Monday, January 30, 2017

#SOL17 There's A Place For Us

"There’s a place for us, 
Somewhere a place for us, 
Peace and quiet and open air 
Wait for us 

West Side Story
Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), Leonard Bernstein (music)

I grew up watching lots of musicals, made before my time. Bye Bye Birdie was a total favorite (I've sang versions of "I Love You Conrad" to my children when they were babies) and The Sound of Music, not to mention Thoroughly Modern Millie and My Fair Lady

Long before I read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in high school, I watched West Side Story with Natalie Wood as Maria. The music was so beautiful. My favorite song from the movie was the poignant "Somewhere." I knew Tony was going to get killed but still felt heartbroken when he did, and when the Sharks and the Jets walked off together, peacefully, following Maria's lead, it all seemed so utterly pointless that he died. Why couldn't they just be happy? What did all the hate accomplish?

These days, we are redefining what kind of place our country is. Is it a place for us- with peace and quiet and open air? Who is "us" after all? 

Another favorite musical was Jim Henson's Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas, created two years before I was born, in 1977.  Even though it is January, my children wanted to see this movie again so just yesterday, we watched it.  

In the words of Emmett Otter's Mother, "Our world says, 'Welcome, stranger.' Everybody's a friend. Favorite stories don't end, in our world...Some say our world is getting too small. I say with kindness, there's room for us all." 

These days, there is much "sound and fury....signifying nothing" (Shakespeare, Macbeth). My books, my poems, my musicals return to me and I hold onto a world where strangers are welcome and everybody's a friend. 


Monday, January 23, 2017

#SOL17 Purple With a Purpose

"Uh uh,"Megan squirmed in her car seat, unwilling to get out. My husband was taking our son, Alex, to get a haircut after his swimming lesson. Megan tagged along with them for swimming, while I stayed home to shower after my exercise class. Now, Mike wanted to take Alex to the barber and the plan was for Megan to stay with me. But Megan wasn't having it.

"Want to come with me to the nail salon?" I finally asked after the sudden inspiration. It was an errand I wanted to run but had been putting off for lack of time. This could be the perfect solution. 

Megan brightened and easily agreed, coming out of her carseat. 

I told Megan some alternative facts about the nail salon not doing nails for children (despite the price list for children on the wall- good thing she can't read yet!) and she was quite agreeable that she would just watch me get my nails done, as long as she could pick my color. 

At the salon, we walked over to the wall of colors. Her first thought was green, then orange. Nope and nope. Then she picked purple. I turned over the bottle and read the label- "Purple with a Purpose." It was a color I never would have picked for myself, but the name persuaded me. 

The nail technician asked me several times if I was sure I wanted this color. 

"Is it horrible? I finally asked her.

"Oh no..." she answered, alternative facts again. 

The thing is, sometimes it's good to do something you don't normally do, even if it just wearing purple with a purpose nail polish. Looking at my nails makes me think of Megan and going out of my comfort zone. It reminds me to keep real purpose at the heart of all I do. Soon enough, I'll be back to my predictable and more eye-pleasing pale pinks, but for now, I'm rocking the purple. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

#SOL17 The Why

"It's never too late to be what you might have been."
-George Eliot 

That quote opens up The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, one of my favorite books to read aloud to my third graders. This week, I will once again introduce a group of children to Ivan, the true-ish story of a gorilla kept in a shopping mall circus for 27 years before being released to the Atlanta Zoo. Ivan's story has changed me, each time I read it. As I'm about to embark on his story once again, those words inspire new thoughts. 

As usual, words and parts of my life swirl together and this quote came to mind as I read my  friend Sharyn's post in Our Healthy Home, a Facebook group I blogged about last week- it's a place to focus on healthy habits as a family, without a direct focus on weight loss or selling/buying a program. Sharyn has lost over 100 pounds and thus, changed her life. This morning she asked us to consider our "why"-"Why do you want to be healthier? Why is it important to you?"

I knew a line or two comment would not suffice for this topic. 

I've written about this issue before. Many times, I guess. Weight and too much of it has been a theme in my life from the start. I was the baby who ate pastina with two hands. The tubby two year old eating cake with a crown on, frozen in time in a picture that reveals my chub spilling over my bathing suit. My first Weight Watchers meeting was in third grade. I remember having to order the "diet platter" at the diner- a burger without a bun and cottage cheese (I can weep thinking about it). Thin, watery, Alba shakes while my sister got to drink creamy Carnation Instant Breakfast (she needed to gain weight. Sigh.) Dresses with elastic cut to allow my arms to fit through. Everyone's intentions were very good- to help me be healthier and thinner. 

But, what I took in was a feeling of shame. That I am out of control. That I cannot be trusted with food. That pleasure and tasty foods are bad and to be "good" you need to drink plain water and eat celery sticks. A good, hard-working student, I constantly failed the food test. I just could not seem to get the hang of self control and therefore had to wear "pretty plus" jeans. 

At any particular age in my life, I can tell you what program I was or wasn't on. Weight Watchers many times. A diet program called "New You" when I was in 7th grade. No carbs in college. Nutritionist plan during my engagement and then again after my son was born. 

At some point after I had my daughter, I just decided I could not do it anymore. Could not face dieting- counting points or calories or amounts of food. I could not take the deprivation and the feeling of failing. What was so wrong about a cup of ice cream with my children on a hot day? Why did I have to feel either guilty or deprived, depending on my choice of what to eat? 

And yet. Without a "plan", weight did creep in. There was the day my little girl ran up a hill and the road, with cars traveling on it, was on the other side. Would she run down it, into harm's way? I could not trudge up the hill fast enough. Out of shape, and petrified. She was fine, but was I?

And then there's the confidence factor. When you feel everyone looks better than you, when you have to pay so much more money to shop at a store with clothes big enough for you, when you look years older than you are because of the extra this really living your best life? Fulfilling your potential? Being the you that you might have been, if you had made the necessary changes?

So, here I am. Thinking I have believed all my life that I am an out-of-control, "bad" eater who cannot stop herself from eating. And thinking that maybe it is my beliefs about myself -who I am and what I can be- that are holding me back. Maybe it's not too late to become a person who lives in balance- who seeks healthy, nourishing foods and can also have a cup of ice cream with my kids on a hot day. Maybe I can learn to see eating well as a gift I give myself instead of punishment for being a person with no will power. 

My Why? I want to be the happiest, prettiest, healthiest me possible. I want to still be what I might have been- I want to shake off feelings of shame and failure in this area of my life. I want to be able to run up a hill if I need to. I want my family to be proud of me. I want to be proud of me. That's my why. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

#SOL17 They Are Watching

Almost every morning, I have a little sidekick who follows me into the bathroom as I attempt to do my hair and makeup. My (closer now to four ) three year old, Megan, climbs onto the toilet and watches me as I apply lotion, foundation, mascara and more. She asks for the makeup brush and mimics me, making sweeping motions on her perfect, unblemished baby skin. She wants to know what the mascara is for and how old she has to be before she can use it, too. 
When I flip over my hair to blow dry my very curly dark hair, she makes the scrunching motions on her straight golden hair. 

Other times of the day, Megan informs me she has "important work to do" and insists I let her type on the computer. Other times of day, she assembles her "students" (every stuffed animal she can grab) and lines them up to teach them a lesson. 

Though she looks almost nothing like me, Megan is, in lots of ways, a mini-me, who is watching what I do and say. 

Alex, my six year old, isn't really interested in my beauty routine, but he watches me too, notices my moods, my actions, and all that I say. 

Our children and our students are always watching. (Just found this poem by John Wooden on Vicki Davis' blog which speaks to the power of our example.)

This is a picture of me and Sharyn (and our husbands too- Sharyn's husband Evan and my husband Mike). Our husbands were best buddies in college and Sharyn and I met through them. We've been bridesmaids in each other's weddings and our children are almost exactly the same age! We've seen each other through many different life stages. 

One of my best friends, Sharyn, shared this idea in a new private Facebook group she created called "Our Healthy Home." This is the idea behind the group, in Sharyn's words: 
The group will begin on Monday, January 9, 2017. This group will be specifically geared towards helping families incorporate more healthy habits into their daily lifestyle. My sincere hope for this group is that members of the group who have children will log into the group daily with their children. There will be daily challenges that will be appropriate for all ages. This group IS NOT about weight or weight loss. There will be no "plan", there will be nothing for you to buy or do to join. Just bring yourself, your family, your open mind, and open heart. The focus in the group is purely to implement more healthy habits into your home, and stimulate conversation between parents and their children about trying some new healthy habits. You never know, you just might implement one or two regularly!
As many of you know, I grew up as a very overweight child, and grew into an overweight adult. Approximately a year and a half after the birth of my second daughter, I hit rock bottom. As hitting rock bottom often is, it was a blessing in disguise. I realized that unless I wanted my children to have an obese mom, and likely adopt the unhealthy habits I had at that time, I needed to change. I knew I could set a better example. I knew I needed to. I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't. I knew my children deserved it. I knew I deserved it. With the love and support of my husband, my family and friends, I embarked on a wellness journey that has helped me transform myself in so many ways. I have incorporated numerous healthy habits into my lifestyle. I have lost 99 pounds over the past 18 months, but more than the weight loss, I have the peace of mind knowing that I am teaching my children how to incorporate healthy habits into their lifestyle. I am teaching them that health is important; that you show your love for your self by taking good care of yourself. I am showing them that their mother believes that she is important, and that she takes care of herself. I am showing them that it is never too soon or too late to make healthy choices, and that the opportunities to make healthy choices are ALWAYS present. I know that they're watching me. I know that they're learning from me, and I hope they set the same example for my grandchildren one day.
Sharyn is one of the best people I know. Funny, smart, beautiful, and a devoted mom. In the last 18 months, she has transformed her life and her health. I love that she is taking this passion for health and using it to create a space for families to learn about a healthy lifestyle together, without the focus on weight. I, too, grew up as an overweight child and have struggled with my weight forever. With little ones watching me so closely, and many times trying to emulate me, I can do better in many areas of being a healthy individual. 
On Sunday morning, my Jazzercise class was cancelled due to the weather. I put on a fitness program and worked out in the living room, with Megan kicking and punching right next to me, swirling all around. My sidekick is always watching, which means I need to step up my game. 
Sharyn's group is free and it's not about weight loss. It is a private Facebook group and you would need to be added. In Sharyn's words:
Whether you consider yourself a "health nut" or someone who would like to dip their toe into the wellness pool, I invite you and your family to join "Our Healthy Home". I would love to support you and your family in incorporating healthy habits into your lifestyle.
(If you are interested in joining, please write your Facebook name in the comments and I will be sure you are added to the group.)

Monday, January 2, 2017

#SOL17 When The Words Don't Come

It is Monday night, which means it time for me to post my Slice of Life. This one, the first of 2017, means the first time using #SOL17. Here I sit, at the computer, and I've got NOTHING. 

I've thought about composing a letter to the stomach bug, which I've been narrowly escaping all break as friends and family have fallen ill. I had buckets ready to go, sure that me or my children would be victims after spending time on Christmas with family members that had the bug. So far, we've avoided it. (That noise is me furiously knocking on wood). But is a letter to a stomach virus really the way to kick off a new year?

I've thought of telling a story of something that happened over the holiday break. My son, Alex, and I saw "Sing!" with my sister and nephew. On another day, my nephew's jacket mysteriously disappeared from Chuckee Cheese. These were stories I could write, but...I'm not feeling it. 

I could write about how a new year makes me want to change everything right away- become super organized, fit, perfect. I organized two junk drawers and created more space in my bedroom. I finally put away earrings and necklaces that were in a heap on my dresser instead of in their proper, designated spaces in my jewelry organizer. It felt good, as I rediscovered some beautiful things I own and haven't been appreciating. 

I could write about finding a new television series to love, after not watching tv for the last....three years? This Is Us has become a favorite and over my holiday break, I caught up on the first season. (You should totally watch it if you haven't been!).

I could write about downloading Overdrive to my phone and discovering the magic of borrowing books digitally from my public library! How have I survived without this? I read First Comes Love by Emily Griffin on my phone and I think this will be the key to reading more books. I've borrowed Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and am loving it. 

I could write about how my daughter, Megan, has a history of loving and leaving her stuffed animals. My mother and I joked we could rewrite "To All The Girls I Loved Before" for Megan- "To All The Stuffies I've Loved Before." She chooses a stuffed animal to love and completely adores it- carries it everywhere, talks about it endlessly, decorates cards for it- only to have that animal replaced by a new one. There's been Monkey, Foxy, Lenny, Fluffy, and now, her newest love, Star. Pictures before Christmas show Fluffy, with a red bow decorating her ear. Pictures after Christmas show no signs of Fluffy- as Star, a Christmas gift, is now the treasured friend.

Note Fluffy in our Christmas Eve picture

Now Star is being brought to a New Years celebration does "nothing" add up to all this? While I didn't have a clear message tonight and felt stuck, I have committed to blogging here for Slice of Life and felt compelled to just START. And while this is not my finest piece of writing (let's hope), it does reflect the pieces of my life. When I look back next year, at this first post for 2017, I will remember how I was living in fear of the stomach bug, I'll remember my nephew Will's jacket going missing at Chuckee Cheese, and I'll remember that Megan's flavor of the day quickly changed from Fluffy to Star. 

Here's to showing up and writing, even when the words don't come.

Happy New Year, friends!