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Unconditional Love: That’ll teach her

Today, my nephew helped me to re-learn the lesson about unconditional love and he did it through a tool that has become one of my signature moves: gratitude.

I was helping Nicky with his Grade 1 homework tonight and the first part of it was a review of 18 words that are part of this month’s spelling tests. Like many kids who come from broken homes, my nephews miss out on the luxury of consistency and routine. Typically, they only do homework a few times a week and the lag-time between regular homework often means that my nephews take a few steps back every few days. When I’m completely present for them, I cut them slack and realize that they need some extra help and encouragement.

Tonight, we were in a rush to get a bunch of things done (eat supper, take baths, do homework) so that we could make it to a religious commitment. I am ashamed to acknowledge that my patience left much to be desired and I just wanted my nephews to get through their homework with the competence and ability that I have often witnessed.

I failed to realize that I had just come back from holidays and I haven’t been around for two weeks of homework. Their dad and my parents do the best they can but I truly reign supreme when it comes to a disciplined and dedicated approach to homework. My nephews independently volunteer to correct their printing when they form letters imperfectly in my presence.

I definitely drive a hard bargain when it comes to diligence and I do it in part because of the lack of consistent application of rules and guidance.

My nephews’ teachers are my eyes and ears to ensure that my approach isn’t a hindrance – I want my nephews to achieve their full potential and I want to be a positive contributor to this goal so I realize that sometimes my approach will require refinement so that my efforts don’t bite me in the butt (i.e. rebellious behaviour).

So tonight, as I was trying to get Nicky to get through his spelling words (a huge quantity for any six-year-old) and I watched him struggle with words he’d learned previously but which he had forgotten due to lack of practice, my frustration muddled my compassion.

Nicky got through his words and did an awesome job on his three challenge words (way harder than the regular words so it baffles me that he can get “fairytale” correct and struggle with “your”).

Then he pulled out a piece of paper with the words “Thank you for….” and said he needed help to write a thank-you message to me and my parents for helping him with his homework each week.

My six-year-old nephew stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t believe that despite all of my frustration that night that he looked at me with his big brown eyes full of love and a big smile (slightly mischievous, as always) on his face. I am harder on Nicky than I am on Ethan because Nicky is the one I consider strong and assertive. Ethan is gentle and loving and wears his heart on his sleeve. Nicky is the one I expect to stand up for himself and his brother. He has such a strong personality and he isn’t afraid of anything or anyone – not even of me. I sometimes forget that he’s just a kid and that my expectations of him might get in the way of him fully realizing his own potential.

And despite all of these shameful realities, Nicky loves me unconditionally. He may not like me very much at times, but he never lets my stupidity get in the way. Maybe somehow at six-years-old he realizes that I mean well and have good intentions. And that is enough for him to forgive me and love me even when I might not think I’m all that great.

So tonight I am grateful for unconditional love from E&N. I know that some days I am probably undeserving. Realizing this, today I also renew my commitment to always be the type of aunt who deserves my nephews’ (and nieces’) unconditional love by being a positive influence and unwavering source of empowerment and encouragement in their lives. ♥

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Drum roll, please….

I am a lucky girl to have so many wonderful friends who shower me with love and support.

I want to give shout-outs to two fraternity sisters who contacted me tonight to let me know I was honoured as the Volunteer of the Year at the Edmonton Christmas Bureau’s annual volunteer appreciation event. (I wasn’t in attendance since I’m in Mexico on a family vacation.)

Leanne and Bethan – thank you both not only for sharing this joyful news but also for supporting my philanthropic efforts.

Winning an award is a great honour and having awesome friends is priceless. Reading messages like what follows is humbling and heartwarming. PPL

I just wanted to say how proud I was to know you in that moment, and how I am always so proud to call you my friend and my sister. You inspire me and make me want to be a better person, and I love having you as a part of my life.

I’m incredibly honoured to be recognized with this award and I want to thank my colleagues, fraternity sisters, family members, and Edmonton Outdoor Club members who join me to sponsor Edmonton families, pack and deliver hampers, and assist with Walk-In Days. My award belongs to all of us.

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Michelle Obama-esque arms

I am sharing a photo taken by my friend, the talented Rachel Foley. I didn’t realize how toned my arms were until I saw this picture and it is a good illustration of the old adage that “hard work pays off”.

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A pound of flesh

As I approach my birthday, I realize I am unlikely to achieve my goal weight of 100 pounds. I have been sitting at 101/102 pounds since October and although my monthly measurements continue to show improvements, my weight is pretty much staying the same (today, I’m at 101 pounds).

I’ve mentioned to friends that Jillian Michaels says that the last 8-10 pounds are the toughest because those are considered “vanity pounds” and our bodies are at a healthy weight at this point.

It was helpful to see Get-Fit Guy’s article entitled How to Track Weigth Loss? (Hint: NOT on the Scale!). The article talks about body fat percentage, waist-hip circumference, and visual analysis as alternates to the scale. And all three of these tools indicate ongoing improvements for me – even the fact that I’ve gone from size 2 pants in November to size 1 pants in February is a good indication that my body continues to tone and change.

As I was packing last night for Mexico, I tried on some capris that I wore without a belt while in Mexico and on a cruise last year and realized that NONE of my capris fit without a belt anymore – and several don’t even need to be unbuttoned/unzipped for me to put them on or take them off. LOL

In all seriousness, I am using these experiences to reassure myself that 100 is just a number and one that I will likely achieve at some point this year and that even if I don’t, I am in the best shape of my life and that is something to celebrate on my birthday and every day.

So on that note, Brave Girls’ Club has a great message for me (and maybe for some of you): Your life is enough. You are enough. You do enough. You have enough. You are loved enough. You are amazing enough.

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How to fit into size 1 skinny jeans

My new size one skinny jeans laid over top of my old not skinny size five jeans.

If you aren’t counting calories, but are trying to lose weight, I highly recommend you check out MyFitnessPal.com (also avail as a smart phone app). It will help you track your daily food and exercise and in a few days/weeks you’ll be able to see trends and make informed choices about food.

If you’ve calculated your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and are feeling a bit overwhelmed about your daily calorie limit, don’t be frustrated. I was at 1,800 calories at my peak consumption and I managed to bring that number down to 1,200. It didn’t happen overnight and it shouldn’t – our bodies are designed to change gradually, over time, and with a sustained effort that becomes part of our daily habits and way of life. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and set small, achievable goals (like losing a pound a month or moving up in the number of reps or the amount of weight you use for a specific exercise over a designated period of time.)

Work your way to your ideal caloric intake and instead of relying on diet alone, make sure you also add in exercise because the more exercise you do, the more calories you can consume (just don’t go overboard if your ultimate goal is to lose weight).

Also, if you are just starting out with returning to exercise, it’s possible you will need to eat more food because your body is using fuel for different activities. Do some research to determine healthier foods you can replace with current choices (like whole wheat instead of white pasta) and make small changes – to quote an overused phrase, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Try to reduce your overall caloric intake a little bit at a time and combine this with healthier food choices and more exercise. Ultimately, your goal should be to get to the caloric level recommended for you based on your BMR and to consume that many calories a day (you HAVE to consume at least your BMR – don’t cut calories by not eating what you have to in order to sustain yourself. Your BMR is the amount of energy your body has to expend just to sustain your life – it’s what it uses to keep you alive so, please, please, please consume those calories. Every day.

Get your calorie deficit by working out – so if your BMR is 1,400, then eat 1,400 calories a day and exercise around 200 – 300 calories per day (approx. 30 minutes of cardio will achieve this for most people).

You need to burn 3,600 calories to lose a pound so if you burn 300 calories per day, it will take you 12 days to lose a pound. This is assuming you do not take any rest days. I recommend you take at least two rest days a week if you are just returning to workouts – again, because your body needs to change gradually and you are more likely to stick to habits if you feel like you have some choice around them and if they don’t feel like obligatory items on your checklist. And let’s face it, most people CAN’T workout every day – it’s not a failure, it’s reality.

So, here’s my suggestion for most of you…workout 3-5 times a week to start, try to increase that to five times a week gradually (maybe over several months). If you can, do a combination of cardio and strength training – if you can’t do both in each workout then aim for a 2:1 ratio cardio to strength (so if you are working out three times a week to start, do two days of cardio and one day of strength training and if you are working out five times a week then do three days of cardio and two days of strength training).

I’ll share more tips as things come up in my conversations with some of you and also as I think of stuff.

(Note: all of the info in this note is based on my experience. There’s no medical/scientific research or data that supports it and everyone’s experience is different so you need to take time to figure out what works for you and make adjustments along the way.)

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From the mouths of babes…

I’ve already shared this story and I still think it’s worthy of wider distribution so now it’s part of my blog.

Earlier this month, E was going bowling for a school field-trip and he was super-duper excited about it. It was all he could talk about for days. He realized, on his own, that he’d have to explain to N how excited he was about his field trip and how N would have to help him make sure he wouldn’t be late for it by being a slowpoke in the morning. LOL

E reminded N that he was going on a field trip (N, do you know what tomorrow is? It’s my field trip!!!!!!!!!) and N knew E was really excited about it (Yeah, I know. You can’t stop talking about it.) LOL

E reminded N they’d have to hurry so that they could leave for school on time so E wouldn’t be late for his field trip. E then asked N what would help N be faster in the morning (N, do you want to brush your teeth first or second tomorrow so that we can be faster at getting ready in the morning?) And N suggested that E get to brush his teeth first at bed time but he would brush his teeth first in the morning.

N explained that this would mean they would both get to be first one time and also that if he’s first in the morning then he would hurry because he would know E was waiting for him.

I (re)learned two things: one, that if you want someone to cooperate with you, you need to give them the chance to decide how they will partner with you to achieve your goal (the fine art of negotiation as demonstrated to me by E) and second that when you get buy-in from someone by helping them be part of the solution, usually they will come up with win-win solutions (like N saying they both can be first at different times).

The morning of the field trip, N was up first (rarely the case normally) and he helped wake up E by reminding him about the field trip.

I love my nephews for so many reasons and one of the biggest reasons is because of how good they are to each other. There is no doubt that they are each other’s best friend and that they always have one another’s back. Makes me happy to know they watch out for each other whenever possible.

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