Saturday, February 08, 2014

Product Review: The Firm Zip Medicine Ball Kit: First Impressions

If you want the shorter review, I posted it on and you can read it here

The Firm Zip Medicine Ball Kit is from Gaiam, a company which I trust nearly implicitly.  I own more than one of Gaiam's DVDs, use a yoga mat from one of their yoga kits, and often recommend their products to others because they are typically a reliable source of quality fitness resources.  Although I have heard of The Firm, I have never before ordered anything from them.  But with the Gaiam name attached, I couldn’t resist giving this new kit a try, especially when I read that it not only included cardio and strength exercises but some that helped improve balance. And given the trouble I sometimes have with my knees, the idea of kneeling on the unzipped ball definitely appealed to me.  I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t add these DVDs to my collection and start using them.  I chose to replace my boot camp workouts two days a week with these DVDs. 

Day One:  I did the Jumpstart workout with Emily, which is designed to teach the user the eight basic moves used throughout the DVDs.  The suggestion was to not use the medicine ball or the core ball which was easy enough to do.  After all, she herself is not using them.  I did all of the moves to the best of my ability but felt very uncoordinated and clumsy and I practically stumbled my way through some of the moves. Still, I broke a sweat and hoped that maybe it just takes a little practice.   On the plus side, she showed various modifications that could be made when trying to do a burpee and I now know what to do when I am doing a DVD that wants me to do one and I know my balance won’t allow me to follow along.

Day Two:  I did the Sculpt 1 workout with Stephanie.  She explains that you do not need to use the medicine ball or the core ball and indicates that if you need an easier workout, you can follow along with one of the other two people in the room with her.  Or, if you need to amp it up a bit, you can follow along with the other of the two.  Fair enough.  The only problem is, all three are using the balls so it seems disingenuous to say “You don’t need them” if at no point will anyone show you how to do any of the exercises without using them.  So if you can keep up while trying to find your own ways of modifying the moves, that’s great.  If you can’t, you’ll probably be like me, once again feeling clumsy and inadequate.  I ended up using the balls and I didn’t understand why the workout wasn’t better designed so that you would not have to zip and unzip the medicine ball so frequently.  This is especially odd because the booklet that comes with the kit specifically advises you to tuck the zipper in the “garage” but there simply is not enough time to do this before the instructor is telling you to start moving. 

Someone tell me how you are supposed not need to use the ball when the instructions repeatedly tell you to use it for balance?  It simply doesn’t make sense.  Oh and you’ll definitely need it for the cool down stretches.  Especially for someone like me who has a problem with her balance. Nonetheless, I had as much success with this workout as I did with the Jumpstart thinking that maybe I could catch on to the routines with a little practice. 

Day Three:  I did the Jumpstart and Cardio workout with Allie.  I still found the same section on the Jumpstart confusing.  Oh well.  I need more practice, I guess.  But the cardio workout with Allie didn’t leave me feeling like I’d ever catch on.  Once again, the viewer is told you don’t need the ball but the fact is you do.  Too many of the exercises are too confusing without them.  Like, how are you supposed to roll the ball from side to side?  I guess you have to use your imagination.  It was confusing when Allie told us to do a Mambo or Cha-Cha, neither of which had been part of either of the other workouts I’d already tried and when you’re moving quickly from movement to movement, by the time I figured out what the heck I was supposed to be doing, she was moving onto something else.  Naturally I struggled with some of the things that required more balance—like holding out first one leg and then the other.  I basically felt lost and confused through most of the workout. 

I don’t know about you but I don’t like to feel defeated while exercising.

Day Four:  I was a little more ambitious on this day, or aspired to be more ambitious anyway.  I first chose to do the Barefoot Abs with Alison.  There was one move in particular I found to be ridiculous.  Remember, every time they tell you to not use the medicine ball if this is your first time but then you’re supposed to get down on your knees.  First, you lean back, which is a very good core workout but obviously it will be more comfortable if you are kneeling on the ball and not on the floor.  Then you are supposed to do a kneel-stand-kneel movement starting first with the right foot and then the left.  Because you are kneeling on the ball and then standing on the ball, this requires a lot of balance.  Fact is, for something that’s supposed to improve balance, it would nice if it didn’t require so much balance to begin with.  I was not pleased. 

Once again, I did the Jumpstart workout, still hoping I’d catch on to the various movements and become comfortable.  I think I did a little better but I can’t say I felt it went especially well.  I then tried to the AMP Reps.  (AMP Reps = As Many Possible Reps, in case you’re wondering.)  I didn’t even get past the warm-up when Emily had us go from a runner’s lunge, step back to a plank, and then back to the runner’s lunge.  Again, these are moves that require balance, more balance than I have, obviously. 

I have no trouble following along with the boot camp workouts I do.  I can do yoga with Rodney Yee or Shiva Rea.  I’ve used TonyHorton’s P90 and 10 Minute Trainer.  I have more than a few of Leslie Sansone’s DVDs.  But these DVDs from The Firm?   Well, right now I am putting them on the shelf until I finish the boot camp.  Then and only then will I give them another try.  And I mean I’ll really try them.  The kit comes with a booklet that outlines a 60 day plan for when you will do each of the workouts.  This is a good idea.  With 8 different workouts, it’s easy to only do the ones you enjoy.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who avoids doing things she doesn’t enjoy doing?  Although I won't follow the menu plan, I'll even sign up for the 60 days free community access.  I think the only way I can give a full review for the product is to make full use of it.  

Friday, February 07, 2014

Weekly Quotes 2014 #5

Rather, courage is the ability to do two things.  It is the ability to see good in the distance and take a step toward it—despite obvious risks.  It is also the ability to see evil close at hand and take steps to confront it—despite present danger.  (169)

My immediate past comes into my present experience with the force of necessity.  (176)

Freedom is a function not of independence but of reciprocity.  Our freedom to create more value in our own lives depends, ultimately, upon our commitment to use our agency to create a world that contains more value for everyone else as well.  (181)

Because you are free to take personally all the beauty in the world, you are also obligated to take personally all its ugliness.  (183)

When people reject the claims of traditional religion, they usually reject as well the need to take religion seriously.  Even if they occasionally attend services, they tend to be looking for spiritual enrichments rather than another world to live in.  A concert on Thursday evening, dinner with friends on Friday evening, a hike around the lake on Saturday, and an hour of worship on Sunday:  a dash of spirituality adds a moral patina to a life that otherwise revolves around individual plans and purposes.  (203)

As you take your first steps, look around for a like-minded congregation to share the journey—a place where you can belong.  This may be difficult:  the religious landscape in our nation is dominated by communities that define themselves by outmoded beliefs, as well as by individuals who embrace a solitary—or no spirituality at all.  None of these approaches yield ultimate meaning, however, which is why a satisfying faith requires a journey.  (212-213)

The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology.  That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is—not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both.  (262)

It’s been necessary since before Socrates to reject the passions, the emotions, in order to free the rational mind for an understanding of nature’s order which was as yet unknown.  Now it’s time to further an understanding of nature’s order by reassimilating those passions which were originally fled from.  The passions, the emotions, the affective domain of man’s consciousness, are a part of nature’s order too.  The central part.  (264)

The inner peace of mind occurs on three levels of understanding.  Physical quietness seems the easiest to achieve, although there are levels and levels of this too, as attested by the ability of Hindu mystics to live buried alive for many days.  Mental quietness, in which one has no wandering thoughts at all, seems more difficult, but can be achieved.  But value quietness, in which one has no wandering desires at all but simply performs the acts of his life without desire, that seems the hardest.  (265)

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.  (267)

There’s no way to bullshit our way into looking good on a mechanical repair job, except with someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing.  (283)

It’s easier in the short run to accept worry’s control and choose to step back from life. We understand this stance, because without any effective strategies to handle worry, children protect themselves from more hurt. Avoidance, once again, is reinforced. When they come up against fear or uncertainty, they stop. If I have to feel like this to get to that, they tell themselves, then why bother? 

American author James Baldwin wrote, “Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.” 

Denying what you want—and accepting anxiety’s demands to stay stuck—is an emotional crutch that needs to change. 

Worries are going to show up as we try new activities. We do not have to get rid of them, but we do have to manage them. How? When we experiment with new behavior, we manage our worries by being willing to not know how well we will perform. We also have to trust that we can cope with the different possible outcomes. We need to know what we want and feel determined to get it. Then we need to be willing to put up with some hard times and some uncertainty, because the potential benefit is worth the risk. 

Worry is a natural part of learning and growing; we are going to expect it, move toward it, and even voluntarily accept it because it’s an inevitable part of going after what we want in life. (kindle)

Even a priest may doubt. Even a prophet may know terror.

Women bring life into the world. We bring the gift of death. No one can do both.

All gods have their instruments, men and women who serve them and help to work their will on earth.

No matter where he went in this wide world, his fears went with him.

It is being common-born that is dangerous, when the great lords play their game of thrones. . . .

Younger By the Day

[A] journal documents your process while it supports your progress.  (9)

Our culture as a whole is trained to see young women.  There are proportionally far more of them on magazine covers, on TV, and in films than in the actual population.  As a result, we have a citizenry taught to see the young and ignore the not-so-young. It isn’t conscious; it’s Pavlovian.  (13)

When you take control of your time, you take control of your life.  (16)

Although we’re partial to moments that have passed and those yet to come, this moment is the only one we really get.  (17)

In this moment, there is plenty of time.  In this moment, you are precisely as you should be.  In this moment, there is infinite potential.  (17)

In the four-season paradigm, middle age is earmarked for branching out and extending your influence as far as it can go.  (19)

If you make [plans], they might not turn out.  If you don’t, they will not.  Give yourself the best odds for the best life.  (28)

We may not get a lot of say about our big-time troubles, but the little things, the annoyances and aggravations that crop up every day, we can either make short work of or ignore entirely. . . . Value serenity more and winning less. . . . See how pleasant it feels to choose peace over chaos. (37)

Life is a parade of changes unfolding through every day we live.  (39)

But I don’t have finesse.  I have panic attacks and my family’s genetic tendency to talk too fast when upset. (64-65)

She could have been immobilized, but instead she acted to defend and even define herself.  (291)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Six Years Unemployed and Counting

This month marks my sixth anniversary.  That’s right; I’ve been looking for work for six years and so far I have had a little success but, with each year, my success seems to diminish.  The requests for interviews are fewer and farther between.  Which is why I am so very grateful for the opportunity to earn some income, helping self-published writers edit and proofread their manuscripts. 

It’s easy to get discouraged.  But that would serve no purpose.  So what do I do?

Keep applying for jobs.

I have several alerts set up for various jobs, most of them requiring less skills than I can actually offer.  With 10+ years of administrative assistant experience, I am applying for anything from receptionist to administrative assistant (duh).  I also apply for seasonal employment positions in various retail locations.  I have retail experience selling everything from fast food to clothing to books.  So it’s not that I feel I’m too good for minimum wage.  Heck, I make below minimum wage doing the proofreading.  That’s not the point. I’m just trying to make a steady income.

I did some volunteer work.
For over three years, I did volunteer work in hopes of getting new opportunities.  I finally decided that I can’t afford to give my skills away.  If someone wants me to write/edit/proofread then I will be paid to do it.  If I do not value my talents, why should anyone else?  It was nice to help other people fulfill their goals and dreams, to open new doors and new opportunities for them, but, when I asked one person to write me a letter of recommendation and all he did was send me an attachment of a .doc that he didn’t even sign and wasn’t on letterhead, I had enough.  I think I deserve better and I won’t settle for less.  Minimum wage is better than nothing.  Volunteer work that wasn’t even helping me network, let alone getting me any employment opportunities, resulted in nothing and I’m worth more than nothing.

I try to keep my skills up to date.
I take online courses offered through my local library to help me not fall too far into a rut with what I know how to do but things like mail merge still become rusty because I don’t do it often enough.  And, as you all know, I took several courses, earned TWO certifications for medical billing and coding because I thought having some certification would open new opportunities.  Yes, it’s discouraging that even this hasn’t resulted in any calls for job interviews but I’m still committed to learning what I can to make me more hirable. 

I take care of myself.

When you’re unemployed, it’s so easy to let things go—to gain weight, stop doing our hair, shaving, plucking, etc.  I mean, why bother plucking your eyebrows or shaving your legs, right?  Well, I know that my taking care of myself in these little ways makes me feel a little better about myself.  More importantly, it shows the world I’m ready.  You never know when an opportunity is going to be there so I try to keep myself looking somewhat pulled together just in case I meet someone who wants to hire me or knows someone who needs my skills.  I want to be prepared, just in case, because the little things matter.

I refuse to give up.

I have been trying to think outside the box lately, of creative ways to possibly bring in more income.  Easier said than done.  Unfortunately, I tend to talk myself out of some of these ideas before I really give them a try.  Why put more effort into not making money when I can use that time and energy into looking for something online, tweaking my résumé and such. 

But maybe it’s time for me to take a few risks and see what happens.   Whatever else I do, as I already said, I’m not going to give up.  I know that there are ways for me to make some money, somewhere, out there, or even right here before my eyes.   I just have to keep knocking on doors until something opens up for me.  Six years hasn’t been enough to stop me.  I just hope it won’t be another six years before something turns around.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Weekly Body Check-In: No Excuses

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Although I ended the week with a wicked head cold (thanks to my loving husband who loves to share everything), I still did my daily boot camp workout.  Well, except on Friday and Saturday when I tried the Firm Zip Medicine Ball Kit.

As I mentioned on Monday, I had hoped to start doing a daily meditation but, because of the cold, I put off doing a meditation.  However, everything I’ve ever read about exercising while sick says that, if you do not have a fever and/or you don’t have aches and pains, then there’s no reason not to exercise.  So, after taking my one day off on Sunday, Monday I did the workout and, much to my surprise, I was able to breathe better after about five minutes.

No excuses boot camp indeed.  I am not allowing anything to get in my way this time.  Not that I ever have, fighting every step of the way to do whatever I can.  I’ll write a review of the medicine ball kit, once I’ve used it a few more times.   For now, all I can say is that it makes me feel clumsy and uncoordinated but that is something that could change over time.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting accustomed to a program and learning the expectations.  Or maybe it’s more about letting go of my expectations and just doing the exercise, even when I don’t do it perfectly.   

I lost 0.4 lbs this week.  Not surprised that the loss slowed down.  I knew it would eventually.

Ask Me/Tell Me Anything

Monday, February 03, 2014

Meditation Monday Postponed

You know, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I wanted to do the Commit to Sit Challenge and starting today was perfect.  Then I started catching a cold.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like starting something new when I feel icky so I’m going to postpone my start date. 

Still, I thought I might share a few meditation resources because sometimes people ask me what I recommend and my mind becomes overwhelmed.  See, the problem is that there are so many wonderful ways to meditate, recommending anything means that I’m favoring one form of practice over another.  So I had an epiphany.  Rather than write one post about meditation, I’d just share a few every now again.  Sometimes it will be thematic, focusing on a particular type of meditation. Other times it will be more haphazard. 

On that note, here are some books I especially recommend.  If you know nothing else about me, you probably know I love reading so, naturally, I would start with a book or two. 

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is a short book, easy to read, but impossible to master, really.  You could spend a lifetime practicing mindfulness meditation and still find new things to learn and experience.  Some days it feels impossible.  Other days it feels miraculous.  One of the mistakes I made when I began meditating was thinking that if I kept at it, eventually I would get it right.  Now I know that mastering meditation is less complicated than I could ever have imagined.  And Thây’s writings have carried me a long way in releasing my expectations for what my meditation practice ought to be and just leaving space for it to be what it is, whatever it is, each time.

Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg is another treasure.  A small book with so much wisdom.  Salzberg introduces Metta Meditation which uses traditionally repeated phrases, wish the best for yourself and for others.  You can find CDs with guided meditation practices from Salzberg and others.  For those who find sitting in silence uncomfortable or who grew up in a prayer-based tradition, the Metta Meditation is a lovely way to experience mindfulness while stilling the mind with words. Of all the forms of vocalized meditation, this is perhaps my favorite.  You'll find different teachers who phrase the meditation slightly differently but the intention remains the same.  

Commit to Sit edited by Joan Oliver Duncan is a collection of short essays by many of the familiar names in Buddhist circles.  I haven’t read the book but I have read some of the articles culled from Tricycle magazine included in this single volume, including the ”Commit to Sit Challenge” featured in the Spring 2007 issue.  I would recommend this book for that one article alone, it is truly that good! 

It’s easy to get caught up in accumulating information and things without ever actually sitting down and doing the practice.  Although I’ll be sharing more resources as I go along, I hope you won’t get too caught up in trying to get everything that strikes your fancy.  Begin where you are.  Choose one resource and see if it feels like it’s right for you.  As I said, there are many ways to meditate and I’ll try to cover a lot of possible ways of creating a practice that meets your needs.  It may be you need a more active practice and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Or it may be that you have a practice in place already that feels stale.  Commit 28 days to something new.  And, when the 28 days are done, do what they say to do in AA:  Take what you like, leave the rest.  It’s not like I’m gonna tell on you!

Do you have any questions about meditation?  Is there a type of meditation about which you've heard that you'd like to try but you don't know where to begin?  Ask me whatever you like.  I know I don't have all of the answers but I know how to find them.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Bibi's Belated Birthday, Snow, and Meditation

Our cake decorating bag
broke before we finished
decorating the cake. 
For those of you who haven’t heard, this week was surprisingly eventful for those of us in Atlanta.  On Monday, we finally celebrated Bibi’s birthday.  We were unable to celebrate it on her actual birthday (16 December) and, between the holidays and Rob’s working, we had a challenge coordinating things.  So we had cake and pizza and gifts. 

It’s a good thing we planned on doing this on Monday because Tuesday the metro-Atlanta area was hit with snow. Snow on top of ice.  Not good.  Rob wasn’t working.  When school was cancelled early, he went to pick up Bibi and it took him over 2 hours to drive home with her. Kanika said she almost got stuck in her car coming home and didn’t make it until after dinner.  Matt wasn’t home until sometime after 8pm.  And my darling daughter was stuck at work overnight, only getting home Wednesday morning around 8:45.  I tried not to worry about her but it wasn’t easy.

We may have gone a bit
overboard on birthday books
this year.
We were fortunate.  We had plenty of food and nowhere to go.  Doubly fortunate because we could enjoy the weather through Snowdoll and Holly.  They had a wonderful time, running around in the snow.  It was not unlike watching a child, reveling in it all.  I had plenty of things to do, myself, frankly.  I was working on doing the copy editing work on a manuscript, something I could easily do from home.  It was nice to earn a little cash doing something I’m actually good at doing.   I said I would get the work done in two weeks’ time and I managed to send it all back to her in two weeks, as promised.  I impressed myself, frankly.  And I probably could have finished sooner if I hadn’t been so thorough and insisted on double checking all of my notes.  Which I did. 

Seriously, they were having
so much fun in the snow!
Unfortunately, my week is ending on a disappointing note.  I am catching a cold.  If Rob weren’t such a generous person, I would feel just fine right now.  But no.  He has to share everything, including his cold.  So I am taking cold medicine, feeling head-foggy and more dizzy than usual. 

Starting tomorrow, Monday, I’ll be doing the Commit to Sit Challenge.  The subject of meditation came up on g+ and I haven’t tried to meditate since Holly came into our home.  Now seems like the ideal time to explore this challenge again.  I’ll write about the experience and, hopefully, others will be joining me.  Of course, you who are reading this, are invited to join me as well.  The challenge is simple enough, building a daily meditation practice gradually, with longer practices on the weekend.  My mother and I did it back in 2007 and I did it again in 2009 and tried but faltered in 2011.  I didn’t really blog about it at the time.   I hope to write in more depth about my Commit to Sit experience this time while also sharing some other information about meditation in general because it seems to be a subject people ask me about