Do We Really Need an IDEAL?

I’m reading a fantasy, sci-fi novel titled Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. In it a band of heroes is fighting to dethrone the evil ruler of Newcago who has the power to turn inanimate objects into steel. He’s also almost impossible to kill. Megan, a member of the band, objects to destroying Steelheart because life is better under his rule than it is any other city in the country. Prof, the band’s leader, argues, “Everyone talks about how great Newcago is. But it’s not great, Megan. It’s good by comparison only! Yes, there are worse places, but so long as this hellhole is considered the ideal, we’ll never get anywhere. We cannot let them convince us this is normal!1

This passage jumped out at me. I hadn’t thought much about the need for an ideal before.


What would life be like if there were no ideals, no standards of excellence? Everyone would play to lowest common element. That hasn’t worked well in our society. People who try always to bring other people down to their level sink lower and lower. Progress and innovation slow to a crawl. Eventually life becomes meaningless and hope is lost. We need a pinnacle to look up to, to strive for.

Our society has fed us a twisted, distorted ideal when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Society focuses mainly on appearances, using supermodels and elite athletes as the standard. Those may be ideals for models and athletes but they aren’t ideals for regular folks.

So, what IS the ideal, the pinnacle of health, we’re striving for? To start with, I know that it involves Mind, Body, and Spirit. Not just body.

I want to hear what you think. Let’s talk about it!

What does the ideal healthy lifestyle look like to you? When you think of optimal health, what do you think of?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section below. We’ll figure this out together.

1 Sanderson, Brandon. Steelheart. New York: Random House, 2013. Print.

Good Health Habits: As Unique as YOU

A few years ago, I sat in my bedroom mentally chastising myself for how lax I’d become with my health habits.

What should I do? I asked.


The word came into my mind as if it were spoken right to me. I strongly believe it was an answer from God. He’d been listening to my deep desire to renew my resolve to take care of myself. I accepted the answer, but I still wondered if it was that simple. Didn’t I need to go on a diet or see a psychologist or both? I struggled with food addiction—primarily chocolate and ice cream—and my portion sizes were often out of control.

I decided to run with it, literally. I started with walking only for several weeks. Then I bumped up my walks by jogging for a minute when I felt up to it and then walking again. This progressed over a few months to the point where I was jogging more than walking. When I got to the point where I could talk and jog at the same time, I decided to sign up for a 5K, for the motivation and a free t-shirt.

It worked! Exercising regularly motivated me to pay better attention to what I ate and whether I drank enough water. I didn’t want to spend time and energy exercising to get in shape and then dash it all with out-of-control eating. Exercising also gave me flexibility in my calorie intake. Because I exercised, I had to consume more calories. In fact, if I didn’t eat more to make up for the calories I’d burned, my body would respond to the deficit by storing fat. I didn’t want that!

I came to the conclusion that exercise is more important for my health than what I eat.

My doctor confirmed my conclusion during my biannual visit this morning. She is new to the practice, so I told her a little about my health history including that I’d weighed 333 pounds at one time in my life. She congratulated me for losing the weight, and we talked briefly about weight loss methods. Then she emphasized the importance of exercise.

“I think exercise is more important than what food I eat.” I ventured.

“It is,” she said.

If the word exercise makes you cringe, cower, or dig in your heels, try “physical activity.” There are a lot of ways to be physically active. Food related choices are important for healthy living. My choice is to focus on doing daily physical activity.

Most important health strategy?

Listen to your inner voice.

Whether you call that inner voice your conscience or God, start asking questions about your health concerns and then listen for answers. The answers may not come right away. Often they’ll come as you research the topic and talk with people who have experience in that area.


Try a new healthy living idea, like starting your day with a short walk to the corner and back. Pay attention to how you feel after you’ve been doing it for a few weeks. Do you feel empowered, happy, and at peace? Or do you feel guilt and frustration. Does it feel right for you? This is how you form an individual healthy living plan.

Pay attention to the voice inside you. You will know what is best for you and your circumstances. No one on this earth but you is, or can be, the ultimate authority on your health choices.

The goal is long lasting good health and expanding joy.

Girl Power Lessons from a Female Sharpshooter

First, I want to emphasize that the principles of Girl Power apply to everyone, not just girls.

Second, I’m going to introduce you to my childhood hero, Annie Oakley.


In my mind, Annie epitomizes Girl Power.  In the above quote, she points out that only with practice and patience will you hit the high mark you’ve aimed at. I want you to believe you too can “hit the bull’s-eye of success” in whatever area of health, wellness, and everyday life matters to you.

J.K Rowling

We usually know nothing about famous people while they’re struggling in the trenches of real life. J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly successful Harry Potter series, struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts as a single parent on welfare. But she channeled her challenges into the characters in her books.She made setbacks work for her instead of against her. The reason we know anything about J.K. Rowling is because her Harry Potter books made her a multimillionaire. But she was and is a normal, everyday person who worked hard to succeed.

Annie Oakley, female sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in the late 1800s, was the sixth of nine children born to her Susan and Jacob Mosey. Jacob died when Annie was six. In order to ease the financial burden on the family, she and an older sister were sent to live with friends . She accepted a job with a local family as a housekeeper and nanny and was promised 5o cents a week in return. The husband and wife, who she called “the wolves,” treated her like a slave and gave her no money. She eventually ran away from them and went back to her family. She never told anyone the name of the couple who abused her.

Annie picked up a gun for the first time at age eight. She liked how it felt in her hands and enjoyed the challenge of shooting small targets. With her newfound talent, Annie provided food and a small income for her family and, when she was 15, paid off the mortgage on her mother’s farm.

We know about “Little Miss Sure Shot” because she was a woman who could shoot as good as or better than most men, and the crowds loved her. Annie won $50 in her first shooting contest against future husband, Frank Butler. She went on to earn more money than anyone in the Wild West show, save “Buffalo Bill” himself.

These two women’s lives illustrate that Girl Power can get you through tough times to come out better than you ever thought possible. Most of us will never be a millionaire author or a popular entertainer and sharpshooter. But you can decide today to be a winner. Because you choose to. Because you and I are going to “keep on aiming and keep on shooting” until practice makes us perfect and we “hit the bull’s eye of success.”

For me, the bull’s-eye of success is loving and accepting myself as I am now. I know that God loves me. My family and friends love me. But I need to love and accept myself so that I’m not plagued by the demoralizing and finger-wagging self-doubt that interrupts my peace and weighs me down.

What’s your bull’s-eye of success?

Here’s a bit of inspiration to get us thinking and moving in a positive direction:

God’s hand is continually stretched out to lift and help us. He says,

“Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9 (KJV)

Begin-Again Monday

Today is Begin-Again Monday. This is the first full week of the summer season that hasn’t been completely taken up with trips, events, and other summer activities. It’s the day I designated to begin again to practice the good health habits I’ve developed over the 30+ years I’ve been working on improving my health.

The first thing I did was dig out my food, mood, and exercise logs and find blank spaces on which to write. The second thing I did was find my copy of daughter Elizabeth’s “Couch to 5k” exercise schedule.

I’ve written down all the food and drink I’ve consumed so far today. (Oops! I still need to write down the mini dark chocolate bar I ate after lunch.) And, I went to the gym for my bi-weekly group personal training session. Afterward I used what I call the “gazelle elliptical machine” to get the 20 minutes of exercise recommended in the “Couch to 5k” exercise schedule.

Six Good Health Essentials that have worked for me

  1. Always, always, always keep God as your life and health coach. He’s only a prayer away.
  2. Share your successes, failures, thoughts, and ideas with people who will respect you.
  3. Feed your spirit/soul with empowering and encouraging messages. I choose to study the word of God every morning and watch short, fun or informative YouTube videos while I do the dishes.
  4. Keep food and drink choices and portions reasonable for over-all good health. This will include dessert, treats, and splurges.
  5. Exercise to the point that you feel fulfilled and pleased with yourself, not to the point that you never want to exercise again or that exercising becomes an obsession (no chance of that here!)
  6. Respect yourself. Be as accepting, understanding, and compassionate with yourself, as you would be with a good friend.

I’m SO much happier when I’m taking care of myself!

Thoughts about #6

Speaking of number six, what would you say to a close friend who told you he or she was struggling to maintain healthy habits and feeling hopeless? Would you say, “Wow, you’ve really fallen off the train. You’re such a failure!” You’d never even think it much less say it. So, why do we say this to ourselves?

We need to treat ourselves better than we do.

I need to treat myself better than I do.

The light-colored t-shirts in my closet last longer than the dark and medium colored shirts. What could be the reason for that? Maybe dark color dyes are more corrosive. Maybe brighter colors are more cheerful, so they last longer. Of course, neither of these is the answer.

My light-colored t-shirts last longer because they don’t get used as often. I choose the darker ones because they hide the rolls around my midsection better. I’m hiding myself inside my clothes. Still, after 34 years of adulthood, I’m still self-conscious about being judged as a fat person.

So, the other day, I chose a yellow t-shirt that says “Stand in the Light” right under a picture of the sun. Cheerful, bright, fun shirt, and I was worried about looking fat. I stood over my duffle bag assessing my feelings and my self-esteem-dashing thoughts. I decided to wear the yellow shirt.  I decided to use positive self-talk to push out negative thoughts. I’m going to keep working on being nicer to myself.

Enjoy this lyric music video of Jordan Smith singing “Stand In The Light.” I love the message of self-acceptance.

My Kingdom for a Genie in a Bottle!


Most Americans are familiar with the 1960s TV show “I Dream of Jeannie.” Jeannie could grant wishes, make items or people appear or disappear, and, in general, alter circumstances when needed. Jeannie had a good heart and used her magic to help make things better. Invariably something would go wrong and Jeannie, with help from Tony and Roger, would have to sort out the problem. She would eventually fix it with her famous quick-blink-sharp-nod magic.

Wouldn’t it be grand to have someone like Jeannie around? Even the standard genie with three wishes could magically transform us into someone fit, strong, and healthy. At the stage of my life when I felt too huge to be allowed to exist in society, I would have called up my genie in a heartbeat. It would have been like inheriting 10 million dollars! How could that be bad?

But it is.


Jeannie used her magic to abruptly alter physical circumstances. Much of the show’s humor comes from Tony’s and Roger’s attempts to deal with the sudden changes. As much as we like to think we too could roll with it and everything would be all right, we aren’t in a TV sitcom. It just doesn’t work that way.

In real life, people don’t handle that kind of change well. According to an article by, research done by the “National Endowment for Financial Education” showed that “70 percent of people who had unexpectedly come into large sums of money ended up broke within seven years.” Why?

When you dream of the day when you’ll have more money, don’t you also dream about the things you can finally buy because now you can afford it and still put food on the table? Typically we don’t spend as much time dreaming about which investments are best for growing our money toward a secure retirement or what steps we need to take to pay off our mortgage.

The same is true for becoming fit, strong, and healthy. When I weighed over 300 pounds, I dreamed of wearing Levi’s 501, button-up blue jeans like I had in high school while still eating brownie hot fudge sundaes whenever I wanted. I wasn’t dreaming about exercising more and eating less. I wanted my health troubles to disappear without me making any uncomfortable changes.

I re-watched a few “I Dream of Jeannie” episodes on YouTube and noticed that woven into the magic, crazy hijinks, and fun the show was about nurturing and building  positive relationships.


Our lives are FULL. There is always a lot going on. But it really is our relationships that matter most. This includes our relationship with ourselves. Imagine how you would feel if your spouse or a close friend started treating you the way you treat you.

I would feel neglected, pushed aside, and forgotten. “Don’t my needs matter?” I would ask. “When do you think you’ll have time for me?”

How often do we push our needs aside to help or please someone else? There are times when we need to do this for others, but we also need to make time to take care of ourselves. Remember what the flight attendant says before every flight: When you need to help the person next to you, it’s important not to pass out.

I once told a psychologist friend of mine that I didn’t have time to track my food intake and exercise. “How much time does it take?” she asked.


It only takes a few minutes, and it keeps me mindful of what I’m working to accomplishI_dream_of_jeannie_bottle_(5845015936)Cropped for myself. I feel good and make progress when I track my food and exercise. The real reason I wasn’t taking the time to track my food and exercise. I didn’t want it bad enough. It wasn’t important enough to me to take better care of me.

Let’s stop waiting for a genie in a bottle to make our health and wellness dreams come true. They’ll come true when we decide they’re important enough, that we are important enough.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Making changes in our lives is so much easier when we have each other to lean on. 

Also, I’m still working on installment two of “Girl Power,” so stay tuned. :-) 


Pam  and Krystal w tractor
Pam and Krystal

June begins Hay Season at the family farm here in upstate New York. For the past two weeks, we’ve worked hard to unload as much first-cutting hay as possible before our foreman, Sam’s brother Dan, and his family leave to visit Krystal’s parents in Alaska. The picture above was taken right after our hay crew unloaded by hand 700 bales of hay into a customer’s barn.

At seven that morning, the hay crew was to consist of four guys and three girls. Due to a faulty alarm clock, our numbers reduced to three girls and two guys: Dan, Mark (my son), me, Krystal (Dan’s wife), and Crystal (my daughter). Fewer workers made each remaining crew member indispensable, and we had to unload five wagons in less than two hours.

The three girls took charge of unloading the wagons and tossing bales to the guys. The guys then stacked the hay in the barn in tiers. Like a well-practiced team, Crystal, Krystal, and I played to our strengths and each chose the position we liked best.

Crystal after pitching hay

Crystal climbed up on top of each pile of hay and pushed bales down to us from above. Krystal tossed, rolled, or shoved bales to me. I fed them to the guys.


After the second load, tiers 1-4 were full up to the barn doors. The final three loads needed to be stacked on top of the existing tiers using a hay elevator (more like an escalator). The girls took their wagon positions, and the guys climbed on top of tier four and all but disappeared into the recesses of the dim barn.

I plugged in the elevator motor, and we started. The girl’s team spun like the gears of a well-oiled machine with as many as four bales on the elevator at a time. As the final bale disappeared into the barn, I unplugged the motor.

“GIRL POWER!” Mark shouted, and both guys climbed down to us with sweat dripping from their faces. “Thirteen minutes,” Mark said. We’d unloaded and stacked approximately 120 bales in thirteen minutes.That’s 6.5 seconds per bale!

A self-professed tomboy, I’ve long enjoyed seeing women perform well in roles traditionally filled by men. But whatever our role, whatever our task, when we work hard and succeed we feel good. The kind of good we want to feel all the time.

Every time I make the choice to put on my sneakers and go for a walk even though I don’t feel like it or when I grab the book I’ve been reading instead of grabbing a bag of dark chocolate chips, I feel elated! I want to feel that feeling every day.

More important than sneakers and dark chocolate chips is how we feel about ourselves. What in your life brings you happiness without shame or guilt? What makes you feel good every time?

You possess the power to make those moments increase.

For my next post, I plan to elaborate on the Girl Power theme and how we can apply it to becoming healthier in mind, body, and spirit.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!





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