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Adventures on Horseback: Riding Outside My Comfort Zone

Sometimes I Feel Like the Universe’s Private Play-Toy

Last weekend was a roller coaster ride in the truest sense of the word. After an especially challenging hike on the beach, I treated myself to opening weekend of Beauty and the Beast. Leaving the theater with a happy song in my heart and a tummy full of food which would surely thwart my plan to reach bathing suit size by summer, I walked to my car with thoughts of froyo and the excerpts I needed to critique forcing the library-to-drool-for out of my head.

Unfortunately, as it often does these days, the Universe had other plans. When I reached my car, the minor problem I’d been having with the driver’s door was suddenly no longer minor. In fact, I couldn’t open the door at all. What might have been a slight inconvenience turned into a gymnastics act requiring me to climb into the bucket seat on the passenger side and maneuver around so I could close the door behind me while executing a rather awkward back flip over the center console into the driver’s seat. Froyo was out of the question as I was unwilling to perform the maneuver anywhere else where there might be witnesses. Instead, I drove home where I closed the garage door before executing the move in reverse, to the amusement of my garage cats.

I said a thousand thank you’s when I discovered the service department at the dealership was open on Saturday, and promptly sent off a message rescinding my reservation for the critique group meeting Saturday morning. Though a couple of people offered me a ride, it would only have solved the immediate problem, and still left me essentially without transportation for the rest of the weekend. I opted instead to take the car to the dealership where I knew they’d give me a loaner.

And the Horse You Rode In On

The crit group meeting was long over by the time I’d dropped off the car, so I stopped to run an errand. That’s where my weekend took a major right turn for the better. A friend texted me asking if I wanted to go horseback riding with her. She has two horses and enjoys some company when she takes them out for a ride, even if that company has not been on a horse in decades. Fortunately, her mare, Catania, is a sweet lady who more than compensated for my lack of skill.


We spent an incredible two hours wandering the trails in a gorgeous park nearby. Although I’d hiked it’s trails on one side of the mountain, the area where we rode was entirely new to me…and incredibly beautiful. Everything was emerald green from the recent rains and the horses forded several streams swollen to unusually high levels and flowing over moss-covered rocks. Although treacherous for the unwary, the horses knew exactly how to get safely across. They wanted a dunking no more than we did!

Catania and Cambiano

Catania was really good about being on a lead rope behind her son, Cambiano, knowing instinctively that her inexperienced rider was best NOT left to her own devices. I did, however, release my death grip on the saddle as I became accustomed to her rhythm.

By the time we got back to where the trailer was parked, my tush was more than ready to leave the confines of the unfamiliar seat. I’m not ashamed to admit that my dismount was about as graceful as the earlier gymnastic performance required to get in and out of my car, but it did the job and I reached the ground in one piece. Isn’t that what counts?

I got home with just enough time to eat a quick dinner (thank goodness for my freezer meals!) and get ready to go dancing. I did have to endure a thorough sniffing from all of the cats to whom the smell of horse was entirely foreign, but a few skritches assured them the woman beneath the unfamiliar smell was still their loyal servant.

Memories of Trails Past

The next morning when I attempted to sit at my desk, I discovered an oddly pointy spot in my chair which I’d never noticed before. It was situated directly under a very delicate part of my tush necessitating the strategic placement of a large pillow to cushion my nether regions. Though the pain soon dissipated, I discovered that the after-effects of one’s first time in the saddle after a decades-long hiatus are a traveling circus of aches and pains. One area stops hurting but the aches just move on to the next spot.

When I sat on the floor to do my post-workout stretches, it took everything I had to not moan loudly when I tried to stretch my outer thighs. The only thing that saved me from embarrassing myself is the lengths I go to to keep a low profile while I’m at the gym. It never was and never will be my idea of a social club. I put my earbuds in my ears, crank up Pandora and move from machines to free weights to the stretching area being careful to avoid eye contact. When all else fails, I peer intently at my phone where I’m diligently recording exercises, weights and reps on MyFitnessPal. It’s actually proving to be useful for reminding me what I did the last time, and when I need to increase the weights I’m using.

Today the aches are all but gone and I’ve done laundry so my jeans no longer smell horsey. More’s the pity, really as I can understand why people find it so addicting. Horse smell is like no other and speaks of outdoors and freedom, even if only for a few hours. We covered far more ground in less time than I could possibly have done on my own two feet, and trust me, I wouldn’t have been fording those streams! Some of them were pretty darn deep! And to be honest, I experienced far less discomfort afterwards than I expected!

Giving the Comfort Zone a Much-Needed Boot

Stepping outside your comfort zone can take many forms; quitting a job to follow a dream with no idea how you’re going to continue paying the bills when the resources dwindle, hiking in unfamiliar places, making new friends, even opening up a heart long held safe inside a protective box. This time, it was getting on a horse for the first time in ages. I’m learning that with each step I take outside my comfort zone, the next one gets easier. I’m starting to look forward to the next adventure, whatever that might be.

Finding Gratitude Around Every Corner

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am grateful for the courage to take those leaps of faith.
  2. I am grateful for friends who offer new experiences.
  3. I am grateful for adventures yet to come.
  4. I am grateful for the lessons, experiences, and opportunities that make life interesting, challenging and even a little scary at times.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, challenges, new experiences, a healthier body, increased strength, opportunities, lessons, friendship, peace, harmony, joy, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

A Grain-Free Week

Switching it Up

A month or so ago, a friend and I became accountability buddies. We checked in regularly, logged our food and exercise and kept track of the pounds. It went well for a couple of weeks, maybe more, and I did drop about 9 pounds. But lately, that’s changed and I’ve gone back to the old “up three, down two” game. My blog writing pitching took me to some paleo sites so I started looking into what changing to that kind of diet entailed. As previously mentioned, it isn’t for me.

What I did realize was that the last time I dropped a good amount of weight, over 30 pounds to be exact, I not only checked in with MyFitnessPal regularly, but I cut out most grains. For me, that’s doable in the short term or perhaps, in sprints. So for the last week and a half, that’s exactly what I did.

I’d like to say I got immediate results, but I think your body and even your eating habits have to acclimate to the change. So it took about a week before I started seeing a noticeable change; not only in weight but in energy. The protein-rich diet fills me up without bogging me down. I’m sleeping better than I was, too! In just over a week, I’ve dropped about 3 pounds, which thrills the heck out of me.

Making it Work During the Holidays

Spending Christmas with my daughter and son-in-law will be challenging. Her house is redolent with her Christmas baking frenzy this time of year, and now that she’s learned a few more tricks in her culinary arts classes, she’s become even more creative. However, she is also incredibly supportive. Didn’t she start learning how to convert recipes to gluten-free because I found the gluten was irritating my stomach after awhile? She’s already stocked up on plain yogurt so I can enjoy my usual breakfast instead of reaching for something grain laden.

Though she won’t give up grain for her or her hubby, nor would I expect them too, she has come up with alternatives for me. Heck, I may snag one of those pumpkin pancakes with Christmas breakfast, but will fill up on the eggs and fruit or whatever other non-grain alternatives there might be. And she’s making sure dinners can be eaten without pasta or rice if I so desire.

All in all, I deem this experiment a cautious success. I’m also counting on my daughter’s usual pattern in which I accumulate between 16000 and 18000 steps per day during my visit. Even if I only manage to keep the grains at a minimum while I’m there, I suspect I’ll avoid the usual bulking up which usually occurs Christmas week.

Setting up for my Next Sprint

Better still, no matter how good or bad I am this week, I’ll be ready to do another week or two sprint with no grain. If I can do about 2 weeks on and one off, I can see me setting a pattern because the two weeks I’m off of grains will get my body accustomed to doing without. If I eat a moderate amount during my week off, I’ll be able to tell just how much makes me feel sluggish and how much screws with my sleep and meditation patterns. If that amount is small, it will simply make it easier to give it up for longer periods of time.

Not Quite Paleo

Giving up grain of all kinds is a huge step for me. I’ve actually given up starches almost entirely. I’ve had potatoes a couple of times, but aside from that, it’s been protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. Snacks include yogurt dip and veggies, almonds and dried cranberries, though even those have slowed down as my body stays full from the increased protein. I don’t however, see a day when I’ll give up dairy or legumes. I love lentils in my turkey-pumpkin chili and my fat-free yogurt and honey in the morning is a quick, easy, no-brainer to get me going. Yes, I may start pre-making the egg casserole I used to take to work, but it’s not going to be a daily or even weekly change. Too many mornings, all I can stomach is that 1/2 cup of yogurt. It isn’t until after noon, and sometimes 2 or 3 before my stomach is ready for anything heavier. But at least I know myself.

Many of us realize we need to change our eating habits to something healthier, but there’s no point in changing to something which has no appeal. You just won’t stick with it unless you’re some kind of masochist who gets off on torturing yourself. When I was pregnant with my twins, I saw a nutritionist and the first thing she did was to ask me what foods I liked and which ones I didn’t. She wasn’t about to help me design a meal plan containing foods I disliked or omitting everything I liked. Nearly 30 years later, I still take her words to heart.

Living in a Land of Plenty

I am very fortunate in that I love fresh produce, and even luckier still that I live in an area Harvest box 11-18-14 view 2where it is abundantharvest box 11-4-14 12 months a year. You can bring me to tears with a nice bunch of broccoli or cauliflower, a bucket of brussels sprouts or a lovely member of the squash family. My daughter has even taught me new and different ways to enjoy these wondrous treats. That very love and abundance is what makes this new path easier to tread. No rice? No problem. I’ll just eat more of this lovely veggie with a little bit of chicken stir-fry. No bread? Let’s throw a few more veggies in the pan and scramble them into a fluffy pile of eggs. Stir fry nearly done 10-22-14

Do I feel deprived knowing I’ll have to pass on the pizza or sushi? Not really. In fact, many times there are versions of sushi which are riceless anyway. Have you ever tried a hand roll without rice? Very tasty! And if I really want pizza, I’ll just wait for my off week. If I still want it by then, so be it.

Leaving Behind a Life of Constrictions

Two years ago, I left behind a life of waking with an alarm to go do a job which built up someone else’s nest egg. I left a world of someone else’s rules and rush hour and being around people even when I didn’t want to be. I’ve made a lot of changes over the least two years, some good, some not so good. I’ve established some healthy habits which have fallen by the wayside, perhaps to be picked up again in the future…and perhaps not.

But I have learned that if I make changes to my life that don’t make me happy, I’ll find a way to undermine those changes or just wander off in search of something new. And yes, I’ve done both. But eating is really easy. I love to eat, I enjoy cooking and find more of the healthy foods appealing than not. Realizing that I need a specific time frame to go off track was the missing link, though. If I lock myself into a week or a couple of days or whatever, I’m more likely to say during the weeks I’m supposed to be diligent “Nope, that has grain. You can’t have it this week, but give it a few more days and you can indulge if you even want to by then.” And for now, that’s enough.

How do you keep yourself on track with those healthy habits you form? Are you just one of those whose internal motivation is enough, or do you have to make deals with yourself so you’ll do what you know is best anyway? Do you hold the results up like a mirror so you can easily see how following those habits has improved your life? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Tonight’s gratitudes are:
1. I am grateful for fresh produce year-round.
2. I am grateful for small successes.
3. I am grateful for the things which motivate me.
4. I am grateful for new opportunities and ideas which help me make necessary changes to my path.
5. I am grateful for abundance: success, motivation, inspiration, support groups, cheerleaders, friends, family, joy, love, dancing, bliss, peace, harmony, health, happiness, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

October 22, 2014 Kicking the ADHD into overdrive #shericonaway #blogboost

What do I talk about? Where do I start? Oh, that stir fry looks yummy! Was it worth 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen?

I’m going to start out this post with an apology, because I have no idea where it will go from here. I’m so wound up, my mind is flying in about 52 different directions, and spending time cooking and logging the recipe in MyFitnessPal not once, but four times, isn’t helping. I also started the day with a fellow ADHD friend while she did my nails and we solved the problems of the world together. To make a long story short, I am in the groove to chase topics from one end of the Universe to the other, so buckle your seat belts and hang on. It will be an interesting ride, if nothing else, tonight.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Tuesday is Harvest Box day. This week’s treats included a couple of things I’ve never tried and a new version of an old vegetable. The Kabocha squash was totally delightful baked with cinnamon, sstir fry in progress 10-22-14ugar, coconut oil, nutmeg and ginger, but my piece de resistance was the amazing stir fry I concocted tonight. Here is a picture of my work in progress earlier this evening.  Of course, I performed true to form and underestimated the size of my pan…or overestimated vegetable shrinkage.  Either way, I was forced to rethink my cooking methodology.  I have, somewhere, a wonderful wok which fits on a ring on top of the stove, but unable to locate it, I went with second best in the form of an electric wok I had in my storage room in the garage.  Fortunately, no further adjustments were needed as the vegetable shrinkage was sufficient for the larger, more appropriate pan.  Stir fry nearly done 10-22-14

Although the process required significantly more time than I’d estimated, the two and a half hours of prep and cooking time was well spent. I did, however, experience some frustration loading it into MyFitnessPal. Halfway through, my iPad went to sleep, and all of my previous effort was lost. I re-entered it but forgot an ingredient and used the wrong serving size, but their system seemed to feel the need to cough up a hairball on this recipe. It just meant that I had to recreate it on my desktop later, but as there are 9 servings in my refrigerator, neatly packed in single serving containers, I’ll appreciate the effort when I can just insert a serving of my recipe into my food journal, just as I have with the veggistrone, the squash and the mish mosh.

I got to talking exercise with my totally awesome friend and manicurist today. She’s been taking part in a boot camp and the things she can do now put me to shame! Yet, when I talked about the Pilates class I’ve been attending, she asked to come and try it out. My regular day and teacher aren’t going to work for her this time, so I broke the promise I’d made to myself to take tomorrow off so we can go to the Thursday class together. Suddenly, those lofty goals of actually getting in shape and staying there are reaching a toe outside of the Twilight Zone and touching it ever-so-gingerly into what constitutes my unique version of reality.

This veggie-full diet and exercise intensive lifestyle are about as far from my comfort zone as its possible to get without taking up sky diving or actually launching my website. (and after an email I got today, that may happen sooner rather than later too!). Dare I ask what I’ll be jumping into next?

Today’s meditation was interesting too. I had just reached that lovely, floaty state when Munchkin decided, rather belatedly, to take her place on my lap. Once she settled herself, I found that it was remarkably easy to return to my meditative state, only to be jerked out again when Scrappy Doo decided he needed to take part as well. Once again, I easily drifted back in and when all was said and done, had a very nice, hour and a quarter meditation. I’ve been using crystals a lot lately; most often, one or another of my heart stones and a quartz point. That may or may not have contributed to today’s ease, but I have a feeling the stones will follow me for awhile, just to be on the safe side.

Time to make some changes (as if there aren’t enough in my life already?)

For several months now, I have done a daily, one card Tarot reading and a one card Angel Oracle reading, both to give me some perspective and to open the door to my guides and angels for insight and direction. I have been using my favorite, tried and true Spiral Tarot and my Angel Oracle deck all this time, letting the process evolve unto itself. (just looked at the clock and it was 11:11 again!) Anyway, squirrels and shiny things aside, as time went on, I started paying more attention to how the two cards related, and finally, began looking at and documenting the card I cut to when I was replacing my Tarot card back in the deck after the reading.

Today, I took things one step further and substituted my Wizard Tarot for the Spiral Tarot, and the Messages from the Angels cards for the Angel Oracle Cards. Not knowing what to expect, or if I’d even get messages I understood, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could still see, feel and think fairly lucidly by looking at the Tarot Card. Even more, the two cards did, indeed, relate, and the cut card most definitely clarified the original card pulled.

Though it might seem like a small thing to many, changing decks after reading from only the second deck I’d every used, and for so many years. is a HUGE step outside of my comfort zone. Which prompts me, yet again, to ask: “What’s next? despite the fact that I know I risk one of the Universe’s famous head slaps, at best, just for asking. But I’m feeling brave (read “foolish) right now, and am opening myself to more and more possibilities. If I don’t take a few chances now, I’m going to find myself stagnating again, and that is simply unacceptable.

Let us embrace the changes which come into our lives, and allow them to bring us riches beyond our imaginings, knowledge of things both great and small, and wonders which were once simply things to be imagined.

As promised, or perhaps “warned” is a better word, I have wandered from hither to yon and a few uncharted locales tonight, so I will, without further ado, share tonight’s gratitudes with you as I bring this demonstration of ADD run amok to a close.
1. I am grateful for a mind that races from topic to topic as I am never bored with my own company and thoughts.
2. I am grateful for friends who also have brains that run amok because, not only can they understand me, they can also keep up.
3. I am grateful for healthy food and healthy habits. My body is reveling in all of the movement, my sleep is better, albeit shorter, and my attitude is 1000% better.
4. I am grateful for the miracles my friends have experienced this week, whether it’s the returning health of a beloved puppy, increased mobility after surgery, breakthroughs in problems they’ve been facing, improvements in their life routines…the happy energy is felt by all.
5. I am grateful for a refrigerator and freezer full of healthy, low calorie meals which will feed me well as I dive into the last weeks of the year with enthusiasm, drive and the realization that they are going to fly by swiftly and be full of wonderful surprises.
6. I am grateful for abundance: healthy meals, caring friends, more movement of my body, healthier habits, inspiration, motivation, assurances that I’m on the right track, love, health, harmony, peace and prosperity.


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