Intelligence and the Art of Movement

It began with our oldest child when she entered formal academic schooling.  Her preschool teacher once described her as being “spirited”, which gave us an outlet for further research when it came to effective parenting.  Nevertheless, her behavior coupled with her high intelligence always left us second guessing as to whether or not we were capable of this whole parenting thing.  As our daughter entered elementary school, we had our ups and downs, eventually landing upon the term “gifted”, and in the process, we were opened up to an entirely new way of looking at each of our children, as well as discovering an entirely new way to define intelligence.

I am not the one to compare my children in a judgmental way, placing value on them based on their performance or ability.  I in no way line them up in a row according to talent, placing one on a higher pedestal accordingly.  However, it would be impossible as a parent not to look at one child – particularly an older child – and not use that as a foundation for understanding younger children.  We have three daughters whom we love equally and exponentially, and one of my most cherished aspects of having multiple children is the difference in their personalities.  Just as one will present a different variation of genetic code – one with light hair and one with dark, one with green eyes and one with blue – their character varies all the same.  I adore this aspect as it helps me to value each of my children individually, understanding them as their own person, both as an extension of our family and independent in their own right.

Our middle daughter and our oldest daughter are as different as night and day, which makes it both interesting and difficult.  It is a rare moment when they get along with one another, let alone actually express an interest in what the other is doing.  Our oldest is very academic and a leader.  She is overly organized and structured, even in her play.  Our middle child is more care-free.  She is spontaneous and creative, finding humor around every corner.

While our oldest child has been labeled in academics as being “highly gifted”, our middle daughter has her struggles.  We have tears during math homework, and at nearly 8-years-old we are still working on her becoming a stronger and more confident reader.  While our oldest learns through written word, our middle daughter learns through movement.  And just in the same way we look positively at our oldest’s academic successes, we take great delight in watching our middle daughter create something new out of recycled materials, or watching her dance.

Although our middle child has not been formally labeled as gifted, we see the same passions within her when she is moving as we do with our oldest when she is reading or writing.  Simply watching our middle child make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an interesting show.  While moving from the stove to the utensil drawer, she takes a series of graceful steps then an arabesque as she leans forward to grab a butter knife.  The return to the bread on the stove requires a twirl and a short leap, then a sashay to the trashcan to dispose of a paper towel.  I will never forget a few months ago when we were in the checkout lane at a whole foods grocery store.  A song was playing over the speakers and I looked over to see her dancing in the middle of the aisle, completely oblivious to her surroundings.  Grown-ups were smiling, other children were looking on joyfully, and there was our daughter, giving a performance without a care in the world as to who was paying attention.  She simply heard the music and her body naturally began to move.

Discovering gifts within a child and then taking the proper steps in giving them the tools necessary for growth, is essential.  I don’t know that I can fully describe how we do this, but that we have read so much literature about gifted children and multiple intelligences that we have learned how to value the unique qualities our children possess.  We know what encourages and motivates them.  When we observe carefully and quietly, we can see when something is ignited within them that sparks so much focus and desire that they are led with an abundance of inspiration and creativity.  When that happens, we know that they have found a passion, and whether it lasts for two weeks, two years, or a lifetime, it is our responsibility as parents to give them an outlet to explore their interests.  In this way, we give our children the reins, but as parents we sit back and carefully help them navigate their way as they grow and learn in their own experiences.

Much in the same way our oldest is highly gifted, yet not the best math student in her class, our middle daughter isn’t the best dancer in her dancing school.  In fact, she isn’t even the best in her classes.  However, there is something within her that switches on when she is dancing.  On most days, she focuses and observes carefully.  She constantly studies the art of dance.  She moves through life in a spontaneous choreography that is her passion, her intelligence, and her gift.  As her parents, we work with her on things like reading and arithmetic, expressing the importance of academic study and effort, but at the same time, we are sure to offer her an outlet for the gift of movement, a chance to approach the world with confidence through her own unique lens.  We never approach dance with her as an extracurricular activity, but as a vital aspect of her education.  For her, it is an art, an interpretation of her surroundings, and it isn’t something she takes lightly.

For none of our children do we feel compelled to look into the future and forecast how we think it should be.  I have no idea if dance is something that our daughter will always want to pursue, but for now I know that it is a huge part of who she is.  Dance is also in her genetic code.  My mother, too, is a dancer.  And much in the same way we watch our daughter move throughout her day, my mother does the same.  There was never a catchy song playing in a store, or the excitement of ending movie credits that I didn’t see my mother dancing, twirling us around with her when we were still little enough to do so.  And my mother always spoke about her gift for the art of movement as a child, often closing herself in her room to simply dance.  It is all the more interesting now to look at our own daughter, to see those same passions growing from deep inside of her tiny body, and quietly observe how it moves her.  We sit in her audience, never being too pushy or too loud of a presence on her stage, but nevertheless admiring and encouraging her with every passioned step and graceful twirl she makes.

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Anne Ready for Dance Classes, 2012

 

 

 

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The Family Vacation: A Fantastic, Disorganized Mess of Unconditional Love

Recently we embarked on a family vacation to Saint Louis for my girls’ Spring break.  We were very excited to get out of town for a little bit…to kick back…to relax.  A trip would be filled with laughter, coming together, enjoying each other’s company.  However, there’s a catch:  my kids usually don’t get along.  Do yours?  I sometimes think there may be something fundamentally wrong with our family, like there is a blip somewhere in my parenting that made my two oldest girls loath each other.  The littlest one and the middle one get along fine for the most part, but even they have moments when one incessantly picks on the other until the other is pushed over the edge of patience and reason.  The perpetrator gets hit, then cries.  Suddenly you are thrown in the middle as the parent – you have to enter the courtroom and call some sort of order to the barbaric case, which is nothing more than a series of back and forth blame in a tundra of shrills and crying that resembles more of a caveman ritual than a problem to solve.  Who hit whom?  Why?  Who started it?  Why?  And all the while they are whining their innocence while blaming the other.  Eventually, you just raise your voice over theirs and say, “JUST QUIT IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!”  And they stop.  And life moves on. What parenting book did I read that in?  Oh…NONE!  But it worked so you just sort of go with it.

Remember those ideals we envision when we become parents for the first time?  WOW!  How differently life looks 10 years down the road when you have not one, but three children.  I hate to break it to parents still in that wonderfully new phase of parenthood, but that doesn’t last for forever.  Soon that little babbling bundle of joy will look at you and tell you that you are the meanest person on the face of the earth – and only because you won’t let her have a double sleepover on a school night.  You will want to run up the stairs, grab her by the shoulders and remind her of all of the times you have made her a good meal, rocked her to sleep, comforted her in sickness and heartache, and how many more times during her lifetime you will still do all of those things.  But, you don’t.  You just look at her and remark, “FINE!”  And you go do the dishes.  That wasn’t in any parenting book either.  But it worked.  So you just go with it.

After a while, you just start expecting the less-than-perfect.  Your kids will fight, they will frustrate the crap out of you unlike anyone else can, and family vacations will be stressful.  Why pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to take the stress of childrearing in a cramped car and transport it elsewhere?  Because we’re human.  And that means we’re stupid.  And it also means that no matter how many times we get in the middle of arguments with our children then arguments with our spouses, no matter how many goldfish get crushed into the floorboards or how many times you have to stop to go to the bathroom, you would do anything for these little people who drive you crazy.  Why?  Because you somehow love them uncontrollably, even when they drive you completely insane.

Of course, Saint Louis had its stressful parts.  We knew it would.  They fought in the car.  They whined.  They had to go to the bathroom a billion times and there were no good places to stop for coffee for that long stretch of road somewhere in Illinois that feels like driving through the barren desert.  There is a dead deer the size of an elephant splayed all across the road and it’s the most exciting thing you will see for at least two hours.  At some point there will be a mirage of green lights flickering in the distance, taunting you over the fact that there will not be a Starbucks for miles and miles…and miles.

When we finally reached our destination, we checked into the hotel.  It was late.  We unloaded the car, trying to get the kids into some kind of order so as not to get run over in the parking lot or disturb the group of young men chatting by their car who smelled heavily of marijuana.  As we got upstairs the night was a series of ‘CALM DOWN…BE QUIET…DON’T JUMP ON THE BED…BRUSH YOUR TEETH…YOU’LL GET US KICKED OUT OF THIS JOINT…GO TO SLEEP…BE QUIET…SERIOUSLY, GO TO SLEEP!’

We got up the next morning completely exhausted already.  The continental breakfast was a spread of refined sugars for the children and crappy coffee for the parents.  (These two things do NOT go together, Drury Inn!  If you have a luxurious display of donuts and muffins, at least bust out some top dollar coffee for the parental units.)

Luckily there is a Starbucks close to our hotel.  I think this is secretly why my husband books us there each time we visit.  This particular morning he dropped me off at Target before going to get coffee.  Even though I had enough time before we left the house to unpack the preschooler’s backpack she packed all by herself, which consisted of a My Little Pony, old thank you notes from the last birthday party we hosted, and five winter caps, I guess I forgot to pack my make-up and sunscreen.  I phoned my husband when I reached the checkout line.  He was disgruntled.  I met him at the car.  He was covered in an explosion of Grande Non-Fat No Whip Mocha!  It was on the ceiling of the car, in his seat, on the dashboard, all over his Cubs ball cap, his shorts, his t-shirt.  “THE LID JUST POPPED OFF!!!  AND I JUST CLEANED THE CAR BEFORE WE LEFT!”  He had a look of absolute horror and confusion on his face.  I was speechless.  The kids were completely silent, carefully awaiting something magnificent to happen.  Then I laughed…then we all laughed.  We went back to the hotel room and waited for him to change into new clothes.  It was 1 pm before we actually started our day.

Most of our vacation was a similar experience of ups and downs met with laughter and back-tracking, but it only lasted 4 days.  We had some great moments, none of which took place at any of our touristy attractions (with the exception of the City Museum).  The zoo was in off season.  The water fountains were off, thus the only thing available were $4 bottles of Dasanti water.  We roughed it being thirsty.  The giraffes were put into cages indoors in cramped quarters for the winter.  It smelled of urine, depression, and shame.  The crowd was quite interesting.  There were the occasional families strolling around here and there, but there were a lot of kids on dates who probably should have been in school.  I saw a few butt cracks because of inappropriate low rise jeans.  I also saw too much thigh from shorts that allowed room for cheeks to peek out.  There were also tube tops that appeared to wrap around the center of the wearer like a torture device, squeezing their midsection and causing swelling areas of fat at their armpits and lower abdomen.  Their boyfriends matched accordingly.  One of them was wearing a ball cap that said “titties” in pink cursive writing.  Nice!  Eventually, we all came to our senses, and the best part of the visit was when we all agreed at the same time when it was time to leave, but not before visiting the gift shop to load up on new carefully selected stuffed animals.

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As the vacation went on, it progressively got better.  We learned to live with crummy breakfast, knowing that we would soon get better coffee, and find a local place to grab a decent sandwich on a city stretch in some cool little neighborhood.  And, this is kind of where we fall together as a family.  We may all get on each others nerves from time to time, but we are agreeable on most things when it comes to how we spend our time – to our lifestyle we have grown accustomed to.  And the kids are awesome like that.  They are sort of these little extensions of us.  And, I know…I know.  Every parenting book says the whole extension thing is bad, but guess what, it isn’t when it comes to some things.  For instance, my husband and I aren’t touristy people, and so neither are our children.  We like bookstores, local dives, and interesting people.  We find enjoyment and humor in things like being served $50 worth of sandwiches by a really old character holding his business up amongst newer, neater, more refined establishments that have popped up all around him over the years.  We find adventure in having to go down to the basement to go to the bathroom – my oldest daughter and I laughing hysterically as we try to avoid putting too much of the soles of our shoes on the floor as the bathroom smells heavy of urine, exactly like the giraffe enclosure at the zoo.

Our children have grown to share in the type of sarcastic humor my husband and I enjoy with each other, so conversation is never dull.  We have long outgrown the days of diapers and bottle feeding, but those things have been replaced with the quick intelligence and wit that our children seem to share.  As they have grown older, we have grown to enjoy their company as the individuals they are becoming.  And this is why family vacations are important.  Because you have to remember why you love these people so much.  You have to not have a place to escape as you do at home, where you can lock yourself in the bathroom with a book for 20 minutes or get lost in the dishes after an argument.

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Eventually, I did get a few moments to myself.  Remember those clothes my husband soiled so badly?  The laundry room at the Drury was better than a day at the spa.  I loaded up the coins, threw in his clothes, and got out my book.

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As the agitator on the old machine started gurgling noises of slow dying pain, I saw the kids and my husband pop out of the elevator to enjoy time in the pool.  I waved and smiled.  The kids excitedly pressed their noses against the glass and waved back before forgetting that I existed all together when the whiff of chlorine hit their noses.

We spent time with my sister, her husband, and their children doing nothing spectacular compared to the images “vacation” my induce.  We just sat on their porch swing chatting while the kids played.  We ordered pizza while my sister put her overly-tired baby to sleep. The kids made a mess of toys and loud noises.  To me, things like this are the most enjoyable of any vacation.  These are memories that create a collage of meaningful moments within the madness of parenthood – a realization that we’re all in this together.

Before we left, we had more bad breakfasts’, tried to like the hotel coffee (we never did), and had many more moments of fighting to contend with amongst the moments of laughter and enjoying one another’s company.  Once we decided to give up on trying to hard to make it all perfect, we found happiness in our fantastic, disorganized mess of unconditional love.  And parenting is like that in a way.  You do really envision something very well-organized and put together with a little bow when you become a parent for the first time, or before you decide to embark on a vacation with them as they get older.  However, life doesn’t work that way.  And we are better people for it.  It’s the struggle to learn and grow together with your spouse and the little humans you bring into the world that makes you realize the meaning and the purpose of love.

So, maybe I’m a horrible parent for not trying too hard to paint a beautiful picture and recollection of perfect events on an ideal family vacation.  Maybe I’m a horrible parent for admitting outright that we are all just a bunch of imperfect humans who live together under one roof, and who sometimes shove ourselves into close quarters and dare to leave the comfort of home.  I’m not scared to admit that we are a bunch of imperfect people who sometimes hate each other so much simply because we love each other even more.  We sometimes yell, we sometimes wish we could escape, but at the end of the day we find peace and solitude with each other around a table as we escape into a good book over coffee and chocolate milk.  It’s who we are together.

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Of course, your family may be a little different than mine, and I hope that it is.  A family dynamic is painted by the unique individuals who are in it, all separate from one another even though we are inevitably an extension of the roots that hold us all together.  For that, any amount of craziness is worth what parenting causes.  At some point you just throw caution to the wind, and you toss the parenting books along with it.  You realize that even though it may make you sound like a horrible parent to those who are still envisioning the perfect, or to yourself so long ago when your first child entered the world, you become comfortable enough to admit that life isn’t perfect and neither are your children.  It’s a big old mess of love that somehow puts itself together in a fantastic fashion of stories and laughter mixed in with those moments of complete insanity and discontentment.  And it is always worth shoving all of that into close quarters and escaping for a few days because it helps you realize that you would absolutely rather be here with these imperfect people who drive you crazy than with anyone else in the entire world.

Casting Aside Images

I try to stay positive when it comes to body image.  Truly, I do.  But in all honesty, that is sometimes impossible.

After all, I am human.

                      After all, I am a woman.

There are all of those darn images that I have to contend with nearly on a daily basis simply because I fall into the categories mentioned above.  They are those photographs that tell me all about the body I should sacrifice everything to obtain – that being beautiful should be fought on the war front of approval.  We should suffer whatever pain necessary – emotional, mental, spiritual, physical – to avoid being constrained by the unhappiness of imperfection.

These images creep up around corners and seem to pound at me with the short-lived (thankfully) emotional baggage that inevitably comes along with the aforementioned.  And they show up in the most unsuspecting places, like the grocery store checkout lane, the gym, or in those eerie Facebook advertisements that pop up in my newsfeed and somehow seem to understand my very psyche.  (How did they know I was feeling like a lard today?  Yes, I do think I will eat some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  Yes, then I will cry over these Victoria Secret ads while deciding which of the suggested diet plans I should try.)

Thankfully, these negative feelings seem to come and go rather quickly.  For example, on days when I wake up overwhelmed with the feeling of full-on lard status, I tend to get over it long before coming to the conclusion that mining for brownies in the ice cream would be good way to level the playing field.  Instead, I swiftly gain perspective and throw those feelings out with the garbage.  I attribute these newfound super powers mostly to maturity – a little gift of getting older and being more comfortable with my body the way it is.  The older I get, the more I am able to intelligently decipher the misguided images and messages fed to women about our bodies and understand it as a waste of time and energy.

Recently on Facebook there was an image shared of a plus-sized woman declaring the comfort she has found in her body exactly the way it is.  You may have see it:

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This image sparked a fire storm of commentary.  Most of them were pro-plus-sized model, regardless of the fact that this photo is obviously heavily photoshopped.  Still there were some that were down-right rotten – most of them from men – and they made me angry.

This photo made me realize something that was far from anything that had to do with how I feel about my own body.  Although I have outgrown the tendency to look at photographs and have them morph my imperfections into a foundation of negative self-worth, I am well aware that I have three young daughters who will have to go through this sort of strength training some day.  They will look at images and receive messages that they aren’t good enough the way they are.  They will have to learn to look away, to put the messages into perspective, and to throw them out with the rest of the garbage.

Yesterday happened to be a day that I woke up in one of those moods.  I don’t know what triggered it.  More than likely it was seeing one of those images with a subliminal message that I wasn’t good enough, that I should work harder to improve myself physically.  I was looking in the mirror, standing in my bra and underwear.  I was pulling at my stomach, pinching my love-handles.  I grimaced.  “I have been working so hard!  I don’t get it!  Why isn’t this pulling together and going away?  Why do I still look like this?”

My husband came into the bathroom, walked up behind me, and looked over my shoulder.  In a gentle and sweet voice he responded with sincerity.  “You have been working hard and it shows.  You’re beautiful.  You’re a sexy woman.  I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.”

I returned his glare in the mirror.  He was right.  There is no point in putting value into what I think I should look like when I have the opportunity to love myself the way I am right now.  After all, learning to meet myself where I am with unrelenting love is what helped me push through difficult times of self-doubt and worry.  It helped me learn to go into battle with images that tried to tell me I wasn’t good enough the way I am.  It helped me to cast aside rude comments from unintelligent, superficial men who objectify women by placing them into categories of worth according to external features.  It helped me to see the value in a good man with a good heart, one who sees beauty as a person – as a whole – instead of nit-picking it into categories of perfection and areas for improvement.

As women, we must put up our guards.  We must protect ourselves against the messages we receive through images and advertisements that try to tell us how to feel about our bodies – that we must always be looking for a way to tweak it closer to someone else’s idea of perfection.  Instead, we must learn to love ourselves exactly the way we are.  We must caste aside the images and throw them out with the trash.  We must do this so that we may teach the next generation of women to do the same.  And when we find ourselves slipping behind, we must listen to the wise words of those who love us exactly the way we are, and stand back up with the dignity and sense of self-worth we deserve.

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What Is Beachbody Anyway? An Honest Opinion.

note:  I hope that no one takes offense to the things mentioned in this blog.  I am not criticizing anyone’s way of doing anything differently than I may do.  It takes all different kinds of people/personalities in this world to work toward a better, healthier society.  What we have in common is a purpose to – once we learn how – share ideas and help coach others toward a more fulfilling lifestyle as the result of making better choices in the areas of fitness and nutrition.  I strongly believe and endorse that there are many avenues available in reaching those goals.  

I’m not a business person.  I never will be.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t put on this earth to sell things.  I couldn’t sell pen and a piece of paper to a writer lost at sea because I would feel so much empathy for him that I would give him all of my pens and every single piece of paper I owned.  (This is a terrible analogy, but it’s been a long day so bear with me.)

Recently I embarked on a business opportunity; however, as always, I have to adjust and alter things to meet my perspective of the world, which I know is incredibly annoying to people who are much better at business things than I may be.  My husband is rather good at business.  He could sell a pen and a piece of paper to another man selling pens and paper.  I…not so much.  I was made for other things.  For example, I can look at a tutorial on sewing something incredible and reproduce it within a few hours.  As a result, my kids own some pretty neat stuffed animals and satchels like this dance bag I made for my 4-year-old:

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I can do some other pretty cool things.  I suppose I can write pretty okay.  I also homeschooled my kids for a while and taught myself how to do that.  I’m a good cook, a good friend, and I hope I’m a good mom – I think I will have to wait 25 more years to see actual results.  I’m good at a lot of things, but when it comes to business, I’m not your girl.  It gives me a headache and makes me break out in hives.  I am certain that if I was in business, I would have to take medication to concentrate for long enough to even walk from one meeting to the next.  Thank God for the existence of the arts.  Some of us aren’t gifted in facts and figures, and making them work in a way that affords us a profession and an income.

I do have another gift, which helps me to serve others, and it comes directly from my empathy.  Since I can remember, I have had this desire to help people because I really do care; I have had to learn how to not give unsolicited advice, but instead learn how to truly listen to others, then offer my friendship and guidance (when it is prompted).  My empathy is so strong that I used to worry that it meant something was wrong with me.  It can make me anxious and depressed.  I don’t know.  It’s just…overwhelming at times.

When it comes to topics I know A LOT about from my own past, my ability to empathize with another’s personal struggles is sevenfold…plus infinity.  In this particular instance, I am referring to my personal struggles with body image and fitness (see previous post), which leads me back to the business venture.

So, it is no surprise to anyone following my Facebook feeds that I have drank of the Beachbody kool-aid.  What is Beachbody?  In short, it is an online storefront that sells the materials necessary to reach your fitness and nutritional goals.  They do this by offering a large variety of workout DVD programs (P90X, Insanity, T25, Hip Hop Abs), as well as something called accountability groups, which offers the support via social media for meeting and networking with others with similar fitness goals.  They also offer various items for nutritional support, such as the widely popular Shakeology.  Many people are confused about what all of this is.  Is it a pyramid scheme?  A gimmick?  A joke?  A piece of high-priced junk with no real value?  Well, that depends, and let me explain.

As with any fitness program, whether you join a gym or lace up a pair of running shoes to start walking around the block, the results are what you put into it.  There are absolutely NO magic pills, programs, or shakes.  It would be awesome if there was.  I have had one hell of a venture with running myself crazy, working out for hours and hours, trying to stick in weight lifting and cross training, and even signing up for personal training sessions.  This ran anywhere between $97 to around $230 a month.  That’s a lot.  So when a friend approached me about giving Beachbody a try, and I had seen first hand the changes their products made in her, I thought that 1.) it isn’t really that expensive, and 2.) why not?

I never thought I would enjoy a DVD workout.  “I was way too awesome for that.”  When we signed up in December I figured it would be just something to add to our gym membership, which I took advantage of daily.  We started with Shaun T’s popular T25 program.  We also gave Shakeology a try, although, I was reluctant at first.  The workout part I got, but seriously, a shake?  We were already drinking Pure Protein.  It cost a fraction of what Shakeology costs.  But, then I did my research and found that Shakeology was much different.  It’s more of a superfood if you will.  It is packed full of really extremely good-for-you things like probiotics and antioxidants, things that if you were to put them all into your cart at Whole Foods would run a much higher price tag than a month supply of Shakeology, plus it would go rotten before you could consume it all.

Below is a rundown of what you will find in Shakeology:

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I was reluctant, but I decided to give it a trial period of 30 days to see what the hype was all about.  I was impressed.  In addition to all of the other good things this does for me, it has helped reset the good and bad bacteria in my gut.  I couldn’t tolerate gluten at all before Shakeology, and now I can.  I used to crave sweets and carbohydrates, and now I don’t.  I used to have a dip in energy throughout the day, but Shakeology gives me a boost.  I just…feel better.  So, it works for me in those regards.  As far as weight loss, I’m not sold on that.  Sure it has helped me with inflammation, and the results of that were almost immediate after I started drinking it.  As far as my body actually changing, that came from ONE place:  exercising.  Moving my body.  And fueling it well…MOST of the time (because I still might have ice cream and pizza every once in a while).  Shakeology is a great supplement and nutritional aide for me, but it isn’t a magic drink that will fix weight issues. It just won’t.  And this is what makes me a terrible business person because, see, I’m a Beachbody Coach, so I am kind of supposed to sell it to you.  But I can’t necessarily just go ahead and do that.  And let me tell you why:

People who are over-weight are very vulnerable.  I know.  I have been there.  It can be a miserable feeling with a real sense of desperation to just get something that will work quickly.  Unfortunately, that won’t happen.  There is no such thing because getting healthy doesn’t work that way.  Getting healthy is a progression over time that you benefit from after putting in some REALLY HARD WORK!  You have to sweat.  You have to begin to make smart choices with nutrition – above and beyond your expensive shakes.  You have to put forth the effort to learn and to grow.  And that takes a ton of determination and will power.  As a coach, I understand these things because I have been doing this for a really long time.  I got results without using Beachbody.  I got results without drinking Shakeology.  I know people who get these results from running, lifting weights, and taking spinning classes.  I know people who get these results from eating well and walking around their neighborhood every single day.  I know people who get these results because they love basketball, so they go outside very single day and play that sport.  I know that people get results because they find what they love to do for physical fitness, and they do that…then they eat right.  And things start to move in the right direction.

Why did I become a Beachbody Coach to begin with if I didn’t want to sell anything?  I don’t know.  To tell you the truth, I am not going to sit down and figure out how to get new people to drink the kool-aid because I did.  I’m not going to go out there and try to get people to start drinking Shakeology.  I will, however, go out there and keep motivating people to MOVE.  To eat well.  To work hard.  And to find a purpose in doing so by wanting to really live life fully for a long time by taking care of their body.

Beachbody has been tremendous for me.  I have had amazing results see:

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T25 is a 10 week program.  You get a set of 9 DVD’s, plus a bonus DVD.  Plus, you get a schedule that is a fool proof way of knowing what DVD to do on each day.  There are two rounds, Alpha and Beta.  These results are amazing!  They are from completing just the first round of T25.  I can’t wait to finish Beta and put these same photos together.  My clothes are starting to fall off of me.  My stomach is shrinking, including that baby pooch from hell that would never seem to disappear, no matter how many miles I ran and how many failed attempts at starting to incorporate weight lifting that I tried.  My glutes are stronger, my legs are stronger, my arms are shrinking, my back fat (yeah) is melting away.  I’m losing inches.  I’m replacing fat with muscle, and I feel GREAT!  I feel better than GREAT!

I feel so good that I want other people who are struggling with weight loss and wanting to make a change to sign up for this, and I want to coach them through the process because I care.  I want to see people who are miserable and not living their lives because of it, to wake up.  I want them to realize that if they just start somewhere…if they just take that first step…they will immediately start reaping the rewards of better emotional health.  Their body will start flowing with endorphins, those good feeling hormones that make you genuinely happy!

For me, I was already fit.  I was running up to 30 or 40 miles a week for over a year leading up to T25.  I thought the program would be a joke compared to that.  Instead, it rocked my world and the way I looked at fitness.  It helped push me to a whole different level.  I run better, feel stronger, and for the first time in my life, I have a lot of core stability and strength.  That is because of not only a great program, but because I put in the hard work it takes to make it happen.  And, anyone can do that.  I know they can…because I believe in people and their ability to reach their fitness goals…no matter if you have 10 or 210 pounds to lose.  Too, I have that darn empathy thing going for me.  I want to see people succeed because I really do care.

As for the shakes…yes…they do help.  They are phenomenal and super healthy.  They are a great addition and work in tandem with the workouts.  You will see better results because you will be fueling your body all the more better and you will improve your health because of that.  Do I recommend the shakes?  Yes.  Are they required?  No.  Are they magic?  No.  Can you drink them alone without the hard physical work, plus eating well, and still see results with weight loss and building strength?  No.  Why?  Because this is a process.  You have to begin to be physically active.  You have to begin to learn about your body, how to feed it, and how to meet it’s needs the best way possible to achieve results.  And you can!  And you will!  Just be sure to find a good program (Beachbody is a GREAT one that I endorse.  It actually works!)…or a gym membership…or a basketball…or running shoes.  Be sure to eat really good-for-you stuff.  And, find a friend to do it with you.  Someone to coach you along the way.  Someone to be your biggest cheerleader who is also willing to join you on the adventure.

As for Beachbody, it is AWESOME – a one stop shop that offers you a convenient program that you can do from the comfort of home in a neat and tidy little box that arrives on your doorstep.

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In addition, you get access to people such as me – a Coach – because I am compassionate and I enjoy serving others.  I love to see people succeed, especially when it comes to physical fitness and nutrition, because those are two things that I know from experience everyone needs in order to live a more happy and fulfilled life.  I also know how to take the tools in that tidy little box and make them work because when I signed on, I did so with a great coach within a network of other coaches and challengers who guided me along my way.  All it took was their encouragement coupled with my growing motivation to work hard and see results.  And, I’m glad I drank the kool-aid.  I now fit something that once took a huge chunk of my day and stuck it into a much shorter time frame from the convenience from home, and as a result, I am able to enjoy spending more time doing other things, like taking my kids to the park on a beautiful day or taking the time to make a new, really good-for-you recipe posted in one of our accountability groups.  Plus, my husband is able to fit his workout in around his busy work schedule, and he too is seeing amazing results because for the first time he has a really good, high quality program that works for him.  Our children are reaping the rewards because we are becoming more and more physically active as a family each day.

That’s how Beachbody works.  It’s not a scheme.  It’s not a quick fix.  It’s not magic.  It’s just you…and me…and others…all working together to move in the right direction toward waking up to better health, better fitness, and a better outlook on your body’s own ability to put forth the hard work required to see results.

If you want to learn more about Beachbody, ask me how.  I can help you figure it out and lead you in the right direction.  However, if you don’t want to learn more because you would rather go to the gym, run, or play basketball…awesome!  I’m still cheering for you 100% because when it comes down to it, my only goal in all of this is to see other people succeed in reaching their fitness and nutrition goals.  Doing those two things has an amazing impact on our lives – it bleeds into all other areas – and starts a snowball effect toward a better overall sense of well-being and happiness.  Who wouldn’t want that for everyone?  No matter what positive ways one may chose to go about doing so.

The Story of the Fat Kid

I run two blogs:  this one and The Well Balanced Life.  It was hard to decide on which blog to post this entry, but since this involves children and family, I thought it best to share it here.

I had a conversation today with a friend from way back in my past.  My mother has owned a dancing school in my hometown since, well, forever!  This particular friend was my ballet teacher when I was a kid.  I distinctly remember him as being fun and fully energetic, alive and full of personality! He is one of my all time favorite people from my childhood memories, even if one of the images I recall in my mind is me laying on the floor and his foot on my stomach, which I’m certain served some purpose according to ballet.

People always assumed that I was a dancer because my mother owned a dancing school.   It would have made sense.  Dance consumed my mother’s life, and thus it consumed our family’s life.  We referred to her dancing school as “the Studio”.  Those two words when put together have an entity all of their own to my siblings and I.  It’s more like THE STUDIO!, and it was the mecca of everything holy.  Any complaining about having to go to THE STUDIO! or us having to help out with THE STUDIO! and it was held over our heads as the place where our entire well-being churned from.  It kept a “roof over your heads!” and “food in your mouths!”.  God forbid we be ungrateful in any way whatsoever about anything regarding THE STUDIO!  We were to worship it as the center of our lives.

For a while as kids that was the case.  We joyfully took our ballet and tap classes in our little tutus and leotards.  In those days the Studio shared a building with a gymnastic studio.  If we weren’t taking dance, we were taking gymnastics, and so it worked out perfectly for my mother, whom was consumed by her work as any great and brilliant artist should be.  We were perfectly entertained by the Studio, and so childcare was never an issue.

At some point in my upbringing, I came to detest the Studio.  If I were writing a book, I would recall every detail leading up to my parting ways, but it involved an interest in softball, which directly correlated to me no longer being comfortable in a leotard.  I traded in a skin-tight uniform for a baggy shirt and a pair of shorts, and although I remained active, I slowly gained weight from lack of proper nutrition at home and not being motivated to move enough.  When the Studio was no longer an adequate baby-sitter, the television took over.  And when my parents took no interest in my newfound talent on the softball field – frequently dropping me off for practice and games before collecting me when it was all over – I eventually lost interest in that as well.

As time progressed, I became more and more inactive, and without my participation in dance, I became a latch-key kid.  I would come home from school, let myself in, make myself a bowl of sugary cereal…then something else…then something else…then something else…and I would watch TV until someone told me to do something otherwise.  Over time I packed on the pounds and became very overweight for my age.  My parents tackled the issue in what I suppose now was the only way they knew how, but that might be considered giving them the benefit of the doubt.  My mother was present here and there to offer me suggestions for healthy snacking.  My father just called me “fat” and told me I would never have a social life or boyfriends.  Oh well!

Throughout my teenage years I tried several different diets of my own creation.  We didn’t have internet access and no one took us to the library.  Research wasn’t an option, and I had become so ashamed of my body that I dare not let anyone know that I was trying to take care of it.  I specifically remember things like the ice diet.  I wrote out my entire plan.  I was going to do two things:  eat ice and drink water.  It didn’t last very long.  Another one was the rice diet.  My plan was to just eat rice and nothing else.  I have no idea why.  I liked rice and it seemed like a small, more forgiving food than potato chips and Coco Puffs.  Obviously, I had no idea what nutritional value there was in food.  I just knew that food was bad.  Eventually, at the age of seventeen, I became bulimic, but I never would have considered myself so.  I had seen plenty of after school specials on that topic thanks to my electronic after school babysitter.  I knew that people who were bulimic stock piled food in their closets, binged on it, then threw it up.  I didn’t do that.  I just threw up anything I would normally eat throughout the day.  It was like going to the bathroom or brushing my teeth.  But it did progress.  Eventually, I wouldn’t even eat a sucker without throwing it up.  Food was bad.  Very bad.  And I wanted nothing to do with it.

Eventually, I stopped making myself throw up.  I went back to eating normally and deciding to keep it down.  I never learned what to eat or how to eat.  I just gave up on the tiring process of frequenting the bathroom.  My father immediately noticed.  He told me I was beautiful when I was losing weight, but when I put it back on, our conversations of being “fat” ensued.

It wasn’t until my early twenties that I eventually decided to take control of my health.  I can’t even recall exactly what it was that sparked the interest.  It wasn’t sudden and it didn’t involve a plan of gigantic proportions; it just involved me eating smaller ones.  I also started going for walks every day.  I didn’t walk fast; I just walked.  And I started to feel better.

My walks evolved into jogs and my jogs evolved into runs.  I started learning about food and what was in it.  I educated myself on carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.  Eventually, my husband and I (yeah, I got married in there somewhere…I guess my dad was wrong about that, and plenty of other things I have come to find out) changed the way we ate, we changed the way we spent our evenings and weekends, and we became much more active.

Over the course of the next ten years, my husband and I had three children.  I continued to grow in my knowledge of nutrition and fitness.  I continued to run.  But after each baby and each journey through weight loss, I would hit a wall.  I couldn’t break through and lose the last 25 pounds.  I ran longer and harder.  I went through periods of drastically cutting things from my diet, or altering it in some way.  Nothing worked.  I didn’t get it.  I grew frustrated.

This past Fall all of that changed.  I was in the middle of training for a marathon – which I did to burn more calories and hopefully lose more weight – when I fell and sustained an injury that took me out of training for 6 weeks.  While it was a hard pill to swallow, and while it seemed the absolute worst thing that could have happened to me, it was by far one of the biggest blessings I could have received in my marriage and family life.

Since I couldn’t run, my husband and I began doing DVD workouts at home together, while before we had been moving in completely different directions.  While fitness was important to me, it wasn’t something my husband had much time for.  Through these new workouts, we joined forces and knocked it out together in the comfort of our living room, offering each other the motivation and encouragement we needed to be able to get it done.  In the process, our children have been impacted.  They see us being more active, so they want to get involved.  We feel better together as a family, and so we have become more active together as a family.  Those two things work in tandem.

Essentially, even though I was a stay-at-home mom, I was doing to my children what my parents did to me, minus the negative word sharing and not feeding them well.  I have always fed my children healthy, well-balanced meals, and have taught them about making healthy choices, but running and exercising was my thing that I selfishly held from my children.  I took them to the gym with me and stuck them in childcare while I got my workout in.  We would then go home and I would be too tired to be very consistent with getting them out to ride their bikes around the block or play soccer with them in the backyard.  A beautiful Saturday morning would go by that I had been out running all over our town training for an event with the goal of losing weight, that my children were at home watching television in their pajamas until noon.

Through that injury, my husband and I have been able to learn how to balance our fitness with so many other areas of our life.  I work out in a fraction of the time with a more intense workout that involves strengthening as well.  As a result, my body has begun to sculpt and tone.  While the pounds haven’t been plummeting at lightening speed on the scale, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t really care.  Not only am I doing something good for myself, but I feel good for the first time in my life in a way in which everything connects.  My husband and I are doing something positive for our health together.  We feel good together and THAT has worked wonders for our marriage.  Since we feel so much better, we are more active with our children, and we have the time and energy it takes to do so.  Our children aren’t working out with us, but they are being active with us.  It’s a family thing and it is so far from anything that involves a purpose to be thin, or to hit a certain weight on a scale.  It’s about living life.  It’s about getting outside on a pretty day to soak up every moment we are given.  And we love it.  It has brought us peace.  It has brought us balance.  And it has brought me to my senses.

Looking back now, I don’t blame my father for his worries.  He didn’t handle things in the most positive way, and many reading this will look at him as a monster for the ideas he put into my head about my body.  However, I know that he was handling it the best way he knew how with a topic that scared him.  He ate terribly and he smoked.  He was incredibly unhealthy.  He didn’t know anything about how to eat well…how to move well…how to live well.  Unfortunately, he never learned how.  In 2007 he passed away in his sleep from what we assumed was a massive heart attack.  The only regret I have is that I didn’t share with him my concern for his health enough, in a way that may have motivated him to do something positive so that he could live a little longer, enjoying his grandchildren and old age with my mother.  We miss him terribly.  And I will forever be grateful to him for teaching me something very valuable that I will carry with me for a lifetime, something that I will teach to my children, and that is this:  health and wellness is not about weight.  It isn’t about a body size, a bathing suit, or a diet.  It isn’t about pleasing someone else in achieving a body size that they would find you more suitable within.  It is about looking inside of yourself, finding the room there to carve out a place to fall completely in love with yourself exactly the way you are, and caring about yourself enough to want to live a strong, happy, and healthy lifestyle for as long as the limited time we are given on this earth to do so.

1964367_10152661734500620_54409985_nEnjoying A Beautiful, Active Saturday Afternoon

Life In Social Media

When one spends any amount of time scrolling through Facebook, she is bound to come across a number of interesting things (God forbid she admit it be so).  There are photos of friends’ adorable children, glamour selfies (Thanks, Photoshop!), and photographs of crisp coffee mugs set into faded unrealisitc Hallmark card-esque themes (Thanks, Instagram!).  There are the photo stock repeats with various inspirational themes we find incredibly uplifting or unbearably annoying.  Then there are bizarre photos like this one, which can be interpreted any number of ways:

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Of the Creepy Stalker Photostock Collection Variety 

There are the dramatic posts from friends who have temporarily lost their minds, and posts from friends who are momentarily on top of the world.  There are the every day posts of mundane events describing what our friends are doing at any given moment in time, which are then enhanced with a selection from a preprogrammed list of “feelings” and cartoon faces of electronic emotion.  If we aren’t sharing our every day tasks in what we consider a rather normal day, we have the option to share our real social life via our Facebook social life through a series of “check-ins”, and if we are feeling particularly good about that restaurant selection, we can even add a photo of our organic, grass-fed hamburger to go with it.

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Gosh, Maxine’s lunch is always better than mine.  She didn’t even order fries.

We love to scroll through Facebook and peer into the lives of our friends, acquaintances, and those we wish we had left in the past (or at least at that get together where we had too many glasses of wine).  We complain and we may even get caught up in a mess of misunderstood drama, which is completely unavoidable unless you’re a Facebook creeper (those people who are always on Facebook, but never post anything).  We “add”, we “share”, we click away as though the people in our newsfeed are nothing more than an audience in our very own reality TV show.  Something bad happens, we start ‘deleting’, then we have to deal with the unavoidable dreaded aftermath.  We have all been there, caught up in the odd position of running into that person at Starbucks who booted us last week, that old mommy-group acquaintance whom we deleted months ago, or God-forbid, having to be chummy with the distant relatives we axed months before we ran into them at Christmas.

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Awkward!  Perhaps that wasn’t completely well thought out.

While it has been around for a long time, social media is still a fairly new concept in the way we relate to each other and the way we project ourselves into society. Through sites like Facebook, our “friends” inadvertently paint a picture of themselves that they are perfect creatures, but in real life they are much more than the limited product a social media window frame edits us into.  Despite those pixilated and photoshopped images scrolling in a series of rants down your computer screen, those are very real people with very real feelings.  Like any other “real time” relationship, we have to be aware that once we post something, it is visible for everyone to see.  Some things we may intend to be just so, but other times we are thinking of a much smaller audience rather than the one we actually have amongst the 500 connections we have made, not to mention the thousands more we connect with once we start “tagging” others.  

As with any social media platform such as Facebook, posting something carries with it a responsibility we all must be aware of.  As adults, hopefully we have the better judgement to avoid adolescent behaviors such as an intention to hurt another person’s feelings through our posts by forcing them into a spotlight in the firing range of social media.  There are the countless stories that we see of our youth displaying such behavior, and the tragic consequences that can occur from it.  Nevertheless, it is sometimes the story that those of us who should be setting an example of decency on social media, are the ones who forget about our responsibility in doing so.  We can’t forget that amongst our “friends”, or amongst our “friends’ friends” there may be any number of youth acquaintances whom we will teach by our example.  If we feel strongly about the negativity of social media bullying, then those of us equipped with better judgement should use it accordingly.  

Facebook and other social media platforms are a fun way to pass the time; although, we might not ever be willing to admit it.  And like any other good waste of time, which is sometimes necessary in the stressful day-to-day versions of our real lives, we sometimes need to take a hiatus from the noise of too many people being involved in what we have been up to.  Nevertheless, we will begin to miss the new-age way we connect with other people, and we will return.

Social media can be a healthy outlet for networking and connecting with others, but in order for it to be so, we have to remember that when we post something, we are putting ourselves on a stage in front of an audience of potentially thousands upon thousands of other people.  With that comes a responsibility of epic proportions to display an appropriate way of communicating with others.  We must not forget the impact we have on others, no matter how close or how distant they may be to us in real time, and the fact that the old saying still holds true…just perhaps in a whole new way that we must now thoughtfully consider.

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Dinner Fail

My attempt to feed my children a healthier version of macaroni and cheese failed miserably.  Perhaps I need to give it a few more tries.  Maybe their tastes buds will adjust, but there is something at the current moment that doesn’t settle too well with noodles that are slightly crunchy (even when cooked 5 minutes past suggested cooking time in an attempt to soften them up) and a saucy cheese that tastes dirty.  Supposedly that Kraft stuff we were eating has ingredients that are banned in other countries.  I don’t know what that ingredient is.  I remember seeing the headlines posted on Facebook, but I refused to indulge in the hysteria knowing that it would scare the living shit out of me and cause irrepairable damage to my sense of peace about the world.  Instead, over the course of a month (we don’t eat it too often) I went through all of the Kraft macaroni and cheese stock pile we had in the pantry, and when it came time to replenish, the word ‘organic’ printed on the box of the rival brand seemed a better choice.  Either way, my kids weren’t buyin’ it!  Never mind that the noodles came in the friendly shape of a long-favored book character that reminded me of the nostalgic and comforting things of my ten-year-old’s early childhood.  Sorry, Arthur!

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It’s been one of those days and nights.  Okay, I confess…this whole week has been barreling toward today in a disastrous fury.  It has been one thing after another.  Laundry has piled up, the cupboards are running low, and the fridge offers not many things of the kid-friendly variety other than yogurt and apples.  This tends to be why we keep a little supply of shelf-life-friendly items like macaroni and cheese around.  Today was gorgeous and I wasn’t going to pass that up by going to the grocery store.  So tonight when Arthur came out of the cupboard to make his appearance, but then failed to deliver a suitable dinner for the children, my husband and I stood there like we had borrowed someone else’s children and had no idea what to feed them.  A little guilt came over me.  My husband and I had steak to throw on the grill.  In all fairness, my kids don’t like steak, but still.  If I only had some chicken breast to throw on there, or something…

“Peanut butter and jelly?” my husband suggested.

“Um…yeah…I guess so.  They had that for lunch.  Maybe we could just…toast the bread so it’s kind of gourmetish and make them some chicken noodle soup to go with it.”

“They had soup for lunch.”

“Oh, yeah.  Well…maybe we’ll just give them a different shaped noodle and they will think it’s different?  Their kids.  They don’t care.  Lunch for dinner is fun, right?”

But they did notice.  As the kids sat down to their meal, the 4-year-old protested immediately.  “AHHHHHH, I DON’T WIKE DEES NOODOWS!  I WIKE DA PWINCESS NODDOWS!!  I ATE DIS FOR WUNCH!”  She stomps vehemently across the kitchen to the pantry.

“Stop!” I argue.  Then I laugh hysterically, which makes the 4-year-old even more upset.  The 10-year-old and the 7-year-old watch from the kitchen table, a perfect display of entertainment to accompany their dinner that they also had for lunch (they decided not to take notice of their toasted bread).

As my children finished their toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, their apple slices, and their chicken noodle soup with plain old noodles, and as the dog came along moments later to steal their leftovers while my back was turned, I thought about all of the mothers out there who slaved all day at making a lovely meal for their family.  Their children sit down around the perfectly set table to partake of the chicken casserole and roasted vegetables and tell each other how grateful they are to their mother for such a lovely meal.

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Perhaps tomorrow we will be that family.  Tonight, well…shit happens…and organic macaroni and cheese sucks!