Friend

With a prompt like “friend“, writing about it could take many directions. Having previously contemplated adult friendships, this time I immediately thought of our dogs.

Doggie Friends

These 3 have changed our lives in so many ways. I am forever grateful for Hannah’s insistence that we needed a pet. Then both kids’ persistence that they needed a dog that would bond more with them, and finally rounding out the trio with a dog that “would be a perfect fit for our family”. Our canine expert, Haley couldn’t have been more right. I cannot imagine our life without these three. As insane as it sounds – they are our 4-legged children. (Yes, they are dogs – they are simply my kids from another mother.)

That face!

I mean, who can resist that face?!

When Jacob is ill, Hippo is right there comforting him. Whitney does the same with Hannah. Buck’s nightly routine is to snuggle in close for scratches and love. They all love Eric.

Dogs are tangible evidence of unconditional love. What a miracle they are because we surely don’t deserve their devotion. What a perfect example of grace.

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Resist

I’ve been sitting here staring out the window to my backyard for about 3 minutes with my hands resting on the keyboard.

“I don’t have a clue…” I think to myself as the sun shines through the trampoline screen that is now a semi-permanent fixture right outside my bedroom window. Dog hair litters the floor, the sun highlights the fact that I haven’t had the energy or inclination to vacuum lately, among other things.

I don’t have a clue. There is so much noise right now. Many valid points, but it’s as if everyone is screaming at everyone else with their hands over their ears, no one hearing anything but the sound of their own anger.  Not my president, get over it, pro-life, pro choice, anti-this, anti-that…..I feel like the kid in the middle of a horrendous divorce. The issues are plenty and every participant wildly passionate.

I find myself pushing. Pushing away.

Resisting.

When the anxiety gets to the point of overwhelm, I have found that I have to resist.

Resist the idea that there is only a this or a that. The black and white thinking that there is only a right or a wrong, an option A. or a B. You are either pro or anti. No. Not with everything. Many things are multifaceted and require investigation into grey areas.

Resist the inclination to know everything, to be certain. I love having a plan and executing it. That’s where I’m comfortable. Whether it’s a recipe to follow, food plan and prep, an exercise regimen, a life philosophy, faith, or anything else – I am wary of people so certain that their thoughts are right and everyone else is wrong. The older I get, the more uncertain I feel about so many things I thought were long ago nailed down. To be certain feels a lot like a mind closed.

Resist the temptation to sit down, be quiet and not think critically.  Despite the appeal of sticking one’s head in the sand, that’s not a solution for anyone.

Resist responding with angerAnger is draining. I have to respond with curiosity, love and a genuine desire to learn. The alternative is to join the deafening chaos of the crowd and I won’t do that.

I look at the trampoline outside my window once more and visualize my laughing, screaming minions bouncing around, as they will no doubt do again this evening, just like they did yesterday and the day before.

Resist doing nothing because everything feels overwhelming. Glennon Doyle Melton said something that struck a chord with me. “Do not discount the work that you do at home with your children.” I may only be able to show two little people what love and kindness looks like, but eventually they will grow up to be big people and they will in turn show love and kindness in their school, in their work, and in their communities.

 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”

-Mother Theresa

 

Daily Prompt: Resist

Fragile

Be careful with my heart.

I know how you look at me when I’m wth my children. I see you watching. I’m aware. I know what it looks like. I’m a fragile mom, yes, but a mom who is battle-tested and will no longer shy away from meeting your eyes. I will not be shamed. I will not let you tell me with your look and your eye roll and your mutterings under your breath that are just loud enough for me to hear that I am a bad mother.

I still feel the sting of your gaze.

Do I wish it was different? Sure. Do I wish life was easier for him to navigate? Without question. Would I change him if I could? Nope.

I used to think the Autism diagnosis would somehow be the worst possible thing ever about being a parent. I remember speaking with another expectant mom friend at the time, “Can you imagine? What if the baby has autism?” As if it is the worst possible fate.

It’s not.

It’s exhausting and challenging and rewarding – times that it sucks, and times that it takes your breath away with the amount of determination and persistence it takes to overcome challenges – that pride in the littlest of successes will be like nothing ever experienced before. But it’s not the worst possible thing to happen to a child.

I may have a fragile heart, but we are far from breaking.

The Power of a Single Word

Today’s prompt conjures 2 things; a fond memory shared with an old co-worker from days working in the training department of a bank, and great irritation at anyone who uses the word.

Before figuring out what to be when I grew up, I worked many jobs, but all of them had a common thread: teaching. I was either elected to train new employees on the register procedures working retail, showing the ropes waiting tables, and eventually after a few years as a bank teller and an assistant branch manager, I was hired as a teller trainer. At the bank, the training department had a bank classroom, complete with online customers, cash drawers with monopoly money and actual hands-on transactions. Newly hired tellers completed a series of classes to earn their way to a pay raise. The first week of employment was spent at headquarters in our mock bank, preparing them well for  real live customers.

One of the first, and probably most important lessons I learned in that job was from my mentor, who we’ll call J. She was (and is) awesome at her job. J made new hires feel comfortable and welcome, had a giving nature and a fun sense of humor. We hit it off right away and it’s one of the best working relationships I’ve ever had. J detested the word obvious. Obvious, especially when spoken to a student, conveys arrogant superiority. “Duh. It’s so obvious. How could you not know that?” It’s the mark of a bad instructor, regardless of subject or industry. While in the classroom setting, we never seriously used the word, but in our office, preparing for upcoming courses – we would often use the word jokingly, or see how many times we could use it in conversation. It became a silly inside joke that we found hilarious.

I loved working with J. But, as with any military family, PCS season eventually came and we moved out of state. We may have moved, but the lessons of my year working with her stuck with me. Now as a personal trainer, it’s still a word I hate hearing.

“It’s so obvious! Cut out junk food and you’ll lose weight!”

Really? Have you seen the ridiculous amount of CONFLICTING CRAP there is available surrounding health, fitness and weight loss? It is quite the opposite.  If it was so obvious – we wouldn’t have the health problems, including type II diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases we are currently facing. Despite advertisements for every diet pill, shake, saran wrap wraps and every other b.s. program out there claiming miraculous results with little effort, the truth is it’s slow, and often hard. It’s a process. It’s a lifetime of changing old habits and incorporating new ones.

If you grow up in one place never knowing what else is out there, that there are different ways of living and eating, you don’t know what you don’t know. If living where there are 18 fast food restaurants in a 2-mile radius has taught me anything, it’s this: things are not obvious if they are not pointed out. If you’ve never picked up a dumbbell a day in your life, it’s not intuitive. It’s not obvious. As instructors, as teachers, as professionals responsible for leading others, it’s obviously time for obvious to leave our vocabularies!

Tattoo Part Two

Since leaving Hawaii, I knew that I wanted to help people. To help people do what I did, and I’m not just talking about losing weight. Fitness is the vehicle, but more than that, I wanted to help people discover their own strength. To help moms see that being a martyr and giving without ceasing helps no one in the long run. That it’s more than okay to take care of yourself – in fact it’s necessary. That it’s healthy to show our kids what self care looks like in action. They learn more from what we do and how we treat ourselves than just lip service. As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words.

But wanting to become a trainer and help people and actually doing it are very different things. I even blogged about having a big dream, but was too afraid to specifically articulate it publicly at that point. Dreams are scary. What if I fail? What if I am no good?

What kept nagging at the back of my mind was, “But oh my, what if you succeed?!”

Up until last year, getting certified and becoming a personal trainer was something I would do “someday”. Maybe next year. Maybe when the deployment is over. When “life isn’t so busy”. (As if it’s ever NOT busy!?) Someday. Truth? The truth is I was scared. Petrified. What if I don’t pass the certification test? What if I suck as a personal trainer? What if I can’t find a job? And the “What ifs…” go on and on.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to make this one a year of action. I was going to stop talking about doing stuff someday, and just go do it already. Enough procrastination. Sink or swim, this dream of mine wasn’t going to go anywhere so I better lace up and start chasing it. Even if I was afraid.

I got my first tattoo a few years ago. Personally, it’s not an impulsive thing to decide to get a tattoo. I like having significance or a story behind it, or to bookmark an event or chapter in life. This year of action has been an important next chapter. This year has been one of, as Theodore Roosevelt called it and Brene Brown discussed further; “getting into the arena”:

the-man-in-the-arena2

It’s also been a year of being afraid, nervous, but moving forward regardless. It’s been one of turning fear into fierce.

In addition to the theme of “Action Despite Fear”, there were a couple of other components that made this tattoo selection seem almost a forgone conclusion:

As a Christian, I love C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. It is a beautiful allegory of faith, grace, unconditional love, touching on themes of courage and fear and what that looks like in life. I also love the film adaptations and am thrilled that my kiddos love it as much as I do.

My Hair. Through school I was called names and made fun of because of these crazy tresses, this wild unruly mane that I have only truly embraced over the last decade or so. (Thank goodness for great hair products!)

Astrological Sign. I’m not a huge proponent of astrology, but it does pique my curiosity as some of the general descriptions are pretty close. Mine happens to be Leo.

After considering all of these things and thinking about it for a few months, this is what I came up with:

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The butterfly represented the change. The lion represents living out those changes, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s scary. I can say I chased my dream. I get to get up and do something I am unabashedly passionate about.

Fear into fierce.

Have a tattoo? What’s the story behind your ink?

Ten Minutes and a Whole Lot of Gratitude

There’s a prompt each day for random topics to discuss, and one that comes up is a ten minute free-write. Whatever we want – just type for ten minutes. No editing, no evaluating. Just sit down, and type what comes to mind. Here are ten minutes in my mind…

I’m tired. But the good kind of tired.

Driving home from the airport after dropping off my niece from her week long visit (that really should have been longer!) I just feel…content. 

Last weekend I passed my NASM exam. (This is a national personal training certification.) I had built this test up in my mind as something unattainable. I was so afraid of failing that I procrastinated doing it for 3 and a half years. Better to have a dream out in front in the realm of “someday”, than to crash and burn, right? (WRONG.)

A few months ago, a conversation with a couple of close friends brought up the subject of goals. With every duty station move, there tends to be a loose list of things to accomplish in that 3 year time frame. It can be travel, sight-seeing, and of course fitness goals. This year, the theme of “doing” kept recurring. Instead of “I’m planning on…” and “I’m going to…,” it has become a year of intentional action. This is the time to chase dreams and see where it takes us.

Scary? You bet! Worth it? Of course!

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing something that seemed like a wish; a hope that someday I might be a trainer. That I might get the opportunity to not only do what I love, but maybe even help someone else live a more healthy, fit life. I know in my bones that I am an encourager and a teacher. It’s been the common thread in every career field I’ve ever worked. I think that’s the scary part. To know with out a shadow of a doubt what your purpose is – and then to go out and find a way to live it.

I love watching that lightbulb moment when a client surprises themselves with just how strong and capable they are. When they start opting for the harder modification, just to push their own limits of what they think they can do. Seeing people come back to spin class even though it’s tough, and get stronger. When they come tell me that their spouse is proud of them, and how their face lights up when they do. That moment when they express how much better they feel, that they didn’t know that exercise and eating right would give them more energy, even though that seems counterintuitive. Today there was a guy working out and having overheard a conversation I was having about nutrition and how it may not be flashy, but eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly does, in fact, work, he had to come over and tell me about his journey and how he has lost weight – even sharing his before pictures. I LOVE these moments. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a witness to these non-scale victories, to be the sounding board when someone just needs a space to celebrate success no matter how small it may seem. It’s confirmation that I’m not only doing something that I love and am passionate about, passing on a tremendous gift that was given to me, but that it matters. It matters to this small handful of people who I get the pleasure of working with.

Ten minutes of gratitude. I could write about this forever. It’s inspiring to watch people grow into who they are meant to be. I always say that fitness is a vehicle to so much more. You may think you are strength training, doing some push ups and bicep curls, but it’s more than that. The determination to enact habit and life-long positive change is huge and bleeds over into every aspect of life. When we take care of our physical bodies, our relationships with significant others improves, how we treat ourselves teaches others how to treat us. It gives our kids a glimpse of what self-care looks like in action, and of course all of the health benefits to boot.

Fitness is a vehicle to much, much more. And for that – I will be forever grateful.

On Confidence

In the latest WordPress prompt, they ask us if we are good at what we do, and what would we like to be better at. I find it coincidental* that this subject pops up right when I’ve been discussing the subject of fear and confidence with a few different friends lately. Usually when things like this pop up in various areas, it’s time to write about it!

*Note: I do not believe in coincidences in general. Most of the time, I think circumstances can come together to either push us into where we need to be going, or pull us out of where we have no business being!

Confidence. Ugh. Even the word tends to illicit the response of “fake it ’till you make it!” As I have been reflecting on my last experiences in teaching fitness classes, I definitely lacked confidence. I was trying to fake it, but I was intimidated. Intimidated by the instructor I was taking over for, as well as the experienced gym members who let me know they had “been through a few instructors and weeded out the ones they didn’t like”. Yeah. Awesome. While that class wasn’t necessarily what anyone would call successful, there were lessons o’plenty! Even hard, gut-wrenching experiences shape us for other opportunities down the road, despite our inability to foresee them. (My current gig has been the exact opposite, wonderfully!)

When we are young, everyone asks us “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Who the heck knows? When you have no life experience – how are you supposed to know what you’d like to do or try? I think better questions would be:

“What lights your fire?”
“What do you think you are good at?”
“What can you contribute to your community?”

When I was 5 I wanted to be a performer. An actress, a dancer, a singer – give me a stage! Unfortunately, anyone who has heard me knows I am unable to carry a tune. Growing older, other talents and passions came and went. As a teenager and young adult, the common thread in every job/career I have worked is teaching. I am a teacher by nature. My mother is a teacher by nature. As parents, we are teachers. I love it. I loved that lightbulb moment when while peer-tutoring math in high school, the student lit up when she finally grasped that algebra concept. Easing a new hire into the ropes of her new job – when it was plain she was nervous, then years later offers thanks for making her look up answers herself, so she now knows how to manage and lead her own staff. It’s magic when that happens. Helping other people learn to help themselves. Enter the vehicle of fitness and getting my own health on track – and voila!

Discussing the possibility of running a marathon, a friend recently expressed the desire, but lacks the guarantee of possibility. I know she can. I have no doubt. But, like many of us before any new distance or challenge, we doubt ourselves. We get in our heads about whether it’s possible, instead of making plans to succeed. Why do we do that? We ALL do it. The thought of running another one scares me, too. What if I do worse? Or don’t finish? What if….what if….what if…..?

But what if you kill it?! Wouldn’t it be better to try and stumble, then to always wonder what if? Who might you inspire in the process?

While I would like to say that confidence has come with the knowledge of knowing my skill set, and just like that – life is suddenly perfect. it’s just not the case. It doesn’t work that way. I was TERRIFIED of leading my own bootcamp. Would I be any good? Would anyone show up? Would they do the work? Some dear friends who were more than supportive of my efforts and gave me a little confidence to try. And a little more confidence came. Some set backs, some getting in my own way, distractions, and life. Two steps forward, 1 step back, but persisting anyway. What I’ve found through the process is 2 things:

1.) Confidence comes only when I take a scary first step.

2.) Slow and steady wins the race. I may not have hit all the goals in the time frames I wanted to, but it is coming together, just as it should. Sometimes patience really is a virtue, dang it!

2015 in our world is the year of scary. Scary, exhilarating, confidence-enducing – ACTION. Instead of saying, “I’m planning on…” or “I’m going to….” or “Someday….” It’s now.

Right now.

What scares you, but secretly excites you?!

Go do it!

(Even if you’re terrified!)