The Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now…

This post is inspired by a blog I read,  Modern Mrs Darcy.  Each winter(ish) she will write a similar post.  In her words, this is how it came about:

“The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

It’s a good question. Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life. The question invites you to do just that.

Taylor says it’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time, and I agree. I borrowed Taylor’s idea last year, and began keeping a running list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.”

This inspired her to write about the things – both big and little – that are saving her during difficult times or phases of life.  It made me pause…as we are going through a really tough time right now.  My mother recently had knee replacement surgery and although surgery went well, post surgery came with several complications.  As we have been working through this with my mom and helping plan a course to get her healthy again, several things have truly been saving my life right now.  This is a list of some of those things:

  • Friendships:  Being able to reach out and call or text my friends throughout this time has been life-saving. Sometimes you just need to admit you are scared or that you don’t feel you know how to handle a situation…and have your friends remind you that you are loving, kind and competent and truly able to handle anything that comes your way.  We all need this reminder sometimes; I’m thankful for good friends that are so supportive when I need it the most.
  • Family:  This goes hand-in-hand with friendships in my mind.  Having my husband to talk/text with and sharing all the decision-making with my sister and brother has been a tremendous relief.  It’s good to know I’m not in this alone.
  • My workouts:  For me being able to get in a workout – either my regular classes at Brickhouse Fitness, a kettlebell workout at home, or going for a walk – is keeping me sane. Doing something physical and active takes all my focus for the moment and I can forget about everything else temporarily.

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  • Coffee:  Yep, it’s true…getting a venti mocha latte from Starbuck’s just makes my heart happy.  🙂


  • Books: Sitting at the hospital for hours on end has been much more enjoyable because I’m reading some good books! I love reading and the up-side of spending time in the hospital has been the ability to get in some quality quiet reading time.
  • My dogs: When I am home, life is definitely better in part because of my dogs, Kona and Lucy.  They make me laugh and demand belly rubs and snuggles and are always happy to see me.
  • Spark: This natural energy drink from Advocare is how I start every morning… Yes, even before coffee! It give me an energy boost as well as ensuring I get a bunch of vitamins and amino acids in before dealing with the stress of the day or before my workout.

These are just a few of the things that are keeping me moving and sane these days.  How about you? What’s saving your life right now?



Embracing the Suck…

Also known as:

  • Riding the struggle bus…  Or…
  • When you just wanna cry… Or…
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway…

I try to workout on a regular basis.  I just happen to post publicly on social media about my workouts so people think I workout all the time. However, I’m just like the rest of you…I try to workout and have a routine, but I struggle, life gets in the way sometimes, and it’s hard to stay motivated to get my butt to the gym.

People often ask, then how do you do it?! You always seem to have so much energy and you workout all the time….  Smoke and mirrors baby!  LOL…okay, so not really, but a couple of posts recently from my workout buddies made me realize what I do.

It’s a habit.

Yep, plain and simple…but yet…not so simple.  This graphic is what one of my gym buddies posted that sums it up well (by now, hopefully you know there might be swear words involved…):


So true! If we only did the work when we felt motivated and jazzed about what we were doing, it wouldn’t last long. It is easy to stay motivated when things are going well or when you have a new and different workout for a while or when you are doing all the movements that you love. But here’s the thing…that’s not reality and that is not necessarily what your body needs.  It’s is good to switch it up off and on and keep your muscles guessing what the heck happened.  It is also good to stick with something long enough to work through proper form and to develop muscle memory. It’s also good to do the exercises you hate and that are difficult for you (not impossible or hurtful…as in might cause bodily harm…).  You likely need to develop those muscle groups that allow you to get better at the hard movements.

This morning was a great example. I didn’t sleep great last night, I’m tired from my workouts from the past two days, I get up and as I’m drinking my Spark to try and wake up I’m not feeling it.  Here is the conversation that I was having with myself:

  • I’m tired…I could take a rest day today and hit it the rest of the week
  • I should go…for fuck’s sake…I’m already awake…
  • I could enjoy the quiet time and read for an hour
  • It’s really not my favorite workout, although I do like the format (Wednesday workouts right now are the 12 Days of Christmas…do exercise #1 for 1 rep, then do #2 for 2 reps, then #1, do #3 for 3 reps, #2 for 2 and #1 for 1…all the way to 12 exercises total)
  • I always feel better when I go workout
  • Julie’s classes always seem harder (a.k.a. I don’t like them as much and I’m not as good at them…just a note, this has nothing to do with Julie…LOL…)
  • Sigh…fine then, I’ll go…I’m already up, it would be stupid not to go

Ha!  What an ordeal…shut up already…right?!?!

I’m happy to report that I did actually make it to class and of course I was glad that I went.  In some ways, it was almost more rewarding because it was a tough workout for me…with at least 50% of the exercises being things I don’t really like or that I’m not really good at (wall crawls…shit…  burpees…ugh…).  Here’s a snapshot of the workout and the kettlebells I used:

Ultimately what got me there was that it’s a habit.  It’s a habit to get up every morning and go to the gym for 6am class.  It’s a habit so it’s more reliable; I don’t have to think about it, it’s just what I do.  I get up, I get dressed, I go to the gym, I come home and get ready for work.


Are there some days I enjoy more than others?  Sure.  I love kettlebell work like swings, figure 8’s, and other kettlebell strength movements.  I love Friday’s when we do Crazy 8’s – 8 exercises, 8 reps each, for 8 rounds.  I hate burpees.  I tend to prefer strength training over cardio, yet I know that cardio is good for me.  I love barbells and kettlebells because they make me feel like a badass.  I dislike running…  You get the drift.  😉

Having workout buddies that will hold you accountable…or at least notice and comment when you are gone is also helpful.  There are certain classes each 8-week session that I really try not to miss.  I have a partner in those classes and when I’m gone, she notices and sends me a message.  It is easier to get your butt to the gym when you know someone else is counting on you to be there and work beside them through a tough class.

Another thing that I do is keep a fitness journal with the workouts that I do, especially the weights that I use, tips for myself and how I felt that day while working out.  I started doing this regularly when I started lifting 3 times/week in our Aspire Weightlifting Club…and it has stuck.  I’m not lifting right now with the club; however, I still track workouts in my journal. It’s really beneficial to look back over my workouts and see the progress made and the weights I’m using today versus a year ago. Plus I found a super cool workout journal that has awesome daily quotes that make my day!

Workout Journal

Something our trainer Matt encouraged us to do regarding our kettlebell swing work is to pick a minimum weight – even given a workout with higher reps.  I did a kettlebell challenge last year with the 50# beast (I call my 50# kettlebell BeBe or BB for Big Bitch…LOL…).  But I had gotten away from that and honestly start losing my grip strength if I have to do more than 12-15 reps at 50# right now.  So I set my bottom limit at 40#. I won’t let myself chose less than the 40# kettlebell for any swing work that we’re doing in a workout starting this 8-week session (regular swings, not one-arm swings).  Some examples are below:


This was “only” 6 reps, but alternating with a partner for like 3 minutes (I think…) and alternating between regular swings and swing & pull which is a little harder as the weight gets heavier.


I decided to keep this at 40# as it was 100 reps total and an “add-on” to the workout that was prescribed; the workout on the board was just the first three exercises


In this workout, we had to pick 3 different kettlebell weights…so started at 40# and went up from there.

I also sometimes do things that scare the shit outta me…LOL…  I’m able to do this because I have a workout routine and have made training a habit.  Last year, I was doing a lot of barbell work and my trainer, Amy Boyd, encourage me to compete in the Novice Division of  the MAT Games, a CrossFit competition sponsored by CrossFit 8035 (June 2016).

I could tell you I was confident and brave…but I would be lying.  I reviewed the standards for the Novice Division and I could actually do every single movement on the list (at least relatively well) and at the prescribed weights, so I was flat out of excuses.  And I had a workout buddy that said “let’s do it together” so then I was committed.  I was terrified I’d make a fool out of myself but as we prepared and the competition grew closer, I knew I was as ready as I could be.

I was doing this to prove to myself that I could do it. I wasn’t in it to win, in fact honestly all I wanted to do was finish and not quit before the end of each workout.  There were 4 events – 2 on Saturday, 2 on Sunday.  They were “short” and intense workouts – the kind where you can barely breath and you want to just lay down and die.  I came in last in my division out of 23 competitors and I’m totally good with that. I did it!  It’s one of my proudest accomplishments to date!

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So there you go…  I’m not extra special. I don’t have a magic wand. I don’t have amazing energy or motivation.

I’m just an average girl who knows that I love working out and that it makes me feel stronger. So I’ve built it into my life as a habit. That’s what gets me there on the days like today when I’m riding the struggle bus and don’t really feel like doing the work.

Do it anyway. Make it a habit.



  • Both Matt & Julie Sillanpaa are trainers at my gym Brick House Fitness in Bondurant, Iowa. I credit Matt for teaching me pretty much everything I know about kettlebells and they both have been a huge part of my fitness journey.
  • Amy Boyd is a trainer at CrossFit 8035 and also has been a huge part of my fitness journey over time, pushing me and encouraging me to do crazy things like compete in the CrossFit MAT Games in 2016. She’s the one that first got me hooked on Olympic lifting.

I Love Many Things…

In my last post I alluded to the fact that I love many things…doing many thing, experiencing many things, you name it.  Some people say my hobbies get in the way of my hobbies…and this is not entirely false.  Ha!

I’m not sure when this dilemma started or how it quite got to the size that it is today, but the struggle is real folks…  LOL… However, I’m not willing to totally give up any one of the things I love just yet.  My “loves” ebb and flow as far as the amount of time and attention they each get, but there are some constants.  This blog post is dedicated to sharing some of my passions and why I love them….and perhaps why I can’t quite cut the cord on giving any of them up.

Fitness:  I developed a routine of working out several years ago.  It started in January 2007 with my soon-to-be hubby, Brian; we signed up to do Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping.  We both had not been working out and with our upcoming wedding in May, it seemed like a good idea to start the path toward getting fit.  We were #soreAF for the first two weeks, but once we got over the hump, life was much better.

I’ll write a separate post on all different fitness programs I have tried over the years – but suffice it to say, this was the beginning of what I’m considering a life-long journey.  I would say that I have a few favorites that I keep coming back to, depending on my current gym membership, timing, and the need for constant variety in my workouts.  I love lifting –both barbells and kettlebells; they make me feel strong and badass.  This is one reason why I love my current gym home Brickhouse Fitness.

I found a renewed love for biking about 3 years ago and that has stayed on the short list; being outside is always good for my heart and soul, and easier on my knees/hips than running.  Kickboxing is also a favorite although it tends to cycle in and out of my routine.  I remember a biking friend asking if I wanted to ride one time (during the summer of 2016…as I was preparing for a CrossFit competition) and I declined saying that I need to focus on lifting workouts for a few months.  She said, but…but…that will take away from your biking time…??!!  And I said, yep, it will.  Ha!  I was okay with that for the time because I had a goal of doing my first CrossFit competition, while they had a Novice division and before I chickened out!


Sampling of kettlebells used in a workout at Brickhouse Fitness.


A shot of me (dying) at the MAT Games, my first CrossFit competition, in June 2016.


Photography:  This is no surprise based on my prior posts…so we’ll just leave this here…along with a few more of my favorite photos…  🙂

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Reading: I have always loved reading a good book…especially mysteries.  I remember going through all the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books as a kid (among many others).  The past two years especially I have been trying to make carving out reading time a higher priority.  I love reading and it is just a matter of making the time; I had let it slip over time and wasn’t reading nearly as much as I wanted to.  I pretty much don’t watch tv anymore because I would rather read a good book.

What has also been fun and helpful is that when one of my best friends Lacey moved away from Des Moines to Texas, we decided exchanging books was a good way to keep connected.  We both get a monthly book box subscription called Book of the Month (let me know if you’re interested, I can send you a discount code).  The first of the month is exciting as we coordinate picking our books so we both don’t get the same one (you get to choose from a selection of five).  Once we’ve read our book, we send it along in a care package via Flat Rate boxes at the USPS.  🙂 My “to be read” pile is always high, but it’s been fun reading books together and comparing notes.

I also had started a book club, the Dust Jacket Divas, when I got divorced and we have continued meeting once/month for 14 years now (ack!).  I don’t always make it to book club and sometimes I decide not to read the book as it doesn’t interest me, but the ladies in the group have become my extended family.  My friends now tease me because yep, I’m “that girl” and have a spreadsheet of all the books I’ve been reading.  Hit me up if you need a few ideas!


Scrapbooking/Stamping: Many moons ago I tried making hand-stamped cards and I was hooked.  Making cards and scrapbooks make me feel creative as well as it’s a great way to keep memories along with the photos I like to take. At least twice a year, I spend a whole weekend dedicated to working on various stamping and scrapbook projects.  My very favorite is making Halloween cards.  Some years I try to hand make all my Christmas cards (we’ll see how that goes this year…LOL…).  Often I will create some type of scrapbook for each of our big family vacations each year.  I love matching papers and creating a way of capturing amazing memories!


This is a mini-scrapbook of all the books I’m reading in 2017.


One of my Halloween cards for 2017.


Another Halloween card for 2017.


The cover of a 12 x 12 scrapbook I made for my sister of her trip to Australia.

Travel:  Many of my other hobbies intersect with this one.  I enjoy traveling…and we usually travel somewhere by car so we can take our bikes.  And, of course, the camera always goes along!  This year we actually did one very different type of vacation then normal = we went to an all inclusive resort in Jamaica for my step-daughter’s wedding!  It was a fantastic trip and we had a blast exploring as well as celebrating with Katie & Jake as they got married.

I also took a photography vacation to the Grand Tetons in September (see my favorite images here on SmugMug: Grand Tetons).  Each year my photo buddy, Sarah, and I try to travel together to a photography workshop to keep honing our skills.

We also took a biking vacation with friends to the Cuyuna Lakes area up near Ironton, MN; this was a blast!  We rented a house, explored the MTB trails (gorgeous!), checked out the local brewery and just had time to relax for a long weekend.

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Where we go each year shifts around, but a constant is the fact that we try to escape for at least a week or two throughout the year to places we love or new-to-us places that look interesting.  Often vacation locations tend to revolve around bike races Brian is doing, but not always.  Two favorite travel spots are the North Shore of Lake Superior in MN and Colorado Spring, CO.

Volunteering: Last but not least, I love volunteering and helping others.  Most of my volunteer work revolves around my natural talents, hobbies and interests.  I used to be a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa; I still spend time with my “Little” Shelbi as we have time.  We love our church home, Lutheran Church of Hope – Ankeny and I volunteer on the Production Team there (can you say…computer nerd?!?!) and taking photos at various church events.  I also love animals, especially dogs (cue Lucy and Kona cuteness…see below), so I volunteer as a photographer at the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa. More recently, I’ve done some volunteer photography at bike races (see my post When Plans Changing = An Amazing Experience) and for Volunteer Iowa events.

So as you can see…I love many things!  These are just a few of my very favorites and at this time, I’m not willing to give any of them up.  That might change and/or my interests may shift…no promises.  🙂  One constant that is weaved throughout all of my loves is spending time with the people I love too – whether its traveling with my husband Brian, getting creative with my favorite scrapbook girls, or biking with my best biking buddies!  There are so many amazing things to see and do!!!