The most wasted of all days is one without laughter – E.E. Cummings

Category: The Struggle Is Real

Fail-Free New Year

It’s that time again, folks. Every year we bottle up all of insecurities and doubts and then resolve in a 24-hour period to fix each one of them over the next 365 days. I love a new year full of promises that I likely won’t keep, nay, even think about once the summer sun is shining. Let’s be honest, by April I’ll be the Miss Columbia of resolutions: just as I think I’ve made some progress, I’ll be honest with myself and hand over my resolution crown to more worthy recipient.

My issue is that my goals are always astronomical – like not even Stan Lee could write them even to existence because nobody would believe it. In the promise of total honesty, I submit to you some of my most miserable failures to-date:

New YearI will lose 15 pounds a month for an entire year.

I will stop eating all sugar. . . probably forever.

No more eating out. Nope. Not economical.

I will hand-sew all of my clothes this year. . . Just kidding. I would never try to do this. I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.

I will get rid of everything in my house that doesn’t serve a purpose. (Husbands, beware of this one. If you don’t start helping out, you might just make the list. . . I’m just saying.)

As you can see, I’m not really a “realistic” goal setter; I’m more of the all-or-nothing type. I don’t just want to lose a few pounds; I want to be a contender for America’s Next Top Model by August. Stop laughing, you’re killing my dreams.

I’ve taken all the courses about SMART goals and I still don’t grasp it. I know all of the steps to being successful with your goals like, “A goal not written down is just a dream,” blah, blah, blah. If you ask me, I say a goal not written down is a SMART goal – smart because nobody can ever prove that you set out to do it in the first place so they can’t hold it over you when they try to prove that you are a failure. How’s that for thinking like the mafia – never leave a paper trail.

This year, however, I’ve decided to change things up a bit and bite off some New Year’s Resolutions that I think I can tackle. Once I started reviewing these on paper, I thought I should let you all in on the plan so that when your other, loftier, “5k by March”-type goals fall through, you’ll have something to fall back on and just continue to be proud about.

So without further ado, here is Carlee’s Guide to a No-Fail New Year:

Goal #1: Be Less Dumb

Some years (like this past one), I’ve set reading goals to try and increase my vocabulary and to have something intelligent to talk about (with my 3-year-old?). Anyway, by mid-year, I’m so sick of reading things that I hate and that are supposed to make me smarter (Christian Science Monitor, I’m looking at you) that I actually get sick of reading and find myself watching Netflix and completely avoiding the documentaries (remember, by brain is tired). It becomes counter-productive and I start to loathe an activity that I generally really love.

I have also set goals to watch more news and stay fresh on what’s happening in the world – a goal that I can promise you now will only lead to mild bouts of depression and anger.

So how do we fix this? How do we win the battle of the brain? Well, I’ve found two things that have helped me feel “less dumb” and they only take me about 20 minutes a day to chomp through. They are theSkimm and Highbrow. theSkimm is a daily e-mail (Mon-Fri, folks. I don’t want to hamper your weekends with thinking.) that takes the major news topics and breaks them down into really short, fairly humorous facts. By the time you are done reading it, you feel informed enough to make it through water cooler talk (they are all Skimming, too, by-the-way) without all of the heavy, Lester Holt reporting. It’s good stuff.

Highbrow was introduced to me by a guy that used to rock a mullet so you know it has to be amazing. It, too, is a daily email but it is filled with course-like information about a topic of your choosing. The information is concise and really entertaining. I’m in the middle of the “Short Stories” course (each course is 10 “episodes” or emails) and have thoroughly enjoyed reading E.A. Poe this time around – my high school English teacher would be so proud. When your course is over, you simply jump back on and pick another topic. Again, easy breezy.

Whatever your methods, the goal this year is to be less dumb. Don’t force yourself to read stuff you hate. If you feel like reading about the latest E! News controversy will add to your dinner table discussion, do it. If 20 minutes every day proves too difficult to start, just read something, anything. Cereal boxes are chalk-full of good info these days. Start there.

Take in more information this year than you did last. Goal #1.

Goal #2: No more Chocolate Cake Wednesdays

You know how every Wednesday, you sit down with a nicely covered chocolate cake and a fork and you just drown your worries in devil’s food. . . Now that I’m writing this down, I’m starting to think that maybe this isn’t as widespread as I’ve been telling myself. Dang it. But this is: EXCESS! Let’s talk about that.

Because it is so effective in the Bible, I like to use metaphors in my teaching. But then I take it a step further and explain the meaning, kind of like I’m talking to a little kid. Adults love that. You should try to be condescending in everything that you say. People will just think you are charming and fun. . .

I digress. The cake represents excess. The “Wednesday” represents regularity, and not the Metamucil kind although if you are literally eating that much cake. . . I digress AGAIN! Dang it.

My point? What was my point? I’m so distracted by cake. Oh yes, eating cake on occasion is great, no harm, no foul. But eating it on a regular basis is no bueno. Sure, it might improve your mood a bit but it’s just not healthy for your mind or your body.

The goal this year then? Pinpoint your “cake” and try to cut back a bit. If you shop too much, gossip too much, eat too much, drink too much, talk about CrossFit too much, whatever you do “too much” of, identify it and trim it back by 25%. That’s all it takes. Not only will you feel better physically, if your excess is some personality trait or talking about something in excess, you might actually find yourself with more friends because you’ll be that much less annoying (Vegans, I’m talking to you.)

Doing anything in excess is never wise which is why I’m limiting the number of marathons I run this year to six. Jokes.

While we are on the subject of exercise:

Goal #3: Netflix

You thought I was going to say “Watch More!” like this is some paid placement from Netflix, America’s leader is replayed television and original programming. You guys, I’m not a total sellout.

I was actually going to say: Let’s all resolve now that we will not binge watch more than two hours of anything without at least doing a lap around the kitchen. This needs no further explanation. I’m just trying to do my part to keep you healthy, you guys.

Goal #4: Be Nicer to People

This goal is a bit tougher than the others, particularly if you plan on visiting a Wal-Mart over the next year. Also, this requires you to overlook obviously idiotic moves by your fellow men and harness your inner Namaste. It’s hard!

So rather than saying “I’ll be nice to everyone, all the time” (a nearly impossible task if you own miniature humans/versions of yourself), we are going to make use of that “r” in “Nicer” and just be better than we were last year. A good place to start? Please and thank you, my friends. They’re called the magic words.

Remember that lady that slammed the door in your face at that little store on Main Street last year? It was probably me and I probably did it because you didn’t say “thank you” when I held it open for you the first time. That’s right, I’m guilty! But here’s the thing: I felt like my childish retort was justified because, in the words of my three-year-old, “You started it.” I admit my mistake publicly under the hope for a brighter future. When someone does something nice for you, say “thank you”. That’s includes even little things like holding doors, getting out of your way or helping you pick up something you dropped, even if it was just a cigarette butt. (I’ll still don’t understand why people keep getting upset when I hand those back with a “don’t litter” smile on my face. . .)

“Please” is another great word that insights kindness and giving. Smiling at people is good, not speeding up when someone is crossing the street and not looking disgusted when people bring their kids to dinner are also other ways to be “nicer” to people. Do what you need to but even starting here will turn your niceness factor way up, yo.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like my New Year’s Resolutions are really just lining up with the kind of person I want to be come 2017. I feel success in the air, my friends, and you should, too. Join me on this journey to change the world one kitchen lap at a time, will you? Together, we can!

Happy New Year.

 

 

Continue Reading

Diary of a Chubby Girl

It’s interesting how time can change perspective . . . on most things.  We grow, we change, other people change and our realities become altered by our new “normal”.  Not only do I continue to struggle with the challenges outlined below but after two kids, a couple of job changes and a good solid serving of life, I can now proudly add more eye wrinkles and a lot more gray hair to my list of imperfections.

I’m re-posting the most “brave” blog post of my life today, five years after it was originally posted, and I still feel every word of it.  This is my way of saying “thanks” for continuing with me on this journey, imperfections and all.  Hope you enjoy.

-Still the Chubby Girl

 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Diary of a Chubby Girl

I’m writing this post with total awareness of its implications – I just want you to know that.  Sometimes posts like this get written in hopes of receiving notes of encouragement or kind words and while your mental notes are appreciated, they are unnecessary here.

This was all sparked by an off-hand comment made to me today at work.  A co-worker and I were discussing an informational video that they had seen online and I asked them to forward it so I could watch.  After several minutes, they re-appeared in my office and said “No offense, but there is part of the video that has to do with obesity and the affects that it has. . .” This, my friends, is where I stopped listening and started internalizing what had just happened.  “No offense. . .”  What did that even mean?  I shouldn’t be offended that they talk about obesity or I should be more self-aware. . . I’m not really sure but in case there was ever any doubt about how I see myself, I’m going to clear it up right now: I am chubby.  Been aware of it for years.  There, the cat’s out of the bag.  Newsflash: The chubby girl knows!!!  I hope we can all relax now and stop filtering our comments about weight and health.

Most of the people that will read this know me well and know that this isn’t a new revelation.  In fact, it’s one that I’ve dealt with my whole life.  What I haven’t done (until this very moment) is have a very real, out-loud look at my self-image.  I’ve tried everything short of therapy to try and understand who I am and why the chips (mmm, chips. . . jokes, jokes) fell the way they did so maybe this will help.  Then again, maybe it won’t but here it goes.  

The battle of the bulge didn’t start last week for me – I didn’t wake up on Wednesday and think to myself “I think I’m a bit overweight!  How did this happen?”  As much as I wish this was a day-to-day battle over whether I liked how I looked or not, it hasn’t been.  In fact, I would dare say that there has probably been no more than a 30 day period in my life where I truly liked the way I looked. . . and man did I look good in those Pampers.  Do you know what it’s like to struggle with body image every day of your life?  Sadly, a lot more women than are willing to admit it fight this battle every morning.  I’ve been one of them. . .but I’m thinking about stopping.

diary of a chubby girlI’m actually a very normal girl with a very normal appetite.  I know that it’s shocking to the general public that people that are overweight actually do like carrots and I know that it shocks the hell out of most people when we ask for a box at the end of a meal because we can’t eat all of our food (thanks for staring at us while we eat, by the way . . . it’s very encouraging) but it does happen.  I like vegetables and fruit.  I also like pasta and French fries, just like your average eater.  I don’t over-indulge on a regular basis.  I don’t slap mayo on my 100% fried food in order to get it down.  In fact, because I struggle with my weight, I pay very close attention to the things that I put in my body . . . and I probably eat better than a lot of people.

I’ve been an athlete all of my life and I’ve never been prejudiced toward sports.  I have more belts and trophies than most people could dream about and they are NOT for serving water on the sidelines while I eat a donut.  I play basketball, softball, soccer and did karate . . . and I am decent at all of them.  I like to dance and lift weights and have run a 5k within the last year.  I will work and sweat and move more in a day than most people do every two.  Contrary to popular belief, overweight people aren’t all lazy.  I get up early, I work long days, and I visit family and contribute to my community.

I am healthy.  I have the cholesterol counts and heart rate to prove it.  My organs function as they should.  I’ve never drunk nor smoked a day in my life.  My mind is sharp and full of ideas.

I say all of this to prove a point.  Despite all of my efforts, all of my awareness, all of my try and work and sacrifice. . . I’m still chubby.  Does it bother me every day?  Sure does.  I’ll be the first to admit that I would adore waking up tomorrow and having the body that I deserve – the one that I’ve worked very hard for all of my life.  That would be ideal.  I keep waking up every day hoping. . .

But, more importantly, do I think I’m more than this?  Absolutely.  As much as I wish things were different and that this wasn’t such a tough battle for me and millions of other people, I’m better than that.  I’m better than taking “offense” to your comments and staring and judgement because this struggle has made me sensitive and understanding and mindful of other people’s struggles.

I know that it may be hard for some people to grasp but when you tell a chubby girl that she’s chubby, you aren’t likely telling her something she doesn’t already know.  So, you can stop staring and whispering and talking about how I could “let myself get like this.”  I’ll tell you how – I did exactly the same thing that you all do every day.  This is just my battle.  All things considered, I think that my ailment, while very visible, is pretty minimal compared to what I could be dealing with, no?

‘Nuff said. . . I need a carrot.

Continue Reading

Thinking Inside the Box

Carlee HansenAt the end of last October, I started a family journal. As much as I love writing, I am less than stellar at telling Dear Diary all about my day – at least I haven’t been as good at it once I stopped having a different crush every week and my journals evolved from lock-bearing, rainbow-covered hardbacks to something a little less ostentatious. Journaling is time consuming and arduous and frankly, most of my days aren’t filled with events that reach ‘write it down’ caliber. So for years I’ve brushed off the need to record my personal history and move on to more critical matters, like recording my favorite television shows.

Anyway, last October I kept having this want to write things down for my kids – the activities that we did, the places that we went and so on. Partly I wanted them to remember our history and traditions and carry them forward; but mostly I just wanted some ammo for when they get a little older and try to tell me what a crappy mom I am: “Uh uh uh, March 4 last year I took you to the Treehouse Museum. Who’s the crappy mom, now!?” The more I thought about this (and saw how sassy my girls can get), the more sense it made.

Enter the box.

On one of my many trips to the largest retailer in America who shall remain nameless because I’m not being paid a commission, I purchased a less-than-flashy index card box. Wait, strike that. I think it was my mom who was running to said retailer and asked if I needed anything and I shouted in anticipation, “Yes! A cheap box to hold index cards! And index cards!” Yes, that’s how it went.

Important side note: if this ever-popular retailer would like to talk about commissions for mentions on my blog, you know where to find me. That is all.

Anyway, I filled my box with index cards and got to work. Every day I wrote a single sentence(ish) – something we did, places we went, laundry that was folded, something. Some days were fun (last year on October 29th, Mack went bowling for her first time and scored and 87) and others lacked the luster that I would hope would go on each card (there are countless days that say words like “laundry”, “Lunchable” and “movies”. Probably more than I want to admit.). But the point isn’t the content (exactly). The point was to write something down. And I’m proud to say that I made it. 365 days of cards, each with a bit of information about what we have done as a family in the last year. And I learned a few things along the way. Let’s be honest, you knew this was coming:

You might think that writing a simple sentence every day is a pretty easy goal. Well, Snobby Sally, it wasn’t for me. Just remembering to open the box was a task. There were times when I had to play catch-up (thank the heavens for iPhone calendars) for an entire week. (Also thank heaven that my goal wasn’t 100 push-ups a day. Am I right? Imagine catching up on those suckers.)

Take away: don’t procrastinate because catching up is miserable. Shout out to all my high-school peeps struggling with this on a daily basis, yo!

If you’ve been to my house in the last year, you’d have noticed that whatever my table décor was at the time, it was always accompanied by this little blue box. I had to put it there so that it would annoy me enough to stay up on my entries. And it worked. So, in true Stephen Covey fashion, I submit this as a truth: If you want to accomplish something that is hard, you better put it right in your face. Like right in your face. Like look at it every time you pass the table, in your face. You have to constantly think about your goals, look at them, and dream about them (I only had like six nightmares about index cards in the last year. Pretty good, I’d say.).

I once read a poem called “The Will to Win” that I repeat (the first couple of lines) in my head whenever I have a goal to reach. Even though my goal was “only” to make a journal entry each day for a year, I had to repeat this to myself because I struggle. Although it’s probably more applicable if you are training to be the next Tiger Woods, I still found it helpful for me to stay on task . . . and to stop having dreams about giant, blood-sucking index cards.

The next thing that this little project taught me was about time – it’s limited and if you are going to fill it, fill it with something that is worth writing down. This doesn’t mean daily trips to the zoo or “Firework Tuesdays” or anything even close to that. Let me explain:

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of “down” days over the last year – ones filled with tedious tasks like grocery shopping at (your name could be mentioned HERE, big retailer man!), or nursing kids back to health with unlimited iPad games and popsicles. But as I’ve wrapped up the year, I’ve become ‘okay’ with the fact that that is my life! Lots of plain-Jane days interspersed with noteworthy moments like a mom and daughter date to Lagoon, funerals of relatives and their loved ones, trips to the lake and first steps.

My goal this year was just to write something down. Anything. And I made it. My goal for this year is to notice. I’m not going to change anything about the way I parent (although I should) or the activities that we do (although I should) but I am going to take the time to notice the miracle moments every day. Amidst the laundry and shopping and homework, there are amazing, noteworthy things to write down like my daughter telling her first knock-knock joke or my baby falling down six stairs and giggling at the bottom (don’t call CPS – this doesn’t happen often) or my husband bringing home dinner because he knew I was tired. These are the legacy moments that I want my kids to look back and remember – the ones that show our character (even if they won’t prove what a stellar mom I was by visiting Chucky Cheese once a month).

The last thing that this little project taught me was probably the most important: I can do hard thing. I can do annoying things. I can do things that I have a bad attitude about. And I can do them for a whole YEAR! It’s astounding, the resilience of the human spirit, isn’t it?

But what’s more important is that those things become less annoying, less hard, less tedious when we see them for what they actually are: important. We set goals because something behind the goal is important to us. I’ve found that the mean (the goal) is very rarely what I’m after; it’s what I gain in the end that is why I set goals, this little blue box included.

My goals: I want to remember my family at this stage of life. I want my kids to remember our traditions and the things that we did. But most of all, I want them to remember me. I want them to see what I thought was important, that I saw them sharing (that one time) . . . and that I noticed.

Continue Reading