Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimism

In the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, we were challenged to reflect on Optimism.
Specifically, “How do you fuel the fires of optimism?”

The other night, as the winter day seemed particularly short and dreary, I climbed atop my bicycle in the warm indoors, attached to a trainer that allows me to travel no further than my imagination can take me this time of year. About 35 minutes into my ride, my brain became more complacent than my legs. I reached over to grab my iPhone, switched from the MapMyRide app that was faithfully ticking away with nothing more than time, likely anxious as to why it wasn’t being allowed to log a more interesting route of progress. After thumbing myself into boredom with a few other apps, I noticed a new email had popped up a few hours earlier in my special email account – the one that has, as of late, been reserved for receiving polite rejection letters on my finished novel, Rolling River. (Granted, I’m convinced there’s a steeper learning curve to writing query letters than the actual book, itself. Yet, I’m also determined to woman-up and keep at it for the sake of all my wonderful friends who continually encourage me to persist.)

Lo and behold, I had something completely unexpected and earth-shattering happen! I opened an email response to my query that began with, “Sounds intriguing!  Please send the full manuscript + synopsis as attachments to my direct email.  I look forward to reading your material.” By the second reading (the one where I realized this wasn’t just an encouraging “this isn’t quite right for me, but best wishes” response), I nearly toppled off my trainer! Seriously. I forgot I was clipped in, as I tried to climb off to greedily gobble up those delicious words again.

Let’s be clear. I understand that, as of this moment, this doesn’t mean my book will be published. But this event is still magnanimous, as I won’t ever forget the literary agent who gave me that gift of optimism. (I may surely share her name at some point in the future, but I won’t put that pressure on her today.) She will always be my first non-rejection hopeful response – the person (beyond those who already loved me) to say that my project had enough value to earn her attention. It was a mountain-top experience, to be certain!

And I surely yearn for mountain-top experiences. Admittedly, I’ve had some colder-weather ones lately; but this photo from Grandfather Mountain this past July (in near 100-degree heat) best brings the appropriate words to mind when it comes to climbing on toward your challenge:


So how have your fires of optimism been fueled lately?

Recycling Christmas Cheer throughout the Coming New Year

Of the left-over items from the holiday season, CHRISTMAS CARDS may present the most perplexing puzzlement of all.


Christmas cards have become somewhat of a societal anomaly, after all. Where letters have transitioned into e-mails and passing thoughts get texted without enough thought, Christmas cards are one of the few remaining print expressions that actually still (most often) travel through snail mail – frequently from those who we’ve not truly heard from in ages past, despite potential social networking opportunities that often reveal very little beyond “it’s complicated.”

Perhaps because they’re a little more festive or maybe because we try to imagine the people opening their postal boxes, then opening our cards, we take a little more time in their preparation. After choosing a card (or making one) that conveys our personalities (or maybe our children’s growth), sometimes we buy fancy colored pens that glitter, or make a trip to the post office to buy season-appropriate stamps, or tuck a special thought or a little gift inside. Whatever the case, the recipient is left to understand that he/she was “special enough” to have been gifted with this extra effort.

Therein lies the quandary – what to do with this special endowment once the holiday season has passed. When the halls are no longer dutifully decked – and the house is no longer a jolly wreck…when everything around you appears sterile once more…what do you do with the remaining evidence of others’ thoughtful Christmas spirits? Do you just throw them into the trash – to be carried off and tossed onto a garbage heap? How very un-green (and red) of you!

Christmas Left-overs for Fun Recycling at our Home

Christmas Left-overs for Fun Recycling at our Home

How about some GREEN Christmas Card Re-Cycling Ideas that will continue to spread Christmas Cheer instead?

  1. Okay, here’s the most obvious “re-cycling” idea. Choose some of your favorite cards and cut out pieces to make your own homemade Christmas cards next year. Don’t do it on your own though – how does that spread any Christmas cheer? Have a little card-making party. If you want to wear silly sweaters and do it with your BFF’s, fine. But instead of setting yourself up to say, “I thought we’d never come back from that one” (yes, that was an eye roll)…What if you included some young, glue-sticky hands in your fun? Invite the creative energy of kids to join you (e.g., youth group, boy or girl scouts, children’s church, foster kids, mission trip kids – wherever you might be able to get involved). You may have to hold onto these cards for several months, but by fall, these children could be making cards to give to special people and brighten their days. Up the ante by having the kids send (or deliver) the cards to folks in an elderly residential home or to soldiers. Look beyond yourself and share the spirit from beginning to end.
  2. Re-cycle the blessing back to the individual(s) who originally blessed you. Place your pile of Christmas cards into a basket. Each night (or once a week – you can set your own reasonable time schedule), pull a card from the basket and resolve to pray for the name(s) on the card. Not only will you be blessing the sender of the card, you’ll be sneaking in another blessing for yourself once again. The card that keeps on giving…
  3. Take your re-cycling efforts a step further. Mail that card back to the original sender, letting that person know you prayed for him/her. (Or if you are not comfortable with that, then just follow my lead from here.) Enclose a special note to the person(s) whose name(s) is/are in that card, letting that person feel the special touch of Christmas at an unexpected moment. You may not even know what’s going on in that person’s life; but I’ll bet he/she could use a blessing. How’s that for spreading cheer throughout the year?
  4. Combine any of the above ideas for a whole new dimension of bless-ed fun! Help some kids cut out cards to make new seasonal cards. Can you imagine Santa saying “Hoppy Easter”? Or sending a partial card with a note to your friend, explaining the other parts of it were prayed over &  sent out with a special note to someone in the armed forces or in an elderly living facility?
  5. Create a collage of the fronts of Christmas card clip-outs onto a board and shellac it for a family member who either can’t be with you for the holidays or can’t be with you throughout the rest of the year. Send it to them as a writing/laptop board to remind them of your cheery love throughout the time you all are apart.

Come up with some new ideas of your own – and share them here for the rest of us to enjoy!

And may your year be full of Christmas blessings!

-just jody

True Love’s Falling

In the midst of cold, wet, dreary weather, I spent most of my weekend trying to console one of my characters, Cody, with his loss (by working diligently to finally put a large portion of this manuscript together). Meanwhile – in the real world – one of my best friends spent the weekend caring for her elderly aunt in her final hours while trying to console her family over the loss she was sharing.

I came into work this morning feeling particularly melancholy (probably because it’s still cold and wet and especially dreary, being a Monday and all). I had (took?) a few spare moments to pen these thoughts as they came to mind.

I’m sure my poem could use some work, but I hope it brings comforting thoughts to those who need them today. Blessings. -j

True Love’s Falling


Here is it in print form only, for those who might have trouble reading it in its “artsy-fartsy” form:


True Love’s Falling


Don’t let the sun set on your tomorrows

Though darkness may cloud your todays

Our falls always take us to sorrows

In due course,

Cold months surrender to Mays


The day’s sun approaching future horizons

You haven’t yet stepped out to greet

All of life’s best and mesmerizing surprises

In God’s time,

Will remove your false sense of incomplete


Breathe deeply the crisp wind that’s blowing

Take hope in all future renewals

Cleanse your heart in solely knowing…

Set love shines more brightly

Than all polished jewels



Related Link:  Rolling River

Three-Word Resolution


When challenged within the Trifecta community to develop a 3-word resolution for the New Year, I came up with this one as a reminder to myself. It was either this or “Eat Your Vegetables” – which might have been healthier, but wouldn’t have been nearly as profound…

So don’t just plan on dreaming, or even just chasing those crazy dreams. Go out this year & engage them! Heck, for all I care, you can marry ’em (as long as you eat your veggies)!  Dreaming great dreams, -j

How to Team Up to Lose an Entire Person

It’s true!

Five women teaming up for an entire semester CAN lose an entire person!

Let me refresh your memory, so you can recall how a loss like this could have come about…

Our campus issued a challenge at the beginning of the fall semester for our departments to form teams. These teams could have a maximum of 6 members, and each member could decide individually whether to accept the challenge for logging exercise minutes or weight loss or both.

Four of our members chose to log both exercise and weight loss, and a fifth member chose to log exercise only.

Within our 15 week semester, our 5-member team logged 31,753 minutes of exercise. That’s 529.22 hours, or an average of 35.28 hours per week. That means that each team member averaged 1 hour of exercise per day during our challenge period. Considering that our work days can get pretty long & hectic (with most of us often traveling), and we each have family and life responsibilities beyond our hallowed campus halls, I have to smile over the dedication shown.

Despite those great numbers, there were at least 2 teams who logged more hours. Isn’t that awesome?!

I haven’t heard all the weight loss numbers yet, but as for our four team members who participated in this segment…

Our official weigh-in revealed that we had collaboratively lost 60 pounds!!!!  Why, that means we lost an entire person among us!!!  (Okay, a very small person. Maybe one of Santa’s elves.)

In the world of work, how often do you get to team up with your colleagues in competition to celebrate a corporate loss?! And come out much closer as accountability partners?
This is surely one such loss that can be counted as great gain.

What a blessing this challenge has been. I can’t wait to hear the other teams’ numbers as the fat debit rates get reported in the red.

Mostly, I can’t wait to find out how many more people we lost across campus!


How to turn your teacher into a cry-baby

I haven’t been able to visit the blogging community too often lately – mostly because I’ve been traveling across five states for the past few months, gathering the final data for 5 years of longitudinal research (otherwise lovingly, or sometimes not, referred to as my dissertation project). By the time I reached my final graduate from whom I would gather this data, I was feeling a great mix of emotions – – elation (that no more data would need to be collected), trepidation (that all this data still had to be analyzed), exhaustion (from gathering months of data across 5 states), and depression (that I may never see many of these folks again with whom I’d gotten to catch up – or at least it may be a very long time until our paths crossed again).

I wasn’t actually expecting to cry though.
But that’s exactly what I did.

After gathering my last set of data, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of this particular graduate’s patients were completed for the day, so we’d have some fun catch-up time. Now this is a delightful, beautiful young lady; but the most special characteristic of E is her enthusiastic honesty. She’s never afraid to share her thoughts or even tell on herself, and this day was no exception. Because she’s such a warm person, she enjoys connecting with people. That’s exactly what she set out to do, too – connect with me on my level, telling me about her first whitewater rafting adventure (because she knows that’s something I love to do). By the time she had finished her story, also explaining how someone could’ve videotaped her to demonstrate all the things one should NOT do on a river, she had me holding my sides and tearing up in our shared laughter.

But those aren’t the tears I meant.

Sharing a celebratory moment together on graduation day.

Sharing a celebratory stage moment together on
E’s graduation day.

As I stood to go, telling E how very proud I was of all she was accomplishing in her career and all the wonderful life experiences I knew she had ahead, she stopped me from leaving with these words (as well as I can recall them): “I don’t want you to leave without me saying this to you. You need to hear it from me because it’s important for people to know how others feel about them. People need to feel special, and I want you to know what an impact you’ve made on my life – and I don’t just mean in my career. I mean, I appreciate everything you taught me about my profession, but that’s not the most important thing I learned from you. You’ve made an impact on me way beyond that. I think you’re an incredibly strong person in your faith and the way you deal with hardships in life. I’ve watched how you’ve handled things you couldn’t control and didn’t give in, and I look up to you for that. Thank you for letting us see you for who you really are. That’s the kind of person I want to be.”

I was floored.
I never saw it coming.
I’m a hugger, but it’s hard to make me cry. (I even have a twice-broken nose to prove it.)
I cried. (Must’ve been fatigue setting in.)

E was right. Everyone needs a good dose of encouragement, and I wish I could say that I’ve always had the opportunity to tell others exactly how I felt about them (well, the good stuff, anyway). Even if I’ve gotten it right sometimes; sadly, I know I’ve missed many other opportunities. This lovely, young lady didn’t miss hers this time around, and she made me feel something I can’t even quite describe. (Sad testimony for a blogger, I know.)

E taught a good lesson of her own that I hope sticks with me for life. She’s the kind of person I want to be, and I thank her for that. Because of her, my new goal is to set out to make many others do exactly what I did.

Yep, I hope I can make you all cry – –  like babies.

Taking the Edge Off of Plateauing Pounds

Our 5-woman campus fitness & weight loss team, the Rampaging Regionals, has finished our third week of logging our progress, registering in with:

1,950 minutes (32.63 hrs) this week   /or/   99.48 hours for the past 3 weeks


5.4 pounds weight loss this week    /or/    43 pounds lost for the past 3 weeks

We’re on the cutting edge of magnificence towards staying on track with our goals. But…

If you compare this week with the two prior ones, you might note that Week 3 doesn’t appear to be nearly as rewarding in weight loss, at least based upon the weight loss numbers. Some of us are dealing with stepping onto the scales of a plateau. Some us may even be feeling more like we’re stepping beyond that – onto a bleeding edge – covered in blood, sweat & tears from our efforts, while not cutting our anticipated weight. Somewhere along the way…

Plateaus generally come with rough edges.

You see, our bodies have been going through an adjustment period, with reduced caloric intake and increased or modified exercise. Our glycogen stores have now been released; our water weight retention has been diminished. Those things had to happen – and, boy, did they look good on the scales while they were taking place! Except now that we can’t count on a continuation of that same progressive rate, we’ve got to either be satisfied with slighter reductions in weight loss (or the dreaded plateauing), or we have to begin reworking our strategies (such as adding 15-30 minutes of exercise daily, even if we’ve maxed the “credit” we get as a team; or changing up our exercise routine to surprise our bodies).

Continuing forward can feel like a double-edged sword.

As we work through our 4th week at this point, our support systems may start getting a little shaky. Family members and friends are tired of us giving so much thought to food preparation (or maybe they’re tired of feeling guilty because they won’t play along). There aren’t as many big (numerical) victories to celebrate at our lunchroom table. Punching meals into my phone to calculate calories every day seems more like a monotonous hassle than it did the 3 weeks before. Yet…

Our team has to be determined to Stay on Track rather than Getting on Edge.

That’s a normal response. It’s what happens after a few weeks of reduced caloric intake, especially when it appears there’s not as much progress. Edginess creeps in, whispering in your ear where you can get a quick pick-me-up snack, throwing tummy tantrums as you try not to succumb to prior bad eating habits, screaming at your brain to either allow you to gnaw off a couple of your fingers or to bite someone else’s head off.

Stay calm. Step away from the edge.

Determine NOT to Edge out of Your Diet

The time you’ve determined to get back to fighting weight isn’t the time to throw in the towel from  the edge of your ring. Let me tell you a pet peeve that I don’t want to negatively impact you (or me!) – – I get a little irritated when looking for healthy diet ideas online, only to come across articles that advise me (and you) to “Stop Dieting!” That’s ridiculous advice! Why? Because the truth is – we’re ALL on some sort of diet. It’s just that some of our diets consist of some not-so-healthy food choices. People who read that tripe are tempted to throw their healthy dietary plan over the edge because some well-meaning “ex-pert” wanted to make what was perceived as a clever point using hyperbole. (That person obviously wasn’t standing on a plateau thinking of jumping over the edge!) If you’ve been working on a healthy diet plan, “ex” out that lame advice. Stick to your plan. Or check to see what revised tweaks may need to be made.

Are you skimping too much on calories to the point where you’re placing yourself in starvation mode? Then adjust with some healthy additional calories.

Are you eating larger meals, when spreading smaller snack-size portions throughout the day would better answer your body’s needs?

Have you had a health check-up with lab work lately to assure that your body is functioning at its maximum health capacity and metabolic rate?

Just remember – regardless of whether you toss out your current eating plan, you’re going to be left on a diet of some kind. Try to make those healthy diet calories maximally count towards enhanced edge-of-your-seat performance towards your well-being!

Supplement Your Edgy Cravings

Dieting is not meant to push you over the edge. First, take a look at your intake & assure it’s adequate. It’s not just about calories. It’s more about the types of food that you are placing into your body for nutritional use. Don’t allow yourself empty, sugary, junk food calories (even if you can stay within your daily caloric intake goal). Replace them with nature’s alternatives – lots of filling fruits & veggies. And be sure to get a protein with every meal, so you can continue to maintain muscle mass, rather than allowing nutrients to be stolen from your muscles. (Flabby may weigh less, but it doesn’t look nearly as attractive.)

Too many empty calories means you’ll be edging up a long, steep road without any fuel to back you – so you’ll soon be running out of gas (before your day’s journey ends)! Need an additional fuel boost?

Add Supplements to your diet – especially natural multi-vitamins & minerals. Take these with each of your meals to get an extra nutritional boost for body sustenance. This should help smooth those frayed edges.

Give Yourself a Financially Inexpensive but Emotionally Fulfilling Reward

Take the edge off by recycling your closet!  During those times when you’d like to be snacking, go to your closet & begin to prune the edges. (You heard what I did there, right?!)  Cull out your closet of all the clothes that no longer fit well because of the weight you’ve lost. If you haven’t worn them in awhile anyway, consider them outdated (for you) & send them to the Goodwill or some other charity for someone else to enjoy. Then celebrate with the fun part! Bring back to “front & center” the clothes that you haven’t been able to fit into for awhile. Find new ways to mix & match them with updated clothing items & accessories you’ve acquired since you last wore them. It’ll be like getting a new (or at least refreshed) wardrobe! (And trying on and sorting these clothes will keep your hands & mind busy – possibly for a couple of hours – as an added bonus, so you don’t feel like you have time to go get a snack.)

Make an Inexpensive Caloric Purchase when you’re feeling like a Spendthrift

Get off that slippery slope and go for an icy edge instead. (Please tell me you caught that one too.) Make yourself a low-calorie, but fulfilling, sweet treat.

skinny shakeI call this my Holy Skinny Cow! Shake (because there’s really no cow’s milk in it). It’s a much skinnier adaptation of a Wendy’s Frosty-type recipe that has been going around on Pinterest.

In a blender, combine:

1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk (I like to use the almond/coconut milk blend)
1/2 Tbs unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 tsp (or a little more) vanilla extract
2 tsp Stevia-in-the-raw
8-15 ice cubes, depending on how much you want to thin the chocolate)

See how you can gain some ground by taking the edge off?!

Calories = 50 or less!

(You could add some yogurt, a banana or protein to thicken & smoothen this, but you’ll also be adding calories, of course. How far you live on the edge is totally your call! No matter – it doesn’t really taste like a Wendy’s Frosty, but it can satisfy the sweet-tooth, chocolate craving, if that beast has been on your back.)

Smooth out those Spiritual Rough Edges

Fly off your Edge – not off the Deep End! Center yourself on spiritual issues, rather than physical demands. Take time for filling yourself with nourishment that comes from other places than food – e.g., meditation, devotion & prayer. You can learn to step out in faith & soar with the eagles, leaving your physical cravings behind. For me, this means spending interactive, meaningful time in God’s Word; talking earnestly with God in prayer; asking God to help me focus on kingdom issues, rather than the things I desire in this world (and don’t need, such as that Reese’s candy bar my son left as a temptation in my cupboard).

Remember, all plateaus have edges –

I’m hoping I can help make all of ours smoother.

At some point, we’ll be jumping off the edge of our scales (in celebration!) when these eventually break (the, um, plateaus – not the scales).  😉

Hoping I haven’t lost my edge,


Rampaging Regionals (Week 1) – Hoo-ah!!

The first official week of our campus FITNESS & WEIGHT LOSS Challenge has come to an end.

If you recall (or if you’re just reading it for the first time), one of our team members who is a die-hard competitor has named our group the Rampaging Regionals. That sets the tone for competition, doesn’t it?

I’m happy to report that our 5 member team had the following results to log from this past week (not including those successes of our 1 unofficial member who is walking with us):

  • 20 lbs. of weight loss since weigh-ins (~1-1/2 weeks prior);
  • 2,002 minutes (33.37 hours) of exercise this past week;
  • Various shared plans of determination to succeed; and
  • High fives all the way around!


My own personal plan consists of a reduction in calories for awhile with smaller meals and reducing from vigorous exercise multiple times per week to daily moderate exercise to accommodate both the caloric reduction & fat burning (as well as keeping my water intake around 1 gallon per day). I’m trying to trick my body into jump-starting my metabolism and will work my way back into my regular work-out routine with added calories after a few weeks of making this change.

Dieting Should Never Be Tasteless & Boring.
(That sets people up for failure.)

With that being said, I thought I’d share some of my low calorie recipes on the blog (for both my teammates and anyone else who might be interested). Trust me – I won’t post anything that I haven’t tried (and found suitable for) myself.

My formula for these recipes is simple:

  • Reduced calories (staying around or below 250 calories per meal)
  • Healthy inclusion of a protein, vegetable & fruit (with minimum inclusion of other carbs)
  • Small portions with caloric counts included, so the partaker can choose the number of portions based on calories, either by:
    • doubling the portion, or
    • using a single portion & spreading out more, smaller meals throughout the day to achieve personal calorie counts

EZ LO-CAL Roasted Shrimp & Broccoli


Stepped Ingredients & Directions

  • Lightly spray a stovetop non-stick pan with Pam Olive Oil spray. Stir the following ingredients together, then “stir fry” for 5-10 min on medium to medium-low heat:

 (2) 12 oz. pkg. broccoli florets
1 tsp coriander seeds (or ½ tsp. ground coriander)
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (or ½ tsp ground cumin)
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp hot chili powder

  • Heat oven to 425 F.
  •  In bowl with a lid, toss these next ingredients together:

(2) 12 oz. pkg. frozen cooked large/jumbo shrimp (shelled & deveined)
Lemon zest from one lemon
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground pepper

  • Add shrimp ingredients into broccoli mix. Turn off stovetop and mix together.
  •  On a large, non-stick cookie sheet, spread ½ mixture into a single layer and pop into the oven for 10 minutes. (Will need to repeat this again with the other half or use a 2nd cookie sheet.)
  • Roast for 10 minutes at 425 F.

 Yields 6 servings (w/ approx. 5-6 jumbo shrimp each)

~140 calories per serving

(This is a “freezable” dinner. If eating alone, I make 1 immediate serving & freeze the other 5 in quart-size freezer bags for even quicker, easier upcoming meals.)


 Suggested Personal Dessert: 

Make-your-own Frozen Strawberry Yogurt


½ cup Greek plain, non-fat yogurt
¼ cup strawberries (crushed or pureed)
1 tsp (or to taste) Stevia-in-the-raw
½ tsp vanilla extract

  • “Smush” together in freezer baggie.
  • Freeze for as long as needed to preferred consistency (Smush around every 10 minutes or so).

Yields 1 serving

~85 calories


If you decide to try these out, feel free to leave me feedback on what you think or how you might have modified to make the recipe more suitable for your needs.

Here’s to your health! 🙂


Untethered Dreams


A wee lad peeked from the loft overhead,

gaping at the giant beast led by his father’s mere tether,

dreaming of the day he would ride such a creature for the Triple Crown.


The Trifextra weekend challenge was to add 30 words to their 3 prompts for a total of 33. Their words were:




The minute I read the words, the above description was the image that jumped into my mind. One of the reasons children are such a joy is because their dreams are limitless, and life puts up no barriers in their minds. Oh, that we could hold on to that sort of passion in possibility as we grow!

Since I make it a practice not to read anyone else’s entry before I’ve completed mine, I’ll be interested in seeing who else had a similar imagery come to mind.