Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wellness Tips

Since I am getting back into a fitness routine, it seemed a good time to post some related material. Welcome Diamond, who is a health enthusiast and cyber-security blogger and her seven tips for a healthier, happier you.
7 Amazing Wellness Tips to Make Yourself Healthier
Becoming healthier is a journey we should all be constantly a part of. No matter what walk of life you come from, there’s always room to work on your health. Doing so has many benefits:
  • Improved focus
  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced illness
In general, feeling good is a state we have to strive for; it won’t just happen on its own. That’s why there are some changes you should consider making in your life. Some of them you may already be doing and if so, great.
Either way, check out this list to see where you can stand to improve. Every little bit counts, and there’s no better day to start than today.
  1. Cut Down on Added Sugars
Most of us are guilty of this problem: too many added sugars in our diet. From morning till bed time, we eat cereals, coffee, bread and just a general cornucopia of different foods that have sugars and syrups added for flavor.
But sugar is one of the biggest enemies of health. Since 2010, we’ve had fairly conclusive research that drinking sugary beverages contributes to poor health and the development of diabetes. Other research also suggests a link between poor heart health and consumption of processed sugars (typical of what’s added to everyday foods).
Your best bet is to stick with basic ingredients. See below for more on that.
  1. Shop in the “Horseshoe”
A great place to start looking for healthier alternatives to the sugary items mentioned above is in the “horseshoe” of the grocery store. Generally, that refers to everything along the outer edge of the store, as this is where fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats tend to be stored.
While staying on the edges isn’t the gospel of shopping, it definitely improves your chances of encountering unadulterated foods. Of course, you'll have to watch out for processed meats (they also tend to be on the outer rim) and flavored milks/creamers, but it’s generally easier to find healthy ingredients and foods there.
If you’re looking for ingredients with less pesticide (assuming you either can’t afford all organic or just don’t have access to it where you live; a problem I face daily), you might consider shopping with an app like Dirty Dozen. It’s a good app for identifying fresh produce that has less pesticide residue.
But take its suggestions with a grain of corn; papayas, which are on the “Clean 15” list are known to be GMO crops, so be aware if that’s an issue (interestingly enough, sweet corn, also on the list, generally is not GMO).
  1. Prepare Your Own Meals
Armed with your healthy pick of ingredients, you can further improve your health by preparing your own meals. Doing so ensures you know exactly what’s going into the food and it prevents you from consuming as many processed ingredients such as those found in big chain eateries.
You can also save money and just generally become closer to what keeps you going each day. Understanding how food is prepared and how to preserve the nutrition (such as not overcooking foods or continually reheating leftovers) will help you live a cleaner, healthier life.
If time is an issue, you may want to consider investing in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. We use a pressure cooker at home and it cuts down on the number of pots and pans while reducing cook times significantly.
  1. Improve Sleep Conditions
A good night’s sleep is certain to improve anyone’s livelihood. The trick is setting your schedule and room up around providing a rejuvenating sleep. Owning a quality bed is obviously a good investment, but you should consider some other basic steps:
  • Go to sleep while the clock still reads p.m.
  • Remove sources of blue light while you sleep, such as TVs, LED display lights or other electronics (a piece of tape over a bright cable box light can make a big difference)
  • Only use your bed for sleeping; reserve other activities for other rooms if possible
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as it is less than ideal for your spine
You want to be conscious of your diet before bed as well. Consuming sugar or caffeine before bed can reduce the quality of your sleep and may contribute to grogginess in the morning. Stick with light plant-based foods before bed and avoid eating less than an hour before you sleep. Keep your room cool and dark; a programmable thermostat can help.
  1. Exercise Early
Going to bed early is important, but getting up early and moving right away is also a valuable part of any daily routine. Early exercise helps awaken both your mind and metabolism to prepare you for the rest of the day. This is especially true if you work in an office or at home.
Starting early also provides you with more daylight to get things done, which is something your body needs. Your circadian rhythm is based largely on the light and dark cycle, so you’re less likely to feel tired if you start strenuous activity early and more likely to sleep better if you’ve done your workout earlier rather than later.
  1. Track Your Fitness and Diet
With the rise of devices such as Pebble and Fitbit, it’s never been easier to keep track of your activity, and you really should. It will help you determine whether or not you’ve been too sedentary and, in the case of food, can help you find out what critical nutrients are lacking in your diet.
Just be careful what apps you use; some apps may connect to public WiFi, which can put you at risk for data theft. Use a VPN (a type of security app) to navigate around this problem, as described in this review by Secure Thoughts.
  1. Train Your Mind
Having a strong mind is essential for maintaining a strong body; there are a number of ways you can achieve this goal, but none of them are quick. To keep your brain from turning to mush as you grow older, you’ll want to take interest in something that takes a long time to master. Learning a foreign language, for instance, can improve your vocabulary and help stave off mental decline.
Another activity that’s both enjoyable and healthy for the brain is learning to play a musical instrument. Be it a flute, cello or something else, the physical and mental skill required to play music will keep you sharp. It can also be very enjoyable and could become a very social experience.
What are you doing to make your life healthier and happier? Tell us what works for you.

About the Author: Diamond is a health enthusiast and cybersecurity blogger. She writes on a variety of topics, including how changes in technology and the food supply affect our health and what we should do about it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Reading in Store

It's been awhile...I think that's my most common thought on the blog the past few months. Life has been plugging away. Before my own college classes began again, I had to prep for the senior classes I teach at the high school. They are part of a college in high school program. We will work from a college level syllabus I wrote and textbooks the local college requires and at the end of the semester, my students will have a college class credit to transfer wherever they may go when they graduate.

In other news, my own college classes are back in session. I have two literature classes - African-American Lit and The Anthropocene. I'm sure you're questioning that last one. Anthropocene is out current epoch. Scientists (and whoever else is in charge of this naming of time periods) haven't decided where the starting point of the Anthropocene is, but it "dates from when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems." Anyway, we are reading a good stretch of books (mostly 20th century, which I like) and tracing the picture they paint (although some unwittingly) of Anthropocenic events. Something different and The Great Gatsby made the reading list, so you know I'm in!

In all, my work this semester consists of reading two books per week, adding up to approximately 30 books by May; thirteen short analysis papers; one five page book analysis; and two 20 page papers. We are heading into week three and after this weekend I should have three of my thirteen short papers done. Keeping on top of it is the key and my plan is to write my short papers now and save the end of the semester to sweat out the two larger papers.

I spent the entire last weekend at B&N, working 6-8 hours a day reading, note-taking, and writing. It truly worked so much better than trying to work at home. I'm so distracted by house and family things when I work from home, so I plan on spending the next 15 weekends at B&N as well. When all is said and done, B&N should start paying me for my advertising of their premises here and on social media! (Not to mention my dual meaning post title - something they can offer that Amazon can't!)

My outlook is much better this semester, which I credit to knowing what to expect. That makes SO much difference. Last semester really broke me in and God gave me some direction that completely helped calm me for all I have ahead. I'm excited and already enjoying it, although already facing the challenge of balancing life, work, and study with time constraints. Part of that balance includes things to add to the schedule. I've done a lot of taking things out, but there are important pieces missing too, like time to work out. I've mostly maintained my weight loss from this time last year, but last semester has started to challenge my gains. I'm more interested in endurance and toning/strengthening now, so I've fit a workout hour in three days a week based on times when I'm already out and about and can stop at the gym. I also saw a trainer for a customized plan, so my time and effort isn't wasted. Working smarter, not harder. Well, in this case working smarter and harder, lol. And maybe picking up with some fitness update posts again.

Hope all is well for you readers. I will hopefully remember to put some of my analysis papers here on the blog...kinda a throw back to book reviewing. Til next time...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I can be intense, I don't like to cook, I only clean when it starts crossing THEE line, I don't mind doing laundry, I hate the NFL (football itself is fine otherwise...if you're into killing brain cells), I have a love/hate relationship with exercise, I have a weakness for candy, pop, and sweet tea, I have always been a working mom and have never regretted it, I've never participated in PTO or a mom's group by choice, I enjoy my teaching career and have loved quite a few students as my own over the years, I am proud of my talents although they don't always feel useful in the grand scheme of things, I will read and write like there's no tomorrow, I love words and I want to use them to inspire and encourage people, I hold my close friends close as my family, I adore my fur babies, I've enjoyed my own kids more as teenagers than little kids (for the most part), I don't deserve my husband but I'm awfully happy I have him, I love Jesus, I know Jesus loves me.

That's me. I've spent far too much time regretting who I am and who I'm not. Feeling bad and feeling guilty for what I like and don't like, for what I can do and can't do, what I do and don't do, in comparison to common social roles or just other people in general. Even if it's just in my head, it's gone too far. It's a lie.

Because the only thing on that paragraph list that matters is the last one: Jesus loves me. And the last one validates all the others. The Bible tells me "...I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" Psalm 139:14. Everything about me has been a part of me from the start. I can't remember ever liking cooking, even as a kid with my mom. My mom says I've sat "reading" books since I was old enough to hold a book open. I never once imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom, college and career have always been on my radar. Regardless of what anyone has to say about this list of me, I should stand assured because it's who I am...who I was made to be. And every part of me - made fearfully and wonderfully - will serve the purpose God has for me to glorify Him.

What a great word God has sunk into my head tonight (as I'm writing Sunday at 2am), but it doesn't end there because I'm not in this on my own. My husband is laid back, he doesn't mind cooking, he cleans and actually does it right (I take short cuts), he loves the NFL and played football, he drinks coffee, he has useful computer skills, he does not read or write and doesn't have a way with words, we are agreed on our friends and family, he loves Jesus, Jesus loves him.

Do you see what I see? Two people who are opposites, put together as compliments of each other. Our personalities and abilities fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, one filling in the other's gaps. Where one is weak, the other is strong, and vice versa. Team Gleghorn - cause everything we do needs to be done as a team. My realization that I should accept who I am came hand-in-hand with the revelation that I don't truly view my work as a team effort with my family. Dare I say sometimes I forget I'm teamed up with God?! Yet, everything I do my family (and God) are a part of, whether they or I like it or not. For example, right now, my enrollment in grad school affects my whole family's schedules. Especially Brandon, who has to do the running around of kids and errands that I don't have the time for. The kids picked up certain household responsibilities and more independent time. All of which limits their time for other things. And the tables have been turned in other seasons of our lives. This team compliments me and I them, so that we can each be who we are.

2017 brings with it so many good things - I can just feel it. Possibly the biggest for me though is learning - really knowing - that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That God knows me and wants me to know Him, if I would only seek.

To paraphrase author Ann Voskamp: I am hard after Him.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Reading Goal

Waiting on two still, but this is it for
African-American Lit and
U.S. Lit - the Anthropocene
According to my Goodreads count, I read 28 of my 60 book goal for 2016. Wow. I can't remember the last time my year's reading record sucked as badly as 2016 did. (Actually, I can, cause I've kept track since 1997. It was 16 books in 2001.) Last year proved to be a busy year, divided into three time consuming parts, that left so little time for reading. January through May I was finishing off my first school year teaching AP Literature, which gave me the chance to read what I was teaching, but took much more time in preparation and grading. The summer was spent renovating our house and we didn't even go on vacation, let alone read much. And come August my PhD program started. I did a ton of reading for my two classes, but not in a trackable way. Bits of poetry and short stories here and there for British Lit and dozens of articles and academic book chapters for Methods.

That won't stop me from setting a reading goal for 2017 though! Even if I'm not reading a lot, one thing is sure, I am always in the middle of a book. You will never ask me, "What are you reading at the moment?" and hear "Nothing right now." The to be read list is a mile long and I own dozens of them, plus access to various library systems.

I'm setting a goal this year for two other reasons. My PhD reading this semester is solidly literature and my books are almost all novels! Everything I read will apply to my goal for 2017. Also, I'm hoping with that intensive reading schedule at hand and a goal to meet, I will gain back my focus. I find I am so easily distracted lately by technology, people, Netflix (I adore binge watching), staring at my new library shelves, you know, the usual. I'll be finishing off my current binge watch this week (the 100) and weaning myself from FB in preparation for the glorious reading to come...or at least I hope it's glorious, there's quite a few first time reads for me on the syllabi.

Here's to a new reading season!

Yes, it's so traumatizing, there are comics
just for PhD students. Ha!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Grade Perspective

After seeing the impossible syllabus first day of class last August, I had decided I would do my very best, but that I would be happy if my best was a B for my Methods in Study of Literature class (aka Thursday class). I would never have said that in previous English classes/degrees. I did get one A- in my masters program and was mad about it for years because it gave me a 3.9 GPA. However, this time around, I have a different perspective. This class was HARD before I even started! It challenged me and made me doubt myself and fight to get through it. I was working hard as I could but asking God "please just let me get a B." (FYI: B's are not good in PhD programs and you can't really get more than one, maybe two, and expect to be awarded the degree.)

Grades were in end of last week. I received an A in the Brit Lit class, which I expected. And an A- in Methods?! For me, a grade has never been more amazing, more hard fought, or truly earned. And even the minus part of it couldn't be more beautiful. This time, the minus is the difference between an A and B, not a low A and higher A.

Part of me wants to think the prof rounded it up or took pity, knowing I tried but fell just short. Not only is my prof not like that (hence the difficulty of the class), but I also know God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. My A- and all the change it represents within me (cause God knows how this class challenged me in personal ways as well) is to God's glory.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Library - More Than a Collection of Books

The one thing I've been waiting for since we saw our new house for the first time almost a year ago is finally finished. My library - more than a collection of books now! A week and a half ago, we picked up nine of IKEA's Billy Bookshelves. Hand crafted shelving is hardy but extremely expensive and bookshelves in local stores are flimsy although extremely affordable. I was so pleased to find IKEA's shelves are sturdy and the prices comparable to Target and Wal-Mart shelves.

In three nights last week my husband pieced the bookshelves together and placed them accordingly. The room immediately transformed with their placement and the minute they were up, I unpacked tote after tote of books. My poor books had been packed up almost a year ago and although I knew I missed their presence, I hadn't realized how much it would feel like reuniting with friends as I unpacked them. My books have stories and hold memories...even if it's just the knowledge of where I was in life when I bought a particular book.

Front entry to library

View from front windows
So, the unpacking of books was glorious. With limited time that night - although I was up until 2 A.M.taking them out of totes - I simply stacked books on shelves according to genre. As only book lovers can imagine, that wasn't as easy as it sounds. I had to estimate how much shelving to designate for what I already owned and for how much each genre may grow in the future. Also, there's the matter of some books applying to more than one category. Let's be honest, I reveled in it.

That was Friday, 12/16. On Sunday, 12/18, my friend and fellow reader S.R. offered to come over to help alphabetize. I gladly took her up on it. What better way than to enjoy the project than with a friend? I want to say it took us about two and half hours. Seeing the empty space left when we were done was both sad and exciting. Sad because I had cleaned out my book collection before moving and now missed them, even if they were just to take up space. Excited because I haven't really bought a physical book just for the heck of it in a long time and Barnes & Noble will be exciting in a new way for the next few visits.

Anyway, I'm obviously excited, but who am I kidding? You just want to see the pictures!

The shelves along the back of the couch (left to right) hold Christian nonfiction and fiction, textbooks, childhood books, signed editions, and very old/first editions. The single bookshelf on the other side of the window holds biographies and general researched stories on people (mostly authors) and mythology/fantasy. The single bookshelf juxtaposed to it (only in profile here, but can be seen to the left in pic above) holds memoirs and general subject nonfiction.

The main wall has four bookshelves, where I decided to put fiction, since it is the largest genre in my collection and the most likely to grow. The single shelf juxtaposed to those contains Classics.

As you can see, there's room to grow. After that, well, who needs windows?

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Quick Hello

Not much posting going on around here, is there? Even now I'm supposed to be prepping for a final for tomorrow, but would rather throw out a quick hello to the blogosphere.

My bedroom/office. When we moved in August I
never bothered to put up a single decoration in
my room. It immediately became my work space.
First, finals week. I am excited to say that this time tomorrow I will only have one final to finish and the first semester of my PhD program will be done. I've worked so hard, so it's kinda depressing to realize that with all the steps I have to take I have only finished 1/4 of 1/4 of the requirements. Ugh. But for once, I may not be wishing away the hard work. Knowing there's something big this all leads to, I don't want to sleep walk through or wish away the lessons to learn and the character forming experiences. Among the things I hope to succeed at more next semester are time management and focus. I did what I had to do to survive this semester. Next semester I'd like to manage the work time I set aside better. That will mean learning to focus and will likely mean leaving my house to work more often. I knew I needed to study elsewhere this semester, but in the day-to-day it felt like a hassle to leave my house - see the pile of books in the pic above? At one point I had 40 some books checked out of the library - I brought the initial bunch home in a large 31 tote and will be taking them back the same way. You can't just casually haul that crap around! Next semester I will work elsewhere more often, thankfully with smaller texts.

This semester I've also surprised myself in some of my ability to "let go" of things. I'm a control freak. As many of you know, early in our marriage, my husband worked a night shift job that pretty much left him only with time to eat, sleep, and work...leaving me to make decisions and carry things out. It's very hard to drop that habit even though it's been years since he left that job.

Saturdays are big work times for me, so my husband took over the time consuming task of meal planning and grocery shopping, two jobs I did even though he's the one who cooks. He's done a great job and it's been a big help in relieving weekend stress.

I've also learned to live with a little mess - well in my car anyway (my house is still too new and exciting for me to let mess build up). I was so shocked by it one day that I actually took a picture. During a good bit of the semester my car floor was a mess of trash, books, bags, sweaters, and random other items from my travel between two schools. There's also a gallon size bag of cashews and almonds for snacking in there somewhere. Very not me, but again it worked for the days I found myself running from one place to the next, dinner in the car, and more stuff than my book bag could hold.

The excitement for this week isn't just finals though. We made our first ever trip to IKEA. We bought my daughter a desk and dresser - one as a birthday present and one for Christmas. With the move and school starting, the trip didn't happen until now and she's been patiently waiting for her "new room" to come together. I couldn't take pictures, cause she doesn't have everything arranged yet, lol. She'll be going to college full time next year, but has decided to stay home and commute to the local college where she has already been taking classes. We all thought it would be a nice fresh start with a new look for her primary living space. It's going to be a crazy transition next year, as college student life very much becomes living as an adult even if she is home with us...and it will likely be harder for us to adjust than her! Not that I mind the change, I just know I won't remember she's not a "kid" anymore.

My presents under the tree for now!
We also went to IKEA to buy my bookshelves for my library! There are nine total and they will cover three of the four walls. I am beyond excited. By the time finals week finishes up, they should be ready for my books and I'll have all the time in the world to arrange to my heart's desire. I can't wait. I promise to put up pics as soon as the library shelves are stocked and everything is decorated.

And FINALLY we were able to do something as a whole family. We went out to dinner after IKEA for our son's birthday. It's near impossible to have family time that consists of everyone these days. For us it becomes a matter of making sure we've spent time with all of the kids and each other at some points throughout the week. It's a new norm.

Hope everyone's December is treating them well. The month is flying by and that special time we wait for every year - (Christmas but also time off of work for those lucky enough to have it) will be over before you know it. Enjoy the time building up to it. Love.