Monday, November 29, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

There are many ways people countdown the days till Christmas.

There is the classic Advent Calendar countdown where there is something fun to do or eat each of the 25 days leading up to Christmas. Or what about the paper chain! I made one of those once in a countdown to meet Taylor (well, it wasn't a chain to countdown the days till Christmas, but I met Taylor a week after Christmas, so it was close enough). And then, we have the song we all love (well, all of us but my brother Charlie who hates all Christmas music): The 12 Days of Christmas.

There are many ways to countdown the days to Christmas and each way adds it's own fun and novelty to the whole Christmas season. This year, I have decided to make my own, personal countdown to Christmas Eve:

"25 Days of Avoiding Christmas Food and Treats"

And this joyous countdown will take place from today, November 29th, through December 23rd.

Today, I read that the average person gains 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. And really, this is something I already knew, both from reading something similar in years past, and unfortunately, from experience (special thanks to Christmas Season 2009 - and if you didn't gain the Christmas weight last year, it's because I gained yours, too).

Normally, people just throw caution to the wind, eat what they want, and then join the millions of Americans who make a New Year's Resolution to lose the weight beginning January 1st. Well, I am going on vacation in February and if I follow the normal trend, I won't have the time it requires to lose the 7 to 10 Christmas pounds (let alone the 15+ pounds left over from last year's Christmas season) in order to get this body into a reasonably un-scary, bathing suit-wearing condition.

So, I have to start working towards my goal right now.

My goal is to not only avoid gaining the 7 to 10 Christmas pounds, but to also lose the recommended 1-2 pounds per week (with the help of WeightWatchers!! who by the way, has a new PointsPlus program -as of today- that is worth checking out if you like the WW program - it's how Jennifer Hudson lost all her weight).

My "25 Days of Avoiding Christmas Food and Treats" will involve me keeping track of all the wonderful, Christmas treats and foods that I am avoiding to meet my goal. And since I work in an office (aka: dumping grounds for unwanted edibles) I am pretty sure that, short of me being a hermit and sleeping all day (which has been known to happen), I will run into at least one Christmas treat-type-thing every day.

Today's avoided treat: a peppermint, chocolatey, almond bark yumminess.

Now, I have to clarify that I am not avoiding my normal treats. For example, I have these WW-friendly ice creams bars that I like and I will continue to eat those. This whole thing is my attempt to avoid the Christmas treats, cookies, breads, special mochas from coffee shops, candy canes... CANDY CANES!!!!! (okay, I just realized right now that this means avoiding candy canes *deep breath* I can do this)!

I know that some of you will want to tell me to just enjoy Christmas treats in moderation. Here is the problem. I don't DO moderation. I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. If I bake cookies, I don't eat one; I eat most. And for me to be successful at my long-term goal (to get this out of control body into a bathing suit-tolerant condition), I have to give myself strict parameters and specific guidelines. And part of this if having a list of don'ts. To be honest, this will be way easier if I avoid all of it, rather than try to be moderate with some of it.

Feel free to join me if you find yourself in a similar "I don't want to gain 7 to 10 pounds" situation. It won't be easy, but on January 1st, when all your friends and family wake up with clothes that are too tight and fighting the obligation to join the millions of other fluffy people at the over-crowded gym, you can smile. And eat a left over Christmas cookie without an ounce of guilt :)

Now **raising a glass** here's to hoping I don't fail miserably! **clink** :-/

Close friends and family, here is where your encouragement and support comes in handy!

Who's with me???

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hockey: 10% skill, 90% knowing how to play the game

I'm sitting here at home in my jammies, and rather than getting ready to go play hockey, I am watching the Vikings get slaughtered by the Packers. We are getting freezing rain here in Minnesota and as much as I LOVE playing ice hockey, I can't justify the risk of driving on really icy roads to play (I'd be driving over 50 miles round trip).

So, since I can't play hockey today, I thought I'd use the time to write about it.

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest man to ever lace up a pair of skates. He once said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." And I try to play by that short, but well summarized, philosophy of how to play the game.

I certainly am far from a perfect hockey player and make tons of mistakes all the time. I am not a very quick skater, although, I did learn in a Rob Little skating clinic that just when you think you are skating your fastest, try skating harder and faster, because you can. Practice skating so fast that you feel out of control and you will surprise yourself. I digress.... Anyway, I am not super quick, but I have both seen and experienced that just because someone is quick, it doesn't make them a great hockey player. Sure, speed is advantageous, but it's not what makes or breaks a game by any means.

I've seen really fast guys skate the puck from end to end, only to be shut down buy a good defender or awesome goalie. And from the bench, we can see all the missed passing opportunities that could have really increased our chances of scoring or getting a killer rebound chance if they had only lifted their head up or been willing to share the glory of a goal.

My point is that, while skill is important, knowing how to play the game is more important. There are a few things that I try to bring to my game in order to be as effective as possible and the best team player that I can possibly be. And I still have a very long ways to go...

First, skate you @ss off everytime you are on the ice. Obviously there are times when you aren't moving a whole lot, but everytime you are skating for the puck, skating to catch the opponent in their break out, moving to break up the opponent's pass, or skating towards a loose puck, skate your hardest. If you aren't skating hard then you really don't deserve to get there first. I am afraid to watch myself play on a video because I know that I would be extremely lacking in this area.

So very often, I see people coasting around, waiting for the puck to come to them or watching the game happen around them. I can't tell you how many times I've seen (and been this person) watching a pass come towards them, rather than skating a few extra steps to GO catch it, only to have the opponent intercept it because they are the ones moving their feet.

I've watched opponents and seen teammates watch as opponents handle the puck, trying to decide what to do with it, and we just sit back and watch their play happen; this, rather than skating towards them and applying pressure to FORCE them to move the puck to a place they don't necessarily want to send it. If we just sit back and watch and we don't apply that pressure then it gives them time to find an open guy to pass the puck to. But, I have also seen great results when we do apply pressure: it either forces the opponent to just dump the puck without intention or, sometimes, they turn it over and you get posession! Either way, it's a win-win so WHY not skate hard and apply the pressure?

Just a few games ago, while playing with my co-ed team, the Diablos, we were short-handed with a guy in the box. One of my awesome teammates, Monique, followed the puck into the offensive zone to apply pressure to their D. Her pressure ended up forcing a turn over and she got a short-handed goal! If she hadn't given that extra bit of effort and applied pressure, she wouldn't have created that amazing scoring opportunity.

Another aspect of the game that I believe is more important than natural talent is passing. No matter how fast you can skate, the puck can be passed at a faster speed and will force your opponent to chase you around like chickens with their heads cut off (which, btw, I just realize that I've never seen a chicken with their head cut off... hmmm). Again, this is something I really need to continue to work on.
When I get the puck, or see that I am about to, the first thing I do is quickly look up to see my options for passing it. I have milliseconds to decide if I have a great passing option, if it would be better for me to skate it up a bit, or if I should dump it somewhere neutral (like into the corner of the offensive zone so we can make a line change). Knowing where your passing options are is imperative to a successful hockey game. And frankly, that is why it's a team sport and not a game made up entirely of a shootout. And just as important to seeing where your options are at is talking on the ice to let your teammates know where you are and if you are open for a pass. I am SO bad at this, I need to talk on the ice way more often than I do!
And finally, I'd like to expand on the Great One's quote, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." The one thing that will tire out a team faster than a short walk will tire out old man Favre is chasing the puck around the ice. If you want to be successful, create turnovers and shut down the opponent, you have to be able to anticipate where the puck is going to be and get there. When the opposition is breaking out the puck or trying to get a scoring chance in our zone, I look around and think, "where is that player going to pass the puck?" And then I try and get into position to block or intercept that pass. If you aren't looking around and recognizing what the opposition's passing options are then you are playing with blinders on and will get very tired chasing around the puck - I know this from experiece!
Oh and one last little tid bit: never try to play goalie for your goalie. Sorry bout that Jen! :)
So, to sum it up: Skate your hardest ALL the time, look for passing opportunities, play where the puck is going to be, not where it's been, don't play goalie if you aren't the goalie, and Gretzky is the Great One.
I am getting sad that I am not at either of my games right now :(

Safety first, though, and driving on icy roads: I don't feel safe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way

A lot has happened in the past 7 or 8 months. Things I could not foresee. Things that, if you had told me they were going to happen, I would have said, "yeah right," and laughed. But also, things that I think have made me a better person. I was pruned, if you will.

It's amazing what you have to go through to learn who your true friends are. During a weird and tough time of my life, I had friends at work totally ditch me and throw me under the bus. To add insult to injury, they didn't hesitate to keep their opinions to themselves so now, people who I don't even know that well, give me the cold shoulder. Other friends who I thought had my back and whom I confided in were telling the first people what I was saying all the while pretending they felt my pain. I felt so betrayed and so alone. What sucks more is that I have to see these people every day. And it's been a long journey figuring out how to deal with this mess, loss of trust, loss of friendships, disloyalty, backstabbing and being totally ignored by people who I thought were friends and people who I sat right next to 40 hours a week.

But, all things work out for the good right? Right. Because through this I have learned SO much.

I have learned that it's totally unfair to form concrete and unwavering opinions about people when you don't really know them, especially if your experience with that person is just what someone else tells you. We have no idea what people's stories are. We might think we know people because we see them 5 days a week but what is going on in their personal lives that we don't know about? I know it's lame to bring your personal problems to work and be rude to people who have nothing to do with whatever has made you upset, but sometimes life is just that overwhelming and you can't help but be distracted, withdrawn or impersonal with people. Maybe, rather than judging someone, be there for them. Tell them you are there to listen if they need it. Or just be kind. And for goodness sake, don't fuel rumors or go around telling people that "Suzie is such a mean person." When I needed a friend, my friends bailed on me and made false judgements about me rather than asking me what was up. It sucked but because of this, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, stick up for those people who are being "picked on," because I know what it feels like now. And it sucks. And no one deserves to be treated so poorly.

I have also learned that if one of your closest friends is someone who is quick to tell you someone else's secrets or pretends to genuinely care about people to get information and then tell other people what they've learned, that friend will do the same thing to you - pretend to care about you to get information and then tell your secrets. I should have seen that coming. I am MUCH more cautious about what I tell people now and who I tell stuff to.

Another thing I've learned through this is who my real friends are. And what a breath of fresh air they have been. It's so awesome to have friends who are genuine, fun, and who really, really care. I think that I will learn to be a better friend because of this, too.

Finally, I am in the processes of learning to care a lot less about what others think of me and be more concerned about being myself, sticking to my morals and convictions, and getting to know some really nice and genuine people I work with.