Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Jolly time visiting downtown Detroit February 24, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:35 pm
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detroitriverDetroit has been blessed with some beautiful warm, sunny weather days. Great reasons to head downtown to explore the city.

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On a recent exploration, a friend and I first stopped at the river walk to wander along the Detroit River, wave to our Canadian neighbors in Windsor (okay, maybe I’m the only one who does this!) and learn a little history while we soaked up some much needed vitamin D. There were several others with the same idea – I love seeing people getting outdoors to enjoy the downtown area.

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After a nice walk in the fresh air, we headed north on Woodward Avenue. We checked out the progress on the new Little Caesars Arena where the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will soon play. As we neared Wayne State University, we stopped on Canfield Street to explore some more. And we did a little daydreaming as we wandered through the Shinola store. This Detroit-based company makes me pause beside soft leather handbags, awesome custom built bicycles, fun accessories and of course cool watches. I admit that I eyed a watch (or two) before willpower kicked in and made my wallet stay tucked inside of my purse (for now).

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jollypumpkinWe next wandered into Third Man Records, offering great selections of music. Originally founded by Detroit-native Jack White (of The White Stripes), the store showcases an array of vinyl records from amazing artists, record players, accessories and more. A listening booth, record booth, stage, and lounge were highlights for me. I love the eclectic vibe of this store.

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Next door to Third Man Records is Jolly Pumpkin Brewery. We of course needed refreshments after all the wandering! I love visiting Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, and have also dined at the Ann Arbor location. This was my first visit to the Detroit location. Jolly Pumpkin serves their own craft beer plus North Peak Brewing Company. They also have a variety of spirits. Oh and food. I enjoy both Michigan-based brands of craft beer, plus the relaxed atmosphere at all of their locations. I will definitely return.

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It was fun to check out the Michigan companies and enjoy the great weather with great company. All in all it was another fun adventure in downtown Detroit. Get there when you have the chance to explore, eat, drink and have fun!

 

Travel planning tips February 20, 2017

Travel planning tips

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Traveling has always been a favorite activity. When I was younger, I loved our family getaways (and still do!) and now as an adult, ‘travel’ is a definite budget line item goal so I can afford to plan my own trips and choose new destinations. I love exploring new locations, learning new cultures (even those local cultures in the U.S.!), trying new activities and simply getting away from life’s daily responsibilities and grind.

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There are many factors that help make a trip memorable, fun and smooth. I truly believe that the people you travel with are the greatest factors in a successful trip. Finding someone/some people who are flexible, easy going and can ‘go with the flow’ if snafus happen can make or break a trip. I recall one of my backpacking trips to South Manitou Island with a group of friends – we woke one morning to thunderstorms and hard rain. Three of us girls piled into a tent and spent a few hours sharing stories, laughing, braiding hair and basically making the most of the unplanned event. When the storms cleared, the planned hikes and fun resumed but it was awesome to be with people who shrugged at the circumstance and moved on.

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Hiking outside of Las Vegas

Traveling solo can be fun too. You can set your own plans and pace, and either do as much or as little as you want without worrying about keeping everyone happy.

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Regardless of how and who you travel with, the advance planning of a trip will help ensure you have a smooth, enjoyable time once you arrive at your destination. Here are a few tips to get you started:

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1. Be prepared to spend some time doing research. Whether it was Maui, Ireland, Alaska or somewhere in Michigan, I took the time to check out local websites and read reviews. This up front research helped me know some local spots, things to be cautious about, and feel a bit more comfortable with a new area. This was especially important when I went to Ireland, as despite it being an English-speaking country, it was still a foreign country with different cultures, currency and customs.

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2. Check out the homes, cottages and condos available on rental sites, such as Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO.com), Air BnB, HomeAway.com and others. I found the awesome oceanfront Maui condo on VRBO, thanks to the suggestion of a friend. These options can sometimes be more affordable, spacious and cozier than a standard hotel (I especially like having the option of buying your own food and making meals when you want). Some questions to consider: When were the pictures taken? If there’s a kitchen, what’s included (dishes, coffee, detergent, etc.)? Are laundry facilities available? Is there a local person to contact if something happens? Is there a cleaning fee and other fees not included in the listed nightly fee?

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3. Read reviews. I like to find a potential facility on TripAdvisor to get some feedback. VRBO usually also has guest reviews of each facility. Keep in mind that these reviews are subjective (what one person finds lacking may not be a big deal to another). However, if consistent problems or concerns are listed, it might be time to look at another facility. For example, my family was ready to book a location for our summer trip until we skimmed the reviews and noticed a lot of recent complaints about cleanliness and cranky staff. We moved on. Check dates of the reviews to ensure the concerns aren’t from years ago. If you want to pay it forward, write a review after your trip of the lodging, entertainment venue or restaurants you experienced during your trip.

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4. Look for a Groupon or other discounts in the local area for lodging, meals and entertainment. If you’re looking for local ideas at your destination, search Groupon, Living Social or similar online discount sites for discounted tickets, restaurant and activity coupons. There are a lot of great choices. You may find a food spot or activity that you wouldn’t have known about without searching.

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Exploring Alaska, one of my favorite trips.

5. Cash in credit card or airline miles. Many people don’t know that these earned miles aren’t just for airline tickets. Most of the time you can redeem for car rentals, restaurant gift cards, cameras, hotel rooms and more. Make sure you know the redemption rules to check on blackout dates and fees.

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6. Ask for input from friends and family. A plus of social media is the ability to share your personal business with a large group of people at once. Heck, often times, friends of friends can learn your business with the click of a button. Take advantage of this by asking for input, suggestions and reviews on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

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7. Be flexible. If you can adjust dates and also be flexible in the type of lodging or car you reserve, you may find a better deal. Also, once you arrive at your destination, be flexible in your activities if possible. I like to have some ideas for activities but try not to set too much in stone so I can be ready to try something new if the opportunity arises. When my friend and I went to Riviera Maya, we had zero plans except relaxing at the resort. However, I woke one morning and decided to hike the ruins. It was fun!

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8. Check out Costco or other member companies. While I haven’t personally used Costco to book travel, several friends regularly book rental cars, hotels and more through the big store and assure me that they receive great discounts.

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If you put a little time into the planning portion of your trip, you can relax and have fun on the actual trip. And the golden rule of travel for me is to take life in stride – you’re on vacation, enjoy it! And don’t forget to take pictures!

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What tips do you have for trip planning?

 

Fundraiser benefits cancer survivors February 12, 2017

benefitingls_2cIf you’re in metro Detroit and without plans next Saturday, Feb. 18, please join me for a fun event supporting people touched by cancer!

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I’m hosting a “Rock Your Ride” fundraiser to benefit LIVESTRONG’s programs and services that support people with cancer, caregivers, family and friends. The event is at Cyclebar Troy, a new activity that I recently tried and liked (read my blog).

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Not an avid cyclist? Not an avid fitness seeker? Not a problem! Some of my family and friends were a little hesitant to register since they’ve never participated in a cycling/spin class and don’t regularly exercise. That’s okay! The class is for all fitness levels. You ride at your own pace, so if the instructor says to bump up the resistance or pedal faster, you can do that….or not. It’s all within your comfort zone. As long as you’re pedaling, you’re getting a workout! The music is fast and fun, the instructor is high-energy, the lights are low (kind of my favorite part so people can’t really see me!), and you feel awesome afterward. And the best part of this class? You’re helping support programs and services that provide help to cancer survivors, caregivers and others.

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Your $25 cycling/spin class at Cyclebar Troy includes:

  • 50-minute fun, calorie burning cycling/spin class (with great music and people!)
  • LIVESTRONG yellow wristband
  • Cyclebar water bottle
  • Post-class snacks
  • Happy emotions of helping people touched by cancer

Cycling shoes, towel, lockers, hair bands and changing rooms are also available (no additional fee). Feel free to wear yellow and/or black clothing in support of LIVESTRONG!

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The event begins at 11:45am at Cyclebar in Troy. Everyone MUST REGISTER online to guarantee a spot: http://bit.ly/2gTMqzE

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hh_cyclebarNeed some reasons to join me?

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The event benefit LIVESTRONG’s programs and services for people with cancer. The nonprofit offers a wide range of free/low-cost programs and services, including navigation services, fertility assistance, clinical trial matches, public policy advocacy and more. You can read about some of my favorite programs here.

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You’ll get a great workout. Whether you ride hard the entire time, do interval training or stick to your own rhythm, it will be a great workout. The trick with any workout is to always be moving. I admit that I’m usually muscle-burning tired after any Cyclebar class, but it’s a ‘good tired’ feeling, knowing that I burned some mega calories while having fun.

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You’ll hang out with fun people. I mean besides me (ha ha). Several of my family and friends are attending, many who haven’t been to a spin class but are excited to try it out. These people make me smile and laugh on a regular basis so I can’t imagine what laughs will occur during this class. And if you hear someone singing really loud to the great music, um, just ignore that. It’s probably me singing to distract myself from the workout (wink).

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There are some spots left and I’d love to see you there. Don’t forget that advance registration is required – click here to register.

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Hope to see you there and thanks for supporting people touched by cancer!

 

Trying the coffee craze February 8, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , ,

keurigbrewingIn a kick off to my best year ever, I decided to finally kick my pop habit (yes, that’s what we call the liquid in the Midwest).

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I didn’t drink coffee so Dr Pepper was my daily caffeine. I usually had one in the morning, at my work desk, while I caught up on email and prepared for the day’s meetings and projects. I’d drink one here and there on the weekend and vacation. But here’s the weird thing – I only drank Dr Pepper so if the store/restaurant didn’t carry that brand, I wouldn’t drink any pop. At any rate, I know that pop isn’t the best for you (even diet pop is bad) so I decided to kick it. And I did. I stopped drinking Dr Pepper over the holidays and have drank only two since then (and I didn’t really even enjoy it anymore so didn’t finish those!).

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I also needed to cut back on my Starbucks Chai latte, which is high in sugar. Not to mention adds up in cost. I didn’t drink these daily but enough to note that I needed to scale back. So I convinced myself to limit the crave to once per week. And I’ve been able to manage that since early January (and it’s a yummy indulgence when the one time arrives!).

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So as I removed both of these drinks from my regular routine, what could I add in place when I need a pick me up? I drink plenty of water and have enough tea. I suddenly found myself starting to drink…coffee! I haven’t had coffee since I was 10 when my mom let us drink a cup on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons (keeping in mind that cup was mostly milk, a dash of sugar and some coffee!).

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Some people ask why start drinking anything new? Why start drinking coffee at this point in life? Good questions….but I didn’t commit to cutting out caffeine and can drink only so much tea, so why not? On a funnier note, several cycling friends said that many cyclists drink beer and coffee. I guess I’ll fit into the cycling community a bit better this year (whew, because you know I was worried. Ha)!

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I’m still figuring out my tastes. Dark roasts are too strong. A few of the light roasts are too….well, light. I’m on the fence on flavored coffees, although I like a hazelnut flavored coffee, but vanilla is a little strong. I definitely need a creamer or splash of milk. I like some flavored creamers but nothing too sweet. I don’t even want to know about ‘fancy’ coffees until I get a bit more settled  – OMG do I sound like an adult or what?? Geesh. Although, now that I mention it, I do feel a bit more adult-like, getting my coffee in the morning, enjoying the aroma and warm taste!

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What’s your favorite brand, flavor, way to drink coffee? I need some suggestions!

 

**PS. Yes, I recycle my K-cups. 🙂

 

5 lessons to my 21-year-old self February 3, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 9:00 am
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Enjoy every day!

I went to see my oncology surgeon the other day for a check-up. For those of you who haven’t read my history, I am a bone cancer survivor. Diagnosed at 21, I was fortunate to have my left leg saved, undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatment and a major surgery to replace the lower part of my femur, knee and top part of my tibia with titanium.

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My leg has recently been achy in unusual areas of the titanium rod. I kicked off a busy fitness routine at the beginning of the year, including Zumba, strength training, cycling and whatever else I feel like doing. I decided better safe than sorry by visiting my surgeon. Thankfully, there doesn’t appear to be anything distinctly wrong with my leg. The tenderness is probably due to the return of cold, winter weather in Michigan and, more likely, that I do not like to sit still. I push my leg regularly with all the physical activities on my schedule, which my surgeon forewarned wears out my hardware (medical terms). I know this and know I most likely will have the hardware replaced in time. But thankfully not yet. While there is nothing wrong with my leg, I still received some suggested restrictions that kind of bummed me out. Because I don’t like to be restricted from what I want/like to do (who does, right??). It makes me feel like cancer is winning a bit, weird as that may sound as I write this with a clean bill of health (thank heavens).

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I admit when I left my surgeon’s office, I felt a bit…well, pouty, a tad frustrated and maybe even a bit sorry for myself. So when I stopped in the waiting area to put my coat and gloves on and looked around at the other patients waiting for appointments with various oncology doctors, I was quickly reminded to count my blessings. Especially when I noticed a young woman sitting near me flipping through a magazine. I saw her bald head peeking out of the colorful hat she wore. We smiled at each other and I swear I saw a glimpse of myself at 21 years old, feeling hopeful, nervous, anxious, tired, determined.

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Trust yourself, even if some part is titanium!

When the woman was called back to the exam room, I found myself staring at that closed door. I vividly remembered being at that stage of treatment, mustering up positive energy and smiles because I really believed a good attitude would help my fight against this disease. But deep down I was also terrified, confused (why this was happening to me), and uncertain. Yet, I kept the positive attitude through treatment and beyond (it thankfully is my preferred state of mind). I gave thanks daily at being alive. I felt blessed at the people who made incredibly positive impacts as they entered my life, sometimes to simply pass through. I counted blessings even when the hits came. And I continue to do all that. Every day.

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As I later sat in my car waiting for it to warm up (come on, spring!), I still thought of the young woman. And of myself, who at 21 had so many ‘big plans’ for the future. I don’t know that I would tell my younger self to not do or try something because, as difficult as some of those situations (and people) turned out to be, each one brought me to this point in my life and helped add to the woman I am today. I needed those learning experiences (okay, maybe I could have skipped some of the tears and bad dates). But there are still some lessons I would share with my younger self:

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Have faith in yourself. There will be moments when a situation or person makes you doubt yourself, your talents, emotions, and, possibly, even your thoughts. Stay true to yourself. No one can tell you how you think or feel. YOU will make the best decisions for you. There will be challenges to overcome throughout your lifetime – some you may see coming, many you will not. As odd as it sounds, try to embrace these. The disappointment, tears, heartaches, frustrations, uncertainty. These will make you stronger, wiser, fiercer in determination and courage, more compassionate, and prepare you for the next challenge. Never lose faith or trust in yourself.

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Trust your gut instincts. These red flags wave for a reason. Sometimes these gut instincts will mean you need to do something unpopular or may make others unhappy with you. Sometimes these gut instincts will protect you from potentially difficult situations. If you know something isn’t right, pay attention and react. But know that you will also at times ignore your instincts. Learn from the moments that will inevitably follow.

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Take nothing or no one for granted. I heard many times growing up that “life is never guaranteed so appreciate it.” I didn’t really understand what that meant until my cancer diagnosis. Before cancer, I thought I would always be able to run on two legs and be adventurous in my choices of physical activities. I trusted that my dad would be beside my mom, sisters and me for decades to come. Life changes, sometimes very unexpectedly. I learned to fully embrace happiness, family, friends, adventures, accomplishments and so much more. Take time to step back to soak in special moments.

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Don’t hesitate to share your emotions with someone special. Whether your parents, siblings, friends, crush or someone passing through who made a positive impact on you, share your thanks, thoughts and feelings. You really don’t know that there will be another chance or another day to share. Within two years after treatment, I lost four friends to cancer and there is so much I wish I would have shared with them. I know in the past I missed opportunities to share my feelings with romantic partners, friends and others because I was either too shy, nervous of their reaction, figured I had time or some other silly reason. I rarely let those moments slip by me now. On the flip side, when someone hurts or upsets me, I voice those feelings too. It took a long time to find that voice because I tend to be nice and worry about others’ feelings, but I’ve learned there are ways to have difficult conversations in a kind, respectful way (even when the other person may not be).

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Enjoy every day. Even on seemingly bad days, don’t go to bed without picking one positive moment in the day. Because I promise there will always be one moment that makes you smile, brings you comfort or at the very least reminds you that there will be sunshine tomorrow. And don’t forget to laugh. Often. Nothing makes me feel better and more optimistic than laughing. Surround yourself with people who share your zest for life. Find a job you enjoy, explore the world outside of your local community, try new activities. Live.

 

5 ways to motivate yourself to be active January 25, 2017

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I kicked off the new year with a new fitness routine that includes cardio and strength training to get my butt ready for the list of outdoor activities that I want to participate in once the mild weather arrives in Michigan. As much as I like to be active and exercise, even I at times need some motivation. So I like to mix up my routine and activities when I can. Good thing there are so many fun activities to keep me busy!

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While going to the gym provides great exercise for both cardio and weight training, I get bored if I go too much. Plus, I frankly enjoy too many other forms of activities to be a gym rat. If you need a variety of activities to get you moving, consider some that I enjoy:

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Riding indoors!

Indoor bike trainer: I’m anxious to be outdoors riding my bike again, but the weather hasn’t been on my side the past few weeks so I just want to ride my bike. When I mentioned that to my friend, he offered to let me borrow his bike trainer (so nice!). It’s not the same as riding outside but it lets me stay comfortable on my bike, remind my bottom what it feels like to sit on the seat (!), and keep up the cardio. I set it up in my living room near the television so it’s a good excuse to catch up on some shows (hey, whatever works).

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Zumba: I love Zumba! I love the music and dancing. I love seeing the lovely ladies who are also regulars in my class. This class is for any fitness level as you dance to your comfort zone. You don’t need to be super coordinated or a great dancer. You can modify moves as needed (I do at times due to the titanium rod in my leg). I love my Zumba class because the instructors often play music that I can sing along with and the dancing keeps me focused so I forget I’m working out!

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Cyclebar: This fun version of a spin class offers good music, low lights and energetic instructors. While you can get a fairly intense workout, you really ride at your own fitness level and pace. So if the instructor says to ride an entire song out of the seat and you don’t feel like it, then don’t. There are some days that my leg is achy so I might not pedal as fast/hard as others. I’m cool with that since riding at my own pace is still keeping me moving. That’s truly the important part of any physical activity – keep moving!

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Working out with my trainer is fun!

Group workouts: I like working out with others but can’t always find someone to exercise when I can, who will commit to a regular schedule, etc. A local studio gym offers small group fitness classes with a dedicated personal trainer so I decided to participate (good accountability when you register/pay for a class). We meet twice a week to focus on strength training using weights, balls, bands, various exercises, and more. I really like my group’s trainer (she spunky, sweet and shakes up the exercises so it stays fun!), and the other women are motivating and inspiring. We laugh a lot throughout our class. If you don’t have this option of a ‘formal’ group workout, find a few friends who are willing to commit to getting together with you. I suggest agreeing on the number of days per week and the specific days/times you all want to commit to so everyone knows the expectations up front.

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Indoor walking: With the unpredictable winter weather in Michigan, I haven’t been able to walk or bike outside very much (it’s either snowing, sleeting, raining or bitter cold). But I like to walk so decided to check out the local indoor mall. I had no idea so many people walked at the mall! Window shopping is a great distraction (one suggestion: go before the mall opens so you save money!).

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I often have people comment that “it’s nice I have so much time to work out and they wish that they had the time too.” Guess what? I’m just as busy as the next person with work, volunteering, family, social life, and other commitments. But staying healthy is important enough to me that I make being active part of my lifestyle. That’s the trick – once it’s part of your lifestyle, you find the time. My friend gets on her treadmill at 9pm three times a week after her kids are in bed (she also bought a small TV that’s perched in front of the treadmill so she can catch up on shows. Good distraction.). My sister participates in a 5am class twice a week because it’s when she has ‘free time’ (God bless her because there is no way I could get up this early to work out!). I add my Zumba class and now fitness class to my calendar so it blocks off my time and sends me reminders. It’s really easy to make excuses to put off being active and healthy. So stop.

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What activities do you enjoy that keep you moving?

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If want to kick off your exercise routine while helping support people with cancer, join me on Saturday, Feb. 18 for a fundraiser to benefit LIVESTRONG – we’ll be having some fun at Cyclebar in Troy! This cycling/spin class is for all fitness levels (ride at your own pace). Riders receive a LIVESTRONG bracelet, Cyclebar water bottle and snacks. Register today!

 

Make a vision board for the new year January 18, 2017

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Cheers to a great year!

Week 3 of my best year ever started! So far, it’s been a good year. I kicked off my fitness routine (more to come on that later), biked a few times, met up with friends many times, and got working on some professional projects.

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One of my favorite activities that I like to do to kick off a new year is make a vision board. It’s a fun, simple way to  keep my goals, and dreams, in a visible spot (I usually keep it in my home office but since I’ve been in a temporary apartment while house hunting, I keep my board on top of the microwave and it’s proven to be a great spot. Every time I heat up some tea, food, whatever, I look at my board. It often reminds me of where I want to head and to lose the distractions!).

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Making a vision board is also a perfect excuse to get some friends together (not that we need excuses!). While you can of course make one on your own, I find it fun to get together to share your goals and see the creativity others use when making a board. My friend hosts an annual vision board making party with a bunch of women, food, drinks and craft supplies. It’s a lot of fun! I couldn’t make it a few times in the past so gathered my sisters and other ladies together because I really wanted to make a vision board. Last year, I helped plan a vision board party for my sorority alumnae chapter. And if you want to make it on your own, go for it!

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Remember that nothing on that board has to be perfect, nor is it set in stone. It’s your vision board! Some women get detailed both with their goals and creativity with paper, stickers and images, while others think broader, find what they need and glue it on wherever the whim takes them. And that’s beautiful because…say it with me….it’s your vision board! (Getting the picture that this project is all about you?)

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You need simple supplies to get started:

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Your goals. Some people get detailed (lose 10 pounds, get a puppy, go to Italy, find a new job, etc.). You can do whatever you want. It is after all your vision board! I often set some specific goals but this year I am focusing more on broader goals, with a few details included.

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Poster board. This can be any type of poster board. I usually choose a  standard white board with a little thickness (for easier display) and cut it to 15″ x 20″ size. It keeps it manageable to make and to display.

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Magazines. Use any magazines to find images of your goals, words, letters, whatever you want. If you make your board with a group of people, ask everyone to bring what they can. It’s fun (and easier) to have a variety of choices.

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Craft supplies. Stickers, sparkles, decorative paper and any other fun crafty item you want to include on your board.

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Scissors. For cutting your images and paper.

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Glue sticks. Place your items and stick ’em on!

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You can add any other item to your list. Whatever helps you get started and focused. No one is going to knock on your door to check the status of your projects/goals. The idea is to keep you focused on what you want. As I said, sometimes those goals change and sometimes you simply decide you want to do something else with your year and life. Have fun with this project! It’s your vision board! (okay, I couldn’t resist.)

 

 
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