The Biggest Mouths

So, I have waited just a little while before weighing in on The Biggest Loser controversy. (See what I did there? I almost reworded that. Then I decided, “What the hell. Let’s throw bad puns to the wall and see what pretty colors it makes!”)

Rachel-300x254If you are not a Biggest Loser fan and somehow missed the February 4th storm, here is a brief synopsis. 24 year old Rachel Frederickson became the 15th Biggest Loser winner weighing in at 105 pounds. Her starting weight of 260 meant that Rachel had lost 155 pounds, 60% of her total body weight, in about 8 months.

Twitterverse exploded. Blogs rang out. Facebook posts abounded. I think petitions were circulated, a posse was rounded up, and an inquisition was launched to investigate whether or not Dolvett had let her eat in the last 6 weeks.

Seriously, the reaction, including that of the show’s participants, was intense.

She was labeled as astonishingly frail, lost too much weight, unhealthy, too skinny, and had an eating disorder.  This, said The They, was what has always been wrong with show. This corruptible and damned piece of reality television. Rachel was ushered in as the Queen Madame of all that was wrong with young girls, body image, healthy living, life balance, and, I think, the crash of the housing market was eventually tied to her as well.

The onslaught was intense. The battery of insults, accusations, and finger wagging coming from The They behind the keyboards was such that I felt the residual heat. My first reaction – which I tend to trust yet investigate – was.

Damn, some folks who don’t know anything sure are saying it with big mouths.

Understand, I am a huge critic of pop culture, media influence, and have expressed general disgust over the handling of what some folks would call “entertainment.” Hell, I have banned The Little Mermaid from my house. There are quite a few pieces of TV production that I would label as dangerous, irresponsible, and down right trash. The Biggest Loser isn’t one of them.

Do I recognize that is only my opinion? It’s a blog, of course I do.

Do I recognize that some folks may have a disposition, challenge, or other personal hurdle that makes a show like The Biggest Loser a trigger point? Of course I do, I have the same kind of shows. For instance, Honey Boo Boo makes me want to slap people and The Bachelor(ette) makes me want to punch them in the throat.  I am the momma of four daughters. I think Honey Boo Boo is an abused child and I hate watching girls go to any length to get a freaking flower. Seriously, you would date a guy that you knew was dating 20 other girls? No, you wouldn’t. But I digress.

But, The Biggest Loser has just wrapped up its 15th season. 300 participants have appeared on the show in the past 10 years.  Some of the past winners have had starting BMI’s in the 60s. Yes, BMI, 60s. The show does not promote surgeries, supplements, fat burners, or the like. In fact, we saw what happened earlier in the season when Jillian committed what was called “an unprecedented violation.” She gave them caffeine pills. Even that is not allowed.

biggest-loser-then-and-now15 seasons, 300 contestants, certified trainers, nutritionist, therapists, medical doctors. The Biggest Loser’s cardinal sin, as far as I can tell, is that there is a cash payout.

Now I do wish there were some aspects of the show that were different – most notably the grotesque product placement. I wish they were able to make their marketing budget by promoting local produce, farmers markets, and the like. But hey, it is a business. I am sure the folks who participate in sponsorships and product sales to supplement their fitness businesses understand that.

Outside of the show format itself, what Rachel has accomplished isn’t the big bag of evil it is being portrayed as. At 105 pounds she is, by the guidelines, underweight. By THREE WHOLE pounds. I can lose and gain three pounds with water pills and few beers. So what if she cut the last couple of days leading up to the competition to win a quarter mil?? Boxers do it. MMA fighters do it. Body builders do it. Wrestlers do it. Lots of healthy, strong, athletes cut to make weight and/or appearance.

But it isn’t healthy said The They – neither was being 260 pounds and living off pizza.

And I look at the things they said about her again – astonishingly frail, lost too much weight, unhealthy, too skinny – and thought “double standard”

I hate that. Quite frankly, most people do. Wanna see a facebook post blow up? Go to a female body builders page (which I love, by the way), find a pose picture and tell her she is too big, too muscley and looks like a man.

Let me look at the overweight They who criticized her and call them astonishingly fat, ask about the big meat wrapped around the big bones, grossly unhealthy, and tell them the buffet line is closed. I would never be allowed to say that about people. Why? Because it is wrong, it is ugly, and it is hurtful.

It didn’t sound any better when The They said it.

But I think the angle that pissed me off the most was the accusations that she had daddy issues, low self esteem, and, ultimately, she must have an eating disorder. Rachel became the poster child for what it looks like to have an unhealthy relationship with a dinner plate.

Except no one – NO ONE – knew that to be true. In fact, it still isn’t true. And it doesn’t matter how many times The They say it – it is not fact that Rachel has any type of mental challenge in the area of nutrition at all.

But her name still came out of people’s mouths like they knew her. And seriously, I hate that.  The same “feel good, don’t judge me if you don’t know me, everyone has their own journey” They suddenly had some personal hotline into the life and motivation of a woman they had never met.

Never met. As in, don’t know, haven’t shared a meal with, no access to schedule, no conversation. In short, no clue about her, where she comes from or what she’s doing.

I bought People magazine because she was on the cover. Don’t judge. I wanted to know what she said. And here it is.

I am proud of my journey and excited for this new life…I’ve never felt better. I keep saying it: I am healthy.

Then rock on baby girl. Rock. On.

The Village doesn’t get my kids until it becomes way less fishy

This article was originally written in September 2007. I am reposting it now as I will make a brief reference to it in an upcoming blog post. And, I kinda wanted Amy to know she wasn’t totally alone.

Topic of parenting came up.  Surprise, I know.  But, the topic was “Make a Difference.”  Really, what did you think I would write about?

family

Rosa, whom I adore, says there is greatness in “it take a village.”  Rosa is right.  Except, when the village is corrupt, you have to know when to tell the village to get out of your house.

Now understand I am not going to claim some moral high ground about what I do and don’t allow in my house.  I like the Sopranos.  I watch it – after the kids go to bed.  Understand I am not telling you how to raise your kids.  I am telling you that I have four daughters – if you think that’s a walk in the park, I invite you to the beauty of my chaos.

Times have changed.  Yes they have.  I love hearing people say that things really aren’t that different from when we were growing up. Are you kidding?  Lohan, Spears, and Hilton make it different.  Why? Because they are not the exception, they are the norm.  Madonna was a shocker.  Girls wanted to be like her because it was rebellious.

Today this is not rebellion – it is not being different or expressing yourself.  Girls understanding their place as sexual beings is the way it is supposed to be.  The media no longer objectifies them – we have come so far that we have taught our children to objectify themselves!  It has become so common that we don’t even notice it when it happens.

Example: Lead actress from High School Musical  decides she’s going to take some bra and panty pictures and send them via email (huh?) to her boyfriend.  They become public (shock!).  Now, I understand she wasn’t naked, is of legal age, and few people outside of the HSM demographic know who she is.  That makes it ok, right? Wrong!  The persona that she portrays is that of a high school girl.  The HSM soundtrack was the number one selling album last year.  Your preteen daughters can dress up like her for Halloween, theme their birthday party, and probably recite the words from the movie.  She was set up in the public as the girl that all other girls should want to be like.

Example:  Music CD’s marketed for children.  These albums take popular songs and have kids singing them.  This makes them kid friendly right?  Wrong!  Just because kids are singing Girlfriend, Irreplaceable, and Lips of an Angel does not make the lyrics any different. They are still the types of songs I can only listen to when my kids aren’t in the car.

Example: Little Mermaid.  This fish has been banned from my home and my kids know it.  Why?  Let me break down the story for you.  Little fish Ariel is turning 16 – that’s right 16.  On the dawn of her birthday party she flounces off to a place her father has forbidden her to go.  During the course of things, she sees this guy (sees not meets) that is obviously not 16.  She falls madly in love (remember being 16).  But, she’s a mermaid and this guy lives on the land.  No problem, evil squid offers to give her legs if Ariel will give up her beautiful singing voice.  It’s a good trade according to the evil squid – Ariel can use her “body language” and if the guy kisses her within three days, she can have her voice back.  So, little fish runs away from home after giving up all her talents to chase after some older guy she has never even met.  The body language thing works, he kisses her, they get married and everybody is okay with this.  Are you kidding me?

Could I go on?  You bet.  Little girls who are dying to own pants with “sweetness” written across the bottom.  Clapped for when they nail they latest dance moves that look a whole lot like pole dancing.  Giggled at when they cop some attitude and use very grown up phrases to disrespect their parent’s friends.  Allowed to use terms like “boyfriend” and “dating” before they even hit middle school.  You bet I could go on.

I love the “it takes a village” in theory.  The accountability, the diversity, the help is wonderful.  But the village has traded it’s one idiot for a marketful and many of us have become so complacent and the methods so common, we don’t even notice it.

I don’t know what the answer is for the village.  Maybe you can offer some suggestions.  For the moment, all I can do attempt to keep it and its fish off my doorstep.

Balance is the New Skinny (and BOTH are overrated)

Since my last post I still haven’t been to the gym (10 days now) or on a run (2 weeks, but who’s counting). I have cancelled a huge race, I have nothing on the calendar, and I don’t know when I will decide to sign up for something else.

Why?

Because I have other shit going on right now.

Life is doing what it always does – changing.

And standing in my kitchen yesterday doing yet another load of dishes, mentally planning an amazingly long Saturday,  attempting to prioritize a million and one things into what I would like to do, what I have to do, and what is required for basic survival (because, let’s face it, that is probably the only thing really going to get done today), I began to once again feel like an utter failure.

bitchfaceI had once again demonstrated that, as a woman, I was lacking. I had lost my “balance.” Which is awesome, because really, who doesn’t need One. More. Thing. to feel inadequate about.

Screw that. I put on my bitchface (evidently this is the new “big girl panties”) sometime ago and made a beautiful discovery.

I. Am. A. Good. Person.

In fact, I am pretty effing cool. Sure, I have my flaws, my points of weaknesses, my low points in history, current errors in judgement that I need to tender apologies for, and areas in which I can learn and grow. But, overall,

I. Am. A. Good. Person.

So, while I am open to improvement and growth, I will not entertain ideas of lacking. I am working really hard to be comfortable in my own skin. I decided standing right there in that kitchen, “balance” was just as likely to be the culprit as my moral fortitude. It deserved to be judged for merit as intensely as I did. And damnit, I chose to let “balance” go first.”

Mark-of-the-mindI have come to realize I have been looking for balance my whole life. Learning to walk, ride a bike, skateboard – balance has been the purposed goal, the need for accomplishment.

One of my most scarring childhood failures was my inability to ever do a cartwheel. To this day, I have never been able to do one. As a little girl, this can be devastating. For me, it was.

Now in adulthood, womanhood, most particularly, motherhood, we are taught that balance is key. You have to find it, own it, wrestle into your masterful submission, then take pictures of that shit in action so that you can instagram it and post it on pinterest like the grown up version of a girl scout badge sash.

Then we must compare ours with others to make sure we are doing it right with the right ratios. Are we taking enough time for ourselves (because that’s what strong, independent women do), while still making our spawn the center of the universe (because that’s what good mommies do), while personifying the wife of the century to our beloved (because that what good wives do), in between which we go to school, excel at out careers, be vigilant friends, sisters, daughters, nieces, save baby whales, and vow to single handedly destroy big pharma, big government, big business, and big asses.

Seems reasonable. All you need is…balance.

And if you can’t manage it, you are the one lacking because balance has all the answers. It is perfect in its design, ability, motive, and quality. It is the belle of the ball and you are the little ash covered girl beaten into submission by stupid half wits with only mice to help you out.

Nope, I think, for me at least, balance, the illusion of balance, the effectiveness of balance, has gone the way of skinny – shit that has been promoted around me my whole life as the ideal, the way to greatness, that really is completely and totally unattainable and useless.

minionsI have said before, I don’t need skinny. I need strong and comfortable in my own skin. I like to do physical work. I enjoy chopping wood, pushing a lawn mower, building a shed. I like carrying my own boxes, lifting my own children, opening the new jars of jelly. I like the way my muscles look and the way The Dude looks at me still, after 16 years and 4 kids, STILL looks at me. That comes from strong – not skinny.

I like that life can throw some crazy stuff at me and I can adjust. I can rework a schedule, tear down here, build up there. I can totally remove sections knowing that they will be there when I get back and take on less than desirable tasks knowing I won’t have to do them forever.

I don’t need balance. I need confidence.

For about two seconds I let this idea of balance rob my confidence. Okay, maybe 2 minutes. But the verdict is in. April may have some improvements to make, but this is not one of them.

P.S. I AM (barring some crazy development) going to the gym tomorrow. Wish me luck 🙂

Boots, Malware, Schnitzel, and Monarchs (weird, huh?)

I keep getting this stupid little bug in my browser. It changes my homescreen, my search engine, and randomly opens weird ass tabs with stuff I never looked for, asked for, or searched for. It is irritating.

But everything has a purpose I think. And trying to get to this blog today (and too tired to remove the little bug from the browser), the little bug decided that, while I thought I wanted to actually GO to the blog, what I REALLY wanted was to search Bing for the blog.

Whatever. It’s one more click and I am too tired to give a shit.

And this is the way my little neglected blog showed up on Bing.

Bing results

And I just couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.

Jerry MaguireUnderstand I don’t expect you to follow all of this. I haven’t been on a run in a good many days. I haven’t been to the gym in 5. My brain isn’t the most organized and functional places right now.

But this is also not the 2am, bad pizza, Jerry Maguire epiphany either. Okay, maybe it is – except I have had a full night’s sleep (as relatively as that can be called with 4 children), and a cup of coffee. So, there’s that.

This was not the post I sat down to write. If it was, you would be watching this awesome clip.

Ok, you can watch it anyway – but we will have to come back to it’s point at a later date.

I really wanted to write something this morning – mostly because I haven’t written anything in weeks.

That’s a bullshit reason to do anything, really.

The truth is I really wanted to write what I wanted to write this morning and not some warped version of what I thought I was supposed to write.

It’s why I can’t make money at it. Why my freelancing gigs never work out. Why I have felt the need to reinvent, segment, redesign my online writing space too many times to count anymore.

I just want to write what I want to write.

Sometimes it is about me whether you think it is or isn’t…and some times it

Just. Isn’t. About. Me.

Sometimes it is about you whether you catch that fact or not – and sometimes, it

Just. Isn’t. About. You.

And sometimes there is more to the story and irregardless of schools of thought on internet transparency or openness, my southern upbringing trumps social media guidelines. Tacky is still tacky – virtual or not – and I won’t have it.

And sometimes the story is edited because it just makes for a better damn story. I mean seriously, who wants to read the normal version of how pancakes get made? Or the full conversation between children? No one. Just tell the story as it mostly happened.

And at the end of the day, I just want to write what I want to write. And this search screen, as crazy as it sounds, insisted that I do just that.

The woman in those images works hard, loves life, and has made some pretty positive changes to become a better person.

That woman has a lot of love, a beautiful family full of wonderful children.

That woman has no idea why in the hell a picture of a boot showed up – could it be any more out of place? But, as fate would happen, this woman does have moments of feeling totally and completely wrong for the situation.

And then there is my cute little facebook page. As you are probably aware, when you create a facebook page, you have to choose a page category (i.e. book, music, person). Within that, there are subcategories (i.e. musician, author, politician). And there, at the end of my little search blurb, is my choice – monarch. There is a whole post brewing about that decision. Until then, feel free to speculate.

And then there is the blog link – Tan Toes, Strong Woman. How I thought long and hard over a way to succinctly attempt to describe myself. Have you ever attempted to break yourself down to a bumper sticker? Not part of yourself, not the family, or job, or hobby, or spiritual side of yourself – but your whole self? You should try it…it is very enlightening.

As you can see from the blurb, the tagline I created for my blog is “Life, Love, Faith, Family, Fitness, Fun.” I guess I could have added doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles and wrapped it up with brown paper and a few of my other favorite things.

But don’t you love how in the link, in the big blue letters, the main thing stays the main thing? I haven’t written very often on that blog because, well honestly, I just haven’t felt very healthy. I don’t particularly feel very fit. The whole of it has lost a bit of it fun. And who wants to read about that?

Moreover, doesn’t a detraction from that render the blog “off topic?” Is it a bait and switch for the readers there? I thought so. I didn’t write.

But like the boot, sometimes the out of place is completely appropriate.

And like the monarch, I am the freaking “Queen Bee.” (New readers stick around – that’s a joke more than a bitch statement, I promise. Seriously, I can provide references! While I am feeling a bit bitchy, and there is a tinge of that there, really, you were really just supposed to laugh just then.)

Then, to cap the whole thing off, the rest of the link blurb proves without a doubt that my blog has been infected by some type of malware, which I totally obliterated so that the search would revert back to it’s appropriate Knockaround Guys, 500 self.

Knockaround Guys Search (Sorry, I gotta post that again…indulge me).

And that’s okay too…malware…as is my blog, so should I be. A constant evolution of righting the ship and taking on water. Bailing and sinking. Healing and hurting. Growing and wilting. It is all part and parcel of the beautifully scandalous journey that we take.

And if Jerry Maguire and I wanna write about it in a totally “holy shit” kinda way, then, it is what it is.

Loves.

I am a Person Who Runs

ellen-dory-finding-nemo-2__oPtI think know I have used this Vin Diesel clip from Knockaround Guys before…I will use it again. Truth is, if I could figure out how to use it in every single post, I probably would. I think about this movie clip a lot when I run long. I know most people would assume that Rocky, Scott Jurek, Chris McDougall, or Dory, the Blue Tang fish saver, would be more likely. But no…it is, in fact, this

500 fights, that’s the number I figured when I was a kid.

500 street fights and you could consider yourself a legitimate tough guy.

You need them for experience. To develop leather skin.

So I got started.

Of course along the way you stop thinking about being tough and all that. It stops being the point.

You get past the silliness of it all.

But then, after, you realize that’s what you are.

Running is so much like that. You come up with a goal. That thing that will make you a “real runner.”

And so, you get started.

SavRnR

Savannah Rock ‘n Roll 2012

I saw those folks doing the Inaugural Savannah Rock and Roll marathon. That would make me a real runner. So, I put on my shoes the day after and logged 13.1 on a Monday, alone, with no medal.

I ran that same marathon a year later in under 4 hours. Surely, that makes me a real runner.

I DNF’d a race I could have easily finished. I inflated the serious of a hurt so that folks wouldn’t ask questions. Not real sure where that ranks on the “Are you a real runner” checklist. But I know one thing for certain. I am not the only one who has done it. So, I have owned it, confessed it, and forgiven myself.

Cremator

Cremator 50 mile Ultra 2013

But there is the Cremator, my darling race. That event that feels like home in my heart. It was a turning point, a game changer, if I can use the phrase. So I ran it. It was the best run of my life. I can’t wait to do it again. That must make me a real runner.

I won a race. Little bit of luck to that one as I was not the fastest female out there that day.

But that is how all races go. You run your race because you are really only competing against yourself. You can’t control others. You just do your best and see where that gets you. Certainly that must make me a real runner.

BirthdayHell, my BIRTHDAY party revolved around running. (and beer, but mostly running).

I pick up odd jobs just to keep my race fees from coming out of the family budget. Certainly that makes me a real runner.

I have secured childcare for myself and my crew chief 68 days prior to an event so that we can go freeze our asses off for 24 hours while I run around in circles trying to accumulate 100 miles to get THE Delirium buckle. By God if THAT won’t make me a real runner…

………

The truth is that this isn’t what I sat down to write about.

If I don't write about Mad Marsh...this is all you really need to know...

If I don’t write about Mad Marsh…this is all you really need to know…

I sat down on this morning in a quiet house with an awesome cup of coffee to tell you about some new cool head stuff I learned about during Mad Marsh 50k last weekend. And I still will write about them really soon because, well, I still think they are valuable if not for anyone else but me…and I would like to remember them.

But some where along paragraph 1, I realized something else again (as I think I have realized it a few times). I do, very often, refer to myself as a runner

  • When someone hasn’t seen me since the weight loss and asks, “What are you doing?”
  • When someone who is experiencing mental and emotional challenges and they ask how I cope
  • When The Dude remarks on the youthfulness of my…jeans 😉

The answer is “I am a runner.”

I think that kind of thing can get in some folks’ head (some folks’ = me). And when I have a bad run, or I skip a training day, or I sign up for a ridiculously hard race, I remember all the times I said, “I am a runner.”

And sometimes I feel like a fraud.

The truth is, I am a person who runs. While running may be one of my top five favorite things on the planet, it is still one of a thousand things that I am and do.

We are all runners

We are all runners

To the rising number of people who say to me,

Yeah I am runner too. Well, not like you, but I run.

Let me say this…

I am runner just like you, and you, just like me. Melissa has 1 kid, I have 4, Mrs. Darling has 8. We are all mommas. It’s the same thing. I have doubts and fears and insecurities. I know people who can do things I will never do. They are people who run. I am a person who runs. You are a person who runs.

And we are all just trying to get past the silliness of it all…

No Demons, Just Interesting Spirits

DD mousepad

My new mousepad for my new job 🙂

Dear Readers,

Forgive me for I have failed to write. It has been 2 months since my last blog post. I am sure you will understand or maybe not have noticed at all. I certainly noticed.

So I set out this morning (again) to write something (again) and I found it hard to be really inspired to write about anything (again). However, when The Dude walked in to grab a cup of joe, I must have looked like I could write something.

“You must be writing.”

“No, I would like to be writing.”

“Oh, well you look like you are writing. You have this inspired look on your face.”

“No such luck,” I explain. “I haven’t been inspired in months.”

He considers this thought for a moment and says something very interesting – especially since he has not yet has his first cup of coffee.

“That’s probably not a bad thing. When you write, you are usually exercising some demon of some kind, sorting through something jacked up in your brain. Maybe it’s ok that you have to try a little harder to get it out. Some of my favorite articles have been those you had to power through.”

I thought about that through my next cup of coffee and some Facebook scrolling. The truth is, he is right – but only partly.

Jedi Emily

My Jedi protector…this is most assuredly a post 🙂

I do write for nearly the same reason that I run – it feels good in an amazingly painful way. It is hard. Not everyone can do it. It takes practice and dedication. You have to be somewhat consistent.  All these things wrap up into an activity that feeds my appreciation of my own strength and ability. It keeps my mind right. It makes me feel capable. It helps me to be a better person.

It also tends to be very personal, so I tend to be a bit guarded. I am fairly extroverted (I know, you are shocked). To write about the deepest things requires pulling back the veil. While I may not mind this so much for myself, not everyone in my circle would appreciate that. I am hugely respectful of that.

So, pen does not go to paper, as it were, and I leave those things unpublished.

I am not trying to hide, present a white washed front, or create a superficial image – I am simply trying to be respectful. Besides, if an action meant to exercise demons actually reinforces its power, then what was really the point?

I also am not really good at writing (or running) in pieces. This plays hell with my new schedule. If I can’t lace up shoes and run for an hour, or log in and write for an hour, then I really don’t understand the point. I have a hard time accepting the face that 200 words here, 150 word there will eventually produce the post. I am trying to do better.

The truth is there has been a ton of stuff to write about and sort through.

Delirium confirmation

Yes, I agreed to attempt this…February 2014…83 days

  • I have a new job. And when I say new, I mean NEW. It is unlike anything I have ever done before and it has been a real game changer.
  • I have modified my diet and it is not going as well as I would have hoped – I am still searching for balance.
  • I have signed up for a 24 hour race in an attempt to get the ever coveted ultra marathon runner belt buckle. For a multitude of reasons I am scared shitless. I have 83 days to figure it out.
  • My oldest Little is getting a class ring, and college mailers, and ideas about the future.
  • I have modified my training plan and it most assuredly has its pros and its cons. Again, it is about balance. (I am still using the word “plan” very loosely).

So, I will consider different ways to do different things. And maybe I will write about. No, I will write about it because that is what writers do. But maybe it won’t take 2 months.

100 miles...24 hours

100 miles…24 hours

 

 

September 11th

Navy Flag**This post is a combination and editing of previously written accounts.

I considered not writing anything today. Considered the idea of blank space in honor of this day, September 11th.

Decided that was a bad idea.

I don’t think that honor is given in blank spaces. Honor lives in the action of what we do next to build upon what they did first and on what others continue to do today.

Department of the NavyI remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was teaching a group of new Navy Sailors how to be Electronic Technicians in Great Lakes, Illinois. My cell phone rang. I didn’t typically keep my phone on during instruction, but today was the exception as my husband was taking our daughter to the dentist for an involved visit.

“Baby!” I hear on the phone. “You are never going to believe what just happened.” The first plane had just hit.

I put the class on break and went to the faculty room. We were all around the television when the second plane hit. Not good.

By the time I had regained my class in the room, minor panic had taken hold. It was obvious the accident was intentional. What would be done about it was yet to be seen.

“Are they gonna let us out early?” The question from a young Sailor surprised me. Then I realized – they didn’t understand.

“No,” I replied. “In fact, we may double up the schedule to graduate you early. This is why you are here. This is when your job starts.”

A day to remember, to reflect, to honor. Not in a passive way. But in a “this is when my job starts” kind of way.

CV 67The size of this day is almost too much. One almost cannot even begin to comprehend it when taken in its entirety. I won’t even attempt it. I honor of all those affected by that day, I want to thank those that impacted my life directly.

The base was put on lockdown. We were instructed that those of us who lived in military housing with our families would need to put a plan together immediately to evacuate them. The fear was that our chance of being a target was great. We were right outside of Chicago and the home of the largest Naval training facility.

Madison was 4 and Savannah was 2 months old. Mark and I decided that should the call go out to evacuate, the three of them would go home to Georgia. I would try to get home as soon as I could to help him pack.

I had just been promoted and they had not updated my ID card. This meant my ID and my uniform did not match. Usually not a big deal – but this was no where near “usually.” My superior officers decided it was best if I went home and did not attempt to come back on to the main base until a runner could bring me the necessary paperwork.

By the time I got to base housing, there were big concrete barriers blocking all the entrances except one. The main entrance was also equipped with these same barriers forming a maze forcing those who entered to do so slowly. The guard shack was manned with armed security forces. This would be the norm for a long time to come.

The order never came to evacuate our families. I was thankful. Although I was the military member, I always feel safer when Mark is around. After a while, we attempted to regain some sense of a normal routine.

The first time Madison saw the guards at the entrance, she was bewildered. The second time she had questions. Why were they there? Where had they been before? Why do they have guns? Is it because of the planes?

As I am sure many of you know, explaining the events of September 11th to a 4 year old is not easy. Tip toeing on truth and appropriateness while maintaining a delicate balance of awareness and safety is no small feat.

Yes, they are there because of the planes. They have guns to make sure that bad folks can’t hurt you. They are here to help Mommy and Daddy keep you safe.

“Sure does look like they are cold out there,” Madison commented. She was right – they sure did look cold. We brought them coffee that they wouldn’t take. Of course they wouldn’t – I knew better. It’s a security precaution. But, Madison was satisfied that they were okay out there, and they knew we appreciated them.

We really appreciated them.

These guys protected my home with force and at the risk of life. Seems dramatic now, but the fear was very real then.

They did more than stand watch at the gate of housing, they guarded the gate of my baby’s fear. Mommy and Daddy would never let anything happen to her or her new baby sister, and these guys were going to make sure of it.

Thank you to all the men and women who stood watch outside of Great Lakes housing. You kept my family safe. Thank you to all those who continue to stand watch around the world. You continue to provide that safety. You are supported and appreciated.

Labels, Vegan, and Being April

PhotoGrid_1378733512368There is just no way I can bring myself to write a post about how my decision to veer from the vegan journey was born from some  enlightened realization of the oppression of labels and the need to categorize oneself. We all have labels, we all need labels, it’s the way we understand others and ourselves. While the labels may be fluid and have exceptions in the fine print, they are still important to finish the sentence “I am…”

More importantly, a post like that simply wouldn’t be true.

Towards the end, I liked being “vegan.” I wanted to remain being “vegan.” I still want to want to be vegan.

It was an amazing lifestyle. I felt wonderful. There is not another method of consumption that has ever come close to making feel wonderful – for a time.

But, feeling wonderful isn’t enough. I want to BE wonderful. I want to BE April.

And now, before we get off on the topic of “see this is why extreme/fad/trendy diets don’t work” and “haha I told you no one could really live without bacon,” let me go ahead and weigh in on those two things…

  1. It did “work.” I learned new things about how to fuel my body. I learned what types of food make me feel great and which others are going to require some planning for how I am going to feel the next day. I dropped all that weight. I changed some really serious eating habits. I knocked down some food addictions. I connected with some really cool people. I learned great new recipes. I introduced my kids to some new ideas. I learned a lot about how to eat out in a healthier way. I am starting to think I should just do a whole post on this. If that doesn’t fit a definition of “work,” I am not sure what would have.
  2. Bacon was not my turning point.

The truth is, I just want to be April.

I realize that at some point I will have to put together a cohesive thought on this Happiness Project business. Unfortunately I don’t have one yet. But I do understand why Gretchen’s first commandment for herself (Be Gretchen) will be mine as well (Be April).

I read a ton of posts on a regular basis that often have great ideas, uplifting thoughts, insight, and inspiration. However, so often I find myself thinking, “Why do they feel the need to over justify?”

That is what I do not want to do here. I don’t think I did it with the original post that started this whole thing. That was a real moment with real feelings and resulted in some pretty real action.

www.happiness-project.com

www.happiness-project.com

But I don’t live in a vacuum. And the truth is things change; they evolve. And Gretchen (who I am seriously crushing on right now if you haven’t noticed) hit a cord with me…

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
~Voltaire (via Gretchen Rubin)

I am not going to be a perfect vegan. I would love to be one. But that won’t make me happy.

While it is a good and noble way, makes me feel fabulous, and keeps my waist amazingly slim, it does some not so great things too.

I blame MasterChef.

This post happens to have been written on our 14th wedding anniversary :)

This post happens to have been written on our 14th wedding anniversary 🙂

I love to cook. No, actually, I love to watch my husband thoroughly enjoy himself eating what I cook. And, if I do say so myself, I am pretty damn good at it. The family in general enjoys great cooking shows and they are pretty convinced I can recreate anything we happen to see there. That makes me happy.

In turn, my husband has a few amazing tricks in his own grilling hat that he pulls out from time to time. He gives him great joy to be able to take over the cooking duties for the evening, give me a break, and fulfill my love for great food. That makes him very happy. That makes me happy.

Perfect is a great enemy of that good.

So losing vegan makes me happy. Retaining some of the great stuff I learned also makes me happy. Finding a great balance between the two sounds like a great happiness project resolution.

Because I will still eat the hell outta these!!

Wet heads, Judgments, and People of Walmart

One Does Not Simply - one does not simply gallivant around with a wet headYesterday I sent the two littlest Littles to school with wet hair. Okay, so it wasn’t sopping wet. We did manage a few minutes of blow dryer on each. But it was definitely what one would call “wet head.”

I can’t begin to tell you the amount of guilt and embarrassment that threatened to overwhelm me. In my upbringing, one simply does not gallivant around with a wet head. It just isn’t proper. It is a sign of well, bad upbringing.

As I looked at my damp children, I wondered how many people would see them before their hair dried naturally and think, “Those poor children, sent to school with damp hair. Their cleanliness must of been just a passing thought. Probably the first bath they have in days. Momma probably sleeps until noon on a regular basis and I bet they had to fix breakfast for themselves. Wonder if their homework is done. With hair like that, that’s probably one of three outfits they own, last year’s backpack. Hell, I bet that cute little monkey lunchbox is empty or filled with Poptarts, Cheetos and a YooHoo!”

I never said I was rational. But don’t discount the whole concern as total paranoia either. The concern has merit. I know because I am learning that my warped thoughts – those private, deep seeded, crazy ones – are pretty damn normal and shared by too many people to be considered abnormal.

But I reminded myself of what was true. The truth was we had just spent Labor Day weekend at Tybee Island. Because of my work schedule, the car situation was such that it was easier to just get up super early Tuesday morning and head straight to school. By the time we all got back in our house Tuesday evening, we were exhausted. Morgan fell asleep before dinner which also meant before bath. If I had to bathe Morgan in the morning, I was just going to do the same for Emily.

In other words, I knew wet heads were not the product of a disheveled, dysfunctional, poor planned morning (although I have been known to have them). It was the result of a marvelous weekend that left the whole family spent of energy and deliciously worn out.

I kissed them, hugged them, and smiled at all that wet hair, proud of what it meant and deciding to screw worrying about what anybody else thought.

Total Mommy win.

happinessprojectAs you may know from my Facebook page, I am kinda excited about Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.” You’ll be shocked to know (I swear HTML needs a <sacrasm> tag) that I plan on starting one myself. This little encounter is going in there somewhere as it spawned another thought.

I spend a whole lot of energy worrying about the judgement of others and it does not make me happy

The wet head brain jack sparked ideas of all the other times I worry about what people think.

  • When I go off plan and consume animal (yes, it happens) do folks think I am hypocritical? Do they understand that I just find it important to be gentle with myself and sometimes it makes me and my family a bit happier?
  • When I am raising my voice at the children in public, do they think I am a horribly out of control mommy? Or do they realize that this is probably the eleventy BILLIONTH time I have said the SAME THING?
  • When my kids behave like bat shit crazy heathens, do they think that I am a momma that lets them behave however they want and lacks discipline or regular instruction?
  • When I go a week without a run (like now), do I appear unmotivated and lazy? Or is it understood that sometimes I am tired, overworked, or yeah, unmotivated and lazy?
  • When I look like ever loving hell when I do make it out on a run and the cute little chick passes me all bouncy, does she judge my ability as sucky and unpracticed? Or does she consider the idea that while she has just started, just maybe I am wrapping up mile 30?
  • When I got to Walmart looking like People of Walmart, am I automatically lumped with the likes of Mama June? Or do folks consider that maybe I haven’t slept in 2 days, have a sick kid at home who has puked for the 15th time, and I just need a bottle of wine, children’s motrin, and some Pedialyte?
The littlest Littles WITHOUT a wet head :)

The littlest Littles WITHOUT a wet head 🙂

These thoughts and many like them, suck the happiness out of my day. They make me feel unmotivated, incapable, and, in short, paralyzed. Worse, they compel me to try and figure out ways to make sure folks know about the events that led up to this seemingly unput together mess.

In fact, I should probably apologize now to all the poor souls who had to hear about my broken flip flop at Emily’s Open House. But seriously, knowing my love of my own bare feet, of course everyone thought I was walking the halls of the elementary school shoeless on purpose and judging me. Right?

Wrong.

And this thought brought me to an idea that is worse in my mind than the fact that it makes me unhappy.

Feeling this way makes me think less of other people for things that I imagine they have done. They haven’t even actually screwed up yet and I have already indignantly attributed to them a laundry list of self righteous and judgmental behavior that they probably have not even had.

How grand assholio is THAT!?!

So Gretchen, I will keep your Commandment #5 and resolve to apply it to both others AND myself.

Be polite and be fair

I will also offer you one of my own “Secrets of Adulthood”

There are plenty of real asshats in the world. I don’t need to go create imaginary ones.

Inward Comfort, Outward Things

**Sections originally published June 22, 2007

Fun Office SuppliesOk, so yesterday, I made quite the declaration of hardness when it comes to the metaphysical. I do believe in God, an afterlife, and occasional oddities…but general mystic stuff just ain’t my thing. I am not real sure if I think that it works, if it is just a placebo effect of things that could have been accomplished if you had just done the work, or something I just put off.

But, I know I believe in intellectual honesty. I also know I believe in the growth and evolution of self. So, in honor of those things, I feel it necessary to acknowledge the fact that there is one area where I am already completely comfortable with, if not addicted to, the facade of the placebo.

I totally dig on comfort items.

  • Right now, I am drinking Chocolate Velvet coffee – not because it tastes good, but because it feels good.
  • When I was in the Navy going through the 2nd hardest school they had to offer, I, the squared away, had the matching Winnie the Pooh notebook and pen.
  • Before I deployed, I bought a pretty purple pen because it made me smile.
  • I own 4 Webkinz myself because they make me giggle.
  • I have a favorite coffee mug (which the Chocolate Velvet Coffee is in right now).
  • I will start having my husband light up the fireplace too early in the fall.
  • I have a favorite blanket.
  • I have footy pajamas.

They say confession is good for the soul – so, couple this with today’s affirmations and I should be unstoppable!

2013 Update

I still believe firmly in comfort items. When someone (usually my beloved) says, “that’s all in your head,” I think to myself, “Well, where else does it need to be??”

  • IMG_20130902_130514_532_20130902130954006I now drink black coffee…and it still feels good
  • I have an overall passion for office supplies
  • I am a sucker for Minions
  • I have a coffee mug collection (and have begun to switch some out becasue they don’t make me quite so happy anymore)
  • Still love a good fire (although I do not hope for the cold)
  • I have swapped out a great blanket for awesome socks
  • And I still love comfy pjs

Screenshot_2013-08-21-13-51-57-1Regardless of the changes, edits, updates, gains, and losses, I still believe in the power of positive emotion. Maybe that warm fuzzy is all in my head…but it sure does light up my heart 🙂