Do What Scares You

by alexis

Over the last month, I’ve discovered a number of new loves. Some have been on my “Gotta Try” list for a while now.  For instance, Zumba – a vivacious little sport I imagined as something totally different from the 60 life-giving minutes worth of serious breaking it down that it is. Or the Aerolatte Moo – a coffee lover’s dream. For twenty bucks I am now making my own organic cinnamon almond-milk lattes – better than Starbucks. Dreamy.

Other discoveries have never made this list. In fact, they’ve stayed as far away as possible from it. These are the things that just plain scare me. Ones I’m pretty sure I’ll be better off without. Like tasting fried chicken claw or moving to Alaska.

But sometimes it’s the things we want to do the least that wind up benefitting us most.

Background: I do not work out in the morning. Ever. Call me a wimp, but my body just doesn’t function at high capacity before noon. My brain – up and at ‘em. Give me a great book or an early morning writing project, I’m on it. Ask me to interact with 100 people before 8:00 – golden. But make me do 50 pushups in the morning? Not happening.

That…was last month’s thought process.

Enter Crossfit Beyond. A new friend just opened a Crossfit gym downtown and asked if I’d come visit. I was psyched. Working out solo in my chilly garage with Dad’s weights from 1972 is phenomenal when I get to hang out with Dad. Not so much when I’m flying solo. I need the community. New friends, new box, new fire under my butt to work out hard. I was in.

The issue: 6:00 AM. Apparently it was the only workout friends could make. Clearly, they do not know my history. They do not know my incapability to function at such high physical capacities at that hour – nor that a 6:00 AM workout scares me to no end. The fact that I might meet the puke bucket for the first time at 6:00 AM flashed like a Vegas hotel sign in my brain. I didn’t know it I’d even wake up in time to get to the gym! Or that I’d find the new place in the 5:45 AM pitch dark! And I was pretty positive this body would not be up for 7 minutes of burpees at that ungodly hour. But honestly – something inside me knew it was a challenge I needed to take.

So I went.

I burpeed.

I push-pressed – and box-jumped – even did medicine-ball suicides. My little muscles fired faster than I imagined they could. I partnered with a pro boxer friend and worked my tail off – but avoided the puke bucket! My coach even complimented my 6 AM push-press form. The workout ended, and I sat in amazement. The glory of dominating what I legitimately thought impossible radiated from my sweat angel laying on the floor. And I drove home – at 7:15 AM – underneath an absolutely spectacular sunrise. Unreal!

Not only did I not hate it, but I felt like a million bucks all day. My morning was more productive and my presence more alert in conversation. I even had the mental tenacity to cross a few OTHER things off my list that day that I’d been avoiding for weeks!

I loved it so much I went back again on Friday morning – AT 6:00  – and paid for one month’s unlimited membership. Monday I was there again. Tuesday I met a friend at 5:30 AM and brought her with me. It’s been two weeks of steady awesomeness – I’m still in shock. Suffice it to say I literally feel myself getting stronger – both physically and mentally – by the day – ever since becoming a staple at the 6:00 AM class. Who knew?!

What’s your something that scares you? That crazy, hard-to-imagine-yourself-ever-doing–it thing? The said-you’ll-never-try-it-and-can’t-live-it-down thing? That thing that if I offered you a million bucks and a batch of raw chocolate macaroons you just might start to consider…?

Do it. And let yourself gasp as you call it a thing of wonder.

Do one thing a day that scares you  Lululemon Manifesto.

Opening image shamelessly poached from Ciona’s fantastic post.

One Girls Journey – Learning To See

by alexis

We don’t have to change what we see.
Only the way we see it.
– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

…Dimly lit lights.
…Soft hum of music through the house.
…Watching candles dance on the mantle over delicious fireplaces.
…The stillness of trees outside the window.
…The rhythm of rest – with no threat of breaking.

A weekend away in the mountains of Vermont affords little hardship in counting gratitudes. Moments when the whirl of life has slowed and day’s demands have been abandoned; where woodstoves beckon and trumpet melodies offer steady company; all chaos and fluster of days and weeks sits, stilled. Who struggles to count the things they cherish then?

But what of gratitude when stress is raging? When dishes aren’t done and schedules overflow; when coffee is bitter and almond milk’s gone bad; when no one is seeing the gifts you are giving, steadily giving, of self and life and resource? What of it when no sweet sun streams in window shades cracked – and all that’s seen are cracks in table glass?

…the habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in one sharper. The sleek pin of gratitude.

- Ann Voskamp

Gratitude is a decision, not a feeling. Thankfulness is not a matter of circumstance, but of focus. The mindfulness to slow ourselves long enough to consider the subtle gifts of life – the sacred, the simple – takes practice. Our lives are too full – our busyness too blinding – for the gifts of life to bring themselves to our attention without some intentionality. And the probability of meetings running late, traffic backing up, and cranky tantrums raging loudly is unfortunately greater than projects finishing themselves, dinner showing up miraculously on the table, and bags packing themselves for the morning.

How then do we practice gratitude?

“Seeing is … very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it…I have to say the words, describe what I’m seeing. And…if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present.”

- Annie Dillard

Naming that which is in front of us gives us the capacity to be grateful for it. A thing, a moment, a conversation, a gesture – by naming these things we recognize their meaning and value, allowing ourselves to see more fully the worth they hold. And in naming that which we would otherwise miss, ‘the invisible becomes visible.’ So, we name those things we relish! – and relish the things we may not value at first glance – till we let ourselves look long and hard enough to see the gift wrapped tightly in each valuable moment.

Over the extended Thanksgiving weekend, my heart was provoked to look long and hard for blessings. My senses, much more attuned than they’ve been for the past six months – thanks to a serious intake of plant matter, sleeping a regular pattern of seven hours nightly, and daily tasting of movement as a nutrient – were capable of recognizing gift after gift with notable ease! – a cherishable gift in itself!

I began what became a precious record of sweet flavors and precious songs, moments shared with my mother on the driveway, and hours spent with my dad by the fire. As I stood at the counter chopping onions one morning, I realized I was looking – searching – for the next gratitude to count – the next gift to praise God for – the next hidden treasure waiting to be named. And, like little miracles, I found them all through the weekend:

…Garlic in burlap sacks, hanging next to bicycles in the basement.
…Dad’s sneezing (and sneezing!), with a body fighting hard to keep him healthy.
…Nervous tummy calmed when being asked to Grace our Thankgiving meal for 22.
…Pain on mile three of the turkey trot, reminding me the gift of running with Dad.
…Later-than-I’d-like night driving, affording headspace to think and pray and sing.

Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant is a seed that plants a giant miracle. Do not disdain the small – the whole of the life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts. And if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.

– Ann Voskamp

There is much to see. And much to be grateful for. Here’s to adjusting our mind’s eyes to discovering such gifts – Thanksgiving weekend and beyond.

Author Ann Voskamp, whom I’ve quoted through out this post, offers a few magnificent ways to help practice gratitude:

iphone Gratitude App

YouTube – Figuring Life Out

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Super Green Girvan Smoothie Tutorial

by alexis

In my family, my dad is pretty much the King of Nutrition. For as long as I can remember, he’s been spoon feeding me home-grown vegetables from our backyard garden or recipes concocted at our kitchen stove. If you smirked or gritted your teeth, he’d remind you how ‘loaded with nutrition’ the thing was. I used to sit at our green counter and squirm over each forkful of swiss chard, bite of swordfish, or handful of supplements. Now, I couldn’t be more grateful…

Last year, he mastered the green smoothie. It has become a morning ritual for he and my mom – along with life-extension exercises, supplements, and morning prayer (really, could they get any cuter!?).

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I asked if we could film him putting together one of his morning creations. He was thrilled. He loves sharing his knowledge of lignans, sprout growing methods, and of course, how to maximize fiber intake during their morning routine.

Enjoy the Girvan Family version of the Green Smoothie!


by alexis

20 Overhead Squats

15 Double Unders

10 Push ups

7 Rounds…on a Sunday night…in the backyard, to this.

Two months ago, you would NOT have found me here.

More likely you would probably have found me in my car – or at my computer – making some very sensible, perfectly reasonable excuse as to why I did not have time to work out.

Maybe I had to meet someone. Maybe I had work to do. But, if I’m totally honest, I just didn’t want to move. I’d been out of my workout rhythm long enough that I was pretty sure going back to the gym would be too humiliating for me to handle. Funny the games your mind plays on you…

At the root of my low-energy, bummed out little mindset was a total disregard for this blessed fact:

Movement is a nutrient.

We all know oxygen is a critical ‘nutrient’ for life. We’d only live minutes without it. Food – essential. We miss one meal and we wind up ravenous. Skip some sleep – clearly crucial to the systems of our bodies functioning – and anyone around us can tell. But movement is tricky – somehow it’s easy for us to go hungry.

When we are movement deficient, it isn’t easily apparent. The slippery, slow process toward lower energy levels, greater mental stress, and an increasingly squishier middle section is less noticeable than screaming lungs or a ravenous stomach. Too easily, our time set aside to move these bodies takes a back seat to the urgent to-do’s of the day. Emails. Errands. Kid drop-off. Kid pick-up. The American Music Awards…etc.

But here is the thing:

The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. 

The beautiful thing about movement is that when we choose it – moving, panting, sweating hard core – staring our fears in the face, regardless of how difficult it is – it gets easier.

A week and a half ago, I returned to my home gym, North Shore Crossfit, for the first time in months. Mustering up the energy to go was like telling one of those kids from Jimmy Kimmel’s Hallloween video that they couldn’t have their candy. I was in rough shape. Cranking serious tunes to get there was essential – and I literally put these guys on repeat all the way home to get changed – and all the way to the gym. I might have even cried a little.

And the workout? Maybe one of the most brutal workouts I’ve ever done. Sandbag sprints, sandbag lunges, sandbag push presses – ending with a sandbag obstacle run. Pretty sure my lungs were on fire – and I surely felt the fire in my quads. But nothing  - nothing – could have matched the feeling of dropping to the floor at the end of that workout. Finished, completed, victorious. Nothing.

Discover that the person you thought you were

is no match for the one you truly are.

It’s only been a week and a half, and so many things have changed. My head space is clearer. My sleep is more sound. And my smile is returning. I’ve even had a few nice compliments on my healthy glow (so maybe they were from a salty sailor who hasn’t seen more than three women in the last four months – but still! It’s spurring me on!).

Finally I’m believing what I’ve known for so long: Movement is an essential nutrient. And I’m not going hungry any more…

Check out one of my favorite, time-saving workouts here: Our bodies can do more than we think they can.


Alexis Girvan

by admin

First and foremost, Alexis embodies gratitude – she lives, eats, and breaths being grateful.

She is particularly grateful for the remarkable gift the human body is – and the beautiful things that are achieved when the mind, body and spirit operate in harmony. She is passionate about living intentionally and practicing stewardship of the body’s we’ve been given – for the sake of loving and serving the people around us– living out the purposes divinely placed in our lives! She is constantly amazed at the epic group of people that have been placed in her life – who  inspire, shape and challenge her to live well.

Alexis is a paper enthusiast, and can usually be found with a pen and paper at her fingers. When she is not writing, she loves spending time in the quiet morning hours, cross-fitting, cooking, reading, running and being in or by the ocean. She enjoys working out in the sunshine, driving with the music up, and can regularly be found at a friend’s wedding – on the dance floor. Driftwood, coffee, clean spaces, handwritten notes and anything wrapped in brown paper and twine are some of her favorite things.