The Good And The Bad Of Internet Fitness Challenges

I’m a fitness buff. I love running, strength training, doing yoga, taking long walks, trying new sports. But even with my great love of the active life, it can be hard to stay motivated. In fact, this is something I’ve been struggling with for several months now. Not because of the pandemic, but because, well, I’m tired. Or the weather is too hot or too cold or I’m too busy…and…

Fitness challenges are one of the ways I stay accountable to myself in times like these. But there are some dangers to them, too, which is why I’m very selective about the ones I do.

  1. Virtual fitness challenges can be great motivators for social people.
  2. Virtual fitness and dietary challenges, however, are a one-size-fits-all thing, generally, which means they won’t be effective for everyone.
  3. These challenges can be a great way to connect with other like-minded people.
  4. But if you become at all obsessed with them, you may cause physical harm to yourself.
  5. The right challenge will be tailored to your specific needs – whether that’s dietary restrictions, physical limitations, time constraints, or current conditioning. You’ll likely have to create your own or use a flux challenge instead.
  6. It’s vital to find the right challenge and online group that will keep you accountable but won’t demoralize you for missing a day, not being “fit enough” to complete the challenge, body shame you in any way, or anything along those lines.
  7. Many of the challenges are run by people trying to sell specific nutritional supplements. Avoid these at all costs. The programs are not really fitness challenges for the most part but instead are propaganda for the products and often involve stressful selling tactics.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

If you want to join a challenge, you can look on Facebook for a solid group like this one.

Or look for challenges on trusted health and fitness sites like Shape , SELF, and PopSugar. The reason I recommend this criteria is that they have experts in fitness and health running the sites and generally are not just “throw together” ideas put up to draw in members or run by folks who don’t really know what they’re doing.

Why I Don’t Use Sarcasm and Inflammatory Language in My Social Media Replies

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

Until recently, I hadn’t been very open about many beliefs on social media because I am incredibly sensitive. Life is so much more vivid for me than many, not in just the good, but in the bad things that happen. And social media is a highly volatile place. Opinion reigns supreme and actual discussion instead of “yelling” is rare.

But in recent months, I’ve become more open about my lack of political affiliation, my stance against Trump, my beliefs in human rights, my anti-racism standards, and other “controversial” subjects. I cannot remain silent, even though I know deep wounds will be gouged into my heart by people on social media. My conscience won’t let me.

I am a people-pleaser. I am sensitive. The hurt will happen. Period. But that is not a weakness and it is not a reason to remain silent. As one friend put it, “The silence of the church is deafening.”

Most responses have been gracious, supportive, and loving. I have invited actual discourse on the issues people may disagree with me on. That is not an invitation for argument but for a conversation on the matters. Arguments accomplish nothing except generally proving someone is a jerk.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The only inflammatory responses I have received have been from white, conservative, evangelical males and one white, conservative, evangelical female. Most of these responses have been belittling, condescending, and sexist. One person sent a private message to me in response to a public statement I made, telling me that I was “falling for the liberal, fascist agenda.”

Calling a Jewish woman a fascist is pretty offensive to begin with, but then to also place quotation marks around the title of bishop because the church leader I referenced is a woman is equally offensive, especially because this offense was intentional.

Yesterday, I shared my own experiences about sexual assault in the church and by a stranger on a hiking trail. The response from a white male evangelical was to say he was sorry I was treated poorly, then tell me that I should “know” that a female cannot be a pastor, completing missing the point of my commentary and the article to which that commentary was tied. The article? “These Evangelical Women Are Abandoning Trump and the Church.” The topic? The #MeToo Movement and evils done to women in the name of “Christianity.”

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

My initial thought to this sexist response was that I should give a snarky comment back. I’ve got a lot of Biblical training, 32+ years as an active Christian, Bible degrees, etc. and certainly didn’t need to hear his arguments against women as pastors as though I’d never heard them before. I thought about saying, “Thanks for mansplaining this to me!” or more inflammatory remarks.

I did point out that telling me I should “know” something is belittling and sexist and that he missed the point of the post. He responded, again, that women can’t be pastors, still missing the point.

Again, I was tempted to remark in sarcastic ways.

But the reality is, sarcasm and inflammatory speech do nothing to change minds. Folks won’t simply flip their views of racism, sexism, and other bigotries because I scream back across the internet.

So, I write what I’d LIKE to say and then scrap it. Getting the words out helps me even if not anyone else. And then I craft reasonable responses that not only speak of how the arguments miss the point but point out things like red herrings, straw man fallacies, etc. This is far more effective than letting my emotions fly free on the wings of snarky, inflammatory words.

And though I doubt that my reasonable responses will affect change with the people who’ve been arguing with me (when you only care about being right, you’re not actually listening), I do have hope that someone watching on the sidelines will hear and learn, and maybe that’s how some good might come of all this.

It’s a Trite Saying, But Let’s Ask It Anyway

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Right now, it feels shameful to say that I’m a Christian. Not because I am doing something wrong but because the meaning of this word “Christian” has become a negative tag-word for politicians to draw in flocks of followers for their votes.

A Christian is not, however, someone who perpetuates racism, hatred, violence, capitalism, greed, arrogance, or self-worship. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus. The term literally means “little Christ.” And the idea behind that, when the term was first coined, was a bit like a woman saying that her child looks and acts like the kid’s father. “She’s just a little Tom all over again!”

In these tumultuous times, I’ve seen a lot of people angry with so-called Christian politicians (I am, too!). And with the people claiming they are Christians but who are throwing tear gas at peaceful protestors, the people who are refusing to wear masks for “freedom’s sake” without caring about the lives of those around them, the people who are spouting hurtful diatribes against people who don’t look and act like them.

I have to say “so-called” Christian because these behaviors aren’t at all like Jesus. And saying you’re a Christian while putting capitalism, political affiliations, and yourself ahead of the lives of others is not like Jesus at all.

In Philippians 2:6-8, the Apostle Paul writes about the true person of Jesus.

“Who, being in very nature God,
[Jesus] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!”

When I look at this true example of love and mercy, I have to ask that trite saying that hung on wrists in the 1990s, “What would Jesus do?”

It’s pretty clear from His example throughout the Scriptures that Jesus wouldn’t harm others. He wouldn’t refuse to wear a mask so that He could “be free” to do as he likes. He wouldn’t use His privilege to make money or save corporations and buildings. He gave Himself, considering Himself nothing compared to the lives that He would save – and He was gentle, kind, and loving about it.

What would Jesus do? He’d fight to save the lives and souls of those who are marginalized – and He’d throw over tables of cheats and thieves who use their religion as a “way in” to get what they want from the people around them. Those actions led up to his sole mission which was to offer reconciliation between man and God.

4 Cozy Mystery Writing Prompts

Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

Obviously, the hardest part of writing a mystery is creating a believable and intriguing mystery to be solved. The same stories are told over and over again, wrapped in different packaging – so it can be tedious or challenging to come up with something new.

So, I thought I’d offer some fun writing prompts in the genre. Maybe it will help someone kick past a blockage they’ve been dealing with as they write. Who knows?

  1. A cat prowling around a murder victim’s house while the police detective investigate knocks over an urn. But instead of ashes, an ancient Egyptian necklace falls out.
  2. Setting: Small village in Iceland. Murder victim: local tour guide. Single clue left at murder scene: a hunk of rare Italian cheese. Whodunnit?
  3. Florida Man wins the lottery and finally goes on the vacation to Colorado Springs he’s always dreamed of. Out on the hiking trail, he discovers something in his knapsack. Before he can do anything about it, he keels over dead.
  4. The murder weapon: a stone globe. The victim: a veterinarian in New York City. The murderer: the owner of a small, yellow bird. Why’d they do it?

When You Just Need Some Good News

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

I don’t have to tell you that the world is in a quagmire of chaos right now. But I might have to remind you that there are still good things going on in the world today in the midst of all this.

I do a weekly post for a platform I contribute to, targeting trending news. After weeks and weeks of having nothing positive to report about based on Twitter, news feeds from CNN and similar networks, etc., I wanted good news for a change. I found some – and actually got to write on positive things for that weekly post.

I’m passing those sites on to you now, too, in case you just need to see the positive in the world today.

5 Writing Prompts for Fantasy Stories

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

In my writing group lately, we’ve been using prompts and games to work on our craft each meeting. I thought I would create a few prompts in multiple genres this summer for fellow writers looking for a boost in creativity.

These are all completely just from my brain – there’s no backstory to discover. Just use the imagery the words elicit and write away.

  1. Who is the Righteous Ryder and what is her/his mission?
  2. There’s a magical plant in the woods, which a young girl discovers one day while collecting herbs for her father’s cookery. What does the plant do? What happens after the discovery?
  3. What would happen if three owls, two unicorns, and a dragon were all best friends?
  4. A talking medieval cat discovers something sinister in the castle dungeon while hunting mice one morning.
  5. A duck and her ducklings hold the secret to the universe.

DIY: Scalp-Soothing Homemade Shampoo

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

DIY isn’t really a hobby of mine – much as I’d love it to be – but I have been getting more and more into natural, homemade everything. Specifically, I’m eliminating shampoo because I have a very sensitive scalp. For about a year, I had a store-bought shampoo I could use, but it’s recently been causing scabs and painful sores on my scalp. So…it was time.

Here’s the simple recipe I created to create this soothing solution for my unhappy head.

Simple, Soothing Minty Shampoo

You’ll also need a bottle with a flip top lid (screw off are too difficult to handle in the shower).

  1. Boil a little extra water since some will naturally evaporate (I boil about 1.5 cups).
  2. Once the water has boiled, put the tea bags in a heat-resistant bowl and pour the boiling water in.
  3. Let the tea steep for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the tea bags and pour the tea, castille soap, essential oil, and olive oil into your flip-top bottle.
  5. Combine thoroughly.

Store in a cool, dark place.

Tips for Homemade Shampoo Use

  1. It will take a couple of days to get used to the shampoo. Your hair will feel heavier and slightly greasy after you rinse it out thoroughly. This is normal and will improve after a couple days of use.
  2. Don’t use as much of the homemade shampoo as you would store bought. It’s very liquid and seems like you need more, but you really don’t.
  3. Catch the shampoo in one hand and lather together in your hands before applying to your hair. This will help it lather and will reduce the amount of shampoo you need to use.
  4. Pair with a homemade conditioner to avoid chemicals in conditioners. (Recipe coming soon…still perfecting mine!)

8 of the Best Classic Light Reads This Summer

If you love reading, and always have, you probably have a number of favorites from your childhood like I have. This year, I’ve decided that I want to re-read many of them. As an adult, I’ll have a different perspective on many of them, of course, but the joy of my childhood tucked into corners, sitting on my window seat or flopping on the grass with a good book comes flooding back as I read these. If you haven’t read them yet, you really ought to.

  1. The Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery – there are 8 books, equally marvelously flowery, and beautiful, and delightful.
  2. Kilmeny of the Orchard, also by L.M. Montgomery. I’m a big fan of this writer – I have all 32 of her novels and short story collections.
  3. A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter – a delightful read about the turn of the Century Midwest, butterflies, moths, and the wilderness.
  4. A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett – I’ve fashioned storybook attics after hers
  5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – a surprising story of survival based loosely on a true story
  6. An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott – a book that shaped so much of my young life
  7. Heidi by Johanna Spyri – another whimsical tale with deep truths that helped to shape me
  8. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter – a story of loss, growth, prejudice, and change

Why I Take Both a Morning and an Evening Walk Each Day

Photo by Retha Ferguson on

Even though I’m a runner who hits the gym most nights at about 8 or 9pm (or at least I did until lock-downs), I take walks twice daily whenever possible. When I first get up and right before the sun goes down, I’m out there, stalking through the snow or meandering a sun-kissed trail through the neighborhood.

With all the running I do, you might think it’s a little weird that I bother with two walks each day on top of my jogging adventures, but I’ve found that two walks a day does wonders in several areas of my health.

Two Walks Per Day Helps My Mental Health

On my walk a few weeks ago – a lovely Weeping Willow in my neighborhood

In the early morning, a bright (or grey) sky helps to set the mood for the day. I’m out, I’m active, and I’m getting my body in motion. This not only helps me physically, but it helps to set my mind for the day. I tend to think all night long, even in my sleep. Getting out on a trail with the birds and the squirrels is life-giving for a nature nut stuck in the city.

Two Walks Each Day Helps De-clutter My Mind

I work a lot. As a writer, I’m jotting down ideas, sending out pitches, contemplating new stories, scripts, and novels just about every waking hour. But I have a life! I’m married to a wonderful man and have a crazy cat who craves attention.

Taking a couple of walks throughout the day helps to de-junk my brain. I can work through the stuff that’s in my head, rattling around. And working through it clears out my thoughts and frees up space for life apart from work.

Multiple Walks Keeps Me Active Throughout the Day

Photo by Pixabay on

I used to work at active jobs, as a nanny, dog walker (biking my route), recess coach, tennis coach, home organizer, etc. Until becoming a full-time writer, I only sat down for a couple of hours a day. Now, I am on my butt for most of the day.

I keep active throughout the day by taking these two walks, getting up every 25-30 minutes and moving for 5-minutes, and doing my running, yoga, and weight training. These two walks help take me past the “basics” of my day and keeps my body more fluid and relaxed.

But the days I don’t take these two walks? I don’t get up as much. I don’t exercise as easily. I don’t get in nearly as much movement and I wind up stiff and achy.

Even Ten Minutes Can Make a Difference

If you’re not able to take long walks but still want to benefit from taking two walks, you can. Even ten minutes per walk can make a huge difference. Try it for a month. Set an alarm each morning and night and get out there. Even if all you can do is pace the hallway in your apartment building or meander throughout the house, you will likely find that your body thanks you.

From Stranger to Running Inspiration

Outside Navy Pier in 2006

In Memoriam of Elizabeth Lynn Glovier, my best friend and “bosom buddy”

Anne of Green Gables was my favorite book series as a child. It might still be, actually. And though I’ve always had deep, beautiful friendships, I didn’t really understand the kind of friendship that Anne and Diana had – though I did long for it. That’s not to say that my best friends growing up weren’t truly dear, intimate friends. I still love each and every one of them – from Jodi Mellema, Rachel Peters, and Ivy VonHeemstraaten to Amber Christine – but it wasn’t until I met Elizabeth Glovier that I understood what a true “bosom buddy” was.

Elizabeth and I were introduced by a mutual friend about two months into our enrollment at Moody Bible Institute. This friend, Greg, knew that both of us had a passion for loving those who have been marginalized by society. “You have to meet this girl,” I remember him saying. “If you aren’t best friends in a second, then, I know nothing.”

San Francisco 2008 – Elizabeth loved Spongbob

He was right. By the end of the morning outing into the notorious Cabrini Green neighborhood where we led Bible study and safe playtime for the kids there, Elizabeth and I were indeed, best friends. We didn’t know how deep the friendship would go, but we knew we were destined to be friends for the rest of our lives.

Together, Elizabeth and I started a street ministry in which we took food, clothing, Bibles, blankets, and even flowers out to give to people living on the streets and to horse-drawn carriage drivers (I used to be a driver, in case you wondered). We met Bonnie, a woman who initially hated us, yelled at us, and told us to go to hell. We met Fred, a manager of the carriage company who basically told us the same thing.

Russia, 2007

The last night of the ministry (i.e. two weeks before I graduated), Bonnie and I had Bible study together, and Fred gave me one last free carriage ride to say thanks for being a friend over the years.

When Elizabeth and I returned to Chicago two years later, Fred greeted us with hugs and kisses and another free carriage ride.

Our first year at Moody, Elizabeth and I had different roommates. Elizabeth’s roommate, Julie, and my roommate, Mary, are wonderful women whom we both adored. But the following year, we had the opportunity to become roommates, and we thought we should.

In our second year of college, Elizabeth got up each morning to go running. She ran for miles each week. I, however, remained mostly inactive. I hated being overweight. I hated being inactive. But I had asthma, and I thought that meant I couldn’t exercise.

With my Christmas gift to her in 2006, inspiration for her vision trip to Russia that we took in 2007

But that summer, I knew I wanted to do something special for Elizabeth. I was in South Africa on a concert tour with my college chorale and heard my friend, Joel, often speak of running marathons, 5ks, and other races. Something clicked inside me.

“Joel, teach me what I need to know so that I can run.”

The man taught me everything he could on that three-week tour, and I took my first run in Africa. I kept running all summer.

One morning, about two weeks into my final year at Moody, I popped up early one morning with Elizabeth and said, “Okay. Let’s go running!”

She didn’t know what to do. “Running? You and me? You?”

We went running. It was beautiful.

In St. Petersburg, Russia 2007

Unfortunately, she had some issues with illness that year, though, so she wound up not being able to run with me much. I got up every morning, though, and went running with my R.A., Jessica, with her, or on my own.

I’ve been running ever since.

And today, Elizabeth, I run for you. I will go out and do a slow 5k (thank you hot weather!) in your honor. I will do my virtual “Run Across Australia” 5k because my heart is there as it always has been. And you always encouraged me to pursue God, pursue His dreams for me, and to pursue the most loving, kind way of living that could be had.

Being utterly ridiculous in a fancy bathroom somewhere in Ayrshire, Scotland, 2007

You’re gone now, Elizabeth. And I miss you greatly. I miss the long talks we had. The all-night prayer meetings we held. The jokes we shared. The backpacking across Europe and Russia where you dreamed of serving in missions. I miss you.

Happy Birthday, bosom buddy. You’d be 36 today. Thank you for giving so much life to me. Thank you for being so much love for so many of us. Thank you for teaching me the love of running, even if you couldn’t go running with me.

My virtual race bib for today

Today, I run in your honor because you can’t go running here on earth yourself. I hope you know it and I hope you know that I will ever be grateful to God for the best friend He gave me in you. I love you. I miss you.