Fitness, get fit, running

2 Tips 2 Help You Get Moving

“In January of 2017, I became a runner”  … Let me tell you, those are words I never thought I’d say.  Fitness has always been a part of my life, but whenever anyone would mention running, I’d quickly shut it down.  Can you relate?  I mean, running is hard.  Runners are known for saying it’s more mental than it is physical, but when I try telling that to my legs, they just don’t listen.  “Hello?  Legs?  No worries, because this running gig is all mental.”  haha.  Nope.  Running really hurts and never gets easier.

Last year, I turned fifty (which wasn’t nearly as scary as expected) and ran thirteen races (which was every bit as scary as expected), proving age is just a number.  As it turns out, an old dog really can learn new tricks.  Psychologists say there’s no such thing as a life plateau, so if you’re not growing, you’re going backward.  I don’t have time to go backward.  So this year, in addition to the 5k and 10k races Spring will usher in, I’m planning to tackle a half marathon.  Quite honestly, my palms get sweaty and my tummy gets butterflies whenever I think about it.  13.1 miles is a looooooong jaunt for a gal who’s only been running for a little over a year.

Mel's Races 2018

But after a year of running and achieving some goals, I know I can do this.  The benefits of running have been life changing for me.  I don’t remember a time when I’ve had so much energy.  The runner’s high is real.

At the same time, though, I know myself … and I enjoy a comfort zone as much as anyone.  Currently, 5Ks/10Ks are what make me feel super safe and cozy.  Needing a boost of motivation to run all of the extra miles a half marathon will require in preparation for the actual race, I started talking to other runners about how they manage long practice runs.  Podcasts seemed to be a buzzword everyone mentioned.  But I’m 50, remember?  And I’m not very cool.  So what the heck were these podcasts the millennials were speaking of?

Well.  I found out.  And I’m hooked.  On this show:

lewis howes podcast

When I run, I listen to his podcasts, and I learn and grow.  I get so caught up in the stories and interviews, I forget I’m running.  I find an episode that interests me, plan to run until the end of the episode, and then off I go.  Before I know it, I’ve been running three or four miles.  So, tip number one to motivate a good run (or a long walk) is to listen to Podcasts.  Use that time to enjoy being outdoors while being inspired by someone else’s story.

Taking motivation a step further, I just recently learned about charity miles.  If podcasts weren’t enough to keep me excited about moving, this app has sent me into running orbit:

charity miles logo

Get this.  Charity Miles gives money to YOUR favorite charity for every mile you run (or walk).   The money comes from corporate sponsors who are repurposing their advertising budgets for good.  It’s a win-win for all.  There are 40 charities to choose from, and you’re not locked in.  You can change your charity choice at any time.  As the mom of two incredibly cute and amazing kiddos who sport an extra chromosome, my charity of choice is Special Olympics.  Every step I take, I think about how I’m doing something to benefit talented athletes who consistently demonstrate true heart and sportsmanship.  Love, love, love this!  I logged 24 miles this week for Special Olympics, and it feels good!!!

mel charity miles 3

According to Tony Robbins, the secret to living is giving.  I completely agree with him.  When we give back, it reminds us of our truest purpose and motivates us to be more productive.  So find a podcast that will encourage you to be a better version of you, and then upload Charity Miles, get moving, and be a better version of you.

These are two tips that keep me moving.  What motivates you to get fit and stay fit?  Share in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you.

Just my thoughts.

~Mel

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christian blog, Down Syndrome, Fitness, get fit, Health blog, self care

How A Special Needs Mom Fought Loneliness With Three Easy Steps … and Won!

kuhl jacket 4

I’ve been a special needs mom to a princess who rocks an extra chromosome for more than 13 years, and thanks to the miracle of adoption and a red-headed cheese puff who also rocks that extra something, I’ve been a special needs mom to two kiddos for 10 years.  Both are non-verbal, and both are a handful of mischief, drama, and constant giggles.  Like typical siblings, they fuss with each other (which amounts to grunting back and forth for what seems like an eternity at times).  They take things from each other, occasionally pinch one another, and even manage to tell on each other.  Picture little man grabbing my hand and pulling me to his big sister, then bursting into tears … while at the same time, big sister rolls her eyes and looks away.  Yep.  She’s usually guilty.

hope and charlie with momma!

Neither can take care of any of their needs independently.  They rely on me completely.  I dress them, bathe them, feed them, put them to bed, and read their minds (at least I try).  I talk to them, filling in their quiet with my own version of what they’d probably like to say if they had a voice.  Hopey has a high cartoon voice when I speak for her.  She thinks it’s hilarious, especially when I roll my eyes, stomp my foot, and act like a true teenage girl.  For Charlie, I use a sweet baby voice … because he’ll always be the baby of the family.

We try to agree on music in the car.  If I choose a Luke Bryan or Bruno Mars song, we’re always good.  But when I step outside the box, they sometimes break down into sobs.  We try to agree on clothing choices, but they’ve been known to rip off their clothing just as I finished getting it on their wriggling bodies.  Charlie, for added affect, likes to throw his shirt across the room.  Uhhhhhm, I guess you don’t like the shirt choice, dude?  haha.  (Did I mention they are full-on drama?)  I can laugh about it now.  I mean, c’mon, it’s funny.

The stress level of a special needs mom has been likened to the stress level of a combat soldier.  I’m convinced it isn’t necessarily because the role is so difficult, but because special needs moms never feel like they’re doing enough for their kiddos.  We question ourselves constantly.  Have we provided enough opportunities?  Therapy?  Education?  Are we feeding them too much?  Are they exercising enough?  Did I remember to double lock the doors so she can’t escape during the night?  Is his sniffle worth a doctor’s appointment?  Or is the risk of him catching something worse too great for that appointment?  And don’t even get me started on how much we worry about our child’s future.  Honestly, our minds never shut off.

There was a time when I was so caught up in figuring out how to be a special needs mom that I forgot how to live.  Unintentionally, I closed doors on friends and family who’d been in my life for years, because I felt they couldn’t possibly understand my new normal.  One day, I awoke to an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and regret.  I’d been so laser focused on reaching my two kiddos, that in the process, I forgot that I needed a support system.  I felt lost.  I thought I was being the best mom in the world.  But you know what I realized?  If I lose myself, I’m not being the best mom I can be.  More than anything else, they need me to be me.

I’d like to say that with this realization came a sweeping life altering shift.  As with most change, however, it was slow and steady.  I began by hiring a trainer.  I felt if I committed to her and to a schedule, I’d stick with it.  As it turns out, she became my biggest cheerleader.  Not only did she daily encourage me to push through my workouts, as I got to know her, she slowly invaded all of my empty, hurting spaces.  She asked me questions about my life.  She listened.  And she reminded me that I’m enough and that God is always with me.  Last year, she challenged me to run a 5K.  I ended up running thirteen.  She’s been my trainer for four years now, and I count her as one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.  The gym quickly became my community as I met new people.  In the process, I became physically stronger.  The more fit I became, the happier I felt.  My energy increased as endorphins kicked into high gear, I went from a size 8 to a size 4, and then one day I realized I felt like myself again.  It had been years.

tonya and me --- hot chocolate race 2018

Around the same time, I decided to open my home once a month to a group of my best buddies for a pizza party and karaoke.  They are all so much fun, I knew they’d usher happiness right into my life on a regular basis.  And they never disappointed.  What I didn’t expect, though, was what a tremendous role their parents would play in my fight.  These selfless moms and dads would drop off or pick up their adult children, and instead of walking away, they’d hug me.  They’d look me in the eyes and thank me for hosting a party.  Sometimes they’d come into the house and chat with me.  They made an effort to get to know me and my children.  Welcoming me into their lives without any walls, prerequisites, or expectations, they made me feel like a part of their families.

halloween pizza party

And finally, I became intentional about hiring sitters so that I could get out and do regular things that other moms get to do.  I have to say, God really showed off in this area.  I was terribly slow to trust others with my munchkins, because remember, I never left them.  So it was going to take some super fantastic girls who had a true desire to spend time with Hope and Charlie before I’d be able to leave them.  He brought me Nancy, Dana, two Hannah’s, Kelsey, Katie, Bryn, Bethany, and Rikki.  I can’t say enough about these girls, who are my superheroes.  Each wear their love for my kiddos on their sleeve.  They’ve worked tirelessly to break into Hopey’s tiny circle, they’ve tried every trick in the book to get Charlie to eat solid food (at 10 years of age, he still has his food puree’d and put into a bottle), and they’ve recklessly embraced all of me.   Whenever I attempt to show them more love and appreciation, they immediately meet we with the same.  They’re like beautiful mirrors reflecting everything I have to give right back to me.   I treasure them.  In every way, they are the hands, feet, and heart of God.

hannah and bryn

Life is messy.  There are times when we wake up and wonder how things became so crazy.  Can you relate?  But my message is that it’s never too late to make changes.  Maybe you’ll be blessed by getting a chance at a re-do.  Or perhaps you’re like me, and you’ll have to start all over from scratch.  It doesn’t really matter as long as you dig your heels into the dirt and move forward with intention.  I began with three simple goals.

  1.  Exercise so I can be healthy enough to raise my kiddos
  2.  Open my home to others
  3.  Hire sitters so I can occasionally get out

I stuck with them, continued to move forward, and my life totally turned around.  Not only am I not lonely, my life is filled and overflowing.  If I can do it, so can you.  What are your three simple goals?  Write them down and make a decision to hold yourself to them.

Just my thoughts,

~Mel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney Vacation, Down Syndrome, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World

The Day I Met A Hero On Rockin’ Rollin Coaster

hope disney

What mom in her right mind takes her two special needs kiddos to Walt Disney World during the Christmas holidays?  I mean, wait times are longer than the summer tent revival altar call … and people are more wound up than the church lady who received a dose of the Holy Spirit during that tent revival meeting.  But my kiddos are suckers for Goofy in a Santa suit, and I am too.  So off we went.

Due to the throngs of Disney fans (short for fanatics for a very good reason), the Disability Access system was on overload and crashed.  As a result, for two days in a row, in order to get the much needed paper version of the disability pass, Hopey and I stood in line at Guest Relations for forty-five minutes.  The sole intention of the pass, mind you, is to avoid long lines.  Go figure.

In typical Hopey fashion, as we waited our turn in the queue, she tried her darnedest to make friends with everyone around her the only way she knows how.  She hooked her hands into the pockets of the man in front of her and yanked hard … nearly pulled the man’s britches clear to his knees.  I honestly did get a shot of his white skivvies.  He turned around and glared at me as if I was supposed to know she was going to pants him.  He’d been defenseless, poor guy, but he wasn’t her only target.  She grabbed a boob or two, pinched a teenage boy so hard he yelped, turned flips over the queue line chains, and kissed about a half dozen strangers.  By the time we reached the counter on both days, the Disney attendant was very pleased to hand me a pass and scoot us out the door and on our way.

We rode Everest, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Slinky Dog Dash, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Test Track and Tower of Terror.  While Hopey enjoys Dumbo, Pooh, Small World, and the Peter Pan ride … she lives for the thrill rides.  Each line though, even with the Disability Access Pass, was terribly long.  And in each line, I worked as diligently to manage her as she worked to “make friends”.

By the time we hit Rockin’ Roller Coaster, I was exhausted.  She looked up at me with that mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and I begged her to just stand in line patiently like everyone else.  I would’ve had better luck getting an oak tree to dance the Vietnamese Waltz.  With a tummy full of Mickey Bars, the sugar high was real.

As we waited, Hopey couldn’t help but stretch her arms out and touch anyone she could reach.  Every fiber of her being longed to share her excitement with the people around her.  Her face beamed with the biggest smile.  I imagine she wanted to tell everyone how thrilled she was to be at the most magical place on earth, but with no words, the best she could do was to tap the person next to her, in front of her, and behind her.  “We’re all riding this together, and it’s gonna be awesome!” is what she wanted to say.  But to many people in the line, she was an aggravation.  Eyes rolled.  People turned their backs to her.  And some even shot me the angry eyes.

I apologized to several people, and I actually hate when I do that.  What’s there to apologize for?  My daughter is filled to the brim and overflowing with unbridled and uninhibited joy,  but she’s unable to verbalize what she’s feeling.  What else can she do but to try to pull those around her into her world.  “Look at me!  See?  I’m just as happy as you are to ride this ride!”  She speaks the only way she can … with facial expressions, actions, and behavior.

We eventually made our way into the holding room for the pre-show, the one where Steven Tyler gives all the Disney fans  fanatics backstage passes and a limo ride, and Hopey and I ended up in front of the room right next to the door.  But when the door opened up to allow guests to ride the ride, everyone pushed in front of her.  They acted like they didn’t see her and shoved right past her.  In response, I held her close to me and told her to hold on, that we’d wait and be the last in line.

And that’s when it happened.

This man suddenly appeared in front of us, and shouted:  “This is unbelievable!”  He then jumped in front of everyone who was moving forward ahead of us, threw his arms wide open, and continued:  “Everybody stop and let this young lady get out to the ride.  She’s at the front, you’re all cutting in front of her, and it’s rude!”

A young guy tried to dart around him, but he put his hand out in front of the guy.  “That’s not gonna happen!” he stated flatly.  “It’s this angel’s turn.”

And just like that, he’d made a way for us to go in.

You might not know this, but every special needs mom is given a sixth sense.  It comes with the territory and is a not so subtle bead on the heart of people toward the special needs community at large, but especially toward her own child who has special needs.  Within seconds of meeting someone, for instance, I can tell whether the person is accepting (or not) of my two children who sport an extra chromosome.  In the special needs world, people are either all in or all out.  There’s no middle ground.  Even family members and long time friends will sometimes drop out of your life and forget your kiddo.  Being a special needs mom … and being an individual who is differently abled … is not for the faint of heart.

There are those, however, who are all in, and let me tell you, those people glow with a brightness that outshines the sun on its best day.  They dig their heels in deep and embrace that you are the ringleader of a circus where your child is the clown, the juggler, the knife thrower, the trapeze artist, the escape artist, and sometimes the ferocious lion … all rolled up into one.  But mostly our kiddos are the cute clown, eager to be funny, to charm and to make others happy.  And oh, how those amazing saints love our little clowns.  They choose mercy, grace, love, and acceptance.  They laugh when they could judge.  They press in when they could pull away.  They choose to be there.  No excuses.  No matter what.

This complete stranger was one of them.  He was all in.

It’s in moments like that when I get an extraordinary glimpse behind the veil to see what God sees.  The best in humanity.   No one else in that line or in that holding room saw Hopey.  I mean, yes, they looked at her.  But they didn’t really SEE her.  This man, however, grinned when he saw her hands flapping with enthusiasm.  He allowed her to reach out and touch his arm, made eye contact with her, and spoke to her.  Then he took a giant leap further when he publicly acknowledged her and defended her.

But most important of all, the stranger ended up making a difference.

As we waited the last few minutes for the ride, several of the people who’d been in line with us, those who’d previously ignored Hope, smiled at her.  A couple of people asked me if she was excited.  One guy gave her a high five.  I’d like to think they finally saw what they’d missed before and wanted to make up for it.  It didn’t matter to Hopey.  She was happy to share in the excitement with whoever would allow it.

To the ordinary heroes who choose to “see” what others miss.  Thank you.

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” — Zeus (Hercules)

hope and minnie mouse

Just my thoughts,

Mel

 

 

 

 

Fitness, get fit, get healthy, Health blog, self care

Four Easy Ways To Make Time For Fitness

The Cheese-Puff is nude more often than he’s clothed.  Shirts, shorts, and shoes are such an unnecessary bother when sensory processing is a daily struggle.  “Clothes on,” I say, at least twenty to thirty times a day.  Pulling a shirt back over his skinny-winny little bare naked body, I take time to kiss his tomato red hair.  Who could resist?

fitness blog 6

Hopey dumps waaaaaaay more water from her cup than she drinks from a straw.  She sometimes pours it over her own head … sometimes over mine.  Why?  I wish I knew.  But she thinks it’s hilarious.  After the water is spilled, she runs off on her tippy toes and giggles with abandon.  “No, Hopey,” I yell, as she ditches me for the hidden shadows.  At every moment, though, I choose my battles.  And water just isn’t that big of a deal.

fitness blog 7

Bringing up two kiddos who sport an extra chromosome and who are non-verbal is challenging.  Neither speak one word, but they still fuss and fight like typical siblings.  And both vie for my attention constantly.  One goes to bed with the chickens and rises early.  The other is a night owl and is like waking the dead.  One can tag you in the head with a ball from twelve feet away.  The other can climb your body like you’re a tree and have his arms around your neck before you know what’s happened.  They try to get away with jumping on beds, climbing on tables, and rolling the house in toilet paper … every single day.  They’d rather dance to a Luke Bryan song than eat.  They’re master escape artists.  And if I leave the house without them, you’d think the whole world has come to an abrupt end.  You’ve never seen the drama these two can cook up.

I travel, kayak, explore, and dance like a fool with Hope and Charlie.  My life is so much fun, but it can also be chaotic.   And hard.  If I didn’t take time to be on top of my game, I’d be overthrown in a minute.  My secret to being the consistent queen of my brood is fitness. Exercise boosts my mood, gives me energy, and is empowering.  Do I have time to be fit?  Ummmmm, the answer to that question is a hard no.  Do I always feel like working out?  I’m fifty years old and am outnumbered by two kiddos who have more energy than a zoo monkey, so the answer to that question would be a hell no.  But I make fitness a priority so I can remain the queen.  haha.  At least in my own mind.

This begs the question of HOW to make time for fitness.

fitness blog 10

If you’ve read this far, you’ve checked off the biggest and most important box by realizing you need to make fitness a part of your routine.  If I can do it, you can too:

First, make a schedule and stick with it.  Carve out thirty-five minutes of time, five days a week, and make that time a priority.  Even if you don’t feel like working out, push through it.  Eventually, it will become a habit.

Second, plan your workout ahead of time.  If you try to workout on the fly, you won’t make near as much progress.  Every other day, use weights to focus on arms, shoulders, and back.  The other days, work legs and glutes.  Take five minutes each day for abs and set aside fifteen minutes each day for cardio.  It’s can actually be that simple.

Third, find someone who will hold you accountable.  Without an advocate who will push and encourage you, the beginning of this journey will be nearly impossible.  Your head will give you every reason under the sun why it’s not normal for a woman to sweat.  You won’t be able to sit down on the toilet seat, climb out of your car,  or bend down to pick up the quarter you dropped when checking out at Publix, because your muscles will be aching.  You’ll wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.  You’ll think you’re too old, too fat, too tired, too busy, or too depressed.  Trust me, you need someone lined up who will remind you that if you want to be a queen, you must continue to tackle those push-ups, squats, and burpees.

Fourth, change your point of view.  Your workout isn’t optional.  It’s sacred.  You wouldn’t skip eating or sleeping.  You wouldn’t miss an episode of The Bachelor or that Starbucks visit with your college roomie.  With statistics overwhelmingly proving how a regular fitness routine boosts your health and increases longevity, why wouldn’t it be sacred?  It’s a no-brainer, and can be achieved with only 35 minutes per day.  Yassssss, Queens (and Kings)!!!!

Here’s a quick 35 minute routine to get you started:

Download Tabata Stopwatch Pro

Settings:

  • Initial Countdown = 5 seconds
  • Exercise Interval – 25 seconds
  • Rest Interval = 10 seconds
  • Number of sets:  30

 

Week 1:  

(Use your Tabata stopwatch with the settings above.  It will prompt on when to begin each exercise and when to rest … Just do as many reps as you can within the exercise interval, making sure to implement correct form.  Don’t rush.)

Arm Day:

  1. Bicep Curl and Overhead Press
  2. Tricep Dips
  3. Bent Over Flies
  4. Chest Press (lie on mat or on bench)
  5. Chest Flies (lie on mat or on bench)
  6. Skull Crushers (lie on mat or on bench)

Leg Day:

  1. Prisoner Squats
  2. Front Kicks
  3. Side Lunges
  4. Squat Jumps
  5. Donkey Kicks
  6. Walking Front Lunge

Fifteen minutes of cardio:

Walk three minutes, jog three minutes, walk three minutes, jog three minutes … alternating until you’ve completed fifteen minutes.  Go as hard as you can.

Five Minute Abs:

  1. 20 crunches
  2. 20 crunches with legs bent into stomach
  3. 20 crunches with right leg up in the air / left leg still crunched to stomach
  4. 20 crunches with left leg up in the air / right leg still crunched to stomach
  5. 20 crunch toe-taps (crunch legs into stomach, then extend legs down to tap floor)
  6. 20 crunches (cross right leg over left knee — bring left elbow to right knee)
  7. 20 crunches (cross left leg over right knee — bring right elbow to left knee)
  8. 20 bicycle crunches
  9. Two 30 second elbow planks 

PLEASE send me a private message if you have any questions … or feel free to comment.  I’ll be your advocate, your cheerleader, and your go-to!!!

fitness blog 5

Just my thoughts!

Melanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

summer getaway, treehouse getaway, treehouse vacation

Running To The Treehouse

treehouse 12

A common thread weaved through the best fiction ever written is truth.  A place of authenticity stripped down to the bare bones, laid out for the world to devour.  The reader connects, not to the words, but to the spirit behind the words.  The author’s soul.

Winnie the Pooh, who had the coolest treehouse of all, is a series of tales based on a real bear.  Each of his friends … Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Christopher Robin, Kanga, and Roo … were based on actual people.  That’s why the story affects us.  Infects us.  With hope, dreams, and memories of yesteryear when life was much simpler.  It’s genuine, and as humans, we long for things that are real.

This past weekend, I escaped to a real life treehouse.  Out in the middle of what appears to be a world of its own, perched within the safe confines of four towering pines, is Morrison’s Treehouse Getaway.  It’s not a place to go when you’re running away from something, but a place you run to … because something you long for is missing.

 

Remember when summer meant exploring a grand forest?  It may have been half an acre of woods behind your house, but through eyes that have yet to be jaded, those straggly trees provide hours of fantasy.  Climbing on rocks.  Collecting treasures in your pocket that you’ve picked up from around the base of evergreens.  Splashing in a creek.  Returning home for dinner, covered head to toe in dirt and grass stains.  Staying up late, lying outside on the ground, sharing your heart with your best friend … paying no attention to the time or how much sleep is needed before greeting the rising sun.  Just living life.

 

If the best tales are written from an honest place that has been stripped down … then perhaps the best memories are written in a similar way.  When our surroundings are stripped down and laid bare.  A few days without Netflix, cell phone coverage, and the need for a car.  Allowing our truest selves to shine forth.  Re-discovering what we knew in our youth.  This world is what we make it, and we have the power to write our own stories every day.

 

The best thing about Morrison’s Treehouse is that it’s simple.  Yes, it’s beautiful in every way, but in a very relaxing sort of way.  The owners have gone to great lengths to make the space comfortable and welcoming.  It feels like home.  They open the door, and have left it up to the visitors to find their way.

 

On our journey, we sang songs on the grand deck around a fire.  We explored the stream, climbed on rocks, and made our way down every trail.  We saw bear prints and imagined how big the bear might be.  The girls slept in the loft above me, and when lights were out, we stayed up late into the night talking about nothing … and everything … not paying attention to how much sleep we might need until the sun rose to bring on the morning.  For a couple of days, we unplugged from life and reunited on a different level.  On the base human level we all share, regardless of whether we’re family, friends, neighbors, or even strangers.

“…what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

~A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

treehouse 22
Run to the treehouse!
Run to the treehouse!
Run!
Just my thoughts,
~Melanie

 

Uncategorized

Home … Sweet Yurt

 

I slept in a yurt.  I slept in a yurt.  I glamped in the woods on top of some dirt.

I’d like a yurt here.  I’d like a yurt there.  I’d like sleeping in a yurt most anywhere.

yurt 12

Did I enjoy the spring fed creek?

And being surrounded by the mountain’s peak?

Did I like the quiet atmosphere?

Where I could escape for my mind to clear?

 

Did I like the s’mores around the campfire ring?  Singing songs with my cute offspring?

Did I sway back and forth in the hammock swing?  Did I take in almost everything?

 

Did I feel at home in the village square?

Would I stay there again … would I dare?

I liked it all, I can honestly say.

I’d stay in a yurt on any day.

I slept in a yurt.  I slept in a yurt.

I glamped in the woods, on top of some dirt.

 

Gaaaaaaaa, y’all!!!!  A yurt has been on my bucket list for a few years now, and last week, I finally made some time for the experience.  Let me just say, it far exceeded all of my expectations.  If you want to rough it, this is the way to do it.

Mountain Springs Cabins in Candler, NC is nestled in the blue ridge mountains on fifty gorgeous acres teemed with tall trees and expansive fields.  The site offer cabins, tiny houses, and yurts that are all perched along a rapidly moving deep water stream.  On property, visitors can tube down the ice cold stream.  And nearby, there are several amazing things to experience:

  1.  Sliding Rock, NC — One of my favorite places in North Carolina, Sliding Rock is a  60 foot natural rock water slide that dumps into an 8 foot deep pool of water that remains at 50-60 degrees all summer long.  The cost is only $3 per person.
  2. Chimney Rock, NC — Chimney Rock is considered one of the most iconic sites in North Carolina.  After taking 499 steps up to it’s peak, you’ll soak in the 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.
  3. Biltmore Estate — Built in the late 19th century by George Vanderbilt, at 178,926 square feet, the Biltmore house is the largest privately owned home in the United States.  Built in a French Renaissance style, with 250 rooms, the stately home sits on more than 10 square miles.  The Biltmore House is a must see.
  4. Pisgah Inn Restaurant — Take a gorgeous drive up the winding mountains of Pisgah until you arrive at what looks like a nondescript, very ordinary Inn.  But attached, high on top of the mountain with a picturesque view, is a casual fine dining restaurant.  Walnut crusted fresh mountain trout garnished with blueberry butter … need I say more?
  5. Great Smokey Mountain Railroad — If you’re up for a rail adventure, hop on board a train ride through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina.

Spend the day exploring the canopied woodlands, lakes, rivers, and streams of North Carolina.  In the evening, however, come back to your yurt, slow down the pace, and build a nice fire in your own private fire ring.  Make s’mores, sing country songs, and enjoy being unplugged from civilization.  That is the point of a yurt, after all.  Simplicity and togetherness.

What are you waiting for?

 

Just my thoughts,

~Melanie

 

summer getaway, Travel, Vacation

A Perfect Weekend Getaway — Bear Lake Reserve

With temperatures as hot as Hades in the Tennessee valley, the kiddos and I packed up and headed toward the Blue Ridge Mountains for a weekend getaway.  A quick google search on VRBO for properties that included mountains, a lake, and a swimming pool led us to a brand new destination spot:  Bear Lake Reserve

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Tucked high up in the North Carolina peaks at an elevation of 2600 feet, this 2,100-acre gated community is spectacular.  Upon entering, you feel like you’ve escaped into a whole other world where you are immediately welcome and among friends.  The resort offers a full-service restaurant, a nine-hole golf course, two swimming pools, 20 miles of hiking trails, a game room, a fitness facility, and a daily list of planned activities for kids and families.

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The heart of the community, though, is a glassy 500 acre lake hedged by majestically tall mountain tops that jut from the ground like a royal crown, surrounding the pristine water.  Reaching out to meander in and out of hidden forest coves, this lake is dotted with a small island that offers the simple thrill of a rope swing.  Bear Creek calls for you to enjoy her cool temperatures, offering fishing, boat rentals, wave runners, kayaks, and paddle boards.  She doesn’t disappoint.

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I decided I might as well let my rowdy ragamuffins take in everything the lake had to offer.  The wave runners were brand new and very quick, giving us a full-on fast adventure … while paddle boards and kayaks urged us to slow down and soak in the beauty of the day and early evening.  The rental rates are reasonable, and the supply is plenteous.  Hope and Charlie enjoyed it all.

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Since we were only going to be staying for a weekend, we never left the Bear Lake Reserve property.  The Lake Club, a 14,000 square foot rock faced facility, has three restaurants and provided one big meal a day for us.   Their menu has everything from burgers and wraps to shrimp & grits and tenderloin.  Want to eat by the pool?  No problem.  But they also offer dining on an outside deck overlooking the lake or in their upscale restaurant space.  And at night, even in the summer, the temps are cool enough for fleecy sweatshirts and fireside chats.  With large stone fireplaces strategically placed on the lodge property, visitors can always find a warm spot to sit and relax.

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The pool area is vast.  There is a poolside grill, an abundance of lounge chairs and fresh towels, and a staff that waits on you hand and foot.  You can even have a poolside massage if you schedule one.  I can’t say enough about the staff … they are kind and eager to assist.  And as far as accommodations go, we chose a two bedroom condo.  Only a couple of minutes from the lodge, it was a perfect location.  I found the owner through VRBO , and she was a dream to work with.

 

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that feels like a true escape from reality, I’d highly recommend Bear Lake Reserve.  Peace has been created with great intention, from the choice of music that plays through the speakers to the gorgeous flowers that line every path.  The WiFi works great at the lodge, but not really anywhere else on property, which gives much needed unplugged time.  Honestly, this place will exceed all of your expectations.

Just my thoughts.

~Melanie

Fitness

Ten Seconds A Day To Change A Life: Why A 50 Year Old Special Needs Mom Is Competing For The Title Of Ms. Health & Fitness 2018

What would make a 50 year old special needs mom enter a competition called Ms Health And Fitness?  Is it a mid-life crisis?  A shot at fifteen seconds of fame?  Nah.

I entered this competition because of Kaylee.

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Kaylee is a good friend, she’s funny, loves to give hugs, always has her nails perfectly painted, and is also a dancer.  She’s part of a dance class with other girls who have special needs, and I’ve had the awesome opportunity to be a spectator at one of Kaylee’s performances.  Upon just a single glance, it’s immediately obvious how the entire dance crew feels music down deep in a place the rest of us haven’t experienced.  Kaylee’s big sister spins her around on stage in her wheelchair, and I promise, there’s not a dry eye to be found.  It’s an unforgettable sight to see as joy always radiates from this beauty’s face.

Speaking of the wheelchair, Kaylee is confined to it … and her home isn’t handicap accessible.  Her momma, as a result, has to carry her when moving her from room to room.  Recently, her family was scammed by a person who was supposedly printing and selling t-shirts to fundraise for Kaylee.  The money was going to be used to widen hallways and doorways in their small mobile home to give Kaylee and her wheelchair more freedom.  Family and friends pitched in to purchase the t-shirts, and more than one-thousand dollars was raised.  But it was a con.  The money is now gone right along with the man who crafted the scheme.  In his terrible wake is Kaylee, who is in need of money to make improvements to her home.

I entered this competition because of Jessica, Leslie, Graham, Hannah, Nick, Dustin, Amber, Jared, Heather, and Kevin:

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These silly willies are my best buddies.  They’re quick-witted, charming, kind, loyal, hard-working … and they have intellectual disabilities.   Graham is in charge of recycling at the Trousdale School, and he is always spreading the message of saving the earth.  Leslie was recently honored the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame “Heart of a Champion” award for being a multi-sport Special Olympic superstar.  Hannah has Autism, and she is a brilliant actress.  Jessica is an artist.  Nick and Jared can sing every word to most country music songs.  Dustin and Kevin have Down syndrome, and both have dance moves rivaling anyone on Dancing With The Stars.  I guess you could say each are differently abled in the most spectacular sort of way.

As they’re getting older, though, their parents are aging too.  And the worry of what the future will look like is a viable concern.  Every special needs family faces the burdensome reality of the circle of life.  In response, the Trousdale School in Cleveland, TN is getting ready to build an incredible residential center that will house my best friends.  It will have around the clock supervision and care while encouraging independence, creativity, friendship, and personal growth.  But money is needed to get this project completed.

The winner of Ms Health And Fitness 2018 gets a whopping $20,000.00.  And if I win, half the winnings will go to Kaylee and half will go toward the Trousdale School’s residential center.  That’s the reason a 50 year old special needs mom would enter this kind of competition.  I mean, let’s get real.  The rules encourage contestants to use professional photos.  And as a mom of two cuties who have special needs, I barely have time to snap pictures with my iPhone.  Want to see what I’m up against?

These are my fellow competitors:

 

This is Anna Neal, the very fit young woman who won the competition last year:

 

Aaaaaaaand.  This is me. (You guessed it, a picture snapped with my iPhone):

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While I totally think I could rock this title … and while I’d love to have the opportunity to showcase the special needs community … I realize it’s a looooong shot.  haha.  The greatest stories and victories, however, usually come from the longest shots.

I’m not as young and beautiful as the other contenders, but I definitely qualify because health and fitness are life to me.  Four years ago, I was so overwhelmed with many different things life was throwing at me.  It got to a point where I was I living each moment waiting for the next panic attack.   Anxiety looks different for every person.  For me, panic attacks would come out of nowhere and would cause my body to start shaking violently.  It was completely out of my control and frightening.  Finally, I reached a point where I had to make a change.

My choices were to spill my guts to a therapist or to hire a trainer who would push me physically to a point of spilling my guts out on the gym floor.  Studies show it only takes five minutes of aerobic exercise to stimulate anti-anxiety effects in our bodies, so I chose the trainer and have never looked back.  Panic attacks, fear, and feelings of inadequacy are a distant memory.  I work out with my trainer five days a week and run at least one mile a day.  So far this year, I’ve competed in ten races … I earned first place in one of the races in my age group and took second in two others

 

I entered this competition because of Hope and Charlie:

One day, I may be in Kaylee’s mom’s shoes and find myself needing assistance in widening a doorway or in buying a piece of therapy equipment for my own kiddos.

One day, I may not be able to care for Hope and Charlie, and they may need a residential center where they can thrive while being loved and kept safe.

Kaylee represents my life.

The Trousdale School represents my life.

I also entered this competition because I’m proud to be part of the differently abled community.  Daily, I see all the special needs mommas on social media who are in the trenches … loving, serving, and spilling themselves out for those who have been placed in their care.  Advocating.  Training.  Celebrating.  Holding out hope for the brightest future.

Those moms represent my life too.

It only takes 10 seconds per day for the next six weeks … and voting is free:

click here to vote!

And remember to vote every single day for Kaylee and for my best buddies!!!!

(A big thanks to all who have already voted!!!)

Just my thoughts,

~Mel

 

For all who have asked, here are the official rules:

Round 1: TOP 25 (Starts June 19th and Ends June 28th, 2018) – Selected Entrants will be divided equally into seventy two (72) groups. Public voting will help reduce each group to the top twenty-five (25) models.

Round 2: TOP 10 (Starts June 28th and Ends July 5th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top twenty-five (25) to the top ten (10) models in each group.

Round 3: TOP 5 (Starts July 5th and Ends July 12th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top ten (10) to the top five (5) models in each group.

Round 4: Group Winners (Starts July 12th and Ends July 19th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top five (5) models to one (1) preliminary winner in each group. Second place group finishers will advance to the Wildcard Round.

WILDCARD ROUND (VOTING RESETS)

Round 5: Wildcard Round (Starts July 20th and Ends July 22nd, 2018) – Second place group finishers will be divided evenly into twelve (12) groups. Public voting will determine one (1) winner from each Wildcard group. Wildcard winners advance to the semi-finals.

SEMI-FINALS (VOTING RESETS)

Round 6: Semi-finals (Starts July 23rd and Ends August 2nd, 2018) – Preliminary group winners and Wildcard winners will be divided evenly into twelve (12) semi-final groups. Public voting will determine one (1) winner from each semi-finals group that will advance into the finals.

FINALS (VOTING RESETS)

Round 7: Finals (Starts August 3rd and Ends August 9th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top twelve (12) finalists to the one (1) winner of the Ms Health and Fitness competition (the “Grand Prize Winner”), subject to such individuals compliance with the Rules and any other applicable terms and conditions in connection with the Competition.

 

 

Fitness, get fit, get healthy, self care, skin care, Summer Fashion, Summer Style

Hats, Baths, & Masks

HATS:

Hats are a must have for the summer months.  Not only do they protect our faces from the sun, they protect our hair too.  UVA rays dry out and damage the outer layer of our hair, making it appear brittle.  Add in the daily humidity, and summer hair can be the worst.  If you’re not having that great of a hair day, put your hair in loose braids or pull it back into a low pony and sock a cute hat on for instant style.  If you have short hair, you’re already ready to just wear a hat and go.  Most females overthink hats, but it’s actually a simple addition.  Solid colors are easier to coordinate and straw hats go with everything.  Just have fun with it.

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My black hat sort of reminds me of Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies, but I really like it.  haha.  It’s a bit stretchy, not too tight, and is lightweight.  I’ve paired it with a shirt I pulled off the sale rack at American Eagle for $10.00 and some cut-off jean shorts (also from American Eagle).  With black sandals, I’m ready for any outdoor event.  Here’s a link to the tops currently on Clearance at American Eagle.

BATHS:

Do you sweat?  I’m a fitness freak.  Every day I do high intensity interval training and also run a couple of miles.  In the summer, especially, I sweat a lot.  Exercising to the point of producing lots of sweat is so good for us.  It manufactures happy feelings, gives us an energy rush, reduces aches and pains, and releases toxins from our bodies.  But getting that sweat off of our bodies is equally important.  The bathtub is a perfect solution.  Not only will it cleanse your body, but it will also restore and relax your body.

After a long day outside, it’s important to pamper our skin.  Again, the sun will do some damage.  Find a good moisturizing bubble bath, light a candle, turn on some soft music, and relax.  I experiment with different kinds of bubble baths, bath bombs, and body washes.  This one from Caress really does have a buttery burnt brown sugar smell as advertised.  It. Is. Yummy.  Here’s the link … I picked it up at Target.

 

 

Masks:   

If caring for our entire body is important, our faces should be at the top of the list as the most important part of our bodies.  Caring for our faces every day needs to be a priority.  I’ve said it before, and will say it again, don’t ever go to bed with makeup on.  It will age your skin.  Cleanse your face everyday.  Exfoliate often.  Pamper it with moisturizer two times a day, morning and night.  And try to make time for a mask once a week.

 

This mask is by a company called Yes To.   I’d heard the company was started by two guys who played soccer, and was definitely curious to find out what these dudes know about skincare.  As it turns out, they apparently know a lot.  They use 95% natural ingredients in their products and make sure all are free of toxins.  This was my first time using one of their masks, and I have to say I might be hooked.  It was thick and creamy, had a nice gentle scent, went on easy, and left my skin feeling so soft.  If you aren’t married to a certain type of mask, give it a try.  Target carries this product too!

The takeaway is self care.  As women, we’re so adept at taking care of others, aren’t we?  We check off lists all day every day.  It’s part of our DNA.  I swear, when God made Eve, that woman probably opened her eyes and immediately got to work sprucing up the Garden of Eden.

Adam was like:  “Hey, God made sex, and He says it’s very good … wanna have a go at it?”

Eve:  “Ummmm, yeh, sure thing.  But first I need to figure out how I can turn a pile of palm leaves into cute throw pillows for our bed, clear away all the brush so our outdoor digs will be tidy, prune a couple of trees to give some sharp curb appeal, and gather more fruit and veggies in case the Lord stops by for dinner … plus, don’t we have babies to tend to?”

Adam:  “Well, no … we have to have the sex first.”

Can you relate?  The housekeeping and the lists will wait.  The kids will wait too.  It took me fifty years, but I’ve finally embraced the importance of putting myself first for a couple of hours a day.  Living in the moment.  I’m very type-A … if I can do it, so can you.

Exercise, take baths, experiment with different beauty products, and love yourself.  Age is just a number, but life is short.  You’re worth the extra effort!

Just my thoughts,

Melanie