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Accountability

Girl Power - have to honor it in order to keep it.

There was a recent kerfuffel between the pope in Rome and some mild-mannered nuns in America who up till now had mostly been known for taking care of the poor. Pope Benedict said they were spending far too much time with the downtrodden and were off-message. At this point, does it even matter what the ‘message’ was supposed to be?

Fortunately, the nuns appear to know who is really their boss and have decided to keep hanging out with the homeless.

At 52 years old, I can remember a time not so long ago when women who wanted a divorce as recently as the 1970′s would carefully plot out having a credit card and a bank account in their name before they’d announce to their soon-to-be-ex that they were leaving. That was because banks didn’t give single women credit, regardless of their financial standing.

When I went on interviews to become a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch I was routinely asked about when I’d be leaving to have children and would angry clients make me cry. Frankly, my favorite client who’d made millions in real estate, started out our first conversation by saying, “Brokers are nothing more than well-paid whores.”

I replied, “I’ve heard the same thing about real estate.” He gave a big belly-laugh and started listening.

My older sisters had even coached me on what to say when I was hit with the weird, whacky and sometimes even illegal questions so that I’d get the job and in the end, prove I could do the job with one hand tied behind my back.

There’s  a recent trend, though, spreading across America to repeal certain laws, state by state that gave women well-earned and hard-fought rights to equal pay or the chance to ever get that job.

As boring as politics can sometimes seem when the airwaves are filled with ads slamming someone, who gets elected can make a real difference in what you might be able to do tomorrow.

Pay attention, choose your candidate and vote. A lot of women fought a long, hard fight to make sure you’d get to dream even bigger. I’d like to thank a group of humble nuns who give of their time and their talents for reminding me of that lesson. More adventures to follow.

 

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Chef Ashley Runner showing Martha how to 'shock' vegetables without killing them off.

I started cooking differently, which means at all, on October 26th of last year. That’s the day I finally decided to change a few things about myself from the inside out and it came out as more vegetables, smaller portions and nothing processed. So far, that also means 70 fewer pounds and a size 22 to a size 10.

My first attempts at cooking, like I said last week, resulted in a lot of braised pans, charred steaks, mushy vegetables and very dry chicken. For some reason I just kept going this time and pushed through all of those horrible weeks of trying to learn how to cook.

But even as the meat became more tender and the vegetables weren’t so limp, the bland factor was still pretty high. Everything kind of tasted the same.

Just last week, however, I learned that my friend, Ashley has been a professional chef and loves to teach newbies like me how to make great dishes with affordable ingredients and not a lot of time.

In just two hours we made pork chops with granny smith apples and cabbage, roasted red peppers with basil and scallions, a vegetable tartlet without the tart that has eggplant, tomato, red onion and squash, asparagus and baby bok choy shocked vegetables with an orange and ginger dressing, and acorn squash with oyster mushrooms. It was all so easy that I could do it again without wondering how we got to the ending and it was in my budget.

My refrigerator is now full and I will be the envy of everyone at the office tomorrow.

Vegetable Tartlet (without the tart)

Slice two red onions, a small eggplant, two yellow squash and three roma tomatoes. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a tart pan or baking dish. Arrange the vegetables and top with fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the top. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Baste with the juices and bake for 20 more minutes. Voila!

Thank you, Ashley for being a part of this journey and helping me to continue to change. Seventy pounds lost so far, more adventures to follow.

Ashley Runner is available for private cooking lessons – leave a comment here if you live in the Chicago area and would like to learn more.

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Ready, set, go get a life.

One of the reasons I’ve slipped so often in the past on the way to my goal of a healthy lifestyle is that I slowly stop doing what was working. Sounds crazy but it’s so easy to do.

One week I’m running, biking and swimming and the next I’m biking and swimming because there was a meeting I had to get to or it was 95 degrees outside. Sounds reasonable and everyone in that meeting thought they should be the priority. Come on, you can’t do everything, right?

Then it gets easier to shave it back just a little further. I’ll work out on the weekends but in the afternoon so I can finally sleep in a little. Before I knew it I was idle again, had lost all of that muscle I’d put on and was starting to eat from the wrong parts of the grocery store.

Here are the questions I was forgetting to ask myself:

How much time have I gotten back because I’m not so tired or move far more slowly? Do those hours add up to more than the hours I’m working out? How much better do I feel about life in general because I feel better about myself and the way I look? How much easier has it been to keep on taking contrary actions and following my dreams because I feel better? Do I want to take a lot of medications when I’m older or do I want to still be running down the road? Do I want to be biking and chatting with some new friends at 6:30 in the morning, which means going to bed a little earlier or do I want sleep in because I was out at a loud bar the night before where I couldn’t hear anything and then walk around for the first few hours like I’m only half awake?

Fortunately, when the idea of slowing down struck me this summer my new biking friends like Ruth and Piper kept sending me annoying text messages asking me where I was and what did I think I was doing??!! Yes, there were extra question marks and exclamation points. They’re very hard to ignore and so, this Saturday there I was again standing in a parking lot at 6:30 getting ready to set out. Thank goodness. I’ve been told that this will continue in perpetuity. Now those are the kind of friends that can help me to really live. More adventures to follow.

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Photo by Nick Bianco

I’ve been battling my weight in some fashion since I was twelve years old and was already 5’9, which made me stand out and get attention. I was too young to understand exactly why I was getting noticed or what to do with it. I wasn’t even sure it was something I should want.

The desire to figure it out while not losing the attention led to stretches of barely eating anything day after day to maintain a rail-thin like quality with equal amounts of years of eating till I was sick and throwing myself into the obese category. The outside package may have looked different to an observer but the brain or maybe the spirit inside was the same. I was obsessed with body image and was mistakenly thinking that in order to achieve my goals everything started from the outside, in.

Intellectually, we all know that’s not true. There have been enough talk shows with weepy people talking about how they finally learned that change has to start from within but if I have decades of practice with one way of doing things till I don’t even notice anymore, how do I translate any of that into actually changing?

I’ve thrown a lot of money, effort and obsessive thinking at getting the right body, whatever that meant at the time and it worked a lot of the time but never for longer than a handful of years.

This time I’ve added in a spiritual element, friends and accountability and the biggest change is the lack of obsession. I still have days that are way too long where I notice desserts way too much. But this time I call someone who reminds me of a few truths till my brain and my spirit come back together. I’m 9 months in so far and 70 pounds lighter. Frankly, I feel even lighter than that while at the same time I’m startled every time I pass a mirror. More adventures to follow.

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Tim Tebow (Photo by Dhanny Prawira)

There’s a controversy swirling around Denver Broncos’ quarterback, Tim Tebow, who has been taking the opportunity to thank Jesus Christ during football games. It should be noted that Tebow is doing this without a lot of fanfare or dancing or shouting and is not the first person to thank God or Christ from a sidelines or an awards dais.

In the sports realm of victory laps Tim Tebow should be sliding right under the radar.

However, fans, sportscasters and fellow football players are becoming increasingly polarized around Tebow offering their opinions freely about whether or not a public display of faith is acceptable, or even appropriate, all the time. Everyone keeps saying this controversy is about Tebow and his actions.

But lately, more is actually revealed about everyone else.

Take for example, Lions linebacker, Stephen Tulloch who mocked Tebow after sacking him in a recent game by getting down on one knee in an impromptu in-your-face joke about what he judged as Tebow’s overt faith. The entire Lions organization has been trying to say it was all in fun ever since.

It’s that old definition of fun that says as long as the barb is delivered with a sneer and a few people laugh at someone else’s expense with you, it’s to be tolerated. What’s even more interesting though, is not that Tulloch tried to elevate himself by stepping all over Tebow’s faith but that Tebow has not returned the surly favor. Not even a little.

 

Tebow has also not said that his faith means God is on his side or is spending more time hanging out at football games. He’s responded to the multitude of questions about what this all means by saying that he’s expressing his thanks and then heading out to do his best. The outcomes are out of his hands and all he can do is make sure he’s ready when he shows up to play the game.

In a culture that has gotten inundated for generations with heroes that took most or all of the credit, crowing about how they are better, faster, smarter, richer, it must really throw some people for a loop to hear someone praise God and say, it’s not all about me. Apparently, it even angers some of them.

What really seems to have unnerved so many people is how often Tebow expresses his faith, love and gratitude mixed with how humbly he lives his life.

Legendary retired quarterback, Kurt Warner is the latest to say in the media that Tebow ought to tone it down a bit. Warner said he is a Christian as well and in his early days as a quarterback felt the same compulsion to thank Christ or God and felt the hailstorm of criticism that followed. He toned it back a bit and let his actions lead, rather than his words. Warner came to see that as enough.

But Warner is giving the rest of us way too much credit. If it were possible for me to glean how to pick up the same tools of life that he found just by observation I’d have figured out a lot more by now.

Sometimes an action isn’t worth a handful of words because there’s a lot of space between witnessing an individual do the right thing and also hearing them tell you that all that they have, all that they are comes from something bigger than themselves.

There are going to continue to be plenty of people hoping to find out Tebow is less than he appears and expose that it’s impossible to be a person of integrity. They’re willing to keep mocking, jeering and chatting on-air till they see it come to pass.

But this crowd may have underestimated the rest of us, regardless of our particular faith, who are exhausted by the economy, the political primaries, the Kardashians and the general backbiting that’s become a part of our culture.

We’re rooting for the good guy because he’s saying something we want to believe. That it’s okay to set an example that’s full of integrity, takes a lot of accountability and is a challenge to live up to every day. Maybe what Tebow has figured out is that it is a very tall order to live up to but if you can drop the chest-beating and hand over the credit to God, you may find a sweeter life, instead. More adventures to follow. Tweet me @MarthaRandolph about what you’re thinking.

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Bank of America Building in NYC (Photo by DVPFagan)

America is starting to see some recurring signs of a recovery, including a recent increase at last in the number of new jobs. It was still marginal and across less than half of the country but it’s a start and in the right direction.

A basic principle of economics is that momentum of any kind will continue in the same direction without some kind of intervention. In other words, the rock is no longer rolling over us.

However, the tangled mess of mortgages that crashed the country into the Great Recession still has a few good punches to the gut left before we can put it all behind us. The hairy part is that the problems that are left are still big enough to trip up the recovery and drag out the recovery further or perhaps even send us into a double-dip recession.

Officially, in case you missed it, the Great Recession was over in June of 2009. Now, we’re in the midst of the Great Recovery, which means we’ve hit bottom and are looking toward the rebuilding instead of trying to prevent further deterioration.

But the U.S. economy is still causing a few late night meetings at the White House to get us off the critical list because we’re still in a financial ICU and it’s partially because of what got us here in the first place, mortgages. The other big sticking point is not our deficit as much as other country’s crashing economies that we are tangled with in so many ways but that’s another story for another day. Mortgages are enough to cause plenty of sleepless nights among regulators and politicians all on their own.

Investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities from banks have become fed up with getting nothing for their money and are suing the banks. Bank of America has several lawsuits filed against it for at least 54 billion dollars. Originally, they had pegged the amount at 375 billion last year but after a court ruling had to scale back the numbers.

While the different lawsuits in several states are varied about the exact offenses by BOFA, there is one underlying problem that everyone agrees has aggravated the problem. Sloppy record keeping has led to confusion about who exactly has owned or still owns the mortgages. BOFA is not the only major US bank being accused of the problem. CitiGroup, Wells Fargo, PNC Financial and JP Morgan Chase are some of the others who have recently had lawsuits filed against them citing the same types of problems. [click to continue…]

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Things have changed, maybe forever. (Photo by smokeghost)

Throughout history, ever since the first time a caveman realized a rock could be used as a tool, the guy who could use his brain more than his hands was thought to be protected by new technology. His career aspirations would only be enhanced by whatever new gadget someone was about to introduce. That idea stood for a million years.

The ones who used their hands or their backs in order to build the shiny new object were thought to be marking time till technology would trump them and they’d have to learn an entire set of skills all over again.

But times have changed and that may not be so true anymore.

As we age that’s an increasingly uncomfortable thought particularly for those of us who weren’t texting our BFF’s during recess. Our brain is already crowded with kid’s sports schedules, PIN numbers and deadlines. Throw in the desire to keep job security, hanging onto healthcare benefits and providing for the family and it’s a sizeable dose of anxiety.

But it’s been preached to us from every quarter for two hundred years that getting a college degree would prevent most of those hiccups. There may be layoffs during a steep recession but they won’t last and in the end those with degrees will have richer lives and cushier retirements.

Welcome to 2011 and a reality check right on the heels of the death of the old adage that real estate is always a good investment or brokers make money even in bad markets.

It turns out though there is an old saying that still has a lot of staying power. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? This time it applies to old school journalists many of whom are finding themselves in new careers these days.

Their situation does has something to do with the possible economic depression that’s all around but it also has a lot more to do with how a very old profession is morphing right now into something new and the consequences are impacting all of us. [click to continue…]

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The Carr's in the '60's. That's me in the blue velvet.

A child needs two parents who care about them and show up for them in all aspects of their lives. When we do that we let the small fry know that the world’s a safe place in the small moments of sitting next to them in church, cheering them on from a variety of sidelines or holding our children close when they’re not feeling well, inside or out.

It’s the biggest opportunity for an adult to be accountable and learn that very little of life is really about us at all. That’s a good thing.

But somehow in the mix of trying to figure out how we can lead more authentic lives a lot of us forgot about that axiom and started acting like our needs came ahead of everything else.

However, there’s no time like the present to try a contrary action.

Our children need balance in their lives just as much as we do and a new study released last week backs up that idea just in time for Father’s Day. A study out of Australia says that letting Dads roughhouse with their children improves their emotional health and rate of development.

It’s the balance between a mother’s nurturing hug and a father’s nurturing toss in the air. One tells us that there’s a safe place to return to and the other lets us know that the world can be a little rough but on the whole it’s a lot of fun. Don’t be afraid to get knocked around a little because what you learn will be worth it.

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