Wordless Wednesday: Run 4 The Children

Ok so this isn't completely wordless. Check out our official pace car for Run 4 The Children! This car was donated to us by Honda Cars of Katy, who is totally awesome. The car actually runs on natural gas! Too bad there are only two places in all of Houston to fill it up. Both sides and the front of the Honda Civic are covered with magnets from our other sponsors, which we have a lot of.

This year's race is gonna be awesome and raise a ton of money for the rescue of orphans through adoption. We're hoping for a thousand runners so if you're local to Houston or Katy PLEASE register for the run and join us on March 24th! You don't have to run either, you can walk, push a stroller, pull a wagon, whatever. There will be an awesome Kids Zone, plenty of food, free massages and nail polish changes, celebrity appearances and a post-race concert from Forlorn Hope. I'll be there directing some things, taking photos, and of course running!


Adoption Myths and Realities

This weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of attending the Together for Them adoption conference. One of the sessions we attended was called Adoption Myths and Realities. The speakers were Dave and Alicia Taylor who work with Campus Crusade and have five kiddos, two biological and three adopted. I enjoyed this session a lot and thought I would share some of my notes and insights from their talk.

The biggest message the Taylors had for the many people in the room considering and pursuing adoption was that we must trust God completely with every aspect of the process. In the absence of facts, both fears and fantasies about adoption can flourish. They emphasized that there is no "standard" process for adoption and everyone they knew who had adopted had unexpected changes in their plans or some way that it was not what they expected. Our plans are not God's plans, but "God is leading you to your unique child and you can trust Him,."

The Taylors have adopted their three kids domestically through semi-open adoption and they told us about that process and how they relate to the birthmoms. They talked openly about the myth/fear that if they adopt in the US the birthmom could come back any time to take back her baby. They talk openly with their kids about their birthmoms and even have photos of them in their home. The Taylors spoke about how important it is to make sure the agency is treating the birthmoms well and caring for them. One thing Alicia said she hadn't considered before adopting was the way they have been able to love on and share Christ with not just their kids but their birthmoms.

As a side note, I've seen this with close friends of mine who adopted two boys from the same mom locally. There are hard aspects of it but this couple has clearly demonstrated God's love to her.

Dave talked about his biggest fear was financial, not having any idea how they would pay for the adoption. He said that when we dismiss adoption because of cost we limit God and what He can do when He wants to place a child in our homes. They told an amazing story of receiving an unsolicited check in the exact amount to cover the adoption before they had even submitted their application. I've heard unbelievable stories like this over and over and even witnessed one firsthand. When God wants to accomplish something and we let Him use us, He will provide the means. He only wants our willingness to follow His leading and surrender control.

In the session we had a long discussion about transracial adoption, and the Taylors cited a 1995 study that demonstrated that transracial adoption had zero detrimental affect on the adjustment, self-esteem or relationships of the children. Everyone in the discussion mentioned having some difficulties with extended family members but they cautioned against rebuking ignorance at every turn. The Taylors suggested extending grace to your family, responding in humility and not self-righteousness, bringing them along on your journey.

Another myth they countered is the idea that you won't be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological one. They pointed out that even with bio kids, bonding doesn't just happen, it takes work. Twice on Saturday I heard that "attachment" isn't a feeling, it's a relationship. They did say, however, that another myth is that you will be able to act like a "normal" family, like pretending that the children weren't adopted. I thought it was a great point that "rejecting their past is rejecting the story God gave them."

The most important quote from Dave and Alecia Taylor I heard was the one they closed with, that reflects exactly how I feel.

"We want to live lives that don't just include God. We want to live lives that require God."

Linking up to We Are THAT Family this week.


How To Stay Friends During Election Season

JoAnne and Laurie in passionate conversation. 
Social media has created a wonderful outlet for people to connect with each other and voice their opinions. Unfortunately those opinions can also serve to divide us and cause big rifts in good friendships. Before things like Facebook and Twitter we tended to have small circles of friends in similar stations of life to us. People whose paths we crossed on a regular basis were generally the only folks with whom we had meaningful conversations. Whether or not we want to admit it, we tend to surround ourselves with people with whom we have a lot in common. Mothers of young children in a middle class suburb usually end up friends with other mothers of young children in a similar income bracket. More often than not that means the world that shapes our opinions is similar and it can serve to reinforce our own perspectives.

It's really easy to form a very strong opinion and have it backed up continuously by those around us. Politics and religion especially tend to be polarizing subjects, but even parenting styles and entertainment can be dividing. Once we have chosen which side of an issue we are on we have a tendency to go "all in" and start to believe that anyone with the opposite view is either stupidly ignorant or willfully evil. 

That's just no way to live. How boring life is when everyone is just like you. How bitter and angry people get when they insist that everyone unlike them is somehow trying to do them or the world they live in harm. 

It's really hard to reach out and "friend" people that hold passionately opposite views from me. I might think someone is really cool and smart and then suddenly they post a link and go on a rant and my opinion of them plummets. There was a time that I stupidly believed that if you called yourself a Christian you simply must have a particular political ideology because the opposite is unbiblical. That was ignorant. No one holds all the right answers and if you truly believe you do, this blog post isn't for you. It really is worth the trouble to open your eyes and mind to other points of view on a regular basis. At the very least it helps form a more educated and easier to defend position. 

Hopefully you see the benefit of making friends with "different". The opportunity for learning when you form a solid relationship with someone unlike you is huge. So how do you maintain that friendship during election season? How to you keep from "unfriending" or "unfollowing" them or saying something that gets you permanently ignored? 
  • Focus on your similarities as much as possible. Remember, for example, that she's a mom looking out for her kids just like you are. 
  • Find common ground on issues you disagree on. 
  • Believe the best about them. Assume good intentions. Assume they might just have a different means to the same end. 
  • Discuss in good faith. Be honest and not insulting. 
  • Be willing to listen. That means hearing and considering what they are saying, not just thinking about how you're going to respond back. 
  • Be willing to read and do you research before you engage in a topic. Try hard to refrain from repeating verbatim the talking points of one-sided media sources. 
  • Be willing to admit when you don't know something. 
  • Be willing to admit when you may have been wrong. 
  • Know when NOT to engage. Some people and their opinions are too blinded to try this with. 
As you can see, maintaining these kinds of relationships and engaging well with people requires a huge dose of humility and some hard work. But I believe it's worth it. 

If it doesn't work? There's always "judicious use of the hide button on Facebook" as my lovely and different friend, Sarah Bessey,  says. 


10 Things I Think While I'm Running

So even though I've been running for more than a year now and I'm consistently doing around 3 miles every run, I'd still consider myself a new runner. Why? Because I still spend most of my run thinking about my run. There are very brief occasions when my mind wanders and I can ponder something more interesting but especially right now while I'm in race training I am very focused on the mechanics and feelings of running.

I read an article recently that talked about how our brains work better when we think less. In turn our bodies work more efficiently when we we can do certain physical maneuvers instinctively instead of consciously. This is true for things like martial arts and football. Yes you have to train mentally first to be able to get to the place where your body moves correctly without thinking, but once you get there you move even better.

I'm not there yet with my running  but I believe I will be someday. I know people that are able to solve all kinds of problems in their heads when they run. Friends speak about creative inspiration hitting while they run. Certainly it's a stress reliever, even for me.

So here are ten things that go through my head, I swear, every single time I run. Every time. All these things. Some are kind of hilarious even to me. Some are really stupid and should be banished from my head.

1. "What's that twinge in my leg? Stop that. You are not gonna get injured, stupid knee/hamstring/IT band/foot."

2. "This is gonna make me feel so awesome when I'm done. So why doesn't it feel awesome right now?"

3. "I wonder if I'm hydrated enough? Maybe that's why I'm dragging."

4. "Darn it I have to pee. Apparently peeing three times before I left wasn't enough."

5. "Breathe slower. Big breath in through the nose...man why are my nostrils so tiny and narrow?"

6. "I love this song! Let's see if it's the right rhythm for my pace. This song is just a tiny bit slower than I recall. Or maybe I'm faster now...yeah, that's it!"

7. "Wonder if anyone I know drives by while I'm running. Probably not."

8. "This is getting hard, my legs are getting heavy. Remember, I'm running for the glory of God and the rescue of orphans. Keep going." (this is my mantra)

9. "I feel awesome like I could go forever. Don't slow me down you stupid traffic lights or cars pulling out."

10. "Am I done yet? Ouch. (Insert lame excuse here.) Think I'll cut this a bit short today. Next run I'll do more."

Sometimes I do cut it short, sometimes I don't. But I'm always thinking about the next run.

Can you relate to any of these? 

This post is linked up at Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday...check it out for lots more great lists.


Together For Them Adoption Conference

Eighteen months ago my husband and I started something of an interesting adventure. I had been doing a lot of reading and you know reading can really open your eyes and mind and get you in trouble. I knew there was something unsatisfying about our lifestyle of luxury and comfort. There was a gut feeling inside me that following Jesus meant life should be about something more than building wealth.

Our friends, the Cordes family, sent us a letter explaining their plans to adopt a little boy from Ethiopia. They also mentioned starting a life group at our church focused on the care of orphans. My reaction was to go "all in" with them but Mike gave me a lot of push back. I was reading Radical, by David Platt, and started talking about altering the way we live, especially in terms of money, but my husband had no idea where I was coming from. I convinced him to join the new life group and even host it at our house so that he couldn't make excuses to bail if he hated it. He knew I wanted to adopt or foster but he was happy with our family as is.

We met some awesome people in our new group, 1:17, and read book after book about God's heart for the orphan, for the desperately poor and hungry, for the widow and the outcast. We watched as God did amazing things to help raise funds towards bringing orphans into forever families. We prayed together, served together, ate and laughed together and even mourned together. Eight families made plans to adopt and one made plans to start fostering. We celebrated as two families brought their sons home and prayed fervently as several others encountered lengthy delays and have had to wait much longer than expected.

This weekend we have an exciting opportunity to nurture and maybe even grow our little community with a heart for unwanted kids. Alliance 1418, the network of Houston area churches with adoption, foster care and orphan care ministries that we belong to, is sponsoring a first of it's kind conference here in Katy. The Together For Them conference will be an incredible opportunity to learn first hand about all the ins and outs of the adoption process, the foster care system, caring for orphans, and how to parent your adopted kids once they're home. There are some fantastic speakers and there will be a great time of worship as well. Lunch is included with the small cost of $10 per family.

Saturday, Feb 25th
Kingsland Baptist Church
Katy, TX

I hope that you'll consider coming and learning about the possibilities, even if you're just a little bit curious. God has an amazing plan at work for these kids and for the families of those who will answer the call. 


Fashion Friday! My Expanding Wardrobe

You may remember that one of my top ten reasons for eating healthier was to make better use of all the clothes in my gigantic closet that I couldn't fit. Well I'm happy to tell you that so far I'm down ten pounds and I have no idea how many inches, but it's a lot. It's definitely one full jeans size. So not only has eating healthier helped me lose weight, but all the running, core work and yoga have also toned me up a bit which also makes clothes fit better.

I still have a way to go in my plan till I reach my goal, but the key is that I have a plan with incremental, achievable goals and I'm implementing it. This all kind of sounds like bragging to me and I don't want it to...I want you to know what's possible and what a huge difference even a very small goal like ten pounds can make in how you look and feel. Here's a post from January for comparison purposes. You may not be able to see the difference in these photos, but I assure you it's a whole size difference. 

January 22

January 24

January 29

February 5
February 12

As a reward for hitting my first of many health milestones in 2012, I headed to Target for the debut of the designer collaboration with Jason Wu. The were out of all but a size 16 in the one dress I truly loved and I'm very happy to know that a dress that size would look like a giant burlap sack on me these days. I did find this simple white shirt with a stylish silk tie that I snatched up as my prize. 

I look forward to hopefully posting more updates on my shrinking size/expanding wardrobe project. If you have questions about where any of the clothes I'm wearing come from, hit me up in the comments and I"ll be happy to share! 


Review: A Droid RAZR For This Verizon iPhone Girl

Exactly one year ago I wrote a review of my brand new iPhone 4 from Verizon Wireless. I have been a loyal Verizon customer with the same phone number (still with a Philadelphia extension) for over a decade. I have had a long line of great mobile phones through Verizon, including Samsung flip phone, an LG flip phone, and a nice pink Blackberry curve that I grew to despise while everyone around me carried iPhones. But I held out for Verizon to get the iPhone because my AT&T friends bitch endlessly about dropped calls and no data coverage. So glad I did.

Recently Verizon Wireless approached me about joining their new Ambassador program and it seemed like a natural fit. This week they sent me the latest and greatest in their line of awesome smart phones, the Motorola Droid RAZR with 4G LTE. It's supposed to be lightning fast on the 4G. So I'm anxious to take the next couple months and compare this new Droid RAZR with my current iPhone 4. To that end, I made a little video of my first impressions.


10 Unromantic Ways I Celebrate Valentine's Day

1. Usually we hire a sitter and have a date night the Saturday closest to Valentine's Day. Instead this year I volunteer to spend all afternoon and evening photographing dads and their little girls for a dance at our church. Meanwhile my husband feeds, entertains, bathes and puts our boys to bed.

2. Plan to attend a special Valentine's Day lunch...with my grandparents...at a potential retirement home.

3. My husband's birthday was last week and I shower him with awesome gifts. Consequently I use up all my gift ideas and fail to come up with anything for today other than a card.

4. Tell my husband not to buy me a stitch of chocolate because I'm on a diet.

5. Over the past week I find zero time to head to the store without at least one child in tow. Which means I did not buy them any cards or gifts, at all. #EpicMomFail

Obviously not taken this year. 
6. Normally unfazed by such things, of course I get a huge dose of PMS hormones and cry with guilt over my epic failure to demonstrate my love for my family through gifts on a Hallmark holiday (my love language, not theirs.)

7. The day before Valentine's day I find out my cleaning lady has a sick kid and can't come. Hosting life group that night means I have to clean but only have time to focus on the areas where company will be, so a romantic bath in a clean jacuzzi tub won't be happening today.

8. No sleeping on clean sheets either. See #7.

And the most unromantic thing of all?

9. Waking up sick as a dog on Valentine's Day with swollen glands, a throat burning like fire and a head full of snot. Instead of a romantic kiss my better half helps me get the kids ready for school while I throw on some sexy sweatpants and start popping pills.

10. As he walks out the door he whispers "Don't worry about dinner, honey, we can just order a pizza."

Now that is what love is all about.

This post is linked up over at Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday. I bet there are some much nicer Valentine's posts over there. 


Grammy Recap

Never too much Dave Grohl
I am a certified fanatical music nerd. Maybe you noticed that with all my blog posts about music, but I have a tendency to forget it. I think myself a pretty average fan most of the time.

Then Grammy time comes around and I am compelled to give it way more attention than it really deserves. There was a time when the Grammys seemed to go off the track and reward a whole bunch of crap music. That time seems to have been fading away a bit in recent years, with some really talented lesser known artists getting nominated and even winning. Last year my heart was warmed when they let Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers actually perform their incredible music. It also seems that people are beginning to recognize real talent once in awhile, like the phenomenal voice of Adele.

Did you know that they award 78 different Grammys? Variations in category abound. 68 of these awards are done during the pre-telecast which I discovered you can view live online! So guess what I was watching all day. The ones I care most about are Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Album, Song and Performance, Best Contemporary Christian Song and Album, Best New Artist and sometimes I'm into the Pop stuff but very often not. This year though, my long time favorite band the Foo Fighters (who I have seen in concert about a half dozen times) were up for a ton of awards in lots of categories.

Ok so some highlights.

Best Surprise of the Night

The very fact that The Civil Wars performed even a bit of their Grammy winning song Barton Hollow before introducing Taylor Swift amazes me. Suddenly everyone loves them and deservedly so. I saw someone tweet that their first show was 18 months ago and now they're on the Grammys...that's not so because I've been following them very closely since early 2009 when they performed at Eddie's Attic and then released the mindblowing EP Poison and Wine. I was a fan of Joy Williams before she got together with John Paul White to create The Civil Wars but I never expected their meteoric rise to success because people with their kind of roots usually don't enjoy instant mainstream success. The interesting thing about The Civil Wars is that when they sing together there is usually a sexual tension you can cut with a knife even though they are each married to other people. Well last week Joy announced she is expecting her first child and last night during their much-too-short song I saw none of the usual chemistry. I hope they don't lose that now that they are playing for much less intimate audiences.

Most Infuriating Moment of the Night

Every time Chris Brown took the stage, which was at least three times by my count. The Grammys billed him as some kind of triumphant comeback and it made my stomach turn. The kid beat his girlfriend to a bloody pulp, got a slap on the wrist of five years probabtion WHICH HE IS STILL SERVING, and routinely calls people f*ggot and throws chairs through windows. For this he is rewarded with two Grammy performances, a multi-platinum selling album and a Grammy award. Even more horrifying are these tweets from women last night. I believe in grace, and second chances, but consequences and apologies are also very important and we are sending the wrong wrong wrong message to young women everywhere.

Funniest Twitter Commentary of the Night

I have a tie for this one. It's tied between the moment Bon Iver won Best New Artist and when DeadMau5 took the stage. My friend Craig Hlavaty wrote this terrifically funny bit in the Houston Press about what happened when Bon Iver won. ("Who the Eff is the Ron River?") Now arguably his music is not new to those of us geeks in the know, so whether he should get best *new* artist is somewhat questionable, but his music is undeniably great.  Then there was the big electronica number with David Guetta and DeadMau5. Lots and lots of "I don't get this" tweets and even more hilarious "What is up with the light up Mickey Mouse head?". I'm sorry but DeadMau5 is awesome and makes incredible music that I always want to dance to. That head is the latest and greatest improvement of something he's been wearing for years and fans like me love it.

In the end Adele swept the Grammys with her amazing raw talent combination of voice and songwriting. She deserves the accolades and listening to her acceptance speeches in the thickest cockney accent you'll ever hear is both amusing and endearing. I'm sad Mumford and Sons didn't win anything for their incredible song, The Cave, but perhaps this means they won't get overplayed and ruined.

So what were your favorite moments of last night's Grammys? 



Running Progress Update

LifeguardsToday I want to share with you the awesome progress I have been making in my running, just to encourage others of what is possible. Trust me when I say that if I can do this, anybody can do it. Like so many things in life, I believe running is about 90% mental. Nobody starts out jumping off the couch and running a marathon. The hardest part is not even starting, although that's pretty hard. The hardest part is sticking with it, despite a body that rebels against it with soreness and injuries. My body definitely does that, but my brain and soul don't let me give up.

So now that I'm in a training group I've been running or doing some kind of interval workout four times a week. That puts my legs in a perpetual state of soreness as the muscle fibers breakdown and build themselves stronger. I've learned that this state of soreness is a good thing, because I've watched my speed improve a lot. I keep track of all my runs with an iPhone app called Runkeeper. When I'm outside it tracks everything I do by GPS. When I'm inside on the treadmill I have to enter the stats. Outside is best because it shows me an exact breakdown of split times.

Back at Christmas when my sister was here we did 2 minutes running followed by 2 minutes walking. It was hard for me and slow. At the beginning of the 5K training program we did one mile time trials and my time was 12 minutes 56 seconds. That was with zero walking. Right now I'm doing 5 minutes running followed by a minute of walking, repeat indefinitely, usually for about 5k. My last couple runs averaged 12 minutes and 20 seconds per mile, INCLUDING walking.

So a bit about the body rebelling. A couple weeks ago I started having knee pain, something I'm all too familiar with. There are many many blog posts from back in 2005 when I first started running and developed runner's knee in both legs so badly I could hardly walk and ended up in physical therapy for months. Also last year when I began the couch to 5K program I had this happen too. It sidelined me for a week or so but new, custom fit (very expensive) running shoes solved the whole problem. So this year as soon as it flared up again I bought new shoes. Problem solved again.

Next there's the asthma. I hadn't had an attack of my exercise induced asthma in a very long time, so long that when my inhaler ran out I did not refill it. So when I finished a nice outdoor run last week and was left coughing my head off and wheezing for air it was a complete surprise. I let it go thinking maybe it was just a fluke thing, but then after another solo run where I really pushed for speed I got another attack. So I called up the doc's office and found out I had to be seen to get another inhaler. I marched in and explained the situation to my favorite physician's assistant who it turns out is a competitive runner with exercise induced asthma too! She advised me to use the inhaler BEFORE I even start a run.

On my days off from running I often do yoga and use the elliptical machine at the gym. The elliptical is really an excuse to catch up with my friend Kristi (whose blog Baby Food Steps is awesome, btw). Well last week after a not very strenuous half hour on the elliptical I felt a weird pain in the back of my thigh, just above the knee. It twinged only when I stepped a certain way, but especially when climbing the stairs. Frustrated, I decided I'd better ice it and rest it for a few days.

I really really hate injuries that knock me off my training schedule. REALLY. I'm addicted to running now, to the progress I am making and the sweat and the endorphins that leave me full of positive energy for the rest of the day.  But I refuse to let injuries stop me. I also refuse to push myself through injuries because I know that only patience and rest can keep them from becoming much worse. Holding myself back is actually pretty hard to do, but I know when it's important.

After several days of no activity I went to yoga class and took it very easy, modifying every pose to never fully stretch my hamstring. That's actually a lot harder than it sounds. When evening came and I had walked around all day with no hamstring pain I decided that the next morning I would resume running and see how it went. So this morning I got up and dressed pretty warm (it was 36 degrees and windy), puffed on my inhaler, and headed out on my usual route. I tried not to push the speed too much so I was surprised when my app kept telling me I was running consistently under 12 minutes a mile. Even after a couple of miles I felt like a million bucks. When I got back to my house after a bit more than 3 miles I really felt like I could have kept going, but decided to stop. I could breathe!! I wasn't even close to gasping for air, my breathing had been slow and steady the entire run. My inhaler worked wonders and my hamstring didn't give me an ounce of trouble.

So next I will kick it up to at least 6 minute intervals and extend my route out to four miles, since the race I'm running in March, Run 4 The Children, is that long. Yay progress!


Pinterest Tips for Guys

Pin It
Pinterest is the hot social media platform of the moment. It is suddenly the number one driver of traffic to retail websites, even more so than YouTube and Google + combined. Pinterest is a wild hit with the non tech savvy population and most especially with women.

Smart men are interested, but as my friend Jason remarked upon joining yesterday, it can at first seem like "estrogen overload". I don't know the demographic breakdown and I'm sure it's evolving dramatically every day right now, but it is clearly dominated by women.

So it makes sense that when a guy signs up and Pinterest suggests which of his existing friends he should follow, he's going to end up seeing a huge number of feminine pinboards. It could prompt the guy with average intelligence to conclude the platform is only for women and he'll see no benefit. But writing off Pinterest entirely is a mistake and I'm pleased to be following at least a few chaps of above average social media acumen, not to mention great style. (I recommend following Brian Block, Caleb Gardner, and Philip Edsel just to name a few.)

So my first piece of advice is the same thing I said about Twitter years ago...don't follow everyone that follows you. Don't follow everyone of you Facebook contacts that happens to have a Pinterest account. Skim through the pins of each person you follow and make sure they have something to offer, something that interests you. Unfollow those with only a handful of girly pins.

Some of my various pinboards
Here's my biggest tip: when you decide which people to keep following, go to their list of boards and selectively unfollow the most gender specific ones. For example, unless you have a major fetish, it's unlikely you, a guy, would be interested in my Shoes! board. Same goes for My Style. However guys might dig my Inked board or my Stuff I Want To Eat board. My photography board is pretty genderless, as is my board full of running quotes. I even have a Men's Fashion board, though I need to find more stylish guys to follow so I can fill it up.
Who doesn't love food?

My last piece of advice is to create your own unique boards for specific interests and do searches to fill them with pins. That's how I made my Inked board, since not many of my friends are into pinning tattoos. It's also how I made my Office Renovation board which is for a real project I'm currently working on, not just some home fantasy.

Once you've got a good group of peeps to follow and a bunch of focused boards, you'll find it easy to pop into Pinterest for a few minutes at a time and quickly repin your favorite finds for safe keeping. It's much easier to stay on top of than Twitter or even Facebook, and it's the perfect end-of-the-day brainless activity for me to wind down with after hours of creating content and marketing it.

Channeling Charlie Sheen.
Happy pinning!

Got any more obvious suggestions for guys that I missed? Leave them in the comments!

This post is linked up over at Kristen's Works for Me Wednesday.


10 Songs I Love to Run To

I have learned to love running. I get an amazing rush of positive energy when I'm done that lasts for hours. It makes me super productive in other areas of my work and homelife. Of course it burns huge calories and is helping me lose some extra pounds too. Competing against myself in terms of getting faster and shaving time off my runs is pretty cool too.

A good playlist is really essential to me when I'm running alone and not with my training group. I have shared some of my playlists in the past but I have a new one that is totally keeping me pumped up during my runs. So here it is!

1. Mat Kearney - Hey Mama
I reviewed Mat's album Young Love and I still say it should win a Grammy.

2. Matchbox 20 - Let's See How Far We've Come
Found this older tune in my library and it's the perfect tempo and lyrics for my runs.

3. Jimmy Eat World - Always Be
Again, perfect tempo. Love everything this band does.

4. All-American Rejects - Move Along
Another older song with great lyrics for running.

5. We Were Promised Jetpacks - Quiet Little Voices
Super fast so I feel the urge to step it up and push a little.

6. MuteMath - Spotlight
Have you seen this video? If you haven't, go watch it. These guys are so talented.

7. Green River Ordinance - Rise Up
Yes I know I had this song on at least two previous lists. It's THAT GOOD.

8. Arcade Fire - Ready to Start
My lists can't be all pop music, gotta through some of that hipster stuff in too.

9. Foster the People - Helena Beat
Everyone uses Pumped Up Kicks at races, but I vastly prefer this song.

10. Good Charlotte - The Anthem
Old school pop-punk. Reminds me of high school.

Bonus! LFMAO - Party Rock Anthem! Because seriously, this song is crazy infectious and makes me feel like dancing every time I hear it.

So if you want to add some new tunes to your workout, check these out! This post is linked up over at Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday. There are lots of other great posts there that you should check out!
Top Ten {Tuesday}


Pinterest Makes Cooking Fun!

Superbowl = crockpot chili
If you aren't using Pinterest yet, I strongly suggest you check it out right away. You may have noticed a slight Pinterest-y (yes, that's a word) theme around this blog of late. It is a lot like scanning through a magazine to look at all the pictures without reading any of the articles except for that one that grabs your attention and pulls you in a little deeper.

Except this magazine is perpetually published with new pictures. Oh and MY FRIENDS are the ones picking the photos. 

I trust my friends, they are smart. They generally have very good taste. Even those who have different taste that I do have good taste that is worth checking out. 

Ok back to cooking being fun. I've written many many MANY times about how I don't particularly like to cook. I usually would much rather eat out at a restaurant where the food is lovely and hot and I don't have to prepare it or clean up the mess. We are spoiled and do this quite a lot, which is wasteful and excessive both in dollars and in things like calories and fat. 

Crockpot BBQ Chicken!
One thing that has totally changed my desire to eat out is the big change in my eating plan I've made recently. It is totally possible to eat at all the same restaurants as I had been while on a diet, but it is nowhere near as much fun. In fact sometimes it's downright torture, the way the whole place smells of fried food and the menu is covered in photos that make my mouth water. All of which include a abundance of cheese, bacon and bread. 

I'm drooling just thinking about it. So yeah, sometimes I actually want to avoid all that temptation. 

Another thing that makes cooking fun is having people to cook for that really, genuinely appreciate my cooking. My husband sometimes does, but not really as much as my grandparents do. They eat in restaurants every single night so when I cook for them at home they tend to gush over it with appreciation. 

Finally what made cooking super fun this weekend was Pinterest. I have a board FULL of photos of food that look divinely appetizing to me. My biggest issue in the past with cookbooks was the lack of pictures. Pinterest has essentially allowed me to create my own cookbook of my very favorite foods without anything I want to skip over. 

When I started the pinboard I wasn't on a diet and you can tell. The beginning is full of recipes with cheese. And things utilizing crescent roll dough. 

But lately I have found things that are much healthier and don't look too terribly hard to make. 

Parmesan crusted asparagus
On Saturday I knew my grandparents were coming to dinner so I planned accordingly. I found this recipe for crockpot barbecue chicken that says you can start with frozen chicken breasts, so I threw everything in the crockpot that morning. Then I also decided to try this Parmesan crusted asparagus I saw that looked delicious and not too hard. It turned out to be more time consuming that I imagined, dipping and coating all those little asparagus spears. I won't likely make it again, but boy were they delicious! Next time I'm gonna try this recipe for roasted broccoli that sounds very good. 

I also made a birthday cake on Saturday and learned that plain homemade cakes are a thousand times tastier than the prettiest storebought cake. 

I loved using the crockpot so much on Saturday that I decided to use it again Sunday to make chili to eat during the Superbowl. We weren't having a party or anything but Mike didn't want the game interrupted by a  big dinner, so chili seemed perfect. I put it together right after church so it was ready to go at supper time. It was the best chili I have ever made by far. 
  • 1 lb ground beef (next time I'll try ground turkey) 
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1 big can of kidney beans (maybe 27oz?) undrained
  • 2 8oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 packets of chili spices
  • 1 10oz can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis undrained
You brown the meat along with the chopped onion and pepper. Then you mixed in all the other stuff and cook on low for 6 hrs or high for 3ish hours and voila! I threw a tiny bit of jack cheese on top when I served it. 

In conclusion, I am definitely going to being using Pinterest for cooking ALL THE TIME now. 


Awesome T-shirts I Would Love to Wear

Down here in Texas a cute t-shirt with jeans and boots is perfectly normal attire for a soccer mom like me. Even better if you have cowboy boots or a sparkly belt and earrings to dress it up! While t-shirts are still totally casual I do think they are a step up from my gym clothes, which I tend to wear a lot only because I spend a lot of time at the gym.

I have become very selective about my t-shirts over the years but here are a few that I found that I would gladly wear.

First up we have some classic Geek Chic. Yes, I'm a stickler for good grammar. There are occasions in my writing I will purposely ignore certain rules of grammar (like not starting a sentence with And) but they are not by mistake.

Available at etsy, found via Pinterest.
Then there is this whole genre of Texan wear that can get a little obnoxious but we Texans can't help the fact that we live in the best country...er...I mean state.
Available at  t-shirtguru.com, found via Pinterest
Along those same lines is this cute shirt I found that expresses exactly how I feel. Houston gets a bad rap a lot, but I love it here. Bonus! Sales of this shirt benefit Spacetaker, an awesome local arts organization.

Available here, found via Pinterest
Then of course I have to feature at least one running/workout shirt, right? This looks too cute to actually exercise in though! 
Not sure where to buy it, but found via Pinterest
And finally here's a tshirt that is actually a little less casual and a little more pretty. I do love gray shirts.

Unfortunately I can't find a source to buy this shirt either, but it was found on Polyvore. I think it implied you could make this with a big tshirt but I don't sew. If somebody figures out where to buy it let me know in the comments!


Help Me With My Diet!

Ok people, I know you have opinions. And you have knowledge. You've tried stuff and read stuff and now I'm calling on you to share it with me!

So you know I've been on this "eating healthier" plan along with running like crazy and still working out at the gym. I have been religiously tracking my food and aiming for a daily caloric target of about 1200. I started off a little lower than that but I'm petrified of my metabolism slowing down too much, and since I'm burning about 300 calories a day with exercise it seems like 1200 should be the minimum.

Keep in mind those calories aren't my only guideline, I'm trying to keep them as low fat and high fiber calories. I've moderately increased my veggies, dramatically increased my fruits, and reduced and changed my carbs. The only refined carbs I eat are the occasional handful of goldfish crackers or baked tortilla chips.

My means are generally like this: breakfast is a bowl of cereal (honey nut cheerios) or oatmeal or a high fiber english muffin. Plenty of coffee too. Lunch is a big fat apple, some almonds, or possibly a turkey sandwich on wheat thins. Maybe a healthy choice or lean cuisine on occasion. Dinner is usually chicken, veggies and a salad. Maybe a small portion of potatoes. I also usually have one skinny latte a day. I figure the skim milk is good protein and calcium without a lot of calories or fat. That's often right after a hard workout.

A lot of days I end up with way less than 1200 calories and usually end up with some kinda carb to make up the difference before bed.

So I have heard lots of theories about cutting out dairy, cutting carbs entirely, even cutting fruit. I'm just not sure how to get more meat, bean and veggies in. Convenience is king in my house.

Anyway the scale isn't moving as fast as I'd like it to. Maybe I'm just impatient, but maybe there's something different I should be doing. So I'm wide open to your suggestions.

I REALLY want your opinions. Lay it on me.

History Revisited Through Music

Yesterday I began the daunting task of reorganizing and renovating my office. I don't actually do any work in my office because the space stresses me out. It may look neatly organized to the casual observer but to me it is one big pile of clutter. The desktop computer is more like a doorstop and the bookshelves are overflowing.

One of the first things I decided to do was to pack up our extensive CD collection into a storage tub and stick it in the attic. Mike and I both love music a ton and over the years have amassed hundreds of CDs, but now of course everything is digital. I have multiple iPods and an iPhone and I never use my CD player anymore.

So I sat down on the floor with a storage tub and started going through each and every CD we owned to make sure the disc was in the proper case and set some aside for a future garage sale.

It was a really interesting experience, going through all those CDs, much like looking at an old photo album. Music has played a huge role in my life and obviously in Mike's life too. I remember well buying my first few CDs in middle school, often very obscure "modern rock" stuff like Voice of the Beehive, They Might Be Giants and The Las. I still have the Red Hot Chili Peppers CD "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" with the parental advisory mark blacked out in hopes my parents wouldn't find it. They did and confiscated it for awhile. It's still one of the best albums of the 90's.

There's a big bunch of chick music CDs that I brought to the marriage, like a ton of Tori Amos and Alanis Morrisette, and there's an equal amount of classic rock from Mike's side. What was always interesting to me were the duplicates...albums we both bought independently before we met that showed overlapping taste. Those were Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Live and the Foo Fighters mostly.

What I didn't remember was the phase of angry, angsty hard rock Mike must have gone through because there are a LOT of albums I can't stand by bands like Limp Biskit, Tool and Korn. Yuck.

My country music phase is evident and did not last at all. I have zero interest in keeping all the Faith Hill and Tim McGraw albums I bought. Alternative music is timeless to me, country music is most definitely not.

And of course there is our extensive jazz collection which began when the two of us enrolled in a class on The History of Jazz for our art elective in college together. That was a great class and we really enjoyed listening to albums and even attending a few concerts by guys like Thelonius Monk and Wynton Marsalis. Miles Davis' album Kind Of Blue is pure masterpiece, plain and simple.

The afternoon walk down memory lane was a great one, a good opportunity to remember the people we were before we were married for 14 years. I think it's great for a married couple to think about what drew you together and what your courtship was like.

It's too easy to forget.
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