Sunday, December 30, 2012

Welcome to Church

I saw this post from Stuff Christians Like and thought it was awesome. It's from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community and it's the welcome message they put it in their church bulletin a few weeks ago. If you decide to visit a church today, I hope you go somewhere that makes you feel like this. Here's the message:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaBloPoMo - November 27

Question: If you could instantly know any language in the world, which one would it be?

I'm torn between Afrikaans and French. I would love to learn Afrikaans because I love the way it sounds and it would make me one step closer to sounding like a South African when I talk, which is one of my goals in life.

On the other hand, learning French would open so many doors to different parts of the world. From Africa to Europe to South America to North America, there are people speaking different variations of the French language. Through the traveling we've done around the world, I've been constantly reminded of how much easier it would have been to communicate if I'd had any sort of knowledge of French.

While Afrikaans would be fun, French makes the most sense. Au revoir!


Monday, November 26, 2012

NaBloPoMo: November 26

Monday, November 26, 2012: Do you speak more than one language?  How did you learn the additional languages?

I am horrible at speaking other languages - though admittedly quite good at English :) I took Spanish classes throughout middle school, high school and college but am far from mastering it. Actually, I like Spanish and frequently try to get other people to speak Spanish with me but I still stink. While we were in Switzerland, David did a great job of picking up French (and Haitian Creole in Haiti) but I find French horrifying. The letters don't look like the word and nothing sounds phonetic at all. As much as I long to move to another country, the thought of learning a different language doesn't excite me at all. 

Laissez Le Bon Temps Roulet!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 22

Question: When was the last time that you cried? Why?

Here I was thinking this would be some sort of question about being thankful and NaBloPoMo goes in a totally different direction!

I'm not a crier. Nicole will tell you I struggle to have any sort of emotion whatsoever. Some people would call me apathetic. I like to think I'm actually Jason Bourne. So, when I say this is the last time I cried, let's assume my emotions were to the point of being close to crying and I had a lump in my throat and my eyes got a little watery.

A few months ago, Nicole's company had a large charity event and one of the charities they were raising money for was Homes for Heroes, an organization that helps build or find homes for veterans and other servicemen and women. As part of the event, there were two veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were there as the guests of honor on behalf of the charities all weekend. These men sustained major injuries during the war and I can't even begin to describe the daily challenges they and their families will face for the rest of their lives because of the sacrifices they made to protect our country.

During one of the nights, the company hosted a private concert by Darius Rucker, the artist usually known as "Hootie" from Hootie and the Blowfish. Darius played many of his new songs but also brought back some of the hits he is so well known for from his days of being "Hootie." At one point, he and his band began playing "Let Her Cry," one of his most successful songs during the 1990's. During the second verse of the song, I remember looking over to my left and one of soldiers was standing by his table and dancing with his wife. Because this was a "corporate" event, most people were sitting at banquet tables or in rows of chairs so it's not like anyone was really dancing or jumping around. The moment with the soldier and his wife was a completely spontaneous, amazing moment I will never forget. I remember sitting there watching them and being so thankful for what they've done to protect our freedom and so grateful they were able to have that dance together, despite their difficult circumstances.

Even from someone who never cries, it's hard not to when you experience a moment like that.

- David

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 21

Question: Where is your favorite place to read?

In a word: outside. Most of the places I can think of involve being outside in some form or another. I enjoy reading books when we go on vacation and I can sit by the pool or on the beach. The same could be said when I'm at home - if the weather is nice, I like being able to sit out on the patio or put a chair out in the front yard and have a book or magazine with me. When I'm able to stay awake, there is nothing better than setting up a hammock and lying in that while reading. Seeing as how it's currently 31 degrees outside right now, I think I'll pass on reading in my favorite spot.

- David

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 20

Question: Talk about the opening of your favorite book.

Nicole really should be answering this question because she is the book connoisseur but I'll take a stab at it. My favorite book is Spud, a South African fictional novel about a young boy who goes away to boarding school and writes about his time there through the form of a journal. It's written by John van de Ruit, who is South African and does a wonderful job incorporating aspects of the local culture with incredible humor.

The book begins with John "Spud" Milton getting ready to leave for boarding school. His parents are beyond insane and his grandmother is senile, both of which make Spud excited to get away to school. Once he actually arrives to school, he quickly learns that many of his roommates are just his crazy as the people that were part of his life at home. The rest of the book chronicles the adventures and trials of Spud and his roommates, who adopt themselves the nickname of "The Crazy Eight." If I could compare it to anything, I'd say it's a humorous and witty version of Dead Poets Society.

I can't think of another book that has made me laugh as much as this one did. If you can find it at your local library, I highly recommend reading it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 19

Question: If you had to get locked in some place (book store, amusement park, etc) overnight alone, where would you choose to be locked in?

The fact that you're going to be locked into this place alone makes it a little creepier and less fun. While spending the night at Disney World would be fun, it'd be weird to be the only one there. Instead, I'll chose to be locked in somewhere that offers plenty of opportunities to entertain myself, the man cave of The Dan Patrick Show.

Dan Patrick, a former Sportscenter anchor for ESPN, left the network a few years ago and decided to start his own radio show. Now, his show is on radio stations across the country and has its own television show. The studio where the show is produced is a sports fan's dream. It is full of memorabilia from historic moments in sports and gifts from great athletes. There are televisions all over the studio to keep up with what is happening. And there is also a basketball floor and golf simulator. The place even has its own sports bar! I'd have no trouble at all being locked in there for the night.

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 16

Question: Would you buy your dream house if the price was right BUT you also were told it was inhabited by ghosts?

Very interesting dynamic here. I don't think talk of ghosts would prevent me from buying a dream house and this question seems vague enough for there to be lots of options.

First - even if we were told the house was inhabited by ghosts, we could have been told that by an idiot who has no idea what he's talking about. He mentioned there might by ghosts and he also mentioned that the neighbors were very friendly. Wrong on both accounts.

Second - if the house is inhabited by said ghosts, who's to say this would be a bad thing? Why do ghosts always get a such a bad reputation? If it's our dream house, I'm hoping it's inhabited by ghosts who enjoy doing the laundry, making dinner, and using the vacuum cleaner. Perhaps it's a ghost who always makes sure no important things are missed in the scheduling of the DVR. Maybe it's a ghost who enjoys inviting women over and having romantic dates involving pottery wheels.

The possibilities are endless. Bring on the dream house and the ghosts!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 15

Question: Tell us about your favorite pet.

When someone has a chocolate lab puppy and a hedgehog, you'd think one of those two would easily fit the category of favorite pet. Unfortunately, the hedgehog appears to hate human interaction of any kind and the puppy is a ridiculous mess that eats everything in sight - including rocks, acorns, sticks, and anything else you find on the ground in the woods.

When I was in middle school, my family decided to get a chocolate lab puppy. We named him Buckwheat and he was an awesome dog. Some of Buckwheat's highlights included - making friends with a baby deer in the woods and walking the deer home with him; finding an inflated balloon that a school in North Carolina had released into the air and holding the balloon in his mouth without popping it; sitting in the driver's seat of my car and refusing to move when I was trying to go back to school after the holidays one year. Buckwheat died last year but the memories of him will stay with us for a long time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 14

Question: Tell us about the best meal you ever cooked.

There are two meals that immediately come to mind and I didn't really have a lot to do with the cooking of either one but I did contribute some. The best meal would have to be what we made for my birthday two years ago. My birthday was on Easter Sunday and we made BBQ chicken on the grill, macaroni & cheese, roasted vegetables, and strawberry shortcake. To be honest, Nicole deserves credit for the shortcake, my dad deserves credit for the BBQ chicken, my mom deserves credit for the macaroni & cheese, and I was responsible for the roasted vegetables. I may have made the easiest part of the meal, but it's close enough to count. Right?
- David

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 12

Question: Where is your favorite place to blog?

Hmmmmm....good question. For the boring, traditional, cliche answer, I'll say Starbucks. The biggest Starbucks in Roanoke has an upstairs area where they have larger chairs and plenty of tables for spreading out. It's a quieter space, but you can hear people talking downstairs and the staff making drinks, which is kind of a cool atmosphere.

For the more creative answer (and place I wish I went more often), I'd have to go with the new library in Roanoke County. The South County library is one of the coolest library buildings I've ever seen. It's beautifully designed and they have some awesome areas where you can sit, read,! The designers of the building also took advantage of the surroundings and put in huge windows where you can look out at the surrounding mountains. It can be a very inspiring place.

South County Library
- David

Friday, November 9, 2012

NaBloPoMo - Day 9

Question: If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?

Wow. These questions are getting a lot more serious than anything I typically care to write about on the internet. There is so much I would like to change about my life right now that it's tough to figure out where to start. One thing I know Nicole and I would love to be able to do is find a church home. We've tried a variety of different churches since living in the Roanoke area and we haven't been able to find a place where we felt comfortable or connected. I know a big part of it is the fact that we were spoiled and had the opportunity to be part of some incredible churches (Athens Church, North Point, First Orlando, Christ Fellowship) and it's always a challenge to not compare churches here to those four. Another challenge is finding a church that is more concerned about preaching the gospel than spreading a political agenda. And considering that we just had an election, many churches have displayed their true priorities over the past few months.

For now, North Point Online is our church home. Hopefully we can change that in the near future.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 6

Do you like how I initiated this idea of participating in NaBloPoMo so that it would make me write everyday....and then I left it up to David? Oops. I do that a lot (laundry, cleaning, etc.) and he always pulls through. So there, David, if you don't feel like you have received a valid compliment lately - you are an awesome husband!

...and your curry was pretty fantastic too.

Okay, anyways. Today's prompt is:

Thursday, November 8, 2012
If you could have any job (and instantly have the training and qualifications to do it), which job would you want?

In reality, I would really like to own my own bakery or cafe someday. Especially a Great Harvest. But if I could do I think it'd be awesome to be a food critic and travel the world trying new restaurants (and crazy stuff, like Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods). Besides the money part, I think I have the qualifications to do that already though - I have no tact at all when it comes to eating strange things (...or things past their expiration or that have fallen on sketchy floors...). 

Other honorable mentions would be: Astronaut (for only as long as I get to float around in zero gravity. I don't have much of an interest after that), Olympic gymnast and some sort of artist. I am so uncreative that I can't even fathom what it would be like to be able to paint or draw.

Until then, hi ho, hi ho.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 5

Question: Talk about the last compliment you received.

Uhhh...this is awkward. I think the last compliment I received was related to my cooking. Nicole tried what I made for dinner and she was impressed. It was my first attempt at making green curry and I would consider it a huge success. Recipe, review, and photos soon to come on my other blog. Ironically, earlier in the day I received a compliment from a co-worker about a different recipe I'd given her to try and she enjoyed it very much. Food Network - here I come!

- David

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 4

Question: If you were President of the United States, what would be your first act in office?

My first act would involve creating stricter policies and providing significant increases in funding and awareness regarding human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking. I believe the most important function of the government is to protect it's people and those who are being sold against their will definitely deserve protection. There are women and young children that are trafficked into our country from around the world who are being sold and passed around to be used as commodities and we must be a nation that refuses to accept this in any way. As the leader of the country, I would make a commitment to providing resources to eradicate sex trafficking in the United States and partner with organizations who are providing resources to victims of trafficking and promoting awareness to the general public about ways we can recognize and put a stop to this activity.

After that, I'd make it against the law for any Mexican restaurant to charge extra for chips!

- David

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 3

Monday, November 5 - What are your thoughts about tomorrow's election in the United States?

I love to talk about politics but it will probably get me in trouble. Honestly, I think tomorrow's election and nearly every election is a complete circus that means very little. People act like picking a new president is such a big deal, but they don't even take the time to learn about the local amendments on the ballot, which will actually affect their day-to-day activities. Similarly - people think it's such a big deal to know where the presidential candidates stand on education but they can't even name one member of their district's school board. We all sit and watch the presidential debates and then let the media tell us what our opinion should be because we can't think for ourselves enough to make up our own minds. It's a shame and I find the entire process to be a colossal embarrassment for our society every two/four years. 

The political ads are nauseating, even more so when you read the research that says they are effective. We get frustrated with the politicians and the special interest groups that pay for these advertisements, but the American people are to blame. Shame on us for not demanding more. Shame on us for not taking the time to do our own fact checking. And shame on us for being puppets in the political game. We act like it's such a big deal to have the "Right to Vote!" In my opinion, we don't deserve the right to vote when we don't even take the time to understand what it is we're voting about.

One last thing - before you complain about how a political party in our country is leading us straight down the road to hell, spend time in a country where the citizens live in fear of their government testing deadly weapons on them. Or a nation where the military does whatever it wants, including raiding villages to rape the women and steal children. Or a place where the government leaders sit in their mansions while children are dying in the streets because of starvation, AIDS, and a lack of access to clean water. 

Now, ask me how I really feel.


Friday, November 2, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 2

Well, David was the one who promised to post more often back in September and then dropped the ball....but I can't say I haven't done the same thing in the past, so in honor of Thanksgiving, I'll grant him a little grace.

In fact, in honor of November leaves...because they're falling from trees....I'm reaching here, but we are participating in NaBloPoMo, which basically is a prompt a day designed to inspire regular posting from those of us who are not so good at this. I like to think that means I am so busy with my accomplishments in real life that I don't have time for the cyber world. Let's be honest though, I'm just lazy :) Anyways, if you want to jump on the NaBloPoMo wagon, you can click through the banner on the right side of our blog and read some of the thousands of other participating blogs or see the prompts for the rest of the month so you can play along.

For Nov. 2, the prompt is: "If you could live anywhere, where would it be?"

Ahhh....tough one! There are a lot of criteria that would go into this decision for me, but the first place that comes to mind for me is South Africa. I absolutely fell in love with everything about the country while we were there. The real draw for me is the diversity, and I probably don't mean that in the way you are thinking. There are 11 national languages, mountains, oceans, 3rd world poverty, 1st world industry, Dutch accents, deserts, and safaris. There is an amazing history behind the country too, most recently around apartheid, and now (or "now now" or "just now") is an exciting time to be involved and a part of the changes happening.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thoughts of November

For some fun, we've decided to answer a different question every day in November. We will probably switch off on which days we answer questions and there might be some days when we both answer. Thank you to NaBloPoMo for providing the questions.

Question: Tell us your favorite quotation and why?
"Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, 'Do your worst, for I will do mine!'"

This quote is from the movie, The Count of Monte Cristo. I love how it represents the importance of perseverance and overcoming adversity. Many times, we grow the most when we face the most challenging and difficult circumstances. This quote represents living your life in a way that isn't afraid of challenges, but instead looks at them as opportunities.

- David

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Style

We've had a lot going on this week. Most importantly, we are working on our technique to perform the Gangnam Style video like Al Roker.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend Update

It has been a while since we've posted any updates here, and we briefly considered letting it go completely. We both have our own personal sites we maintain and we usually devote all our attention/writing to those - Nicole's being Seven Ate Nine and David's being From Ballparks to BBQ. However, as we talked about it over the weekend, there is something unique about this blog. We started telling our story through this site before we got married, and many of our crazy, ridiculous adventures have been documented through many of these posts. For a time, this was the only way we could update you about what we were doing on the other side of the world. Other times, we would tell you about all the crazy things we ate over a weekend. This has been a place where we've been able to share parts of our journey with many of you and we really appreciate you coming along for the ride. And for all those reasons...we've decided to keep this blog going. We're trying to commit to posting once every week or so and we're going to alternate to offer some perspective from both of us.

For more of a current update, here are some of our photos from this past weekend. It was a busy weekend that was full of fun, random activities (the story of our life).

Nicole did a great job as a participant in the Marine Mud Run on Saturday morning at Green Hill Park. She handled the giant mud pit like a true champ and was probably the only one in the event who rushed over from Junior League to make sure she didn't miss the race. So versatile.

One of the best things about Saturdays in the Roanoke Valley is the opportunity to visit the various local Farmers Markets, especially the City Market in downtown Roanoke. The vendors feature some awesome local produce and homemade goods and we always find something to indulge in. This past Saturday, a table full of pumpkins helped signify the beginning of fall!

To bring some international flavor to our weekend, we stopped by the Roanoke Greek Festival on Saturday afternoon. The festival raised money for a number of local charities and was a great celebration of Greek culture. We couldn't resist sampling some Greek fare and tried an iced Greek coffee and gyro. Opa!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What the Fourth?!

Happy Birthday, America!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blessed with Less

Not too much report-worthy has happened around here lately. A lot has happened. Every day something significant happens - I'm alive and happy and things are wonderful. I have been given far, far more than I could ever need, but in the ins-and-outs of everyday life, these little big blessings easily get lost in the shuffle. I hate that it takes knock-out events to shake up my perspective but love that God is creative and knows that sometimes I just need to be told that I am being absolutely ridiculous. Check out His latest shenanigans...

Friday was just another day. Actually that's not even true. It was David's last free-Friday because.... he was offered a full-time, salaried position at the CVB. Hooray! He has worked SO HARD for the past year there, and I am super proud of him for proving his potential to them. 

Anyways, the down side to having a big boy job is that now he has to work on Fridays, too. So he enjoyed his last free Friday while I worked and then we headed over to Mema & Granddaddy's house to soak up some evening rays and enjoy the pool. On our way home, the wind began to pick up and we noticed David's dad driving over to warn us that a storm was coming. In an instant, (big!) trees literally started snapping and we ran inside, straight to the basement. Within a few seconds, all the power was out.

Fast forward to today. It's Tuesday night. And the power is still out.

For the most part, things have just been going as planned. In a fun twist of events, though, this has been the hottest weekend of the year, and a lot of people who didn't lose power in Friday night's storm lost it in subsequent storms on Saturday or Sunday. The best part of this whole ordeal has been the reactions of everyone, though.

Yes, it sucks to be without power. No, cold showers aren't fun. And yes, it is impossible to sleep at night when you are so. incredibly. hot. I'll admit that I have been a total grumpster the past few days. Not sleeping and having to shower at the Y are minor annoyances that are still annoying. We are really lucky that David's family is prepared for stuff like this though - we have a generator running so most of our food has stayed intact, and we have major fans running and...most importantly, internet.

While I realize that a lot of people in our area have it much worse than us, this situation has made me realize how much I do have. And if you can read this, you have a lot to be thankful for, too. For us, not having power is the exception, not the rule. I can go without power for a few days a year - most of the world does it every single day. In fact, most of the world goes without pretty much everything I take for granted (and even sometimes complain about).

While a cold shower is annoying, it is still clean water. I can't bake, but I'm hardly without food. I can't do laundry but I have more than enough clothes to last me should the power be out for the next few months. In fact, the conveniences I've had to sacrifice are mostly about choice and comfort, not necessity. But don't think we aren't doing our part to help - we've been forced to eat crab legs and coconut cream pie. You know...just in case the generator stops working :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's 5:00 Somewhere

It's 5:00 on our last real day of vacation back in Jupiter. We're soaking up the last few rays the sun has to offer and trying not to think about the "real world" waiting for us on the other side of a plane ride Wednesday.

Happy Monday, here's to a much needed vacation!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Repost: dailySPARK

I get a lot of random emails in my inbox every morning. Apparently, I've signed up to be on every single e-newsletter list out there, so I usually just scan the subject lines and instantly delete everything. One article caught my attention this morning, though, and I want to share it with you.

The article is called "America's Top Trainer Says It's Time to Reject 'Skinny' and Get Strong." It was written as a part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week and was written by Coach Nicole of SparkPeople. If you aren't familiar with SparkPeople, I highly recommend it - it is a free health community that is well known for its exercise and calorie trackers. The website is so much more than that though, it is a wealth of information, articles, videos and message boards. It is chock full of information about any and everything you could think of, and I could literally (and have) spend hours exploring it. I don't know if everyone could, but health is sort of my "thing."

Ironically, my "thing" has tripped me up over the past few years and being healthy got out of control. I am so thrilled that I can confidently say now that I am back in a happy place - like Coach Nicole, I have come to love my new, strong, healthy body and am no longer concerned with body image or micromanaging every calorie, and have rediscovered my love of cupcakes.

Please, please take a minute to look at Coach Nicole's article below and to expand your awareness of eating disorders this week.

By: dailySpark Guest Blogger : 2/28/2012 6:00 AM 6 comments : 1,406 Views

– by Bruce Corwin, SparkPeople Staff

As part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, SparkPeople’s award-winning fitness expert, Nicole Nichols, is opening up about her own struggles with disordered eating.

SparkPeople’s fitness expert "Coach Nicole" is passionate about changing the image of “fit and healthy.” Named America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch by the American Council on Exercise and Life Fitness in 2011, Nicole soon after celebrated the launch of her newest DVD, 28-Day Boot Camp. In addition to teaching Spinning and Pilates, she runs half-marathons, practices yoga weekly, and strength trains regularly. At 29, she’s proud to be a role model for those aspiring to take control of their health—without letting the scale and fitness take control of them.

What sets Nicole apart from many other fitness experts is her "real life, real people" attitude. She believes that the images we see every day of models, actors and personal trainers set an unattainable standard, one that she hopes she and her DVDs are changing.

Nicole is the happiest and healthiest she’s ever been, but she’s quick to say she’s not at her thinnest—and that’s just fine by her. Thin is not a synonym for healthy, she says, and skinny is not the same as strong. In college, she wasn’t yet convinced. Nicole spent hours in the gym and maintained a strict diet, as a way to emulate the models and trainers she saw in the media. Nicole was chiseled, but she was also suffering from an eating disorder.

Nicole recovered, and since then, she has focused on making fitness more about how she feels inside and performs as an athlete rather than what size pants she wears. Recently, I asked Nicole to share her views on how to set healthy goals for your body and whether personal training is changing for the better, as a way to draw attention to National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Do you think most people set unrealistic standards for themselves when they start to work out and try to lose weight?

I think we compare ourselves too much to other people. We want our bodies to look like someone else's, whether that's realistic or not. It sets us up for failure. Rather than aspiring to attain someone else's physique, focus on your own strengths and what's healthy and realistic for you.

I spent a long time trying to look like the thin, toned, "tiny" bodies that I saw in magazines. I got there—I dropped body fat, gained muscle, and got compliments left and right on how great I looked. But as it turned out, I actually had an eating disorder. Trying to mold my body into something that it wasn't was unhealthy, unrealistic and unsustainable. It took hours of exercise every day and a restrictive diet that gave me no pleasure from food and left me constantly hungry. Since then I've recovered, returned to a normal, healthy, natural size for my body and regained a healthy relationship with fitness, food, and the scale.

What type of standard for physique do you advocate to the people you teach?

I don't advocate any type of physique. In fact, I try not to talk much about burning calories, trimming inches or how any particular exercise may change one's body. I believe people can be fit and healthy at any size. I also think it's healthier for our self-esteem, for our minds and bodies to view exercise not as a way to "change" ourselves, but as a tool to improve our overall health. It can be motivating to aim for a healthy weight at a safe pace. But regardless of what the scale says or how your body is shaped, if you are exercising, you are doing a lot of good for your body.

How do people react to that message?

People who follow my videos and blogs really seem to love and embrace this view of exercise. They are everyday people (just like I am) who are trying to have a life but still be healthy—without spending hours exercising or living in the gym. They realize that small amounts of fitness add up and that fitness is about feeling good—not just looking good.

You teach on the topics of body image and self-acceptance. Beyond telling people to set realistic goals, what are the other themes you touch on?

I try to spread a message of loving your body enough to take care of it and treat it with respect. Respect isn't torturing your body or starving yourself or punishing yourself in the gym. Respect comes from moderation in food, enjoying your food, being realistic in what you expect your body to achieve or look like, and exercising a healthy amount without going overboard.

Does it matter what your personal trainer looks like?

You can't judge a trainer's experience, expertise, effectiveness or motivational power by their body alone. Not every person can achieve an ultra-ripped or very toned or thin physique we imagine an ideal trainer should have—and how a person's body looks isn't necessarily a reflection of how strong, fit or healthy they really are. In addition, many people who have that "ideal" physique are doing a lot of unhealthy things to reach and achieve it. Many trainers I know subscribe to way-too-intense fitness regimens and super-restrictive diets that border on eating and exercise disorders in order to look the way they do, so it's not necessarily something to emulate.

In fact, having a trainer who looks more like you—and less like an ideal—is often more motivating. Studies have shown that seeing ripped trainers and models in magazines and on workout videos often discouraged and de-motivated people trying to get in shape.

Is the standard for what a personal trainer needs to look like changing?

I take the fact that I was honored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Life Fitness as sign that our industry is evolving by making room for trainers (like me) who don't have a "perfect" or ripped physique, but can still serve as healthy role models and help others achieve fitness at any size. And it's making room for a less intimidating and more nurturing and encouraging style than what has been the norm, which is essential when most of America is overweight and out of shape, In my new DVD SparkPeople: 28 Day Boot Camp, I specifically casted trainers who had healthy, realistic bodies that would make everyone exercising with us at home feel right in place. I think there are signs of gradual shift in that direction across the industry, and I think it's a step in the right direction for healthy living.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Going Green

Happy Valentine's Day!

Please excuse my blog-disappearance. I know the suspense of what happened last year (isn't that ironic?) is a killer. While you've been biting your fingers waiting to know exactly how I spent every moment of February, 2011, I've been enjoying myself working hard at a team planning session at The Greenbrier.

I have been to my fair share of fancy schmancy resorts - The Breakers, Grand WaileaReynolds Plantation, Hotel del Coronado, Moana Surfrider, Sandals Grande Antigua....and of course, everything Disney, but The Greenbrier is another level. First of all, visiting the hotel required my first trip to the great state of West Virginia. Growing up in Alabama, I know that states are sometimes given undeserved stereotypes, but what I saw of good 'ol White Sulphar Springs pretty much lived up to the West Virginia hype. It's a small, homey town, whose inhabitants are almost soley employed by the resort.

Built in 1858, the actual resort laced with history and has spent most of its long life owned by railroad companies, but was bought by entrepreneur Jim Justice in 2009. Originally, it was famed for its Sulphar springs, thought by Native Americans to heal various ailments, but was almost entirely burned down during the Civil War. One of the coolest things about the resort is that it also served as an underground "secret emergency relocation center" (bunker) for the U.S. Government in the late 1950's. The bunker was kept stocked and a secret for 30 years, but never actually used for its intended purposes, and was leaked in 1922 by the Washington Post. Tours are available, but we didn't have time on this trip.

The real splendor of this place is the decor, done by Dorothy Draper in her famous "modern baroque" style. It has been said that, "Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion. She brought color into a world which was sad and dreary. These splashy vibrant colors were used to make the public spaces represent a place for people to come again and feel elevated and where the dramatic design could absorb them in the interior." Truer words could have been been spoken - the colors at the Greenbrier are definitely splashy and vibrant and it is impossible not to be absorbed into the interior, which is kind of a problem when you just want to find your room. In my own words, I'd say that her style is more "Willy Wonka meets Vera Bradley." If you ever visited us while we lived at the condo in Jupiter, you'll understand that this seems to be Mema's style, too.

By the way, Meredith, I was standing in this giant pink room when I read your superlong, amazing email :)

I know I'm behind on Africa posts, but wanted to share my entry from last Valentine's Day. I still can't believe that was only/already a year ago! In true Aldridge fashion, we spent the day stuffing our faces. It just won't be the same without tremendous amounts of curry this year.

February 14, 2011

Being here in Kokstad and at Imbali continues to be such a blessing. It has been great to have a chance to relax and adjust to civilization again and we have really enjoyed getting to know Cobus, Riann, Warren and their families. They have absolutely spoiled us and I hope that staying here a few extra days is helpful for them – I can’t wait to get home and write rave reviews for them on every travel website I can find.

We went to church yesterday with Cobus’ family (where he introduced us as his “American friends”) and it was surprisingly similar to every other African church we’ve been to so far, except in English. Everything about their lives here seems to still be pretty segregated but church was a mix of cultures and very much on “African time” with no real order whatsoever and very basic décor and technology.

The main speaker was not the pastor, but a man from Nigeria and a lot of the service was focused on healing, which seems popular here. The man was hard to understand but talked about building all the different parts of your life on the rock of the Word instead of what the world or other people tell you. I think it was mostly referring to doctors and diagnoses but it was a message I really needed to hear as we finish up our outreach and begin to prepare for the Peace Corps or whatever is in store for us next. We’ve had such mixed reactions from friends and family about the Peace Corps and sometimes I’m not sure what I even want next, but the great news is that it doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion is, because God has already told us how to live and all the instructions are in His Word.

Ironically, I’m at least a week behind in Bible reading, but I’m working on it. Being here with most modern luxuries/free time/distractions is good practice for being at home, though. I’ve been in a little Christian-community bubble for the past 6 months where it has been easy to make God a priority, and I want to continue at home.

So, after church we spend some more quality time at the pool enjoying the sun and then walked to Spar (after a HUGE thunderstorm complete with marble-sized hail) and went to every grocery store in town with Cobus. Ivonne’s son-in-law also finally dropped off all our bags but I guess he got stuck in a storm between Tabankulu and Kokstad because all of our stuff was absolutely soaked. This is especially frustrating since it could have all been avoided if he had put the smaller stuff (like my ruined Tempurpedic pillow and/or our box of food) inside the cab with him, since he came alone. I’m glad to have everything back though and a pillow is a small sacrifice to make if it means never going back to Tabankulu.

We have a TON of food here now, though, and ate some of it last night but now that the weekend is over, the kitchen is open again, which brings me to what we did all day today: eat.

When Cobus told us about today’s breakfast last night, I figured that I’d eat the fruit in our room because nothing sounded very great. We watched him get bread ready for the breadmaker but it was some sort of cornbread. I was wrong last night though because everything this morning was incredible. David and I suffered from Sandals Syndrom and stuffed our faces because we didn’t have to pay (extra) for it and anything that isn’t from a can is still amazing to us. We had hake filets, scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, chicken sausage, tomato & onion, watermelon, other fruit, homemade bread, banana bread, cereal, museli and lots of French-press coffee. And it was all amazing.

Needless to say, we skipped lunch and headed to town for some quality time at the internet café, and then back to Imbali to hang out at the pool. Then, Cobus surprised us by sending us over to the Mt.Currie Inn for Valentine’s Day dinner. Where we threw down again. The help here all speaks Xhosa but I’m pretty sure they were busy discussing how much the skinny white kids were eating. For dinner, we had salad, rice, curry chicken, lamb shanks, mac & cheese, roasted potatoes, butternut/acorn squash, creamed spinach, apple strudel, wine, chocolate cake…and lots more coffee. I’m pretty sure (okay, positive) that I ate more than David both at breakfast and dinner but I’m ready for my swimsuit to fit again, and trying to enjoy everything while it’s “free.” We are spending 500R to stay here tonight but I’m sure the food I ate at dinner alone was worth it.

It’s 12:45Am…and just a few more hours ‘till breakfast! TIA, starvin’ marvin!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rise and Shine

I remember David's phone alarm going off at what I thought was way. too. early. this morning...but I'd take that alarm over pots and pans and livestock any day....

February 2, 2011
When I think back to my first night in Tabankulu, and how I couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet, I just have to laugh. This morning, I was woken up at 6 by various animals making noises – including the loudest one of all…Sharon.

Apparently, she finds 6AM to be an opportune time to begin banging on pots and pans, sloshing water around in plastic jugs, scrubbing aluminum pots and banging on anything she can find. There must have been something very exciting happening just outside the door, too, because I swear she opened/slammed it shut 100 times. And it is connected to all the hanging pots and pans.

Now, at 7:45, she is at it again. Wrapping and unwrapping everything, banging on the metal kettle, and pouring water into/out of every pot/pan/cup/bowl/vessel in the house. Plus, every dog is barking, rooster crowing, cow mooing and donkey braying in the whole village.

I’m also sticking my foot in my mouth for ever complaining about the bed in Tabankulu. It’s no tempur-pedic and was a little firmer than my ideal mattress but I had clearly forgotten just how painful my taco bed/blow-up travel pillow combination is. I know that it is probably a million times better than sleeping on the floor, which is what most people here do (or so Sharon says..) and I am still considering it pure joy but it will be a miracle if I don’t have a lifetime of spinal problems after leaving this place. I’m also going to need some serious psychiatric treatment to get over the fact that Sharon is going to make me lose my mind.

There’s no school today because Thobeka is in Tabankulu. It’s gonna be a LONG one. TIA.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Bump in the Road

Can you believe that it is already February? 2011 flew by, and if January is any indication of what the rest of 2012 will be like, I am predicting a hurricane of a year.'s 66 degrees out today (I'm trapped inside but I hear it's beautiful), so if this is what "global warming" causes, bring it on!

This morning, as I drove to work, there was a beautiful rainbow over the mountains. I posted it on Instagram, and ironically, just saw that last year's journal was all about driving through the mountains too. I often complain about our little commute into Roanoke, but am quickly humbled when I remember the painful rides we were taking last year. Yikes.

Happy February!

February 1, 2011
…and we are back in Godeka. Not surprisingly, little has changed here. We got lucky with the bakkie situation and were able to sit in the front seat all the way back, which made the trip much more bearable and it is nice to finally be out of Tabankulu again. Driving through the mountains was beautiful – and so much more enjoyable from the front seat than the bumpy, crowded back. It’s good to be “home” and I’m looking forward to seeing what is in store for us over the next 2 weeks here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sure, I'll cut your hair...

Africa Journal - January 31, 2011

Another successful day in Kokstad today. I’m still not a big fan of the city but it’s growing on me…and the more time I spend in Tabankulu, the more I appreciate Kokstad.

Most importantly – we have tickets back to America in March! Ironically, they are the same tickets we originally had from Cape Town to Geneva, so it will be interesting to see who else from the original team ends up on our flight, since Sam is already back in Switzerland and Maite is staying in J-Bay to do a DTS. It’s amazing that in a month we’ll be home and not being able to travel at the end doesn’t bother me at all, I am just ready to be back in America again.

This morning, on the way to Kokstad, we saw a group of women standing on the side of the road with orange highway cones on their heads. Sunday, I cut David’s hair with a pair of safety scissors. South Africa is up in grief because Nelson Mandela was in the hospital. All of Egypt is on strike. I miss the normalcy of life in America. I have a compulsive need to “nest.”

We’re watching WWE Raw. TIA.

Monday, January 30, 2012

So Long, January

This was a lazy weekend for us - I didn't work at all, so we actually got to spend some time together around the house hanging out on Saturday, and went to church, the gym and dinner on Sunday. We also got to try our hands at a few new recipes and do some much-needed relaxing.

Somehow, this must be exactly how I spent my time exactly a year ago, becuase my journal jumps from Jan. 26 to Jan. 31. Perfect! I guess the end of January is just consistently a time when I burn out :)

Jan. 31, 2011
Today is/was D-Day for going back to Godeka. We spent yesterday getting everything here cleaned and packed up and celebrated our last day with a bottle of wine and 2 Steve Martin movies. I woke up early this morning with every intention of taking 1 last bath before running to the store for apples/pears and was mentally gearing myself up for the dreaded bakkie ride.

BUT as I laid in bed and thought about how we were going to try to figure out our airline ticket information over the phone from a place with no electricity, I began to get a little worried. We have had enough problems with the phone here in Tabankulu and we found out from Turkish Airlines yesterday that any changes to the reservation have to be done through the travel agent who booked them…which means we need to get in touch with someone from Burtigny.

So we are staying and going back into Kokstad tomorrow to use the internet and try to get all of this sorted out so we can get back to America one of these days.

I’m kind of glad for another day with electricity and running water, but I don’t feel like I am having the impact here that we do in Godeka and I miss the kids and our garden so I’m ready to go back up – especially now that everything is packed. Another day in Kokstad will be good though – David can get a Heavenly Bar and we can try to make this trip as productive as the one on Friday, when we got David’s Polio vaccine (done and faxed to his dad), a bunch of groceries at Pick N’ Pay, Doxycycline, a newsletter mailed and ate a half a pint of ice cream and a quarter of a (huge) watermelon.
On a random note, yesterday when we were walking down the street, someone told us “thank you for being here.” We don’t do anything here except buy groceries and sit at the library but it’s a good reminder that we live in a fishbowl and people here are judging us as much as we are judging them. TIA.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Swing and a Miss

Today's last-year post is especially funny to me, since I have really missed Africa for the past few days. Isn't it funny how the grass is always greener on the other side....of the world?

Jan. 26, 2011:
Today has really been the first day that I’ve been homesick since we left in September. I miss the familiarity of everything about America – I miss knowing where to find everything I need and the convenience of having things of decent quality and a variety. Maybe I just miss the developed world but the more David and I have talked about the places we want to go and things we want to do when we get back, the more I just want to be home. I’m tired of living out of a suitcase and not having anything permanent, but the reality is that we may not have that for awhile. I know for sure that I’m sick of Tabankulu though. I’m tired of third-world dogs and the third-world stench and tjust the feeling of total hopelessness here as people sit around selling the same bruised bananas and rotten cabbages.

I had a productive morning and did laundry, which really makes me miss development. I can live without a dishwasher but doing laundry by hand is literally a pain in the neck. The sun actually came out today, so everything dried but it’s stiff and I miss tumble dryers. I also sucked it up and took a bath last night, but I think it was pretty pointless – even though it has rained for 4 days, I couldn’t get any water. Really?

Today someone was blaring “O Holy Night” outside, and we saw a man selling sticks. TIA.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Year Ago...

As we settle back into life in America, it is hard to believe that we've been back since March. And even harder to believe that only a year ago, we were trekking around South Africa. The difference in living styles is literally a world apart and I am shocked by how quickly we were able to jump back into the routine of normal, American life.

One of the best decisions we made while traveling last year was to keep journals. We tried to keep our blog updated when we had internet access, but it was spotty (at best) in Souoth Africa and having real, pen-and-paper journals proved to be a great way to record all the ridiculousness of life there, as well as random thoughts and feelings. I've been flipping through our journals lately, and really enjoyed comparing the current date with whatever we were doing exactly a year ago. How far we've come!

So, I thought it'd be fun to share with the rest of the cyber-world. Here is my journal entry from January 25, 2011.

This whole trip has become even more ridiculous. I thought we were leaving our crazy current situation (living in a thatched-roof hut with a loony Canadian grandma in an African village without electricity/plumbing or running water) for a little bit of normalcy. But, as I sit in an armchair with a TV tray (complete with doily) and watch “Street Lawyer” on a really fuzzy TV while listening to roosters crow, mosquitoes buzz and random American rap music blare from trucks outside, I realize that “normal” doesn’t really exist anymore.

We haven’t seen the sun since we got here on Friday – literally. It has rained and rained and rained and we’ve been stuck in this crazy house acting like old people. Cabin fever got the best of us a few times so yesterday we ventured out to the library in search of free internet. Fail. Today, we scoped out all the shops and were not surprised to find out that they all carry the exact same things. Various crème-filled cookies, canned meat, pilchards in chili sauce, corn snacks, soya mince, Robertsons’ spices, Aromat, pap, samp, flour, Jungle Oats, candles/matches, various strange-flavored candies, room temperature yogurt, milk-based “fruit” drinks, and the same fruits/veggies: cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, pears, cabbage, apples, plumbs and butternut squash. And sometimes beets.

Even though there’s not a lot going on here, it is good to get away. Ironically, I still haven’t done any laundry and I’ve only bathed once, so I’m wearing all my stinky clothes from Godeka until it stops raining or I get myself into the tub. I think that fact that I’ve been shuffling around in Yvonne’s slippers and David is wearing her pants for the 2nd day in a row really sums up our time here. TIA.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I'm Bringin' Bloggin' Back....

It's 2012, and that means I've abandoned this blog for...well, far too long. It's a new year though, and I am hoping that we'll have lots of exciting things going on this year to share with our friends and family. Here's to wishful thinking, right?

Merry Christmas, and welcome to 2012!