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Finding Comfort

June 18th, 2011

BookmarkYesterday, one day after her 13th birthday, I had to put my darling Maine Coon cat Sascha to sleep. It wasn’t easy and I chose a Friday because I had a lighter client load and could hole up on the weekend to recover and grieve. A close friend of mine who is visiting from out of town accompanied me on the emotional trip to the clinic and I appreciated his broad shoulders to lean on.

This morning I went and got a pedicure, and on my way back I stopped at a park in my neighborhood for a little personal reflection time before returning to my home and houseguest. While I was there a man—the only other person in the park—walked by me as I was standing there, silently leaning against my car in the shade. Politely, he inquired “waiting for a friend?” Now, I am normally a private person and it would have been second nature for me to simply answer “Yes,” and then make a benign comment about the nice day or his canine companion, but his question must’ve piqued something inside me because I blurted out “I just put my cat to sleep,” as a big, fat tear plopped itself onto my cheek. The man looked pained and uttered “I’m so sorry,” and quickly left me to myself. A few minutes later, lost in my thoughts, I looked up to see the same man standing next to me, with his hand extended as if to give me something. “My grandmother gave me this,”  he said, “may it give you peace,” and then he walked away.

In my hand was a laminated bookmark with Psalm 23 on it.

I have written here before about the kindness of strangers. I have been moved to tears by the actions of others, but that gesture—at that exact moment—was exactly what I needed to give me the sense of peace I was in the park pursuing. Perhaps it’s the universal human pain that comes from loss by death that binds us to one and other, or maybe the message of that particular Psalm is the tie, but whatever it was, I wish I could have found my voice long enough to thank the man who called his dog “Popo,” and so deeply touched my heart.

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Full Circle: Sarah’s Progress Summary

June 13th, 2011

Ainsley is already a veggie lover at 6-months of age!

The following blog was written by Sarah H., a recent client of Fork in the Road. Sarah is a periodic guest blogger here on the site, and she has promised to document her progress—and setbacks—for the benefit of our followers. Sarah’s vital stats: 29 years-old, married to Stephen, who is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Two daughters, Avery (2 1/2 years) and Ainsley (6 months). Previous eating style: 80-90% organic, high dairy and healthier than average (slightly…on some days). Health/lifestyle goals: Provide a well-balanced diet for a picky toddler, add variety to the family table, develop food preparation skills and improve the quality of meals consumed.

Today I craved nothing but fruits and vegetables. I swear Sheree was sending me subliminal messages or something!  My six month program with her is coming to an end (already!) so maybe that’s the impetus. Even more interesting—I was craving ambrosia—the first recipe Sheree and I ever made together in my home back in Des Moines. (If you’ve been following my blogs you know I moved here to South Carolina in the spring, and Sheree and I continued to work together via Skype.)

I had some much needed alone time tonight, which means I got to go grocery shopping without the kids. Exciting, right? When the kids went down for bed I stayed up preparing the foods I purchased…extending my “me” moment a bit. The quietness really got to me this time. Maybe it was making the ambrosia or chatting with my dear friend back home but I felt so homesick for Des Moines. This little bit of emotional turmoil really got me thinking. I’ve only been away for a bit over three months but our little family has really changed. Funny how the smell and taste of food can trigger such revelations, eh?  Since being in this Fork in the Road program I have really learned to “connect the dots.” Here are four basic but monumental concepts that I have gathered from my time with Sheree:

  • Pretend Sheree is with you every time you go to the grocery store. (And if you are lucky enough to live in Iowa, set up a shopping consultation with her once!) If you buy the right stuff you will eat the right stuff.
  • Leave nothing in your cupboards that you are trying to avoid. Focus on what you want not what you don’t want! So if you see chemically engineered sugar sponges filled with fake cream and you continuously tell yourself to eat less of them…you will eat more of them.
  • Don’t think of preparing food as a chore: it’s really an important part of life and being human. What we eat influences every aspect of our lives from our mood to our physical appearance. Even if you are working quickly you can still think positive thoughts about what you are doing for yourself and your family.
  • Invest in new (quality) tools as your budget allows. I bought my first “real” knife..a Wusthof knife with a bamboo cutting board. I have no idea how I ever lived without these before. I have yet to time myself but I know without a doubt that my produce chopping time (and physical effort) has been drastically reduced. Plus, now I actually enjoy chopping stuff!

As I sit here, snacking on my ambrosia, I realize how much Sheree has influenced me. My label reading has graduated from looking for “organic” to truly scoping out the ingredients. 100% of the household and personal products we use now are free from harmful chemicals. There is no dairy milk in our refrigerator. I only drink coffee on the weekends (and occasionally when I stop by a coffee shop alone…but I am rarely alone). We eat meat about three times a week. Our recycling bin is no longer overflowing with packages from food items because we prepare almost everything fresh.

So all in all I would say I accomplished far more than I expected. I touched on this a bit in the previous blog, but success does not have to be a quantifiable piece of evidence. I mean, I am 1.5 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight and 4.5 pounds away from my desired weight just six months after the birth of Ainsley, but I have achieved far more important things than that by working with Sheree! I’ve learned skills that will benefit my family and me for the rest of our lives…I just have to make the choice to use them!

We take our kids with us to the gym--it seems to inspire them!

I know I still can make improvements and that is why I signed up to stay on with Sheree in a “maintenance” program. She and I will meet via Skype still, just less frequently. As a continuing client I will still get my daily “Fork Lift” tip and the other benefits that come with being a Fork in the Road client.  Stay tuned, because Sheree has invited me to check back in every now and again in this space.  In the meantime as Sheree says “May all your forks in the road be delicious.”

~Sarah

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Retreat, Regroup, Reinvigorate!

June 7th, 2011

I am writing this blog on a hot afternoon from Fairfield, Iowa, about 110 miles from my home in Des Moines. I came here with my friend and fellow entrepreneur Sally for our semi-annual two day working “retreat.” We started doing these together last year and this is the second venue we’ve been to. We arrived about eight hours ago and started work immediately.

I’ve spoken about retreats before, and I’ve even convinced a few people to adopt the practice for themselves. I try and get one in about every quarter and let me tell you how refreshing and invigorating it is to get away from the day-to-day grind in order to focus energy on—well, whatever needs my concentrated attention.

The retreats Sally and I do are mostly centered on our businesses. Sally owns a marketing and communications agency, Cooper Smith & Company and this time she is working on some strategic projects, a communications plan and some of her own firm’s marketing these next two days. I am working on getting my calendar reigned in (rethinking my workweek and hours of business), editing an on-line program I wrote to help people transition to a raw food lifestyle and marketing for Fork in the Road. Sally and I compared notes about our individual goals in the car on the way here and we’re gently holding each other accountable for hitting our own stated objectives. A big part of what makes this successful is that Sally and I have similar work styles. We’re both early risers, we like to work through all meals except dinner (which we’ll go out for in just a little bit to give ourselves a breather) and working silently but in tandem with another person invigorates both of us. We interrupt each other infrequently and only for good reason. We encourage each other, critique one another’s work, and we remind each other to take a break now and then. At dinner we’ll give each other progress updates and we’ll also allow ourselves to talk about stuff other than work. We’ll probably have a glass of wine and we’ll also probably work a little bit more after dinner tonight. Once we’re back in Des Moines, we’ll meet regularly (usually once a week or every 10 days) to check in and to keep the reinvigorated feeling alive. We have become sort of accountability partners for each other.

In between my retreats with Sally I do solo getaways. Last summer I was gone for almost a week and my objectives for that experience was a combination of additional business goals and some personal reflection. While I was there I actually worked out the plan for my video entry into the international 2010 Hot Raw Chef competition, which I subsequently went on to win. I also established some personal goals and revisited my 2010 “resolutions.” It was an intimate, productive and refreshing experience.

If the idea of a retreat resonates with you, I highly recommend giving it a go. A few thoughts that might help guide your planning and give you a better experience include:

Have a list. Write your goals and objectives in rank order of importance and work on them in that sequence so that you’ll get the truly important stuff worked through.

Pick a partner. If you decide to go with another person, choose someone who easily meshes with your own work style. I prefer to work with people whose drive and energy level matches my own.

Location, location. Be deliberative about your venue. In addition to the bare basics such as a work area in which to spread out, you might also choose a spot with amenities that matter most to you. For example, I prefer to make my own snacks and food, so I need a small kitchen.

Take care. You know I would not be doing my job if I didn’t remind you to take care of yourself during this focused time. I take healthy food with me (no junk at all!) as well as tons of water. Plan to get to bed early and allow yourself frequent breaks.

Keep the end in mind. Remember why you’re going on retreat. I go during the workweek because I am working. (This is not to say a 90-minute shopping break couldn’t benefit you; just be cautious about heading out to the pool for an afternoon of umbrella drinks before you have your work done.)

Follow through. I like to plan a half day right after I get back that I can devote to following up on ideas I’ve birthed or projects I have begun on retreat, This might mean making phone calls to set up meetings or dropping things off somewhere or other tasks I couldn’t do remotely. I realize this makes my two-day retreat a little more of a time investment, but it’s positively worth it.

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