Category: wellness

Well Well Well – help for your savings, your sanity and your soul

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As we continue on our journey to well-being, I have three more resources that I find helpful, challenging (we need challenges, y’all) and – perhaps best of all – encouraging.

Well Well Well - tips & tools

The first is another encouragement about your personal finances.

I need to pause here and let you know that the Lord has really been putting it on my heart lately that I need to get back into budget coaching and ministering through some sort of financial stewardship training. We can talk about that more in depth later (oops, I actually typed “debt” instead of depth!), but here’s the short(ish) version:

I’m a certified budget coach and small-group leader with Compass – finances God’s way. In fact, I used to be administrative assistant to the Mid-South director when he was with Crown Financial Ministries (the founder of Crown later created Compass). James is now over eight states with Compass, and I truly miss working with him. In 2007, when Bruce had so much sickness (and three hospitalizations, including surgery) from the Crohn’s disease, he lost his job. At the time, I was working with Crown and doing freelance editing, so all my work was home-based. When Bruce lost his job, I had to find a full-time gig with health insurance. (The Lord blessed me with the Worst Job I’ve Ever Had at a newspaper chain – I say “blessed” because it has made me grateful for all the jobs I’ve had since!)

Compass and Crown’s field-based employees are considered missionaries and raise their own funding. I hadn’t quite got there yet, so I actually worked 17 months without a paycheck from Crown. That tells you how much I love those ministries, how much I loved working with James and how much passion and commitment I have for helping people get their finances on track.

But for years Bruce and I have had an albatross around our necks. We’ve blamed our debt on medical expenses, but I can’t blame ALL of it on that.

Unwise spending doesn’t have to be in the form of extravagant purchases. Sometimes it’s those nickel and dime things that, over time, add up to an amount that you can’t pay off at the end of the month. Before you know it, you’re in over your head. You with me?

And here’s another thing I’ve learned (I’ll talk about it in a future post): Applying for a credit card to get the points (the more you use the card, the more points you earn) really doesn’t pay off, literally. Ask me how I know.

So, at this point, I’m starting to get preachy (and long-winded), but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what’s been on my heart lately AND tell you to stay tuned: I’m going to be writing a lot more on debt-free living and personal finance. If that’s for you, awesome – I’ve served you. If you’re perfectly happy with your personal financial picture and don’t need advice on how to live debt-free, then maybe you can skip these money posts. We can still be friends. 🙂

(I’m also going to be leading an online Bible study with Compass – dates to be determined – and probably get back into active budget coaching.)

OK, this is officially the longest Well Well Well I’ve ever written before getting to the actual resources. Here they are:

Bible App reading plan Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs (you knew there would be a Bible App mention, didn’t you???)

One of the keys to being financially free (or as Dave Ramsey calls it, having financial peace) is accountability. In a nutshell, this means we can’t always trust our own judgment when it comes to spending money. And when it comes to those big purchases? Look out: Our emotions sometimes take over, and our wants become “needs.”

For me, it’s usually a tech toy (laptop, tablet, software I “can’t live without”). Granted, I need some of these to run my online business, but some of it is stuff I can manage without. Until recently, I always said Bruce and I had already cut our extras to bare bones necessities. But with the purchase of our second car (see my previous post for that story) and my sticky note on the wall that says “DEBT FREE BY 12/31/2019” (yes, after we added the second car), I knew we needed to dig deeper. (I’m also reviving my languishing freelance editing side-gig and taken on a new business as an Origami Owl designer – the goal is to generate an extra $500 a month. Sometimes decreasing expenses is not enough and you have to bring in extra income.)

When Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University went on sale a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to take this Bible-based study. The Compass and Ramsey teams have partnered in the past, so I’m not cheating on Compass to take the FPU study – I promise!

One thing that any good financial study teaches is the need for accountability. There are so many Bible verses on the need for partnership, community and wise counsel.

If you’re married, your spouse is likely the best person for that. If you’re single, someone like a roommate, best friend, church member or … a budget coach … can be valuable to you.

At the moment I’m not officially doing budget coaching, but if you need advice or help sorting things out or setting up a budget – or someone to convince you that you should! – reach out to me. Feel free to leave a comment, visit the contact me page, text me if you have my phone number or private message me through my Facebook page. No charge for that assistance, my friend. 🙂

I really and truly believe that we can’t get our emotional, mental and spiritual houses in order without financial peace.

Funny you should mention peace. That leads me to …

Book recommendation: ‘Parenting Your Teen Through Chaos & Crisis’ by Patty Scott

Whether you have a teenager, a toddler, a self-sufficient adult child or no kids at all, this book by Patty Scott will sooth your soul.

I met Patty in a private Facebook group for creative writers. It’s not a Christian group, per se, but through it I’ve met many like-minded members, including Patty.

In just a few months, Patty has become a dear, dear friend, even though we live 2,000 miles apart. I treasure this precious soul as I would someone I had grown up with face to face. We’ve resorted to texting, private messaging (especially when she took a few weeks off social media to focus on her family and finish her next book), chatting via video calls and praying for each other and each other’s families.

In this book, Patty lets parents off the hook for their children’s failures and shortcomings. We raise them the best we can – even though we sometimes make mistakes – and we leave the outcome in the Lord’s hands. Our kids play a role, too. They can choose to make good choices or bad. Even when we teach them well, they are still free and sentient beings who make their own choices.

And I know Patty’s heart; she is a gentle, wise teacher who loves to minister to parents – especially those who are still in the trenches.

If you have “mom guilt” or know someone going through challenging times with their kids, buy this book. I plan to buy a copy for my church library and an extra to keep on hand as a loaner; when I meet a mom in need, I can place it in her hands and say, “You’re not alone.” (It’s for dads, too, though.)

“You’re not alone.” That’s the crux of Patty’s message.

Visit Patty’s website to find out how to buy the book or to glean more wisdom from her weekly blog posts.

I’m also on the launch team for her second book, “Slow Down, Mama! Intentional Living in a Hurried World,” which will be out Sept. 10. (Stay tuned. It’s gonna be another good one.)

Bible verse to encourage your soul Matthew 27:51

Matthew 27 gives the account of Christ’s sentencing by the Roman governor and his crucifixion (death on the cross). The moment Jesus died, the huge curtain (sometimes referred to as a veil) separating the parts of the holy Temple was torn in two, top to bottom, and all kinds of heck broke loose (but in a good way).

The Temple curtain symbolized the separation between a holy God and sinful man. Because Jesus took our sins upon himself when he died, He eliminated that separation. Whereas the curtain marked the dividing line between the Holy Place (where only priests were allowed) and the Most Holy Place (reserved for the high priest once a year, to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel) – areas where regular folks like you and me were not allowed at all – Jesus’ death removed the barrier between us and God. “The veil of the temple was rent in twain,” some translations read.

This means regular peeps (that’s you and me) can come to God as individuals – no need for a priest to act as intermediary. Jesus took care of that with his death, burial and resurrection.

That is GOOD NEWS, my friend!

If you’d like to know more, reach out to me, a pastor friend or someone else you know who studies the Scriptures. If you’re a reader, look at the gospels in the Bible. They tell the fascinating true story of Jesus and his sacrifice for us. And speaking of fascinating, here’s a movie recommendation, if you like a good detective story told from a unique angle: Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes as a Roman tribune tasked with finding Jesus’ corpse. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t!)


My, my, my, this Well Well Well post has gotten out of control. These are supposed to be short and sweet. #WellnessFail. I try to make them easy to read, so I hope you’ve been able to navigate all the goodies I’ve provided today and that they’ve left you encouraged and inspired.

Do you have a tip or inspiring book, quote or other resource to share? If so, spill the beans! Leave a comment so that the rest of us can enjoy it, too.

To Well With You,
SuzyO

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Well, Well, Well — 3 apps to help you with budgeting, Bullet Journaling and being a better person

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I’ve been letting some health problems and fatigue get in the way of blogging this year. In an effort to get back in the saddle, I thought I’d keep it simple by reviving my Well, Well, Well feature, which is something I started about three years ago to share apps and resources I’ve been loving lately. Today’s goodies include apps for budgeting, Bullet Journaling and being a better person. 🙂 

Here are three apps to make your life better!

EveryDollar budgeting appEveryDollar

(EveryDollar has free web-based and mobile versions, plus a paid upgrade with monthly and annual payment options.)

I downloaded EveryDollar in late 2016 in the hopes of getting back to monthly budgeting. Alas, it was hit and miss until we bought a second car a few months ago. Bruce and I went more than 10 years with only one car! (a 2002 Honda Accord) … until the final straw, when I said, “I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it, but I want to get a second car.”

That is absolutely not the responsible approach, but it’s the one I took because I was tired and frustrated. The next day, we bought a 4-year-old vehicle, and now we’re making monthly payments. Hence my renewed vigor in learning the things about EveryDollar that I had been stuck on.

I got hung up on a couple of things in the app that I have since figured out how to handle because I watched some videos, but if you’ve been using the app and are a “ninja” (expert), I have some questions for you, so let me know!

If you need to organize your financial life, EveryDollar is a great budgeting app to get you there. (And, no, “budgeting” is not a dirty word. 🙂 )

Rest assured that I’ll be writing more about EveryDollar in future posts. It’s extremely awesome.


Trello boards
Suzy’s Trello boards.

A Trello workflow specifically for Bullet Journaling

(See pricing discussion below.)

Trello is another app that I had downloaded probably over a year ago but didn’t start using to its fullest potential until this year. Who am I kidding — I’ve barely scratched the surface of its “fullest potential.”

One of my blogger friends recently shared this link to a Trello post about using the app to Bullet Journal, and I jumped on it. (I suck at Bullet Journaling on paper, but in an app? OK!)

If you don’t know what a Bullet Journal is, go to YouTube and search for “bullet journal.” You’ll be watching videos for weeks. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As for the Trello app, it’s a productivity/organizing app that is good for those who like a visual approach, drag-and-drop capabilities and color coding (me!). You can name your projects and workflows whatever you want, creating a list for each stage of your project, such as Ideas, To Do, Doing, and Done (totally your choice what you name them).

Random ideas for using Trello:

  • Organize a kitchen remodel (that’s the example used in the Trello demo).
  • List your books To Be Read, Reading, and Finished Reading.
  • Plan a vacation with Possible Destinations, Flights and Accommodations, Packing List, Hire Pet Sitter (or House Sitter) and more.
  • Design a succulent garden (shoutout to my Trello-using blogger friend, succulent-grower-extraordinaire and virtual assistant Gina K; hey, Gina, have you used Trello for this?).
  • Set up your Bullet Journal. This is the one I’m excited to share today. If you need to get organized and can’t decide whether to do it on paper or by using an app, look into Bullet Journaling and Trello.

While I could go on and on trying to explain Trello, just take the tour and get inspired. (Plus, if you like dogs, say hello to Taco, the Trello spokes-husky. 🙂 )

The free version of Trello is more than enough unless you have a team (then a paid upgrade might make more sense), BUT you can share your boards with other Trello users, even if you don’t have a team; that’s totally free. (My “team” consists of my hubby and my cousin Pam. We collaborate and try to help each other stay organized. I’ve also received shared boards from other bloggers and organized people I follow online. I’ve never paid a dime for Trello.)

As for physical Bullet Journal pricing, you can spend anywhere from zero dollars (a notebook you already have) to a bunch, depending on how fancy you want to get with notebooks or journals. But if you do it in Trello: free!


Lysa TerKeurst reading plan Unglued

Bible App reading plan, ‘Unglued’ by Lysa TerKeurst

(The Bible App is free.)

Everyone knows I love the Bible App by YouVersion. I talk about it all the time on To Well With You because it has so many great features.

And I love Lysa TerKeurst. She’s real, authentic and vulnerable. She has struggled with some of the same things I’ve struggled with (if you battle weight problems, check out her book Made to Crave and the Bible App reading plan based on the book), and she has lots of wise and practical things to say that help me soldier on. And Lysa has struggled with some things I haven’t struggled with — things I hope I never have to experience.

The latest Lisa TerKeurst reading plan that I discovered in the Bible App is a 5-day devotional called Unglued.

Oh, my goodness, y’all. Just read it, OK? There are only five days in the plan, and if you want to read all five days in one sitting, it won’t take you very long. It’s just good.

Here’s an excerpt from Day 2 that spoke to me:

“I decided God was trying to get my attention to be more aware of my reactions. More aware of handling daily frustrations in a way that reflects a heart that loves the Lord. In today’s key verse, Luke 8:15, Jesus reminds us, ‘But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.’ (NIV 1984)”


Do you have an app, a productivity tip or a resource you’d like to share? Leave a comment or visit the To Well With You Facebook page and post there.

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#lifedeclutter: Let’s get our stuff together – together

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Several months ago, I started working on getting my little world in order, as in:

  • Decluttering my workspace (home office).
  • Getting more sleep.
  • Taming my inbox (I will NOT let it defeat me – not there yet, though).
  • Organizing my closet, dresser and bathroom.
  • Offloading a bunch of deadweight on my computer (really old files that just take up space, physically and mentally).
  • Changing web hosts (don’t get me started on that).

#lifedeclutter

I named this (not so) little project #lifedeclutter, and for a while I posted about it here, on social media and on my whiteboard at home.

I probably don’t have to tell you how easy it is to let things slide once you’ve started making improvements, especially if you never quite achieved the results you were looking for in the first place.

Yes, I’ve made a lot of progress. But I’ve also backslidden in some areas.

My main email account (I have three going into the same inbox) contains – as I write this paragraph – 8,111 emails, 5,707 of which are marked Unread. (Sad but true.)

A few months ago, I had it under 2,000.

I won’t go into all the things I’ve been busy with, but those things have led me to neglect the daily maintenance I was pursuing in my digital space.

In other words, I never got to Inbox Zero (does that even exist?), and I slid back into old habits.

Well, my friends, that is going to change.

In less than two weeks, a new month starts, and so begins a new quarter of 2018.

The return to #lifedeclutter.

I’m giving myself the rest of March to gear up for the change, because I’m working on my taxes, trying to reconcile all my bank accounts and hoping to get things in good order to start fresh come April 1.

(Major shift: I’m bound and determined to switch back to Apple Mail and start using the filters and tagging plug-ins I added over a year ago. I’m going to schedule it and make it happen.)

But most of all, I’m bouncing a lot of ideas around in my head.

I want to figure out how to get you involved.

So … in the next three days, think about this:

What is the main thing in your world that’s driving you crazy right now?

Do you need to:

  • Declutter your closet?
  • Organize your kitchen?
  • Create a bedtime routine that helps you end the day relaxed and ready to sleep?
  • Shape up your family budget?
  • Shape up your butt? (Guilty.)
  • Prioritize some neglected relationships?
  • Make amends?
  • Clean out your inbox? (Ahem.)

Getting your physical, mental and spiritual world in order opens the door to infinite possibilities. I’m looking at you, entrepreneur-in-the-making.

Write down (yes, write it on paper, in ink) one to three dreams you have. If ANYTHING were possible, what would you want your life to look like in 12 months, 5 years, 10 years … at the end of your life?

Would you start a business? Apply for a job in a different field? Go back to school? Start volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about? Move to the mission field? Write a book? Sail around the world? Build a house? Run for office?

DREAM BIG, MY FRIEND.

One thing you’re not allowed to do: Limit yourself or edit your list. Write anything you’ve ever dreamed about doing, no matter how crazy it sounds. (You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to.)

This is your life we’re talking about.

If you’re brave enough, post a comment here letting the world know what you’re dreaming. If you’re not ready for that, contact me privately here and share it with me only. (I promise I won’t tell.)

Then we’ll come back next week and start working on some things together.

If you don’t already get my email updates, be sure to subscribe (see the box or click here) so you’ll be able to keep up with our #lifedeclutter and other goodies. (Kinda ironic that I mention subscribing when I haven’t tamed my own inbox, huh? I promise I won’t inundate you with daily annoyances. I email when I publish a blog post, and sometimes I send stuff exclusively for my subscribers, but that averages to about once a week.) At the moment, the free resource for subscribing is “8 Tips for Saying No Graciously” – a two-page PDF that will help you get started on what you want to do, not what you think you have to do.

Now, let’s get busy dreaming.

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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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Tips for better sleep, Part 2

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In Tips for better sleep, Part 1, we talked about several ways we can make sleep happen. In the interim, I’ve been depriving myself of sleep to get some essential work stuff done. Go figure.

Let’s continuing counting sleep:

8. Make your sleep space cool, comfy and calm. Some would tell you that your bed is for only two things: sleep and (that other thing, if you’re married). They’ll tell you not to watch TV in the bedroom, not to do work while you’re in bed … and lots of other no-no’s. I love to read in bed until I get sleepy, but I don’t think that counts as activity; it actually helps me fall asleep. I’ve stopped reading on my blue-screened devices, though (see next tip). Some would argue that watching TV helps them fall asleep. If that’s you and it works, more power to ya. Just be sure the volume doesn’t wake you up later (better yet, set a timer to turn it off if your TV has that function).

Keep the thermostat in the 60s when you’re under the covers; you may have to experiment with the temp that’s best for you.

If you’re a light sleeper (as I am), you need a dark, quiet room. I wear a sleep mask, and I keep two fans blowing; one of them is really loud. The fans are strictly for white noise; I have them pointed away from my body.

For travel, I used to take a small fan with me, but I broke my favorite little fan a couple of years ago and haven’t found a replacement that’s loud enough; that was before I discovered the White Noise app for my phone. Ahhhhh.

9. Turn off (or dim) your screens at least an hour before bedtime. That “blue light” emanating from your devices disrupts your circadian rhythm and hampers sleep. Warm that blue glow to a golden one. On my computer, I use an app called f.lux, which changes the screen color depending on the time of day (toward bedtime, it also pops up a message that says, “You’re waking up in [x] hours”; an hour later, it updates me again). On my phone and tablet, I have the settings adjusted. If you don’t want to use apps, get some goggles (two of my sources in this post provide links to the same pair on Amazon – and, no, I am not an Amazon affiliate). This article goes in depth about the disruptive effects of artificial blue light.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com
Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

10. Use essential oils. Try lavender, vetiver or chamomile, or consider a blend of several oils. I get mine from Rocky Mountain Oils* (after doing research on quality and other considerations). I use the Tranquility blend from RMO; I rub it on my chest and the soles of my feet at bedtime. You can also diffuse these blends in your bedroom (I haven’t tried that yet) or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow.

*FYI, I’m not an affiliate of Rocky Mountain Oils; I just believe in the quality of oils and the customer service from this company, and they’re less pricey than those of the multilevel-marketing brands.

11. Take a nap when you need it. I take a nap as a routine. As I said last time, the conventional wisdom is that a short nap (what they used to call a “power nap”) is better than a long one. I maintain that it depends on the person and the circumstances. My blogger friend Jim helpfully emailed me a link to an article on the benefits of naps. It, too, recommends shorter naps but allows that longer ones can be beneficial:

“The longest naps – lasting about 90 minutes – are recommended for those people who just don’t get enough sleep at night. Since it’s a complete sleep cycle, it can improve emotional memory and creativity.”

I fall into that “people who just don’t get enough sleep at night” category. Hence my Sunday nap, in which the goal is two hours. #ilovenaps

Also, advice from Becca at my church: When you’re getting ready for a nap, treat it like you’re getting ready for bed. Get under the covers; just lying on top of the bed will not give you the maximum level of comfort you need for restorative rest. I told Becca she was “preachin’ to the choir.” I change into my nightgown, crawl under the covers, put my sleep mask on, turn both fans on and make sure my bladder is empty (sorry if that’s TMI).

12. Have a small, healthful snack an few minutes before bedtime. You heard that right; it’s OK to eat just before you go to bed IF you follow this guideline: Make it small, and include a good fat (organic nut butter, a small handful of walnuts) and a healthy carb (small piece of fruit or veggie). Skip the protein, as this can interfere with sleep.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

13. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. You knew that one, though, right?

14. Consider natural supplements, and make sure they’re high quality. I take 400 mg of magnesium at bedtime. Here’s the one I took until recently, before I went back to this less-pricey one that I’m equally pleased with – it doesn’t contain fillers or other unnecessary ingredients. Another alternative is Epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfate. Please consult your doctor if you have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Also, start with a lower dose until you know the outcome, if you know what I mean (magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and can be used as a laxative).

15. Experiment with pillows; get a new mattress. I have a 20-year old neck injury, and over the years the pain and stiffness have had an increasing impact on my sleep. I can’t tell you what type of pillow is best for you, because I’m still figuring that out for myself. But consider that part of your problem may be your pillow. And if your mattress is old and saggy or lumpy – or full of dust mites, mold or other toxins – consider replacing it.

16. Deal with your allergies. Sinus pressure hinders my sleep much of the time. This is another area I haven’t quite got a handle on, so do as I say and not as I do.

17. Don’t let your pets sleep with you. This is another area where you should do as I say and not as I do. We’re way past training Pepper to sleep elsewhere. She’s old, blind and tiny, and she needs help getting onto and off the bed. She used to be able to climb the stairs to the bed, but since she fell off a few months ago, she’s afraid. And I’m not going to force her to sleep elsewhere and listen to her bark all night. (She already barks way too much during the night.) My dog is a head case. So … do as I say, not as I do.

Up next: As my #lifedeclutter continues, I have a new thing to tell you about. Heck, I’ll probably announce it on the Facebook page this weekend, so head on over there and Like the page, scroll through the posts and get to know how we roll there. While you’re visiting, share something about yourself.

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Tips for better sleep, Part 1

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Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

When we last met up here, I tried to express, without making the post a statistical snoozefest, that sleep is important. (I wanted you to get to the end of the post before you zzzzzz…..)

As we all know, lack of adequate rest can cause all sorts of problems, from brain fog to accidents to dumb decisions to chronic stress and disease.

Yucko.

Today it’s time to talk about how we can make sleep happen. I asked for a few ideas in the comments here and on the Facebook page, and I think most of you must have been taking a siesta, because I didn’t get a lot of response. Or … you’re like me and have so freaking much going on in your life and on your computerized devices that you didn’t notice I was asking. 🙂  Actually, I posted the question twice and got a little feedback on the other one, but no actual tips. So the feedback comes from my personal experience and that of a couple of people I talked to.

We could learn a lot about rest from dogs. When they’re tired, they sleep. Pepper really knows how to get her zzzzz’s.

As for my own advice, with all the talking I do about my love of naps, you might think I consider that the No. 1 way to get rest.

Nope.

Naps are a stopgap. They’re secondary to getting a good night’s rest in the first place. So how do we do that?

Let’s count the ways:

1. Take it seriously. The first step to fixing the problem is to admit you have one. Admit that it’s not cool to burn the candle at both ends. Talking about how busy you are and how little sleep you “need” – and thinking it makes you more important than those who try to get the recommended seven to eight hours a night – is crazy talk. It’s popular in our culture, but it’s still crazy.

2. Maintain overall good health. This one’s tricky. You become healthy by getting adequate rest by eating healthy foods, exercising and keeping bad stress to a minimum by getting adequate rest. Yep, I said that. It’s circular.

3. Have an evening routine. I told my hairdresser, Natalie, that I was looking for sleep tips, and she shared hers:

She starts getting ready for bed at 8:30 p.m. It’s nonnegotiable (just like my Sunday nap). She takes a relaxing bath with a “lavender scented bath soak,” dims the lights to “create a complete relaxation zone,” then she “lubes up” with a soothing lotion. And she goes to bed right after, so as not to re-stimulate her brain and body with other concerns. Natalie understands the importance of good sleep, so she makes her nightly ritual a priority. Smart woman. (I may have to remind her of this nighttime routine after the baby arrives in a few months! Yep, she’s expecting her first.)

4. Do a few minutes of yoga or deep breathing. A while back, I found a gentle, 26-minute evening relaxation sequence from Yoga Journal that makes me feel soooo relaxed at bedtime. Try it! If you don’t want to do yoga, sit in your chair (sit up straight, like your mom told you to) and spend 10 minutes breathing deeply while clearing your mind of its stressors – heck, clear it of everything except the reminder to breathe in … and out … deeply. And you don’t have to wait until bedtime to lower stress with deep breathing; practice it throughout the day. Here’s how:

Sit up straight and tall. Breathe in through your nose for about 4 seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth for about 8 seconds (a 1:2 ratio). Do this half a dozen times, and try to incorporate the practice into your day as you recognize that you’re tense. You can even do it at your desk or in your car (parked, please).

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

5. Count sheep. Or 5’s. Candy, via the Facebook page, said she uses various mantras but recently has seen “counting by 5’s” to be effective. Count backward from 1,000 and see how far you get. Count your blessings (that could be a post in itself!). Count anything that will help you relax. Just don’t count your worries.

6. Practice biofeedback. My hubby isn’t really the person to ask for sleep tips … except this one. I asked him to share:

“I learned the essentials from a theater-type who taught it to acting classes to help students marshal energy for diving into their roles.

“To begin, stretch out on your back on the floor or comfortable surface, close your eyes and be still for perhaps 30 seconds. Quiet room, perhaps gentle background music. … Then consider the outer reaches – think of each toe in turn for a few seconds, imagine a wave of tension flowing out of it or, inversely, a wave of rest/comfort flowing in. Tension being released, jitters being damped down, calm settling in; if you can feel the pulse in a toe, think of slowing it. After toes, fingers. Ankles, wrists – work your way to the middle.

“The middle is your heart rate and your breathing; as the outer reaches settle, you’ll be needing less work from heart and lungs and you can send them the same soothing wave signal and should be able to slow the rates. … Let go and sleep easy.”

7. Keep the same bedtime. Try to hit the pillow at approximately the same time each night (or morning, if you work the night shift), even on your weekend. Resist the temptation to stay up late when you don’t have to work the next day.

Homework assignment: 1) If you have a great sleep tip, share it in the comments or on the Facebook page. I already have 10 more tips written and waiting for the next post, but I can always add more. 2) In the coming week, try one of the seven tips mentioned above, then return here next report back here. 3) Share this post.

Up next: More sleep tips.

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Are you getting enough sleep?

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We’ve all heard plenty of statistics about the devastating effects of sleep deprivation.

This post won’t be heavy on statistics, partly because stats can vary widely and I’m confident that what I’m presenting here supports my argument for more rest.

And also because statistics can be boring and might put you to sleep.

Oh, wait

(If you’re reading this close to bedtime, feel free to stop and go to bed. No, seriously. Your sleep is more important than finishing this post right now.)

If you think I’m referring only to extreme sleep deprivation (pulling all-nighters) as “devastating,” understand that chronic sleep deprivation (even just a little too little on a routine basis) hampers proper functioning.

Over the years, studies have presented evidence of:

  • Impaired physical performance. Athletes who sleep adequately have been shown to perform better than those who don’t, and the same holds true for all sorts of activities. Some studies have compared sleep deprivation to drunkenness above the legal limit for alcohol. Do you want to be on the same highway as a driver who’s had too much to drink … or too little sleep? Or, worse, do you want to be that driver?
  • Impaired judgment (see previous item). Maybe you’re an accountant and mistype a number, and the IRS goes after your client, who sues you. Or maybe you’re a medical student and you ruin someone’s life – and your career. Maybe you make the wrong decision in a social setting and end up pregnant by a stranger – or with a sexually transmitted disease. (Extreme examples? You be the judge – but first get a good night’s sleep!)
  • Crankiness (not that I would know anything about this 🙂 ). Relationships suffer: family, social, spiritual, workplace. A bad mood and impaired judgment can lead not only to lawsuits and diseases but an unhappy, dysfunctional household and other relationship problems.
  • Overeating and weight gain. This can be the result of hormone imbalance and cravings – and I’m not talking carrots and celery sticks. Under-sleeping can lead to a rushed schedule and food on the run, and emotional factors that lead to overindulging or unhealthful eating; It can be from impaired judgment, the need for comfort and a host of other physiological factors.
  • Immune system impairment and chronic illness. Even an excess of caffeine (coffee addiction, anyone?) can have unfavorable effects on your health. A friend’s loved one – a young man in his 20s – died because of prolonged excessive consumption of energy drinks, which included megadoses of caffeine. I know of a coffee variety called Jet Fuel; if you’re jet-lagged, choose sleep over caffeine.
  • Depression. Before I came out on the other side of my depression – in the mid-1990s – I was working a 4-to-midnight shift; I’m a morning person, and I never felt rested in those years. Besides depressed, I was cranky, angry and critical about everything around me. Do you think I was a fun person to be around? (NOTE: When I worked through the depression, I still had the crazy work schedule, so I’m not blaming it solely on sleep deprivation, but it played a role.) Fortunately for Bruce, I had worked through my depression before we started dating. He knew me in those years, though, and he worried about me.

If you are depressed, reach out to me (or someone else you can trust) and we’ll talk about ways you can get help. I’m not a clinician, but I can point you to some resources. (My pastor’s wife and a good, in-depth book and companion workbook were my lifeline; for you it may involve medication and/or another type of solution.)

IF YOU ARE SUICIDAL, seek IMMEDIATE help from your physician, your pastor or someone else you can trust, visit the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call the Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (toll-free numbers are also available for Spanish speakers, hearing impaired, veterans and people in emotional distress related to “natural or human-caused disasters”).

http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now

SO … HERE’S WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD.

About 10 years ago, I started requiring a Sunday nap to get through the week. It was not long after I started The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had (I still have nightmares about it). I was stuck in that 60-hour-a-week job for 11 months, and I’m convinced it would have killed me if I hadn’t broken free.

I’ll tell you that story some other time (such as: in my last week there, I was diagnosed with a heart condition that eventually led to surgery). But today, I want you to think about YOUR story.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you feel tired all the time, or much of the time?
  • Do you get cranky, hangry (hungry/angry) or forgetful more than occasionally?
  • Do you feel achy or breaky in your body … or your emotions?
  • Do you drag your butt out of bed – and off to work or school – every day, and the feeling lasts all day, every day?
  • Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of sleep that is optimal for your body and brain? It varies with age and other factors – small children need about 13 hours; teenagers about 9 ½ hours; and adults about 7-9 hours – so you need to figure it out if you don’t already know.

I’ve written about the importance of my nonnegotiable Sunday nap and my designation of Sunday as my Sabbath. For you it might be a different day of the week, but YOU NEED A SABBATH.

If your schedule is too busy for adequate rest, you need to figure out a way to change that. The past couple of weeks here at To Well With You, we’ve talked about margin (which includes saying NO to nonessentials) and decluttering (which includes the admonition to take a break from unproductive habits to clear some space for mental calmness). Today, it’s rest. (Next week: ways to get more and better sleep.)

Homework assignment: Ask yourself what ONE step you can take in the coming week to make a change in your sleep habits and satisfy your body and brain’s need for restorative rest. Post a comment here or on the Facebook page. Your idea just might spark a good habit for someone else.

Next week we’ll consider some ways we all can make changes, so come prepared to share your ideas and let us know how your week went. I’ll share our collection of ideas in the next post.

We’re all in this together, my friends. Now, go have a restful week. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

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