July 28, 2014

Don't Call Them Dropouts...

With every passing year, the global discussion about educating our youth continues to be a hot topic of conversation in the news, in editorials, and in our individual households. For many of us, it is the march to higher education, cognizant that there will always be the sliver of America's children who, for whatever reason, won't make it to their senior year in high school. They are typically referred to as "dropouts." A term coined to segregate anyone who inadvertently falls by the wayside between grades K-12.

Recently, Ed Rust, who is the CEO of State Farm Insurance Companies, spoke out about this issue. State Farm as a company has become a voracious supporter of America's Promise Alliance, which is an organization comprised of men and women, who have made the commitment to assist and supplement the needs of school age children and their families in order to remove the individual obstacles that might otherwise make graduating from high school an impossible goal.

According to Rust, he throws down the challenge to change the vernacular. Deeming the term "dropouts" as unfair when families are sadly plagued with limited options due to a variety of unavoidable circumstances. Instead of dismissing this growing sector of our youth, he embraces the idea of reaching out to empower struggling families and children. Ultimately giving a hand up to those who might simply need something as simple as a pair of shoes, a winter coat, or supplies to make learning more feasible.

It has been my privilege to volunteer for this incredible organization for the past year. If you have been looking for an opportunity to give back in your own community, I would encourage you to check out America's Promise Alliance. It is a worthy organization, and is successfully making a difference one child at time.

I have linked Ed Rust's recent speech, as well as a very inspirational video from the documentary entitled "Don't Call Them Dropouts."



July 21, 2014

Is A Pound Really A Pound...

It seems like every other day a new study comes out on nutrition or a fitness expert declares the newest fitness craze that will change our lives forever. I have always been confused about the issue of muscle vs fat when it comes to the scale. Is it really true that muscle weighs more than fat?

A friend of mine passed this article along the other day, and I thought it contained the clearest explanation of the issue of weight. It is so much more involved than the number that pops up on the bathroom scale.  Healthy reading!


July 14, 2014

I Thought I Was Going Through Menopause. Turns Out I had E. Coli...

This blog is a do as I say, not as I did. For the better part of this spring, I felt horrible. My symptoms were fatigue, listlessness, cranky, unable to tolerate certain foods, night sweats, and a weird seven pound weight gain that came out of the blue. I looked at my list of complaints, and figured the time had arrived to acknowledge that I might be entering a "new phase" in my life. So I decided to do what everyone does when a pesky medical condition pops up. I pulled out my trusty iPad, and consulted the Mayo Clinic website, which sadly assured me by the list of typical menopausal symptoms that I was indeed joining the millions of women in the march toward "life part II..."

As a family trip out of country approached, I thought it best to rule out anything serious, as my symptoms were becoming increasingly invasive to my daily life. A simple test would later reveal that I had been suffering from E.coli, and not menopause. A very anxious phone call from the doctor on a Saturday evening advising me to put my dinner fork down and drive immediately to the pharmacy for a potent antibiotic was the final catalyst that got my attention. Loud and clear!

Now that I am looking at the past few months from a rear view mirror, I am reminded again of the benefits and draw backs of our beloved World Wide Web. Julie's new rule~ shopping will continue, self-diagnosing is officially a thing of the past...

July 4, 2014

Don't Let Those Pesky Fears Sideline Your Potential...

For the better part of forty years, I have had two significant fears; horses and the ocean. Horses because I was thrown when I was in the first grade after my best friend, Missy Brown, invited me to join her on an epic ride. She was an expert rider, participating regularly in rodeos and competitions. She, of course had a real cowboy hat. Mine was the felt impostor that you could buy in the toy section at the pharmacy. Regardless, I felt like a real live cowgirl, nonetheless.  As the young boys and girls cued up to enter the arena for the opening ceremony where flags blew and patriotic music blared, Missy Brown and I proudly entered the spotlight. We managed to get about a quarter of the way around. Slowly picking up speed, I panicked and inadvertently kicked the horse so hard that it started bucking. Missy, being the experienced rider that she was, managed to remain unfazed by the event. Miss Fake Felt Hat, on the other hand, fell to the ground below like a five pound sack of potatoes. Because we were basically leading the other riders around the circular stadium, I still to this day have a vivid memory tattooed in my brain of the remaining horses jumping over my paralyzed body like a mere speed bump in the road. I was not injured, just scared to f#@*ing death! Mrs. Brown eventually emerged, picking me up, trying to convince me that I would be okay. 

A few years before rodeogate 1973, I was at Pismo Beach with our family and some friends. I recall my mom asking me to please not go into the water past my knees. Naturally, I was hip deep in no time, and quickly whisked out with the strong undercurrent. My memory of  that day is being on the bottom of the ocean floor failing miserably to dig my way through the loose sand. I was luckily pulled from the water by a family friend, and never went into the ocean again past my knees.

I have happily avoided horses and dips in the ocean for forty years. Honestly, I could have continued the streak for another forty. Except for the fact that my teenage daughter recently requested a side trip on a family vacation to the Cayman Islands. The adventure involved riding horses on the beach, followed by the horse swimming into the ocean. No joke! The horse literally swims with rider teetering on its back in deep ocean water. 

After initially rejecting her request, I decided to spend the two weeks leading up to the trip changing my vernacular. Instead of using words like "no way", "crazy", and "forget it", I started saying to myself, "I can do this", "I am going to do this", and periodically phrases like, "I hope I don't die on a horse in the ocean."

Strangely, I felt calm as I began the journey. I'm not going to lie, I had a few moments of trepidation, but I am proud to say I did it! As you can see in the photos below, I simultaneously faced two lifelong fears in one afternoon. I have written on many occasions about the concept that your brain believes your words. We are conditioned as humans to tell ourselves a story. A story that becomes so ingrained in our brain that it eventually is like another appendage that we carry through life without further evaluation. 

What's your unwanted appendage?