Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, thus announcing the season of prayer and fasting with a sprinkling of ash and the reminder that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As such, it’s time to solidify my Lenten resolutions. People tend to think of Lent as a detox period in which they starve themselves of a few of their preferred vices in the name of self improvement. While this can often provide a boost in general physical and mental wellness, that alone is not in the spirit of the season as it doesn’t necessarily address spiritual health.
Abstaining from sweets or social media in order to slim down or increase time management skills are certainly positive aspirations but what do you do with that extra energy or newfound free time? Self improvement is a happy side effect of Lenten fasting but isn’t the end goal. The sacrifices made during Lent should in some way bring you closer to God in imitation of Christ’s 40 day fast in the wilderness.
Lent is as much about giving something back as it is about giving something up. This may surface in the form of dedicated daily prayer or as earnest community service. Everyone has their own journey but let it be more than the latest self improvement kick. Do more than break a bad habit. Start new ones that renew your relationship with God.
In an effort to keep myself honest and on track, here are my Lenten resolutions in writing.
Abstain from social media (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) AND say a Hail Mary every time you feel like clicking on social media apps.
Delete online dating apps AND instead devote that time to existing relationships with friends (old and new), family and God.
Check in with friends and family once a week by planning group dinners and events or simply by following up via phone to see how their week has been. Become the friend you’d like to have.
Go to Vespers every week. Spend one hour in evening prayer.
Refrain from mindlessly scrolling through emails and blog stats AND instead dedicate 15 minutes every day to personal reflection.
Pray the Rosary, write down prayer intentions or just listen to the lyrics on your favorite Christian playlist.
This is my list. What will you give back for Lent?
Out with the old and in with the new. Chapter 3 of Atomic Habits begins the discussion of making and breaking daily routines, one little habit at a time. As stated in the previous chapters, this process is not about completely overhauling current systems to start from scratch. According to Clear, the best way to implement new habits is to build them into your existing schedule by simply presenting them in a more effective way.
This is done by following the four golden rules outlined in chapter 3.
Make it Obvious.
Make it attractive.
Make it easy.
Make it satisfying.
These can also be applied in reverse to break bad habits. Often people fail to abstain from negative habits, not due to a lack of motivation but because these patterns are more readily accessible. For example, most of us have become attached to our phones. Wherever we are, it’s always within reach, tucked in our back pocket or set out with the screen face up on the table in front of us, mere inches away from our fingertips at all times should any notification light up the screen. We are tuned in to every single ring and vibration it makes. How easy it is to pick it up and spend a couple hours flipping through Facebook or Youtube clips.
This is one area in which I have often lacked discipline. However, as part of my resolution to reduce time eaten by social media, I’ve been experimenting with phone placement. I try not to carry it in my pocket if I can help it and during work hours, especially when working from home, I prefer to leave it on the dresser in my bedroom instead of having it out on the dining room table which has become my home office.
It’s certainly a work in progress. My motivation to maintain positive habits seems to come in waves and this particular change has yet to actually become a habit but practice makes perfect. As one of my college professors once said, “repetition is the mother of wisdom.”
I sat down in front of my computer to write today’s post and, not for the first time, my eyelids began to droop before I’d even finished typing the title of today’s piece. I had every intention of sharing the fantastic lessons learned from chapter three of Atomic Habits or my recent and stunning success with Legendary Crab Rounds that made me the star of the Superbowl potluck. Those and many more are still in the works and will be showing up here very shortly. However, tonight I simply want to enjoy a few dazzling sunsets from Kino Bay, Mexico to Moab, Utah to Michigan City, Indiana and more. This collection is one of my favorites, compiled over years of good, old fashioned, outdoor adventure with my family, the people I love the very most.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I keep coming across social media posts from men contemplating all the ways to placate the tyrant that is their female other half. The answer is simple. Be a man. Today’s post is for all those men facing the age old question, “what do women want.” As a 23 year old woman still at the beginning of an exciting career in the steel industry and currently flaunting the single life while on the lookout for Mr. Right, I feel confident in sharing my views on the subject. However, I think the best approach to this question is to examine the things that, in my experience, women definitely do not want.
Call me crazy but I don’t want a sensitive, new age man. I don’t want a mustached, Starbucks toting hipster. I don’t want a guy who wears more product in his hair than I do or one who takes ten minutes to properly situate his flat brimmed cap over that ridiculously coiffed hair. Baseball caps are fine but they better be on the right way. Trust me, you don’t look cool wearing it backwards. I don’t want my man to wear saggy jeans, ripped jeans, baggy jeans, skinny jeans. Honestly, am I the only one who thinks skinny jeans for men should be burned and outlawed? His nightly grooming routine shouldn’t take twice as long as mine and his favorite place to shop can’t be the vegan section at Whole Foods.
I’m not looking for a squeamish man, of the dirty dishes in the sink or of heading to the shooting range for some fire powered therapy. He should at least have an understanding of the shooting basics or else be willing to learn. He ought to be able to change a tire and shovel the driveway when it snows and be willing to don a collared shirt for date night.
Gentleman, it’s not rocket science. Be a man. Be helpful, capable and attentive. Shower her with little reminders of all the times that you were thinking about her as you went about your day and don’t be shy about volunteering to do the heavy lifting. Ultimately, what you do often matters far less than how it made her feel. In all likelihood, your wife or girlfriend is the farthest thing from a dainty, helpless, delicate flower which might lead you to believe that your assistance and attention are somewhat redundant. This is completely false. Just because she can handle most situations on her own doesn’t mean she wants to. Be a man and make her feel like the exquisite and terrifying ray of sunshine that she is.
As promised, I’m continuing to work my way through Atomic Habits. Today’s post is all about shining grains of wisdom I found in chapter 2. It turns out that a person’s habits are no more than an outward manifestation of their identity. Who you are determines what you do far more than any New Year’s resolution list. James Clear eloquently put it in his words in the following quotes.
“It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”
A lot of people spend their whole lives wishing to be better people someday. They like to say things like ‘I’d love to run a marathon someday’ without ever actually planning to run a marathon. Wanting it is not enough.
“Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.”
I’ve seen this in action firsthand. It’s why I prefer to run outside. There are people around who will see if I give up halfway through and, although I don’t know any of them, my pride always eggs me on.
“Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.”
That’s why none of my self improvement kicks ever seemed to stick. It makes sense now! They were things that I did but I never really let myself consider them as part of who I was.
“The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.”
This is precisely what I’ve tried and failed time and time again to achieve. I’m well acquainted with the disappointment which comes from falling off the mental and physical fitness wagon. Toward that end, I decided to come up with my own list of identities I’m striving to take on in my life.
When I grow up I will be…
A morning person
A deep sleeper
A tea drinker
There are countless others that I’m forgetting but I think my list is best summarized with this statement. I aspire to be an adventurous hobbit. Who do you want to be?
I did it! I successfully made beef stroganoff and it was delicious (and not all that difficult). As it turns out, all you really need are a crock pot, some veggies, sour cream, a little dijon mustard and a chuck steak. The rest is probably already in your pantry.
My Beef Stroganoff was plucked from the pages of this Cooking Light Slow Cooker recipe book and I will definitely be using it for more fabulous crock pot meals soon. After chopping all the ingredients, it was as easy as mixing them all in the pot and adjusting the dial to the appropriate setting. This recipe calls for 1 hour cooked on high heat and an additional 7 to 8 hours on low heat. However, I was on a bit of a deadline and ended up leaving it on high heat for a bit longer in order to cut down on the full cook time. It worked perfectly!
It wasn’t quite like my mom’s tomato sauce based stroganoff but somehow it still reminded me of her cooking. Simply follow the recipe for a hot and easy meal that will put a smile on your face after a long work day.
I’ve recently begun reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and although I’m only a few chapters in, this book is bursting with helpful tools to becoming your very best self. It’s so loaded with information that I ended up with pages of notes just from the first chapter. If you ever read this book as I sincerely hope you do, I highly recommend doing so with a pen and notebook handy. I also tend to highlight, circle, underline or notate my favorite quotes and tips in the book itself. You’ll get much more out of it if you are actively contemplating the information as you read. This is not a book that you read for the sake of reading. Pick it up with the intent to learn and I guarantee you will be amazed at the changes you’ll be inspired to make in your life.
It would be nearly impossible to articulate all the little improvements I’ve been motivated to attempt in a single blog post so instead, I thought I’d simply share my key takeaways from each chapter as I go. Here are a few of my favorite bits from chapter 1.
“Success is the product of daily habits - not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”
“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your results.”
“Mastery requires patience.”
Throughout this chapter, Clear returns to the idea of making one microscopic change every day until it becomes a habit (no wonder the book is called ‘Atomic Habits’). The payoff is often neither obvious nor immediate and people become discouraged before ever achieving that fabulous breakthrough that would have made everything worth it. I’ve been guilty of this far more frequently than I care to admit. I think I’m pretty good at motivating myself to change my ways but after a couple weeks I inevitably fall off the wagon. My exciting latest exercise regime or shiny new task management system never seems to work as quickly as it should. Completely overhauling my daily routine never turns out to be worth the effort and peters out eventually.
This is exactly the kind of situation that Clear’s book seeks to avoid. It’s not about rearranging your life in one day or even one week. Just complete a single extra task every day. It doesn’t have to be significant or life changing. Just do one thing differently. Clear speaks on the goal mentality that most people have when it comes to self improvement. They train for a specific race or diet to achieve a specific weight. What happens after that? The motivation that helps you get to those milestones doesn’t always carry you past them. Good habits can go by the wayside when the goal has been accomplished. I can pinpoint countless moments in my life when that is precisely what happened.
Thus, going forward the new idea that I will carry through my day-to-day after digesting the first chapter of Clear’s book is this. Don’t put happiness off until the next milestone.
Happy Monday everyone! It’s easy on days like these to beat myself up over all the things that I should have accomplished over the weekend but didn’t. But that rarely bodes well for the rest of the week and I’d like to start fresh. Instead of lamenting all the things that went wrong this weekend, here are a few things that went right.
Caught up with a friend over coffee – Most of my regular social groups have been on hold since the first COVID shutdowns so it was nice to meet face to face for a chat about all that’s happened in the last year.
Got involved at church – I have officially been recruited to assist with Life Teen ministry. I’m still not sure what inspired me to say yes to this but I’m so glad I did. Every week it seems like I’m signing up for something new and coming one step closer to this community.
Met a few new faces – The woman who befriended me and first invited me to join the Life Teen team is one of the most well connected people I’ve ever met. She’s a smiling face that everyone recognizes and loves to introduce this newcomer to all of her friends in the parish.
Finished the weekend with a clean kitchen – There’s still some meal prep left to do but it’s so much easier to approach a new week with a tidy kitchen. That early morning coffee is made all the better for it.
It snowed! – That’s a bit of an understatement. I came to a newfound appreciation for the term “lake effect” yesterday when I was digging a path for my car to back out of the apartment parking lot. Snow had piled up in great drifts on the right side of all the cars in the lot like it had been blizarding sideways for most of the night. Although I spent 20 minutes trying to extricate my car without a shovel and eventually ended up enlisting the help of some friendly apartment employees with a small snowplow, it all worked out in the end.
Little moments like these are necessary reminders that the world is full of good people who are happy and willing to lend a hand, whether it be to introduce you to new friends at church or to push your car to freedom on a snowy winter day.
It’s been a while since I posted about my favorite Little Golden Book but I recently had an exciting breakthrough in the kitchen and it seemed like a good time to revisit it. Learning to cook isn’t technically one of the golden book rules but it’s in keeping with the theme of trying new things. This week I attempted to make chicken and veggie stir fry and it turned out beautifully. Through a combination of this Broccoli and Chicken Stir-Fry recipe and a few helpful tips from my mom, this was a stunning success!
My last attempt at chicken stir fry was years ago during my days as a poor, starving college student. Having little cooking experience at that time, I dumped in way too much soy sauce to disastrous effect. The dish was so salty it was nearly inedible and I was never brave enough to give it another try. However, I’ve been craving the stuff ever since my mom made it during one of my Colorado visits and I was determined to get it right this time. Here are a few tips for avoiding my early mistakes and cooking up a delicious stir fry that’s bound to hit the spot.
Chop all your ingredients beforehand – Once your chicken is cooked, things will go very quickly. I used a bag of pre-chopped assorted vegetables which included broccoli, carrots and Snow Peas. To this I also added one small sweet onion, half of a red bell pepper for some color and sliced water chestnuts to give it some crunch (stir in the water chestnuts at the end).
Use LITE SOY SAUCE!!! – Trust me on this. Also, never wing it with your soy sauce measurement. Do it right. In this case, ⅔ of a cup was perfect.
Use fresh ginger – I grated a bit into my sauce mixture and also added some shredded ginger to my veggies as they cooked.
Use sesame oil – The recipe calls for vegetable oil but for the best flavor, I recommend cooking your chicken and veggies in sesame oil instead.
Don’t forget your red pepper flakes – They add a nice spice.
Steam your veggies – I cooked my chicken and veggies separately. I added a bit of water to my veggies on medium low heat for a few minutes to allow them to soften. I then added my cooked chicken back to the pot with my sauce mixture.
Serve it up on a pretty plate and you’ll have yourself a gourmet looking feast for four (or dinner for one for the whole week). Enjoy!
Everyone has a preferred local watering hole that they like to frequent on Friday nights with old college roommates or family members visiting for the weekend. From cozy meaderies to polished cocktail lounges, everybody has their own taste. In my case it is in the form of unique craft beers that come from the Goldspot Brewing Company in Arvada, Colorado. This inviting neighborhood brewery is owned and run by a true beer enthusiast and artist. It’s a place where everyone knows you and is happy to lend a hand in helping you choose the perfect beer. You’re bound to find something you’ll love with flavors like Kodiak Brown, Sea of Pears and Radiator American Lager.
An unofficial poll identified some of the top Goldspot beers although the list could go on for days.
Strawberry Imperial Brett Saison
Sudachi Lime Mexican Lager
Rum Red Hefferveisen
Every time I fly into Colorado to visit my family we always have to stop for a beer at the Goldspot. This particular pit stop is non-negotiable. I love my Colorado beer so much that we’ve even resorted to shipping it out to Indiana a few times to be enjoyed on the most special Midwestern occasions. However, I’m hunting for suitable substitutes here in Indiana and I welcome recommendations. What’s your favorite Indiana brewery? Share in the comments.