Jul
20

Excuses

by Christine

Serious, excessive, dangerous situation, extreme, severe were all adjective being used to describe the temperatures predicted for today. While the weather people reframed shouting Armageddon from the roof top, the message was clear, life as we know it is coming to an end…for at least the next couple of days.  Find the nearest cooling station and hunker down until the all-clear signal is given.

Immediately, the Walt Disney cartoon where Donald Duck comes face-to-face with the Angel Donald and Devil Donald comes to mind as my internal dialogue started.

Devil Christine: Maybe I should skip exercising today? The weather predictors are calling for heat indexes of 100 to 110 degrees.  One day won’t kill me. 

Angel Christine: It is 7:00 AM and it is only 77 degrees. They are calling on four days of excessive heat in the AFTERNOON and four days will have an impact on your program.  

Devil Christine: But you don’t want to get heat stroke or heat exhaustion. 

Angel Christine: Just do it! (Yes, Angel Christine talks in advertising tag lines)

Clearly, I was looking for an excuse. 

But an excuse to do what? Not exercise? I love my morning outings whether at home or on travel. This morning as I briskly walked through the 91st Street Garden along the Hudson River, I was able to enjoy all the blooming trees and plants. Prior to 9:00 AM dogs are allowed to be off their leases so every type of canine was roaming free. Champagne colored poodles, Lassie look-a-likes and other assorted breeds were out enjoying the morning.  It was a fun morning and I almost missed it because…I don’t know why I was about to let the manufactured urgency of the news media deter me from my plan. (Let me say here, I was raised in Florida and I understand and respect the need to be cautious in extreme heat. I know that one should exercise in off hours, stay indoors during peak hours and stay hydrated.) 

So why was I looking for an excuse to get off plan? Boredom. Possibly. I have been exercising daily and working on maintaining a healthy diet. It is not always easy. It requires sticking to a routine and I think this morning I didn’t want to follow the routine. Unfortunately, given the heat wave hitting New York City, I couldn’t shift my exercise period to another time because of the severe heat. It was in morning or not at all. So the Angle Christine was correct, Just Do It! or miss your opportunity. 

Over the course of my life, I have learned the difference between an excuse and a reason. An excuse is an effort to remove blame such as “it is not my fault that I can’t walk today because the heat index is going to be 110 this afternoon”. A reason is a rational ground such as “I broke my ankle and I can’t walk on it until it heals”.  I had no rational motive for not walking today; I was looking for an excuse. 

I have a goal to run a 10K and to reach that goal. I must lose weight and get my body in shape. I have lost 10.5 pounds and I can now climb the subway stairs without feeling I am holding up the folks behind me. The hard part is staying the course. I have declared my goal, I have developed the plan, I have started working the plan but the hard part is upon me; the day-in and day-out effort to happily maintain the routine or mix it up when possible. Or when it is not possible to happily maintain the routine then I must just push through the boredom. 

I ask you, what is keeping you from accomplishing your goals? Who is whispering in your ear…the excuse devil or the angel of reason?

 

Topics: 
May
31

Fair Weather Commitments

by Christine

On February 15th I committed to starting a regime that would result in better health and running a 10K. Little did I know that the New York area was still two months away from the joys of spring as well as snow free streets and sidewalks! At first I road my stationary bike in front of the TV but that only lasted a couple of weeks before boredom set in. If I could not go outside to exercise, I just wasn’t interested. I had truly made a fair weather commitment.

Now that the fair weather is here, I have no excuse. Today, at 5:49 AM I hit the pavement but this time not in New York but in Las Vegas…America’s Adult Playground. I personally have a love hate relationship with Vegas and can only spend about 3 days in the City of Excess before I get antsy to go home.

Part of my love for Vegas is that it is filled with characters, home grown and imported. The cab drivers as well as others in the burgling Vegas service industry have a story and are willing to share it. So it should come as no surprise that my favorite part of the day in Vegas is early morning when the real characters of Vegas are up and out.

As I head towards the revolving front door of the Hilton, I must walk pass the casino. Mind you it is 5:49 in the morning so it seems surreal to see 20 people gathered around the Craps table all focused on the next toss of the dice. This was a subdued bunch appearing tired but just unable to call it a night. This is not to say that Craps isn’t an exciting game at 5:00 in the morning. It can be. Years ago my early morning walk took me passed a Craps table at the Paris Hotel and I was startled to see the table crowded with people yelling, clapping and jumping up and down as the excitement of the roll of the dice over took them.

Outside there was a glorious blue sky, moderate temperature and silence. Silence, is a rare commodity in Vegas. At all times of the day, Frank, Elvis or Barry sings along to the sounds of the slot machines. But I was out the door and off! As I started down the sidewalk towards the mountains, I noticed a man who was opening the doors of a series of magazine vending machines. While I was not really paying attention to him, the thought did cross my mind that he worked for the local paper and was refilling the vending machines with the morning paper. But as I jogged passed him he said sheepishly to me, “I am taking these back home to show…”

Now I was curious. When I looked at the magazines, I realized they were the naked girls fliers and magazines that litter Vegas. I amusingly thought, “Yeah right, your are taking them to show the others back home what it is like in America. I’m not your mother. You don’t owe me an explanation.” I could go on and tell you how I spent several minutes trying to sort out the origin of his accent…India or Pakistan or whether I thought it was appropriate to take material
one found personally disgusting home to corrupt friends and family. But now I am passing a man in an Armani suit, loafers and wearing a pair of Ray Bans. I spent several minutes trying to figure out who he was. I am sure he was an actor but try as I might; I could not remember his name. With the Wynn on my left I jogged up the street where I came upon a neo orange flower growing wild next to a barren apartment parking lot. I tried to follow the sidewalk but it took me into the parking lot of a large church. I noticed in Vegas that sidewalk easily merge into the entrances of shops, casinos and other establishments and then out again.

As I jogged around the curve in the sidewalk, I was startled to see a man in an orange hat passed out on the lawn. Unlike New York where the homeless sleep on the subway trains or in doorways, the homeless in Las Vegas sleep on grassy patches out in the open. Just before departing for Las Vegas I was in Washington, DC. I was queued up in the cab line at Union Station; a stately building that evokes a grander time. A raggedly dress woman was pacing, yelling at an imaginary companion who appeared not to be listening. Again this morning I wondered about “living on the streets” and the fine line between a delusion and a fantasy.

Now I was passing others as they were out running, jogging and walking. One man had on gloves, which caused me to wonder how early he started his run to make gloves necessary. A women with spiked brown hair, piercings and tattoos covering her arms, gave me a hearty good morning as she ran by me. She was a local and her good morning said, “you are one of us”. What group that is, I am not sure but for that moment, I was one of her people!

As I jogged passed the Riviera Hotel, I laughed at the 3 dimensional brass plated advertisement for the Crazy Girls Sexiest Topless Revue. The copy reads No “IFS” “ANDS” or and underneath are naked backsides of 7 shapely bronzed women interlocking arms.

I am having such a good time I wonder how much longer I can stay out before I need to head back and get ready for work. Finally I must return to the Hilton and as I am waiting for the light to change, I hear the crash of glass on the sidewalk. I turn to see two young black boys standing over a broken bottle. “Oh %*#&” blurted the taller boy. I can’t believe that I spent $20 dollars on that bottle. He turned to me and said, “Did you see me break that bottle?” I responded accurately, “no, but I heard it”.

By now the smell of alcohol filled the air, we went our separate ways. As they carried their pizza down the road, I looked at them one last time and was grateful that I did not have to raise my children in Vegas. Often people will say that running is mindless and boring. My suggestion to you is, get off the treadmill and go outside.

Topics: 
May
20

It’s Cherry Blossom Time!

by Melanie Taylor

What’s amazing about trees is that all of us have that childhood special tree that we just loved. Being around memorable trees arouses the feeling that we are around something special.  Something heartfelt. 

Around Wooster Square, a community near mine, children of all ages love this time of year for the cherry blossoms. 

Now, if you want to experience an enchanting walk, drive or bike ride, enter Wooster Square through narrow Hughes Street. Although Hughes Street is only one block long, it’s lined with 18 pink cherry trees, 9 planted on each side of the street.  You’ll love it! Next, walk around the square itself; it’s surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees with white blossoms.

Blossoming trees not only create joy and instill an appreciation of beauty; they can help strengthen our connection with our neighbors. When we share appreciation, it unites us.  Also, just seeing that someone has taken special care heightens our sensitivity and receptivity. We know that those who planted the trees were devoted to their neighbors and to future generations. Maybe they cared for humanity as well. 

The closeness of the trees creates a sense of intimacy and being in a special place. It gives people something to talk about, generating the sharing that is at the heart of what makes a community.

The processional if not communal power of planting trees in pairs was not lost on Kate Middleton. For the Royal Wedding, her landscape designer paired six English Field Maples and two Hornbeams to line the aisles of Westminster Abbey. Lining the abbey with trees was a warm and friendly way to make the large space feel inviting. 

This works equally well in a church, a field or in a city. When sheltered ‘neath a leafy bower, people tend to feel more intimate, more connected to one another.

Here in New Haven, Bob and Susan Frew have started lining Little Nash Street with blossoming crabapple trees.  The Frews have taken the initial step with under-planting their trees with flowers that bloom all summer long. Since they own most of the houses on Nash Street, they have added to the unique sense of place by blessing the houses with unique light fixtures and cool mailboxes.  The amount of pleasure added vastly outweighs the additional expense of these elements.

You don’t have to own a street, if you have just a few like-minded neighbors, blossoming trees and shrubs can enhance your community. 

Here’s How:

1. You can easily create a special gathering place within your community by planting as few as two trees. Position a pair so that it frames a vista. 

2.  Plant two rows of trees that you create a beautiful alley or a walkway. Be certain to line them up in matched (not staggered) pairs. It feels much more special when you walk under the pairs of trees that frame the Hughes St. than it does to walk under the single line of trees that encircles Wooster Sq., so why not maximize your investment by giving people the greatest pleasure. 

3. It is important to consider the “adult” size of the tree. You want the branches of the trees to cross over and touch and overlap just a bit.  This creates the feeling that the trees are reaching over for each other are lovingly touching. Remember, the smaller the tree the narrower the space that it can define.

4. Pick your street. The cherry trees work at Hughes Street because the street is narrow.  For wider city streets you would need larger trees. However, why not stick to smaller passages where people move slower and appreciate their surroundings as they talk with one another?  There is really nothing that surpasses of flowering trees or colorful foliage arching over a pedestrian walkway where neighbors can greet each other. 

 

May
05

Into The Cloud - For Everyone

by Aisha Kutter

From Google Docs to Dropbox, moving into the cloud today is as easy as ever. Whether you are a business owner, writer, homemaker or student, migrating “into the cloud” is the next logical frontier for managing everyday living and for many folks, is already a reality and they do not even know it! From finances to client relations, research to reporting, cloud computing today allows for a person to “live” entirely independent of their individual pc and or laptop, yet have access to all necessary daily activities that transact on your personal computer.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is best described by the authors of the article, ‘A View of Cloud Computing’ from Communications of the ACM Vol. 53 No. 4, Pages 50-58 10.1145/1721654.1721672:

“Cloud computing refers to both the applications delivered as services over the Internet and the hardware and systems software in the data centers that provide those services.” 

Currently, the ability for companies, large and small, to provision servers to run highly specific operations using hardware, that not even 10 years ago would have been out of reach due to capital constraints, can be harnessed in a matter of minutes for mere cents per hour. This has provided a vast number of enterprises to enter into the world of software as a service with the result of providing end users with an almost infinite supply of web-based applications to solve common tasks, such as:

  • list making
  • personal finances
  • business finances
  • cooking
  • gaming / entertainment
  • email / correspondence
  • friendships / family relations
  • advice
  • medical
  • therapy

 

And the list goes on and on. For the everyday person, cloud computing provides the ability to operate independently of the machine you use and the benefits derived continue to grow.

Why Should I Go Into The Cloud?

Imagine this - you go to turn on your laptop or pc and you have a hard-drive failure. The data on your machine is now corrupt and inaccessible. Think to yourself, what have you lost and what would it take to recover it? Are all of your digital photos stored locally, are they backed up to an external hard-drive, or do they reside on a third party website such as Kodak or Picasa? In any case, you suddenly feel the gut-wrenching effect of having NOT moved into the cloud, as it becomes clear that anything of importance stored on your local drive is now gone. 

The ability to rely on a third party, web-based application provider, in the case of a local hardware failure, can be a life saver. Digital photographs from special events, if stored in your Picasa web album for instance, would be accessible from any pc, so long as you remember your login. The same goes for drafting important research and or writing - again, there are times when hardware simply does not cooperate and as such, it makes sense to draft and store important works in a safe place, such as a folder or drive that is not local, but rather “in the cloud” or using a web-based office application such as Google Docs. Better yet, what if inspiration strikes and all you have is your iPhone or iPad? That’s easy - just type up your thoughts in the notepad and email it to yourself, or type it directly into a Google document to work on later.

Going on vacation? If you are in the cloud and something comes up at the office that needs tending to, all you need is a machine and internet access (yea for your boss, boo for your vacation!). No need to lug around a laptop these days as many hotels and even cruise ships have tech centers that you can access. And for you techies out there - you know full well of the advantages of having complex algorithms computing on a machine that can handle it, and not using all of your resources on your local desktop.

Is It All Good?

Now that is not to say that cloud computing, or living “in the cloud”, is not without fault.  There are some caveats from moving into the cloud:

Online Identity Theft - It is important to keep account access information secure. Recent breaches in security at large institutions, such as the Epsilon incident, can expose users to identity theft if tactics such as email phishing. Also, try to observe the notion of a different password for every login. This is difficult, for even the most tech savvy, but it is critical in preventing your online persona from being hacked.

Third Party Data & Access Issues - There is always the potential that even some of the most robust and secure applications can suffer a snafu of sorts, such as what happened with access to email and data for a small portion of Gmail users just a few weeks ago. The good news is, many cloud services have robust and sophisticated data backup processes and systems to ensure your data is maintained, even if access to it is temporarily unavailable.

Cost - Many online services are not free and may incur a monthly or annual service fee. A practice that is widely used is the free, reduced service model for an application (think the App Store) with only premium services / packages incurring a charge.

Other issues include, for example, local internet access speed and integrity of data storage by cloud services vendor (i.e. where is my data being stored and who has access to it?).

How Do I Go Into The Cloud?

Cloud computing for the everyday person should be looked upon as simply ‘being able to continue my life without the machine in front of me’. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is and with the right mix of tools and web-based applications, this can become a reality. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites for both personal and professional use:

  • Financial - Mint.com - www.mint.com (free)
  • Banking - Almost all banks offer online access; if not, change banks (essentially free)
  • Email - www.gmail.com - Google does it best (even despite the issue linked above), and even if you already have an email account somewhere else, set up a Google account and manage your email through its interface. Not only will you reduce spam, but sorting and searching through historical emails becomes easy
  • Friendships / Friend-Making - This is easy: Facebook (or Twitter) have almost become the norm in online interpersonal relations
  • Eating / Dining - Restaurant.com offers information for just about any restaurant, as well as good deals. Another of course is Zagat.com. But if you wanted to stay in and cook, cooking.com offers the ability to store favorite recipes as well as rate and store your personal favorites.
  • Life Suggestions - Lifehacker.com offers up a medly of ways to make your life simple, and just plain ol fun.
  • Homemaking - The defacto winner in this category must be Better Homes and Gardens. From recipes to drapes, they make homemaking easy.
  • Data Storage and File Management - DropBox is easy to use and works just like any other file folder on your desktop
  • Financial Management and Accounting -  Online access to QuickBooks and a host of other financial and accounting services can be setup easily with Intuit - www.intuit.com ($39 per month)
  • Google Docs- Essentially free; $50 per email address per year for Google apps Premier Edition
  • Freshbooks - If you want to “Love Invoicing”, use Freshbooks. While technically it replicates some of the functionality of Intuit’s Quickbooks, it’s infinitely easy to use and understand
  • Networking - LinkedIn continues to improve and expand upon its networking social media platform and provides a centralized way to communicate with other professionals

 

As you move into the cloud, a good first place to start is by immediately changing how you save important files and transitioning to a web-based backup folder such as Dropbox. The good news is, this service is free with limited storage and you get more storage if you refer friends to use the service as well. Not only are you secure with the knowledge that your files are safely stored, you can also access them from where ever you are regardless of what type of hardware you use to access them - so long as you have an Internet connection and access to a web browser.

The next step is to begin assessing what you do on your primary computer and how much of it is done online and offline. Often times people will not even bother with seeing if there is a web based application that replicates the same functions performed on their machine, or the last time they looked the technology wasn’t available. Routinely accessing what is available and seeing how to migrate to a web solution can work to your advantage and save yourself time and in many cases, provide added capabilities that you did not have before. Just keep in mind that your goal is to be able to pick up where you left off on something and resume those activities at your next stop.

I have been in the cloud for a few years - saving a ton of storage space now that I no longer have to store old financial statements and invoices, as well as the corresponding plastic bins they are housed in. For my business, the migration into the cloud has been more difficult, but manageable. At the present, we have managed to migrate almost all of the software that we need to operate smoothly to something web-based, such as QuickBooks Online for business finances and Google docs for drafting proposals and documentation. New York State having embraced the web has been a blessing as well now that most tax filings are done electronically and on a Federal level, there is much improvement that has been made for tax filing and preparation.

There are still several applications that we love using and are essential to our business, such as Adobe Photoshop and Panic’s Coda, that are client side, but overall the migration has been exceptionally productive. We also still find the need for an office suite for longer documents and spreadsheet analysis and switch between MS Office and iWork but despite this, I can run our business from just about any pc at anytime and anywhere. From invoicing to website maintenance updates to tax needs, we are almost entirely in the cloud. I can login to any machine in our office and at home and pick up where I left off and not miss a beat.

So go ahead and embrace living in the cloud. There is a good chance that you are mostly there.The journey into the cloud, while intimidating and confusing at first, is easy to do and you will soon begin to wonder how you managed life outside of the cloud before.

http://aishakutter.tumblr.com/
http://www.kuttergroup.com/

Apr
07

Spring Blossoms!

by Melanie Taylor

Spring blossoms forth in an annual cycle; so do the other environments that nurture your mind, body and soul. Now, as nature is beginning to flourish, won’t you join me in noticing the blossoming of some very important environments: our communities.

I’m a transplanted Floridian and one of the things that keeps me going during dreary New England winters is considering that the environments that make up our lives tend to rejuvenate along with the earth. I have to remember this in the dead of winter. Winter here is like going through hard times in Florida. During dark days of any kind, we rely on our innermost environments to sustain us: our spirits, our conversations with friends and family, our homes and our winter classes / activities. 

Thankfully, along with spring, the outer environments: community, gardens, nature and will return and ease your every step. During the spring, summer and fall, when life feels dull or lonely, I can always walk a few steps into my community and feel stimulated, inspired and uplifted. My neighbors are so warm, that many are now friends. Walking about and exchanging greetings can be so energizing. I soon feel loving and maybe even loved. How does your community affect you?

This spring, in a celebration of communities everywhere and in reverence for the communion we have with the glories of the earth and all of its creatures, I would like to chronicle the flowering of my community in a series of brief writings. I’d also like to hear about the coming of spring in your community and in your country. 

As an architect and urban designer, I’ll notice the subtle physical cues that make a life-altering community. Along with the blossoming of our communities come special rituals and activities of spring and I can’t help but appreciate these. I’ll share simple ways that you can bring these things into your community or reinforce what is already there. I hope that you’ll repay the favor.

Now, its time for me to step out into the sunshine. I’ll head over to my local coffee shop and savor my community. I’m pleased to think that we may exchange thoughts on these simple joys.

Mar
01

Away from the screen and into the woods

by Raeford Dwyer

Do you ever get the feeling youʼre spending way too much time sitting in front of a screen? I did about 10 years ago and resolved to do something about it, initiating an unexpected journey of transformation and discovery.

Growing up in the suburbs of the South African metropolis that is Johannesburg, City of Gold, I enjoyed a climate similar to Phoenix, Arizona; a short mild winter and a dry hot summer punctuated by massive rolling thunderstorms. This was very conducive to being outside, so as a child I was very active in nature and our family would go camping and hiking a fair amount. I grew a strong connection to the wilderness.

Around 1984 my mom bought me my first computer and I used it to play games and write very basic programs that created patterns or graphics. It wasnʼt till years later after studying design and photography when I got my hands on a Mac Classic computer that the possibility of a career as a graphic designer became tangible. After a lucky break in New York and a few years of hard work I found myself with a solid base of clients and on the cutting edge of computer aided design. Being my own boss I was able to schedule plenty of travel out of the city and back to nature; camping in Redwood National Park, hiking the Grand Canyon, rafting the Colorado, scuba diving in Puerto Rico to name a few.

By the time my 30th birthday rolled around I was noticing (along with the graying of my hair and a decrease in my physical flexibility) that I was spending more time working at my computer and less time enjoying ʻthe blue and the greenʼ. I loved the work I just wasnʼt committed to spending the rest of my life sitting in front of a computer screen. This was when I decided to take my passion for photography to the next level and go pro.

After 5 years in one of the most competitive markets for photography in the world, and many lean months with concerns about whether I had made the right decision, my time time and income split roughly 50/50 between my photography and design businesses. This new venture facilitated increased travel, physical exercise and interaction with people - all positive outcomes, but the thing about running a photography business that no one tells you is that you only spend 10% of your time actually taking photographs. The other 90% is spent marketing, invoicing, estimating, editing, photoshopping, bookkeeping ie sitting in front of a computer screen! I needed another idea.

A couple years prior I had funded and taught a photography program for middle school students in East Harlem as part of a leadership workshop I was attending at Landmark Education. I had learned that I enjoyed teaching, I was especially drawn to that age group (as they are becoming young adults but not yet ʻtoo cool for schoolʼ) and it felt good to be making a difference. It was at this age that a teacher had inspired me in art class, altering the trajectory of my life forever.

It occurred to me that perhaps I could combine my passion for the wilderness and my newfound interest in teaching. The following year I hiked 100 miles over two mountain ranges in Arizona on a National Outdoor Leadership School course learning education, expedition and survival skills. 5 years and many expeditions and courses later, It is with great pride and anticipation that I am beginning the second year of INTO THE WOODS, and outdoor education and ethics program (cleverly disguised as a hiking and adventure club;) for 30 middle school students at PS214 in The Bronx. In 2009 I wrote a curriculum and was awarded a grant from The Sierra Club as part of their ʻBuilding Bridges to the Outdoorsʼ initiative. We teach leave-no-trace principals, group leadership skills and expedition behavior while exploring local green spaces and community gardens. Once we have a safe cohesive group we ramp up the action; paddle the Bronx River, hike a maze of trails on Hunter Island, and summit Bear Mountain. My vision is to end the program with a 3 day backcountry camping excursion once sufficient funds are available (hint, hint).

One of the rules we established out on excursions is that the students are not allowed any personal electronic devices. I had expected resistance to this, but after a couple of initial murmurs in protest the screens were not missed. In fact by the second trip the students were so engrossed in their experiences, they had to be reminded to collect them from us.

A growing movement of parents and educators around the world are pushing back against indoor screen- time to create a healthier balance. There are plenty of recent studies that point to the multiple positive impacts on mental and physical health unstructured play time in nature has on young people. Not to mention the value of raising a generation that feels connected to and responsible for the environment that surrounds and nurtures them and will determine the quality of their childrenʼs lives. Access to unspoiled nature is every childʼs birthright, and itʼs in all of our best interests to provide it to them.

People ask me if I was concerned about the changes I was making in my life, and honestly on some level I must have been, but being self employed for over 20 years I have learned to live with uncertainty and embrace change. It also matters how one defines success and failure, if you donʼt achieve a specific intended outcome but have fun and learn something along the way, is that a success or a failure? I have found the need to fight the tendency to stand still, frozen by fear of failure. I also try to remember to give myself a break.

On a journey for more outside time for myself, I discovered I had a passion for the wilderness, and a drive to share that passion with young people. Moreover in pursuing a truth, my life was transformed into a healthier, more engaging and ultimately a more meaningful one. It feels like the journey is only just beginning.

http://www.intothewoodsonline.org/

http://www.sierraclub.org/youth/

http://www.facebook.com/childrenandnature

 

Feb
17

Getting Started

by Christine

Since November 19th I have done nothing physical as I was waited for my ankle and inner ear to heal. Prior to that I had started a daily routine that included a 4-mile morning speed walk that was invigorating and set the pace for the rest of my day. It also had the added benefit of allowing me bragging rights as I had joined the elite club of the 5% of Americans who vigorously exercise. My body and self-esteem were getting in shape.

 After the accident on the 19th, all activity stopped and a series of comfort foods became my companion. Now I must regain the ground lost by inactivity and a poor diet. I needed help in devising a plan so I went to the source of all information today, the Internet.  I hit gold immediately.

 Coolrunning.com is a runner's website created by people who love running. How do I know; there are more words than the pictures on this site? Yes, they have pictures of runners actually running but more than that they are talking about how to run, improving your run and where to run. This site is not about splashy photo layouts of professional athlete making it look easy, it is about real runners who love running. I hope one day that I can be me.

Imagine my relief when I hit the training tab and found “The Couch-to-5K Running Plan”. http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/index.shtml This group is speaking to me! They are going to help me “transform” from a couch potato to running a 5K in just two months. As I read the plan, I was a bit disappointed because they suggested I start out with 3 workouts a week of only 30 minutes at each session. I actually like being outside and was up to 45 minutes 7 days a week before the accident.

I decided to follow their plan for two reasons. It has been months since I had any real physical activity and the last time I started to jog my knees give me a hard time at the beginning. I will listen to the professional and see if I don’t have a less painful experience this time.

Topics: 
Feb
15

Just do it!

by Christine

Perfect inspirational tag line and motivating words when you need to get off the sofa and clean the kitchen, finish a homework assignment, go to the grocery store or complete any other task that is less than appealing. But what about those activities that we say we want to do but never put any energy into to it? How does the “I would love to do that SOMEDAY” desires become the TODAY commitments. We just do it? I just do it?

 Okay, here goes. I want to run a 10K. There, just like Footsteps contributor Karen Graves encouraged, I said it out loud. Now what? A serious plan for success because I am quite certain that while the heart may be willing the knees will scream in terror when I head out the front door.

 As part of the plan, I will call up the additional element of what Footsteps contributor Carl de Prado calls peer pressure. While I want to do this, need to do this, I know that to make time for it to happen I must organize and be disciplined with my time. This will be difficult with running a company, a home and a life. So I am going to harness the positive aspects of peer pressure to help me stay on task and on target. Telling you that I am committing to running a 10K is integral to my success. Candidly, in life I work diligently to avoid public humiliation so it will be easier to run then to reveal just how out of shape I am. 

 I will be posting the plan and my progress, as I walk, no run this journey. Can I make this happen? I truly don’t know but what I do know is that I don’t want one more year to go by with me saying, I would love to do that and nothing happens. 

 

Topics: 
Feb
02

Human Beings as Builders

by Christine

Decision Points were the focus of our January articles. What motivated our contributor to start a new journey in their life? Amanda Gore of The Joy Project pointed out that most people only make a change when a crisis takes over their life. Most of the time it is a health issue but it could also be a financial or personal crisis that motivates us. Why is that?

There is a thesis in popular culture that puts forth that men are hunters and women are gathers. Self-help books on relationships as well as scientific journals spend time and energy putting forth the argument that the division of labor in the male/female relationship is a function of our DNA. To me this is just another opportunity to drive a wedge between the sexes. I submit that human beings whether male or female are builders and pragmatic ones at that. Human beings build bridges, careers, homes, families, governments and just about everything else that is necessary to sustain life. They also do so using the talents of each member of the team as effectively and efficiently as possible. It is only when one group starts to negate the contribution of the other group that tension is created.

I have learned through personal observation that human beings are at their happiest when they are building something. How many times have you heard from a parent or grandparent; “We had no money but we worked hard to build what you see today. And you know those were the happiest times of our lives.” Or have you watched as your child builds a car out of Legos or builds a new dress to wear to the prom? The process may be arduous but once complete the pride is evident.

Why does it take a crisis to get us to pursue happiness? Why don’t we wake up in the morning saying, “Hello new day, today I am going to do something that will make me happy”? I am not talking about the momentary happiness of that second bowl of ice cream or 4 hours of TV at night. I am talking real happiness that comes from pursing ones passion. I am talking about building something.

In February we are going to look at community. How do the people we know, support our desire to build, to pursue our passion and in some cases how do they stand in our way? Community, social networks and neighborhood denote our wider sphere of influence and connection. Do those influences bring out the best in us or do we allow them to craft our passion? So I ask you, what kind of community are you building?

http://www.thejoyproject.com/home
http://books.simonandschuster.com/Great-Bridge/David-McCullough/97807432...

Jan
25

DECISION POINT: Called To Heal

by Jessica Bruskoski

One of my favorite verses in the Bible reads, to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecc. 3:1. When I turned thirty, I started thinking about my purpose. I felt my life was incomplete; I wanted to do more, be more.

I was married with three beautiful children and a career in radiology but everything had become mundane. I was a wife and a mother, but I wasn’t sure who “I” really was. I have always had big dreams and big ideas and more than plenty of good intentions; however, I wanted to move from “wanting to do” to “doing.” I knew whatever I chose; I wanted to become involved with teenage mothers. I had of course been one myself and with the grace of God, I had escaped my presumed fate. My own mother was a drug addict, I’ve never met my father, and I have no siblings. I was drinking and doing drugs by 9th grade and I know I escaped this fate for a reason. I believe this reason was to help others in this situation; to help them realize there are options and that they can do more-be more!

My time had come to fulfill my purpose. I started by finding an organization that I could make a difference in. I chose St. Joseph’s Carmelite Home for Girls. They were developed to take in girls from six to eighteen who have been abused or neglected. However, today they house over 60 children, including infants, boys up to age 8, and teenage mothers in need of residential care during their pregnancy. With the help of friends and family, I was able to donate clothes, toys, bikes, and even a computer. We brought in Christmas presents and Easter baskets, but it was still not enough.

I decided it was time to change my career. I loved being a radiographer but I couldn’t use this skill to help others. So, I went to my family and we discussed an even bigger change; we discussed my decision to quit my job of ten years and return to school to become a Physician Assistant. Of course, my husband and children were supportive of my idea and were more than willing to travel down this new road along side me. We knew it would be tough financially but we really had no idea of what was yet to come. I quit my job May 12th 2009 because I had finally been accepted into a full-time Physician Assistant program at the University of Saint Francis; however, my husband soon thereafter lost his job also. We decided to move forward even though we knew we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills, we would be without health insurance, and would only have my school loans to live off of. I can remember how we would lay at night and talk about how we would probably hit rock bottom, but that together we could do this. I think of that now and in reality we really had no idea of what rock bottom really was. We no longer can afford to live together, my husband and children moved in with his parents two and a half hours away. Nowadays, I see them on weekends if I can afford the fuel to get there. It is what it is. I can’t cry, or should I say, I shouldn’t cry about things I have no control over. I pray every day that I make it from semester to semester and that God gives me the strength to get through these tough times.

During my toughest hours, when I am down and wallowing in my own sorrow, I remember that it is a privilege and honor that I was accepted into a PA program, my family has a home over their heads, we are not starving, and most importantly we are all healthy. That is why I made one of the biggest decisions of them all to go to Haiti on my first medical mission trip ever. My classmates and I decided early on that we wanted to help others in need both in and out of our own communities, because the saying “help your neighbor,” should have no boundary. We only had two stipulations that limited our choices of travel: time and cost. We only have one week off from school during spring break and we are all unemployed so, we must be able to raise the funds for whatever we choose to do. A classmate did some research and found Haiti Outreach Ministries, a Christian based organization that has been bringing education and healthcare to the citizens of Haiti long before the earthquake. After hearing about their need in 2009, I knew I wanted to help and after the earthquake in 2010, I knew I needed to help. Thousands of Haitians were killed and injured and over a million were homeless; they had hit rock bottom. How could I not help?

On March 11, 2011 I will travel to Haiti with 9 of my classmates and several practitioners to set up two clinics funded and operated through their sister organization, Family Health Ministries. Haitians and volunteer medical teams staff these clinics. Typically, I would have talked myself out of this trip; I would have asked myself, what can I really offer in one week or maybe I should wait until I have more time and money. I would want to help, I would plan to help, and all with great intentions, but in reality it probably would have only made it to my list of things to do. Life gets busy and continues to move forward and all the things I’d like to do seem to get lost in time. This time I made a decision to make a commitment and I know this trip will bring me rewards that I cannot begin to imagine. I have borrowed money to get my vaccinations and passport and I have helped fundraise to pay for medical supplies and even a portion of my airline ticket. I did come up short and I will have to find some money to make this commitment possible. However, even though I feel like we have hit rock bottom as a family and we struggle every day, I think of what it must be like to live in a tent in squalor, without food, without clean water, and for many, without their loved ones. That’s when I remember that I should thank God everyday for all of the blessings he has given me. He allowed me to rise from a condemned childhood, he opened the door to provide me with medical training, and now it is my time to serve his purpose. In March I will travel to Haiti, in August I will graduate, and for the rest of my life I will continue to work in my own communities as well as those abroad helping those in need.

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