Moldova Day 4: We really all have the same issues

Yesterday, I spent some time at the House of Change and was able to meet the workers and girls there. We even had lunch together :) It was a meager spread of fried eggs (very popular here as they are cheap), salad with peas, salted herring, and bread…of course.

We started the session off by getting to know each other and then we launched into some fitness talk. My intern, Doina, lead the majority of it and made me very proud. One thing that stuck in my mind is how we are all different in view points and language perhaps, but we share the same issues.

Can you guess what the #1 fitness question was?

“How do you get rid of the belly?”

That was quickly followed by 2 that I hear all the time:

“Can you tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat?”

“How do you tighten hips and thighs?”

So, if you think that going out if the country to help others is just too foreign to you….think again! We all suffer from something that can be shared…for many of us it is the belly that begs for attention. :)

Physically, I am sticking to my resolution to allow my body a “time out” from hard-core training and over the top expectations (probably the first in YEARS). I do 10-30 minutes of yoga each morning, then train with Doina during the day. I also walk everywhere and take the stairs :) Accidental exercise helps! I am indulging in the local fare, feasting on breads, potatoes, salads, pizza, etc. We even had some cookies.

The interesting thing about sweets here is that they are not nearly as sweet as in the US. We should take a cue from European cooking. When you have a pastry here, you can taste more than the sugar and it doesn’t send your blood sugar spiraling uncontrollably….you simply taste a bit of sweetness carried by more natural ingredients.

Another food difference is that eating takes time. If you go to a café here, expect to wait a minimum of 30 minutes for your food to hit the table…oh, and there are no chips or bread offered for you to fill up on first. Just about everything is fresh and nothing is made before you order it. Take the pizza my daughter loves so much: the dough is rolled out and laced with goodies only AFTER you order….novel concept.

These are just a few things YOU could look forward to if you join me on a trip here :) You will never starve or go without anything for long. And, if you happen to be a medical professional we could really use some help here. Most of the do’s and don’ts are reminiscent of old wives tales and need to be put to sleep permanently.

I will take tomorrow off from the internet to spend some quality time in church here and to spend time just hanging out with Doina. I look forward to seeing you here….but even more so in Moldova.

Stay healthy!

Michelle

BIG NEWS: The Who, Where, What, When and Why

Hello Fit People!

It’s time for to let you in on a not-so-little secret of mine :) I’M HEADING BACK TO MOLDOVA!

Wait, what?

I’m going on another mission trip.

WHERE?

Moldova….pull up your globe, let’s check it out.

Moldova is a small strip of land bordered by the Ukraine and Romania. Check it out:

MOLDOVA

SEE? You really do learn something new every day!

Moldova is also the poorest country in Eastern Europe and its main EXPORT is WOMEN.

Wait, back up….WHAT?

Goods are exported to make money. In Moldova, women are exported via trafficking…to make money.

So, why am I going?

I work with the Beginning of Life Center in Chisinau, Moldova. The BOL helps with LOADS of things, top of the list being:

  • A safe place for those who are rescued from trafficking
  • Counseling
  • Spiritual healing and guidance (there really is only ONE who can heal)
  • Training for life after
  • LOTS of prevention programs

My goal is different from the last time I traveled to Moldova. The last time I was simply going to check it out. This time, there is much more to be done….

I’ll be leaving the comforts of home on April 28th (with my daughter in tow) to make the 2 flights to Chisinau. I’ll spend a week submersed in training a young lady there to do what I do. We’ll be training in self defense, health and wellness, taking care of one’s body, training others and even running a business. This will open a new form of income for her, a new revenue stream for the Beginning of Life Center, and new opportunities for the girls who graduate from the program. These are avenues and opportunities that have NEVER been available to women, so yeah, it’s important.

The remaining week of my stay will be spent in several ways. I’ll be working with staff members on stress relieving techniques (put yourself in their shoes and see if you’re stressed) as well as gathering information to bring back home. I’ll also be working with other girls, prevention programs and helping to set up a plan of how we can reach the goals set by the BOL staff to improve the quality of life as well as education in their area. PLUS, I’ll be hanging out with some AWESOME people who will be over on a vision trip. I’ll have the opportunity to cast the vision the BOL center has for the future.

Still not quite getting why fitness and health is a key component here?

For starters, nutrition education is not something 3rd world countries have much access to. You just eat what you can, when you can. Learning to garden, raise chickens, and make the most out of your ingredients can mean life or death over there. Also, Moldova is heavily influenced by Russian and Romanian cultures. Due to this, PHYSICAL STRENGTH is very highly valued. This is why women are seen as commodities…because they are seen as weak. Teaching them to see themselves in a different light and creating opportunities for them CAN change a culture over time. That is what we intend to start this trip.

Now that you have the information, how can you help?

For starters, you can talk about it! Share this post with your friends, give victims a voice and get involved by speaking up. Trafficking is horrific and the lowest of how any human being should be treated, whether you know them or not.

Second, commit to make a change. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you over in Moldova one day!

Third, you can give. What I do takes money. Plane tickets, lodging, ground costs, transportation and translators (I haven’t mastered Russian yet!) add up to a couple of house payments. The cool thing is that all the small gifts (even $10-$20) add up greatly and MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Plus, you get to be a part of change….a change that cannot wait any longer.

Fourth, don’t turn a blind eye any longer. Speak up. Say something! Don’t just be grateful it’s not you, help those who suffer. Be the change you wish to see….then the change will come.

Thanks for being the awesome version of yourself today!

Michelle

Moldova 4

FUN FRIDAY! Weight Loss Overseas, be a picky eater and a shout out to Under Armour

Happy Friday!!!!

So, I’ve been back from Moldova for almost 2 weeks and I feel like I’m trying to get back to normal. Do you ever really get back to normal though? That sounds like another post altogether….

I came back from my mission trip 4 pounds lighter! And I’m not just talking about the clothing I left over there :) I totally lost 4 pounds. And I wasn’t building houses or carrying babies either. So, to all you doubters that tell me you can’t lose weight because you travel and blah, blah blah…..IT CAN BE DONE! The question is “will you do it?’ actually. Now, the food was wonderful and we were never short on it. I had my fill at every meal and never refused to eat, after all that is very rude. One major difference is that the food in Moldova is pretty fresh and lacks all the nasty hormones and preservatives America has come to rely on so heavily (again, another post). This enabled my body to utilize the food eaten for it’s intended purpose: ENERGY. I had more physical and mental energy from the fresher foods, true story. I also made sure to take my Shakeology packets and FD Greens and I drank those every morning, along with a pack of EmergenC. Those were the ONLY supplements I took and I felt like a rock star! I also worked out about 4 of the 7 days we were there…in my bathroom.

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Yep, that is a picture of the set up I had each morning. I took a couple of bands with me to perform weighted squats, bicep curls, triceps overhead extensions, etc., but the majority of my 30-45 minute workouts were body weight based. I did prisoner squats and lunges, sumo squats, push ups, triceps dips off the toilet, walk outs, crunches, bicycles, burpees, knee tucks, you get the picture. It isn’t a lack of resources that keeps us from staying fit, it’s a lack of discipline. Working out is who I am, not my job. It doesn’t matter what you DO for a living, what matters is how badly you want to be fit. If you want, you’ll break down barriers to get it.

Picky Eating

It’s OK to be a little bit picky when you’re out of your comfort zone. JUST make sure you’re being picky FOR your nutrition, not against it. Airline food is hardly what I would call fresh and if we are honest, it’s not always appealing. The flight from Charlotte to Munich served pretzels (I declined and gave them to my seat mate) for a snack and the entrée was grilled chicken, salad, roll, brownie and veggies. I ate the salad, sans dressing, had a little chicken and veg and gave the rest to my seat mate. Just to clear it up, my seat mate was a sweet little lady from Germany who was on a long trip. She was saving the food for later :) I packed KIND bars and nibbled on those when I got too hungry, but just tried to focus on staying hydrated. The flight home (Munich to Chicago) was different in food fare. The entrée was not quite as edible for me BUT there was still a salad and plenty of water. Oh, and wine…yes, I had plenty of wine :) . The point is: be picky FOR your health. Stick with vegetables that are steamed, grilled, roasted or raw and make sure your protein doesn’t taste as if it has the Dead Sea’s salt contents ok? Play it smart and travel can be easier and healthier for you.

UNDER ARMOUR SAVED MY LIFE! Ok, not really but you really should invest in this…

I’m from South East Texas people. We don’t do cold here. It hits 60 and we’re complaining and breaking out the gloves and parka (not that I own one…). In preparation for the frigid temps of Moldova, I purchased a wool coat and long underwear. On a last-minute shopping trip, my son picked out an Under Armour Charged Fleece Hoodie for me to wear. Life, saved. The coldest day in Chisinau (ok, not ever, but while we were there) was 13 degrees with falling snow and overcast skies. The snow was not falling, it was plummeting. Anyways, while everybody bundled up in coats and long underwear (accept the hard-core from Michigan) I threw on my hoodie and some UA tights (tights people!) and headed out. I’ll try to keep this less technical than I want, but here we go…… These UA people know what they are doing! Their Cold Gear line blows Nike out of the snow bank (yes, I had some from both lines). I was super comfortable walking through Chisinau in the pounding snow AND I wasn’t too hot when we went into stores or restaurants. Why? TECHNOLOGY!!!!! The charged series is water proof and weather resistant. All I can tell is that it is sprinkled with magic. As the wind blew, I felt fine. The snow never melted on my clothing and gave my that soppy wet dog feeling. When we were inside warm places, the sweat wicking magic that is Under Armour went to work to ensure I stayed comfortable. To the naked eye I looked, well, naked. It was tights and a hoodie! Underneath, I was as comfortable as ever and I am now part of Team UA! Looking for great gear? Check it out to your right—————-

If you’re looking for more details on my trip to Chisinau, Moldova OR to find out how you can get involved from the comfort of your own home, click HERE.

Until next time, LIVE A LITTLE LOUDER!!!

Michelle

Ready. Set. GOAL!

I had promised that I would share my goals for the new year with you, and I hate to break promises :)

Ambitious goals are what keep life quite interesting in my opinion. These are the goals that begin as just a fleeting thought in the corner of one’s mind, but over time the thought becomes bigger and , in my case, flashier. I do love sparkle and believe everybody’s life could benefit from a bit more.

So, in the spirit of keeping it flashy I will share some of my 2013 GOALS with you:

  1. I am working towards a physical space of my very own. A gym to call my own :) THIS will actually not be as flashy as one may expect since I truly LOVE the feel of a good old garage gym.
  2. I do have physical goals to accomplish this year, but most fall in the realm of strength and endurance, not jean size or numbers.
  3. I have entered and will COMPETE in my very first fitness show this May! I’ll be sharing that journey with you as well.
  4. I will travel to Moldova this month, but have set a goal to travel to Africa this year as well…as often as I can :) I am partnered with Hopechest ministries and will continue to go where I am called, without questioning.
  5. I will finish 2 books this year: 1 is on weight loss and my specific specialty (keeping the skin tight!) and the other will cover my mission trips and tell the stories of the girls who have been caught up in sex trafficking. I will give a voice to those who feel as though theirs has been taken.
  6. In light of #5, one of my final goals is a publishing deal. Why? Publishers get the words to more people.

So, there are the majority of my goals. I always set goals for my personal life as well, working on relationships and growing in my faith daily.

The question I pose to you is “How big are your goals?” Do you stick to the “safe” goals? Maybe you hang around the ones that are a bit easier. Or perhaps you park over the same ones you’ve had for years, knowing if you don’t make it all will not be lost. Friends, those kind of goals keep you simply existing. What would happen if you believed that great things can happen through you? What if you set out to leave a few footprints through this life? What would happen if you decided to stop existing and truly LIVE life as loud as you could? Who might be affected? I’ll be honest, once you change your mindset to make a change, YOU will be the one to benefit the most.

Live out loud this year!

Michelle

END OF YEAR GIVING: can I get a TAX break?

Most of us don’t really think about end of year giving until taxes roll around right? The thing is, tax deductible donations are tallied up based on the total from the previous year. If you’re looking for a tax break (um, hello? aren’t we all???) then I have just the opportunity for you.

Children’s Hope Chest is a non profit organization that helps children all over the world.

As many of you know (or even if you don’t), I felt called to do a mission trip to Moldova at the end of January. In Moldova, kids are basically kicked out of the orphanages at age 14; because of this, alcoholism among teenagers is very high and many of the girls turn to the sex trade as their last resort. Others are lured in and trafficked against their will. Children’s HopeChest has a program that helps teach them skills so that they can earn a decent living and stay out of trouble. That is what I am  going over there to do. I’ll be teaching self defense.  Here’s a little info on what they are doing. http://www.hopechest.org/support-moldova/

Before I give to any charity I always check them out with Charity Navigator. Children’s HopeChest has a very high 3, almost 4 out of 4 star rating. I try to stick with charities that use at least 80% of their finances for program expenses. You can check them out here http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=8290.

Now, you totally have the option to give to this particular trip OR you can checkout all the other options Hopechest offers for any giving. Any and all contributions count towards saving lives and YOU can be a part of something BIG. PLUS, most companies will match your donation to 501/503 C, non profit organizations. Most of these young adults simply want the basics: toiletries. Seriously, it doesn’t get much more basic than that. If you’re at all interested in donating to THIS specific trip keep reading. If your heart pulls in a different direction, simply check out http://www.hopechest.org for info on all they have to offer :)

The total cost for the trip is roughly $2500.00. Any donations would be greatly appreciated. If anyone needs year end charitable donations, this is a good one. In order to contribute to THIS trip, go tohttp://www.hopechest.org and click on the “Give” tab. Select “Trip Payments” and enter the amount of your donation, any amount is helpful. Use the Reference Number “MV130101T”and put “Michelle Carlson” in the “Notes Field.”

All of this is private and confidential so I will not know who does or does not give or any of the amounts other than the total. In light of that I will just take this time to say Thank You!

In God’s Love,

Michelle