I’m Alive….

I love that song by Sia, “I’m Alive”. I belt it out at the top of my lungs in the car. I used to belt it out during a killer spin class climb when it was on the set list. Powerful vocals plus adrenaline = euphoria on a whole other level. There are a few songs that do that for me.

I haven’t written much about fitness in the last 1.5-2 years, basically because I’ve been walking dogs and that is pretty much all I’ve been doing. Getting sober, getting through a low period, revamping my nutrition, physical therapy/shoulder rehab, nursing an ankle, an 11-month deployment and just getting through the days were the focus. Fitness was not. I didn’t give a rip about miles or squat form. Burn out seems a little harsh, but it was somewhere in the mix. I LOVED working at the gym. I loved working with clients one on one. I love teaching. It’s in my DNA. What I did not have at the time was balance. When I was at home, I was thinking about work, and vice versa. It wasn’t tenable at that level for me long term. My body was also telling me in not so subtle ways to go slower. I tend to the all or nothing – slug-sloth-fest on the couch or running marathons and working out 6 days a week. No in-between. (Some life lessons I seem to be determined to learn only after being clobbered with it more than once!)

It is not sustainable long term to go balls to the wall all the time.

I knew I would come back to it. I’ve been itchy for some good endorphins for a while now. I was good with my hiatus. I needed it. My body needed it.

But now I need to get me back.

Chatting with a friend we both expressed a need to get back to ourselves, to feeling amazing and strong and….alive. What I did in 2012 and since is awesome, and in large part why I started a blog in the first place. This fitness stuff is such a great ride – but it’s for the long term, not just for a reunion, a 6 week-program, a year, whatever. There is no expiration date.

It’s for life, for my life. 

Today started with a brief walk/run warm up with the dogs for a whopping 1.25 miles. I came home and had to get the space organized. Adios cardboard!

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My new space

It’s smaller than what I have had in the past – but is so doable. I also have access to a small gym within walking distance. YES! I also had to dig out the ankle brace because it was talking to me. (*See above “balls to the wall” comment above. Insert eye roll here.) Sure! Take a year and a half off and then go run a 5k. That won’t hurt at all!

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Make it work

After getting it all set up and running up and down 2 flights of stairs about a bazillion times, (so sorry ankle!) I was ready to rock. (Some of my gear was in the garage, some was on the 3rd floor.) Yay stairs!

I popped on the playlist and got to work:

Warm up: Bear crawl 30sec, 12 reps inverted hamstring each side, 10lb ball hip hinges, bodyweight lie down and get up 60sec, shoulder mobility work, cobra presses, bodyweight glute bridges and full body stretches.

Kettle Bell Swings: Sets – 5 30sec duration Rest 30 sec

Set 1:  3x, 60 sec rest

KB Goblet Lateral Lunges -10 reps, BW Push up- 5 reps, full body stretch – 5 reps

Set 2: 3x 30s rest

KB Goblet Squat to step forward lunge – 30sec, BW Power Push ups – 5 reps

Set 3: 3x, 30 sec rest

Plank stir the pot on stability ball – 30 sec, Stability ball dead bugs 30 sec.

Finisher: Banded Squat walks – 20 paces out and back x3

The cheerleading squad
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Sweaty and hot after my workout

It was hard. It was uncomfortable. I’m not as strong as I have been in the past, but I was able to do more than I anticipated. I was able to do pushups without shoulder pain which is a GINORMOUS win. I won’t be surprised if I have leg cramps later. The foam roller will be my best friend. I have a new start line. The nutrition piece is working. The house is basically unpacked. Time to get back at it, again.

I’m here.

I’m alive.

And it’s a great place to be.

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Milestones and Mermaids

Hannah eyeing the pregnant lady in the lounge chair, we made our way over to a shaded table to plunk down our towels and kick off flip flops for an afternoon poolside. The kids love the pool. Without fail they inquire the precise time we will be going to swim each morning. Kids off and splashing I sit down and smile at the lady and preemptively apologize for my daughter’s obsessive staring. She laughed and we chatted for a bit.

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but time has a way of warp-speeding when viewed through a rear view mirror. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been a decade since I was first pregnant myself. But here I sit with an almost 8 and 10 year old, chatting with a young mom.

There have been some big milestones in our world. These self-proclaimed big kids are riding bikes to the nearby playground, exploring our new place – stepping into their first bits of independence. I remember wondering about my then-infant and toddler when my sister and her daughters came to visit us in Hawaii. It seemed like so long until I would be able to just enjoy our time swimming instead of worrying and being on patrol, ensuring safety. I remember marveling at moms who sat poolside looking at their phones while their kids played and swam, part of me loving playing in the water, part of me longing for the day when they would find friends and play on their own.

That’s motherhood in a nutshell, I suppose – being divided. Not only daily working ourselves out of a job to grow independent and hopefully productive adult humans, but also wondering what the next step will look like, while simultaneously reminiscing about previous phases.

Flash forward to our time in Texas where they both had swim lessons and became comfortable in the water. Playing in the waves on South Padre Island still made me nervous, yet they had no fear, jumping and giggling as waves crashed and tried to knock them over.

Here I sit today, book in hand, sipping on an iced coffee (because I have waded through cardboard seas to rescue my coffeemaker from an ocean of chaos) .

Yet another little step, them in the pool making friends, practicing tricks and flips and jumps. My mermaid and merman happy to swim and soak in all of summer in our new home.

“Mom?” Hannah asks, as we gather up our stuff to leave when the need for food overpowers the need to be submerged.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Will you swim with us tomorrow? I love swimming and meeting friends, but tomorrow I’d like to swim with you, like we did in Texas.”

“Sure thing Hannah,” I say smiling.

I think we’re going to like it here.

Resilience

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

Military friends are a special breed.

Ever so slowly, life happens. New friends slip in to our lives, boots on the ground, in the current duty station, in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day-to-day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. They seem to get lost somewhere in the everydayness of our new home, among new friends. And we get lost in the memories of their new place.

The calls are replaced with texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences, check-ins. More and more of the detail of their daily lives are missed and so it goes. Then it’s merely pictures on social media. Those pictures of their new life without you in it, those are so bittersweet.

They sting just a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we do this not only once, but many times over and over, risking, grieving, and being open again.

As we got up this morning from air mattresses on the empty floor, the moving truck having left the day prior, Hannah quietly asked, “Mom, can we do the ‘Why I love moving, by Hannah’ thing?”

We do this ritual in our family where I say, ‘I love Hannah because, by Mommy’ and then list out all the reasons and things I love about her. Eric and I even did this practice before the kids were born. Items on the list include big things, but also very specific things, and current milestones etc. It’s a tangible way to say “I love you. I see you. Just as you are.”

As she asked to do this and apply it to moving, I was struck by how resilient and strong she really is. This has been a tough week for the little emotional heartbeat of our family. She loves fiercely, and her heart breaks with the same passion. She listed her positives of moving – we all did. Hannah reminded us that while the sky may be overcast – the sun still shines, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

Kids are so dang resilient.

Hearts are resilient.

Tender hearts that are open enough to get broken, repeatedly, are among the strongest ones.

Fair winds and following seas, Corpus Christi!

Saturday

4 a.m.

“Mom….mom…”

Me: “huh? …”

Hannah, whispering: “I think I peed in your bed…”

Me: ughhhhhhhhhh “okay….get up. Help get the sheets off….”

We strip the bed of dogs and sheets and I give an early morning impromptu laundry lesson. If we pee the bed, we get to do our own laundry. It’s the law. Washing machine purring happily, we grab blankets and head to the couch.

15 minutes later: she’s snuffing up snot every 3 seconds.

Me: “Just go blow your nose.”

Hannah: “I can’t. It’s all stuffed up.”

Me: ughhhhhhhhh “okay, let’s get you your allergy meds.”

Hannah: “Good idea. You’re smart!” Yep. I’m full of good ideas at 4am, meanwhile my eyeballs get nearly stuck from rolling them so far up into my head.

Back on the couch we doze back off, she’s propped up on pillows so the sound of her breathing does not induce rage.

5 a.m.

Buck the dog: “Blughghghghghgh” (how do you spell the sound a dog makes when in hacks up vomit and grass?)

I leap up and usher him outside so I don’t have to clean that up as well. Waiting at the back door…..waiting for what seems like forever. I contemplate going back to lie down but I may sleep so hard I won’t hear him when he’s ready to come back in. Waiting… how long does it take to barf? Get it out, man!

Finally the dog has expelled whatever it was that bothering him, and me for that matter.

I lay back down. I hear the wind picking up and my phone weather service alerts going off.

Thunder and lightening

7:01 a.m.

Jake and Hannah: “Mom!! Mom!!! We waited until after 7 a.m. like you told us!! Can you hear that rain? Alsocanyoubelieveitsthunderingitssoloudandallthewordstheywereholdinginsince5:30whentheyprobablywokeupblahblahblah!”

Yep. I hear that rain…the day hasn’t started and I’m depleted and done. I also know this will be a lazy Saturday that will likely include a nap!

The barfer

April Fools’ Day

“Hey Hannah,” I said, motioning her over to her Easter basket loot. “Do you remember eating these?” I asked, pointing to the Cadbury mini eggs.

“No….well, kind of…” she replied.

“These are your dad’s FAVORITE Easter candies. I thought you’d really like them, too,” I explained. Ever trying to include a deployed parent into daily life is a hallmark of military life.

“Wait. So …YOU –  bought – these? At a store?” Hannah asked slowly.

CRAPCRAPCRAPCRAPCRAPCRAP

The jig is up. She knows. And I let it slip!

“I KNEW IT!” she exclaimed, eyes wide. “It makes no sense how a bunny can get all over the world and hide eggs. It just doesn’t make sense.”

I took a deep breath and sighed. Their days had been numbered. The past few years, my very curious and inquisitive (read: suspicious) children have been tiptoeing around the subjects of various holidays….and holiday characters. I had wondered how many holidays we had left where they still believed whole heartedly.  I knew it was coming. It was part of the reason I knew doing the elf this past year was a necessity, as they would soon cross the threshold of childhood and a layer of magic would disappear. When they asked questions, I would respond with the classic, “What do you think?” and they would hem and haw, just like I did when I was a kid, and I would fool myself into thinking I had bought them just a little more time on the innocence clock.

There was no more hitting the snooze button. Whether I wanted to or not, it was time for the conversation. I busted out the letter I had written (adapted from one online) and read it to them:

Dear Jacob and Hannah,

I heard you discussing the difference between magic and miracles a while ago and how Santa does what he does. (As well as the easter bunny and the tooth fairy.) You brought up some really good points. Your dad and I know you like to have the facts and answers about things. We have given it careful thought to know just what to say.

The short answer is you are right. There is no such thing as magic in the literal sense. Magic is an illusion. We are the people who fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree, hide the easter eggs, and put the money under your pillow when you lose a tooth – just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you might one day do for kids of your own. There is no one single Santa, or E.B. These holiday figures are lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of these holidays alive. It lives in our hearts – not at the North Pole.

Throughout your life you will need the capacity to believe: in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and most importantly, in God. You’ll need to be able to believe in things you cannot measure or touch – just because we cannot see them doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

You are also right in that there are such things as miracles – things that cannot be measured, held, or explained in a concrete way; things like love, gratitude, and hope. The idea of Santa represents the miracle of these unmeasurable things. It teaches children to believe in something they cannot see or touch, much like we cannot see or touch Jesus, or the wind, friendship, or love – we can feel it and know it is there. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas – the miracle that God came to Earth! Santa is a way for little kids to begin to understand such miracles.

We feel you are ready to know the truth. With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping complete the jobs that would otherwise be impossible. We celebrate Christmas and Easter using symbols and characters that represent hard-to-explain miracles.

Now that you know, you will get to carry on the spirit of these holidays with us!

Love,
Mom and Dad

Feeling a bit wobbly, I looked up from my screen after reading it aloud. Hannah was grinning, “It’s okay, mom!” she said reassuringly, trying to comfort me! I chuckled.

“I totally knew,” stated Jake. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Do you feel betrayed? Like we lied to you all these years?” I asked, curious to know their perspective.

“NO!” they both emphatically agreed. “It makes sense to explain things like that to little kids. We just aren’t little kids anymore,” shrugged Jake, always Mr. Matter-of-fact about things, while Hannah nodded her agreement. We continued discussing the secrets that Eric and I had kept from them all these years. With each new revelation, they would giggle and laugh at our craftiness.

“So, what about the Santa gifts?” Hannah asked. “The tags?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” I replied, smiling. “Your dad and I would buy one special roll of wrapping paper that you had never seen before. That would be “Santa’s Paper”. Then one package of tags would also be new. I would write Santa’s tags with my left hand so the handwriting would be just a bit different.”

“DUDE!” Jacob yelled, laughing. “That’s SO awesome! I never even noticed that!”

“And the elf?” Hannah asked quietly.

I braced myself. She LOVES the elf. Like really loves it.

“Me,” I quietly replied.

“YOU DID THOSE SNOWFLAKES!? And the little paintings?! Wow….” she marveled.

“Mom,” Jacob said distractedly while he continued playing his computer game, “You are really good. That must have taken a lot of work.”

While trying not to be pile of emotional mom-goo at their appreciation of my expert level of deception, I turned to Hannah and whispered, “Now you can be in on the fun, too! We can take turns with the elf, you and I can hide it for Jake and Daddy one day, then they can do it for us the next….”

“Oh yes!!! Can we plan it out right now?!” she asked, jumping up and down.

I laughed. “No. It’s April. We got time, sister,” I told her. This April fools’ day, the “fooling” may be over, but the magic will never end.

Teachers

Excited for their respective field trips, both kids had no trouble getting out of bed.

“Where’s my class shirt?!” One hollered from the closet.

“Hanging right there,” I hollered back. “Right where you hung it up last night so you wouldn’t forget it….” I continued, mumbling the last part to myself as I grabbed the freshly brewed pot and poured myself the delicious, and necessary, first cup of coffee.

Her trip was to the local art museum to engage in some performance, dance and music fun. With ease, two talented performers from the museum wrangled a play out of three 2nd grade classes! It was a feat of epic proportions!

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What these pictures don’t show you is that while the kids are engaged in activity, their teachers are watching, monitoring and helping. For one child, the noise is too overwhelming. Instead of shushing him or telling him to sit down for the 100th time, she creates a space for him to calm himself. For another, the urge to fidget is too great. Not only do I see these educators focus on reading and writing and math everyday, but they are seeing the whole child. They are soothers. They comfort. They wrap their arms around the child that for the first time is requesting to be hugged. It’s a joy and a privilege to witness.

I’d been asked to chaperone his class field trip to the aquarium and happily accepted. This is, after all, why I chose to not work outside the home; so I could do all the mom things and help out when needed. Having field trips on the same day, in the same part of town allowed me to hop from one to the other with out missing much of either. I looked forward to having a bit of one on one time with each of them. After this year of single parenting, there’s been but a time or two that they’ve been apart, much less had me to themselves. I think they look forward to their dad’s return not only because they miss him, but equally because they need some space from each other and some undivided attention.

The day was lovely and perfect for an outing. The aquarium is one of Jake’s favorite destinations, loving all things ocean-related.

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YES! A real live octopus!

The exhibits went smoothly, the aquarium staff delightful and engaging. Sitting in front of the dolphins, questions and answers flew fast and furious.

“What grade are these kids in?” asked a man in a wheelchair behind me, having heard a few of their questions.

“Third,” I whispered quietly, smiling holding up 3 fingers.

“Wow,” he replied. “I taught fifth grade. They are really smart.”

Nodding in agreement, I turned back to the playful dolphins twirling behind the plexiglass. The really are incredibly smart I mused, simply enjoying the moment, and the opportunity to be a part of it.At the last exhibit during a group exercise, Jake was frustrated having not heard the instructions, then realizing he wouldn’t have any input in his group’s presentation as they worked. The tears started. (The other kids were not being overtly mean, but sometimes it’s easier to ignore people than to actively include them.)

It’s these moments that are hard. Autism or not, kids (as well as adults) have to learn how to deal with emotions, deal with disappointment and handle frustration with others and themselves. Group participation isn’t always easy, but it’s part of life. Physically, I was too far away and couldn’t get to him, and it was hard to hear over the chatter of the kids, engaged in their task to create an imaginary creature.

His teacher noticed the situation and swiftly grabbed an additional folder so he would be able to participate. img_5798She got down on the floor and engaged him. She didn’t have to. It would have been easier not to. She helped him help himself. She didn’t scold, embarrass or patronize. He didn’t have to have mom intervene. She was subtle and quiet.

She cared.

I smiled and mouthed a grateful ‘thank you’ as she got up to assist other students. I was humbled and as my eyes started sweating, I sternly told myself to save it. Lord knows my kid didn’t need a blubbery mess of a mom sobbing about gratitude in the middle of a field trip.

But I was, and am, very grateful.

How supremely lucky we are to have teachers that care so much.

 

 

 

 

WordPress Daily Prompt: Story

Rainbows and Reasons

Roy G Biv,” I told her, selecting the crayons out of the vast array of options.

“Roy G Biv?! What?!” she asked.

“The colors of the rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet,” I rattled off the words, much to her amazement. It’s so easy impressing a 4 year old with your vast knowledge of the world.

I think of that conversation often when I see rainbows. Living in Hawaii, they were a daily occurrence. I love them as much as I love butterflies. I always seem to notice one when I really need it.

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I opened the front door and this is what greeted me as long deployment days were looming in the not so distant future. He hadn’t left yet, but the daunting reality of his departure was sinking in as it always does.

It was in-your-face bright. “Look around. Notice me,” it screamed at full volume.

This was also when I was contemplating not drinking anymore.

I was recently asked why I thought I had to stop drinking. I had a hard time coming up with a definitive answer. It was either barrage the asker with a million reasons and thoughts about the subject, or simply say, “When I have one, I can very easily have twenty. I tend toward the ‘all or nothing’ personality type,” and leave it at that.

While the simple answer is accurate, there’s so much more to uncover with this whole process. This thing. This not drinking thing. This watching others not have a problem stopping at one thing. This noticing advertising and drinking culture everywhere thing.

I’ve been reading Holly Glenn Whitaker, Laura McKowen, and Annie Grace among others. I’ve been listening to podcasts, hearing others’ stories around alcohol. Digesting. Processing. Deciding what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I know for sure, for me.

  • Marketing is so damn effective. I’m kind of mad that I bought into it for so long, honestly. It’s not really funny anymore to me. It’s just kind of, sad. It’s a lie we all think is normal. And clever. And cute. It’s not.
  • Before you tell me I’m a killjoy and to just go off and be my sober self, I think it’s important to note a couple things.
    • 1. Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Seriously. How can I be a person who actively seeks out and promotes a healthy life, yet still consumes alcohol? It’s not smart, safe or logical.
    • 2. Heavy drinking is on the rise for women. Why do you think that is? We all are very thirsty all of a sudden? No. It’s money, baby. Marketing dollars hard at work promoting this garbage. We are so much more susceptible to marketing than we realize. (I will edit to add; there are also other reasons drinking is on the rise for women. Direct marketing is just a piece of the issue. Over the last 50 years, more and more women earn their own money and are not dependent on a husband’s income. With earned income comes choice. Cultural norms have shifted around drinking. Increased stress in work and home life (for both men and women) was cited as an additional reason.)
  • I don’t want to have a life I need to escape from. If life is so busy, so hard, so awful that I have to drink just to numb out, is that really living? Do I want my kids overhearing me say, “GOSH. These kids are driving me to drink!” Like they are so burdensome that I simply must escape. Realizing this hit me hard. I love my kids. Like I really dig them as people. They are funny and creative and loud and wonderfully brilliant humans. Why do I want to escape from that on a regular basis? (Yes, raising kids is a hard job, yes, there are days we need parental time outs – but this is not what I’m talking about here.) I want to remember little things and big things. I don’t want blurred out hazy outlines and shadows cast over my memories of them growing up.
  • A bottom doesn’t necessarily mean I have to lose my marriage, my family, my house, live in my car and sleep on a park bench with a bottle in my hand. The image of the drunk who loses everything isn’t everyone. A bottom can simply be someone saying, “Enough.” This is enough of the bargaining, negotiating  and justification. Enough of the “Will I drink today?” “Just one” “Today will be my day not to drink” mess of thoughts that ricochet around my brain. It’s enough of monitoring what other people are drinking and at what rate so as not to stand out. It’s enough looking at the clock to see if in fact it is 5 o’clock and rationalizing that I don’t have a problem if I slide that start time to 4:30. It is enough comparing my drinking to someone else’s. “At least it’s not that bad….” It. is. enough.
  • Alcohol is ethanol. Why don’t we treat it like any other drug? I’m not advocating a return to prohibition era, but when looked at for the substance that it is, alcohol is a poison. Be aware. Know what it is that you are consuming, just like any other food or drink. Let’s be honest instead of normalizing it. The human body sees alcohol as poison, and actively works to get it out.

That rainbow was the beginning of the end of my drinking career. It was the beginning of the noticing. The seeing with clear eyes, both physically and figuratively. The rain had fallen, but there were hints of some vibrant color in the not-so-distant future. Sometimes the universe whispers.

Other times it sends a huge rainbow to my front door.

 

 

Sources:

Cancer Risks: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/alcohol-use-and-cancer.html

Drinking on the rise: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/10/542409957/drinking-on-the-rise-in-u-s-especially-for-women-minorities-older-adults

Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/johnnie-walker-embraces-feminine-side-to-woo-women-drinkers-1519677890

Hip Sobriety: http://www.hipsobriety.com

This Naked Mind: https://thisnakedmind.com