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!



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.


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


Wonder and Joy

I need to say thank you.

Thank you to the internet for inspiration. Thank you to all the people who do the holiday season up big. Thank you to the Heather Lands of the world who make me belly laugh about our silly traditions. Thank you for the conversations of dear friends as we eat delicious food, do laundry, and find humor in our family and our work. Thank you for far away friends as we compare notes and ideas to make the holidays wonderful, and commiserate with us when they go awry. Thank you, Mom, for the conversation about the wonder of Christmas, and letting kids be kids.

And a special thank you to Hannah’s teacher.

You see, her teacher shared that she had said her home elf was quite boring. Dobby only moved around but never did anything funny or amazing like the elf in the classroom. She wasn’t shaming me or ridiculing me by sharing what Hannah had said, but was simply sharing the magic of the season…she loved how her students’ faces lit up each day as the elf did some new and crazy thing – even simple things – all by themselves.

It woke me up. Big time.

In a season where perfection abounds, it’s hard when things aren’t they way we’d like them. My person is deployed. (No, they don’t get Christmas off. Or New Year’s. Or the kids’ birthdays. Or their birthday. Or any of the other holidays this year.) The kids are missing their dad. It sucks. Yes, it’s part of it, but it still sucks.

And yet….it’s Christmas.

Hannah’s teacher sharing reminded me that even though it’s not an ideal holiday, that while our hearts are hurting, they can also be filled with joy.

And wonder.

And the magic of a silly elf on the shelf.

Not only did he do all these silly antics over the past month…

…he reminded us all that wonder and joy can still be found.

Kind of what Christmas is all about anyway, right?

❤️ Wishing you joy and wonder this Christmas season ❤️❤️❤️

Faking It

A-hem. Not that kind of faking.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day who hasn’t seen me in person for over 6 or 7 months. After posting some silliness from a dress up day at work, the conversation drifted to something along theses lines:

“By the way, you look amazing…You were already looking good when I left, but holy transformation batman!!! Do you feel how much you’ve changed in such a short time?”

As the exchange continued deeper, I got to thinking. Do I realize it?

The answer is no, not really. Partially because I’ve been down this path before. I usually only can tell when I go to grab an article of clothing to try it on and realize I went three sizes too big. It’s a body dysmorphia of sorts, but it bleeds over into other stuff.

Stuff like thinking, “They are gonna find out that I’m not that good.” If I was at _______ gym where the “real trainers” are, I wouldn’t get hired. (As if I am not a “real trainer” or the people I work with are not “real trainers”?!) It’s a feeling that I’m back where I was. Both physically and mentally. She went on to state that, “Outsiders always see more clearly than we see ourselves.” How often have I said this exact same statement! It’s so true.

As irrational as it sounds, I feel like I need to pinch myself because inside I still feel like the size 16-18 girl who somehow managed to land a job in the fitness industry. This isn’t false humility or a begging for compliments, please do not misunderstand. When we lose a significant amount of weight, what we often don’t realize is that there is still some mental weight to offload. Just because you lose body size doesn’t mean you lose insecurities, at least not overnight.

Chasing a dream and going after it with abandon didn’t happen TO me. I went after it. It wasn’t luck or chance. I studied, learned, practiced, and continue to learn. Will it ever feel real, that I’m not faking it?

I sure hope so.

I love what I get to do. I know in my bones that I am fortunate to be able to do something I am passionate about and can pass that passion on to others.

While all of this is playing around in my mind, I engage clients day after day that continually remind me that this fitness deal is about so much more than just an aesthetic. That may be what brings us in the door, but it never fails – when we stick with it, it becomes more.

How honored I was to be told that because of our workouts, a client survived a severe physical attack. Her attacker had a knife. She ran faster than she’d ever ran before. I sat in my car and cried after our session. Who gets to be privileged to witness such amazing acts of courage?

I do.

I hope I never lose the perspective that get to do this. That it’s a gift. This deal isn’t something to be faked or phoned in.

Brain Bombs and Power

I fired off an email to a friend/mentor of mine after having an off week. In training people, it is much the same as in training yourself. There are excuses, days where you just aren’t feeling it, and many, many qualifiers. Qualifiers typically go something like this:

Client: “I wish I could lose weight faster. I’m working out regularly. I’m eating right. I just don’t get it. Why is the weight not coming off?”

Me: “Talk to me about diet. What does a typical day look like?”

Client: “I eat a great breakfast and I’m getting a lot more veggies in,”


Me: Silence. Waiting for it.

Client: “…but, I did have just one ____________ (fill in the blank with whatever food they currently deem as ‘bad’) then I went out for so-and-so’s birthday and it would have been rude to not have at least a little piece of cake. My kid had a bad day so we went out for ice-cream to cheer him up.”

Blah, blah, blah. All of the reasons why I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. There is always a “but…” That’s the qualifier.

We then have a great conversation about moderation, how the turtle wins the race every time I read The Tortoise and the Hare. We discuss that foods need no moral judgement. Food is neither good nor bad. It just is. Will some food give you indigestion? Yep. Will others give you energy? Yep. Will still others spike your blood sugar and give you a crash later? You bet. But food isn’t moral. It just is. While we are at it – you are not a dog. Mind blowing, right? You are not “good” because you stuck to a stupid diet. You are likewise not “bad” because you didn’t. People who obtain AND maintain health over the long term do not subscribe to a good/bad philosophy when it comes to food or themselves.

The email I sent described the realization that as a trainer, I cannot walk this journey for anyone else. I’m a signpost holder. I can show you the how, but the doing has to be done solo. I can want it for you. (I WANT IT SO BAD FOR EVERYONE! It feels incredible to be comfortable in your own skin and to have energy and strength to get through the day!) Ultimately, we each have to walk the path for ourselves. 

Do you ever encounter people that say something and it’s like, “Whoa. Mind completely blown”? Usually it’s something profound, simple and very direct. I feel fortunate to have a few mind-blowers in my life. The mentor I sent the email to had this to add, “I also don’t allow any clients to give me credit for their health and fitness successes. Never allow them to be in the position to give their power away. They did the work, they take the credit.”

Brain bomb.

Mind blown.

So simple, but very profound.

Getting healthy and adapting new habits isn’t easy. I get that. It doesn’t come naturally for me either. But whether I succeed or I take a detour or two, the power is in me.

And you. You hold the power to do what you want. 

Whether it’s fat loss, fitness, parenting, or whatever else – we hold the power to choose.

Success or detours are entirely in YOUR hands.

Blue Space

Texas sure knows how to do thunder.

And lightening.

Sitting in the car while big ‘ole fat rain pounded on the roof, I reached over to grab my phone. In line for school pick up, Facebook and a smartphone provide ample entertainment and distraction. (Yes, I was parked. No, I do not look at my phone while driving.) This time, I reached into my purse only to realize I’d left it in my work bag. At home. “That’s okay,” I thought to myself. “I’ll use this time to read my book.”

Yep, left that at home, too.

I had to just sit. And wait. The school pick up line requires about 30 minutes of waiting time, more if you arrive early to be near the start of the line. I looked out the window and admired the bright bolts streaking against the clouds while the booms shook the car. There isn’t really anything quite like a real thunderstorm.

This date makes many of us reflective, myself included. I’ve written about 9/11. It’s been 14 years. Fourteen. Looking up at the clouds, I saw a tiny circle of blue in the middle of all the ominously gray and black clouds. Reminded of a quote my niece shared recently, I forgot all about the phone and book I had neglected to bring.

“Think about the eye of a hurricane, or the calm still center of a cyclone. No matter how intense the storm or what’s swept up in its gale-force winds, that calm, blue center is always there. This is the metaphor I like to use when talking about the space between stimulus and response. We all have this quiet center within us. Mindfulness reconnects us to this center space, where we fully experience the present moment and have access to the transcendent wisdom that’s often associated with conscious flow. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously described it this way: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – George Mumford, The Mindful Athlete

It has been a while since I’ve just been. To pray something more than, ‘Oh give me strength to get through this day,’ ‘I need more patience with the kids,’ or ‘Help me say the right words, be more kind, do well at my job etc.’ -type of prayers, to just sit in the ‘blue space’ and be. And ask for nothing.

I thought about the friend of a friend whose baby is battling cancer. Cancer. A 1 year old. ‘How does she pray?’ I found myself wondering.  In the blue space, I found myself not only saying a prayer for her and her sweet babe, but saying thank you. Thank you that my children are healthy.

I have a client who is paralyzed from the waist down. She comes in to workout, and she works hard. Not only the physical aspects of lifting weight and doing exercises, but she works hard at ignoring the pitying glances. She doesn’t want or need pity. She’s just there to do her work. She has goals to walk again. She has hope. I find myself thinking of her and her strength. What it takes to even get to the gym, let alone battle the stares once she arrives. In that blue space, I am thankful for a body that does what I need it to do and then some. I get to run for fun. I can go to whatever store or restaurant I want to and not think about what the infrastructure will be like and will it accommodate a wheelchair. 

I get to work with people. People who want and need help. I have met some incredible folks who humble me on multiple levels. People who are dealing with some crazy-hard life stuff. But while dealing with what life has thrown at them, they continue to show up. They continue to have hope. To be brave. Had I not said, “Yes,” to invitations, had I been too afraid to step outside of my comfort zone time after time, my life would be entirely different. I am so grateful for the yes; even to the scary stuff. Because of the yes, I now get a daily front row view of bravery and hope in action.

On days like today, it’s easy for me to get swept into the heavy heart stuff. In the blue space thinking about the last year, as well the day fourteen years ago, I find myself unable to say anything other than thank you. 

Thank you.

I’m so glad I forgot my phone. I needed some time in the blue space.

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.

Bah Humbug

I’ve been fighting it for a while.

I just can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year. Part of it is that we are far away from family and in a new state. Part of it is the weather. It’s kind of hard to feel festive about Christmas sweaters when it’s 80 degrees outside. “Frosty the Snowman” and 100% humidity just don’t jive, you know? I even bagged out on my Christmas cards/letters this year. I just haven’t been  that into it.

The Christmas shopping not even started yet, I sat down to get organized and it just felt like more heavy demands. “Bring the party tray for Hannah’s pre-k Christmas party…bring a wrapped book for Jacob’s gift exchange…don’t forget the gingerbread house supplies! Pajama day on Friday! Can you spare a few hours to volunteer in the classroom? These kids are our future you know!” These little things aren’t much in and of themselves, but when piled together it makes a giant pile of to-dos sucking the joy right out of the season and sends me under my covers not wanting to be vertical at all. It’s just pressure that I dread.

Throughout December, I usually play holiday music to center myself. It gets me in the holiday frame of mind, as the music and lyrics take me back to past Christmas seasons. I can still hear Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” as my mom and I wrapped presents in my childhood home. “Mary Did You Know” and “Immanuel” will put me right back into that Christmas Eve service where they had arranged for a stunning live nativity with real farm animals! My favorite hymns and carols all have specific memories attached. I even got desperate and played Faith Hill’s “Where are you Christmas?” Because that is essentially how I’ve been feeling. Even my runs the past few days have felt sort of “meh” with not one butterfly sighting. (I usually see small yellow butterflies on EVERY run, and look so forward to them. It’s like a visual hug from the universe.) I went out to tackle the bulk of the shopping and was striking out at store after store. (This year I did not plan ahead like I normally do. I like having it all done by December 1st, so I can sit back and enjoy the season.) I started to notice the people out and about and not one person seemed really happy or content. Everyone, including myself, oozed rushed, harried and tired energy. No smiles, no joy, and definitely no holiday magic. The holiday music just wasn’t working the way it usually does. it felt, well, forced.

At the end of the excursion, I had accomplished little and felt like time would have been better spent just staying home with my family. After a good night’s rest I tried again. Hit the toy store, stopped at Target, and was finally making some headway. Then something shifted when I stopped at the book store. I asked an employee about a book, and looking at her computer she said they didn’t have anything like what I was looking for. Bummed, I strolled down some aisles looking for new inspiration – that perfect gift. A while later lost in thought and browsing titles, this same employee came around the corner carrying a book. The biggest grin spread across her face, her eyes dancing she said, “I think I have found something like what you are looking for!” As I flipped through this beautiful book and gazed at the photographs within, my mouth dropped and gratitude washed over me. “I could just hug you right now! Thank you! This is perfect!” She laughed, and we shared a wonderful moment. What I couldn’t articulate at the time was that she not only found a gift I had been searching for, but her kindness allowed me to see a spark of authentic cheer, and it started with gratitude. When you find that gift that you know deep down all the way to your toes that the person receiving it is just going to LOVE – that moment of anticipation to me, embodies the tradition of giving a gift. What I had failed to remember up until that point is that these nuggets of Christmas cheer are embedded in the busy. She gave me a gift without ever realizing it. Her joy in helping me find that item was magic as I finally started to feel ready for the season.

Part of our holiday also usually involves a visit with Santa. The idea of standing in a long line while trying to entertain the minions was not high on my priority list. (It was, not surprisingly, on the “don’t wanna at all” list.) Eric was a bit surprised at my reluctance. We went anyway, and as I looked around at all the parents, we all wore that same expression of wanting to be ANYWHERE but in that line. But the kids? They had a blast. My daughter’s excitement was palpable. They wore what they wanted, I kept my perfectionist expectations low, and we had a pretty fun evening. We played thumb war in the line. We took turns holding them, then playing silly little made up games, and Hannah spent time on Daddy’s shoulders. I was having fun in spite of myself. After they had their visit with Santa, my daughter, who is a hugger by nature, ran back to Santa to say thank you and gave him the biggest hug! I love her little huggy heart.

Feeling somewhat lighter yesterday, (and seeing the light at the end of the shopping tunnel) I again had one of those runs. The ones where you feel light and could go for ever.


The dogs are doing great on the leash, and the butterflies returned. The little yellow guys flutter across the path as we glided along the trail. And then I saw a GIANT monarch like this one:


After that sunrise, and a heavenly run, I was having a game of fetch with the dogs in the backyard and there was yet another one of these monarchs fluttering around – in my backyard! I am always reminded by these little experiences that joy is where I find it. It happens when I am looking for it, when I’m open and have a posture of gratitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s during a deployment, a cross-country move, a trail run, or even during the holidays in my yard. Joy waits to be discovered as we look away from the unimportant and toward the things for which we are grateful.


IMG_0691  I am grateful.