Annual Review of 2016

This is the second year I’ve done an annual review of my life. Last year, I put together my first-ever year in review of some successes, failures, and goals I had for the next year. The original idea stemmed from writer James Clear’s human behavior and habits blog, where he writes something very similar.  I HIGHLY recommend doing something similar.
I’ll use this Annual Review as my framework for upcoming years. Hopefully, when I write this again in 2018, I can say I’ve improved and am living a better life this year than the last.  Highlighted in green are areas that I’ve met a goal or improved in some way. Gold indicates an area I remained relatively similar, and red is an area in which I did not meet a goal or it did not work for me.

I. TRAVEL

I was able to travel to 8 states and 12 destinations in 2016. I traveled to exactly the same amount of states and destinations as I did last year, but visited a state (NC) and four cities that I had never been to. Here are my highlights:
  • San Antonio, TX – NCAA Convention
  • Philadelphia, PA – NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship (victors!)
  • Roaring Point, Nanticoke, MD – Getaway
  • Columbus, OH – Visiting Josh and friends
  • Ocean City, MD – Beach
  • St. Michael’s MD – Deanna’s bridal shower
  • Emerald Isle, NC – Summer vacation
  • Baltimore, MD – The Yanez wedding
  • Washington, DC – flight to Ohio
  • Ashland, VA – Leadership seminar
  • Dayton, OH – Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Newark, DE – Adventures
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II. BOOKS I READ

I read a total of 18 books in 2016, which is two less than 2015. I highlighted my favorite books from this year.
January
  • Forks Over Knives
  • Shred It!

February

  • The Power of Habit
March
  • Living with a SEAL
  • It’s Not What You Think
April
  • The Compound Effect
  • A Year of Biblical Womanhood
May
  • The Boys from Brazil
June
  • Outlaw Christian
  • Living Courageously
July
  • Beautiful Outlaw
August
  • Half the Sky
September
  • None (Apparently I didn’t read in September…)
October
  • Leaders Eat Last
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
November
  • Turn the Ship Around!
  • I am a Church Member
  • Love Does (again)
December
  • Fervent

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III. LIFTING/RUNNING STEPPING STONES

  • Back squat: 145 for 2
    • Last year: front squats – 125 for 6
  • Deadlift: 215 for 1
    • Last year: 180 for 5
  • Bench: 105 for 6
  • Furthest run without stopping: 6.2 miles
    • Last year – 5 miles
  • Total recorded miles ran in 2016: 234.69 (first year recording my mileage)
 

IV. NEW THINGS I TRIED

I am certain I tried a hundred new things in 2016, but these are the ones worth noting and what I got out of them.
  • Dermatologist. I had my first-ever biopsy on a spot on my leg. Now that I know it wasn’t anything to really stress over, it was neat to learn about the skin and what cells are doing in the body. Go health.
  • Vega Sport Performance Protein. Since watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, I have been adamant about finding a clean, plant-based protein powder. Last year was my discovery of Aloha protein, which I did love but kept looking for more. This year I found Vega Sport protein, and it was quite the upgrade for me; 30g protein/6g BCAAs, glutamine (can improve protein metabolism), probiotics, and tart cherry (antioxidant that fights inflammation). Big wins in my book.
  • Running a 10k. This was an incredible experience. Josh and I decided about three weeks out that we would run in the 10k Across the Bay. I had never run more than 5 miles without stopping up to that point, and my goal was to run under an hour. I finished in 57:46! I actually also came in first place in my age group in a 5k in December!
  • Ran the “Platform for His glory” social media manifesto. During Lent this year, my objective was to remove all social medias from my phone and abstain. God had different plans, and the phrase “use it for my glory” came to my head the night before Lent began. I got great feedback from people that follow me and I was able to dig deeper into who God is during these 40 days.
  • Gave away Love Does by Bob Goff. This was really cool two-day project I took on. I opened myself up to saying “Anything,” much like Jennie Allen (check out her book here), and to my surprise the answer was sending this book to ANYONE that was interested in reading it. I was able to send out eight copies. 😃 Check out Love Does – it will change your life.
  • Establishing a church home. One year ago, Josh and I decided to start attending Oak Ridge Baptist Church. It was an incredible decision. God called us to that very first service because they went through their “State of the Church” (mission, vision, values) and we were sold on day one. Not only did we establish a church home, I was re-baptized on Easter, became a member in the summer, and started serving in the fall through the kiddos ministry. I can’t wait to see where God leads this year.
  • Took a Sabbatical from Social Media. This was highly successful and needed for me. You can read more on this here.
  • Reading the Bible in One Year. I highlight this gold because I both am meeting my goal, yet I did not stay consistent. For the first five months of this challenge I was pretty regimented on reading the allotted chapters every day, and doing the study on Sunday’s. I loved it. The study helped SO much in following along and helping correlate Old Testament to New Testament (especially in Leviticus.. yikes!). Once the NCAA tournaments rolled around in May for our spring sports, my consistency stopped and I never got back into a routine. At the end of the year I had made it to Acts, and I plan to finish this year.
  • Underwent Financial Peace University. Alright, I love this program. I would recommend this to ANYONE. Dave Ramsey takes you through a weekly program on how to organize and align your finances, create a REAL budget, work down debt, etc. He even gives you pointers on how to buy a car. I absolutely loved creating that budget and working to stick to it, using my credit card very little. I fell out of using the budget mid-year, but I plan to get back on track with this in 2017.
  • Vegan Lifestyle. One of the most important things I learned this year was this phrase: “I DON’T HAVE TO BE ___, AND IT’S OK.” Too many times this year I scrolled through Instagram and compared my lifestyle to other peoples’ and I fell into this trap that I created for myself; the kind of trap where I told myself I had to label my lifestyle. I wanted to try all these new labels on and change what was true about me. I tried a vegan lifestyle, bodybuilding-type workouts, using more makeup products that I wouldn’t normally wear. I threw away my half-and-half, got rid of butter, and didn’t buy eggs. I was in the gym 2-3 out of my 16 “awake” hours, 6 days a week. And, I sucked at makeup. And guess what? I LIKE HALF AND HALF IN MY COFFEE – milk alternative creamers suck – but I do really enjoy plant-based meals. I don’t have to label how I eat. I LIKE picking the type of workouts I want to do, whether I max out, run long distance, or take a spin class. And for real, I am not a makeup connoisseur – mascara will do. I don’t have to be vegan, ripped, perfectly made-up everyday, and it’s okay.    
  • Bodybuilding-type workout program. I died. Okay, not really, but it wore me out so badly that I took two months off from lifting. I started a 12-week program in January, including pretty strict nutrition guidelines that I should have finished in April. I dominated the first 6 weeks, staying on course with both workouts and nutrition, and I could see results. Here are some mid-program progress pictures, since the last half of my program and nutrition did NOT look like the first. I now know it takes INCREDIBLE discipline to go through a program like this – props to any competitors out there!

     

IV. LAST YEAR’S NEW THINGS THAT I CONTINUED DOING

  • Collecting/rolling coins. A few years back, Matt Nein, Sports Performance Head Coach at SU, strategically placed pennies throughout the weight room as a lesson for our athletes to see who would notice one and pick it up. At the completion of the session, none of the athletes had picked up any of the pennies. Moral of the story? Pennies add up to create a dollar. Small details matter to build on the big picture. Since then, I’ve picked up every coin that I’ve seen on the ground. Last year’s total collection was $9.00; this year, I collected $13.50 total.
  • Tithing consistently. It has felt so great to give God 10% of my paycheck cheerfully. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). My method for flawless tithing has been simple but useful. As soon as my paycheck is directly deposited, I transfer 10% to another account that I use solely for tithing. This way I am not tempted to use that money since I’ve deemed it solely for that purpose. It’s a really great habit I instituted last year at this time.

V. OVERALL HIGHLIGHTS

  • The opening of Sea Gull Stadium
  • Threw Josh a 30th birthday party
  • Became intramural softball champions (woo!)
  • Interviewed and hired for my first official job
  • Bought my first house
  • Found a new favorite local band (and concert)- Go Go Gadjet
  • Got to know some really great new friends: Kalani, Kailyn, Mark, Lu, Conner, Katie, Kristi, Grant
  • Cubs World Series (Yay for Grandpa!)
  • Played in my first alumni softball game with my sister
  • Checked out three new coffee shops – East from West, 4 J’s Bakery, and Central Perk
  • Worked on 12 home projects
  • Visited the Baltimore National Aquarium
  • Dr. Vienna was inducted into the Salisbury Athletics Hall of Fame
  • 50th Anniversary of Superior Aluminum having been purchased. Go Grandpa!
  • Attended two weddings: The Yanez wedding (October) and Tulowitzky wedding (December)

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There you have it. I had a big year and plan for big things this year. Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store! I encourage you to take down the highlights of your year this year, just so you can look back on how incredible of a year this was (will be).

BREATHE COURAGE | LOVE PEOPLE

Getting better every day,

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Whole30: My Relationship with Social Media

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In my last post I talked about several ways I am cutting back this month, removing the “fluff” to leave room to be more wholly me. In it, I talked about cutting social media for a month – but I realize it’s not fully necessary for me. Here’s how it’s going:

I think we are quick to jump on the bandwagon of abstaining from social media when we go through some sort of cleansing; during Lent, when we need to get our lives back on track, through final exams. I get it; sometimes we need to cut outselves off completely in a cold-turkey attempt to refocus. But, I also think it takes knowing yourself, knowing how you balance, and knowing what parts of you need work to fully grasp what your body is saying to you. It comes down to an honesty thing. I split my social media up into two: Instagram and Facebook.

INSTAGRAM

I needed to take the Instagram app off of my phone, and there are three reasons why:

  • I wasted an impeccable amount of time in the “explore” section, scrolling through pictures
  • I was forming an unhealthy habit of scrolling through fitness pictures of all kinds – “healthy” products and meals, girls with muscles that I envy, and videos that, after watching, I allowed myself to believe I should be lifting far more than I am
  • I found myself unconsciously formulating reasons as to why I should not “like” someone’s picture

Does anyone else see a problem with this? Does anyone else DO this? (Please say YES so I know I’m not insane). Not only did having the Instagram app give an opportunity to waste my time, but I allowed myself to feel unhealthy about myself and other people. PLEASE HEAR THIS: I do not believe Instagram made me feel this way; I myself am responsible for me feeling this way. This is NOT Instagram’s fault; social media is NOT the root of evil. I believe we make social media what we want it to be. And I was wanting it to serve me in a way that it can’t – by giving me feelings of adequacy and wholeness. There is nothing whole about my checking for likes every 5 minutes, or comparing my squat to 13 other girls who I honestly don’t know – but hey, they have over 1,000 likes so obviously I need to be like them.

I am in control of me. I allowed myself to waste time and formulate unhealthy feelings. And it took me stepping back and being honest with myself to see what balance I needed with Instagram. For now, for me, I needed to delete it off of my phone.

FACEBOOK

For me, Facebook and Instagram are different and I treat them differently. I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to delete Facebook from my phone and vowed to keep myself from scrolling mindlessly for these 30 days. I’ve cut my phone notifications back to only alerting me if I am tagged in something or something of mine is commented on. And, actually, keeping the Facebook app on my phone has kept me from craving to click on my pink and purple Instagram app. I can keep a balance of staying connected without my phone staying connected to my hand.

This is what my healthy balance looks like for 30 days. My healthy balance will not look like yours. I encourage you to step back and be honest with yourself if you feel your mind needs a social media break. Could you keep an app on your phone and have the self-control to cut back? Do you need to delete the app altogether? I’m happy with how much room I have allowed myself these past five days solely by figuring out my social media formula. Good luck with yours. 🙂

 

Creating YOUR Whole30

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For the month of September, 30 total days, I am creating my own Whole30 rejuvenation to make room to be more wholly ME.

This morning I read about a program called Whole30, calling individuals to participate in a nutritional revamping for 30 days while cutting things like “refined sugars, such as honey” and grains of any kind. (While I love the premise behind a Whole30 revamp, a post on nutrition and what to restrict yourself from consuming is another post – or three – entirely). I read through this program after a simple morning prayer for healing with no guidelines- God, show me healing. This idea for my own Whole30 challenge had to be His.

A couple of years ago I encouraged everyone to participate in my September Slow-Down Challenge. Much like the challenge then, to slow life down and be present, I am hoping to rejuvenate and heal myself by living wholly me. With the new rush of this season, life in full go and less me-time, I look forward to taking a few steps toward cutting some “extra.” If you’re anything like me, you know that changing seasons and giving more time to other people means that you have to be at your peak; organized, calm, and confident. I feel it’s my responsibility to be in steady-state for this changing of the season, not only for my own sanity, but for everyone else around me.

So, I am challenging myself this month to cut the fluff and focus on my “whole.” But I also want to be clear: I am not RESTRICTING myself from fun things I like to do for 30 days; I’m allowing myself ROOM to be wholly me. I believe there is a valuable difference.

Before September 1, I encourage you to join me and make a list of ways you can make room for yourself to be wholly you. Maybe it’s waking up 20 minutes earlier to read; maybe it’s vowing to ween yourself off of coffee and transform your body to work off of natural energy. Maybe you just need to make a financial budget for yourself and see if you can stick to it for 30 days. Whatever you choose, let your list allow you to be “wholly you” at the end of these 30 days. That is my “WHY.” Here is my list:

  • Withdraw from social media, Facebook and Instagram (does not add wholeness to my life, takes time away from growth in other areas)
  • Instead of starting my mornings at the coffee shop, spend my quiet, alone time in my new home or outdoors (creates a more quiet, sacred place where I dwell; saves money)
  • Simplify my diet, allowing myself to eat whole foods (rejuvenating my body will rejuvenate my mind and spirit) 
  • Partake in some form of physical activity every day (creating a healthy space in my day to refresh)
  • Write a card to someone each day (for the whimsy of writing, encouraging, and reflecting on others)
  • Allow myself freedom from unnecessary purchases (allow myself to see that I don’t need to buy things to feel complete)
  • Partake in yoga once a week (well.. for woo-sah)

I plan to write about each of these  Whole30 bulletpoints throughout the month. I hope you’ll join me on this 30-day journey and create your own challenge!

 

My Best Advise in Utilizing Screenshots and Pinterest

I recently wrote my annual review for 2015 and discussed several habits I had implemented to carry over into 2016. One of these habits is my use of screenshots and Pinterest.

I use Pinterest as a board to collect pieces of information and ideas that I don’t want to forget. I always scroll through awesome ideas worth remembering, and would screenshot ideas from my phone. The screenshots would always get lost and I would never come back to them. Since I made this discovery, I’ve organized my pinboard into three main sections: food, home, and growth.

FOOD

In regard to food, I’ve split several boards into different categories of foods to keep my pins organized. Below you will see the boards for hearty (not-as-healthy) meals, crockpot meals, future healthy meals, and a tried and true section. I know as well as anyone that pins get lost after we see and pin them onto a random board titled “food.” This is the best way I’ve come up with to create a method that helps me keep track of all of my pins.

MY TRICK
: Once I’ve tried a recipe, I move the pin from its board to the “TRIED&TRUE” board. This board acts as my “recipe booklet” of meals I’ve had, loved, and want to remember. When I try a recipe that doesn’t work out, I make sure to delete that pin from the board.

food

HOME

My method for organizing pins for my home is by creating one board per room. This way I can go directly where I need to go in searching for something rather than scrolling through 400 pins on one general “house projects” board.

MY TRICK: This is where screenshots come in handy. When I see an awesome house idea, room layout, or trick for the laundry room on an Instagram account or Facebook, I screenshot the picture for later. (Let’s be honest: most of my screenshots are Joanna Gaines’ Instagram posts). Once every two weeks or so, I will scroll back through my “screenshots” photo album in my phone, crop the pictures, and save them directly to the Pinterest board of my choosing. 

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GROWTH

These are my favorite to screenshot and pin. I have separated boards into “read,” “invest in yourself,” “fresh16,””projects,” and “travel.” My “read” board is where I keep all of my screenshots of book recommendations I see from trusted authors and friends I follow on social media. This is used as my “reserved book list;” I have a running book list on Evernote and can always scan back to Pinterest to add more to my list. The “Invest in Yourself” board are all of the great ideas and projects I’ve come across for me, including yoga exercises, calligraphy, best running songs playlist, and other awesome things that peak my interest. “Fresh 16” includes ideas I’ve come across for budgeting and other resolutions I’ve made for myself to come back to in 2016.

MY TRICK: I love to screenshot for this entire growth section of my pinboard. My most common screenshots are those of books. My recommendation: Once you’ve read a book, done a task, etc., delete the pin if you no longer need it. This will help you navigate easier through Pinterest when you go to find something. Once you’ve completed a project, delete that pin and instead upload a picture of YOUR project onto a new board: “completed projects,”  “made” – or something similar. This also gives you a little satisfaction knowing you’ve contributed to the Pinterest world. 🙂

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Enjoy!

Annual Review of 2015

This year, I’ve put together my first Annual Review- mostly for myself, but also to share with you. The original idea stemmed from writer James Clear’s human behavior and habits blog, where he discusses successes, failures, and what he is working toward in the upcoming year. I’ve attempted some of the same topics below, with a few twists of my own.
My annual review topics fall under my five core values: Health, Order, Growth, Communication, and Relationships. I have a great tool to identify core values if this interests you.
I will use this Annual Review as my framework for upcoming years. Hopefully, when I write this again in 2017, I can say I’ve improved and am living a better life each year. I hope you find this useful and inspiring for your 2016.

I. Successes of 2015 

Travel (growth)

I was able to travel to 8 states and 12 destinations in 2015. Here are my highlights:
  • Washington, DC – NCAA Convention
  • Indianapolis, IN – NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar
  • Lynchburg, VA – NCAA Lacrosse Quarterfinals
  • Salem, VA – NCAA Softball National Championship
  • Orlando, FL – NACDA Convention
  • Ocean City, MD – Beach 
  • Baltimore, MD – Visiting Josh
  • Old Ellicott City, MD – Exploring
  • Dewey Beach, DE – Beach
  • East Stroudsburg, PA – Pocono Mountains, vacation
  • Tampa, FL – NACWAA Convention
  • Dayton, OH – Thanksgiving and Christmas

Health

  • Acupuncture. Over the summer, Josh and I started going to acupuncture for overall health and to see about clearing up a few minor ailments. Pam, our acupuncturist, got to know us on personal levels in order to treat us. She discussed the Five Elements Theory (I am metal), and how our ailments made sense according to our elements (which blew my mind!) I went to four sessions to start to balance my body. The only downfall was the price per session.
  • Aloha plant-based protein. Since watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, I had been searching for a vegan – and complete – protein powder. Aloha is my favorite that I’ve come across, with organic ingredients and nothing artificial. Here are the ingredients and benefits of Aloha’s chocolate protein.
  • APRE, or autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise. This method of weight lifting is designed to increase strength according to what your body is capable of performing on that day. I used a front squat, bench, and deadlift to perform 4 sets of each, 3 days a week (for 2 weeks) for a 6RM. Sets 1 and 2 were my warm-up at 50% and 75%, respectively. Sets 3 and 4 are done to failure. The number of repetitions done on the third set determines both the weight used in the fourth set and the weight to be used the following week. It was a blast seeing my numbers jump for these two weeks.
  • Coffee Shop Mornings. Since August, I created the habit of starting every morning at the coffee shop. This required me to wake up earlier every morning so that I would spend an hour in my devotional and reading before heading into work. The simple act of requiring myself to be there every day by 8am has transformed my outlook heading into every day, starting off the day refreshed instead of groggy. Read my older post on rising early here.
  • New Doctors. I finally solidified a primary care physician and dentist. Next on the docket in 2016 is to set an optometrist and OB/GYN. Knowing I have my own health insurance made me want to take charge of my lifestyle. Here is a helpful chart explaining how often you should have certain types of screenings by age.

Habits (order)

  • Collecting pennies. Matt Nein, Sports Performance Head Coach at SU, strategically placed pennies throughout the weight room as a lesson for our athletes to see who would notice one and pick it up. At the completion of the session, none of the athletes had picked up any of the pennies. Moral of the story? Pennies add up to create a dollar. Small details matter to create the big picture. Since then, I’ve picked up every penny that I’ve seen on the ground. It has become my own “getting 1% better” challenge.

  • Rolling coins. Since I was collecting pennies, I started to roll coins to take to the bank. I collected a total of $15.00 and basically took it straight to Chipotle.
  • Pocket App. Pocket is a save-for-later tool and website where you can collect all of the articles you want to read but don’t have time for in that moment. I added it as a Google Chrome add-on, and when I am on an article I want to finish later, I click the Pocket icon.
  • Screenshots and Pins. I got into a habit of taking a screenshot of things I wanted to remember, cropping the picture, and pinning it on Pinterest for later. I was especially adamate in doing this with books people have enjoyed reading on Instagram or Facebook. I’m glad I started this!
  • Creating a budget. I found a Google Docs template for personal monthly budget. After a couple tweaks, I was able to see firmly where my money was coming and going. After a couple months of adjusting, I’m getting close to where I have things down pat. I officially allocate money to a retirement fund, savings account, and a tithing account.
  • Tithing consistently. It has felt so great to give God 10% of my paycheck cheerfully. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). My method for flawless tithing has been simple but useful. As soon as my paycheck is directly deposited, I transfer 10% to another account that I use solely for tithing. This way I am not tempted to use that money since I’ve deemed it solely for that purpose. After reading The Generosity Ladder, I haven’t slipped since!

Personal Records (growth, health)

  • Front squat: 125 for 5
  • Deadlift: 180 for 5
  • Bench: 105 for 6
  • Furthest run without stopping: 5 miles (indoor @ 43:49 and outdoor @ 49:49)

 Books I Read (growth, communication)

I read a total of 24 books in 2015. My goal for 2016 is 25 books. I linked my top 5 favorite books from this year.

January
  • Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
  • Talent and the Secret Life of Teams by Terry Pettit

February

March

  • I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown
  • The Generosity Ladder by Nelson Searcy

April

  • Lead.. For God’s Sake! by Todd Gongwer

May

June
  • Gracenomics by Mike Foster
  • Training Camp by Jon Gordon
  • The Rest of the Gospel by Dan Stone
  • Teammates Matter by Alan Williams
July
  • Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd
  • The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon
  • The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner
August
  • The Grace Awakening – Chuck Swindoll
September
  • Drive by Daniel Pink
October
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
  • A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J Gaines
November
December

 

II. What Didn’t Work in 2015

Connection Calendar (relationships, communication)

One of my goals going into 2015 was to connect more and create more meaningful relationships. I devised a plan to make a master list of everyone I wanted to connect with through the year, and then mark those people on calendar days designated for that person. For example, I listed Sally on January 1, Fred and Sam on January 2, and so on. I would then call, write, or visit these particular people.

Why didn’t it work?
My calendar turned into a to-do list. I found out quickly how grueling this task was for me when I treated people like another item to check off. I realized that my definition of relationships are fostered by five components: the words I use, the time I spend, my presence in that time, genuine interest, and follow-up. I was unable to foster these five components by simply treating someone as a particular day’s to-do item.
How I can improve in 2016
I’ve developed a more meaningful theme for this year’s connections – Everyone wants to feel important. Because of this, I’ve put everyone’s birthdays in my phone calendar with a week’s advance reminder. I will buy birthday cards in bulk and be sure to send birthday cards in the mail to all of the important people in my life. This not only reminds someone that they are, in fact, important, but cultivates my vision to write more letters.

Reading the Bible in One Year (health, growth)

Why didn’t it work?
I treated this, again, as a task to check off of my list every day. It worked through the month of January, but became another grueling task to check off of my list. I didn’t have a chance to dive into what the Bible was actually saying, especially without a workbook or guide, and no accountability.
How I can improve in 2016
My best friend Jenn and I are going through it together this year, along with a workbook. Hopefully this plan of accountability and some guidance will bring God’s Word to light in 2016.

III. What I’m Working Toward in 2016

 I’m currently reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I’ve learned of “the habit loop,” in which a cue, routine, and reward take place when a habit is happening. Let’s take brushing your teeth, for example. Your cue is that it’s time for bed, the routine is the pattern in which you brush your teeth mindlessly, and your reward is clean teeth. I want to take each of these steps into the new habits I’d like to incorporate and create a specific cue for each.

Morning Habits

I have three small habits I would like to put into place for my morning routine:

  • Wake up without hitting the snooze button
  • Play a positive and encouraging song while I get ready
  • Pray for the day

Health

  • Front Squat 135 (7%), deadlift 200 (10%), and bench 120 (14%)  by March 1
  • Document every mile I ran in 2016
  • Run a 10k
  • Go meatless for 30 days straight
  • Take time every Sunday to review deals at the grocery store and match up deals with coupons and what I already have in my cupboards – This method replaces the “buy whatever I want to eat this week” method of overspending at the grocery store.
  • Buy one “treat” for myself every month – As opposed to buying whatever I want, whenever I want. The cue in that method was simply seeing something I wanted- a hard habit to break.

Relationships/Communication

  • Write my grandma every week
  • Buy birthday cards in bulk; get everyone’s birthday down in my calendar and send cards to everyone on my master list
  • Have bags of granola and water with a passage in my car to give to needy people on the streets

Other Growth

  • Read 24 books
  • Complete the “Through the Bible in One Year” workbook

That’s it for 2015. I plan to write on my progress periodically and how my new goals and character transformations are coming along. Hopefully by December I can say I lived a better life this year than last, and I can have a more comprehensive grasp on what I accomplished in 2016. What a time to be alive!

The Dangerous Truth About Almonds

The Pros

Almonds are satiating for a between-meal snack and rich in healthy fats. A handful of almonds, as recommended for a serving size, also provide a good source of protein and fiber. Vitamin E plays a large role in almonds, where those powerful antioxidants account for 20% of RDA in a 1 oz. serving. And, I’m sure, we have all heard the saying that a handful of almonds a day will lower our risk for cancers.

So what could possibly be dangerous about almonds?

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The Cons

Virtually 100% of all almonds sold in the United States come from California. In 2007, the Almond Board of California requires by law ALL almonds (including those labeled “organic” or “raw”) to be pasteurized. This was especially pushed after the Salmonella outbreak in the early 2000’s that caused food-borne illnesses. There are three common ways to pasteurize almonds in the United States:

1. Blanching, dry roasting, and oil roasting
2. Steaming
3. Propylene Oxide (PPO)

The first of the three actually cook the almonds, which no longer deems them “raw”, even when labeled as such. The second, steaming, markedly reduces the nutritional content of the almonds and partially cooks the almonds. But the third and most popular pasteurization method, used in over 70% of almonds in the United States: PPO…

  • is used in the production of polyurethane plastics as an extremely volatile liquid
  • is deemed a possible carcinogen (can give us CANCER) by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research
  • is banned in Mexico and Canada (so it’s ok in the United States because…)
  • has been shown to “cause eye and respiratory tract irritation… skin irritation and necrosis… [is a] central nervous system depressant in humans.. cause tumors at or near the site of administration in rodents” (find more info here).
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CLICK TO ENLARGE: Health Data From Inhalation Exposure, http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/prop-oxi.html

So, are these almonds reducing cancers as we’ve heard over and over, or did 2007 mark the year that “raw” and “organic” almonds don’t actually mean “raw” and “organic” almonds anymore? When we set out to buy “safe” foods, assuming the USDA is looking out for our safety, what are we really buying? And how about almond milk? Same rules apply. Those almonds are pasteurized before the milking process.

What YOU Can Do

If you love those bland little nuggets as an afternoon snack, here’s my advice:
1. Soak your almonds overnight. By doing so, the propylene oxide is released, hopefully allowing for a safer method of ingesting that powerful Vitamin E. This method also makes your almonds more digestible.
2. Buy directly from farmers, or do a little research. Detoxinista found a few places we are able to buy directly raw almonds from, and there is also a list circulating around of safe brands.
3. Be part of the movement. The Alliance for Natural Health and Almonds Say No To PPO campaign are two of the many ways to get involved.

 

Mind Cleanse: Deactivating Social Media

Last week we found unsubscribing from unnecessary emails was perfect to clear a little clutter. Halfway through last week, I noticed myself periodically checking Facebook and Instagram throughout the day- spending an exuberant amount of time refreshing feeds and checking in to see who has commented or “liked” things I’ve posted.

It turned into a small need for worth.

I found that I wasn’t “getting enough likes” (even though I had no number in mind), or other’s observations through a comment weren’t fulfilling my need for worth, and it irked me. I wondered how I could manipulate social media to look more like I was living the dream, to gain praise for my series of life events.

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The truth is, no one actually cares as much as you do.

Humans were wired for connection and praise. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we love hearing we have done a deed well, we look nice, and we are headed in the right direction. That reassurance and praise is part of our human need for connection. Most people are so consumed in their own posts- their own stories- that they don’t think twice about yours and mine. Gaining worth through Christina’s “like” on Facebook and the double-tapping heart thingy on Instagram is nearly as comparable as someone walking by you through campus and acknowledging your presence.

Think about the way you “like” certain things on social media: you mindlessly scroll through pictures, see a pretty sunset, double tap and continue to scroll before giving it a second thought. Why do we obsess with this need to fit in and be accepted?

So, I deactivated Facebook and similarly manipulated Instagram so as to not lose my account. After a week of inactivity, I’ve actually forgotten about checking in and seeing what’s going on. I’ve lived. And a little less needy, actually.

Take a week this summer- five days, maybe just two- and deactivate your social media outlets. Clear your mind of the hustle and frantic posts to see what your mind can take up instead.

 

Clutter Cleanse: Unsubscribing from E-mails

UGH.

Have you ever gone two days without checking the inbox of your emails, and all of a sudden you have 126 new messages?
We could ignore all 126, but eventually it gets so aggravating that we sit and checkmark every email to delete it. Depending on how many we look at, it could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. And  tomorrow when we wake up, we’ll probably have 53 emails, mostly junk, to rummage through again.

30 minutes x 365 days a year = 10,950 minutes wasted a year deleting emails. That is 182.5 hours!

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This small burden of seeing junk email after junk email as we scroll down our inbox wears on our spirit. It sounds silly, but think about it this way: when you clean the kitchen at night and wake up in the morning to dishes, dog hair, and papers everywhere, how heavy do your shoulders get? When you are babysitting a child who you just bathed and she runs right into a mud pit, how hard to you exhale? The same goes for junk emails in an inbox. Imagine if you could prevent the kitchen from ever getting dirty by unsubscribing from dishes!

Today I set aside 20 minutes to go through all of my email accounts and unsubscribe from every subscription I somehow got latched onto. I’m hoping this small act will help me to look forward to checking my inbox and change my perspective in answering emails. Plus, I’m hoping it gives me 182 extra hours for other great things.

After all, the way we approach small things is the way we do all things. Do yourself a favor and go through your inbox this week to unsubscribe from emails. Maybe this first small step in getting rid of unnecessary nuances will help us toward inner peace.

Two Set-Backs That Wreck Inner Peace: Spirit Cleanse Challenge

Summer is usually a time when we can settle in with our inner peace; the hustle from school has died, work and jobs are idling in a slow-down, and we are able to reflect on the beauty of the weather. As I sit here typing, I realize that it is the end of June (?!?!?!) and I have not felt the summer peace that usually washes over me when softball season ends and new beginnings settle in.

This inner peace I talk about has sprung itself from author A. W. Tozer in his book, The Pursuit of God; God’s grace, when not burdened by worldly distraction, should wash over us in a much more natural state over stress and worry. The inner peace he speaks of is due to the beginning of your and my creation- God actually thought us into motion; He was the one who thought it would be unique and wonderful to color my eyes this green and gray, give me a heart for creativity and worldliness, and allow me to enjoy the taste of citrus-y lime-flavored everything. HE has always been US- from the very second he placed a heart in us, God was our original habitat, and we cannot help but feel at home again when we get back that place.

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So what is it that wrecks the peace in this world? I have two major set-backs myself that break the natural peace God planted in our hearts from the beginning:
1. Busyness: I fill my time with mindful works or busy tasks to fulfill my need to be accomplished. If I’m not completing tasks at work, checking things off of my list, or being productive around the house, I’m wasting time. The truth is, BUSYNESS is the first word that stress latches onto- busyness tells us the awful lie that we are not accomplished without being occupied.
2. Worry for the future
: I think, overthink, rethink, and then think again. The idea that I cannot control the future wears me down. It has been one of my biggest feats; over-analyzing situations to try to find the “right answer” when in fact there may be more than one. Or none. Or maybe both. Worry and stress is our subconscious way of acting out in order to manipulate situations we cannot control.

In order to break free from the worldly distractions of busyness and worry, and in order for me to find the inner peace I crave this summer, I’m starting myself on a Spirit Cleanse Challenge (and I hope you’ll join me). Every day (or every other day) a new post will come out which will include my plan for inner peace for my mind- a good read, writing, sermons or TED talks, thought-provoking ideas… body- clean, natural, local eating with a renewed outlook on exercise… and soul- quitting a habit, getting rid of unnecessary things, and making room for a renewed outlook.

I went through a similar challenge last year and got a fantastic response from a lot of people close to me. I really hope this challenge not only cleanses my outlooks, but can help a few people along the way.

Stay tuned…

 

 

How “The Program” Taught Me to Trust By Faith and Not By Sight

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This weekend the Salisbury Sea Gull Softball program underwent “The Program“; a two-day event in which former world-class special operations warriors and elite athletes take collegiate teams through the most intensive leadership training and team-cohesive activities they’ve probably ever been through. This weekend, we learned what it means to be mentally tough, to carry our teammates, and to allow our teammates to carry us.

Here are The Program’s Ethos and Core Principles:

*We are good team leaders and good teammates, and we prepare ourselves every day to fulfill that role.
1. We are physically and mentally tough.
2. We don’t make excuses and we don’t let others make excuses for us.
3. We work hard (we do “One More”).

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The Sea Gulls underwent training to learn what it means to beat with one heartbeat, to perform as fast as possible, to communicate as efficiently as possible, and to attack at all times. Learning that “sometimes we carry our teammates and sometimes they carry us” was a lesson everyone was able to take home; it’s ok to fail, and it’s ok to ask for help.

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There were continuous lessons through every task and each person led in their own way. One common theme I realized, however, was never spoken but always present:

TRUST BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT.

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This is a common phrase found in 2 Corinthians 5:7, to walk by faith and not by sight. In this context, Christians are taught that obstacles and challenges, when seen, are impossible. It would have been easy for the Israelites to look at the 5o foot-tall Wall of Jericho and walk away in complete disbelief when God told them to take the city, through the wall, in His name. What took great courage was belief and faith that God was giving them a promise; telling them exactly what needed to be done in order to complete His mission. And they did.

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What does this mean for our team, especially after this weekend? Anyone- everyone- can tell you that you can’t: You can’t win a National Championship, did you see how big the defenders are? She can’t hit the inside pitch, have you seen the way she swings at it? You won’t make it through The Program; have you seen the obstacles you have to overcome?

The problem is, those people are not in our arena.

As Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…” It’s faith in your teammates, and the faith your teammates have in you that will help you complete your mission. Faith, friends, is believing in a promise.

Trusting by sight is only to trust by circumstance and perspective. People who try to trust by sight cannot succeed. After this weekend, our team has a grasp on what it means to trust by faith, by a promise from every teammate, to every teammate, to do everything in her power to complete the mission; stop the drill to find a heartbeat, carry a teammate, perfect the small things, hold each other’s feet when necessary, and even ask for help.

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For our team: trust by faith and not by sight. It will make all the difference in this season, and in their seasons to come.
*Season opener in Raleigh, North Carolina next Saturday at 10:00am!

Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at  the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.