Entering the 21st Century

blackberry-with-pink-cover

As part of quest to do new things, I decided it was time to step into the 21st century.  I finally upgraded to a smartphone.

I never saw the need for one and refused to spend $30 more a month to have something I didn’t think I would use much.  There are many other things I would rather do with $360.

However, my old hand me down flip phone was starting to go and with Verizon’s current unlimited plan, it only cost me a few dollars more each month for the plan.  Plus the phone of course.

The first couple of days, I left all the notifications on and I became like Pavlov’s dogs.  As the ding was the same for a new text message as it was a new email or news update,  I had to check my phone as soon as I heard the ding.  What if it was something important?

After two days, I had enough.  Nothing was urgent or even important. I didn’t immediately need to know when I had an email or the latest news or an app needed an update or whatever other bullshit it was notifying me about.

Up to this point, I had gone my whole life without those notifications and I certainly don’t need them now! Plus I refuse to become a slave to my phone.  I own the phone, the phone does not own me!

Needless to say, all notifications except texting, calls and certain updates have been disabled.  I deleted all the preloaded apps that I didn’t need and would never use.  I don’t miss any of those notifications.

After a week of having the phone, I still don’t see the “need” for a smartphone.  It’s a nice convenience to have on occasion and will be awesome when I am traveling.  But for everyday use, its just a phone.

Owning my life, one week at a time.

Until Next Week,

Harper

Advertisements

The Importance of Dressing Well

jeans-400x600

In my quest to do something different and step out of my comfort zone, I decided I needed to change up my wardrobe.  My closet is mainly red and black with a few other dark colors thrown in.  The same style of solid colored shirts and cable knit sweaters proliferate my closet.  I was sick of wearing the same old boring things.

When my shopping trips didn’t yield anything, I decided to try Stitch Fix where a stylist picks out clothing for you based on your profile and any social media you give them access too.  They highly recommend Pintrest.  I spent hours searching Pintrest for my Stitch Fix Inspiration Board and thinking about what fashion styles and trends I liked and didn’t like.  I got some great ideas and even have a few of the pieces already.

I as so excited when my first Fix came and immediately tried everything on.  The trouser pants and two of the tops looked awful on me, but the leggings and sweater looked amazing.  I loved it.   Not only did I look really good, I looked skinnier than ever.  Who wouldn’t love that?

I was thrilled to find an outfit that I had never worn before and probably would never have thought to even try on at the store and looked awesome on me.  Then I saw the prices.  OMG! Everything was way, way more than I would ever spend on clothing.  I was going to return everything, but my husband convinced me to keep the leggings and the sweater.

Even though I was disappointed that Stitch Fix was not in my budget, I realized that I had a better understanding of what I liked since I did all that research for my first and only fix.  Armed with my new knowledge, I went shopping and hit pay dirt at Burlington Coat Factory, which is way more in my price range.  I purchased another pair of leggings, ten different styled sweaters and tops, two pairs of skinny jeans, a pair of boot cut jeans and brown knee boats.

Even though I won’t be using Stitch Fix again, overall my experience was a huge success as it gave me valuable insight into what fashion I liked and led me to try on different styles than I normally would.

The results are amazing.  I feel like a different person in my new clothes and I know I look great.  It’s amazing how changing the way I dressed, changed the way I feel.  I feel better about myself, more confident,  and friendlier.

Dressing well and looking good definitely affects one’s mood and attitude. It may seem shallow and superficial, but this little boost in mood, attitude and confidence could led to a whole new set of opportunities.

Improving my mood and attitude, one week at a time.

Until Next Week,

Harper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate-chip-cookies-600x600

I make the best chocolate chip cookies.  At least that’s what everybody tells me.  My husband belongs to a model train club and the guys in the club are regularly begging me to bake them chocolate chip cookies.

This year one of the local hotels asked the club to set up their train layout in the lobby of the hotel.  In exchange, the hotel would cater the club’s annual Christmas party. I thought it was a great idea as no one would have to bring a dish to pass, but not everyone felt that way.  According to my husband, the guys were very upset that I would not be making my delicious chocolate chip cookies.

In my quest to do different things and put myself out there, I decided that I would make each club member a dozen chocolate chip cookies.  Since there are twenty club members that would mean I would have to make twenty dozen chocolate chip cookies, which is five batches of cookies.  There are a couple of people that come to the parties that are not actual club members.  I didn’t want to have to make a sixth batch, so I decided not to include them.

I have to admit I had a momentary sense of panic a few days before I needed to start baking.  I was worrying that everyone would laugh at me and think I was stupid for baking twenty dozen chocolate chip cookies.

I felt a little ridiculous baking twenty dozen cookies, but over two days, I did it.  And by the time the fifth batch was finished, I was thoroughly sick of baking cookies.

When we arrived at the party, the first thing one of the guys said to me was how disappointed he was to not be getting any of my chocolate chip cookies.  When I handed him his cookies, he was so excited you would have though I gave him gold instead of cookies.  I pretty much received the same reaction every time I gave out a bag of cookies.

I felt so good giving out those cookies and my husband did too.  Everyone’s joy and excitement at receiving them was contagious.  It made us very happy to give those cookies and that feeling lasted throughout the week as I received thank you cards and emails.  In my mind, making cookies was something simple and no big deal,  but to the recipients it was clearly more.

I learned a few things that night:

  1. It’s the little things that mean the most.  You don’t have to do something extravagant to bring others joy and make them feel good.  Just knowing you thought of them makes a huge impact.
  2. It’s truly better to give then to receive.  Giving the guys those cookies made me feel really good and gave me a significant boost in my mood and confidence.  I would not have had the same reaction had those cookies been given to me.
  3. It’s ok to put yourself out there.  People are not going to laugh or make fun of you for doing something nice.  They really do appreciate your efforts.
  4. I am not the mean unfeeling person I try to make myself out to be.   I was adamant I was only making cookies for the club members, but I could tell the non-club members were disappointed to have been left out.  I felt horrible and realized I don’t like making people feel left out.  It’s not like they ever did anything to me.  If I decide to do this again, I will be making cookies for everyone!

Creating happiness one week at a time.

Until Next Week,

Harper

Christmas Spirit

merry-christmas-1352481322sQw

I love Christmas and the Holiday Season.  It is truly the most wonderful time of the year.  There is a definite cheer in the air.  People are friendlier.  Work is more relaxing.  It’s a nice break from the normal routine of life.

I love listening to Christmas Carols. There are a couple of local radio stations that only play Christmas music from Thanksgiving through Christmas.  It’s all I listen to adding to the festivity of the Season.

I love to read curled up in front of the fireplace with the mantel all decked out for Christmas.  I love cuddling on the couch with my husband with our Christmas tree all aglow.  I love baking Christmas cookies.  I love watching our favorite Christmas movies.  I love getting time off from work.

Most of all, I love buying presents for my family especially my husband and my niece and nephew.  It gives me such a thrill when I find “the” gift that I know they are going to love.  The joy, smiles and excitement on their faces when they open their presents just warm my heart. It’s also a way for me to help my sister without it seeming like charity, which she would never accept.

This year, I gave my nephew the Power Wheels Paw  Patrol Lil Quad.  As my husband was taking it out of the bike sized gift bag, my nephew kept growing more and more excited.  He had a huge smile on his face, was clapping his hands, jumping, squealing and laughing.  He was so excited.  Not only did it bring me joy and warm my heart to witness his enthusiasm, my whole family was into the moment experiencing the eagerness of my nephew as he opened his present.  Everyone was smiling and excited as they watched.

It is such a great feeling to know that I made him so happy.  His excitement spread throughout the whole family making the day so much better.  It was the best Christmas memory.

I am extremely grateful that I have the means to buy presents for my family, that we are able to spend Christmas together and our Christmas was filled with such joy  and excitement.

I hope your Christmas was as amazing as mine.

Creating joy one week at a time.

Until Next Week,

Harper

The Importance of Doing

woman-stretching-at-sunrise-on-the-beach_200_cw200_ch200_thumb

I workout with a personal trainer, along with a friend. I love my trainer. He is awesome. Always pushing me to my limits and forcing me to do things I wouldn’t do on my own. Just when I think I can’t do one more rep, he forces one sometimes two more out of me. I leave there feeling drained but exhilarated. However, there are two things that I hate and struggle with – the pull bar and stretching.

I once read an article online about ten things you shouldn’t do at the gym. The only thing I remember from that article is that you shouldn’t only do exercises you like. If you don’t like a particular exercise, it means you are not good at and need to work on it and those specific muscles. I find that to be very true. Every exercise I hate is one that I suck at and struggle with. Now, when I catch myself saying I hate an exercise, I change it to I need this exercise and it’s good for me. Amazingly enough, it works.

I hated ab work and struggled with it, feeling incompetent. Since I stopped saying I hate it and started saying it’s good for me, I need this, I have noticed a huge improvement in the quality and quantity of my ab exercises. I am still not a huge fan of ab work, but I am getting better. This week I decided it was time to do the same with stretching and the pull up bar.

My hamstrings, hips and shoulders are always tight. I can’t even touch my toes without bending my knees. In fact, I can’t remember ever being able to touch my toes and I always used that as an excuse saying “Well, it’s just the way I am.” My trainer has repeatedly told me I need to stretch more, but I never did because I am no good at it, it’s too slow paced for me ( I prefer HIIT workouts) and its just plain boring, but this past year I have come to realize that I do need to stretch more.

I know stretching is very important to prevent injuries and improve flexibility. According to Health Fitness Revolution stretching also reduces stress, improves posture, increases endurance, improves energy levels, increases blood flow and even helps reduce cholesterol. All the more reasons for me to stretch.

While, I have gotten better at the end of class stretching, those 5-10 minutes of stretching is not enough. A few months ago, having not been successful at stretching at home, I started thinking I need to find a Saturday morning Yoga class. About a month later, my trainer announced he was starting an 8 am Saturday stretch class. Ask and you shall receive! However, due to some prior commitments and dread I never went.

I decided this was the week. I started the Saturday morning stretch class and I even liked it more than I thought I would. After class, I felt looser and not quite as tight in my hips and legs. An added bonus was, since I was already out and about, I went to the grocery store afterwards and got my weekly grocery shopping out of the way. Plus, I bought food for the weekend too. So, my husband and I only went out to eat once instead of three to four times. We had gotten in the awful habit of eating out for lunch and dinner every weekend due to laziness and lack of food in the house. Now, I can add eating better to the benefits of stretching.

My new Saturday morning routine is going to be stretch class followed by grocery shopping and meals at home on the weekends. Now, I just have to get myself to stretch at home, but that’s a challenge for another week.

On Monday, as I was staring up at the pull up bar, I realized that not only do I hate the pull up bar, I fear it. When I look at it I feel about knee high and as if the bar was hanging from the sky. I have no clue why I fear the pull up bar. I don’t know if it’s a height thing or if it represents something in my life that I fear, but I fear it.

I need to get over this as pull ups are an excellent exercise. According to Dr. Mercola, pull ups strengthen your back, shoulders, chest and arms improving posture and grip strength as well as building core strength.

Without assistance from my trainer I couldn’t even jump up to grab the bar. I always felt so self-conscious and to make matters worse it’s a breeze for my workout buddy. It probably helps that she is a good four inches taller than me. At least that’s what I always tell myself.

This Monday, I was alone as my workout buddy couldn’t make it. I was standing in the studio staring at the pull up bar thinking I need to conquer this. I turned to my trainer and asked him how. He had me just jump trying to get my hands over the bar without grabbing it. As he watched me, he said “you are basically there. Now this time grab it.” It took me a couple of tries, but I did it!! I grabbed that pull up bar without any assistance!!! I was so excited and proud of myself and my trainer even told me how proud of me he was.

He instructed me to do ten jumps at the pull bar every class and only on the last jump to grab the bar. So this week, I did that at every class and it’s gotten progressively easier as the week went on. Hopefully soon I will be able to grab the bar on the first jump.

It was such a great feeling – so energizing. I felt I could do anything at that moment. I need to remember this feeling next time I am facing a challenge or a fear. It’s so empowering to face a fear or challenge head on and then overcome it. I feel like I can tackle any challenge right now.

My pull up bar success has reinforced the importance of starting small. In the grand scheme of things, there was very little risk as I couldn’t fail if I truly tried, but it showed me that if I put in the effort, give it my best and really try, I can succeed. It helped build my confidence, giving momentum to face the next challenge and the belief that I can do it, one week at a time.

Until Next Week
Harper

 

Don’t Take Things Personally

green-fruit-smoothie.jpgI have been wanting to get more veggies in my diet especially dark leafy greens.  I know eating greens is one of the best things I can do for my health. Yet, I am quick to pass them by with all sorts of excuses.

In my quest to find ways to add greens to my diet, I found Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie and decided to give it a try with one minor change.  Instead of Romaine, I used Kale since I regularly eat Romaine in my salads. I was able to get three 20oz servings from the recipe.

My first three servings were delicious. My second three; not so much.  Blending all that produce was too much for my cheap thirteen year old blender and it died.  Leaving me with a really chunky chewy smoothie that didn’t taste quite right.

My plan is to buy a new more powerful blender and add a green smoothie to my morning routine. In just on a week I noticed I was having more regular healthier bowel movements. I am excited to see what additional health benefits the Glowing Green Smoothie has in store for me.

Since adding the green smoothie wasn’t all that challenging, I felt I needed to do something else for my week as well.  I decided to invite my aunt over for lunch.  The Universe must want me to work on being more sociable as interacting with others seems to be a reoccurring theme in my weeks.

My aunt and I used to see and talk to each other regularly, but over the years we drifted apart and hardly saw or spoke to one other.  Thinking about it, I realized it was mostly my fault as she had been making most of the effort and I hardly made any, which was ok when I was a teenager, but as an adult I needed to step up.

I was nervous about asking her. (Rejection fears rearing their ugly head again.) Calling her to chat was easy but issuing the invite was difficult for me.  I had butterflies in my stomach and waited until the conversation was almost over before asking. She was really surprised and wanted to know why. When I explained that I simply wanted to get together as we have not seen in each other in a while, she sounded a little more excited and agreed to come.

I was a little nervous all week worrying about what we were going to talk about, but it went well. We had a decent conversation.  However, I seemed to muck it up when I tried to explain why I never invited her over before  as she said she had to leave shortly after that. I forgot one of the rules that  I try to live by – I don’t owe anyone an explanation.  It might not have been as good as the horseback riding but it was good enough and I plan on asking her over again after the holidays.

Hopefully, I am just projecting my insecurities onto the situation.  At times, I can take things too personally.  I need to remember its not all about me. I don’t know what she was thinking or what she had planned for the rest of the day.  My aunt is also very private like myself and wouldn’t necessarily share any details.  Her leaving could have had nothing to do with me.  I always have a choice and I am choosing to not take this personally.

I also need to remember not to take a “No” personally when I am issuing an invite to someone.  A “No” isn’t necessarily a rejection of me.  I don’t know what’s going on in their lives, what plans they may have and they might not want to share.   And if it is a rejection of me, then its their loss not mine as I really am a fun interesting person.

I am learning to be more sociable and to not take things personally one week at a time.

Until Next Week

Harper

 

Reducing Complaints

happy-thanksgiving-black-background

Being Thanksgiving week, I thought this would be a good week to practice gratitude and to quit complaining. I figured this would be relatively easy, but I had no idea how much I actually complained.

Sunday, I did well. My husband and I decorated for Christmas with Christmas Carols playing in the background. We enjoy decorating for Christmas and had lots of fun. But it was all downhill from there.

Monday, I blew it as soon as I got to work. A co-worker & I immediately started complaining about another co-worker we both dislike but have to do a project with. It wasn’t until I got to my desk that I realized I just spent 15 minutes complaining & listening to complaints. The rest of the day wasn’t much better. I would regularly catch myself complaining whether it was in conversation with another co-worker or to myself. The good part was that I was more aware of how much complaining I do and how much I am subjected to complaints by my co-workers.

I also realized I needed some strategies to help me stop complaining. So I did some research and the most popular ideas that I found are instead of saying “I have to” say “I get to” and when you catch yourself saying something negative stop and immediately say something positive. I could do these.

The next morning, Tuesday, when I started my usual I don’t want to go to work today complaining, I changed it to I get to go work today. I am lucky that I have a job. I am extremely grateful my job doesn’t include dealing with customers. Amazingly, it actually made going to work a little easier.

The first person I saw when I got to work was the co-worker whom I was complaining about the day before. I felt myself getting riled up and thinking about what a miserable bitch she is and how much I dislike her. Remembering my positive rule, I tried to find something positive about her. When I couldn’t think of anything, I thought I should feel sorry for her as she must be a very unhappy person to be so miserable all the time. Amazingly that worked too and I felt the tension in my body release and I didn’t give her a second thought.

I realized throughout the day as I talked to different co-workers everyone mostly complains. I tried really hard to listen and be supportive without complaining myself. While I wasn’t always successful, I was much more self-aware and did reduce my complaining.

On Wednesday, I only complained twice, but I hardly talked to anyone. I had a project that I had to get done that day and as I was so focused on that I didn’t socialize much at all. On a positive note, I didn’t find myself complaining to myself either.

Thursday, I found myself complaining about having to drive 1 ½ hours to my parents for Thanksgiving. My positive correction: I am lucky to get to spend Thanksgiving with my family. The day was filled with good conversation and some complaints.

Friday, I did fairly well with only a few complaints.

Even though, I didn’t achieve my goal of no complaining, I am much more self-aware and I learned a couple of techniques to reduce complaints and negativity. Thinking about it now, I don’t think it was very realistic to expect myself to stop complaining cold turkey. I am not even sure that I want to or should completely stop complaining.

My online research revealed that some complaining is healthy for you as it’s not good to keep everything bottled up inside. It’s also a way we connect with others. However, constant complaining drains our energy, causes stress, creates negativity and can keep you from being a likeable person.

My lesson from the week is that I will probably never quit complaining completely and shouldn’t, but I don’t want to be a constant complainer who projects negativity all the time. There is a happy medium between being a Pollyanna and a negative Nancy and I don’t aspire to be either one.

My continued challenge is to be more cognizant about what I am saying and reduce my useless complaining. I will continue with my “I get to” and say something positive thought changers as they did help me feel better. I am also going to try writing my complaints down as recommended by Robin Kowalski Ph.D. to hopefully diminish their power over me. Hopefully, this will generate more positive energy and feel good vibes in my life.

My focus on not complaining completely overtook any focus on gratitude. I probably would have done better with the no complaining if I had focused on gratitude instead. Shocker!

Doing a quick mental review of the week, I am thankful for

  1. My husband who is very good to me
  2. Decorating for Christmas with my husband
  3. My health
  4. Eating healthy and no longer craving sweets
  5. My job where I don’t have to deal with customers and that pays well enough for me to participate in activities that I enjoy
  6. My trainer
  7. My workout partner
  8. A short work week
  9. My boss letting us leave two hours early on Wednesday
  10. Being able to complete my project and help several co-workers at the same time
  11. Spending Friday with my husband relaxing and enjoying each other’s company
  12. My blog, my followers, all the likes & comments

Increasing gratitude and reducing complaints, one week at a time.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Until Next Week,
Harper