A Place for Everything

Have you ever arrived home from the gym only to find that you left something there? Or worse yet, you didn’t realize you left an item there until you couldn’t find it, and by that time it was no longer in the lost-and-found? I can’t even begin to tell you how many things I have lost because I left them at the gym. Just off the top of my head I can tell you that I have lost a swimsuit, swim bottoms, goggles, as well as all my toiletries. It’s very frustrating not only because of the expense of a lost item, but also because of the disruption to my routine when I have to go out and replace something.

Several months ago I tried to figure out how I could stop leaving things at the gym. The more I thought about this problem, I realized that what I really needed to do was to come up with a specific routine for when I went to the gym. I’m not talking about a workout routine, but rather a process for organizing and using my gym equipment. If that sounds a little silly, please bear with me, and let me provide an example of how a specific process helped me in another situation.

My first job as a phlebotomist was with a major hospital and I worked with critically ill patients. We had to be very careful not to transfer germs between patients. Not only did we need to change gloves between patients, but any time we touched the patient we had to remove our gloves and hand-sanitize before we touched anything else in order to avoid germs being transferred on the surface of an object. That may not sound difficult, but keep in mind that in addition to the glove-changing and hand-sanitizing we were also thinking about running the computer, printing labels, identifying the patient, drawing the correct tubes, disposing of sharps, etc. It was imperative that everything be completed correctly and safely. To help us remember everything that we needed to do, we were trained to follow a very specific routine. What was great about it was that once I had the routine down, I never had to worry whether I had forgotten to do any of the numerous things that I was required to do. If I got interrupted mid-process, I was able to come back to the point where I had left off, and I knew immediately that I had completed everything up to that point.

With this example in mind, I created a process for going to the gym. The first thing I did was buy a new gym bag. Sometimes I do more than one activity when I’m at the gym, so I have a lot of stuff to keep track of.  I had experimented with taking separate bags for each activity, but that just meant more items to keep track of. I decided that I needed a bag that could hold everything that I needed. I ended up buying a large backpack for swimmers. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out for me but it’s been great! Basically, the idea is to have “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.” When I pack my bag, I put things in their designated place so that I can find them when I get to the gym. I take things out in a specific order and put them back in the bag in a certain order.  My process begins with packing my gym bag and ends with washing my clothes and towel. I’m going to explain my process for when I go swimming.

On the outside of my backpack there are two zippered pockets and two large webbed pockets. The upper zippered pocket is reserved for my phone and car keys, and the lower one is where I keep my hairbrush, deodorant, makeup remover and eye makeup. I keep my padlock in the left webbed pocket. There is only one large pocket in the inside of the bag which is where I put my swim towels (I have a small one for my hair and a larger one for wrapping around my body). I have a toiletry bag that I keep inside the backpack which holds my soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and I store my goggles and swim cap in a separate part of the toiletry bag.

I generally wear my swimsuit to the gym, with jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt over the top. My towel is already in the bag because I wash it after each gym trip and then put it in the bag for the next use. I keep full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap in the toiletry bag so that I’m not constantly refilling small bottles. I also keep some eyeliner, shadow and mascara in the bag so that I always have it. All I need to do after I put on my swimsuit is put my underwear and a change of clothes in the backpack.

When I get to the gym, I scan in with the card that is attached to my car keys. I immediately put my keys in the zippered pocket along with my phone. Once I’m in the locker room, I find an empty locker. I take my towels and toiletry bag out of the backpack.  I take off my street clothes and put them in the bag, then put the bag in the locker. The padlock is in the outer pocket so I remove it and lock the locker. I take my swim cap and goggles out of the toiletry bag and put them on. Then I take the towels and toiletry bag out to the pool where I hang them on a hook.

Once I’m finished swimming, I head to the showers with my towels and toiletry bag. I remove my cap and goggles and put them back in the toiletry bag. After I use the toiletries, I put them back in the toiletry bag. As I leave the showers I put my swimsuit into the spinner to dry it out. I unlock my locker and pull out my backpack. I put the toiletry bag back in the pack. I tuck my swimsuit into the second webbed pocket and head to the dressing room. The towels go back into the pack before I leave the dressing room. After I head back to my car, I know exactly where to find my phone and keys. When I get home I throw my clothes and towels in the washer. After they are dried, I put them back in the backpack.

I am happy to say that over the past several months I have not forgotten anything at the gym. If you want to keep track of your things when you work out, then a routine is definitely the way to go. Think through what would work best for you. Just remember that you need a place for everything, and you need to keep everything in its place. Let me know if you give this a try and if it works for you.

 

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Ignorance Was Bliss

We’re all familiar with the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss.” More and more I am finding this statement to be true. It is particularly true as it relates to my love of running. When I first began to run, I was blown away by how it made me feel. I loved to feel the air in my lungs. I loved to feel the rhythm of my feet on the pavement. I loved how the complexities of life seemed so far removed from what I felt that very moment. I loved the beautiful atmosphere and the sun on my face. All of those things together made me feel so alive. It was, in a word, blissful.

In the early days, one of my favorite running routes took me to the edge of town where I would run on a nice little country road. It was a wooded area and the houses were on large parcels of land and set way back from the road. I would hear the birds singing in the trees and would see squirrels, bunnies, and even the occasional deer.

One beautiful fall day I ran down that country road in much the same way that I ran it most days – with my headphones in and my mind zoned out. Suddenly, I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart pounded as my gaze fixed on a black bear no less than 30 feet from me. He was eating wild blackberries in the grassy ditch next to the road. As the bear looked up, our eyes met. I felt sheer terror. I wanted to run but my mind told me not to move. Thoughts raced through my head as I considered various escape scenarios. In that moment I realized how absolutely defenseless I was. I desperately hoped that a car would come along to distract the bear or to take me to safety. But no car came. I was all alone. After what seemed like eternity but was likely only minutes, I backed away slowly but kept my eye on the bear. He watched me intently. I was fully aware that the bear could easily outrun me if he decided to charge. Eventually I turned and ran, and the bear did not follow. But that day was a turning point for me.

I decided not to run in the country anymore. I found some new routes in town, and things were different, but good. I got used to running next to traffic, and found a slightly different zen. But once again, my blissful state was shattered. Over the course of just a few weeks, three women were murdered while they ran. I imagined that they too ran for peace and clarity. But for them, the unthinkable happened. I began to realize that bears were not the biggest danger to me. The threat of being attacked by another human became very real to me.

I enrolled in a self defense class at the Y.  It was empowering, but also sobering. I had never considered that someone might grab me from behind, or throw me to the ground. I hadn’t considered that running by myself was not a good idea. I learned some self-defense moves, but wondered if I could truly protect myself if needed. My ignorance was definitely bliss, and I wish I could go back.

My husband says that I can’t let my fears stop me from living and doing the things I want to do. I know that in my heart, but my mind tells me otherwise. These days I am constantly trying to balance my love of running with my fear of running. I do everything I can to protect myself, but wonder if it will be enough. Will I get distracted at the wrong moment? Will I remember how to react if needed? Some days are definitely better than others, but the fear is real. Nevertheless, I choose to run.

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New Shoes

Guess what was delivered today — my brand new running shoes! I can hardly wait to take my first run in them. I picture myself running down the road with the speed and stride of a cheetah, springing forward almost effortlessly. Of course the sky will be blue and the warm sun will be on my face as I run harmoniously through nature.

Okay — so I admit that my new running shoes are not going to miraculously transform me into the perfect runner. So what is it about brand-spanking-new shoes that seems so exciting and wonderful? For me at least, I love that they are sparkling clean. There’s absolutely no evidence of a puddle that I ran through, or dust that I kicked up on my last run. New shoes smell wonderful too. I mean, that just can’t be said of my shoes once I’ve worn them even just a few times. Then there’s also the new “look” that they give me. I generally try to buy my shoes at the best price I can find, which means that I don’t always get first pick on the color combination. It’s kind of fun to see how different each pair of shoes makes me feel. Once I bought some bright pink and orange shoes, which seemed almost a little too bright for me at the time. Surprisingly, those shoes ended up being my favorite shoes to date, because their bright color seemed to exude energy into my feet. My new shoes are silver, and I am sure that there must be something magical about them.

I think that the most exciting thing about new shoes is the anticipation of the places that those new shoes are going to take me. I’ve had my last shoes for quite a while now, and I have had many adventures in them. I participated in my first out-of-state triathlon in them, and ran a last-minute half marathon in them too. I even wore them when I trained for a marathon that I never ran. Regardless, I don’t regret the experience of logging those miles and taking those long runs. I learned a lot in those shoes. It’s time to move on though, and my new shoes await. I’ll enjoy these new shoes, their new smell, their new look. But mostly I’ll love the adventures I’ll take.

 

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Patience

When I was at work not too long ago, I had to keep a patient waiting for quite some time. Not only was I having computer issues, but I had to give my attention to another problem as well. When I finally called the patient back to the room, I apologized for making her wait so long. I was completely blown away when she calmly told me that it was no problem, and that if there was one thing that she was good at, it was being patient. Being a very impatient person myself, I was intrigued and I asked her to tell me more. She described how even as a child, it never bothered her to wait for things and she was always told that she had the patience of Job. The more she told me, the more convinced I became that patience was this woman’s superpower.

I didn’t give the virtue of patience much more thought until this week, but these last few days have been rough. It all started with having to work two extra days. All of the things that I had planned for my days off were instantly wiped off the schedule. No running. No lunch with my friend. No art projects. I wasn’t happy about it. And because getting called in to work is a constant problem, I was tired of it. And I lost it. For the rest of the day I was grumpy and unhappy. I managed to ruin my only day off and I ruined the day for my family and friends as well. As I lay in bed that night, I realized that I needed to do something to get out of the funk that I was in. I pondered what I should do. I wondered if I had an anger problem. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it boiled down to my lack of patience. I looked up the definition just to make sure I was on the track. According to the dictionary, patience is “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” Yes, I definitely needed patience.

I found an interesting article called “The Power of Patience” by Judith Orloff, M.D. (You can read The Power of Patience here.) According to Dr. Orloff, there are a myriad of things that happen every single day that result in frustration. We often react to that frustration by being irritable, alienating others, feeling victimized or just plain driving ourselves nuts. That was definitely true for me — I had managed to do all of those things in just one day. Dr. Orloff believes that when we learn how to transform frustration into patience, we can become empowered. Patience reduces stress by helping us take control of our response so that we can resolve situations effectively. Rather than thinking of patience as being a passive state, we should think of it as an active state of waiting to make a move when the time is right. Dr. Orloff says that we should put ourselves in situations where we can practice patience, such as a long line at the grocery store or the DMV. I didn’t want to go quite that far, but I was open to practice patience if the need arose. Well, as my week wore on I found plenty of frustrating situations that I could use to practice patience.

The day after I read the article, I had a repairman that was supposed to arrive sometime between 8:00 a.m. and noon. I had to be to work by 1:00 in the afternoon, but I was hoping that I would have enough time to go for a run after the repairman finished his work. Long story short, the repairman showed up at 11:45 and there was no time for a quick run or anything else. I was very frustrated, but this time I kept things in check. I expressed my displeasure at the situation, but I didn’t take it out on my family, and I ended up having a pretty decent day. Just like Dr. Orloff descried, I actually did feel empowered and was happy with my success.

The week was winding down, but the challenges kept coming. There were the art supplies that got stuck in Portland due to snow. There were the running shoes that were still MIA after ten days. And there were was the email that I hadn’t received a response to in over a week. I chose to be patient in each case. I purchased the art supplies from the store and planned to return the other items when they arrived. I went on my run in my old shoes and tried to feel optimistic that my new ones would arrive soon. And as for that unanswered email, I made a pleasant phone call and was promised a response to my request within a few days. I felt really good about my choices to be patient. I couldn’t change the situations, but at least I didn’t ruin my day or make any enemies. So far I am feeling good about the power of patience.

It’s a new week now, and I’m still practicing patience. I get to work an extra day again this week. My shoes are still not here. And I still don’t have that response to my email. But I am choosing to practice patience.

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New Year, New Blog.

It’s a new year and, like many of you, for the past few weeks I have been pondering what I would like to focus on in the coming year. One of my biggest priorities for this year is to complete a writing portfolio. This will involve writing numerous pieces in a variety of genres. I will also be submitting some of those pieces for publication.

Naturally, with my renewed focus on writing, I couldn’t help but think about this blog. I began this blog many years ago, and haven’t written anything for it in quite a while. This blog was a means of keeping some normality during a very turbulent time in my life. My husband was undergoing some very serious health challenges and the blog gave me something to focus on other than that. Some of my hobbies were baking and cake decorating, so I focused the blog on those things. I also belonged to an online baking group that baked weekly projects from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookbook entitled “Real Baking.” I thoroughly enjoyed blogging but the writing stopped when my life reached its breaking point, and I just never started up again.

Fast forward six years. My life is different in many ways, but no-so-different in others. On the different side, my husband’s health is better than ever. Also, we live in the Pacific Northwest now, and we love it. On the not-so-different side, I still get to spend time with my wonderful family and I have so many blessings in my life. I consider myself to have a pretty sweet life.

So I have decided that it’s time to revive and even revamp this blog. I still love to bake, but I have some new hobbies as well. I have been running for about two years now and absolutely love it. I have also attempted a few triathlons and am working to improve my skills in this area. Through my personal challenges I have become passionate about the importance of focusing on health and wellness. If you are interested in these things as well, I hope that you will check back to read more about these topics and to see what I am up to.

Have a Happy New Year!

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Fall is in the Air!

So it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged.  Life has been busy and to be honest, I wasn’t doing much baking for a while.  But I have missed the baking and the blogging so here I am.

The temperatures are cooling off and fall is definitely here.  Jack Frost is working his magic and each day brings a new masterpiece to the foliage that lines our streets.  With fall brings the thoughts of consuming apples in all types of sweet treats.   When we were in Minneapolis a few weeks ago we stopped by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and indulged in one of our favorite treats — caramel apples!  My favorite is the turtle while Marshall loves the apple pie caramel apple.  I kept thinking about that apple for days afterward and finally decided I needed another one.  Since I couldn’t just stop by and get another, I decided I would need to make my own.  Having never made one before, I was a bit nervous as to how to go about it.  But the internet did not fail me and before long I had lots of good advice to help me along.

I decided to try using Peter’s Caramel and I was quite pleased with it.  It had a nice flavor and was easy to work with.   I microwaved the caramel and then dipped the apples.  I had seen some pictures of chocolate dipped apple slices on Pinterest and was interested in doing caramel apple slices.  I tried everything I could think of but I could not get the caramel to stick to the cut part of the apples.  It coated the skin just fine though, so dipping whole apples was not a problem.  After letting the caramel set up in the fridge, I dipped them in tempered chocolate.  For the slices I ended up having to dip them in chocolate first and then add some caramel.    I have to say that I felt my apples were just as good as the ones we had a few weeks ago.  I even tried making the Apple Pie Caramel Apple last night and was told it was right on the money.  I would definitely encourage everyone to try making their own caramel apples.  It was lots of fun and super easy!

 

 

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The Most Amazing Day

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.   I haven’t been doing a whole lot of baking these days because I’m working a new job and the hours are really crazy.    I have some things planned though and will be working on them soon. In the meantime, I just thought I would tell you about the most amazing day that I had.

First of all, I came home from work to a clean house and lunch on the table.  Yes, since I start work at 3 a.m. I am getting home from work at lunch time and I’m usually ravenous.  I have been spoiled the last few months to have Marshall at home and he has been a great support to me.  He gets up with the dog at night so that I can get as much sleep as possible.  He runs errands for me so that I don’t have to do them when I get home.  And he always cooks me that best meals because as you all know he is THE BEST CHEF ever.  Yeah, I am one lucky girl.  Anyway, on said amazing day, my husband also brought me some beautiful flowers.  And these weren’t just flowers that he picked up at the store while he was there (not that I don’t appreciate that when it happens) but he had ordered a custom arrangement with lots of beautiful spring flowers.  I was feeling pretty special.

A few hours later a friend of mind stopped by for a prearranged visit.  She came with her Mom and Dad whom I had never met but were visiting from out of town. When I opened the door, her Dad preceded to bring in and set up a beautiful stained glass lamp that he had made just for me. It is such a beautiful lamp and it is the perfect colors and design for me.  I could not believe it!  My friend’s parents knew everything that we have been through over the past two years and they just wanted to do something nice for us.  You see, I am friends with two of his daughters and I had seen lamps that he had made for each of them.  I had commented that I would love to buy a lamp from him someday but was told he only does it for a hobby and would never accept an order. I feel so honored that someone would spend so much time and expense in making such a gift for me.  (Each piece is hand cut and pieced together so you can imagine how much time this must have taken).

I will always treasure this lamp and each time I look at it I will be reminded of what a blessing this family has been in our life.  Both of my  friends have opened their homes to us and shown deep concern over the details of  what was happening.  The times they have helped us are too numerous to list and we have received so many little reminders that we are in their thoughts.  Although we have endured more than I ever would have imagined, the Lord has taken care of us and placed many people in our lives to help us through it.  It is a testimony to me that

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone.  Today is the first day of 2012!   I wonder what this year will hold for me and my family.  I’m trying not to have any preconceived expectations because this year will inevitably be a year of change.  But as Price Pritchett said, “Change always comes bearing gifts” and I do believe that to be true. After all, last year was full of changes and I received so many blessings I would never have expected.  I start this year with a new job and I am getting settled into a new routine which feels good.  I am excited to have the time to start blogging again and am already planning a few things I want to try.

For a while now I’ve been wanting to make a gingerbread centerpiece.  I had plans to make them and give them as gifts to a few people. So I shopped and shopped to find small candles.  I made the dough and baked the cookies.  And then life got a bit out of control and I had to work all through Christmas.  Needless to say, the centerpieces didn’t get made.   This weekend I looked at my gingerbread cookies and decided that rather than throw it all away, I would try to make them into New Year’s centerpieces.  They aren’t what I would have made if the circumstances were different, but I was happy with them all the same.

I wish you all a happy new year and hope that each of  you can find peace and happiness in your lives.

 

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St. Paul Classic

My family had such a great time this last weekend riding in the St. Paul Classic.  This is something that my kids and I decided that we wanted to do several months ago.  We really hadn’t ridden our bicycles for quite a while, so we decided it would be the perfect goal to get us a little more active and healthy.  Marshall had recently undergone his surgery so we figured he could be our support person and hopefully join us next year.  But as we got excited about cycling, Marshall did too and he joined us on our preparatory rides.  He has had such an amazing recovery and has progressed so far in just a few months.  As it became clear that Marshall would be joining us on the ride, we thought it would be fun to ride as a team and promote awareness for organ transplant too.  We had quite a few people ask us about our jerseys and it was pretty exciting to tell them that Marshall had his transplant just 101 days before.  We ended up having great weather and the ride was a lot of fun.

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