
almond butter fruity toast
Instructions
  1. Toast the bread.
  2. Spread the nut or seed butter on top.
  3. Top with fresh berries or other fruit.
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Maple Almond Butter Cookies

Print Recipe
Maple Almond Butter Cookies
I first made these yummy cookies in 2009. You’ll find the original recipe on my other blog, Suzy & Spice. Back then, I didn’t understand the importance of healthy oils or good photography. 🙂
Course desserts
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course desserts
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In large bowl, combine almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla or almond extract until well blended.
  3. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients, along with almonds and fruit, and stir until just combined. Let sit 5 minutes.
  4. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, flatten to about 1/3 inch and place onto cookie sheet.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes.
  6. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then move cookies to wire rack.
  7. When completely cool, store in airtight container.
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Bonus recipe (on the other blog):

Suzy’s Coffee Protein Smoothie

This one doesn’t have the “J,” but it contains delicious “PB” – along with coffee, banana and protein powder. Suzy’s Coffee Protein Smoothie is a riff on a rich and yummy (but entirely waist-expanding) drink I used to buy at a local smoothie hut. It’s another recipe that you can modify to your tastes (for instance, I make mine with hazelnut-flavored coffee).

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you’re going to make, go make it and then come back and tell us how you did.

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Special deal ends this weekend – Beautycounter 5-Minute Face

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Y’all, I’m not one to tout products very often, as you know if you’ve been hanging with me for a while. But there’s a super deal going on at Beautycounter called the 5-Minute Face, and I don’t want you to miss out. The special deal goes away Sunday night, so you need to hurry.

http://www.beautycounter.com/suzyoakley

As you also may know, I recently found the skin-care and cosmetics company of my dreams(!), and I want to keep sharing my love for Beautycounter and what it represents to me and millions of others. You can read here about my search for safer beauty products, why I love this company, and my ultimate switch from a brand I had been representing for nearly 18 years.

On my Beautycounter page, you can customize your 5-Minute Face by clicking through 6 steps; the site helps you pick your colors, starting with foundation and ending with lip gloss, with a dose of the NEW mascara (details below) thrown into the mix. Whatever it is, we’ve got ya covered.

The 5-Minute Face page includes a zippy little video that walks you through the steps in less than two minutes. It’ll take you a bit longer than that to execute, 🙂 but the short tutorial will give you the basics. (This one is for Deep skin tones, but you can also see clips for Fair, Light and Medium skin tones.) 

BONUS: With your purchase of the 5-Minute Face bundle ($148 U.S. for $194 U.S. value), you get a FREE Retractable Foundation Brush ($35 U.S. value) (so you’re really getting $229 in products for that $148 purchase). When I became a Beautycounter consultant in April, I didn’t use a foundation brush. I had always preferred my fingers or a good sponge. I was skeptical. But after I tried this beautiful brush, I was in love! Why had I ever doubted the usefulness of a foundation brush???

LET’S TALK PRICING

Before I let you go, let me say a little bit about pricing, and then a couple of other NEW items of note:

  1. You might experience a bit of sticker shock when you compare Beautycounter products with what you’ve been using (especially if you’ve been picking up cheap foundation and eye shadows at the dollar store). But one thing I’ve noticed about this beautiful brand is that A) there is more product in a container, and B) you don’t have to use as much, so your product will last longer than others. (I can attest to this in my personal use of the skin-care line and the color cosmetics, and I also had a customer tell me she doesn’t have to use as much of the shampoo as with her other brand, PLUS it makes her hair feel amazing. She lives in an area with funky water, so she had been struggling to keep her hair from drying out and her color from fading. Bonus: She loves how it smells!)

I’m working on an ounce-to-ounce comparison chart of Beautycounter vs. my old brand so that I can demonstrate that you’re getting at least as much bang for your buck, if not more. Stay tuned for that.

  1. Even if the above were not true, for me it’s worth paying a little more to know I’m not putting a bunch of toxic chemicals on my (and my family’s) face, hair and body. (Did you know Beautycounter has Kids and Baby collections, too? I use the Baby Calming Diaper Rash Cream on my eczema!) Beautycounter has a Never List™ of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals that it never uses in its products. I’m proud of that commitment to safety, even if this makes the procurement process a bit more challenging.
OTHER (NEW-ISH) BEAUTYCOUNTER PRODUCTS TO CHECK OUT:

Our NEW collection of shampoos, conditioners and styling products is wonderful, so head on over and check out the sets.

Beautycounter masacaras http://www.beautycounter.com/suzyoakley

Two NEW mascaras: If you want va-va-va-volume, check out our Volumizing Mascara, which is a brand new product; and for ooh-la-la-length, we have a new formula for our Lengthening Mascara.

JOIN OUR MOVEMENT

If you want to become a Band of Beauty member and get rewards, discounts, the opportunity for free shipping, exclusive members-only offers, plus a FREE gift with your first order of $50, visit my page and click “Become a Member.” Or if you want to go all in and join the mission with me, visit that same page and click “Become a Consultant.” Ask me for details, or just sign up!

REASON TO SIGN UP WITH BEAUTYCOUNTER TODAY

Just look around, and you can already tell that the holiday selling season isn’t approaching – it’s already here! As a beauty consultant for 18 years, I can assure you that now is the best time to get started, whether you just need to earn a bit of extra spending money or you want a new career. Your income is limited only by the effort you want to make. (If you have questions, get in touch with me here or leave a comment on the blog or my Facebook page.)

So, whether you want to jump in with both feet or just want to test the waters, don’t forget – the special deal on the 5-Minute Face ends Sunday night. Hurry and take advantage of this sweet deal!

 

 

 

 

Have you tried Beautycounter? If so, what’s your favorite product?

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When it comes to our food choices, let’s cut the crap

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Making healthful food choices can seem like a burden. Let’s do something about that.
Part 2 in a series: What’s Weighing You Down?

It’s no secret that Americans are unhealthy. We’re overweight, overstressed and overmedicated, and our rate of disease is staggering. Our grandparents didn’t obsess over their food and avoided many of the medical concerns we deal with today. What’s up with that?

Well, a lot, actually. This has been an area of interest for me for several years, and, while it would be easier to let everyone cut through the crap and the controversies by themselves, I wanted to add my own bits of encouragement to the madness.

I promise, we have plenty to be encouraged about when it comes to our food.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. Not even close. But, as I frequently say, we’re all in this together. I know without a doubt that I’m my own worst enemy, and I need you to help me navigate, just as I believe you need me. And, sweet mercy, we all need Jesus!

food confusion
It’s time to stop being confused about our food choices.

The last time we talked about diet and nutrition, I revealed that my reader survey results surprised me a bit. The surprise wasn’t that diet and nutrition was the No. 1 topic of interest but that the responses were unanimous. (Well … until my husband’s answer screwed up the perfect score. Two factors there: Bruce doesn’t struggle with obesity – he’s underweight – and he didn’t vote until I was compiling the results and told him he had to. 🙂 Also, diet and nutrition got his No. 2 vote.)

Since I started putting pounds on my hips – and, later, other parts of my midsection – at about age 30, I’ve done a ton of reading on food, nutrition, weight loss and health. If you’ve struggled with it for any length of time, you probably have, too (especially if you’re female).

If you’ve read more than one article or book, you no doubt have run up against two or more opinions on what makes us healthy, unhealthy, fat, skinny or something in between.

AND IT’S CONFUSING!

And maddening. And frustrating.

It makes you want to cry or throw up or, at the very least, just throw down the book and eat an entire pint of Häagen-Dazs right out of the carton. I mean, seriously, who scoops ice cream from a pint container into a bowl to eat it? (If you have, please share your experience with the rest of us.)

(Interesting fact: spellcheck didn’t flag Häagen-Dazs just now, meaning: I spelled it correctly the first time. Which totally speaks to the fact that I’m a former copy editor and not at all that I’ve had a lot of experience eating the chocolate-chocolate chip variety of this brand of ice cream. I’m just sayin’.)

A few “facts” I’ve discovered in my years of research:

  • Fat is bad for you.
  • Fat is good for you.
  • Cholesterol is bad for you.
  • Cholesterol is good for you.
  • Reducing calories is the way to lose weight.
  • Calories are not all created equal.
  • Oreos are God’s way of showing His love for us (this one is indisputably true – I’ve done extensive research).

No wonder we’re cray-cray about what to do at mealtime.

I, for one, am ready to cut the crap and start digging down to the root(s) of our problem.

So … because I’m a “bottom line” kind of gal and I promised you some encouragement, here are two things to help you RELAX:

  1. Despite all the conflicting advice and the multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns that only serve to confuse rather than clarify, you can do a few things to start healing (and losing weight, if you need to). It starts with GUT HEALTH.

Fun fact: Did you know that scientists refer to the gut as our “second brain”? (We’ll find out why in the next installment. If you already know, feel free to tell us in the comments.)

  1. Of the dozens of books I’ve read, I have some recommendations, plus a documentary based on one of the books. Here are two of the books:

Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine from a Nutritionist Who Healed Herself from the Inside Out by Jennifer Adler. Except for one section of the book that I could’ve done without, I love this book for its balanced approach to eating. Bottom line: Don’t obsess over nutrients or restrict certain food groups; instead, use “food as medicine” to heal your body and live a passionate life that allows you to enjoy food in moderation.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by journalist Michael Pollan. If you’d rather watch a documentary based on the book, rent or buy it here. Both are excellent, as is everything I’ve seen from Pollan.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I sure thought I had watched a documentary based on this book, but I must have been thinking of Food, Inc. Pollan is interviewed in the documentary, but it’s not based on his book. If you want to get FED UP, watch that video. (It has made me seriously consider becoming a vegetarian – and stop eating corn.) If you want to stick with our theme of encouraging info, skip the documentary for now! 🙂

What is the No. 1 question you would like to have answered with this series of articles?

Next up: Why is gut health so important?
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8 lessons I learned in self-defense class

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Friday night is usually kick-back-at-Nanny’s night. I get home from work, change into comfy clothes and relax for a while before Bruce and I head to my mom’s for a couple of hours of TV.

After a long week at the office, I’m ready to be brainless and lounge on Mom’s sofa while we watch cop shows. (I talk about that in Family, faith & Friday nights.)

But on a recent Friday night, I had to skip the vegging time in favor of a women’s self-defense class, organized by the women’s ministry leaders at my church. (Thanks, Maggie and Jody.)

By the time Friday evening rolled around, I was looking for an excuse to blow it off, not because I didn’t think it was important, but because I was so. stinking. tired. But I couldn’t shake the thought that someday, God forbid, I might have to employ the skills taught in the class. So … my pragmatic side won out, and I showed up.

What I didn’t expect – at all – was how much fun I would have! Who knew those punching bags could handle all my pent-up aggressions? Who knew those church ladies could put a choke-hold on our instructors in the blink of an eye?

It’s great when you can have fun while getting life-saving instruction from a knowledgeable teacher. The two-hour class was over before we knew it.

I couldn’t take notes (too busy kicking butt), but I remember a few key pieces of advice from our teacher, Matt, plus some things that weren’t in the curriculum but came to mind as I walked away from class.

Of course, I make everything I learn into a “life lesson” that bleeds into other areas. These tips will keep you safe from an attacker and help you navigate relationships, business and much of life.

8 self-defense tips for staying safe and strong

  1. Be confident. In my opinion, this is the No. 1 thing you can do. (Notice I didn’t say cockiness; that backfires. CONFIDENCE.) When coming face to face with people – alone on the street, in a crowd, during a business meeting, whatever – look them in the eye. If you don’t feel particularly confident, project it anyway. Eventually you’ll get there. People respect that, and an attacker will think twice about approaching you.
  2. Expect the unexpected. Sure, in class we knew (most times) that Matt was going to “attack” us from behind. Even when he had us close our eyes, we still felt safe, mostly. But in a real-life scenario, you never know what someone is going to do. You have to keep your wits about you, stay calm, remember your training. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. 🙂 (Yoga is good for learning the habit of mindfulness and staying calm. Click here to read the lessons I learned from yoga.)
  3. Learn how to adapt. In the class, we asked Matt a lot of “what-if” questions. What if the attacker is a lot taller/shorter, has a knife/a gun, tries this/that? What if X, Y or Z maneuver doesn’t work? Bottom line: When you’re in real-life danger, there are no rules. Use whatever tactic will get you out of the dangerous situation (including running away). In the rest of life, there are times to stand up for your rights (fight), and other times you should recognize a no-win situation (flight). Know the difference.
  4. Practice. Just as practicing the moves taught in class builds muscle memory and mental agility, practicing these principles in other areas of life helps prepare us to handle whatever punches life throws at us.
  5. Stay healthy. This includes your body and your mind. A healthy mind means you’re alert to danger, including approaching bad guys, your own ego, and that plate of glazed doughnuts your office-mate plops down in front of you. A healthy body means you’re strong and capable of taking on life’s challenges – even big-fat-hairy-scary ones.
  6. Embrace community. There’s safety in numbers. A would-be attacker is less likely to approach a group. Don’t live life as a lone wolf; it’s safer and a lot more fun with others. It’s also a great place to learn all sorts of life skills.
  7. Don’t worry so much about being nice. A few of the ladies in class were hesitant to put the instructor in a choke-hold for fear of hurting him – or making him pass out! I admit, I was afraid of that, too, at first. But Matt has taught self-defense for a long time, and he knows his limits, so I believed him when he said he would tap me on the leg when it was time to let up. Thing is, you can’t learn it unless you practice it. In other areas of life, we (especially women) worry about what others think of us. My dad taught me not to worry about that. There will always be people who misunderstand and judge (“haters gonna hate”). As long as you know you’re doing what’s right, let go of others’ opinions of you. (I’m still practicing that one.)
  8. Trust your teachers. This starts with knowing which teachers you can trust, of course. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to learn from their wisdom. Just as we had to believe Matt when he showed us how to do the choke-hold – because he has years of experience – we have to trust others’ wisdom when we seek advice. If you’re looking to quality teachers, trust their advice.

I learned more from self-defense class, but I’m saving some of the tips for later. (Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, I want to thank our instructor, Matt Sellers, and Joe Valadez, the workout guy he pulled in to act as another “attacker” so that we could learn to defend ourselves. Thanks for letting us punch on you, kick you and choke you!

And a shout-out to Without Limits MMA, where our class was held. Matt and his wife, Lisa, are the owners, and they offer a variety of classes. Your first week is free, and I took advantage of the offer and spent this past week in a ladies kickboxing class, which was – oh, my goodness – AWESOME! For more info, visit the Facebook page or call Matt at (870) 307-4515.

If you’re local to my area (Batesville, Ark.), stay tuned for updates; our church ladies plan to do this again in a few months. You’ll definitely want to sign up. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever taken a self-defense class? If so, what’s the No. 1 thing you learned? If not, what’s holding you back from signing up?

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What’s weighing you down? Part 1

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It seems I’m not the only one who struggles with issues related to food, nutrition and physical health. I did a quick survey of my subscribers and Facebook visitors recently, and I couldn’t have been more shocked at the results.

The struggle is real. I have to keep reminders visible so that I make good choices.

Not surprised that the No. 1 topic was diet and nutrition but that the consensus was UNANIMOUS. Everyone who replied to the email or visited the Facebook page wanted to talk about this topic next at To Well With You. (The choices were emotions/depression; finances/debt reduction; and diet/nutrition.)

Well … until I cajoled my skinny husband into voting. He picked a different No. 1 topic, but he said diet/nutrition was “a close second.”

Because Bruce ranked diet a close second, it shows that even underweight people struggle with food and nutrition issues. Bruce has Crohn’s disease, but he’s been super-thin all his life. And Candy, who commented on the Facebook page, said she had always been underweight until the past few years, and now she struggles with the opposite.

Life, age, hormones, medical problems, stress … they’ll do that.

I didn’t struggle with my weight (besides the typical female lament, “I’m fat!” when I wasn’t) until around age 30. (I can remember noticing around Christmastime a few weeks after my birthday that my butt was bigger than I had realized. It happens slowly …)

I’ve put off writing this series because I wasn’t sure where to start. I know I’ll be opening a can of worms once I get going, and where do we stop?

But I’ve opened the can, poured hot sauce on it, have my fork ready, and here we go.

A couple of people you’ll be hearing from as we take this journey together:

  • Dr. Margaret Rutherford, the clinical psychologist I referred to in my email to subscribers. She has a wonderful podcast, SelfWork, that makes me feel as though my best friend, mentor and sounding board are all speaking directly to me. Dr. Margaret practices in Fayetteville, Ark., and I met her through the Arkansas Women Bloggers community. I’m excited that she immediately accepted my invitation to help us sort through the noise and the mess of our thoughts and feelings around food. I’ll be asking her about emotional eating and lots of other stuff, and I hope you’ll feel free to ask questions, too. Dr. Margaret developed an eating disorder when she was in college, so she’s been there, y’all. Here’s her latest blog post, an excellent discussion of the emotions around food. (Tip: It really isn’t about the food.)
  • Dr. Beth Milligan, a medical doctor who’s been my friend since seventh grade! Dr. Beth was my personal physician when she practiced in North Little Rock, Ark. She’s since moved her practice and I moved to another town, so we only see each other on Facebook nowadays. Dr. Beth makes me laugh, and I always enjoyed looking at the autographed pic of Tom Selleck on the wall of one of her exam rooms! Dr. Beth wasn’t as surprised as I was that the survey respondents were unanimous about nutrition as their topic of choice. She has treated a lot of people with weight issues in her years of practice. I can’t wait to glean a few nuggets of insight from her. (And there’s bound to be a laugh or two.) We’ve been saying we need to collaborate on something, so I guess this is our chance! Here’s a link to Dr. Beth’s website.
  • Other clinicians or experts yet to be determined. I’m a podcast junkie and I love to read, so I’ll provide you with some good resources to check out. I’ll also reach out to others who can talk us through some of the topics we want to discuss.
  • You. I’d love to tell your story, share your insights, discover what you’ve learned, or maybe just support you in this community if that’s what you need. As I often say, WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. I believe God made us for community, and He has brought us together to learn from and help each other. If you’re brave enough to be interviewed for a future post, I’d love to talk to you. Contact me here.

Friend, I have SO many thoughts running through my mind as I write this. I’ve been bouncing ideas around in there constantly since getting the survey results.

Please give me your feedback. Do you have questions? Advice? Share them in the comments, post them on the Facebook page or send me a private message. We’re gonna tackle this can of worms, one bite at a time.

Pass the hot sauce.

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