I often receive questions from parents
on the topic of how to find and maintain work/life balance. My friends and I
also battle daily the war on work, laundry, errands, and meal preparation while
tending to our little troopers. I dream of the evening when I can soak in a hot
tub – candle lit and a glass of wine in hand – without Dexter pulling Paxton’s
hair out, the puppy tearing apart a dirty diaper, Ella refusing to do her
homework, and Mitch knocking on the door to ask where he can find his keys.
Sigh. Someday perhaps.

Dr. Carrie Holland is here to offer
quick tips for balancing your days so you have more time for you and for your
family.             -Dr. Julia Pewitt Kinder

Finding quality time to spend with family can be a challenge
when multiple responsibilities demand your attention. My husband and I struggle
with this as we work full-time (often nights and weekends), have a toddler and
a baby on the way, a yorkie- mix named Poppy, and an upcoming move to another
state. A few months ago I created a reminder list of easy ways I could enjoy my
family each day. By posting this list on our refrigerator, we remember every
morning to make the most of our day together.

1.  Turn off the TV. It sounds simple, and
really, it is. As a treat, Adam and I spend a few minutes watching Real
Housewives while we eat Ben and Jerry’s, but after the last spoonful of ice
cream is eaten, the TV is off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of vegging out
in front of the TV in silence; though we’re sitting next to each other, we may
as well be in different rooms. Before long, 30+ minutes have passed, one of us
has nodded off, and it’s time for bed. Use that time to talk instead.

2.  Eat dinner together. Granted, this does
not happen on a regular basis in my house. There are at least 2 nights per week
when one of us is away working. On those nights when I’m home but Adam is away,
between feeding Evan and wiping food off the walls, I make time to tell a story.
When Adam is home, we take turns cooking and playing with Evan . It may be
leftover spaghetti from a tupperware container, but it’s time to talk about the
day, plan for the next, and giggle as our son learns to use a fork.

3.  Go for walks. Admittedly, living in
Chicago this winter has not afforded many opportunities to go outside for a
stroll, but whenever the weather is decent, all four of us (Poppy included)
strap on our coats and head outdoors for fresh air. One of us pushes the
stroller while the other takes the leash. It’s good post-meal exercise and a
chance to visit with neighbors.

4.  Find a hobby you both enjoy, and DO IT.
. Adam and I met in the gym, and working out is what we do for fun
together. My friend laughed because on a recent Saturday when Adam and I were
both off, we scheduled a date with a personal trainer to learn some new
exercises. The trainer worked us over, and we had a great time while Evan
played with his pals at the gym daycare. Not a bad way to start our weekend,
and we left feeling fit (and sore).

5.  Say no. To phone calls, texts, emails, and
Facebook. A device is constantly vibrating, chirping, or beckoning when I get
home and my rule is to let it be (unless  it’s urgent). If I need to catch up with a
friend, I make that phone call during my half hour commute. Emails are returned
while at work. I try to limit Facebook to when I’m on the elliptical. It’s too
easy to spend precious minutes in front of a screen, when I could be reading
Evan a book.

6.  Leave work on time. This may be the
hardest on the list (for me) to do. But if I have no obligations at work, I
make every effort to walk out of the office at 5pm. There is ALWAYS more to do,
but I remind myself that it will still be there tomorrow, and as long as it is
not urgent, it can wait, so I can get home to my family.

7.  Do the ritual stuff together. Every
night around 7pm is bath time for Evan. The toys are put away, the lights dimmed,
and we wash the day away (along with whatever bits of food have managed to
sneak into Evan’s hair/eyebrows/nose). Adam and I share this duty: one bathes
and the other dries and dresses him. After bath, we read a story. Poppy sits on
the floor and listens intently as Evan turns the pages. One of us could be in
front of the TV or working on the computer, but we choose to make bath time a
family event.

8.  Outsource if you can. It took us years
to swallow our pride and hire professional house cleaners, but once we finally
did we never looked back. Yes, it’s an added expense and we budget for it, but
it beats spending one of our precious few simultaneous days off scrubbing
toilets on different floors of our house. Sure, the sink may not be as spotless
as if I did it myself, but I can accept that knowing I have an extra afternoon
to go to the park.

9.   Don’t feel obligated to go to every birthday
party, brunch, play date, etc…
On weekends, I sometimes try to cram as much
as I can into 48 hours by going to numerous social activities. All that fun can
be exhausting, and leave me with nothing left for my family. Yes, it’s important
to maintain friendships. However, when your schedules are overrun with social
engagements, you may have no time for your own family once the party’s over.
It’s okay to decline every now and then, and my guess is that your friends can
relate to being exhausted and strapped for time.

10. Make time for yourself. How many times have
you heard “You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself
first?” When I do something for me – whether it’s a massage, a haircut, or reading
a magazine for fifteen uninterrupted minutes – I feel centered and human. This
balance allows me to be present and available to my family, rather than
irritated and resentful. I know my family needs me, but I imagine they prefer
to have a pleasant, happy version of me rather than a burned out and exhausted
me. If it means getting up early to work out or staying up late to have dinner
with friends, so be it. We all need time for ourselves, and we all have the
same 24 hours to find it. Get creative, and I imagine you may find a few extra
minutes (maybe even an hour!) to devote to you,
which in turn will reflect in your own family’s wellness.

Contributed by Dr. Carrie Holland.

How do you find time each day to create
balance? Please share your tips with us!

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Are you tired when waking and totally exhausted in the evening? Wish you had more energy to tackle endless to-do lists? Annoyed by brain fog? Those are pretty common complaints from busy parents. We have all searched for a pill or drink to make us feel better. Dr. Carrie Holland has offered to help us sort through the debate on vitamins and supplements. Enjoy! -Dr. Julia

Do you take a vitamin or supplement? If so, why? Maybe you saw a commercial promoting the benefit of a certain supplement to make you smarter or stronger. Perhaps a friend takes a supplement and recommends it for thick and shiny hair or wrinkle-free skin. Or, did your physician advise you to start a vitamin to prevent a disease? If you are one of nearly half of the US population who takes a supplement, there may be several reasons that led you to add this to your daily routine. Regardless of what prompted you to begin taking your vitamins or minerals, you may be wondering if it’s making any difference.

On December 17, 2013, three articles and a very frank editorial in the respected journal Annals of Internal Medicine questioned the use of vitamins and minerals to prevent heart disease and cancer and to maintain brain function. The editorial makes no mistake in its recommendation with its bold title: “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.” It alludes to other articles which suggest little or no benefit to the supplements studied. The first article reviewed the use of vitamins/supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, and found no benefit in healthy adults without nutrient deficiencies. The second article investigated if a daily multivitamin would prevent cognitive decline in men over 65 years and found no benefit. Finally, the third article evaluated the use of a multivitamin in patients with a previous heart attack and found no reduction in recurrence of heart disease. Given this information, you may be asking if the vitamin you are taking is worth it. When I read these articles, I had to remind myself this is one group’s conclusions, and all research studies have limitations. If I made my medical decisions based on individual articles, I would be giving different advice every week, depending on the latest journal report.

So what does this mean for you? Before dumping your bottles in the trash and swearing off supplements forever, understand there are situations when a supplement is beneficial. When my husband and I were considering getting pregnant, I started a prenatal vitamin with folic acid to prevent brain and spinal cord defects in the developing baby. If your physician has found you are at risk of macular degeneration, she may have advised you to take a multivitamin with lutein and anti-oxidants. Calcium and Vitamin D can prevent osteoporosis. Women with heavy menstrual cycles may benefit from iron supplements. There are multiple examples of when a vitamin or supplement is useful.

However, remember that supplements are just that; they are intended to complement a healthy lifestyle of a balanced diet and exercise, not act as a replacement for them. The most common scenario I see is a patient who eats a diet of fast food, bread products, and sugary beverages, who takes a multivitamin to ‘fill the gap,’ and make up for the missing nutrients from not eating fruits and vegetables. Popping a vitamin at the end of the day will not make up for the burger and fries eaten at your local fast food joint. It is better to get your nutrition directly from food, not from a pill. There is a place for vitamins and minerals in our daily routine, but the role should be small – a supplement – just as the name implies. Your grandmother did not say “a supplement a day keeps the doctor away,” now did she?

Contributed by Dr. Carrie Holland; Board Certified in Family Medicine


As Dr. Holland explains, the decision of whether or not to take a supplement is not black or white. There are also more factors to consider. You may have heard discussions on the quality of our food and if it still contains the proper nutrients. What about possible contaminants in our food supply such as hormones and pesticides? Issues to consider regarding supplements: Are they absorbed by our body? How is production regulated to ensure quality? And a major concern is cost. I’d like to invite Dr. Holland back to blog with us on more topics. If you have questions or want to suggest a topic, please post!

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Julia Kinder

Sweet Tea; Making it Healthier.

February 24, 2013
posted by

I know I have your attention. What is it about those two little words that make you feel all happy inside? You sit down to eat at a restaurant. From the corner of your eye you see a waitress scurrying towards you for the drink order. You know what you want-but do they have it?? Your eyes quickly scan the menu for “SWEET TEA”. Ah yes….there it is!

Chances are pretty good you could find an assortment of sugars and sweeteners on your table. Those could be used to make “SWEET TEA”. But it just isn’t the same. First you must decide on yellow, blue, pink, raw, or brown varieties. Then you have to decide how many to use to achieve the appropriate level of sweetness-each variety is different, after all. Opening those tiny parcels is messy. Then the mixing starts. With luck you will have a spoon or even a knife on hand. If not, you are left attempting to stir using a flimsy straw. Using real sugar? Be prepared to stir until tomorrow if you want it to dissolve in your iced-cold drink. The dreaded taste-test often reveals your chemistry project still isn’t sweet enough. Go back to step one.

Here’s your health advice. Sweet tea has a lot of calories. One example from a well-known restaurant has 130 calories in 16oz of tea. That is about 7 teaspoons of sugar, which is approximately the same as cramming 2 and ½ cookies into your glass. Add more calories if they keep coming around with refills. All of that sugar takes away from the healthful benefits of tea.

So can you make your sweet tea healthier, aside from eliminating it completely? This is where taste buds come in. You don’t like un-sweet tea, you say. Well, was there ever something you disliked as a child but now eat? Taste buds can, and do, change. The rate of change has many variables and is different for each person, but averages 2-3 weeks. You can learn to like un-sweet, or less-sweet tea! The next time you order tea, ask for 75% sweet mixed with 25% un-sweet (The wait staff loves this.). It is not an exact science, but you will be consuming less sugar and fewer calories. Drink your tea this way until you are brave enough to go for a 50-50 mixture (you just cut your calorie intake in half!). Your next step is 75% un-sweet topped with 25% sweet. Once you have gone all the way to un-sweet, taste a 100% sweet tea. Expect to grimace with shock at the sticky, syrupy sludge.

I quit drinking sweet tea about three years ago. Occasionally I still treat myself to a 75 % un-sweet/25% sweet mix of tea. I learned not all tea is the same; like wine, there are different taste-profiles and quality. Most of the common super-market teas in tea-bags are the lowest quality tea, and don’t have good flavor unless you mask it with sugar. A high-quality, loose-leaf tea  is a totally different experience. I suggest you start experimenting with new teas while you are weaning from the sweetened tea. Most malls now have tea stores where you can sample both hot and iced tea.


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In last week’s blog, I gave you the assignment of burning a candle every day. How’d you do?

I’ve done this assignment myself, as have many of my patients. Some people don’t try this task at all, wondering why bother with something so simple – how can it possibly lead to improved health? Others excel at remembering to light their candle every day…for a few weeks…then they start to forget and revert to their old routine. In the middle of the spectrum are people who occasionally remember. On an extremely busy day, they don’t take the time or forget.

Here’s the point of the homework: if you can’t remember or take the time every single day to accomplish an activity that takes mere seconds, is free, incredibly simple, and proven to improve your mood – how do you expect to reach huge fitness goals that take hours, can cost a lot of money, and may involve pain with sore muscles?

The fact that something is good for you doesn’t usually motivate people to actually do it. You knew the scent of the candle would improve your mood. So did you light it? Your doctor (me!) told you to light your candle. Did that make you do it? After years of counseling patients I have realized that telling patients they should exercise and listing the reasons why does NOT get results. Why don’t people get healthy and stay that way?

If you want to finally get fit and have long-lasting results, the first thing you have to do is change the way you think. The foundation for my Exercise Right Now™ program  is changing the way you think. Your candle assignment is an example of why you’ve failed at getting fit in the past.

First, finding time to get fit is nearly impossible. Did you find 5 seconds every single day to light your candle? The most common reason for not exercising is “I don’t have time.” I know how busy my patients are, and how busy I am with three kids and a full-time career. And so instead of finding large blocks of time to exercise each day, I can show you how to exercise while you do other things.

The next big reason for failure in a fitness program is not putting yourself FIRST- learning to make time for YOU. Were there days you didn’t even give yourself 5 seconds to stop and breathe? The 5 seconds it would have taken to light the candle? Why don’t we take better care of ourselves? It’s because we haven’t identified what’s really important to us. Once we find the right goals – not a number on a scale – we become driven and even fanatical about our health. One of the assignments in my program is re-discovering who we want to be and what we want in our lives.

The last big pitfall to having sculpted muscles and never-ending energy is trying to break out of our daily routine. Habits are very hard to change, no matter how big or how small (lighting a candle every day). The cool thing about Exercise Right Now  is we attach exercise to your habits, making it very easy to get fit.

Now that you know the reason for the candle homework, try it again in light of the analogy to improving your health.

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Julia Kinder

What I ate for dinner

February 2, 2013
posted by

8 miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups, 2 miniature Red Velvet Cupcakes, 4 apple slices, and a glass of Chardonnay. Ok, ok, it was really a glass and a half. Can you guess what I’m describing? This was my dinner a few nights ago. I had a crazy-busy day; get Ella off to school, take twins to sitter, see patients in clinic, go to a meeting. And then I got to do something rare: I sat down for an hour with my best friend, thanks to my husband who kept the kids.

This is what she had handy, so this is what we ate. Life isn’t perfect. We have to balance taking really good care of ourselves with enjoying life and not beating ourselves up when we don’t eat perfectly. Earlier that day, one of my patients came in for follow-up on her weight loss program – she is 68 and has lost 80 pounds in the last year! Well, she was upset with herself that she went to a movie, ate the popcorn, drank the soda, and gained two pounds. I stopped her from punishing herself and said “How was the movie? Did you have fun?” It took her a moment to stop the worry about the weight and realize what a good time she had with her husband. She was totally focused on the negative outcome of two pounds.

I said “The past is past. You’ve had a great success with your weight loss. You deserve a break. Don’t ruin the memory of the fun you had by some silly little number.”

Many of you are just discovering me and my Exercise Right Now philosophy and program. There are zillions of ways to get fit out there. Why is mine different? My method makes exercise, losing weight, and getting fit EASY, PRACTICAL, AND FUN. I’m a busy working mom. I don’t have TIME to exercise!  I don’t have TIME to study complicated nutrition labels. Plus, I’M TOO TIRED! And for 10 years I’ve heard my patients give the same reasons for not finally getting their bodies into the shape they want.

I realized the whole getting fit thing has become way too complicated and time-consuming. And there are too many people out there selling you stuff that doesn’t work, promising you astonishing and immediate results.

I decided to come up with an easier way. I tried it out on myself and family first, tweaking exercises and figuring out when we could exercise. My eight-year-old daughter and twin boys needed fun. My 83-year-old mom needed modifications. Once I realized how simple- and cheap – it is to be healthy and in great shape, I started teaching my patients the same methods.

Another thing you should know about me is I am very open and honest. I’m not going to say you can eat McDonalds fries and drink soda and not exercise and that somehow my program will give you huge weight loss in just weeks. What I can teach you will, however, give you long-term results and even make you happier.

Looking forward to getting to know everyone! Please share on the FaceBook page and comment here as well.

Now go do sit-ups Right Now™! Don’t count them, just do what you can!

My family. We get fit together!

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Julia Kinder

Burn a Candle and Lose Weight!

January 29, 2013
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How long does it take to light a candle? 5 seconds if you have the candle and lighter nearby. Maybe a few minutes if you have to dig the candle out of a closet of unused items then find a match.

Lighting a candle has proven health benefits. Aroma can instantly change and improve your mood. Even the thought of aroma has benefits. Try this: Close your eyes for a moment, take a slow and deep breath, and imagine the smell of an early-morning spring rain. Relaxing, huh?

Lighting a candle is also easy, free, and takes very little time. So if lighting a candle has all these benefits, will you remember to do it every day?

I want you to buy a candle in a glass container. With a permanent marker, draw a line at the top of the wax and write the date. Put your candle in a place where you spend time each day: bathroom vanity, kitchen counter, or desk at work. Light it every day. Now if you’ve already thought “I can’t have an open flame at work,” you need to ask yourself why you are making excuses. Buy an electric candle warmer instead.

Light a candle, lose weight!

Over the next few weeks, see if you remember to do this new task each day. Periodically draw a new line at the top of the wax and date it as your candle burns down. This will give you a visual clue on your progress. For those of you who started this exercise a few weeks ago, how did you do? Did you light your candle every day? Or did you not even buy a candle yet? Be honest!

If you truly want to get fit and have long-lasting results, your first step is not to join a gym, buy equipment, or even exercise. Your first step is to change the way you think. That is an integral part of my Exercise Right Now™ program. I will help you change 3 critical thought processes that have kept you from achieving your health and fitness goals. First, you have to realize there is plenty of time to exercise. Second, you have to develop a burning desire to take care of YOU – learning to put yourself first. And third, you have to adjust your routines and daily habits, which is very difficult to do. If you don’t change these three things, no exercise program or diet will ever work for you.

So what does this whole candle-thing have to do with losing weight? In my next blog, I’ll explain how lighting a candle every day is a very simple first step in learning to break routines, change habits, start thinking about taking care of YOU, and learning how to make more time in your day.

Have fun!

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We are gearing up to improved health, mental clarity, and physical fitness this year. Habits and daily routine are extremely difficult to change – that’s why most New Year’s Resolutions don’t stick, even with the best of intentions. It is easier for our brains to fall back into routine.

A mistake often made in New Year’s Resolutions is setting goals that are too big, too far in the future, too vague, and that have too many steps to achieve them. We become paralyzed and don’t move forward because we don’t know the actual steps along the way and we become discouraged because we don’t have immediate rewards to keep us motivated.

For example, a common goal for the year is to become happier. That’s all well and good, but when you wake up each morning and begin to go about your typical day, what are you going to do to suddenly get happy? Did you map out the road to happiness in your resolution? Did you identify the roadblocks to happiness? Perhaps you start your day with a positive attitude, but then the dog poops on the floor, a huge bill arrives in the mail, the kids drop an open carton of eggs onto the floor, and your coffe pot quits. You get sucked back into “life” and at the end of the day you don’t feel any happier at all – in fact, you are now more unhappy because another day passed and you failed at your resolution.

Look back over the last several years – how much have you really changed? How much closer are you to becoming the person you want to be? Have you achieved goals?

With my new FaceBook page and this blog, I will share with you what I’ve been teaching my patients in my private practice and to audiences I speak to across the country. I will be introducing you to “Right Now™ Living.” This philosophy I developed will help you achieve your goals and improve your mental, physical, and emotional fitness. Your health and your goals/dreams are intertwined. You can not successfully achieve one area without working on the rest. And so you will see tips from me that address all of those areas – not just weight loss or exercising more.

We are still in our first week. We will be taking baby steps towards your improved health, so that the process is very easy, do-able, rewarding, and so it sticks. Here are your assignments for week 1:
1. Start drinking enough water each day. See how here.

2. 20 minutes of cardio every single day. No excuses (feel free to send excuses so I can help you around them). I don’t care what you do – treadmill, jog in place, run around your kitchen with the kids, dance. The only rule is get your heart rate up for 20 minutes. If you have to stop and rest, that’s o.k.

3. Buy a notebook/journal. Size should be convenient  to carry with you (mine is 5X7) but big enough to log data for the year.  It should be visually appealing .

4. Buy a scented candle in a jar/glass container. It should be medium-sized.

5. Pick a place to keep your candle where you can enjoy it every day . Bathroom vanity? Desk? Kitchen counter?

That’s it for week 1. I told you it would be easy. Let me know how you are doing on the FaceBook page.

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Julia Kinder

The UPside Gets Fit, Right Now!

January 6, 2013
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Ok UPside™ Tribe – no more excuses, diets, counting calories, expensive equipment, gym memberships or colon cleansing. It is time to finally start achieving your fitness goals. We are already starting week 2 of 2013. How many of you made fitness-related resolutions? How’s it going so far? I intentionally gave you that first week on your own to get started. But now I’m stepping in to make certain you get more fit this year.

Why? Because we at the UPside tend to be caretakers, looking after others before ourselves. And we are crazy-busy with life – not  to mention we have a child with special needs that can add some extra responsibilities. It is hard for us to find time to take care of Number 1.  But we have to start. Our health is our foundation. If we don’t have our health, the choices of what we can accomplish each day start to become limited.

I’ve been teaching my patients how to easily get fit for over 10 years. For eight years, I’ve offered one-on-one personal consulting on fitness and have been lecturing around the country. Now it’s time to put this information out there where it is accessible to more people. I’m adding a FaceBook page and new stuff to my website. None of this is complete – the new FaceBook page is just a baby. The website hasn’t changed at all yet. Another sweepstakes is in the works. But I can’t wait any longer to get started! It is January 6, 2013 already! We all have to start getting more fit, Right Now™!

I’ll explain more later about my tips and techniques and philosophy. I’ll add more bells and whistles to the website. There will be time devoted to helping you focus on your individual goals. But for today WE JUST NEED TO JUMP IN AND GET FIT!

Do you have any of the following goals?

-Lose weight

-Build muscles

-Have more energy

-Decrease brain fog

-Sculpt abdominal muscles before summer

-Eliminate back pain

-Develop a more positive attitude

-Find more time to do the things you love

If so, I can help. Stay tuned – as I said, there is much to come. But we are starting RIGHT NOW™. I don’t care what your fitness level is. No more procrastinating. Check my new FB page for todays assignment!



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Julia Kinder

I don’t like water. I have to make myself drink it. But that’s ok. Since when do we have to like something to just go ahead and do it anyway because it’s good for us? You know your car must have gas to run. Do you ask your car each time you fill up if she likes the gas? Well of course not. That would be ridiculous. So why do you take better care of your car than of your body? In my opinion -and I’m guilty of this, too – I think we have become a little spoiled, undisciplined, soft, and even whiney when it comes to eating right, exercising, and other things we should do to take the best possible care of ourselves.

A few years ago, I didn’t drink any water at all during my day. “I don’t like it. I don’t want to. It doesn’t taste good,” I would whine. “I like tea. I want to drink tea. Besides, I’m fine,” I would rationalize.

But my definition of “feeling fine” was based on years of not drinking any water. The way I felt was my “normal” state. I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

I decided to start drinking water because as a doctor, I knew I should. Plus, I was tired of being tired all the time. I was tired of those days when I couldn’t think clearly. I wanted to have the energy to do whatever I wanted to do. And so starting to drink water was just one of the many lifestyle changes I made.

I had to get tough with myself. I created a split-personality; strict, librarian-like Julia with petite glasses and hair-in-a-bun had to lay down the rules to whiney Julia who wanted to do what was easy and fun all the time. If you are a modern day, hip librarian please don’t be mad at my analogy. It’s what worked for me.

Here’s how I started drinking enough water every day. To find out how much is right for you, divide your weight by two. That number in ounces is your goal. So if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water per day. Each morning, I would fill a pitcher with the total amount of water for the day. Then I added freshly-squeezed lime (sometimes I use lemon or cucumber.). I have my favorite Contigo mug that I fill and carry with me. And then – here’s the big secret – I just drink it! Strict Julia tells Whiney Julia “Chug-a-lug. Now. What’s the big freakin’ deal? Drink the damn water.” Yes, sometimes I have to really scold myself. I’ve also bribed myself: Take 10 drinks before you sit down to enjoy your TV show. I’ve made a few rules along the way, too.

Rule #1: Drink 1 glass of water first thing every morning.

Rule #2: Drink a glass of water before every meal.

Rule #3: When enjoying an adult beverage (wine, margarita, etc.) drink a glass of water before each one.

Rule #4: When eating out, drink a full glass before ordering (fills you up; you’ll eat less).

Now that I’ve become a regular water drinker, I can absolutely tell a difference in how I feel when I forget to drink water. It’s still a battle – I still don’t love water and have to constantly remind myself to drink it. But the benefits in my improved energy, mental clarity, and the way my skin looks are huge.

Start drinking more water Right Now™  – and if it will help, develop your own split-personality.


Drinking water in Sedona, Arizona, with my Contigo Mug.

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Christmas eve is one of the busiest days of the year – in addition to all my usual responsibilities and last-minute holiday preparations, I always have an uncontrollable urge to tidy up loose ends from my entire year. So I’m not sure what possessed me last week, on December 24, to get a new puppy for our kid’s Christmas present. My husband and I spent a total of six hours driving and three hours selecting the puppy and completing paperwork. I invested nine hours on a day when I had “no free time,” to purchase a dog – which will add more time and responsibility to my already crazy schedule.

Why? Perhaps I’ve entirely gone off the deep end and lost my mind. But my thought process was this: my life has become very practical, structured, and focused on things I “have to/should do”. Being spontaneous and doing something just for fun is very low on my priority list. I knew if I got a puppy I would be forced to “stop and smell the new-puppy-smell.”  A puppy’s energy and tiny bladder remind me to put aside whatever else I’m doing and pay attention to her. This week has been great for our family: We have laughed, gone for walks, and spent more time with the kids. When I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to get puppy out of her kennel and watch her wiggle about and lick all the kid’s faces. I absolutely adore this little creature.

With the New Year approaching, I am evaluating my successes/disappointments of the prior year and deciding how I want to change in 2013. The first area I want to improve upon is to take better care of ME,  with a list of resolutions to improve my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Second, I want to make better use of each moment, each day. I’ve learned from my hospice patients some invaluable lessons. First, health is the foundation for our life; without our health, our daily choices of what we can do become limited. Second, we all have a finite number of Right Now™ moments. We have a choice how we spend every single moment, and we should be certain to enjoy each day.

Unexpectedly, puppy is helping me with my self-improvement plans. I often complain that I just don’t have enough time in the day. My to-do list continues to grow. Before going to sleep, I stress over what I didn’t finish that day. When I wake, I worry how much I’ll be able to get done that day. It’s a constant feeling of incompleteness and disrupts my peace.

And yet somehow this week, I found several extra hours each day to devote to puppy. I want to be sure she is healthy, well-adjusted, and happy, so I make sure she has whatever she needs. When given choices like clean out my email or take the dog for a walk, the choice is clear. Fold that load of laundry or play tug-of-war? And so there is time for whatever I make time for. We can really only do one thing at a time (in contrast to what our multi-tasking society has taught us), and so in each second we must chose activities that fulfill our life’s goals, instead of wasting our limited Right Nows on unimportant tasks.

Puppy also reminded me I tend to take better care of others than myself. Why do I put reading a book, exercising, taking a hike, and other things that improve my well-being at the bottom of my to-do lists? I would never fail to make sure my kids are getting enough sleep, staying physically active, and enjoying their day. I took better care of puppy this week than of myself. I could delve deep into my past and personality and try to discover why I am such a good caretaker. Or, I could simply make my New Year’s Resolution this: Pretend I am a puppy.

1. Go outside for fresh air every hour, no matter what the weather.

2. Drink nothing but fresh water.

3. Eat nothing but the highest quality food (if only it were as easy as pouring it out of a bag), and eat three meals per day.

4. Get a good night’s sleep.

5. Take a nap every day.

6. Make someone giggle.

7. Play.

8. Take vitamins.

9. Take time to have my nails and hair done.

10. Give my family lots of kisses.

11. Run around the yard for exercise.

I’m hoping with this simple philosophy, and with puppy as a daily reminder, I will take better care of ME in 2013.  Puppy will also continue to prove I do have enough time each day – as long as I identify what is most important to me and eliminate or reduce the rest. We have choices on what we do with each moment – with all of our Right Nows™.  Let’s fill our 2013 moments with the things that matter most to us, and things that keep us healthy and energetic.

P.S. Our puppy remains nameless! I’m open to suggestions. Perhaps a holiday or winter name since she was a Christmas gift. Or maybe an October theme: her birth month and my favorite month.

P.P.S. If you’d like to add a cocker spaniel to your family, Hearthside Country is a licensed and inspected breeder. Plus – they are just good people! I was extremely impressed with how they care for their dogs and with their super-clean facility.

Christmas Puppy!

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