Other VanOrden Posts

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Walking in Winter---How to Beat Cabin Fever

I am so grateful for a recent reminder from a friend of the magical qualities exercise brings into our lives. Especially during these long dark months, exercise wakes up our body and mind by bringing invigoration and enthusiasm. Lately I've been getting up early and rather than moving slowly through my morning routine, I decided I would fight the couch potato approach to winter existence and get outside for a brisk walk. Just 20 minutes.

The first day, I had to bundle up since the temp was a chilly +8 degrees F. At least it had warmed up from the -14 from when I went to bed last night. I put on long-johns, jeans, two pairs of thick socks, turtle neck, sweat shirt, jacket, hat with ear muffs, and mittens, as well as hiking boots. Out into the dark morning I went. It’s so pretty on a cold winter morning when not much is stirring, “not even a” moose; couldn’t resist that play on words.

The only noise was when someone startled me by starting their car with a remote from the warmth inside their home. I only walked for about a mile and just about 20 minutes. Cheeks were starting to burn from the cold…since then I have used a scarf. But the magic worked. I walked into our warm home with a sparkle in my step. I could feel the enthusiasm that comes from a good start to the day as I contemplated my list of activities ahead.

So I have settled into a routine of walking early and then later in the afternoon for 30 more minutes. And thus I get my 10,000 steps per day. Besides my reduced calories 6 glycemic-balanced meals per day, the weight keeps coming off. Slowly and surely I am moving toward my 80 pound weight loss goal.

I remembered the question my doctor always asks me during the winter visits to his office; “Are you exercising at least 5 days a week”? The best solutions for winter-blues have to be exercise and eating right. I am convinced!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A NEW YEAR: So many mountains climbed, So many more to go---by Jeannie Snow VanOrden

One of my earliest memories is of hiking on Cadillac Mountain in Maine which for roughly five months each year is the first place in the United States to view the sunset.   My family was living in Granby, Massachusetts and took the opportunity to visit places of interest around New England.  I was a fidgety four-year-old with a short attention span.  Likely my energy started out strong and waned quickly as the hike dragged on. 

My clever parents came up with a way to engage me and keep me moving.  They made me the leader.  I was given the job of spotting rock cairns that marked the trail. This focused my skittish energy with something important to do.  I became useful to my family’s expedition, as useful as a four-year-old can be. In my memory I see myself leading the way up the mountain, reaching the top, and with a flourish pointing to a rock cairn marking the summit.  We were probably just traipsing through the forest gathering fire wood.

From that small expedition to the present, rock cairns have been meaningful to me: markers that give a sense of direction, a sense of perspective, a way to mark progress toward a goal.  We may not have hiked to the top of Cadillac Mountain that day but from my four-year-old point-of-view, whatever our destination; it might as well have been Everest. 

Everest:  a metaphor for the ultimate personal challenge, obsession, and achievement.  A cliché too often used considering the awful price people pay in pain and treasure for the Everest experience.   A year ago I read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer about his tragic experience on Everest.  He reached the summit but found he was caught up in one of the worst Everest disasters on record.  Five of his climbing companions, including two experienced guides, died in a freak storm. 

Everything on Everest is freakish and unpredictable. In the death zone even the most seasoned mountaineers crumble suddenly and fatally. Climbers are at the limits of human endurance and there is little energy, time, or resources left to come to the aid of faltering companions.  

I am just finishing Michael Kodas’ book “High Crimes” about corruption, greed, and criminal behavior in the rush to cash in on the Everest experience.  It is shocking what humans are willing to do to summit Everest and then peddle that experience to fame and fortune.   My reading sparked an Everest movie night at home.  We watched a video about the first blind climber to summit Everest.  Erik Weihenmayer’s achievements which include climbing the “Seven Summits” got me thinking about my own resolutions and hopes for what I would like to achieve in 2012.

Like many of the difficult challenges in my life, a number of my 2011 experiences were not of my own choosing.  The way I see it our most character revealing and defining experiences come not from events we plan for and choose to bring into our lives, but the ones that are thrust upon us.  Suddenly, no matter what else we were planning; we are required to summon enough grit, and gumption, and positive attitude to face and overcome opportunities we would rather not.  It is one thing to scrape together $65,000 and a good guide to fulfill a long-held aspiration to get to the top of Everest. 

It is quite another to find out that you must fight cancer, or suffer alongside a child who is critically ill, or endure the sudden death of a loved one and not let it destroy you.  Actually, these kinds of experiences will destroy you.  The secret is not to just survive but be born again from the ashes to a new life.  Crushing challenges demand that we humbly accept that we are being formed by forces beyond our control and not be bitter about it.

This year I’ve chosen Denali as my symbol.  It is the mountain of my adopted home, Alaska.  It looms large in the Alaskan mind and heart and can be seen on a clear day from Anchorage to Fairbanks.  I will never climb Denali and that doesn’t bother me an ounce.  I realize that the idea of conquering Denali’s slopes is sufficient. Denali symbolizes the confidence that I can do hard things, I will do hard things, and I will in the process, become a better person.

 For some of us the smallest steps forward can be extraordinarily difficult.  But as long as we insist on pressing forward to a better version of ourselves and never stop that forward motion, we have conquered the mountain. Every person's life journey can be a sacred journey to sacred knowledge and sacred space.

My goals are simple this year: 

1. Take good care of my body.  I need all the energy I can muster to do all the wonderful things that are ahead for me. Being a cancer survivor gives me additional impetus because I have already beaten the odds and should gratefully nurture the precious gift of extra years that I have been given.  I will gently take care of my health.

2. Yoga.  I discovered that yoga is as much about my peace of mind as it is about having a healthy body.  I am a person that moves fast and crams every day with more than I should.  Yoga slows me down and helps me to clear my mind. It works hand in hand with meditation and prayer.

3. Write every day. The need to write is like a spring coiling up inside of me tighter and tighter. The tension must be sprung regularly or I start turning blue.  2011 was a sparse year for writing.  Blue is not a good color on me.  2012 will be a year of disciplined effort in the writing realm. 

4.  Take lots of pictures and learn how to you use my fabulous new Canon 60D DSLR camera.  Photography snuck up on me. Before the advent of digital photography, I never supposed that I would come to enjoy it so much.  It is too close to the physics department and I have little confidence when it comes to math and physics. However, I discovered that I do have a talent, small as it may be, for creating a nice photograph now and then.

I’ve climbed Cadillac Mountain (at least in my imagination),  a mountain in Lambs Canyon above Salt Lake City, Timpanogas peak in the Wasatch Mountains,  Rendezvous Peak and Wolverine Peak in the Chugach mountains above Anchorage, Alaska.   But these were all just cairns along the trail of my life, not the actual summits that allowed me larger views of where I’ve been, what I am, and what I want to be. The summits and the views they give are brief.  It is the climb that matters.  So I will climb.

Friday, January 6, 2012

BE STILL: Yoga and My Obscure Malady---by Jeannie Snow VanOrden

I did my Yoga routine this morning.  This is one of my goals for 2012: incorporate calming, deep breathing, stretching yoga into my daily life.  I have recorded about eight routines on the DVR.  This particular Yoga series is very mild and relaxing and I have found that it significantly improves my health.  I could have used its healing power a long time ago. 

When I was eleven my mother and father sat me down and said,   “Which would you rather do, take dance or take piano lessons?”  My older sisters both took piano lessons and were accomplished singers and musicians.   It was discovered that my younger sister could benefit from dance lessons as physical therapy for a problem with short tendons in her legs.  My mother found a dance teacher who gave lessons in her home.   So there I was with the option of one or the other.   I chose dance.

I very much wish that I could play piano but if I could only do one, dance was by far the best choice for me.   I was a middle child sandwiched between two talented older sisters, an adorable younger sister whose needs required extra attention, and a long awaited baby brother.  It seems silly now but I was plagued by feelings of being awkward and unlovely and dance was great therapy.  

My teacher was a blonde statuesque beauty by the name of Jean Enright.   Her garage was fitted with mirrors and a ballet barre.  I was one of her older students.   I took lessons from her for about five years.  My last performance at one of her recitals was when I was sixteen.  Because of those lessons I was in Choreodancers at Rolling Hills High School, I danced in high school dance concerts and musicals, I danced in church plays and talent shows,   and I danced for a short time at Brigham Young University in Ballet Theater and Modern Dance Club.  

My mother encouraged me to get a degree in dance and do as my teacher had done, teach dance.  My mother was probably right but I resisted.  I think I resisted because although dance was a joy, it was also a heartache.  It was very hard for me.  All dancers must work hard and be disciplined but I felt like I was fighting my body’s basic nature.  I am not naturally limber or flexible.  I struggled to be confident on stage.  Although I am slender, I don’t have the curveless figure of the ideal ballet dancer, and I felt like I was too tall.  Knowing what I know now about the varieties of dance styles and opportunities, I realize I was too self-conscious and too pessimistic.  In spite of that, dance was a great blessing in my life.  I acquired poise and grace and confidence that my awkward young self very much needed.   I love to dance.  I had wonderful experiences performing and making friends through dance.   

After I had my second child, while I was at the doctor being treated for strep throat, I learned something about my body that shed more light on why dance was hard for me.  I have an obscure malady with the weird name, “Essential Tremors.”   I realized that the trembling in my legs and arms was not just because of exertion during a difficult work out.  I learned that being still and steady on stage wasn’t just because I had stage fright. I love performing.  I am not afraid of performing.  I am afraid of the unexpected trembling of my body that I cannot control.  I sing and that same malady had consequences during vocal performance.  I once toyed with becoming a nurse, but tremors in my hands made me give up that as a possibility because I could not imagine being able to give shots and place IV needles in patients with my trembling hands.

The worst part is that people often express concern that I am anxious or nervous because they notice the trembling.  Truthfully, I am at times anxious and nervous, and I am sometimes a bit frenetic. I think I’m a productivity junkie.  I bustle around at high speed getting as much done as possible. Which isn’t actually, all that productive sometimes.   All this does not help calm my essential tremors.  

These days I take beta-blockers to control my tremors.  Beta blockers are also useful for performance anxiety and shakiness.  Yoga with its stretching, deep breathing, Zen quality is probably the best thing I am doing to get my tremors under control.

To get the most out of my Yoga sessions both physically and mentally, I must slow down, still my mind, and create a zone of existence where nothing matters but the present  NOW:  t he body breathing in health, light, and peace;   breathing out stress and discomfiture of all kinds.  It was very hard at first. Hard like dance was hard.  I’m not limber.  Some poses are difficult.  But it gets easier every day.  My muscles are more limber every day.  I feel more youthful and more productive as I take this time to slow down. 

Aches and pains and stress are eased in that timeless space where I am at peace with myself and my maker and the challenges he as blessed me with.  Be still and breathe.

“Be still and know that I am God.”   Psalms 46:10

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let Freedom Ring---Losing Sight of Fundamental Founding Principles

Outside of Constitutional issues---the problem with today's Obama appointment is the regulator will slow the process of our economic recovery by slowing the flow of dollars to the credit market. When you regulate business you hurt free enterprise and investment slows, resulting in fewer jobs being created.  We don’t need more of that from the Executive Office of the US.  When Government messes with business, they do damage.  We don’t need an overpowering executive trying to play momma to the whole country. A community organizer can’t do that for 320,000,000 people.  The people of the US are smarter than that and can take care of themselves.  This is simply another money grab by Obama.  Take the hybrid Volt for instance.  Each one of those has cost US tax payers over $400,000 thus far.  It’s obvious the government shouldn’t own the car manufacturing companies.  What we need is for Obama and big government to get off our backs and stop the socialistic money-mongering. Let freedom ring.    

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Prepare for the Future

Trustworthy financial advice and education are essential for early retirement---click the link below for one good source of education---but, not sufficient to replace personal financial advice. Click on the title above to access a trustworthy website----12 Tips To Build Wealth For Retirement.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

How Will We Weave our Tapestry in 2012?

Yesterday I spoke to our Church congregation of perhaps 250 people about opportunities and challenges as we enter the New Year.  As I prepared my sermon, I was tempted to do the normal by suggesting behaviors that should define our discipleship as Christians.  But in my mind’s eye I kept seeing the young mother’s in the congregation struggling with their young families trying to be attentive as they took mental notes of all the things they needed to do better. 

At that point I had a major stupor of thought and my approach shifted gears.  Don’t get me wrong, the behaviors I would have been pontificating weren’t the problem. They are all decent things.

The problem was seeking to change behavior when someone is already living a stellar life helping young children grow-up in a loving atmosphere.  What more should be “required” of these young moms, and for that matter, dads.  Raising a family is certainly one of the most satisfying pursuits in life.  I didn’t want to do anything to derail such a sacred and happy process. So I deepened by contemplation and sought a better way to encourage and uplift.  Surely going to hear sermons on January 1st should be an uplifting experience.

So I focused my thoughts on what to me is one of the best sources of motivation and strength to do “good” with our lives.  Relying on the power of the Grace of Christ to help us access and maintain a life of positive loving outreach. 

Where does the power to do good come from?   Atheists and theologians will debate this notion forever.  Is it a spiritual gift or do humans have the ability to embrace an ethical moral mindset?  You may be surprised that I think it’s a combination of influences.  I think nature, nurture, and God all play a role in this most dynamic endeavor.

So here is what I hope I shared during my sermon:

1)      How to access the power of the Grace of Christ to help us improve our discipleship.  It is a spiritual gift for those who seek it. 

2)      Seek to Come unto Christ by following his example of love, kindness, gentleness, acceptance, and service. 

3)      Teach doctrine rather than programs and procedures.  Teach correct principles rather than a list of specific behaviors.  We honor the freedom of the soul by respecting ability to know what to do to help ourselves and others.   

4)      Perfectionism is like the fanatic who lost his way and redoubled his pace down the wrong path.  Keep it simple, serve others, and it’s OK to take good care of yourself. Spend some time sharpening your own saw.

Every New Year in some ways we are like a blank canvas ready for the weaver’s magic touch.  Whom we allow to work on our tapestry is up to us.  Choosing wisely is helped by practice and experience.  The notion of acceptance of and reliance on an all wise spiritual connection is almost universal---no matter what our concept of God is.  So how will we weave our tapestry in 2012?  I have full confidence that it will be absolutely beautiful 363 days from now.