Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meet Sam

This is Sam, also known as "Toucan Sam".  From his profile shot you can see why someone a the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (CASPCA) gave him that name - he's got quite the schnoz.  At our house, however, he's just known as Sam...or Sammy...or Sammy Boy...or Sweet Sammy...

Who is Sam?
Sam is our current foster dog from the CASPCA.  He's been with us for less than 72 hours but you'd think he'd been here is his whole life.  He's that comfortable already.

Sam is the 4th foster dog we've had in the past two years. And yes, it's always super hard to give them back when their time with us is up and no, it does not easier.  More than anything, however, it is worth it because we know in our hearts that the time spent with our family helped that dog not just during the time he/she was with us, but after returning to the shelter, as well (so far we have a 100% adoption-within- 24-hours-of-return rate).

We don't know much about Sam's life before he came to the CASPCA but it's pretty obvious he had a rough go.  In addition to the large bump on his nose (that we assume is calcification from previously broken bones), one of his legs is a little shorter than the other (the result of a break that didn't heal properly) and he recently had a toe amputated (again due to prior injury).  Don't feel sorry for Sam though.  He doesn't let any of those things slow him down.  He's completely healthy, full of energy and he runs, jumps, skips and hops as well as any other kangaroo...I mean, dog.  

So, what is Sam like?
All kidding aside, this dog is awesome. I'm pretty sure that if you looked up "Alpha Dog" in a thesaurus (or on thesaurus.com - nobody uses books anymore, right?) "Scout" would be listed as a synonym for "Alpha Dog". Sam, on the other hand, would the first on the list of antonyms. There is not one alpha bone in this dog's body.  This has proven quite beneficial for both dogs this week, as Scout gets to flex his muscles every once and awhile and Sam gets to think Scout is playing with him.  Eventually Scout snaps loud enough that Sam rolls over on his back in complete submission and the game is over. Don't tell Sam that though, he thinks it's just getting started.  

Adopt Sam

Sam will be with us for two weeks before heading back to the CASPCA.  Due to his injuries he's been there for quite awhile healing and just needed a little "vacation" from shelter life.  During his time with us he is still able to be adopted so if you're looking for a sweet, loving, affectionate, active-but-not-too-active dog to be your best friend - come meet Sammy.  He just might be the one!   


While taking a walk a few weeks after my grandmother's death back in 2003 my aunt noticed a beautiful, red cardinal perched on a tree. A few days later she saw another. And  another just a few days later.  

While cardinals are not unheard of in southern Minnesota, it's rare enough that seeing one feels pretty special and seeing several is quite momentous.  So when  my aunt continued to see what appeared to be that same cardinal again and again, she confided in my mom that she couldn't help but feel like that bird was my grandma watching over her.

I, in turn, thought this was crazy and became immediately concerned with how my aunt was dealing with her grief. Lutherans don't believe in reincarnation.  Besides, if grandma did come back, why in the world would she choose a cardinal, of all things?  

A few years later, however, I changed my tune.

Leaving Omaha for Charlottesville was quite difficult for me. My weight sky-rocketed as I numbed my dipping, swirling emotions with food.  By the time we reached our new home I was weighing in at nearly 200 pounds, a place I'd never imagined I'd be.

Walking Scout around the lake in our neighborhood one morning I started to cry.  I couldn't believe I'd let things get so out of control and was struggling to see how I'd pull it together.  As I contemplated the depths of my misery I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up to find a beautiful red cardinal staring straight at me.

I continued to walk Scout along this path for the next few weeks, often seeing my cardinal friend perched in the trees around me.  While I didn't believe in the possibility of my grandma's soul being locked inside this little bird, I also couldn't explain the strange sense of peacefulness I received every time I saw it. It was like the woman I had admired and adored my whole life was there, watching over me.

It wasn't long before I found out that seeing a cardinal in Virginia isn't quite the celebratory affair that it is in Minnesota (it's the State Bird, after all!) and that the bright red cardinals are actually the males and therefore, definitely not Grandma.  By then, however, I was receiving such a strong (and admittedly odd) sense of comfort from our encounters that I wasn't willing to let go of it.

Over time I began to pull out of my depression. My little walks around the lake turned into much longer walks (and eventually runs) that took me on trails and paths all around town. Somehow Grandma always seemed to find me. Sometimes she even brought Grandpa, which was really special to me because he passed away before I was born.  

At times I would hear Grandma telling me how proud she was of me. Other times her words of encouragement were designed to keep me going while struggling up a hill or through the end of a sprint.  And, on occasion, she was kind enough to remind me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get my ass moving (though I'm fairly sure the human Grandma never would've said 'ass').

It's been five years since we moved to Charlottesville and I'm happy to report that Grandma is still watching over me. To this day I always make a point of acknowledging her when I see her.  It's usually nothing more than a "Hey Gram!" or "What's up, Grampa?" but for some reason I feel like I have to do it.  Wouldn't want her to feel like I don't appreciate her support, ya know?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Something's Fishy

I am painfully aware that a major part of my weight problem revolves around food. (Duh!) The problem is actually a lot more complex than just overeating - it's deeply rooted and emotional, blah, blah, blah.  

If I've learned anything from this journey over the past few years, however, it's that trying to deal with too many big things at once just sets me up for failure. For that reason I'm going to attempt to go at this slowly, but surely.   

To begin with I will focus mainly on starting to cook. As a 39 year old mother of two who just celebrated 14 years of marriage you'd probably think this was something I had been doing for quite some time.  If you knew the Spicy Chicken, however, you'd understand why I've never felt like it was worthwhile for me to take it on. Ironic, isn't it, that someone with weight issues like mine married a fabulous cook?

The thing is, the Spicy Chicken travels half the month, leaving me to fend for the 3 of us at the table more often than not. While I don't feed my kids junk on a daily basis I've been known to cook the same basic meals ad nauseum and/or give up and claim "tonight is our one night to go out".  

After stepping on the scale this morning I've come to realize that all that eating out (and the "just one" glass of wine it usually includes) has gotten me back in to major trouble.  It HAS TO STOP NOW!

There are a million theories about what "healthy eating" is but it's fairly widely accepted that fish is a good choice (especially if you choose to ignore the whole mercury poisoning thing).  Though I love fish I rarely ever eat it and am quite intimidated by the thought of cooking it.  Therefore, one of my goals on this little "cooking expedition" is to eat fish at least twice a week.  

So how does someone who just recently touched a whole, raw chicken for the first time go about cooking something as delicate as fish?  You Google "easy fish recipes" and pick the one with the fewest ingredients and shortest amount of instructions, of course!

I was excited that one of the first recipes that came up in my search was Fast Fish Tacos from Recipe Girl.  Not only do I absolutely love fish tacos, I reasoned that if I screwed the fish up I could at least hide it under a pile of salsa.  I realize this recipe isn't rocket science - it's actually about as easy as it can get - but it I'm a big believer in celebrating even the little victories and for me, fish tacos falls under that heading.  

(via Recipe Girl)


  • 1 pound boneless & skinless tilapia fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces, rinsed & patted dry
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons fresh salsa
  • 12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
  • Optional garnishes: cheese, cilantro, lime, avocado


  • Heat broiler, with rack in highest position. Place fish on rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil & season with salt and pepper. Broil until fish is lightly browned on top, 5-10 minutes, until flesh is opaque throughout.
  • Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix sour cream with 2 Tablespoons fresh salsa.
  • Divide fish evenly among tortillas and top with shredded cabbage, sour cream, salsa and other garnishes of your choice.

I laid aluminum foil down on the pan before cooking because
I really hate scrubbing pans, especially sticky, crusty fishy ones.

It really doesn't get any easier than that, does it? 

Though I did make the sour cream/salsa mixture
I found that fresh ingredients like cilantro, lime, red onion, avocado
and salsa were all I needed as garnish
(and eliminated the extra calories from the sour cream)

Throw on a few healthy slices of avocado and some 
fresh-from-Whole-Foods salsa
and it's time for dinner!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

3 Days

I've been trying for months to write about the amazing journey I will be embarking on October 12-14 in memory of my good friend, Chrissy Chadwick.  Today I finally decided that I just needed to start typing - before it was too late. For that reason I'm sure this won't be my most poetic post and I know it won't do Chrissy justice, but you know me, Chrissy, did you really expect I wouldn't procrastinate?

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day is a 60-mile walk that takes place over the course of three days. The race takes place in on different weekends in 14 different cities through the U.S. I will be walking in Washington, D.C. in October.

I've heard that the emotional aspects of the walk are as difficult as the physical. I can't say I know how to prepare for that, or if I'm even ready to confront those emotions yet, but I'm going to because I feel so strongly about the importance of investing in breast cancer research and community programs after watching what Chrissy and her family went through. 

This the first time I've done this walk, though I can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, I'd had raised the mandatory $2300 a few years ago I'd be doing this walk "In Honor of..." instead of "In Memory of..."

I'll be honest, when Chrissy received her initial diagnosis it never crossed my mind that she might not beat it.  This was CHRISSY, after all.  Sure, she barely reached 5 feet tall, but every inch of that girl was full of fire. Nothing or nobody beat Chrissy.  Just ask the guys in the greased watermelon contest - or on the volleyball court - or the Sweet Adelines competition - or her running partners - or her kids...Cancer had picked the wrong girl to mess with.  

So when the first six months of chemo, surgeries, sickness, emotions and everything else that comes with the disease ended I really believed her battle was over. I believed that up until the day she died. She did, too. 

Chrissy was the definition of strength. There wasn't a sport she couldn't play - a race she couldn't run - a challenge she couldn't face.  She was the type of person that did everything & anything and somehow had time left to embroider it all neatly on a pillow she'd sown by hand.  If there was something that needed to be done she did it, often without saying a word about it - she just did it.  I've always wanted to be more like that.

This time it's my turn to get the job done.  But I can't be quite about it. I need  to tell anyone and everyone about what I am doing because while I can't bring Chrissy back, I can help ensure that someone else doesn't have to endure what she and her family did.  I'm walking these miles in her memory, but also in celebration of the person she was and for the people who will beat this disease in the future. For her kids - so they know that while losing their mom was heart-breaking and unfair it was not in vain, as something good just has to come out of this.

This spring several of Chrissy's girlfriends got tattoos in her honor and memory (she had wanted one).  This is mine (sorry, only photo I have was taken immediately after getting it done).  I chose the symbol for strength to remind me not only of who Chrissy was but also to reminder myself that I, too, am strong and that it's my job to continue to fight.  I know she will be with me the entire 3 days of this walk (probably coming up with strategies on how I could improve my time...) and she will share her strength with me just like she always did when she was here. 

Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk requires each participant to raise a minimum of $2300 for the cause. Though my dad may disagree, I've never been good at asking for money (which has  hindered my work in non-profit and sales just a bit!) so I'm just going to put it out there now. If you feel compelled I would be grateful for your your support as I take this amazing journey in the fight to end breast cancer - any amount is appreciated.  

(BTW, you can read more about Chrissy here and here). 


To Do

This SpongeBob picture pretty much explains why you haven't seen me here few awhile. The last few months went like this: I got sick - I got sicker -  I got better - I got sick again - I got depressed  - I got lazy - I got sick AGAIN - I got fat - I got frustrated - I got better again...and at some point I pretty much just gave up.  

What I learned this summer was this - doing nothing is a lot easier than doing something. It doesn't, however, make you happier and it certainly doesn't make you healthier.

Okay, I knew that already but it took hitting pretty close to rock bottom before I could actually admit it.  

Important part, however, I am  - once again - working my way back up again. I gained over 15 pounds in the past few months - UGH - but I'm confident I can get it back off again. Why? Because I have a plan, and as my good friend Sissa always says, "You've gotta have a plan!"

So here's my plan: 
  1. Clay 
  2. Tennis 
  3. Yard 
  4. Disney
Yep, that's all I've got right now.  But read on and you'll understand.  There is usually a method to my madness.  Usually.

1. Clay 

When my illness cycle started this spring (which began with the poison ivy I told you about in June) I could barely muster up the energy to get through the basics of the day, let alone exercise.  I was hopped up on so many antihistamines, steroids painkillers, and, if we're being honest, vodka, that I was either in a fog or a fit. (It wasn't pretty). I missed the end of the spring session and the start of the summer one. Two weeks ago, however,  I sent an SOS to Hyam.  I really needed her help. Within 24 hours she had me back in classes and working on a plan for the fall. Hopping back into the cycling class was not, unfortunately, "just like riding a bike" but I survived and am going back for more! 

2. Tennis 

I played tennis in high school and although I really love the game, that was about the last time I picked up a racket.    At the prompting of my friend Tracey, however, I finally got back out there this year. I had a blast attending "Ladies Night" at Fairview, playing with the Spicy Chicken every Sunday and catching an extra night of drills occasionally. Though I'm still nowhere near as good as I'd like to be (or as I used to be) it's slowly coming back and I'm having a lot of fun.  An extra bonus is quality time with both Tracey and the Spicy Chicken!

3. Yard
It's no TRX class, but we have 2.2 acres of built-in strength training just waiting out there for me.  Other than mowing, prior to our moving in nothing had been done to the land for quite awhile.  I've spent hours upon hours out there this summer and my muscles - especially those that I never knew I had - will attest to the fact that it is indeed a workout.  And, if nothing else, it's healthier than sitting on the couch, watching the Olympics and eating bonbons.

4. Disney

We took the girls to Disney in 2008 in the middle of summer (stupid, I know, but I had a conference).  It was fun but really freakin' hot so we ended up spending more time at water parks than amusement parks.  For several years we've talked about taking them back before they're too old (and yes, I realize many of you will say you're never too old for Disney, but my list of "Places I Want Us to Visit" is long so Disney can only take up so much space).  While planning the trip this year I decided that coupling it with my desire to complete a Half Marathon made sense. Okay, so it doesn't really make sense, but ever since my friend Robyn did the Disney Princess Half Marathon last year I've had a strange desire to cross the finish line with Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. Plus it'd be a fun to check "Do Half Marathon" and "Take Kids to Disney" off my list at the same time!  Even better, the Spicy Chicken has a conference there this winter and has almost committed to doing it with me.  If I can get him to commit I think his dad, who is a seasoned marathoner, may join us, too. 

Okay, so that's my plan for staying back on track.  I realize this does not address my eating or drinking, which are major factors in my weight problem.  They are, of course, a part of my plan, just not the part I'm ready to deal with yet.  So in the meantime...

5. Cheers!
I'm just kidding, of course. I am working on the food and drink thing too - it just would've been to long to write about that here too (and I just love this photo I took while the Spicy Chicken and I were staying at the cabin at DelFosse Vineyards this summer).