Small Change Net Big Results

While browsing the frozen section of the grocery store for my son for real ice cream as opposed to my liking for natural homemade natural ice cream, I stumbled on, a blast from my past.  🙂

At age 23 Chunky Monkey was my prescribed best friend! Who doesn’t know about Ben & Jerry’s delicious, unorthodox, and addictive flavored ice cream!  I was pregnant with my daughter and was under doctor’s orders to gain weight, which was an enormous challenge for me.  My Obstetrician, Dr. Chong, told me that I was too skinny.  Dr. Chong wrapped his child-sized hand completely around my upper arm and pointed to my branch like boney limbs,

“You need to eat.!  You too skinny!”

Since supersized servings of collard greens weren’t doing the trick, I resorted to fudge sundaes during the daytime at work and Chunky Monkey ice cream at night.  :).  I still didn’t gain weight but continued on with my love for the fatty delectable dessert.

Until recently, when I saw my old treat in the freezer, I had forgotten all about it.  I was curious about the nutritional label and had to sneak a peek at the label.  Back then, I don’t think I noticed food labels. My girl Oprah says it best.  “When you know better, you do better.”  She’s right.

Twenty-nine years later, I finally read the jaw-dropping label. Hoooooly Moly!!

28 grams of sugar X  4  servings is 112 grams of sugar!!!!

300 calories per servings X  4 servings = 1,200 calories!!

300 grams of fat per servings X 4 servings – 112 grams of fat!!!

I’m dying thinking about this… mouth wide open…. thinking about how many times I ate a full pint and what the contents were doing to my body.  It makes me wanna barf.  Ugh!

Looking at me then, I appeared to be the epitome of health, and for the most part, I was healthy, or so I think.  However, my metabolism was high, my body processed the food quickly and at almost 5’9, I weighed 125-130 pounds.   Surely had I continued to eat Chunky Money at this pace with a few other bad food habits, I was on my way to being overweight and dealing with health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and more.

Back then, even though I overindulged in sugary treats like this, I also balanced out my diet with daily servings of fruits and vegetables.   A high metabolism and good genetics kept me slim and trim, and I did not have any health issues. But the fact is, my diet exceeded the daily recommendation for… well. Everything.

Today I thank God for putting me on a path to a better place where I learned to make smarter choices about my health and well-being.

Too frequently though many people wait until a medical condition dictates a lifestyle change.  Particularly women.  Women of color.

In 2014, the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) reported the leading causes of death in ALL black females ALL ages were:

Heart disease – 23.2%

Cancer – 22.5%

Stroke – 6.2%

Diabetes – 4.6%

Chronic lower respiratory disease – 3.2%

Alzheimer’s disease – 3.1%

Unintentional injuries – 3.0%

Kidney disease – 2.0%

Septicemia – 2.3%

Hypertension – 1.9%

Heart disease (22.3%) and cancer (21.6%) remained at the top of the list for ALL females, ALL ages.

When you consider the fact that lifestyle behaviors can significantly reduce women’s risk factors for these illnesses it is disturbing.

If you have prediabetes, research shows that losing 5%-7% of your body weight and getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity like brisk walking can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

(CDC)

Why do women wait until a doctor tells them that a lifestyle change is in order?  If we learn to listen to our body, it usually sends signals by responding to the food we eat, the beverages we drink, and other behaviors. If you walk up a flight of stairs and you are out of breath, that means something.  When was the last time you had an annual check up?

Take a pledge to live a healthier lifestyle.  Even better, commit to a better lifestyle with a family member, a friend, or a colleague. Try a new recipe, join or start a walking club, take a yoga class, take a strength training class, or something else, just get busy moving.   Please!

Oh and… if you’re gonna get down with Ben & Jerry’s, remember portion control or better yet, try making your own healthy chocolate ice creamAvocado Ice Cream or a quick frozen strawberry yogurt. Making your own is healthier and more fun.

Making small changes in your life can net significant health benefits. Instead of attacking your health with major changes, start with minor changes like drinking more water and less juice or soda, reducing the amount of sugar you put in your coffee or substituting one high-fat food item with a lower fat food item. Take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators or do jumping jacks or pushups during commercials of your favorite TV show.  Over time, you will experience big gains. Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself because I won’t give up on you.

Grad school is slowing my posts, but I’m still here.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Smooches!  🙂

She Has Outlived Three Vegans!

G’Mom Dynamite is 83!!   In the morning, she enjoys her duo of a cup of freshly ground Joe with her smokes. Like, a hot apple a la mode served with creamy vanilla bean ice-cream, the two pair nicely. When she gets up in the morning, I encourage her to pick something healthy to eat.  I make sure I keep her favorite fruits on hand.  But, at her age, who am I to tell her what to eat, how often, and how much to eat?

Regardless of her 60+ year relationship with non-filtered cigarettes and Gin (the 70’s), old Grand Dad (the 80’s-90’s),  or Hennessy (late 90’s to present), she is still alive and kicking.  I may live a healthy lifestyle but there is still no guarantee that I will live age 83.

Medication for high blood pressure doesn’t stir her to read labels or to give up her prepackaged high sodium favorites like this Spicy Miso Ramen Noodle Soop! 920 grams of sodium per serving! Holy cow!  Yuck!!  But I see her point that she’s lived through eight decades.

My mom has outlived three vegetarians in our family, who never drank, smoked, or ate any form of meat or seafood.

Lol! It’s funny but not really. I miss my cousins and aunts.  But I see her point.  Take my beautiful cousin Marlene for example. RIP cuz.   She lived a clean life but died in her early 40’s while battling breast cancer. I respect my mother’s point-of-view but continue to encourage her to make healthy food

LOOK AT THE SODIUM!!!! 

choices.  When she talks about dying, which is often and I say, “While you are living, let’s focus on quality of life.”  She responds,  “Tanya, you can’t live forever!!  She looks at me and cracks up laughing!   I join in with her laughter and know that, for the most part, I am wasting my time.

Seriously I contribute mom’s longevity to her upbringing.  Mom and her siblings were poor. They ate fresh everything!  My grandmother managed the family’s health with natural herbs like goldenseal, poke root, catnip, dandelion, fennel, nettle, and more.  I’m not talking about the stuff in a bottle. I’m speaking of the plants, roots, and grounded powder versions. The grandkids in my generation helped momma make capsules for the family.  They never ate out in restaurants, drank soda, cool aid, or any of that. Their eggs came from farm raised, grass fed chickens. The well water they drank was fresh and wasn’t contaminated by the chemicals that taint our current water supplies. Life and the food supply was simpler.

As I was about to leave for work the other day, I noticed her morning snack before breakfast: grapes and apples! I didn’t say a word but could not help smiling and chuckling. When she turned her back, I snapped a quick picture!!  Lol!! Hmm… maybe she is listening.

Her snack made my day! 🙂

Take care of yourself in 2017!

 

 

When Procrastination Is Good

If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.
When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in
the field ofyour bliss, and they open the doors to you.  I say,
follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t
have opened for anyone else.

-Joseph Campbell

I assessed the pros and cons of my decision.  Before making the critical determination, I carefully scrutinized the advantages, the disadvantages, the expected and unexpected, and everything in between.  I made a choice, but emotionally my heart uttered that I was mistaken.

The tug of war between logic and emotion is a compelling and dynamic relationship.  Logic has its validity but so does emotion.  Sometimes I think feelings are underrated. Some research suggests that “individuals who experienced more intense feelings achieved higher decision-making performance.”  Hmm..

You’re probably wondering what I’m rambling about and where am I going with this.

Whelp, I’ll tell you exactly what this post is all about…  My chatter is about grad school.  To take the next class or not.

The last semester was no doubt the most challenging ever. Working full-time, caring for the home, partaking in our son’s activities, and being present in our marriage was laborious.

During the eight-week course, I second-guessed myself daily.  Self-sabotage!!   Did I belong in the class? Did I have what it took to pass the class?  Was I smart enough? Suffocating in doubt and uncertainty, I agonized but pushed through it.  The final exam was the breaking point.  I thought… no, I knew for certain that I’d bomb the course, but I did not. I received a 90 on my final and passed the course with a B-.  Whew!!

In the fall, I registered for the Spring 2017 semester but later realized that due to unexpected events, I should probably drop the course(s) until summer ’17.  I was trying to think realistically about handling a heavy workload.

I prolonged dropping the course until the final day of drop/add. Who’d believe that procrastination can be good?

On the final day to drop without a financial obligation, I logged in to my school’s site, pulled up the classes, placed an “X” in the boxes, and reached to set my pinky on the enter button and froze.

I couldn’t bring myself to finish the withdrawl and press the enter button.

Questioning myself again, I pondered, will this class be as challenging and time-consuming?  With new undertakings, will I have too much on my plate? I still could not bring myself to drop any of the classes.  I texted four people who are close to me.  Three of the four, including my husband responded.  Their feedback helped.

I have momentum and drive; it is not the time to ease off the gas and delay progress.

My hunger and thirst for this program make my heart flutter. Simply talking about the program sends goose bumps along my arms.

The work is demanding and challenging, but that’s where the growth emerges.  Finally, I’ve become quite comfortable with the sentiment of feeling uncomfortable.  In strength training, you lift to failure; then you lift again.  It is only through the discomfort of breaking down (tearing) the muscles and feeling sore, along with proper nutrition that we become stronger and develop muscle growth.

On the other side of this struggle awaits unexplored ventures and unknown opportunities.

Because I procrastinated, I did NOT drop my spring classes!!  Hallelujah!!

This post is a friendly reminder for me and for you to stay encouraged in whatever it is we set out to do.  Self-doubt is normal but pushing through the doubt is the exception.  Many people succumb to fear and to doubt and give up on their dreams.  They spend their life wondering, what if?  Please don’t give up. Keep pushing and keep it moving. Failure means success and beats the what if’s any day.  I’m delighted that I procrastinate!  I know that I made the best decision as I continue to follow my bliss. 🙂

Here’s to a new semester, to new challenges,  and to new opportunities in 2017! By the way, if you like what you’ve read here, please subscribe to Lexa’s Journal. Thank you!

Happy New Year!

Smooches!

 

 

Do You Mind?


Earlier in the week, I woke up with an overwhelming and unusual feeling of sadness. I sort of knew why I was sad but not why on that particular day.  As I sat emptying my bladder, my arms were dampened by moisture. Teardrops.  A steady stream of quiet and uncontrollable tears. It just happened, and I couldn’t stop the flow. I didn’t make a decision to make it a “get it all out” moment. It just naturally came about.

The root of the lingering blahs and heavy heart stem from the death of my beloved Aunt Annie. Her unexpected and sudden departure occurred four months ago. Thanksgiving and Christmas are near. I know from experience that the holiday season is a difficult time for those grieving the loss of loved ones. Her infectious enthusiasm and spark for life were everything!! Growing up, she and her sisters hosted the mini-army sized family dinners. The spread was incredible. Friends could not believe how much food was prepared.  100 biscuits, a dozen pies, half-dozen cakes, several oversized pans of her original home-made baked beans, baked macaroni & cheese, and more.

 

img_3595

Always smiling!!  🙂

Still, at nearly 80 years old,  Annie called to affectionally ask, “What do you want for Christmas?” Last year, my response was the same as the previous years, “Thank you, auntie!! I don’t want anything; I just want to enjoy the time with my family.” Auntie loved Christmas. As far back as I can remember, I recall her Christmas shopping with my mother and a few other sisters. Like on Oprah’s talk show, everybody gets a gift!! You get one!! You get one! And you get one!!  Lol!!

Like overgrown roots bulging from underground, the colorful and beautifully wrapped presents spread out under the bright Christmas tree and beyond. Her son (Curtis) and I would sneak glances at the gifts to figure out The Who’s and what’s. We knew not to touch.

For the past 20 years, I took the torch and hosted the holiday dinners at my house, but today our family is much smaller. I was considering halting the tradition, making reservations at a local restaurant and taking care of dinner for everyone. However, I realize doing this would be selfish. Auntie would not approve of this, so with mixed emotions, and Thanksgiving being 12 days away, I’ve begun to prepare for the festivities.

I was at Auntie’s home early this morning and felt a profound sense of peace. In July, she took her last breath at home and in her bed. Her spirit is alive in the house. Going to her bedroom and saying a quick hello has become a ritual.  🙂  The house is known as The Mission, historically provided meals, clothes, shelter, nurturing, counseling, entertainment, love, and lots of tender loving care to anyone who visited. As I write this, I just realized that unconsciously  I’ve tried to replicate the same with our home. She taught me so much, and for that I am grateful.

I took the beautiful pictures below this morning from auntie’s yard.  I wanted to lay down on the leaves and roll around… I know, I should have.   The yard is the same yard that I played tag, hide and seek, and football in when I was a kid.  Oh, the wonderful memories- they keep me smiling.

 


The freshness of the mornings’ cold air in her yard added perspective. The sound of the crunching leaves beneath my feet, and the deer leaping through the woods gave clarity.

If she were here today, I am sure she would be raking and bagging leaves.   I would offer help and tell her to take it easy and not to do it over..  She’d probably say,  I might be old, but I have to keep moving.  I can’t let these old bones of mine stiffen up!  Lol!!

I hope you don’t mind…

I just needed to clear my mind. Today is a great day!

Thanks for stopping by and make it a fabulous day! Smooches!!  🙂

The Joy Of Vacationing With Kids

On a recent family vacation to the beautiful island Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I observed something, and it’s not the first time.  I see families from many cultures and from all over the world traveling on vacation with their children, including infants, but not as many black families traveling with their children.   Don’t get me wrong; I see them, but not as often.

Nope, I’m not judging anyone, I am only commenting on my observations, wondering why we don’t travel more with our children and am writing to encourage more to do so.

As a child, I was not privileged to family vacations.  My parents and other relatives went, but the kids stayed home.  For my parents, I believe the choice was mostly economic but also cultural in that kids don’t belong in grown folk affairs and vacations were considered grown folk affairs. They worked hard and earned the right to getaway to chill.

Remembering the longing to board an airplane and fly away with my parents greatly influenced my decision to travel with my children.

At age three, our 27-year-old daughter’s first flight was to San Diego, California.  Our 13-year-old has been flying since the age of five.

Traveling with children is a wonderful experience.  Watching their curious eyes light up in amazement and disbelief when they see an aged and dilapidated building that is a school in another country or the joy of meeting and playing with other children who do not speak the same language, but understands volleyball or a game of catch in the pool.

Taking them to different cities, states, and countries open their eyes to the world outside of their own.  We want our children to grow up and become adults who are open-minded and learn to appreciate and to respect what is different from their experience.

So much of the hatred in this world stems from ignorance, a lack of tolerance and understanding for others who look and sound different.

Over the past week, I watched my son go from clinging comfortably to my husband and me to shooting hoops, playing volleyball with kids from other countries and hanging out in the teen arcade. I love it!!
Playing catch with a kid from California.

Below he is enjoying a moon rocker ride with his dad.  Later he gets to drive it.  🙂


Quick family pic before heading to the pool.

Earlier in the week, we drank fresh coconut water directly from a coconut.  S0 after a morning horseback ride, my son decided to pluck his coconut from a tree.  My friend and I watched him diligently work at getting the coconut; refusing to ask for help, he was determined to get one.   He has always been independent and always wants to do things himself, so I knew he was not going to ask the guides for help.


Well…. It took him about 15 minutes to get his coconut!  Failure was not an option. The theme of all things is possible continues.  🙂

Our son has wanted to go horseback riding for awhile.  What better place to try it than on a beach in Punta Cana!

In the picture below, he is getting instructions on how to direct the horse.


A rare occasion where hubby is 100% relaxed… All it took was a trip to Punta Cana and a horseback ride on the beach!

Posing with a fellow loc wearing resort employee


Here he confidently serves the ball in a game of volleyball with fellow vacationers; most speak very little English, but they all are having fun and are enjoying the game.

Other fun activities that Tailor enjoyed including taking photos with exotic pets. I love these pictures!

tailor holding snakeTailor holding monkey2

Monkey on tailor headIguana on Tailor forearm


Posing for the camera at the end of ride…  🙂


After the ride, my son was ecstatic!


Driving the moon rocker (dune buggy) with his dad was one of the highlights of his trip.  I drove too, but in a separate vehicle.


After spending the day at the pool, we headed out for dinner.

Check him out below. Action shot jumping to catch a football.


Deep in thought. Love his locs!

Throughout the year, we are busy as heck.  School, football, basketball, track, tutoring, and more.  Like any family, we experience stress and work each other’s nerves.  Rushing from one activity to another, squeezing in doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, school projects, working overtime, birthdays, holidays, graduations and then some are enough to wear down the most upbeat and energized family.

Decompressing as a family is a perfect remedy.  Everyone can relax. Our vacations involve very little “scheduled” time.  We pretty much wing it and take it one day at a time.  We all needed this trip.  While taking a break from the moon rocker excursion, we rested at the shore of an empty beach.

beach

I took my son by the hand, walked him to the edge of the water where warm turquoise colored water splashed our bare feet.  I instructed him to clear his head, listen to the ocean, and to look out as far as he could see.

I explained that we are a blessed family and should give thanks for all that we have and for our amazing experiences.  I went on to tell him that some children and adults will never see the natural beauty we were witnessing, and he should savor the moment.  I also told him to use the vacation as motivation to continue to do his best in school and in all that he does.

“When you get tired and and feel like you can’t go on, think about our wonderful vacation and work harder so that you can continue to reap the benefits of hard work.”

I explained how the process works for me, and it is just another way to stay motivated.  I asked him if he understood what I was saying and he did.

We’re back home and feeling very relaxed.  In two weeks, I will be back to work, and he starts 8th grade.  Our entire family is already talking about next year’s trip.  We’ll print his favorite pictures from the trip in poster size and hang on his wall; they will serve as great reminders for all of us to continue to work hard throughout the year.  🙂

🙂

Alternative Chips Worth A Try

Your daily diet is rock solid.  You eat fresh fruits, steamed and sauteed vegetables, lean protein sources, drink lots of water, and your fitness regimen is on point.  However, occasionally, the desire for a crunchy chip slams you hard.

Here’s an option!  I cannot remember where I purchased them from, but I checked online and they are available at Vitacost (a favorite online shop), Walmart (they cost more here), and a few other sites.  You can find the chips locally at Target, Shoprite, Bonterra, and Casel’s Supermarket.

sprouts package

It’s not what you think.  Don’t knock it until you try it.  I’m just sayin’ 🙂

sprouts GMO

You can see why it got my attention… NON-GMO, Gluten free, whole grains, and more!

sprouts ingredients

The ingredient list is good, and I love that sea salt is the last ingredient, which means it has the least amount of all of the ingredients.  🙂

sprouts nutritional label

Always read the label on any packaged product.  Although clean eating means avoiding processed foods, a cheat here and there means that we are human and not robots.  Note that above the nutritional label; a statement reads “Made in a facility that uses milk and soy,” so if you have allergies or avoid milk and soy, the manufacturer has put you on notice.

If you count out nine chips, you’re looking at 80 mg of sodium and 15 g of carbs.  Except for carrot sticks, celery sticks, freshly baked kale chips or fresh fruit, this isn’t too bad.  Oh, and about the nine chips, the bag is small, ration these treats out.  🙂

sprouts

Imagine snacking on the chips with a fresh mango salsa or fresh guacamole dip.  Mmm… yummy!

nutrition quote

If you try the chips, I would love to hear what you think of them.  Thaks for stopping by!  🙂