Geranium seeds

Seeds of wellness for body, mind and spirit

I’ve moved!!

Dear readers,

I have a new address!! I am still unpacking and renovating, so pardon the mess but make yourself at home! You can now find me at http://prayersandchocolate.com

If you are a subscriber to this blog, I have moved your subscription with me! I am working on a new post too so that will hopefully be up soon. Come see me at the new place and let me know what you think!

Alice

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How to strengthen your resolve for healthy living (stop smoking, lose weight, etc)

Running in the freezing rain... really?! (Let's do this!)

Running in the freezing rain… really?!
(Let’s do this!)

Perhaps you have made a decision to lead a healthier lifestyle by eating better, exercising, or cutting out bad habits such as soda or cigarettes. Congratulations! Here are some tips to increase your willpower and get you to your desired goal:

1) Practice seeing yourself as the “chooser” instead of the victim”
You will undoubtedly be tempted to break your promise to yourself.  When this happens, it will also be tempting to see yourself as a poor victim who is being deprived of life’s great comforts, as if someone else is punishing you. This is how our poor little victim mentality may try to defend itself: “But I’ve had a long day at work and I’m tired! But someone was mean to me today and I deserve a treat! But everyone else is having a piece of cake!” And so on. Resist that by reminding yourself that you are not the deprived, but the one who is doing the choosing. Say to yourself: “I am choosing this for me because I have decided it’s best for me. It is my decision. I am doing this for me.” Repeat as needed.

2)Focus on making the best decison right this moment

If you think about never having another soda or cigarette or milkshake again, the thought will probably be overwhelming and unrealistic and make you want to quit on your decision altogether. Instead, focus on making the best decision right now. It doesn’t mean you will never be able to eat a double-greased-fried-bacon-burger again; you are just choosing to have a healthier lunch right now. You are not trying never to smoke again; you are just choosing another way to relax right now. Deal with each moment as it comes.

3) Sleep well and practice relaxation
In other words, take care of yourself. You are much more likely to be tempted to fall into the old habits when you are tired and stressed out. Schedule some “me” time, get a massage, do something you enjoy.

4) Gratitude is a great motivator, and it beats whining
Whenever you find yourself complaining about how tough it is to make these lifestyle changes, think about how you can be grateful. I practiced this recently in order to motivate myself to get up early for a run on a Saturday morning. I found myself in bed with thoughts like these: “It’s Saturday! I should be sleeping in! Lucas isn’t even up yet… I could have been sleeping longer.” So I turned the thoughts around to, “I’m grateful for having a group of friends to run with; grateful that I will get to enjoy a beautiful sunrise and fresh morning; grateful Lucas is still asleep so I can slip out easier; grateful I will be done with the run and still have the whole day ahead of me…” I had to practice the gratitude exercise again a couple of days later when my running partner Jocelyn and I ventured out to run in the freezing rain… hey, it works! And if everything else fails, this one always works: I am grateful for being able to move. So many people don’t have this luxury.

PS – If you’re wondering why Jocelyn and I are acting like crazy runners, it’s because we’re training for another half-marathon. Check out her awesome website: http://halfmarathonmom.com/

5) Try visualization
And I don’t just mean visualizing yourself at your ideal weight, although that’s helpful too. I mean finding an image that helps you get through those tough moments of doing the hard work. For example, when I am getting tired while running, I will often think about people in my life who might be feeling imprisoned by debilitating disease or depression, or areas in my life where I am feeling limited. Then I imagine myself or those people breaking/running free from the chains. It gives me an extra oomph to finish the run.

6) Make a deal with yourself
Give yourself permission to stop the workout or go for the less healthy food or cigarette if you complete a pre-determined activity. For some, that might mean you can eat the chocolate after you eat an apple; or smoke the cigarette after you’ve walked around the block for 10 minutes; or choosing not to do your scheduled exercise routine after putting on your exercise clothes and trying the workout for just a few minutes. When I started running again after having a baby, I read an inspiring book (Run Like a Mother) that had lots of tips for staying motivated. The tip that has mostly stayed with me has been to tell myself to run for just five minutes more. When I feel like stopping or slowing down, I give myself permission to do so — but only after running for another five minutes.

6) Delve into spiritual practices
Prayer and meditation have been found to increase focus and willpower. And they will make you a better person.

7) Remember that healthy living is a practice
There’s no need to try to be perfect. As Oscar Wilde has said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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Ear massage for headache relief

So I started writing this blog entry and realized it would be much better to just show you. So here’s my first video entry! Hopefully I will get better at this and add some more videos!

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A New Year’s Prayer

cardback2012 I wrote this prayer to be published in a local magazine (“Fitness Plus”) in January of 2009. The magazine has since been discontinued and I thought I would share the prayer again… happy new year!

 

God of new beginnings,

We give you thanks for the gift of life.

Help us to welcome the new year with renewal and hopeful anticipation.

 

Forgive us for the hurts we have done to others and to ourselves,

For the love, forgiveness and help we have failed to offer,

For opportunities wasted.

 

Renew our faith and trust in you,

Mend our broken relationships and hearts,

And open our eyes to the beauty of your creation.

 

Help us to sense your presence in ordinary places,

Your image in ordinary faces,

Your peace in the midst of the busyness of life.

 

And as we make plans for another year,

Grant us the courage to hope,

To dream,

And to act.

Amen.

May your new year be filled with hope.

“This I call to my mind, therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great isYyour faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

 

 

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Cookies and Milk – a winning team

Milk and Cookies aren't just for Santa.

Milk and Cookies aren’t just for Santa.

Just thought I’d share a little tip for the day…

Everyone loves cookies and milk. Actually, this isn’t a tradition I grew up with. In Brazil we dipped our cookies (and bread) in coffee, not milk. I still do this and think it is the most delicious thing… sometimes my American friends will stare at me while I’m dunking my donuts in coffee — and I’m like, there’s a reason for a store named Dunkin’ Donuts! Right? I can’t be the only one doing this!

But anyway… since moving to America I have come to appreciate the cookies dipped in milk movement. This week I baked a batch of cookies and have been enjoying a nightly ritual of Santa-inspired snacks. So, here’s my little tip: add a little cinnamon to your milk. It tastes delicious with the milk alone, and I will often drink it that way. When you dunk the cookies in the cinnamon-ey milk, the cinnamon coats the cookies making them extra tasty! Try it and let me know what you think!

cinnamon-milk

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Life is a gift… with an ode to joy

I’ve said this on this blog before, but after this week it bears saying again. Most nights when I rock Lucas to sleep it is a mostly sweet but still bittersweet moment for me. Having him snuggle up to me and run his fingers through my hair while I sing to him (sometimes he joins in, which is oh so sweet), or rocking this precious baby (toddler) in silence, then watching him fall asleep with that angelic face — that is very, very sweet. The bitter part comes with my full awareness that he will grow up too soon and be out of my arms, the knowledge that one day he will get hurt and I won’t be able to protect him from everything, and worse — my full awareness that we are not promised tomorrow and I simply do not know how many more times I will get to rock this precious child to sleep.

That may seem a little morbid but I can’t help it — I’m a hospice chaplain and I see people dying everyday. Young and old, people of every kind. People like me. Babies like my baby. It doesn’t depress me like many people think it might; knowing this has taught me the value of life and to appreciate it to its fullest.

This week the bittersweet moments have been even more bittersweet due to several events: first, a dear friend died on Monday. She was a happy, hardworking, active, wonderful person, mother, and friend. She had a nine year-old daughter who will miss her dearly. Then, a couple of friends experienced similar losses when two other parents of young children died this week. Finally, the shooting in Connecticut left us all numb and wild with grief at the thought of losing our own children.

A really great seminary professor of mine — John Claypool — used to say that “life is a gift.” His very young daughter died of cancer and he was later diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma — a nasty cancer that eventually took his life. And his response was this: life is a gift. It helped him to appreciate the time he was able to spend with his daughter, and the life he shared with his wife, family and friends.

That has always, always stayed with me. Life is a gift. Appreciate life.

By the way — here’s the back of our Christmas card this year!

cardback2012

And the front:

cardfront2012

And to finish up I have to share this with you… someone shared this on facebook today and I thought it was perfect timing since tomorrow we light the Advent candle of Joy… amidst all the grief! Flash mobs are awesome and this one is really special. Made me tear up! I hope it gives you some joy.

Peace, love and joy this season and always!! XOXO, Alice.

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Pastoral Care Week

Today I am reposting an entry I made for my hospice organization’s blog. This entry was based on a previous post I made on this blog, “Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain: What Really Hurts,” which you can read in its entirety here.

During the week of October 21-27, we celebrate the work of chaplains and other spiritual care providers. This year, the theme of Pastoral Care Week is “Giving Voice.” Here is what is symbolized by the Giving Voice logo: “Giving voice is like a drop of rain that nurtures the earth, quenching thirst, and giving new birth to a voice that has been silenced. We listen to what is within, to the diversity of voices we hear, and assist in the weaving of voices in the teams we serve. The bird symbolizes new heights and new places to which our voices may soar.” (PastoralCareWeek.org)

When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, many questions find themselves bubbling to the surface: “Has my life mattered? Will I be remembered? Am I worthy of love and forgiveness? Have I done enough? Have I loved well? Will I find peace?” It is possible to conjecture that these questions have always been there, under the surface, to be dealt with at a later time or place. Spiritual pain can often be masked by roles or identities we wear, busy schedules, and prizes we collect along the way. When a terminal illness occurs, however, the masks are gradually stripped away as our usual distractions are no longer viable. What remains is our very core, the longings of our heart, and the essence of our soul.

Life threatening illnesses come uninvited, obtrusively into our lives. They are not warranted or deserved. But if we stop to listen, spiritual crises such as terminal illnesses can also be great teachers. They show us what is important to us and what needs to be healed in our spirits. They give us the opportunity to name needs formerly silenced, to offer and receive forgiveness formerly withheld, and to express gratitude and love formerly taken for granted.

Chaplains assist patients and families in giving voice to their concerns and expressions of meaning, and may also help families voice questions and concerns to God. Spiritual healing may occur even when physical cure is not possible. When patients and families feel heard they may find spiritual healing to be more powerful than they can express in words.

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I’m really doing it!! Transitioning to working part time…

I’m giving heed to my inner voice to “slow down”
*Image by Kelly Rae Roberts

Holy Cow, it’s really happening. In just a couple of weeks I will be changing from regular full-time job status to a 24-hour work week. I will be working 3 days per week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and will be a stay-at-home mom for the rest of the week. Craaazy, right??

I know, it’s really not a crazy or innovative idea. Lots of people do this. Lots of people are stay at home moms all week long. But it’s craaazy to me! To me, the one who has (privately, to no one) sworn to always hold a full-time job even after becoming a mommy. To me, the one who has (privately) scorned the idea of ever being other than a professional working woman.

I know, I know. Being a mom is my most important work right now, and if I were to quit my job altogether in order to raise my child at home, that would be a fine choice. Intellectually I know this. Emotionally, it’s not so simple.

I have been and still am a strong supporter of mommies who work outside the home. I know that, for a lot of women, it’s not a matter of choice but of necessity. For me, I have to say, it has been a choice. My husband and I could surely have made accomodations in our living expenses if I had decided to stay at home. To be honest, the thought of staying at home never even entered my mind. It wasn’t even a consideration.

You see, since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be two things: a mother, and a professional career woman. I daydreamed about both of these roles and knew inspiring women who did both well. My own mother was a school principal while I grew up. My career plans have changed a lot throughout the years, but my inner identity as a professional woman has not. It has taken me a long time to finally find myself in a professional position. First I was an undergrad, then a masters student, then a chaplain intern, then a chaplain resident (and with jobs in between), then finally a staff chaplain! Let me just say, chaplain jobs aren’t that easy to find — especially in a small town. So, the thought of leaving my job was just out of the question.

Like many women, I underestimated how difficult it is to balance work and family. Still, I was doing fine, I thought. Then one day while discussing this with a friend, she said, “Working part-time would be perfect.” Until she said this, I hadn’t even considered part-time work. But I thought, she is right. A few months later, I pitched the idea to my organization after coming up with what I thought was a good plan. They said no, and that was that. Or so I thought.

For the next several months, I have heard this voice inside of me telling me to “slow down.” I have felt so rushed. And the voice has been getting louder and louder. But, would I be happy working part-time? What about my career ambitions? (Yes, even as a chaplain I do entertain career ambitions such as moving into a leadership role in the future). And what about the pay cut? It’s not pretty, my friends, but the truth is that having a pay cut is a big blow to my ego. You see, just like it took me so long to reach a professional position, it has taken me this long to finally earn decent pay. When you go to school for so many years it’s kind of demoralizing to not make much money (like the kind I made during my first couple of years post-masters degree). Truth is, I like the money, but mostly I like what it represents. As in, my education was worth something. As in, my working skills are worth something.

So anyway. I had to get over all of that and say YES, voice, YES, I will listen. I will slow down. So I kept coming to my supervisors with new ideas for going part-time. And it really seemed as if it wasn’t going to happen. I had started looking for part-time work elsewhere, and I grieved the fact that I was probably going to leave my hospice work. And then it happened. It was almost out of the blue. I had a meeting with a couple of supervisors on Tuesday, when I was given the OK to work a 32-hour week. Then, on Friday, my supervisor told me I can make that a 24-hour week. Unbelievable!

So here I am. Nervous, and excited. Mostly excited.

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My working playlist for a friend in need

This is what I feel like sometimes when I am singing in my car.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m up on the music trends of the day, or that I have a heightened talent for finding great obscure music out there. Truth is I am often the last one to know about a great new band or sound, but I sure do enjoy many different kinds of music.

Sometimes when I am listening to the radio or to my ipod I do a lot of daydreaming or pretending (OK, pretty much all of the time). At times, and especially if I’m driving, I pretend that I am performing whatever song I’m singing — sometimes at small venues like a coffee house, sometimes in big concert halls. In my head, I have sung duets with Josh Groban, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz. Each time I think we complement each other really well.

If I am not performing the song in my head, sometimes I am making playlists and wondering to whom I would send that song and in what circumstance. I have a working playlist that I have envisioned sending to a friend who might be in need of encouragement or an affirmation of support (or to my husband, or child, in a similar circumstance). I am often adding songs to the playlist, but sometimes I forget to write them down.

Sadly, I have never actually acted on my fantasy of sending a CD to a friend with all of my picked songs. Maybe someday. Meanwhile I am sharing these with you so all of my daydreaming will not go completely to waste. Be advised, most if not all of the songs on this playlist are kind of mellow… I guess that is my mood when I am daydreaming about a friend in need… If you scroll all the way down to the end you will get the nice treat of checking out my number one song.

1) When you’ve got trouble, by Liz Longley (this one I mostly envision sharing with my husband or child, but could be shared with a friend too I guess).

2) Don’t forget, by Brett Dennen

3) Let it be me, by Ray LaMontagne

4) Can’t go back now, by The Weepies

5) It will be me, by Kristin Chenoweth

6) Lucky, by Kat Edmonson

7) Hold on (Change is Coming), by James Grear & Company

8) Stand by me, by Tracy Chapman

And now for the treat I promised… enjoy!
* Image from http://howtowinakaraokecontest.anythingkaraoke.com/

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Staying healthy? There’s an app for that!

An actual picture of my phone screen with some of my favorite apps

In the last couple of years, I’ve come to depend a lot on my smart phone — and likely, so have you. I’ve never been one to fill my screen with games (although, on my last flight I missed having a game or two to keep me entertained). Instead, I’ve enjoyed finding apps that make my life easier and apps that make it easier to stay healthy.

There are tons of health and wellness apps out there, and you probably have your own favorites. I thought I’d share mine with you, and then maybe you can share yours with me as well!

1) RunKeeper: this was my all-time favorite app before hubby got me a Garmin watch for Christmas. It helps you track mileage and pace when out running or walking, lets you map out your run and save all of your activity. You can also make up workouts such as intervals and let RunKeeper prompt you to change the pace. Really great app.

2) Eat This, Not That: the restaurant version. It grades the menus of many popular restaurants (mostly fast food), gives the nutritional info of foods on the menu, and recommends healthier items. If I am out on the road and haven’t packed my lunch, I usually check it before ordering.

3) My Fitness Pal: Here you can enter your current weight and your weight goal, and the app will come up with a daily calorie goal for you and help you keep track of your calories throughout the day. It has an impressive amount of food items; you can just about find anything you’ve eaten or you can enter the calories of any food you’ve created. Very good way to keep yourself accountable if you’ve been overeating.

4) Food on the Table: you can select recipes based on what’s on sale at your local grocery store. Then, it makes up a grocery list for you based on the recipes you’ve selected. The recipes are not bad!

5) Breath Lessons: if you think you know how to breathe, think again! This is a great app with really good info on how to reap all the benefits of a good breath. Really, try it!

6) P Tracker Lite: Girls, this is a good little app for keeping track of your menstrual cycle. It helps you know when you are fertile and what to expect around your period.

7) Sleep Pillow: a free app with white noise for sleeping. Can be a life saver for a light sleeper like me.

8) Heart Rate: If you don’t have that Garmin watch or another heart rate monitor, use this app to quickly measure your heart rate after or during a workout.

And a couple of honorable mentions – apps I haven’t actually used a lot, but still find interesting:

9) ShopWell: similar to Eat This Not That in the sense that it recommends healthier foods for you. In this app you list your nutrition needs, and it helps you make a grocery list of items that best match your needs and goals. You can enter grocery items you usually purchase and the app will grade the items based on how well it matches your goals. My complaint about this app is that many of the grocery items recommended aren’t easily found in small, rural towns like mine. But, it is still an eye-opener even if you use it just once.

10) This for That: another food-swap kind of app. You choose the kinds of food you are craving, and it tells you what you could have instead. I haven’t actually tried the swaps, but it was fun to browse through. It would be interesting to see if the cravings actually go away with their suggestions.

11) Healthy Habits: I have recently uploaded this and have not used it yet, so I can’t give a proper review… If anyone has used it, let us know how you like it! The app lets you choose habits you want to break or add to your life (physical, mental and diet-related). Then it helps you stay accountable to that with tips and encouragement.

That’s it for now, folks! What’s your favorite health app?

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