Create Your Own Story

In the April 7th edition of TIME Magazine there was a commentary article entitled “Fast-Track Girls Finish Best” by Charlotte Alter. The article talks about two recent books Marry Smart by Susan Patton and Lean In For Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg and the advice they are both giving to young women today. Patton focuses on marriage/building a family while Sandberg zeros in on the career side of things. Although they both focus on different aspects of a young woman’s life, they are both saying the exact same thing: we don’t have any time to waste.

With all due respect, as a woman in my mid-twenties, I have to say I completely and wholeheartedly disagree.

Now, I haven’t read either of these books for myself and I also never plan to read either in the future. Here’s why.

Patton’s March Today Show interview sums up her book enough for me. Patton urges college women to primarily focus on finding a husband, further suggesting that young women should spend 75% of their time finding a spouse and 25% on professional development. She even suggests that if you need cosmetic surgery to do so before college, in order to make yourself more “socially successful” at finding a spouse. Patton has our biological ticking the moment we turn eighteen. She actually really seems to believe that we have absolutely no time to waste if marriage and children are part of our life plan, “Work will wait. Your fertility won’t.” I guess I missed the memo that said parents spend thousands and thousands of dollars to send their daughters to college for them to find a spouse and get knocked up. After all, that’s the only thing all women want anyways. Right?

Sandberg takes on the other extreme, that your career should be your prime focus. Sandberg, as the chief operating officer of Facebook, is a hugely successful woman in which many young women look up to. She has certainly climbed her way to the top in the corporate world and she deserves every bit of that success and admiration. The TIME article points out that in the introduction to Sandberg’s book she writes, “There’s no question that the world moves faster today… This means that grabbing opportunities is more important than ever.” Meaning, we need to take every opportunity we can to further our career as soon as we can. Alter describes Sandberg’s viewpoint perfectly, “The idea is to get good enough, fast enough, that your career becomes childproof.” Makes sense because all women are solely career hungry. Right?

Here’s where I have a problem with what both these women are saying. It’s not the advice itself that ticks me off (alright, maybe a little). It’s the fact that these women are sitting there telling other women where their priorities should be. Maybe I’m completely crazy, but what if we all just worried about creating our own story? I don’t see men writing countless books and articles for other men about how to live their life. It seems like most men sort of just figure their life out on their own. Why can’t we do that too? How about if women just started supporting other women’s decisions despite if we agree with them or not? How about if we all just decided which life path to take on our own based on what is personally important to us, what goals we have for ourselves, and our interests? Would the world fall apart? No degree, no life experience, no personal background qualifies one person to give another person advice about what their priorities should be. Part of life’s journey is figuring out those priorities for ourselves. The mystery of not knowing what the next step will be is half the fun. The priorities we choose create our own unique life. A life completely different from the woman sitting right next to you, living across the street from you, or living across the country.

Before my husband and I got married, we were dating for almost eight years. I was a sophomore in high school when we met and started dating. He has been a huge part of every aspect of my life since then: proms, graduations, birthdays, vacations, sporting events, successes, and failures. I chose to stay in a relationship with him because it just felt right to me, because I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. While my friends were thinking about which boy they wanted to hook up with next I never once questioned my decision to have a serious boyfriend through most of my high school career and all throughout college. Although, he has always been and will always be one of my top priorities here’s the shocker- he wasn’t my only priority. My school work, where I wanted to go to college, and my career were all important to me too. I wanted to get good grades, go to my dream college, and have a successful career all with him right by my side. I never felt like I needed to pick one or the other. I created my own life story to fit all my own priorities. Yes, I got married less then two years out of college. But, I married my best friend, one of my biggest supporters, the person who always pushed me to be the best I could be. I also filled my time with priceless work experience, internships, and classes that would help me fulfill my other priorities. About two months out of college I was offered a job in my dream profession. Not because I was lucky, but because I worked for it. I sculpted my life to incorporate both of my priorities into it. I took part in internships, classes, and hobbies that showed I was serious about my career too. I had more than one dream, more than one priority and I created a life that would fit them both in it together. This is my story and let me be the first to tell you, it’s probably not yours too.

My decision to get married in my early twenties was one of the best I ever made, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage another young woman from doing the same thing. I would rather ask, “Do you truly believe this is the best thing for you personally?” I couldn’t be happier to have started my dream job right out of college, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage this either. I would rather ask, “Are you sure there’s nothing else you’d rather do?” I decided not to continue my education right after college, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage this decision either. I would rather ask, “Do you feel completely prepared to reach your goals with the resources you currently have?” I decided that I was happy in the state I was living in, in the area I called home, so I decided to stay. I never studied abroad nor did I feel the need to travel immensely after college. I wouldn’t suggest or discourage another young woman from making that same decision. I would rather ask, “Do you feel completely fulfilled or do you feel like you are constantly chasing after something new?”

Unfortunately, my life decisions, what I have chosen for my priorities, won’t help you find yours. Patton’s and Sandberg’s won’t help you either. Follow your heart and trust your instincts. If you aren’t ready to settle down- don’t. If you aren’t ready to enter into the workplace- don’t. If you want to focus on getting married and having kids- do it. If you want to work solely on building your career- do it. If you want to make both work- trust me you can do that too. Making a quick decision is easy to regret, but no one ever regretted taking the time to truly figure out what they wanted. Despite what Patton and Sandberg suggest, you my fellow ladies have all the time in the world because as soon as you figure out your own priorities you won’t need anymore time.

From woman to woman, my advice to you is simply no advice at all.

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Fitness: Interval Running Workout #5

I’m back! Well… kind of.

I’m back at the gym, but not as much as I would like. But sometimes you just got to take what you get and make the most out of it. It hasn’t been easy, I definitely have fallen behind a little bit now. The running is a tiny bit harder now that I have been out of commission for a couple weeks and I find myself wishing just a little bit more that I was sitting on my couch back home instead of running. But I have no doubt that I will break down that wall and will be back on track in no time. Challenges and goals inspire us to keep going, to fight through the pain. So, that’s exactly what I am going to do. And I hope you do too.

Ladies, you have been warned. Start shopping the swim section now because you will love(hate) this workout. It’s called the “bikini cardio” workout. It’s about a 45-minute run and probably one of the harder runs for me personally. But hey, who ever said having a bikini body was going to be easy? If it was, we would all have them. It’s a lot of running at a fast pace but summer is almost here so we don’t have a lot of time to waste. Your bikini and sun-kissed skin will thank you later.

The Workout:

*Warm-up for 3 minutes. I do this by walking at around 3.5 mph but it’s your choice. Get the blood flowing.

*Run 2 minutes at 7.0 mph.

*Walk 1 minute at 4.0 mph.

-Repeat the run/walk cycle 9 times (not including the warm-up).

*Sprint at 8.0/8.5 mph for 1 minute.

*Walk at 3.8/4.0 mph for 1 minute.

-Repeat this sprint/walk cycle 5 times.

*Cool down, your choice, for 5 minutes. You will need it, so don’t skip it.

You probably understand now why this is called the “bikini cardio” workout. It’s hard and tiring- I know it is. But, at the same time it’s an awesome workout with even better results. If your legs feel like jelly, you can barely breathe, and your clothes are soaked with sweat you know you did something right for both your health and that bikini.

Happy exercising!

Tex-Mex Baked Pierogies

Since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, I couldn’t resist but to make a festive dinner. It only seemed right. Who doesn’t love an excuse to cook or eat Mexican food? We have tacos and quesadillas a lot so I was on the hunt for something slightly different. I came across a recipe for Tex-Mex Baked Pierogies… intriguing. We always have a big bag of frozen pierogies in the freezer so I already had the main ingredient. I went on to read the rest of the ingredients- enchilada sauce, corn, onions, cheese. All the things that make Mexican food so great. As you probably guessed already, I just had to make it. And Cinco de Mayo was just the most perfect time as ever to do so.

It’s a ridiculously easy recipe, great for a busy night. And it’s also very tasty. It’s the perfect recipe for when you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary but using all very ordinary ingredients. Many ingredients in which you probably already have. It could have only of been better with a margarita in hand (mental note for next time).

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Ingredients:

1 can of black beans (I didn’t use these because my husband doesn’t care for them and it was still delicious)

1 can of enchilada suace

1/2 cup of frozen corn

2 scallions (I forgot to buy these so I just chopped up some onion instead)

1 16 0z.-package of frozen pierogies (or about 16 pierogies)

1 cup of Mexican shredded cheese

1 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro (optional- I didn’t use this either)

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the beans, sauce, corn, and scallions/onions in a bowl.

3. Spread half of the mixture onto the bottom of a baking dish.

4. Add pierogies.

5. Top with the remaining enchilada sauce mixture.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

7. Remove the foil and coat the top with Mexican cheese.

8. Put back in the oven uncovered for 5 minutes.

9. Top with cilantro before eating if desired.

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P.S. I actually took my own pictures this time! 🙂

Enjoy!

 

Fitness: Interval Running Workout #4

Alright, I have a confession to make: I haven’t been to the gym all week. Now for the excuse…

We have been super busy around the house, painting, landscaping, and a ton of other small projects that are probably completely unnecessary. This past weekend I spent most of my time weeding/mulching which requires a decent amount of squatting, bending, kneeling , and lifting heavy mulch bags. Let’s just say I could barely walk Monday and Tuesday, even with all the running I have been doing. Every day after work this week we have tackled another project, leaving just enough time for dinner and bedtime. At first it feels really good to skip the gym, like you are getting away with skipping some tedious horrendous chore, but I soon come to miss it. It feels great, after sitting at a computer all day, to just let loose and run for a little. If one good thing comes from this week (besides all the stuff we are accomplishing at home), it’s realizing that I like my new workout routine despite how I may feel while actually doing it. Sometimes you just need to step back and reassess what you are doing/what you have to really appreciate it. I can’t wait for things to get back to normal, hopefully by Monday.

And no, this doesn’t mean that you should stop running too so I made sure to post another workout. This workout is meant to focus on “fat burning” as it has a decent amount of running at a decent to fast pace. There are two plus sides to this workout. One, I personally feel like this workout goes by the quickest out of all of them. Two, you actually get to rest. Like no running, just stand there type of rest. It’s not long, but it counts for something- trust me.

The Workout:

*Warm-up at a 7% incline for 5 minutes.

*Jog at 6.0 mph and a 4% incline for 2 minutes.

*Sprint at 7.o mph and a 2% incline for 1 minute.

*Walk at 4.0 mph at a 7% incline for 2 minutes.

*Jog at 6.5 mph and a 4% incline for 2 minutes.

*Sprint at 7.5 mph and a 2% incline for 1 minute.

*Walk at 4.0 mph at a 10% incline for 2 minutes.

*Jog at 6.5 mph and a 5% incline for 2 minutes.

*Sprint at 8.0 mph and a #5 incline for :30 seconds.

*Rest by carefully jumping to the sides of your treadmill for :30 seconds. While you are resting, set incline at 2%.

*Sprint at 8.0-8.5 mph for :30 seconds.

*Rest for :30 seconds. Set incline at 1%.

*Sprint at 8.0-8.5 mph for :45 seconds.

*Walk at 4.0 mph at a 5% incline for 3 minutes.

*Jog at 6.0 mph and a 2% incline for 3 minutes.

*Cool-down by walking at 3.5 mph (no incline) for 4 minutes.

Guess what?! You’re done! You just kicked ass. Yes, yes you did.

Keep going for me while I finish my brief hiatus. I will be back soon, I promise.

Fitness: Interval Running Workout #3

Can’t let this week go by without posting another interval running workout. We wouldn’t want that now, would we? 😉

As mentioned last week, this workout is a little more endurance based. The previous workouts have focused on shorter periods of fast running but this time, we are going to run a little slower (most of the time) but  for a longer period of time. It’s still intervals but a little different. It’s good to throw in a different workout into your routine every so often. The more your body does something, the easier it becomes. Meaning your body doesn’t need to work as hard  to get where it wants to go or accomplish what it needs to. If you constantly tweak your workout routine your body won’t get “bored” and stop working. You don’t want to work your butt off for nothing so make sure to change it up every once in a while.

This workout goes by super fast for me because you are changing speed every minute so it keeps you busy and you lose track of how much time has actually gone by. And don’t worry, you still get to walk- for two minutes each round. It’s great recovery and something to look forward to at the end of each cycle. Also, don’t worry if you can’t do the whole thing just yet. It takes a while to build up endurance. All that matters is that you are taking the first to get there.

Well, here it is.

The Workout:

Warm-up for 2 minutes by walking at 3.5 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 5.0 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 5.5 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 6.0 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 6.5 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 7.0 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 7.5 mph.

Jog/run for 1 minute at 8.0 mph.

Walk for 2 minutes at 4.0 mph.

*Repeat 5 times without the warm-up (or as many as you can, many days I only make it to 3 reps and it is still really effective).

I definitely noticed a difference in my running after doing this workout for a few weeks. A 5K race doesn’t sound so intimidating anymore.

Let me know how it goes. Happy running!

Book Review: Home by Toni Morrison

I shouldn’t be surprised that my heart skipped a few beats when I discovered Toni Morrison’s newest novel (alright, I’m a little late to the game but now is better than never- right?). Feeling a little nostalgic about my college years and missing its security, beauty, and friends- Toni Morrison was exactly what I was missing. I have become somewhat of an African-American lit junkie, if you will. During my freshman year I took an Introduction to Literature class where the professor focused mostly on apartheid literature and this completely sparked my interest. I went on to take a Richard Wright class in which we read many books by Wright, Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin among many others. Venturing further into this literary circle I took an African American Literature course my senior year where we read Ralph Ellison, Anne Petry, more Wright, and more Morrison. I had become completely immersed and I loved every second of it. Hence, my excitement for HOME by Toni Morrison.

Morrison definitely does not disappoint with her latest novel (does she ever?). HOME is about a young Veteran, named Frank Money, who just returned from the Korean War. Frank had a far from easy life. His family was very poor, lived in a depressing town in which Frank described as, “the worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield.” All his parents ever did was work for practically nothing, leaving him and his sister to fend for themselves, mostly always starving. Both parents died at a very young age, making Frank feel more alone and more without a real home. The book opens with Frank in the hospital when he receives a letter that his sister, Cee, is in trouble and if he doesn’t come now she will most likely die. Cee had always been dependent on Frank, she never had anyone else she could turn to. He needed her, so he was going to be there. The book tracks Frank’s journey to find his sister, the revelations he makes along the way and just as important, the revelations that Cee makes herself without her brother there to hold her hand.

What I love most about Morrison is that she puts so much meaning into her books with so few words. I could type on and on for days and I still wouldn’t be able to say half of what Morrison could in a couple hundred pages, let alone so gracefully and resonating. I could sit here all night and list off meaning after meaning of each character, object, and place in this book. But, for everyone’s sake (including my own) I won’t. My first reaction is to talk about the character of Frank Money and his journey to find his manhood, purpose, sense of self, and “home”. After all, I did write many of my college papers on manhood- its challenges, meaning, and the struggles that many African American male characters seem to face on their journey to becoming a “man” and feeling worth something. But thats not what sticks out to me with this book. Instead, I am fascinated by the character of Cee.

Cee’s experience working for the doctor is horrible, gruesome, and definitely beyond anything I could ever imagine. But, in a sense- it set her free. Being young, black, and a woman were all disadvantages Cee had to learn to deal with her entire life. These characteristics made her feel insecure, worthless, and incompetent. Cee felt like she was only there to serve others because that’s all she ever knew. Miss Ethel, Cee’s nurse after the horrific events at the doctor’s, opened Cee’s eyes up to a whole other world. A world where she was her own person. A world in which she decided her own fate and what she did or didn’t do. She doesn’t need to listen to what anyone else tells her- she has her own brain with her own thoughts, dreams, and desires.

The turning point of Cee’s journey is when Miss Ethel tells her, “You young and a woman, and there’s serious limitation in both, but you a person too. Don’t let Lenore or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no evil doctor decide who you are. That’s slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.” These few sentences really jumped out at me, left me staring at the page for a few moments longer than the rest. Although Cee wasn’t physically a slave to anyone, she certainly was mentally. She let other people decide her worth, her destiny, her life. In this moment, Cee decided she was worth something, “I ain’t going nowhere, Miss Ethel. This is where I belong.” Cee doesn’t want to die, especially from the doings of an evil, heartless man. She wants to stay here on Earth with her people, friends, family and fight. She wants to put her own mark on the world as Cee, not as another helpless patient who succumbed to the dominant forces around her.

If you couldn’t tell already, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. I warn you, don’t expect a happy story with pretty butterflies and flowers. But what you will get is hope, empowerment, and a sense of pride. Nothing can hold me back after reading this book. I feel like I can accomplish anything right now because I’m my own person. I have my own hopes and aspirations and I am the only person who can control them.

Whew- I feel like I am sitting back in one of my college classrooms and I couldn’t thank Morrison, my readers, or this blog enough for that.

Fitness: Interval Running Workout #2

As promised, here is the second interval workout in my running circuit. This one involves more running than the last workout, but it’s still not horrible. You still walk more than you run, and it’s shorter! You can power through this entire workout in only a half hour. The downside- you are going to sweat. You are actually going to sweat a lot. You need to make every single second of this workout count if you want to receive maximum benefits. Every time you hold back or put the treadmill on a lower speed than you know you can do, you are only hurting yourself. This workout goes by extremely fast. Make the most of it.

Oh yeah, and you might have a tiny bit of trouble walking to your car after. But that’s only a minor detail.

 

 The Workout:

Warm-up for 3 minutes by jogging at 5.5-6.0 mph.

Run fast (not a sprint, but make sure you’re moving) for 1 minute. I set my speed for 7-7.5 mph.

Walk for 2 minutes at 4.0 mph.

*Repeat 4 more times (without the warm-up)!

Sprint (yes, sprint) for 30 seconds. Again, I set my speed for 8-8.5 mph.

Walk for 1 minute at 4.0 mph.

*Repeat 9 more times!

Bonus Tip: To burn some extra calories you can do this whole workout at a slight incline. And I mean slight. Set your treadmills incline to 1.0 or 2.0 for some extra spice. Warning: you WILL feel it.

 

…and you’re done! That was quick! Go buy yourself  a new blouse, you deserve it. Nothing wrong with some positive reinforcement, right?

Check back next week for a more endurance focused interval run. I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds. Happy running!