Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Expectations

By now you probably know that I’m a certified BodyPump and CXWORX instructor, that I went to school for baking and that my faith, family and fitness are the most important things in my life.  But did you know that I have a degree in economics?  Yup, a very expensive one, at that…still paying for it more than a decade later ���� Back in college, we spent a lot of time talking about expectations and how they can impact the economy.  I think that was when I first realized the impact our expectations can have in the grand scheme of things.  

 In economics, low consumer expectations lead to a decrease in consumer spending.  That is, when we feel that the economic future is uncertain, we tend to save more and spend less, leading to a drop in demand.  Rule #1 of economics is basically that supply and demand will always find equilibrium, so when demand drops, supply will also decrease until the new steady state is found.  When suppliers decrease production, they don’t need as many workers, so the unemployment rate will rise and GDP (the total value of all goods and services produced) will also drop.  When consumers hear things like “higher unemployment” and “lower GDP,” it just reinforces their negative expectations, and the cycle continues. 

You’re wondering why on earth I just bored you with an economics lesson, aren’t you?  Well, I used this very factual and academic lesson to demonstrate this:

Our Expectations Influence Our Outcomes

This statement is applicable in countless areas.  If you take medicine with the expectation that it will work, it often will…even if it’s just placebo.  If you wake up feeling like today is going to be a terrible day, it probably will be.  If you are an atheist, you will live a life based on science and explanation, never daring to take a leap of faith and thus never experiencing God’s miracles or grace.  No matter what the situation, our expectations will have an impact on the outcome. 

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people say that they lower their expectations in order to avoid being disappointed.  In fact, I’ve even done this myself.  It seems logical.  If we set the bar low, it seems that anyone could meet our expectations, right?  Wrong.  The problem with this thinking is that our expectations influence our own behavior, which will in turn influence the behavior of others.  If you expect the worst from people, you will treat them accordingly, which will never inspire anyone to give you their best.  Have you ever been treated like you’ll never be good enough?  Maybe your mom always told you that your sister was prettier or that your brother was smarter.  Perhaps your boss points out everything you do wrong instead of praising you for the things you do right.  How does that make you feel?  If you’re competitive like me, maybe your first instinct is to prove them wrong.  Perhaps you’ll really step up your game to try to show them your value.  While that sounds like a solid plan, there is a problem with it: no matter how good you are and no matter how hard you try, it is very difficult to please someone with negative expectations.  Even if you start out strong and are determined to change their mind, eventually their negativity will break you down and you’ll wonder why you even bother.  Once in a while this may work and you may get a “wow, I sure was wrong about you!”  But if your girlfriend is convinced that all men are cheaters, you can basically be Prince Charming and still stand accused.  

How are you letting negative expectations influence your life?  Did you fall off the wagon the last time you tried to lose weight and now you’re letting my most hated phrase (“I can’t”) live inside your head?  Are you letting your negative expectations sabotage a current relationship because someone broke your heart or let you down in the past?  Are you spending frivolously because you operate under the assumption that you’ll never get out of debt and you’ll certainly never be wealthy, so you might as well spend what you’ve got?  Are you going to the DMV with a stank face because you assume that no visit to the DMV can ever be anything but unpleasant?  Where did I come up with these examples?  My own life.  I’ve done all of these things, and guess what the outcomes were?  CRAPPY.  And I have no one to blame but myself.  

Expecting the best is much easier said than done.  It takes balls, guts, faith.  You have to be willing to expose yourself a bit (emotionally, not physically…please don’t do that), and there is always that risk of disappointment.  It’s easy to be guarded and play it safe, but if you take the easy approach you will get mediocre results at best.  If you want your life to be great and you want to inspire greatness in others, you have to dare to have positive expectations and a positive attitude to go along with them.  If you strive to believe the best in every person and every situation, I guarantee that you will not only get better outcomes in your own life, but also inspire better outcomes in the lives of others.  Positivity is contagious…go spread some around and watch what happens!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Boldness

I used to be bold.  For the first 20+ years of my life, I took not once ounce of crap from anyone.  I knew what I wanted and I knew how to get it.  I was confident in voicing my opinions and ideas, even if they weren’t the best ones.  I had high expectations for myself and others, and in the event that someone fell short of those expectations, I did not hesitate to dismiss them from my circle.  I expected nothing less than excellence and for things to always go my way.  I was as bold as can be!  The problem was that I was young and naïve.  I didn’t know anything, and my excessive boldness bordered on bullying and did not allow me to learn or grow.  My chutzpah basically turned me into a steamroller who never had to answer to anyone…but then I met a man who wouldn’t put up with one ounce of MY crap.  At first it was a good thing because it forced me to evaluate myself and make some changes.  I learned to be more open and considerate toward other people, and I was a lot less selfish and more giving.  Unfortunately I overcorrected.  My relationship with the take-no-crap man turned out to be quite dysfunctional and eventually I barely had any boldness left.  I became indecisive and started second-guessing everything I did and every choice I made.  I stopped thinking about what I wanted and what made me happy because I was trying so hard to keep him happy so the relationship would survive.  Basically, I became a doormat.

As I think about my history of boldness, I realize that there is a happy medium between steamroller and doormat.  My current mission is to find that balance every day.  There are three main areas where I feel like I could use some nice, balanced boldness:

1.  Using my voice – I don’t think anyone likes a nagging woman.  I have friends who nag their husbands or kids incessantly, and I just never found it to be an effective method of inspiring action.  I go out of my way NOT to be a nag.  In the spirit of always trying to be agreeable, I don’t speak up…even about the things that really matter to me.   Whoever I’m dealing with, whether it’s my boyfriend or my friends, has no idea that this is even going on because I never said a word.  They think things are fine because I act like things are fine, but resentment starts to build as I keep things bottled up inside.  This is obviously unhealthy and won’t lead to any kind of lasting relationship.  Any worthwhile relationship requires boldness.  We have to be true to ourselves and be able to disagree.  We need to be able to say the hard things, to challenge each other and to help one another grow.  That doesn’t happen when you only tell someone what they want to hear and always act agreeably.  Real love and real friendships call for boldness. 

2. Loving without expectation – Love requires a great deal of boldness.  It takes boldness to trust someone with the most private parts of your heart and soul and to allow yourself to be vulnerable.  It takes boldness to love someone even when they don’t make it clear that they appreciate it and return the sentiment.  It takes boldness to love someone through sickness, financial strain, loss, tragedy, and numerous other unpleasant and unexpected curveballs that life often throws us.  Fear is the biggest crusher of boldness and saboteur of relationships in many lives, mine included.  I love boldly.  I’m loyal to a fault and I love to spoil those who are dear to me, but the minute I become fearful that someone doesn’t appreciate me or is taking advantage of my nurturing nature, I pull back fast.  I stop giving and become suspicious or resentful, leaving the other person feeling unloved and wondering what happened.  Once again, this is no recipe for success.  I need to make sure that my boldness exceeds my fear if I am ever going to do what the bible instructs me to do:

“Jesus replied, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”    Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

      3. Having discipline – we have to be bold in order to accomplish goals, because it seems that there is always something or someone waiting to derail us.  Even our closest friends and family can throw us off our game without even realizing it.  A friend may ask me to skip church to go to the beach one Sunday or to cancel a personal training session to go to happy hour on a weeknight.  It could be something as simple as a friend picking up an extra croissant because he was trying to be thoughtful and doesn’t know that you’re trying to stay away from sweets.  Maybe a friend invites you to go shopping regularly because she doesn’t know you’re trying to save money to buy a house.  We have to be disciplined to achieve any goal, and that’s much easier to do when the people around us are on board.  The best way to get others on board is to declare our goals boldly so that the people in our inner circles will understand the importance of our aspirations.  There will also be people who choose not to be supportive due to disagreement with your goals, jealousy, anger or plain old hateration (yes it’s a word.  Thank you, Mary J!).  That’s just one more reason to be bold.
It only took me 32.5 years, but I’ve finally realized that there is a right way to be bold.  It is possible to advocate for myself and set healthy boundaries without browbeating others in the process.  It is okay to speak up about the things that matter to me and take a bold approach in making things happen.   And here’s the big one:

NOT EVERYONE HAS TO LIKE ME, AND MANY PEOPLE WON’T! BUT THAT’S 100% OKAY.


The only approval I’m seeking at this point in life is from God and myself.  If I’m happy and God’s happy, He’ll make sure I have exactly the right people in my life.  No more, no less.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pride

This morning I was listening to a Joyce Meyer podcast, as I usually do while commuting to the city.  I love me some Joyce.  She has a no-nonsense, tough love kind of approach that I can really dig.  I’ve never been one for sugar coating or being handled with kid gloves, so naturally I appreciate Joyce’s direct manner of delivering the truth that I think we all need to hear.  Today Joyce was talking about pride, and her message slapped me across the face harder than the 25-degree wind chill.

 

As I mentioned, I tend to appreciate a direct approach.  I like confident people who tell it like it is, but the thing about people like that is that they typically have a lot of pride.  How do I know?  Well, I’m one of them.  You see, I’m a tried-and-true Leo (fellow Christians, please don’t label me a heathen for reading my horoscope every day), and one of our foremost characteristics is our pride.  So yeah, I know all about pride.  I don’t ever like to show weakness or appear as though I don’t know what’s going on.  I like to be in control or at least seem like I am, even when I’m not.  I hate crying in front of people and asking for help.  I would spend $100 on a taxi ride to the airport before I would ask a friend to drop me off, simply because I hate putting anyone out or feeling like I need them.  In the past, I have pretended to know things I didn’t, simply because I didn’t want to come off as less intelligent than those around me.  I could go on and fill two more pages with details of my prideful behavior, but I think you get the point.  I used to swear that pride and confidence were one and the same, so I assumed that my pride was a good thing.  I’ve changed my mind.   Now I believe that pride is a way that we compensate for a lack of confidence.

 

Here are two of the definitions I found for confidence:

 

“the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust”

“the state of feeling certain about the truth of something”

 

Let’s go back to my examples.  If I had firm trust that I could rely on a friend, why not ask for a ride to the airport?  If I felt certain about my own truth, why would I pretend to know something I didn’t instead of just admitting my uncertainty without feeling any less about myself as a result?  In both cases, I lacked confidence and that’s when my pride took over.  Pride can be toxic because it isn’t real.  Pride is our attempt to validate ourselves and present an image of perfection, lest we feel inadequate or inferior.  Pride makes us speak when we should listen.  Pride makes us doubt when we should believe.  Pride makes us isolate ourselves when we should lean on loved ones.  Pride hinders progress that can only come when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  It prevents us from being real with others and sometimes it even prevents us from being real with ourselves.  Pride can make us believe that everyone is out to get us and that we can only trust ourselves.  It can cause us to create a hard exterior out of fear that someone might hurt us.  Yes, this impenetrable exterior can protect our hearts from pain, but the problem is that it also keeps out the good stuff, like love.  

 

My pride has: 

  • Prevented me from seeking help when I had post-partum depression 
  • Made me feel like I should do everything myself, leading to extreme anxiety for which I used to be medicated
  • Caused me to lie about silly things
  • Built up a sense of perfectionism that made me feel like I was always falling short and was never good enough  
  • Allowed my mind to get carried away with thoughts about how others might hurt me, leading me to push them before they even gave me an actual reason to do so
  • Forced me to smile and say, “I’m fine” when I am anything but fine
  • Prevented me from asking questions that would have helped me learn and advance my career at a more rapid pace

 

I’ve been working hard at conquering my pride and replacing it with confidence.  I won’t lie to you…it’s difficult.  Even if we are able to forgive ourselves or those who have hurt us, it’s hard to forget the past and even harder to overcome the survival instinct and focus on self-preservation that many of us build up in response to pain.  When I focus on my faith, I worry much less about my pride.  Even when I doubt myself, I still have “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust” – in God.  I think we’ve all had times of loss in life when the pain is so extreme that we wonder how we’ll survive…but then we do, and we come out stronger.  Remembering this helps me feel safe and allows me to shelve my pride and open the door to my heart.  The reality is that I don’t want to go through life keeping everyone at arm’s length.  I want deep, meaningful friendships and real, genuine love, and the only way I will ever have those things is to check my pride at the door.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Overthinking

Left-brained
Type A
Obsessive-compulsive
Leo

Those are all words that have been used to describe or diagnose me before.  Perhaps that’s why I spend so much time in my head.  I like to analyze, understand, plan, and be in control of my circumstances.  I like to be prepared for what’s going to happen before it happens, and I’m often thrown into a serious funk when life throws me a curveball.  But you know what?  I’ve been thinking about my overthinking and I decided it has to stop.  I believe that overthinking is one of the best ways to kill the joy in and take the fun out of just about any situation.

When I was pregnant with Jordin, I remember going to the hospital for some minor spotting around the 5 or 6-month mark.  The doctors checked me out, told me we were both fine, and sent me home.  I should have been relieved, but instead I went home and worried about what COULD happen to my precious baby.  All that worrying landed me right back in the maternity ER, and this time they told me my blood pressure was through the roof.  My unnecessary worrying took me from a healthy, safe pregnancy right into the danger zone.

Whenever I’m late, I sit behind the wheel of the car, fuming at all the “incompetent” drivers around me.  You know, the ones who take more than .00005 seconds to react to the light turning green or those who go the speed limit.  Sheesh, some people!  I sit there thinking about how others will think of me when I walk in late: like I’m disrespectful, irresponsible and have no regard for other people’s time.  I am certain that people will judge me, and as a result I spend the entire trip fraught with worry that causes a pit in my stomach.  Even though I can’t do a thing about traffic and no amount of worrying will change that, I speed, freak out, park like I’m legally blind, and run inside like Usain Bolt, only to find out that nobody gives a single crap that I’m 3.5 minutes late.  Nobody was sitting there thinking about me or judging me…they were just enjoying their coffee and waiting patiently for me and the three other late people to show up.

Lately I’ve realized that my overthinking is taking the joy out many of the important relationships in my life.  It has made me reactive instead of proactive.  It has put me on the defense, and I’ve become one of those people who put up walls so nobody can get too close and possibly hurt them.  I’ve been living in the past, remembering what one single person did to betray me.  Dwelling on that has made me worry intensely about the future and wonder who else might betray me.  By living in the past and worrying about the future, I’m sacrificing my present.  For example, I’ve been dating a wonderful man since August.  If I had a checklist of the top 10 things I want in a man, he could probably check off at least 9.  He’s patient, understanding, loving, driven, handsome and knows how to communicate...and that’s just the short list of his good qualities.  So WHY ON EARTH do I allow myself to worry about what COULD happen instead of just enjoying what IS happening?  Rather than enjoying every second of the limited time we get to spend together, I sometimes worry about how he spends his time when I’m not around.  Instead of focusing on how much fun we have together and how compatible we are, I get lost in thoughts about the future.  How will it all work out?  What if it doesn’t?  What if I trust him and he disappoints me?  Or, my personal favorite: what if my overthinking ends up driving him away?!  My goodness.  What a colossal waste of my time and energy!

I’ve recently become hyperaware of my tendency to overthink, and I decided that I have to stop if I want to have any peace in my life.  I don’t want to be so busy worrying about the future that I forget to enjoy the present.  There are many great things happening in my life right now, yet there are nights when I lie in bed feeling sad or unfulfilled at the end of the day.  I realized that it’s not because I don’t have anything to be happy about; it’s because I am not allowing myself to be happy about the things that bring me joy!  I’ve never been a negative person, and I don’t plan to start now.  As the saying goes, knowing is half the battle.  Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can change it.  I have to be intentional with my thoughts.  I have to bypass the negative thoughts, the fear, and the unfounded worry so I can focus on the positive things, my many blessings, and the things and people that make me smile.  That doesn’t mean I’ll never feel sad or fearful again; I am human, so I certainly will. I can acknowledge these feelings, but I don’t need to live in them, and I won’t.

As a Christian woman, I know that God has a plan for me.  He has brought me through some pretty challenging times and dark days.  There were times when I felt like I couldn’t survive the pain of my circumstances, but the keywords are: He has brought me through.  And I know that he will do it again and again, so really, what is there to overthink and worry about?  Absolutely nothing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Baggage

Nobody wants to admit that they have baggage, but let’s face it…we all do.  Whether we like it or not, our minds and our souls recall almost everything, especially the most difficult memories that we try so hard to forget.  Even if we are able to genuinely forgive ourselves or others for past transgressions, that doesn’t mean we will forget them.  Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we’ve buried some awful memory, only to have it unearthed when we find ourselves in a situation that reeks of some circumstance of the past.  When memories are positive and beautiful, we cherish them, but when they are painful or difficult, we try hard to forget them before they turn into baggage.  Most of the time we can’t forget, no matter how hard we try.  So the question is this: how do we keep our memories from turning into baggage?   

 

To be honest, this is something I’ve been struggling with and frankly, I don’t think I have all the answers.  But I do want to share what I’ve learned. First let me share my baggage: I have trust issues.  Not only did my marriage end due to numerous grave violations of my trust, but in the months following my divorce, I also discovered that some of my so-called “friends” were disloyal to me.  Add to that the numerous people around me whose marriages have crumbled since then and the handful of people who have recently told me about their involvement in extramarital affairs, and well, let’s just say things were looking pretty bleak for awhile.  It was the perfect storm, and in it my belief in true love and loyalty almost evaporated.  Every time I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let the past turn me into a cynic, someone else added to the heaping pile of distrust that kept getting in my way.

 

I went on like this for too long, feeling frustrated in every relationship and friendship I had.  I worried about everyone’s intentions, assuming that every man I dated would cheat and lie and that every friend I trusted would eventually take advantage of me or betray me.  The trouble is that some of my fears were confirmed, and this only perpetuated the cycle.  The more people who disappointed me, the more suspicious I became of everyone else.  My circle has gotten quite small since then, and I have actually worried that I was too quick to dismiss some people.  But then I realized that none of them have tried to get me back, and that tells me that I made the right choice.  If anyone is willing to let go that easily, then I probably made the right choice.  

 

So how did I overcome my baggage?  Truth be told, I don’t think I have…yet.  But I did learn some things that have begun to change my attitude:  

1.       Take responsibility – I had to make sure that I had truly forgiven the people who had hurt me.  It’s easy to say we forgive someone, but it’s much more difficult to genuinely practice forgiveness.  I had to identify the people who had truly hurt me and make sure I could pray for them in the same way I pray for the people I love.  If I couldn’t, I knew that I was still harboring some unforgiveness that I had to deal with.   

2.       Treat everyone as an individual and every situation as unique – it’s easy to make generalizations, but there are always exceptions.  If we let our baggage do the talking, we will end up writing off good people right off the bat simply because they say or do something that brings us back to a dark place.  When we do this, we miss out on the joy of actually getting to know that person as an individual.  The fact is that no two people are the same.  We all have hundreds of characteristics that make us unique and special, and this is why generalizations are typically wrong.  Not every man cheats.  Not every woman is an emotional wreck.  Not every Latino is crazy jealous.  Not every Christian is judgmental.  Not every Muslim is a fundamentalist.  Not every blonde is dumb.  You get the point.     

3.       Don’t let your fear be bigger than your faith – for a while I was so afraid to lose anyone else that I held on to relationships after I knew they were toxic, simply because I was scared to find myself alone.  I let fear run my life and put my faith in the backseat.  I only began to feel peace when I realized that I needed to walk in faith.  Instead of clinging so desperately to the things and people I thought I needed, I gave it to God.  I started to pray for His will instead of my own.  I finally just let go, and it made an enormous difference in the quality of my life.

4.       Be intentional about your relationships – if you have people in your life who love you in spite of your baggage and any other flaws, hold on tight.  Be intentional.  Show them love and accept the love they offer to you.  Don’t just let the relationship sit there and get stale.  Like a garden, you must take the time to water it and pull the weeds if you want to watch it grow.  If you increase the number of positive relationships and happy people in your life, your baggage will start to unpack itself. 

 

I know there’s a lot more to learn, but this has been a good start for me.  It’s been difficult to lose so much, but I think of myself as a glass that was half-full of dirty water before.  I could just fill up the rest of the glass with clean water, but the dirt that was already there would taint it.  The more dirty water I can dump out, the more room I have for fresh, clean, life-giving water, and that’s what I want.  


Sunday, February 8, 2015

MUG CAKE 101!

I got into mug cakes when the weather started getting colder.  I was used to coming home from the gym and tossing some whey protein, unsweetened almond coconut milk, fruit and peanut butter in the blender with a handful of ice cubes for a tasty post-workout recovery meal.  But when the temperature dropped, I wasn’t trying to consume anything frosty after my nice hot shower.  I started experimenting with these yummy little single-serving cakes made in a mug in the microwave, and the baker in me loved the endless flavor combinations and the challenge of finding the perfect balance.  I’ve share quite a few photos on social media and everyone wants to know the deal, so here you go: and entire blog post dedicated to the mug cake basics!

Here’s the beauty I made earlier:

 
 
And here’s the recipe:

3 tbsp whey protein powder (I used Cellucor chocolate raspberry truffle)
3 tbsp any kind of flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 egg white
2 tsp coconut oil (melted)
1-2 tbsp unsweetened almond coconut milk (or any kind of milk)

Mix dry ingredients together, then add the egg white and melted coconut oil.  Spray a mug with Pam or brush it with melted coconut oil.  Pour the batter into the mug and microwave it for 2 minutes.  Turn out onto a plate. 

Frosting:
1 tbsp your favorite peanut butter (the possibilities are ENDLESS!)
½ tbsp unsweetened almond coconut milk (or any milk)

Add these ingredients to a small bowl, microwave for 20 seconds and mix well until smooth.  Frost mug cake while hot.  Top with fruit of your choice.
So there’s the recipe.  Now let’s break down the basics so you can start playing with different combinations.

Flours:
You can use any type of flour you want, but you should experiment with them to see what works best for you.  Obviously all-purpose is easy to come by, but it’s also the most processed and it does contain gluten.  If you’re going for an unprocessed flour, you can always throw some rolled oats into a food processor and make a relatively simple oat flour in minutes.  Almond flour and coconut flour are my favorites, as they bake well and give less of a dry texture than oat flour.  They also have the added bonus of being gluten-free.  Tapioca flour is a good additive, but don’t use it by itself unless you want a very chewy cake.  I like to pair it with almond or coconut flour. 

Fat:

Obviously you don’t want a lot of fat since this is supposed to be a healthy treat, but any baker worth her KitchenAid mixer will tell you that you need a little something to keep your cake moist and not dry.  Coconut oil has a number of health benefits, so it’s my go-to if I decide to use fat at all.  If I want to avoid using fat, I will throw in a tablespoon of unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree or some peeled zucchini that I give a quick pulse in the food processor.  I think any of these three give the cake a nice texture without intruding on the flavor. 

Sweeteners:

I recently discovered coconut sugar and I’m a fan.  Calorie-wise it doesn’t save you much, but it does have the benefit of being significantly less processed than the white cane sugar we grew up with.  It has a nice brown sugar-like flavor and is low on the glycemic index.  The alternatives I use are Splenda, Stevia, agave, raw honey or sugar free maple syrup.  Once again, you should experiment to see what tickles your taste buds. 

Frosting:
I try not to go beyond 1 tbsp of peanut butter in order to keep the calories under control.  I consider it torture to close the jar instead of diving in spoon-first, but here’s how to make that tablespoon stretch a little further: just add a splash of milk, pop it in the microwave and stir until smooth.  You can add just a little milk for a thicker frosting or use more if you want more of a glaze.  Another good trick is to use PB2, a powdered peanut butter with fewer calories than the real stuff.  You can just add water (but why would you when you can add another layer of flavor with almond coconut milk?) until you find the consistency you are looking for.

Other notes:
There are hundreds of variations to this recipe.  You can change it up by using different types of whey protein powder, and that’s usually where I start when I build a recipe in my mind.  If I have cinnamon roll whey protein on hand, I may add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a splash of rum extract and top with my favorite cinnamon raisin peanut butter and some sautéed apples.  The possibilities are endless.  Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger as well as extracts (vanilla, maple, almond, coconut, rum, banana, and the list goes on and on) are awesome ways to punch up the flavor without adding any calories.  Just use them sparingly, as a little goes a long way!  I’ve also added texture by tossing in a tablespoon of raisins, Craisins, dark chocolate chips or even trail mix.  Figure out what you’re in the mood for and have fun with it!  Just remember that you are adding calories with these additions, so don’t be too heavy-handed.

Lastly, when I cook my fruit, I stick to a tiny bit of coconut oil or just a few sprays of Pam.  Fruit has natural sugars, so I don’t generally add any sweeteners.  If and when I do, I go for Stevia or coconut sugar because they are the most natural and lower in calories.  I steer clear of liquid sweeteners like honey and agave when I sauté fruit because they tend to burn easily and won’t caramelize like solid sweeteners will.  If the fruit doesn’t release enough juices when cooked, add a little (and I mean a LITTLE) bit of water to get it going.

So there you have it.  I hope you’ll go ahead and give this yummy mug cake a shot or even better, read the recipe and then toss it right out the window and make up your own!  Just remember the basics of baking: ratio, time and temperature.  If you get these things right, you can’t go wrong.  Bon appétit!   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faith > Fear

Nothing amazing ever happens inside your comfort zone.  I believe those eight words with every fiber of my being.  Think about it.  If you’re comfortable and it feels easy, I don’t think you ever truly appreciate the beauty of a victory.  To me, the beauty is always in the struggle, in knowing what I overcame to get where I am.  But even though I know that the struggle is all that lies between my comfort zone and the result I want, it can still be unsettling to dip my toe into the unknown.  The only way I’ve been able to overcome this fear is by developing my faith.

I’m on a bit of an emotional roller coaster lately, but that’s okay.  It seems like one day I’m full of fear and trepidation, and the next day I’m overcome with excited anticipation and expectation.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re growing.  For some time, I have felt like I’m on the verge of several major breakthroughs in my life and with each day that passes, I feel closer to victory.  But this wasn’t always the case.  In fact, I spent months battling frustration, fear, negativity and sadness until I learned how to pray about it.  I had read this verse or heard it referenced countless times, but I never truly studied it:



Jesus didn’t say “cast your cares on me and then keep worrying about everything,” but that’s exactly what I had always done.  I thought sending up the prayers was enough, but I never actually RELEASED anything.  Instead of simply giving my burdens to God, I decided to tell Him about them and then try to help Him carry them.  He was basically like, “that’s cute Jenalee, but I’m good.”  So many of God’s blessings can only be accessed through faith, and when I look back at my own track record I realize I’m notorious for blocking my own blessings because I didn’t know how to let go.  You see, letting go means giving up control, and that takes me right out of the comfort zone I’ve been clinging to so desperately this year.        

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that it’s been a year of change for me, mainly because I got a divorce.  I believe that divorce is difficult to understand unless you’ve been through it.  But to put it in terms that even a child can understand, it’s like drawing the Plumpy card in Candyland when you’re already past Queen Frostine.  You’ve come so far that you actually feel like you can see the rest of your life (a.k.a. King Candy) ahead of you, but all of a sudden you flip over that fuzzy green monster and you’re back at square one.  It’s enough to throw anyone for a loop.  Whenever a big shakeup occurs in life, it’s natural for us to cling to anything that feels safe and familiar.  That’s precisely what I did for months.  I was losing my husband, so I tried to keep everything else exactly the same.  I kept the same apartment, job, friends, gym schedule and even my closet exactly as they were before because doing so was comfortable.  That worked for a little while, but then God asked why I was trying so hard to keep everything the same when so much needed to change. 

At first the fear was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even ask God to show me what needed to change.  I didn’t think I could handle it.  But over time, I realized that with His help I had already done what I thought was impossible: I had made it through the most difficult season of my life.  I started to realize that if I could get through that, I can get through anything if I just exercise my faith a little.  Since then, I’ve realized the need for change in some major areas of my life. 

I discovered that I needed to take a closer look at the company I keep and make some edits.  It’s scary to think about cleaning house because that means I’m inevitably going to spend more time alone, which is something I’ve been trying to avoid at all costs.  I also seem to believe I have some superhuman ability to love anyone under any circumstances (editor’s note: I think it comes from being a Red Sox fan in the 90s), which makes it difficult for me to let go of anyone, regardless of how much they hurt me.  I’ve always believed that everyone needs and is deserving of love, and while I still believe that, I now realize that I can never make loving someone else more of a priority than loving myself.  Instead of begging God to keep certain people in my life, my faith now allows me to pray that he will strip away those who are not meant to be in it.  At one point in time, that was the scariest prayer imaginable…but not anymore.  

It also occurred to me that I’ve gotten too comfortable at work.  Rather than striving to improve our processes and product like I used to do, I found myself going with the flow and trying not to rock the boat.  I was playing it safe rather than challenging myself and while that was easy and comfortable, I know for a fact that I was designed for more.  You see, I’m not a mediocre person, although being in a dysfunctional relationship for so long really had me acting like one.  I used to be hungry, driven, outspoken, and confident, but eight years of being invalidated had turned me into a watered-down version of all of those things.  Once again, I was fearful to pray about it since I would basically be asking God to make me work harder.  Fortunately, my faith made it possible and I’m finally on the verge of change.   


2014 has been an interesting year for me.  On the outside, it may seem like I haven’t done much because I’ve been laying low a lot.  I have been in the struggle...you know, that area in between my comfort zone and the result I want.  When I get weary during this season of waiting, I simply liken my journey to building a house and remember that even the most beautiful mansion can fall if it’s not built on a strong foundation.  It is this thought that gives me the patience to hang out beyond my comfort zone and the peace of knowing that by the time I have been built back up, each brick will have been cemented by faith and nothing will be able to knock me so far down ever again.