Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Feeling Cleansed

So, preparation for that big test I talked about below was a great excuse to fall very hard off the Health Wagon. I justified bad nutritional behavior for several months as I studied, studied, studied. Chocolate donuts and Pepsi on the way to work at 5: 30 a.m.? Definitely! Decompress after working and studying with several beers every night? Of course! No time to grocery shop or cook? That's o.k., just drive a couple miles down the road and eat one of these delicious burgers! Need an hourly break from studying?...go buy a bag of candy AND a chocolate bar! Why not??

I very easily fell back into some bad habits...too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and OVEREATING galore. Needless to say, my body was not thanking me for it. I had been feeling so unhealthy, really just disgusting, and was feeling like I needed to do something to get myself back on track.
Along with a couple friends, I've embarked on a 30-day "cleanse" of sorts. I'm not ingesting only lemon juice and cayenne pepper or taking any expensive, nutritional supplements, but I have eliminated a lot of things from my diet that were causing me to feel so unhealthy. I'm halfway through the 30-day challenge, and have successfully removed the following things from my diet:

refined sugar
white flour

That leaves me with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, eggs, nuts, water, and herbal tea. That's literally all I've put in my mouth since October 11th. And I feel great!! What a good change this has been for me. I'm usually a very healthy eater, but I do have bad habits that I fall back into during times of stress or laziness.

This challenge has done so much for my mind and body. My energy level is more consistent throughout the day now that I am not drinking coffee every single morning. I'm sleeping well every night. I'm drinking LOTS of water. My skin is healthy. I've lost weight. I'm meal planning and cooking again, which I LOVE to do. I'm trying new, creative recipes which makes cooking even more exciting. I'm not overeating; I'm truly listening to my body, and stopping when I'm satisfied (not full, just satisfied). I'm spending a lot less on groceries. And most importantly, I'm sharing this healthy food with my family!

Some of my favorite dinners over the past few weeks:

vegetarian chili
homemade refried beans with roasted green chilis and whole wheat tortillas
minestrone with whole wheat pasta
spaghetti squash with mushroom ragu
acorn squash stuffed with barley, apples, and onions
roasted vegetables with whole wheat pasta
vegetable stir fry with brown rice
butternut squash stir fry with cilantro, onions, and coconut milk
mushroom barley soup
grilled veggie kabobs

I've also started having green smoothies again several mornings a week, which is a habit I'm really happy to be getting back to. Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner the night before. Snacks include cucumbers and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, and lots of fruit. My "dessert" most nights is a banana with natural peanut butter, a handful of almonds, and herbal tea.

I won't pretend that this has been easy for me. The hardest thing at first was to give up coffee. I didn't go cold turkey, though, because I've seen what that does to me (angry voices in my head, seriously). So I weaned myself off the coffee gradually. The thing that's been hardest to let go of over the two weeks is alcohol. I don't drink copious amounts of alcohol in one sitting, but I do enjoy drinking wine with dinner, or having a cold beer while I cook dinner. Lots of activities we do usually incorporate alcohol (concerts, band practice, football games, etc.)

But even though it's been hard, I'm so happy to be making these changes right now. It's amazing how much your nutrition affects every aspect of your life. Although I will probably start drinking coffee and alcohol again after the 30 days are over (I have to hold on to some bad habits!), and I will occasionally indulge in a cheeseburger or yummy dessert, I plan to continue eating mostly within these limits because I know how good it is for me and my family.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Honey Don't

On Saturday, October 9, we hosted a house concert that I have been looking forward to for so long. One of my favorite Colorado bands, Honey Don't, traveled from Paonia to play for us on a beautiful fall night.

This was one of those experiences where I just had to really concentrate on holding it together so I didn't start crying...I was that happy! Honey Don't's (two apostrophes? hmmm...) music was SO good, and the excited positive energy in our small living room was so palpable. I had such a big smile on my face all night and felt so lucky to be able to be a part of this musical moment.

I'm really proud that Brian and I can play a small part in making this magic happen. When you bring good people, acoustic instruments and beautiful voices, delicious homemade food, locally brewed beer (courtesy of our friend Lachlan at Dry Dock Brewery), and a lot of love into a small space like that, great things are bound to happen.

And they did! It was a night I will never forget. Bill, Shelley, Greg, and Ryan are some of the most talented musicians I know, and it was such an honor to have them play in our home. And it was overly gracious of them to stick around for a pick after the show. I vowed that I WOULD NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES take my mandolin out of its case while Greg Schochet was in the house (he's probably one of my favorite mandolin players ever....). Well, he got around that by having me play his mandolin while he played bass. Shoot.... But it was so fun to pick with some real musicians...I can't complain.

And we had dancers! Yeah for the dancers!

Here are some of my favorites from the night....

This Has Been My Life

For the past six months at least....
Although I wear many hats, a lot of people in my life know me as a geologist. I've been working as an environmental geologist for 8 years, since graduating from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, with a geology degree.

I finally took the next step in my career as a geologist, and sat for the ASBOG National Geology Examination on October 1, in order to become a licensed Professional Geologist (P.G.). I began studying for this exam six months ago, and although there were times this summer when we were so busy that I didn't get a lot of time for studying, I was fairly diligent about sitting down a couple times a week to study.

Starting about 2 months ago, my preparation for the test stepped up in intensity. By the time the end of September rolled around, I was studying about 30 hours a week (on top of working fulltime). It was very hard for me to be away from Brian and Sadie so much, and it was especially hard for me to get my butt out of bed by 5:15 a.m. to get to my office and study for 2 hours before work every day. I made sure to keep nights for myself so that I could spend time with Sadie before she went to bed, and time with my husband relaxing before going to sleep early every night.

On the day before the test, I said goodbye to Brian and Sadie and had a beautiful, leisurely drive to Laramie, Wyoming. I checked into a nice hotel, and studied for about 3 final hours. Around 5:30 p.m., I put my books away and headed into town for dinner. After a delicious meal at Anong's Thai in downtown Laramie, I drove around getting a feel for the town after not visiting Laramie for more than a decade. I also made sure I knew where to go for the test and where to park the next morning. I stopped at the store to pack a lunch for myself the next day, grabbed some celebrity gossip magazines and chocolate, and headed back to the hotel. After a relaxing bath, I went to bed at a decent hour and tried to not even think about the test the next morning. Of course, being the insomniac that I am, I didn't sleep a wink that night! So frustrating....

Although I felt exhausted when my alarm went off the next morning, I pushed the exhaustion aside and told myself that I've become very good at functioning on little to no sleep and that I wasn't going to let that affect my performance on the exam. I was expecting that adrenaline would keep the exhaustion at bay until after the test.

I ate a good, healthy, protein filled breakfast, showered and dressed, packed up, and spent about 20 minutes stretching and meditating. As I climbed into my truck, I gave myself a pep talk and tried to feel excited about the test.

My nerves started to be pretty noticeable as I headed towards the test location. I focused on breathing deeply and didn't allow my head to clutter with equations. I could tell that running through equations and conversion factors at that point was actually going to confuse me, and I just had to trust that they were in my head somewhere after all these months, and I would be able to recall them if I needed to.

After checking in, finding a seat in the room that "felt right", and getting all my materials out (calculator, colored pencils, scale, protractor, etc) it was finally time to take the exam!!!

After 4 full hours of test taking, the first half was over. I went to a nearby park and tried to maximize the few minutes I had before starting the second half. I ate a good healthy lunch, checked in with Brian, stretched, and basked in the sun. I felt like I had given the first half of the test everything I had, but somehow had to dig deep, and find the motivation to do it all over again! And I was anticipating that the second half of the exam would be more difficult for me.

Four hours later, I turned in my test and walked out of the building for the last time ever, hopefully! I couldn't even see straight, stand, or think about driving for a while. My entire body hurt from being tense for so many hours. I took some time to relax and reorient before heading home around 5 p.m. After a long three hour drive, what a treat it was to FINALLY be home and see Sadie and Brian sitting on the couch reading a book...waiting for mama to come home. I nursed Sadie and put her to bed, and then enjoyed dessert and champagne with my thoughtful husband.

The next morning, it finally started to hit me that I was done! After SO many months studying for this exam, after having it in the back of my mind at all times, it has definitely taken me a while to decompress and let go of that stress. It feels like such an accomplishment just to have taken this exam. I feel very confident that I did everything I possibly could have to prepare...I absolutely could not have fit any more information in my head! I am confident in my memorization and test-taking abilities; I think I kept a good pace during the test; I double and triple checked every answer; I stayed calm and focused and took breaks when I could tell I needed it.

And now I wait. For 60-75 days. Seriously. Just in time for the holidays, I'll get a letter in the mail from the Wyoming Board of Professional Geologists telling me if I passed one or both parts of the exam. I'm trying to be patient and confident. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. But I also know the statistics. I know that lots of people take this exam more than once before passing it. I know that this is a very tough professional licensing exam. I know that the candidate scores of those who do pass the exam are barely above the passing score. I know that it's known as being a poorly written, unfair exam.

But I'm hopeful.....and crossing my fingers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hard Pressed House Concert

We've just had our second house concert of the series, so I figure it's about time to talk about our first...

Our first house concert of this fall season turned out to be such a magical night. We felt so lucky to have Andrea Lecos and Cory Obert travel from Paonia to play for us. Brian and I have really been looking forward to this show, and it didn't disappoint.

Brian couldn't wait to have such a talented, well-known, and innovative clawhammer banjo player right in our living room. He didn't waste anytime picking (no pun intended) Andrea's brain about all things banjo.

The house concert was really well attended; we had over 40 people show up! It always feels so good to have our house full of friends, family, and like-minded music lovers.

We also really enjoyed getting to know Cory and Andrea better. I have known Cory for a long time, since I first interviewed his band Sweet Sunny South on the air when I was a disc jockey. But I'd never met Andrea, and had never really had the chance to spend much time visiting with Cory. Brian and I both felt so inspired after spending the weekend with these two. Not only were we inspired by their music, but also by their lifestyle and just their general nature. They are two people that I am so happy to be able to call friends and look forward to more late nights pickin' with them.

Here are some videos (you'll have to turn the volume up) I took of the night. Enjoy!