Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Legs" the Elf and the Holiday Smack Down

I've never been comfortably able to wear a cute little short skirt. Santa brought me my body, so he's done here!
Tonight, I'm playing Legs the Elf around the house, trying to get things ready presents wrapped. But… we don't have our tree up yet...

And that's where Legs is a big of a moron.

You see, it's the holidays. Christmas Eve, in fact - my favorite day of the year usually.  But instead of waking up excited, it just doesn't feel like Christmas Eve, despite my best efforts. 

I've been stealing moments of joy where I can, but it's been a real challenge to shake the near-constant feeling of disappointment.

Now, I'm willing to admit a certain amount of angst probably has to do the Year of Firsts since Dad passed away. I'm mad that I can't call him and say hi when I went. I'm mad that my mom is miserable.  This time last year, my family was visiting. The tree was up and decorated. The house was filled with goodies and company.

This year, we canceled our party to spend the weekend together. Instead, we spent it working. 

I practically had to pull My Sailor's leg to get him to go to two holiday shows with me, though we had fun both times once he was there. 

 We never finished putting up our Christmas lights.

Our tree is still on the balcony, leaning against a wall.

I never got the bedroom decorated. 

Today, My Sailor and I had planned to go to the gym together, but after waking up, My Sailor opted to go spend some time with his family in the city. I'm not going to make him "choose" between time with me and time with them, but I gotta admit, I'm just a tad offended. See, today he's having fun baking with his niece. Last night, after being shot down when it came to going Christmas light hunting multiple times, I had to basically refuse to sit down in order for him to start baking with me. When all was said and done, we had a good time baking, but it wasn't something he was excited about (though he was a HUGE help when it came to some of the dirty work). 

When My Sailor was wanted to spend time with me, it hasn't been out doing a holiday activity. He's so worn out that it's "Let's sit down and watch something." It just feels like 'another night'.  (I can't blame the guy. By the time he gets to sit down at night, the last thing he wants to do is drive an hour to see Christmas lights. He wants to enjoy just being at home. He deserves that and it's truly endearing, in it's own way.)

When Legs found herself complaining to a DEPLOYED Air Force spouse, who is spending the holidays in Italy, far away from her children and husband, it became clear it was time.

Time for a Holiday Smack Down. 

It went something like this - 

Legs: "But I didn't get to do what I wanted to do before Christmas!"
Smack Down: "Have you flown solo so long that you've forgotten how to be flexible when it comes to others?"

Legs: "But it's Christmas Eve and we're not doing ANYTHING traditional!!"
Smack Down: "Since when has ANYTHING about you BEEN 'traditional'? Besides, you did get to attend 2 shows, your local tree lighting ceremony, and go cut down your tree down. Don't exaggerate. Isn't part of growing a family creating new traditions over time?"

Legs: "But, it's Christmas Eve, My Sailor is home and he chose to change plans at that last minute to not spend the day with me!"
Smack Down: "How often does he have time off to visit with family? Much less during the holidays.  Don't make people choose between family members. Your spouse always loses that game no matter what they choose. Part of being awesome is being awesome to your spouse. Besides, you like flying solo, right?"

Legs: "Well, yeah…some time to myself is nice, but I spend a lot of time alone by circumstance. When it happens by choice, especially around the holidays, it kinda sucks. I expected this to be a big, fun, romantic season since it's our last Christmas without kids, and actually our first Christmas where it could just be the 2 of us getting in some good snuggle time. All of that would be a helpful distraction from the fact that Dad's not around and Mom is miserable. I envisioned strolling through Christmas lights with hot chocolate, taking cute couple self-shots, watching holiday movies together and just enjoying that warm glow of Christmas. We've been so busy, we don't have time to create traditions, much less do any of that. That's not the family dynamic that I want for our family - pulled in so many directions that we put ourselves last.  We've been so stressed, we've been bickering a lot. Yes, I like flying solo, but I don't want to like it to the point where I choose it over company - and I'm very close to that point. I'm starting to see my life the same way I did a few years ago - a great big full adventure that is just lacking one thing - romance. I don't want that."

Smack Down: "Now we're to the heart of the matter. This holiday isn't living up to your expectations. Now, expectations aren't a bad thing, Legs. They are good, healthy, and the product of hope most of the time. All good things. The problem with these particular expectations, Legs, is that they didn't seem to include anyone else's wants/needs/desires. You just expected someone else to want everything you wanted and be excited about going along for the ride. You wanted someone else to feel the way you do. That hasn't worked out, so you're disappointed. You know that flying solo is fun, but you also know very well that it gets lonely. You know what? That's okay. It's okay to be disappointed when things do go as you expect them to or when you don't get what you want. Life rarely gives us either of those. What's not okay is taking that out on other people. Other people have the right to their feelings. So, for tonight, go pour yourself something festive to drink, make yourself salmon for one, and enjoy your flying solo time. Trust me, this time next year you might wish for some peace and quiet."

Legs: "Alright, Smack Down. You have good points. Besides, I'm a Submariner's Wife! I can roll with anything. It's part of the job description, right?"
Smack Down: "Damn skippy. That's the spirit! And, by the way, I think Santa came early, because, damn girl, those legs!"

Legs: (Giggle) "Yeah, you're right. I've got a lot to be grateful for."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Today, I was going to" or A Child's Heart

Bunk Beds for the Kids
Today, I was going to rave about snow. I woke up to a dusting of it, and some thick ice over the ground.

Today, I was going to rave about my lifting. It seems that my back squats are back on track and that I'll definately be lifting more than my body weight by the time the Power Lifting competition rolls around.

Today, I was going to complain about work. It seems there just aren't enough hours in the day. Here I am, working at 1am, and I'll be up in a few hours at it again.

Today, I was going to complain about deadlines. I have an article due in tomorrow (ideally - though my editor is cutting us some holiday slack).  Our bunk beds for the kids were supposed to be delivered... and are still in Oregon...

Today, I was going to complain about the Navy. My Sailor's upcoming schedule, upcoming pay changes (in the negative direction), and the challenges with our upcoming adoption are, well, challenging.

But tonight there is something a lot more important to write about.

There is something a lot more important to call attention to.

Today, I'm asking for ALL my blog readers (ye brave, ye few), all around the globe (yes, I'm talking to you, China, and all my other international readers).... this time, I have a call to arms, people.

Remember this cutie I blogged about earlier in the week?

His family is still at the hospital, waiting by his bedside to try to help him recover from his heart transplant and collapsed lung.

No, he wasn't in an accident. He was just born very very sick. But that didn't deter his forever-family from bringing him home. Fingers and my big brother share the same name. He's a fantastic kid I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet, but hope to when I next get out to the East Coast.

Gotcha Day - August 2012
If there is one thing adopting has taught me, it's the that heart is able to fully engage and embrace situations we never thought possible. Fingers is one of those. With his forever family pulling for him, there's no doubt this kid can go far.

Fingers at his big brother's Marine graduation w/ his entire Forever Family
There's just one problem.

He's still in the ICU.

It seems like when 1 thing goes right with Fingers' recovery, something else goes awry. This time, it seems Fingers had a stroke during all of this treatment. He's lost some motion on the right side, as I understand it. Due to a trick of his anatomy, Fingers has some organs that are flipped flopped. The heart is on the right side of his chest, for example.

So please, do a sister a solid and say a prayer or send some positive vibes or howl at the moon or whatever you do, to send some healing vibes to the East Coast please.

We really need a win this year.

We really need this miracle kid to make it.

I am humbled every day by the challenges his Forever Family faces. I know I can't compare my journey to theirs. This is Fingers' book to write. It's a marathon, not a sprint. But it's also a marathon no parent, sibling (he has 9 of them), or friend can possibly train for.

Hang in there, Fingers...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Becoming Santa" and Trading Fluff for Buff - PROGRESS PHOTOS!

This year, My Sailor and I are running short on time when it comes to preparing our house for Santa. We haven't gotten a chance to get a tree yet, and I doubt we'll completely finish decorating outside this year. We have family coming over tonight and the roof is icey, so I think we'll forgo hanging more lights tonight. In fact, it's supposed to SNOW after midnight! I'm pretty excited about that - even if it means I'll be running the heaters all day long.

With all this Christmasing comes my annual sharing of one of my favorite Christmas goodies that will have you believing in Santa. If you haven't already checked it out from my previous blogs, don't miss this documentary this Christmas.

(Psst... you can see the whole thing for free by clicking here - but I'm buying a copy, since I've watched it about 8 times over the past 2 years.)
No, I don't get paid anything for sharing these things. I only share what I think is fantastic and worth my time. Since it's worth my time, it's worth yours. Trust me. Time is a commodity we don't exchange lighting around here.

Speaking of time and its value...

(I'm the queen of awesome lead-ins today! If you've followed my blog for any specific amount of time - this kind of organized, cohesive thought never  happens...)

Exactly 1 year and 9 days ago, I took my first "before" photos. I knew I was starting something, but I assumed it would be yet another go with Medifast - a largely liquid, super reduced calorie, no carb diet. After a conversation with a co-worker and My Sailor, I opted to sign up with a personal trainer at the YMCA instead.

Since then, I've done my homework and traded in calorie counting for putting better fuel rather than 'filler'. I opt for more natural food rather than processed food 95% of the time. I still enjoy a beer about once a week, and I enjoy a glass of wine almost nightly. I still have some candy when I go to the movies. And I've lost about 7-9lbs since this time last year. But I learned a LOT of very valuable things. Here's just a quick recap of where I've come (more detailed account of the year-in-fitness coming in a later post).



Today - Where did that belly go?!

Sure, it's made my hands look like this...
But I'm not afraid of real whole food anymore.

My go-to-quick breakfast - Full Fat Goat Greek Yogurt w/ local honey and blackberries, and green tea.
 And I'm stronger than I ever dreamed I'd be - and I'm not done yet.

12/19 - Sneaking in a little flexing
NOTHING happens over night. I'm still just an infant when it comes to this journey. It took a SIGNIFICANT investment of time and effort to get this far. But I wanted it baddly enough, got the help I needed, and continue to press on.

I wonder what next years photos will look like...

Latest Gym shirt

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kindling for Winter

Gordon Harvey (a history professor, marathon runner, college department head, triathlete, retired podcaster, and active blogger in the south - seriously, click on either of those links to check out his amazing hard work and life changes that have paid off dividends - he's been one of my constant inspirations for years) once said that even a 'bonk' of a run is "hay in the barn". I think he meant that even if the gas gets into the tank slowly, it's still gas in the tank.

Alright, so I know I just replaced a metaphor with a metaphor, but sometimes things stick. I find myself going back to the "hay in the barn" metaphor when I need to remind myself that every little bit of work done may only seem like a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things, but it's one step closer to the ultimate result.

This year, I have a new metaphor.

2013 was 'kindling for the winter'.

Lots of awful things happened in 2013.

Friends and family remain forever changed by the loss of loved ones, either through death or dissolution. Some for the worst, some for the better. But either way, forever changed.

Family members I never imagined I'd live without, I now do.

Friends moved away.

We've had to restart the adoption process all over again, throwing away over $300 in the process.

My 2nd Cousin, Fingers, fighting to recover from a heart transplant.
Friends and family have been fighting for the lives of their children - children who did nothing to deserve the debilitating circumstances they find themselves in. Everyday it breaks my heart to hear of the new challenges they face - things that they never dreamed in a million years they'd face. I do what I can from a distance, but I share in their feelings of helplessness, shedding what hope I can as we all try to make sense of the inconceivable.

But there are some things,
things that seem dry, shriveled up, dead, and useless,
that are most useful in creating something new.

That is the Kindling.

As much as there were times where I felt so brittle that I'd shatter into a thousand little pieces - there were a million little sparks that held me together.

I've achieved more than I thought possible physically. If you told me last January that I'd be lifting over 100 pounds (today alone it was 235lb deadlifts four times), I would have laughed at you in disbelief. Now, my body has completely changed shape.

I've grown professionally, as a writer this year - even if it resulted in very little published work (yet). It resulted in lots of lessons learned to keep getting better and better.

I participated in my first Strongman Competition, and did really really well.

Evil Twin and his family - Minnie Mouse on Warrior Woman's lap
is fighting a degenerative brain disorder that mystifies doctors,
but quitting is not an option for these guys.
I have found inspiration in my amazing friends and family members who continue to forge ahead in the treatment of their children. They never give up hope, even when faced with the worst. They never throw in the towel. They will never go quietly into that dark night. They will fight with all they have in them. They continue to inspire me.

New friendships have been forged. Those that have moved away inspire me with their courage to start over, or their courage to go home. (Sometimes, that's the hardest thing to do.)

New lives have come into the world.

New destinations have been discovered.  Catalina with my mom and new pieces of Orlando have been discovered.

My relationship with my immedate family has grown stronger, despite the distance. I've seen them at their best, even under the worst of circumstances. Lessons learned years ago have come into play once again, and are openly shared as we hike through the year on our own paths.

Those are the sparks.
Something warm.
Something beautiful.
Something fierce and free.

All it takes is a little bit of kindling and a tiny little spark to have a roaring fire.
So when I look into 2014, I can't help but see that there is a warm fire already building.

Maybe it's the kindling that remind us of just how warm, and how needed, those little sparks are. It's the hard, painful, cold times, that remind us to search for sparks to stay warm. Sometimes the difference between the cold and the warmth is in our perception.

As with fire - all it takes is one spark.
(Bonus points to those of you who catch the Disney references.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Flexibility, Friendship, and a Guest List

Last Friday, Trainer Guy and I fine tuned some of my lifts, as we usually do in the gym. One of the challenges I have, is that I'm really flexible. Sometimes too flexible. These overhead squats were tougher than they needed to be, in part because my shoulders go pretty far back. Sometimes that makes it hard to find a 'sweet spot' and lock out the arms for those moves. 

But more often than not, being flexible has been a 'pro' more than a 'con'. This month so far has been an amazing work out of that. 

I'll spare you the run down of the absolutely crazy schedule that is ramping up around here (we'll just say, the green tea and coffee tend to flow in gross amounts around here lately). But despite all that, I've made some time to catch up with friends and family here and there, beyond the occasional text or Facebook message.

As our 1st annual Holiday Open House zooms up this Saturday, it's been really interesting to note some of my more cherished friendships aren't with people you might expect me to pal around with.

You see, when I was a kid - let's say elementary school aged - I had a very hard time making friends. Being a creative introvert who constantly felt like she was on the outside looking in at the 'party' was a hard thing to shake. I've learned that all experiences happen for a reason though. When I was a kid, a good chunk of my friends were adults. I'd rather have hung out with people 15- 20 years my senior most of the time. Especially when it came to women. Most of my friends in my age bracket through middle school and high school were boys. It probably has something due to the cruelty of kids and my constant search for answers and understanding that made it challenging to relate to girls my own age. But whatever the reason, I find that it's resulted in a wonderfully eclectic group of people in my life.  Many of which have children older than me. But I don't feel like their 'child'. More like their sister.

One great example - take my Strongman Sisters:

None of these ladies competed in my age bracket - but they were all 110% in my corner and cheered me on. They continue to keep me on my toes in the gym.
See The Lady In Grey at the far right? She can out box jump and out run me any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
See Sunshine there in yellow?  She's probably one of the best cheerleaders I've ever met, and inspires me by continuing to be the hero of her own story, despite the obstacles. If she can keep at it, what are my excuses?!

See the Equestrian Queen behind me in black? She nips at my heels (within 5lbs) of my bench press max. She's also adopted several kids in the same age bracket and sibling group idea that My Sailor and I have. We see a lot of each other in, well, each other.

 Even if My Sailor wasn't able to make it that day, I'm sure they would have seen me (and each other) through to the end. Though I'm just begining to know each of their journeys, I count myself lucky to have fallen in with them.
The Lady in Grey, Sunshine, and I at Trans Siberian Orchestra Concert this winter
I also have a fabulous set of friends that are all over the country. Many of them are within 10 years of my age bracket, now. Some are married with kids, some just have one or the other of peice of that equation. I've worked hard at those relationships as our lives go different directions, and meeting up whenever possible is always a lively time.
Halloween 2007 w/ Bon Bon (in case you haven't guessed, I'm the one in green)

2009 with Sistah' Girl (introducing me to my first tequila shot)

2010 Disneyland with Mrs. B.

Mrs. Win and Me in 2012  (Annual Disneyland Trip)

Sharing a drink (literally, that's 1 drink) with Smiley and her main squeeze.

I could go on and on. If you're not specifically mentioned, please don't be offended. (It's probably just because I didn't have a digital photo of us handy.) I usually get along better with men, but friendships are like the tide. They tend to ebb and flow. We're all in different stages of life.

Honestly, I feel there is something to learn from just about everyone I've met. Even people we may find... abrasive.. but there are just certain people I hope rub off on me.

And I'm lucky enough to call them friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"How Badly Do You Want To Pee?" - My Motivational Statement

I'm not great at motivating people to come to the gym. Most of my work outs are with hired help (Trainer Guy) or flying solo. Sometimes My Sailor is along for the ride, but more often than not he isn't. (With his crazy schedule, I can't blame the guy.)

I just generally keep flying the 'bat signal' (as Trainer Guy calls it) and inviting people until they either stop talking to me (because they see the change and aren't ready to make it themselves, or they know I'll invite them on a hike/walk that they really don't want to do anyway and disappearing is easier than actually saying 'no'). Either ya come along for the ride, or ya don't. I'm just me on my own ride, happy for company, but content to fly solo if that's the case.

Not very good traits for someone considering getting into personal training, right?

But, before you write me off, here's my #1 go-to motivational statement.  Let me know what you think. Comment away!

"How badly do you want to pee?"To me, it seems like life is a lot like those"Choose Your Own Adventure" books I used to stay up reading by flashlight in my bedroom well past my bedtime. (For which I was often BUSTED.) Just like the books, there are always unforeseeable factors involved, but, for many things, I get some form of choice.
Let me lay this little "Choose Your Own Adventure" on you -

(For complete effect, run tap water or a waterfall sound effect as you read this.)

You're sitting in a meeting room during a very important meeting. The speaker is showing no signs of letting up soon. In fact, he/she is only 1/2 way through the material. You're sitting and sitting... and that glass of water or cup of coffee/tea is testing the limits of your bladder. You just kind of had to 'go' when you came in, but it's been at least 45 minutes since then and you're bladder is aching, about to explode. You've shifted your weight as much as possible or bounced your leg as much as possible. You're about 30 seconds away from wetting your pants right there in public with your co-workers surrounding you.

What do you do? You have the following options:

A) Pee your pants in public and deal with the fall out.

B) Excuse yourself as quietly as possible.

C) Wait for your bladder to rupture, and deal with the fall out of not only wetting your pants in public, but the embarrassment of 911 being called for you.
(Now, get up and turn off that water or waterfall soundtrack and go to the restroom. It's okay. I'll wait.)

I think it's safe to say that most (toilet trained) reasonable adults would opt for B, given the options in the scenario above.

Pause for a moment and think about why though.

Why wouldn't we want to wet ourselves in public?  We'd relieve the pressure instantly and be done with the pain of an aching bladder. However, it is usually a sign that we aren't capable of taking care of ourselves. A whole new world of experiences open up when a child becomes potty trained. Also, we'd be stuck in these wet, stinky, uncomfortable clothes all day, or the act of changing would significantly disrupt our day. It could also damage our reputation. In the world of social media, little is truly 'private'.  So an adult having an accident is rare. It could also mean that the adult is sick and unable to control his/her bladder - and unable to take precautions for such a scenario. Basically, nothing 'good' comes out of that scenario (unless you want to take revenge on your office chair...). Socially, it's bad news. Professionally, it's bad news. Health-wise, it's even worse news (especially if your bladder ruptures and you have to be rushed away in an ambulance for something completely preventable.)

So...ready to have your mind blown?
Okay, not really. But I firmly believe that people only change under 2 conditions.

Condition #1
They HAVE to in order to survive.

Condition #2
They WANT to more than ANYTHING.

 I'm not talking about the person you know that 'wants to' quit smoking or 'wants to' lose weight or 'wants to' eat better. I'm talking about the person who wants to like they want to go to the restroom. I'm talking about the person who is doing the adult-version of the pee-pee dance because they want the change so much.

Now, that said, no one potty trained themselves.

has a team of 'professionals' helping them along. For potty training, it's usually the parents or guardians. For health related issues for adults, it could be a team of doctors, therapists, trainers, work out buddies, or accountability buddies. There are as many ways to learn and incorporate new healthy habits as there are ways to learn to go to the bathroom. Some parents use stickers or rewards to teach their kids. Others wait it out. Others nag their kids into it. There literally millions of different, creative routes to take, but the goal is the same.

So, don't want to lift weights and cross train like me?
Want to walk your way to wellness?
Want to work out 6 days a week for that oh-so-delicious-'cheat'-day?
Make those work outs count!
Want to swim your way into next summer's swimwear?
Go for it!
Want someone to call you and check on your eating habits?
There are lots of GREAT journal apps and even groups you can go to.

Afraid someone (like me) will 'judge' you in the gym? You're probably right. I'm Human. I will Judge you. But it's not what you think...

Here's me honestly passing judgement.

The more obviously physically challenged you may be, the more inspirational you are to me. I know how badly your feet/ankles must hurt, but you're doing it away. I know how much you worry about others 'staring at you', but you're doing it anyway. I know how you don't think you'll ever get to that magical shape you're dreaming of. I'm intimately acquainted with the shame those that struggle with weight are. BUT you're not letting it get in your way any more.

You're taking care of yourself - doing something no one else can do for you.
You're excusing yourself from your usual routine (exampled by the business meeting) to handle your business (or bladder).

And if you're totally physically fit and powering through a work out, I'm probably looking at you wishing I were that good at pull ups, push ups, running, etc, but knowing that, if I keep working at it, I'll get there.

But I know, deep down, that until you want the end results as badly as you don't want to wet yourself in public, you don't really want it.

So.... How badly do you have to pee?