Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Evidence-Based Politics

I was recently at a conference, completing my government-mandated 16 hours of continuing education.  It was a good thing.  I learned a lot.  It was one of those really cerebral conferences filled with a lot of academic-types.  You know the ones. . . those research guys that do a lot of great work, but don't really have a whole lot of experience actually looking patients in the eye.

We give these guys a hard time.  We kind of make fun of them.  Those of us in clinical practice often cringe at what some of these guys' bedside manner would be like.  Seriously.  Most of them are like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

However, one interesting thing stuck out to me.  These research egg-heads matter.  They do work that matters.  They provide the research to back up something that we, in actual medical practice, like to refer to as "evidence-based medicine".  They help those of us in the trenches of medicine become better at our craft.  They help us, help you.

"Evidence-based medicine". . . I'm sure most of you have never even heard that term before.  My doctor friends get to hear about it all the time.  It became a buzz-phrase a number of years ago, as the art of medicine began it's long and arduous metamorphosis.  Basically, evidence-based medicine goes something like this:

Evidence-based medicine is an approach to medical practice, intended to optimize decision-making by emphasizing the use of evidence from well-designed and conducted research.  It advocates that decisions and policies should be based on evidence, not just the beliefs of practitioners, experts, or administrators.  It thus tries to assure that a clinician's opinion, which may be limited by knowledge gaps or biases, is supplemented with all available knowledge from the scientific literature so that the best course of action, or treatment, can be determined and applied.

In actual practice, evidence-based medicine would look something like this:

A patient comes in to the office and tests positive for streptococcus.  Based on cost, statistical evidence of kill rates with amoxicillin, and relative safety of use (in people without penicillin allergy, of course), a 7-day course of amoxicillin is prescribed.  The patient feels better in about 3 days, since the evidence has shown great efficacy in amoxicillin's ability to kill strep colonies.  Evidence-based medicine:  There are numerous scientific studies showing the rate by which amoxicillin will kill your strep.  It's researched.  It's proven.  It's repeatable. It works in actual medical practice.

So, now that we have that introduction out of the way, here is what I really wanted to write about.

 Why can't we do something similar in politics?  

Evidence-based politics. . . it kind of has a nice ring to it. . . 

Before my more liberally-minded friends start freaking out, please, please, please hear me out.  I would like to repeat the highlighted statement from above:

. . . tries to assure that a clinician's opinion, which may be limited by knowledge gaps or biases, is supplemented with all available knowledge

I just wanted to give some more evidence, knowledge, or perspective to the turmoil that is seemingly surrounding our new President elect, Donald Trump.  I understand a lot of you really, really hate him.  I understand a lot of you are really, really scared of him.  I also understand a lot of you are, in general, fearful about the trajectory of our country.  I get that.  Really, I do.  He wasn't my first choice, either.  However, the election is over.  "We the people" have spoken.  It's a done deal.  So, it's time to get out of bed, put our big-girl panties on and get to work.  Let's get to work finding common ground.  Let's get to work on a solution to the problems in our society.  Let's lay down our "limited knowledge gaps or biases" and work toward a common goal.

I say this over, and over: "There is more that unties us, than divides us."  I truly believe that.  Which brings me closer to my point.

But first. . .

let's all do a mental exercise. . .

I would like you to imagine, for a moment, a beautiful outdoor hiking environment.  The trails are well-maintained.  There are rolling hills on one side and a beautiful ocean on the other.  There are miles and miles of trails that overlook the cliffs and the soothing surge of a salty tide.  There are clean restrooms with drinking fountains nestled along the trails.  All of this is available to you completely free of charge.  No fee for parking.  No fee for the restrooms.  No access fee at the trail head.  Nothing.  Nada.  Completely free.

What would you think about that?  No, really.  What would you think about that?  I want you to write down your answer.  Seriously.  Write it down.  I want you to remember your answer in a couple of minutes.

S   e   r   i   o   u   s   l   y. . . .




Now, what would you think if I told you that such a place actually exists?  What would you think if I told you I was actually just there a few days ago?  Wanna see pictures?

Okay. . .

Free public parking.  There is a golf course next door, so they respectfully directed those snooty golfers right on down the road to their own parking lot.

A lovely little creek in the slightly wooded hills.

And just look at that ocean!  Beautiful!  It was a lovely 74 degrees on this particular day. . . with only a slight breeze from the ocean.

You can even hike down the beach. . . for free. . .

Yes, when we are near the ocean, my husband always has to stick his hand in the water. . . . just to say he did. . . and he did . . . free of charge.

The trail is lovely. . . right along the edge of the magnificent cliffs.

In places, the trail is adjacent to some spectacular fairways. 

So, remember when I asked you to write down your thoughts about such a place?  What did you say?  Did you think such a place would be awesome?  Did you think such a place a fantasy? A fairytale? Did you say there is no such thing as free?

Here's the deal.  Here's the evidence.  Here's my story. . .

This place was free.  This place has miles upon miles of well-maintained hiking trails.  This place is totally open to the public--no guard at the gate, no ID check, no "put your money in the bucket" honor system.  Free.  Free to me.  Free to you.  Free to everyone else we saw hiking on this particular day.

You know who it wasn't free to?

Wait for it. . . .

Donald Trump.

That's right.  This place is not free to Donald Trump.  In fact, this place cost Mr. Trump a whole lotta money.

This place is not a fantasy.  It's not a fairytale.  It does exist.

It exists because "that guy" that you have been conditioned to believe is horrible and evil, chose to create a public space, at his expense, adjacent to one of his beautiful golf courses.

What you have been looking at are photos from the grounds of Trump National Golf Club in Palos Verdes, CA.  Look it up.  Google it for yourself, if you don't believe me.

In conjunction with other generous donors, Donald Trump has leveraged his significant fortune to create access to beautiful open areas for the general public to enjoy, free of charge.  The interesting thing: I have been unable to find this information on the Trump National Site.  However, I did find it on another site. . . Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.

Go ahead. . . check it out for yourself.  Impressive.  Really.

So, here's my meandering point:

Evidence-based politics might be kind of nice.  I actually think the next 4 years are going to be filled with lots of examples of evidence-based politics.  Why?  Because we just elected a guy that has been researching and doing small (and large) business for decades.  And, I think most would say, the largest business on the planet is the business of the Federal Government of these United States.

Does Donald Trump have a horrible bedside manner?  Ummmm. . . yes!

Would I want Donald Trump to be the doctor tasked with breaking the news to me about some horrible disease?  Ummmmm. . . probably not.

Do we need people in this world that have tried, failed, tried again, and finally created great solutions to complicated problems?  Absolutely!

Evidence-based politics.  I feel as if the media has been controlling the narrative in our country.  They limit the whole story.  They edit for sound bites.  They create controversy where controversy doesn't even exist.

Remember the definition of evidence-based medicine?

. . . tries to assure that a clinician's opinion, which may be limited by knowledge gaps or biases, is supplemented with all available knowledge. . .

This blog is merely that. . . an attempt to supplement with all available knowledge.  I was truly surprised, given the overarching national narrative, that these trails existed.  I suspect many of you are surprised, as well.

This topic has so many interesting rabbit-holes to be explored:

Capitalism with compassion.

The true benevolent nature of wealthy Americans.

Why private enterprise can create a better product for significantly less cost.

How well-run and well-managed companies are able to leverage their power to help the needy.

Why I paid $5 for a bottle of water at the Dallas airport, yet Trump only charged me $3.

Why Dave and I were happy to give Trump our hard-earned money for some spectacular golf. 

Why some of you cheered when I used the phrase "snooty golfers" in the earlier photo.

How the media has created class warfare.

And the list goes on and on. . . 

Personally, I am kind of excited to see what an actual businessman can do about running the largest business on the planet.  This isn't theory to him.  This isn't something he has just read about.  This is evidence-based politics.  He has researched it.  He has tested it.  He has practiced it.  He has failed and succeeded more times than any of us would care to count.  It is much like the practice of medicine.  The more you do, the more you see, the better you become.  

That being said, I will say it again:  There is more that unites us, than divides us.  It is time for America to unite around our newly-elected President.  You don't have to like him.  You don't have to agree with him.  You don't even have to respect him.  

You do, however, need to root for him.  At the end of the day we are all Americans.  A win for Trump, at this point, is a win for us all.

May God continue to bless America!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Day 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Here I sit, day 2 of my therapy. . . just 12 hours after the last (thank goodness!!) Presidential debate.  Of course, I did not watch it, as I have given up watching the news these days.  I was, unfortunately, lambasted with information in just the few moments I spent checking email and Facebook notifications.  As I suspected would be the case, most of this information was negative in nature--from both sides.

Aaaaaannnnd that brings me to Chapter 2 of The Screwtape Letters. . . . (If you missed Chapter 1, I addressed it here.).

. . . "My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian.  Do not indulge the hope that you will escaped the usual penalties; . . . In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation." . . . .

. . . . " One of our great allies at present is the Church itself.  Do not misunderstand me.  I do not mean the Church as we see her, spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.  That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. . . . All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate.  When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face, bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print.  When he gets to his pew and looks round him, he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided.  You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours.  Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like "the body of Christ" and the actual faces in the next pew.". . .

. . . "I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course, if they do--if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge player, or the man with squeaky boots is a miser and an extortioner--then your task is so much the easier.  All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question 'If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?'  You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind.  It is, Wormwood, it is!  Handle him properly and it simply won't come into his head.  He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet.  What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk.. . . . and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these 'smug', commonplace neighbours at all.  Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can."

My modern day interpretation?

1.  Our enemy has a lot to lose, so he's going to play dirty.  I need to be prepared for the unexpected distractions.

2.  Sometimes the enemy uses my bad attitude and negative body language to further his cause.

About a year ago, I was driving to church with my kids.  In Amarillo, if you are out and about on a Sunday morning, there is a very real probability that you are headed to a church.  My son decided he was going to start waving wildly (with a large smile on his face) at every car that we passed.  When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, "Mom, these people are going to church.  They need to tell their face.  They all look like they need a hug.  If I can make someone smile, I'm gonna try."  Wow!  Out of the mouth of babes. . . Now THAT is conviction!

I know, sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes we are going through tough stuff.  I get it.  However, one thing I have learned is: having a sour attitude NEVER fixes the problem.  Although, if I'm being honest, sarcasm helps me a lot. . . It generally ends with a smile, though.  So, I consider that a win!

3.  It's important to share with my fellow Christians my failures.

I feel, very often, like the enemy uses the rationale of "I need to have it all together in order to follow Christ".  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Romans 3:23 addresses this pretty simply: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  The biggest reason to be a part of a larger group of believers is to, indeed, share life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. . . (insert whistle here. . . )

"Go ahead. . . Make. My. Day. . . "

But. . . you might consider doing it with a smile. . . :)

And now, a few corny quotes to brighten your day

 “You haven’t lost your smile at all, it’s right under your nose. You just forgot it was there.” 

“Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” » Chinese Proverb

“If you see a friend without a smile; give him one of yours.” 

"Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing" Mother Teresa

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 1 Of My Election Stress Disorder Therapy

I recently read a report in Psychology Today about something known as "Election Stress Disorder".  Look it up.  Apparently, it's a real thing. . . (insert eye roll here).  Personally, I refer to this as spiritual warfare, but . . . . whatever. . .

That being said, I have found myself unusually on edge and apprehensive about the future of my country.  Hmmm. . . . maybe election stress disorder IS a real thing. . .

Like most of you, (I suspect) I am finding myself in a quandary these days.  I have made the conscious decision to no longer watch the news.  I try to limit my time on social media platforms.  I am trying examine my heart.  I am looking toward the future.  I am doing my best to love on people daily.  I am talking to God.

In fact, . . . .

 I am talking to God . . A LOT!

Fed up with the state of affairs in our country, I recently dusted off one of my copies (I have more than one) of C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters".  You see, it is one of my very favorite books, . . .  ever.  It was originally published in 1942.  However, on more than one occasion in my life, I have found it just as pertinent today as it was back then.

For those of you unfamiliar with "The Screwtape Letters", it is an allegory about the human condition and spiritual warfare.  It is a series of letters from Uncle Screwtape (one of Satan's demons) to his apprentice, Wormwood.  Wormwood is a "demon-in-training".  The chapters (or "letters") are short, and the book, in total, is not very long.  However,  if you read it with your brain engaged, it will take you some time to get through.  That said, I have decided to read it over again, during this exhausting election cycle.

Being the type of person that processes information better when I am able to write about it, I have decided to put my thoughts down in blog-format.  Read them. Don't read them. Whatever.  Basically, these will be my thoughts, as I re-read this wonderful work of art.

I would, however, welcome some company, as I read through the book.  So, please, comment below if you have something to add.  I will be curious to hear how these amazing words, by a brilliant man, impact you, personally.  Of note: I am only going to blog portions of the chapters.  I would highly recommend getting a copy to read in it's totality.

Chapter 1:

"My dear Wormwood, I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend.  But are you not being a trifle naif?  It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches.  That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier.  At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connect thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.  But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that." . . . . .

. . . . . "The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground.  He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below.  By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?  Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to the universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences.  Your business is to fix his attention on the stream.  Teach him to call it "real life" and don't let him ask what he means by "real". . . . . .

. . . . ."I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum.  One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way.  The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment.  Before I knew where I was, I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter.  If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument, I should have been undone.  But I was not such a fool.  I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch.". . . .

. . . . "Once he was in the street the battle was won.  I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of 'real life' (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all 'that sort of thing' just couldn't be true.  He knew he'd had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about 'that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic.'  He is now safe in Our Father's house.". . . .

. . . . "Do remember you are there to fuddle him.". . . .

My modern day interpretation?

1.  The media is here to distract me.  They are doing a great job.

2.  "Real life" is also a distraction.  My parents used to say, over and over again: "Don't sweat the small stuff, and there ain't nothin' big.  Hmmm. . . seems much more profound now that I am older. . .

3.  Sometimes I need to be quiet, so I can hear the still, small voice of my Creator.  This world is noisy.  The enemy does that on purpose.

4.  The best way for me to see in the dark is to turn on the light.  My enemy is a great deceiver.  Calling him out on his antics merely turns on the light.  It exposes him for what he is: a manipulator that is intent on stirring up hatred and strife.

5.  I will continue to say this over, and over.  There is more that unites us, than divides us.  I would like to start my conversations there.  Finding common ground and common goals is the trail head for my journey.

6.  When all else fails, remember The Golden Rule:

Luke 6:31  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

7.  If the commandment to love is hard, try empathy:

"The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost" G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Mexico Green Chile Stew

I was at the store the other day and pork loins were on sale.  Being a native New Mexican, I can always whip up some tasty fare with such a find.  Having just eaten some fantastic pork guisada at one of my favorite authentic New Mexican restaurants. . . right here in Amarillo, I thought, "I can make this.  And, I can make it waaaayy cheaper--especially with my pork loin on sale."

So, I hopped on Pinterest, as I had never actually made this variation of green chile stew before.  I was surprised by the lack of legit recipes on my beloved little cookbook in "the cloud".  My head almost exploded when I read one recipe that started out, "I have never been to New Mexico, but I want to go someday".  

Ummm. . . okay. . . never mind on  your recipe. . .

Out of desperation, I posted a quick plea to my fellow Land of Enchantment friends.  I received a variety of responses. . . all of which sounded great!  I kind of rolled them all into one. . . along with the basic staples that any good New Mexican keeps in their pantry/freeze/refrigerator and came up with this.  It was delicious. . . . and now I'm going to share. . . so Pinterest isn't filled with people from New Jersey posting recipes about "Authentic New Mexican Green Chile Stew".

As a disclaimer:  I'm pretty sure mine is not really "authentic" either.  However, I currently live in Texas, am forced to use what is on hand, and I really dislike roasting, peeling, and chopping tons of chile.  So, here's my recipe.  Hope you like it.  And, since I was actually born and raised in NM, I'm gonna just go ahead and claim it to be pretty darn close to the real deal.

1 pork tenderloin
1 onion
2 Tblsp of butter or oil
1-13 oz tub of Bueno chopped green chile (my store, in TX, keeps it in the freezer section)
2 small cans of green enchilada sauce (don't judge. . . it's too hard to make the real stuff, and this is pretty close)
1 cup chicken broth
2-3 small potatoes (chopped into small bite-sized pieces)

I generally slow roast my tenderloin, covered, in the oven @ 300 degrees for 2-3 hours.  I remove from oven and chop into small bite-sized pieces.  Place chopped pork in crock pot.  Saute chopped onion in butter.  Add to crock pot.  Add chile, enchilada sauce, chicken broth and chopped potatoes.  Cook on low for 2-3 hours and serve with tortillas.

My daughter somehow ended up a lightweight with chile, so I made this batch G-rated.  To turn up the heat, I added some of this to my bowl:

To my fellow New Mexicans, I'm sorry.  I'm embarrassed to be admitting this to you, but this stuff is from Target and it is unbelievable!  Seriously, you should try it.  I was skeptical too.  My lips are still burning from it.

Here's the finished product.  Hope you like it!

Of note:  you can add corn or hominy, too.  I just like mine with potatoes, and I was trying to keep the carbs down.  FYI, if you add hominy, most New Mexican's refer to this as posole. . . for those of you from New Jersey. . . :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I have a love-hate relationship with cell phones.

I love the freedom and flexibility that they provide me.

I love that I can text my husband, my friends, my extended family, my business partners, and even my staff at any hour of the day and not worry that I am interrupting them.

I love that when I am on call, my cell phone and voice mail will effectively screen the "real" from the "imagined" medical emergencies and allow me time to prepare my approach before returning a call.

I also love that I can instantly search for answers to questions the minute that I have them.

The hate part, now that's a little more ambiguous. . .

I hate that people can always find me. . . even when I don't want to be found.

I hate it when I see entire families sitting in a restaurant--all on devices--yet not having a real conversation with each other.

I hate that my family meals are frequently interrupted by that buzz or chime from the neighboring docking station.

The thing that I hate the most, though?  It's when I am in the middle of a conversation and a phone dings or vibrates to notify the recipient of a message or email.

Wait. . . that is not an entirely true statement. . . let me rephrase. . .

What I hate the most is when I am in the middle of a conversation with someone and they turn their attention away from the conversation to actually check or respond to the notification.  Now, THAT'S what I REALLY  hate!

So, now that I have that off my chest, I would like to get down to the heart of this matter. . .

18 years ago, I joined an amazing group of doctors.  They were the best in the business. . . seriously!  I felt honored just to have been considered for the job.  I was even more overwhelmed by gratitude when they took me under their collective wings to train and guide me down a path that Optometry School never could have come close to preparing me for.  I kept my eyes and ears open and tried very hard to keep my mouth shut (that was a tough one for me).  I learned a ton of life lessons, business basics, and interpersonal skills over the years.

I have to tell you, of all of those little life lessons, there has been one very simple acronym that has helped me, convicted me, and challenged me more than any other.  It has helped me shape how I do life. It has helped me shape how I interact with people, and it has frequently busted my chops when I have deviated from it's path.

18 years ago, stuck to the wall (with a simple push-pin) of one of my senior partner's offices, I discovered a simple four-lettered acronym. It was the embodiment of Hugh Sticksel Jr.'s mission and life's work.  It was the "secret sauce" to how he approached life.  It was a simple, yet effective reminder of why we are here and how we should approach each new day.

What is this acronym, you ask?  Are you ready for this?  Are you sure?

Be careful. . . be sure. . . because once you read this, you can never un-know it. . .


MMFI?  What the heck?  I have to tell you, it took me a long time to actually get around to asking Dr. Sticksel what this meant, and why he had it stuck to his wall.  His answer was short yet profound.  So profound, in fact, that it has taken me almost 2 decades to digest and appreciate it.  To be honest, I'm still not sure I totally understand it's impact and importance.

MMFI:  "Make Me Feel Important"

That's it, "make me feel important".  Pretty simple, right?

Well. . . . . .maybe not so much. . .

MMFI was Dr. Sticksel's daily reminder that each day came with a responsibility to invest in people.  Each day was a new day to interact with, encourage, and make everyone you came in contact with "feel important".

Man, I gotta tell you, this is HARD!!!  This is something that I struggle with every minute of every day.  This is something that goes against my very grain at times.  This is something that I find myself loving and hating all at the same time.

Going full circle in this meandering blog post, it is also the single, most tangible idea that I can revert back to every time I see a family "lost" in their devices over dinner.  It is the thing that makes my head want to explode when my husband answers a call or text in the middle of a conversation with me.  It is the thing that makes me want to weep when I see a small child "wither on the vine" when his mother is present, but not "present".

MMFI. . . 

What would happen if we all tried to live like this?  Even just for one day. . . even just for one hour of that day. . . ?

I know, I'm as guilty as the next.  This is as much for me, as for all of you.

18 years ago I had a conversation with a great man.  That great man, gave me an amazing gift.  6,570 days later I am still trying to figure out how to utilize that gift to the fullest.  Some days I succeed.  Most days I fail.

So, here's my pledge to you. . . today is a new day.  Today is the day that I try to live by the mantra "MMFI".  Today is the day that I put down my phone and talk to my kids.  Today is the day that I interact more deeply with those that I come in contact with.  Today is the day that I make it my mission in life to make someone feel important.

I ran across this sign earlier this year. . .

In closing, I would add. . . Today is your life.  Live it.  MMFI.

May you have a day full of MMFI opportunities. . .

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Cake With Cookie Butter Frosting

I can't stand clutter.  At. All!  Seriously.  It makes my head want to explode.  However, I live out in the boonies and it's a 30 minute round-trip to the grocery store to get stuff when I need it.  That being said, my pantry is in constant need of help and organization.

So, it is with moderate disgust that I am admitting, out loud, that I am a border-line hoarder when it comes to my kitchen.  I'm not sure if it has something to do with all the post-apocalyptic fiction that I read, (I actually wrote a whole blog years ago on this topic) or all the hours that I used to spend listening to Glenn Beck go on and on and on about the impending "end of the world" and how we needed to stock up for the Great Tribulation.  It may have a little bit to do with the fact that on more than one occasion, my family has been stranded in our little corner of the middle of nowhere due to severe weather and 6 foot snow drifts.  (I know, it's weird, we live in Texas, yet snow has trapped my family, more than once, for days on end, and we have been forced to survive on what we have on hand.)

This past Monday, being the first day of school and the happiest day of the whole year for me, I decided it was time for the annual pantry purge.  Imagine my surprise when I found I had been hoarding 5 jars of Trader Joe's Cookie Butter!  What?!?!  How did that stuff even survive a night in my house--much less the six months that it took me to amass such a stockpile.  Needless to say, this little find set me off in a direction where I felt able to get a little creative with my newly-found jars of heaven.  It became the catalyst for my latest creation and magnificent work of art.  And, lucky you, I am willing to share.

So, here it is. . . my easy as pie (or cake) recipe:

Pumpkin  Spice Cake With Cookie Butter Frosting. . . 

The Cake:

1 pkg spice cake mix
1 pkg (the small one. . . 3.4 oz) vanilla pudding mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

*  Side note:  I also had a package of cheesecake flavored pudding in my pantry that I considered using. . . maybe next time. . .

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place all ingredients into mixing bowl.  Mix 3 minutes on medium speed. Pour cake batter into 9X13 cake pan and bake for 35 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.

The Frosting:

1/2 cup butter (the real stuff--not that partially hydrogenated crap)
1 cup cookie butter (I used creamy, but I am intrigued by what the crunchy would be like. . . also, next time)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tblsp heavy cream or milk

Cream butter, vanilla and cookie butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix completely.  Slowly add cream or milk and whip (with whip attachment on your mixer) until smooth and creamy.  Spread onto completely cooled cake and serve.

If you are fortunate enough to live close to a Trader Joe's, you have no idea how lucky you are.  If, like me, you have to drive several hundred miles (or more) to this perfect little self-contained amusement park of food perfection, I have found that this little product is a fairly decent substitute for cookie butter:

My local grocery store (United) carries this on the shelf.  It's a bit more expensive, but can you really put a price on such a delightful product?  Really?  Trust me, if you've never tried it, you should just shell out the 4 bucks for a jar.  I promise, you will thank me later.

Seriously, this cake is a dream in your mouth.

So, there it is!  My latest culinary creation!  I have to admit, I feel a little weird posting this recipe just days after the blog post on my Plexus weight loss journey.  However, it really is delicious. . . I'm willing to share. . . and I don't plan on eating the whole thing by myself. . . although I have thought about it!

Enjoy!  And make sure to share with your friends. . . they will thank you, I promise!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

366 Days And Counting

I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.  Feeling the need to write a follow-up blog to a post I did six months ago, I was going to lead with this little verbal tid-bit.  Being the stickler for fact-checking that I am, I decided I should probably verify this definition with my good friend Webster.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the definition of insanity is NOT, in fact, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.  

According to Webster, the definition of insanity reads something like this:

Insanity:  1 a: a deranged state of the mind usu. occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia) and usu. excluding such states as mental deficiency, psychoneurosis and various character disorders b: a mental disorder  2:  such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility  3 a: extreme folly or unreasonableness  b: something utterly foolish or unreasonable.

3b: something utterly foolish or unreasonable. . . . hmm. . . 

6 months ago, I wrote this little blog post in which I admitted to all 3 of my readers that I had been secretly using this product called “Plexus”.  I was a bit embarrassed that I had been lured into the overly-hyped world of “network marketing”, (more commonly referred to as “pyramid scheme” or multi-level-marketing).  I thought it was all a bit intense. . . this whole concept of sucking your friends into buying something so you could make a few bucks off them.  It’s never really been my gig. However, it was hard for me to deny that in 6 months, Plexus had helped me shed the 20 lbs that I had been carrying around for over a decade.    It was with great trepidation that I admitted in cyberspace that I:  1.) actually had 20 lbs that I really needed to lose, and 2.) hadn’t been able to do it using the standard mantra “eat less, move more”. 

As a side note:  who are these people that say this, anyway?  Buncha skinny girls that never have any fun and have never been seduced into eating half a cake in one sitting—that’s who.  But I digress. . .

Fast forward to yesterday.  Yesterday, August 26, 2014 was exactly 1 year to the day that I got mad enough to actually do something about my overall health and well-being.  One year ago, yesterday, was the day that I woke up and realized that, according to the CDC definition, I was officially overweight with a BMI of 25.0.  One year ago I vowed I would take my life back, stop making excuses about my weight and finally get back to living the healthiest life possible—both for me and my family.

Now, I have to admit, when I wrote my original "confession" about Plexus six months ago there was this small voice in my head chirping "Hey, Vanessa!  What if this whole thing was a ruse?  What if you look up in 6 months only to find you have gained all of that weight back?  What then?  You have just declared to the world that Plexus is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  What are you going to do to save face?"  Yes, I was terrified that I had just put my personal reputation on the line for some crazy multi-level scheme that was going to be a flash in the pan.  Can you say 8-track, beta max and laser disc?

3b: something utterly foolish or unreasonable. . . . what if I end up looking "insane"?

Well, I have to tell you, since February I have "fallen off the wagon" a time or two. I have indulged in all sorts of fancy desserts, all manner of intriguing dining establishments, and lots and lots of evening ice cream parties with my kiddos.  I have fluctuated up a few pounds and then right back down as I have learned to enjoy all things. . . in moderation.

So, all that to say, one year ago yesterday, I set out on a journey to lose 10 lbs.  As I sit here, 366 days later, 20 lbs lighter, 6% body fat slimmer, 90 seconds faster on my mile, and a WHOLE heck of a lot healthier, I am more than confident that I will never be overweight again.

A number of my friends have asked me to tell them the secrets to my success.  I have to admit to you, Plexus alone did not remove the extra pounds from my body.  You will hear a lot of claims from people about how all you have to do is drink this little pink drink once a day and the pounds will miraculously melt away.  Well, I'm here to tell you that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  There is no such thing as a magic drink.  There is no quick fix.  THAT would be the definition of "insanity"--3b: something utterly foolish or unreasonable.

I will tell you, I'm a little bit nervous to call people out about the efficacy of Plexus. On more than one Plexus forum, Ambassadors have been "warned" to tread lightly on the negative speak.  There have been veiled "threats" from higher up the food chain (or mlm pyramid, if you will) that only "positive" comments are to be posted.  While that's all well and good from a marketing standpoint, the reality is: there is not a product on the planet that has 100% positive reviews, or 100% success.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to anything.  That being said, I feel a little bit like Jerry Seinfeld standing in front of the Soup Nazi right now.  I hope I don't get the "No Plexus For You" from the powers that be. . . because I have to admit, I'm a little addicted and dependent on their products at this point.  I believe in being open and honest about pretty much most things in life.  You aren't going to get a bunch of unicorns and rainbows shooting out of my butt, and I'm not going to intentionally misrepresent how Plexus products work.  Plexus does not work for everybody, but I have found that when people begin Plexus and are intentional about getting back to a truly healthy lifestyle, they have much, much better success.

So, without further adieu, here is basically what I have done for the past 12 months.  Admittedly, it may not work for you, so read with your brain engaged and feel free to disregard anything that you consider "insanity".

1.  I have permanently reset my thought processes to eliminate the word "diet" from my vocabulary.  I will no longer "diet".  For the rest of my life I will focus on a generally healthy lifestyle.  I will eat cake, candy, pasta, and other not-so-healthy foods on occasion.  I just won't make them a daily staple in my life.

I think this graphic says it best:

2.  I intentionally move a lot.  I received a Fit Bit for Christmas, and I am intentional about taking at least 10,000 steps a day.  I also change up my workout routine.  I run 4 miles, 3-4 times per week.  But, I also do yoga and simple 10-15 minute targeted workouts as well.  There are tons of these available on the internet that focus on legs, butt, arms, abs and whole-body.

3.  I ALWAYS eat breakfast!  I ALWAYS eat a breakfast that is high in protein.  This keeps me from snacking on foods that are quick, but unhealthy later on in the day.

4.  I drink water!  A LOT of water!  Most nutritionists recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces every day.  I drink more than that.  I average somewhere between 90-128 ounces per day--128 oz is a whole gallon, FYI.

5.  I never, ever drink sodas.  I used to drink about 1 per week.  Since starting Plexus, all sodas taste gross to me.  Not a bad side effect, I must admit.

6.  I use my bathroom scale as a motivator, not a drill Sergeant.  After my initial 6 months on Plexus, I did not lose any additional lbs.  However, my bathroom scale has a body fat calculator on it and what I found was my body fat continued to decline even though the pounds did not.  This has led to a faster and better metabolism.  IE:  now I can eat more calories without gaining weight, like I used to.

7.  I recorded my food consumption for a good six months with the help of My Fitness Pal.  It is a free service with a great phone app and was extremely helpful for me when determining portion sizes, and when eating in restaurants.  I am, admittedly, not all that great about doing it consistently anymore, but the transformation in my brain that it provided has been permanent.  The biggest revelation for me, after using this app for some time, was the amount of empty and/or excessive calories I was consuming in restaurants--even when opting for the "healthy menu" options!  Once this information stuck in my head, I almost eliminated eating out altogether.  The interesting side effect of that decision was the massive amount of money that we saved as a family!  As a side note:  within 2 months of starting with Plexus, I saved enough money just from our restaurant budget to cover the cost of the products.

8.  I try to never eat anything after 8:00 at night.  Sometimes I will have an after-dinner dessert, and sometimes I will break this rule altogether.  However, I do find that I sleep better and have an easier time with weight management if I consume all of my calories for the day before 8:00 p.m.

As for the use of Plexus products, in addition to the lifestyle changes above, here are some of the products that I have used, and my opinions about them:

1.  Plexus Slim: This is the basic staple of my overall transformation.  It is a simple powder packet that you mix with water and drink before a meal.  It has a fruity flavor that I really like, and helps me with sugar cravings.  I really like this product a lot and will continue to take it over the long haul.

2.  Accelerator:  Personally, I don't think this particular product did much for me.  However, I have had other people tell me that it was fabulous for them.  It didn't make me jittery, wasn't difficult to take, and didn't seem to have any weird side effects.  I just didn't find it sped up my weight loss efforts much, if any.

3.  Boost:  Now this product is an entirely different story from the Accelerator.  I love my Boost!  Introduced in May, this product facilitates extra energy and has really helped me with my workouts.  I have gone from a solid 11.5 minute mile to a consistent 10 minute mile on my runs since I started this product.  It does make me a bit jittery for about an hour, so I don't take it before I go to work, as I need very steady hands.

4.  Pro-Bio 5:  I like this product for general digestive health.  I simply take one at bedtime to help maintain optimal digestion.  It's especially good for people that have been on heavy doses of antibiotics in the past and/or have digestive issues in general.

5.  Bio Cleanse:  It took me a long time to work up the nerve to try this product.  I eat a ton of fiber, veggies and fruit.  I wasn't sure that I needed anything to "keep things moving along".  Since I started this product, though, I actually feel better in general.  It seems to help keep me from feeling "bloated" from all of the natural fiber and fruit that I ingest.

6.  X-Factor:  I take this as my regular multivitamin.  The B-vitamins help with immunity and energy, the D helps with bone health, and the rest are antioxidants that help the body repair itself.  It has also made my fingernails grow like crazy!!!

7.  Fast Relief:  I have not personally taken any of these products.  My husband, however, swears by them.  He has suffered with tennis elbow and bursitis for a number of years.  Taking multiple Advil per day to alleviate the pain was how he made it through the day.  Since taking the Fast Relief Capsules and using the cream, he doesn't really complain at all about pain in his arm and shoulder anymore.

So, there's my 12 month story.  You may think I'm insane, but I just think I'm finally healthy!

Here's the link to my Plexus site, should you decide to give it a whirl.  

Until next time. . .