Time Matters

1391767_485484761558997_1565215455_nYoga playtime with the girlies

Did y’all hear that a little snow brought our city to a standstill last month? I was one of the thousands of people that were stuck on the road for most of the day. It took me 7 hours to travel 13 miles. Lucky for me, the gas tank was full, and I had snacks on hand, so it was not as much of an ordeal as it could have been.

Even so, it was pretty stressful to be stuck in the car for hours on end.

My journey began at 1 PM, just after the snow started. By 7 PM, I was still 3 miles from home, and really thirsty, so I stopped to buy water at Walgreens.

The store was empty, but for 3 or 4 people and a single clerk. Shoppers were quick to pick out their items, and hop in the check out line–everybody wanted to get home as soon as possible. As I paid for my water, the man waiting behind me placed a 6 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, and two bottles of red wine on the counter. Another man walked up after him, and they struck up a conversation.

“You’ve got the right idea, buddy! Stocking up for a long day tomorrow.”

It struck me as so funny, because I had been thinking along very different lines. Sitting in the car for hours on end had stiffened up all of my muscles, and my joints ached where I had broken bones many years ago. I was not thinking about getting my drink on at all…instead, I was giddy at the prospect of having an entire day at home to stretch, flow, practice arm balances, and cook healing foods.

As they say, to each his own…

But I wonder what would have happened if I had encouraged my fellow shoppers to think differently about how they spent their snow day. This crazy healthy life has taught me that time is our most valuable asset, and we must spend it wisely. Every day is an opportunity to do better, and to be better. It’s all cumulative.

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d share what we are looking forward to doing, while we are trapped in the house:

1) Learning how to cook healthy foods. The girls are learning to roast veggies, make green juices, sauté fruit, and make spiced nuts. This means our kitchen will be a big fat mess for the next few days, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. Let the dishes pile up…we’ll all be better off for it in the end!

2) Memorizing Sun Saluation B. They girls have been practicing yoga with me for a while, but our practices are more whimsical and silly, than organized. Helping them learn Sun Salutation B will teach them how to wrap structure around their personal practice. And maybe, just maybe, they will even teach their friends! We play dance music to make the experience fun, and crack lots of jokes, so it feels more like a game than a chore.

3) Talking about how yoga philosophy complements our Christian faith. I have been reading snippets of Patnajali’s Yoga Sutras to the girls for the past few weeks, and it’s started some really important conversations about their friendships, their goals, and their personal habits. Concepts like ahimsa (non-harming) help them understand to choose their words and behavior carefully, santosha (contentment) teaches them to be grateful for their blessings, and bramacharya (non-excess) teaches them the importance of everything in moderation.

These are just a few of the crazy, but healthy ways we will spend our icy days at home. I think it’s some of the best things we can do for our kids right now, because, as Andy Stanley recently said, “In the areas that matter most, you can’t make up misspent time.”

Truthfully, part of me wants to park the kids in front of the TV, and curl up in bed with a good book. Mama could use a day off, now and then, too. But I won’t. Because time matters, and those of us in the Deep South have been given the gift of a whole lotta extra time to kill this week…and my crazy healthy family is going to make the best of it.


Let’s Start A Wellness Revolution

1294399_10202258839095354_1217924449_oPeople always ask me, “how can I teach my kids to be healthy?” The answer is simple: be the change you want to see in your kids. Kids value what their parents value. The way I see it, we must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, if we want this generation to grow up healthier than the last.

This is why I volunteered to chair the Wellness Committee at our neighborhood elementary school this year. I think it’s a great way to rally our community around a shared goal.

In the past, we had a small committee that put in a lot of hours to execute Wellness Week. For the 2013-14 school year, however, we have a committee of 70 parents and faculty members, who have been asked to commit a total of 10 hours of volunteer time, between September and May. Most of their responsibilities can be scheduled at their convenience. I am hoping that this will be the key to our success: rallying a lot of leaders around a common cause, making it convenient to participate, and creating new opportunities to engage with students about what it means to be healthy.

The response to our new programs has been overwhelming. Of course, we had a little bit of a head start, because we live in a community that already values good health. Why not give them a chance to share their enthusiasm for all things healthy, within the school?

I spent a good part of the summer and the entire month of September thinking about how we can teach healthy habits on a $500 budget. It made me realize that we don’t need money to inspire our kids to create healthy habits. All we need is relationship capital, a platform to share what we love, and a small investment of time.

The programs we are adding to our school this year are so simple, that I think that every school in America could adopt them. It’s time to start a Wellness Revolution, and it begins by engaging our kids in more healthy activities.

Here’s whats working for us, that might also work for your school. It’s been awesome watching parents and teachers get fired up about wellness…it’s such a reminder of how connected we all are!

Most of our activities have been consolidated into a single week that we call “Wellness Week”, but you could do them at your school, any time during the year:

1. Healthy tips during morning announcements. We have parent volunteers sharing healthy tips during morning announcements each day this week. I created scripts for the parents who wanted them, and asked the parents who are subject matter experts create their own. Some of the topics are 10 Ways To Eat More Veggies, 10 Healthy Breakfast Foods, Breathing Exercises, and Stretching Exercises. This is one of our moms, leading yesterday’s healthy tip, which was a mindfulness exercise.


2. Healthy games on the playground. Parent volunteers are leading fun exercises during recess, every day this week. Our recess runs 11 AM-1:30 PM, so there are two 75 minute shifts. School is closed this Friday, and we have two campuses, so this requires a total of 16 volunteers for 75 minutes each (2 schools x 4 days  x 2 shifts). Each day is a different game. Yesterday was Simon Says Exercise, today is Silly Animal Walk Races, tomorrow is Yoga, and Thursday is Freeze Dance. I don’t think it matters what games are played, as long as the parents have fun leading them!


3. Healthy snacks in the classroom. We created a healthy snack list, and asked parents to pick a day to share a healthy snack with the entire class, each day during Wellness Week. This is such a simple, but effective way for parents to role model healthy habits!

4. Teacher gifts. We printed labels that say “Happy Wellness Week!”, stuck them to a LARA BAR, and placed one in each teacher’s mailbox. This was the only thing I spent money on for Wellness Week. If you want to save money, you could skip the treats, and print a healthy recipe, or simply write each teacher a note that says Happy Wellness Week! It’s the thought that counts.


5. Walk To School Day. This does require some coordination, for safety reasons, but it does not cost money. Tomorrow is National Walk To School Day, but you could plan one of your own at any time. To encourage participation, we have a local vendor donating T-shirts, and our parent volunteers will work with our crossing guards to ensure safety for all children. It’s a great way to teach kids that walking can be fun!

6. Create a Wellness Ambassador Program. This is what we are doing outside of Wellness Week, to keep the conversations going all year long. I recruited volunteers from each of our 52 classes, who will lead a healthy activity in the classroom six times during the school year. Our volunteers will use standardized lessons that I am creating, but your school might want to just ask parents to make smoothies in the class, lead stretches, or help kids create and stick to a “Wellness Resolution” (like a New Year’s resolution!). It is the volunteer’s attitude and enthusiasm, more than the activities, that matter most.

7. Ask the faculty what they think. Invite teachers and administrators to meet with you monthly, or bi-monthly, to help shape wellness initiatives for your school. Seek to understand how wellness initiatives might help them be more effective in their jobs. Our teachers are required to teach health lessons, so our ambassadors can actually take some of the weight off their shoulders, if we plan our lessons in ways that support them. You might be surprised by how new healthy intitiatives can create win-win experiences for everyone in the school!

The more we invest in our own health, talk about our disciplines, and make our efforts visible to our community, the faster we will shift what our community values. We don’t need to spend money to create a healthier culture, we just need to take a stand for what we believe, practice what we preach, and bring everyone we know along for the ride.