My 12 New Things

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Billie Jean King and Carolyn Mitchell Are Making Me Do It

I'm not what you would describe as athletic. If you've seen me try to do anything that remotely requires balance, coordination, or any type of physical skills this goes without saying. See my blog entry titled New Thing #1- Downhill Skiing if you doubt this.

I do try to keep in shape and enjoy a good workout. Sometimes I try harder than other times, but I do really believe that exercise helps you think better, feel better and make better choices. If you don't believe me, read Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina and SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John Ratey. I don't have to be good at team sports to have fitness as a part of my life. Which is a great disclaimer now because this will spare me the rolling of eyes and comments from my brother, "Shanna's athletic this month.. Riiiiight."

I was further inspired by an event I attended last week- the WIN for KC annual luncheon. WIN stands for Women's Intersport Network. Billie Jean King was the guest of honor and there were a number of other accomplished women that were also recognized.

You probably know who Billie Jean King is. I have to admit that I wasn't aware of all that she had accomplished until my husband's best friend, Matt Bell, educated me a few years ago by saying, "She's the reason you and all women are able to have the careers you do."

The WIN for KC program described Ms. King's accomplishments.

Bille Jean King has long been a champion for social change and equality. King created new inroads for women in sports and beyond during her legendary career, and she continues to make her mark today. Among her many accomplishements:
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Obama on August 12, 2009, in ceremonies at the White House.
  • Won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed double tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon.
  • Empowered women and educated men when she defeated Bobby Riggs in one of the greatest moments in sports history- the Battle of the Sexes in 1973. This match is remembered for its effect on society and its contribution to the women's movement.
  • Honored on August 28, 2006 when the National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of King's contributions to tennis, sports and society both on and off the court.
  • Founded the Women's Sports Foundation and co-founded World Team Tennis in 1974.
Ms. King was incredibly humble and inspiring in her presentation. She described how she's always just done  what needed to be done, regardless of the pressure placed on her at the time. I think that's a good lesson to learn- stay true to yourself and stand up for what you believe in and who knows what can happen. You just might change the world.

Another woman honored at the luncheon that changed my world was Carolyn Mitchell. She's a local 73 year old woman who has 5 grandchildren and works full-time for the Environmental Protection Agency. Oh yeah, and she's a marathon runner. She has completed 97 full marathons on her goal to 100. She's already accomplished some of her goals (as if the 97 isn't enough?!) by competing in marathons in all 50 states and one on each of the 7 continents. As if all of that wasn't impressive enough, Carolyn didn't start running until she was 50.

Carolyn's words of wisdom: "Don't be afraid to go for it. It's never too late to start, and you'd be amazed at what you can do."

Billie Jean King and Carolyn Mitchell have given me an idea. I'm no rockstar athlete, but let's see what I can do. New Thing #4 may just involve something of this nature.... Stay tuned to find out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Thing #3- February 2010- Eating Kind

I went 11 days without eating anything that formerly breathed. I also extremely limited my eggs and dairy intake, as well as scaled back on soda and processed foods. I'm not going to say that I'm going vegetarian or vegan for New Thing #3 because Lord knows my mom would stage an intervention. (Hi, Mom! You're probably my only reader, so don't get mad)!

What I AM doing is experimenting with "eating kind" as Alicia Silverstone calls it. She was on an episode of Oprah recently along with some other folks talking about healthy eating and encouraging people to take the time and spend a little more money at the grocery store on good healthy food rather than pay later with your health. 

First off, Alicia looked amazing. That made me want to do whatever she was doing. And second, I do what Oprah tells me to. Thus, New Thing #3 is me "eating kind" or as close to it as I can.

In Alicia's book, which I immediately purchased, Alicia describes what led her to writing a book on a plant based diet:

This is about being really, really good to yourself. The Kind Diet will give you tons of energy, mental clarity, gorgeous skin, and a zest for life you won't want to miss. Plus, it's powerful; doctors like Dean Ornish and John MacDougal have discovered that plant-based diets have the power to reverse heart disease, diabetes, even cancer. The kindness extends to the earth itself; because it requires less fuel, water and other precious resources, a plant-based diet is much lighter on the planet.

The gist of the diet is not to eat meat, dairy, eggs (any animal products), refined sugar or processed foods.

I don't know how far I'll take "eating kind." My goal was a full 7 days of eating as kind as I could and I made it. Immediately after the 7 day mark, to the hour,  I had about a 24 hour slip up over the weekend at my brother's house. No meat was involved but I did go wild on some processed foods. A Pepsi and some Doritos were involved. I was like a girl at Mardi Gras on her 21st birthday, visiting the Girls Gone Wild trailer. 

I quickly rebound and finished 11 days with no meat, limited dairy and no eggs. This may be a new lifestyle for me, but I may also incorporate some things back in limited amounts. I feel enlightened after having this experience and do actually feel better. I feel less weighed down after meals and my skin had been breaking out because of stress and now it's cleared up substantially. I've also lost a few pounds. My husband and daughter are also on board! We'll see what happens, but for now we're calling this a succesful completion of New Thing #3!

Spaghetti squash with marinara, lima beans and asparagus. It even works toddler-style!

New Thing #2- January 2010- Communicating Competently

I've never gotten super excited about public speaking. I'm okay at it and I put myself out there from time to time because I like the idea of being a good public speaker, but don't always feel like I can deliver the way that I want to. I am a perfectionist and I want to be good at everything. Which isn't always the case, needless to say.

I joined a Toastmasters group called Professionally Speaking in September and had an aggressive 12 week plan to complete my 10 speeches. I thought if I just jumped in, it would scare me straight and I'd be cured at the end of it. My 12 week plan turned in to more of a 20 week plan because things just got busy at work and at home,  next Christmas came along and I was out of town. Then I got cold feet for a couple of weeks because my last two projects focused on objectives I was avoiding- vocal variety and body language. In the last week of January I finally completed my Competent Communicator manual. New Thing #2.

I enjoyed writing my speeches, especially if I felt like I was educating my audience in some way. I had a couple of topics that were my stand-by things I was passionate about- I shared money saving strategies, couponing techniques and goal setting.

Throughout the course of my public speaking journey, I've learned that you can't fake passion or your amount of knowledge on a subject. What I ran into was that I was so excited about the topics that I would get nervous about how to compress the information in a concise way that could be understood clearly.

I was super ambitious and committed the first 8 speeches. I would outline my topic, put my notes in an outline on notecards, rehearse for hours, and usually practice in front of my Toastmasters mentor several days before my scheduled speech. I recieved really positive feedback throughout the experiences and was hoping that at the completion of my Competent Communicator manual I would be a rockstar. I was already envisioning the proud feeling of accomplishment when I finished my final speech.

That's not exactly how it went.

I think I believed that if I pushed myself to do 10 speeches in only a few months, I would be someone else at the end of it. I realize now that I had envisioned myself as a confident, eloquent motivational speaker at the completion of my Competent Communucator manual. I remember even scoffing at the title of the manual when I first got it. "Competent Communicator? That's like striving to be Fairly Adequate! If I'm going to put time and energy into this, I'm want to be awesome at the end of it!"

Awesome was what I was expecting with my final speech. Awesome I was not.

I guess I must have set myself up a little. Body language and movement during a speech is one of my biggest challenges and I put that speech off until the end. I didn't rehearse like I should have or even as much as I did for previous speeches. I was hoping to counter the "analysis paralysis" by not overthinking it or over rehearsing it and instead ended up feeling ill prepared.

I let myself think that since I'd done pretty well giving other speeches throughout the course of my time with Toastmasters that I could wing it to some extent on the 10th one. In all honesty, I was just plain avoiding it.

I also set myself up in the expectation department. I should have known that 10 speeches under my belt wouldn't magically undo all of my habits around public speaking. I am a true perfectionist. I remember how it felt after skiing in December- I thought that was as far out of my comfort zone that I could get and that every month it would get easier to put myself out there and do new things. I know now that's not the case. Every new thing I do will be pushing me and making me uncomfortable, or it should, for it to be meaningful.

This is why some people never exit their comfort zone. It's hard. In essence I'm risking my dignity and putting myself out there to potentially fall on my face, both literally and figuratively. That's the thing about setting goals and stepping out of your comfort zone- it may not feel good at the time. It may not feel good after the fact, like in this circumstance. But, I did what I set out to do. That's something. I realized too, that in this process of new experiences, I'm not only learning new skills I'm also learning a few things about myself. Sorry to go all "I'm trying to find myself" here, but this was definitely a good learning experience that will help me grow as a person.

Just the other night I read this in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and thought it was appropriate:

Through our human endowments of self-awareness and conscience, we become conscious of areas of weakness, areas for improvement, areas of talent that could be developed, areas that need to be changed or eliminated from our lives. Then, as we recognize and use our imagination and independent will to act on that awareness- making promises, setting goals, and being true to them- we build the strength of character, the being, that makes possible every other positive thing in our lives. 

It is here that we find two ways to put ourselves in control of our lives immediately. We can make a promise- and keep it. Or we can set a goal- and work to achieve it. As we make and keep commitments, even small commitments, we begin to establish an inner integrity that gives us the awareness of self-control and the courage and strength to accept more of the responsibility for our own lives. My making and keeping promises to ourselves and others, little by little,our honor becomes greater than our moods.

Even though I didn't magically turn into Zig Ziglar at the completion of my 10 projects, I'm proud of myself for trying and am now starting my advanced Toastmasters manual. I have to believe that the more I work on this, the more comfortable I will get. And I'm not stopping until I'm awesome.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

New Thing #1- December 2009- Attempted Downhill Skiing

In true overachiever fashion, I began my New Year's Resolution of 12 New Things in 2010 in December of 2009.

If you know me, you're probably aware that I've always felt the most comfortable with my feet firmly on the ground. This preference, coupled with my fear of heights, made skiing something I was always to terrified to even fathom trying. It had never even crossed my mind to attempt, but when visiting family in Northern Michigan, my in-laws were taking my nephews to the nearby slopes. I thought to myself, "if small children can do this,  then I can too." I wasn't about to be trumped by a 5 year old.

The destination was Nub's Nob in Harbor Springs, Michigan and my goal was to make it down the bunny slope without breaking my legs or tearing up a kneecap.

Being a sensible gal, I signed up for a group lesson to learn the ropes. Looking back, the whole thing was a little like an out-of-body experience. I checked my dignity at the boot rental counter and hobbled to the great unknown.

My instructor was an older gentleman and a 20+ year veteran of ski instruction. I was thanking my lucky stars that my instructor wasn't of the young, hipster crowd. At least with a fatherly figure I could bear the embarrassment of my lack of skills without wanting to pop someone in the nose.

The next 90 minutes were some of the most humiliating of my life. I hobbled past skiing and snowboarding toddlers. Their self confidence made me want to vomit.

I was with a group- a pretty young woman who looked like she was here with friends or a boyfriend and she was the only one who didn't know how to ski, a woman and her boyfriend/ husband who patiently took the lesson with her, and three children. I immediately scoped out the least skilled and stood near them so as to not stand out.

We learned how to snap our boots into our skis and then how to snap them out. We learned to make our way up the tiniest side of a hill in a horizontal fashion so as to not slide backwards. One by one we went uphill, then back downhill. It was no more than 10 feet of a slight incline, but it could have been the Rockies in my eyes. I fell at least twice within the first half hour. I learned how to get up without dislocating a hip. That, in itself, was an accomplishment.

When it came time to brave the lift, the instructor singled me out and called me from the back of the group to ride with him. I wanted to think it was because of my stunning good looks, but on the way up he informed me that he'd chosen me because I seemed to be the most likely to hurt myself and I was without a partner. Thanks for the overwhelming vote of confidence, guy.

No amount of preparation readied me for the dismount of the lift. Kersplat. The instructor had to yell for the operator to stop the lift while I navigated my rear from around my legs. I didn't even have time to be mortified. I was focused on surviving and not getting my head taken off.

We'd made it to the top of the bunny slope and I was terrified. It was a long way down and I'd already learned in my class that falling didn't necessarily mean you stopped. I was an experienced faller at that point and at the bottom of the hill was a large, sturdy building. Somewhere between the top of the bunny slope and that building, I was going to have to learn how to stop.

And I did. Without even falling. Even more surprising was the 90 seconds in there when I wasn't in absolute misery. In those brief seconds, I thought skiing could potentially be enjoyable.

Upon making it safely down to level ground and finishing my lesson, I immediately called it a day. I turned in my rented skis with a sigh of relief and a sense of renewal- retrieving my dignity in the process. I could go back to the world that hadn't seen me at my most uncoordinated and thought maybe, just maybe, I'll brave the slopes again someday.

It is safe to say that I was waaaay out of my comfort zone on this one. But, I made it through uninjured and my self confidence gradually resurfaced.  New Thing Number 1 accomplished. Numbers 2-10.... bring it on!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Here We Go...

In December I read a book called Where Will You Be in 5 Years? and it inspired me to think about who I ultimately want to be and what I'm currently doing about it. The book is full of great quotes. Here are a few that stuck out to me:

Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.

Live your life on purpose. The best day of your life is the day in which you decide your life is your own. No one to lean on, rely on or blame. The gift of life is yours, it is an amazing journey and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. Life is about the choices you make- choose wisely. Choose your guiding stars- values and mission.

The book also walks you through exercises to defining your personal mission. Based on that, here is what I came to....

My top 5 values are Family, Faith, Learning, Integrity and Adventure

My personal mission statement
To make the world a better place for my grandkids and for those not fortunate enough to have me as a grandmother.

The mission statement was written a little tongue-in-cheek, but in essence, I'm looking to make a difference in not only the lives of those I love, but also people that I won't ever know.

Who are the people I like and respect the most and why
My dad- he's always dreaming big. My mom- she's always the biggest cheerleader for everyone around her. My husband- he views life with a great sense of humor and nothing ever seems to phase him for long.

In addition to answering the above questions, the book inspires goalsetting in various facets of life: Family, Spiritual, Relationships, Romance, Travel, Adventure, Charitable, Recreation, Education, Financial, Health and Career.

In this, I learned that I can't bury myself in tasks or in a book to become the well-rounded individual I ultimately want to be. It's life experiences that will guide me and therefore, I must make time for them.

I made a list of some notable experiences so far in my life that have meant something to me. I:

  • have stood on the roof of the Washington National Cathedral.
  • grew up on a ranch that my family has owned for 150+ years.
  • have visited 26 of the 50 States, Mexico and Canada.
  • attended a Pat Benetar and Blondie concert on a whim- just by showing up and asking for free tickets.
  • have visited the Grand Canyon.
  • have seen some amazing lighthouses while sailing at sunset around the Portland Bay in Portland, Maine.
  • have seen Frank Sinatra's Acapulco, Mexico home.
  • visited Canada to go shopping.
  • watched cliffdivers dive into water 30+ feet below.
  • have visted many of the museums and national memorials in Washington, D.C. a number of times.
  • have been in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  • stood on a mountain in Colorado that my family has owned for generations.
  • tubed down a river in Tennessee.
  • sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" with Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary.
  • watched a street artist create incredible paintings on a sidewalk in Tampa, Florida with canvas, spray paint, plates and fire.
  • worked in production on two independent films.
  • finished a Bachelor's degree by the age of 21 and Master's at 25.
At the end of my life, I want this list of life experiences and adventures, as well as my accomplishments to be what defines me rather than what house I lived in, car I drove, clothes I wore, etc.

To continue to expand my horizons and experience life that will give me perspective to accomplish the things I really want to, I have committed to exploring new things throughout 2010. I will experience one new thing a month. It has to be substantial in some way and has to push my limits no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

Here we go...

P.S. I've also never blogged before. This experience will be new all the way around.