Why I Exercise

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We all know the benefits of exercise, don’t we? Pretty much exercise is the cure to everything. Yup, everything. Health issues, mental issues (within reason I realize. I’m pretty sure exercise can’t cure schizophrenia so please don’t get mad at me for being insensitive.) Exercise helps with self-esteem, strength, flexibility, the list goes on and on. I really don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it. But that’s another story.

I was never athletic as a kid. In the fourth grade, Mr. Havilland, my gym teacher kept me after class one time because I couldn’t get the basketball in the net. He wasn’t going to let me leave the gym until I made a swish or whatever you call it. I suppose Mr. Havilland might’ve been trying to do something positive. Maybe he wanted me to succeed. Instead, while watching all of my classmates escorted out of the gym and back to class I only wanted to hit Mr. Havilland over the head with the ball or go running from the gym in tears. He only managed to send me the message – I sucked at basketball. And by the way, I never made the shot that day.

In middle school I played intramural softball. I sucked at that too. I could never hit the ball no matter how hard I tried. Because I always struck out my coach put me last in the batting order and shoved me out in right field to pick the dandelions. (I grew up in a time when adults didn’t really care or understood a child had feelings. Heck, my grammar school art teacher had a sticker on her door that read – Children should be seen and not heard.  I mean, really? From a teacher??) Anyway, back to softball. I stunk. But it wasn’t until a year ago I learned my eyes don’t work together all the time.

I have an eye condition called Strabismus Amblyopia. My eyes turned in as a baby and when I was six my eyes were operated on to fix the problem. Which for the most part, it did. I don’t have peripheral vision in my right eye when I look left. Go ahead, try it. Cover your left eye. How far can you see peripherally with your right eye to the left? I can’t do that. I can’t look through binoculars and use both eyes either. (Plus, other stuff I won’t bore you with.)

Now I know my right eye doesn’t always work with my left eye. It’s always been that way, but I can’t tell it’s happening. But what does it cause? When your eyes don’t work together it hinders your ability to hit a ball! So, all those years of striking out on the softball team wasn’t because I was a lousy athlete, it was because my eyes weren’t working properly. Who knew? But I believed athletics were for other kids.

The agreement had been made. I wasn’t an athlete. I hated gym class in high school because I was a slow runner, no one wanted to pick me for their team. And I had a gym teacher who felt it was her duty to point out every chance she had there was a line between those that had been gifted in sports and the rest of us. Like when she’d divide the class up into teams. One team would be all the jocks and they got to play together whatever sport we were doing. The rest of us were exiled to the other team to play amongst ourselves. As if we didn’t know what she was up to. Or she didn’t care if we knew. She wanted the athletes to have a more successful gym class. How fun could it be to have to play with someone who can’t get the ball over the net? Why should the athletes suffer, right? It’s not like gym class is a team building opportunity. Or that high school isn’t ripe with opportunities for judgement, exclusion, bullying. I mean, that crap only happens in the movies, right?

Even though I couldn’t play sports, I loved to exercise. I could be competitive with just myself. I did aerobics in college. When I started working I went to the gym and took the classes there. I also love to dance. (Not good at that either.) But because I love to dance that’s why step classes spoke to me. Exercising was the only time I could be completely free. My mind shut off for an hour. The exercise high took me to the moon. I loved it and wanted more.

Then I found yoga. Well, holy cow. Yoga was a life changer. I felt amazing. Even though there isn’t supposed to be any judgement in yoga, I knew I was good. I could get deep into many of the poses.

But an athlete? Well, no. Yoga wasn’t a “no pain no gain” sport. Is it even a sport? It’s not in the Olympics. But I’ll tell you what, you work your butt off in yoga. I’m confident I could rival some of those athletes during a yoga class. Still, I never thought of myself as an athlete because I can handle crow pose.

Ten years ago I worked out with a trainer. Again, I fell in love. I loved the weights in my hands. I loved the strength I built. Being strong is very important to me in more ways than one. I loved the changes happening to my body. One day the trainer said, “you must’ve been some athlete in school.” I spun my head around. “Are you talking to me?” He laughed. “Of course, you. What sports did you play?” Me: “I wasn’t an athlete. I suck at sports. I was a baton twirler.” Him: “You are an athlete. No one told you.”

And the agreement was broken.

Sure, I exercise for all the health benefits it provides. I exercise because it keeps me nice and my family appreciates it when I’m nice. But the real reason I exercise?

So, I can tell that nine year-old she doesn’t suck at basketball. And so I can tell Mr. Havilland to shove it. I exercise so that middle schooler who so desperately wanted to hit the ball just once knows it’s not her fault. She would’ve hit the ball if her eyes worked correctly.

I exercise for all the times in high school I wanted to hide during gym class instead of being brave enough to run toward the ball and kick it in the goal.

I exercise so I can be heard.

I’m strong and determined.

I am a contender.

I am an athlete.

 

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Sweating With the Oldies

 

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’m one of those weird people who like to exercise. For someone who is Type A, exercise has been a constant companion to me. She cures many of my ailments; such as big mouth syndrome, come down off the ledge illness, and a current favorite; mid-life hormonal combustion.

When my friend, Ella, asked me to join her at a Zumba class, I jumped at the chance. I used to take Zumba all the time, and loved it. I mean, who doesn’t love to dance, destress, and burn a gazillion calories?

The class was filled with everyone from seven to ninety-seven. Okay, maybe not that old, but close. Trust me. I think it’s fantastic to find older people getting up and shaking their groove thing. I plan on being in my nineties, wearing my yoga pants, and doing the hustle across the dance floor. (I also plan on completely turning off my filter, and saying every single non-politically correct thing that comes to my mind! People will think what I say is cute because I’ll be old. That’s what everyone says about my grandmother and her miniskirts.)

There’s a down side to Zumba, though. I can’t work out with my nose pinched closed. I do need to breathe, but with breathing comes inhaling the smell of a skunk in the summer sun. I discreetly checked to see if the skunk was coming off of me, but thank everything that is holy, I remembered to wear deodorant and I had showered earlier that day. I was sweating pretty good, and by the end I was a tad ripe, but the skunk stink was on someone else. And not Ella! Maybe I could do what the ladies did back before showers existed. I can spray a handkerchief with perfume and keep it over my face.

If you’re a single male, and into women, a Zumba class might be a great hook-up place. There had to be forty people in that class and only one of them was a man. Those are some pretty good odds. I thought our guy had to be smart swinging his hips around for the ladies until I found out he stalks women from one gym to another. Then he was just plain creepy. Maybe the skunk was him?

I can’t begin to describe how ridiculous I must look in a Zumba class trying to follow the fancy footwork, but I can tell you this: My lack of skill doesn’t stop me. And when I go to Zumba class I’m Jennifer Lopez. At least in my delusional mind.

About an hour in I felt ten years younger. I thought, look at me, keeping up, recapturing the exercise high I miss because I don’t run anymore, and not an ache or a pain anywhere. Ninety minutes in, I thought, when the hell is this class going to end? The muscles in my back twisted into a tightly woven braid, and my knees ached like a bad tooth. I went from feeling ten years younger to feeling ancient. The ninety year-olds were holding up better than I was.

The class had several instructors. They were all lovely, warm, and friendly. These kooky women wanted to take a picture of everyone together after class. Stinky, sweaty people standing in a huddle was a bad idea. Let’s not forget the skunk! Not to mention, my hair wasn’t exactly picture ready after ninety minutes of sweating with the oldies. I found a clever way to hide, and not touch or get too close to anyone. You know how I sceeve people. Again, not Ella!

All in all, it was a great time. Maybe I’ll get asked to go again. Hopefully, there won’t be anymore pictures. And my handkerchief is ready.

 

 

Joanna Gaines Taught Me a Lesson

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Have you ever watched HGTV‘s show Fixer Upper? Fixer Upper is a home renovation show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. They fix up homes in Waco, TX. Chip is the brawn and Joanna is the design brains and beauty. I’m in awe of Joanna Gaines.

She is a mother of four, has a successful television show, a design business, a bed and breakfast, is a devout Christian and is younger than I am.  I have two kids. Compared to her I’m not really a parent. I don’t have the kind of successful business she has, I don’t feel at home in any religion, and I’m getting older by the second.

I’m not saying I would trade places with Joanna. I don’t know what her life is really like behind the cameras. Her kids might hate that she’s not around or their whole lives might revolve around the business and just once they’d like it to be different. She seems super nice, but maybe she’s a good actress. I don’t want to live on a farm with all those animals. Some days I’m not even sure I want the dog. But she sure does make life look clean, neat, and well-adjusted.

It’s hard not to compare myself to her when the laundry is piled taller than I am, dog hair tumbles across the hardwood floor, the mail needs to be sorted, kids need to be driven to a thousand places (that’s not much of an exaggeration) and I have words to write, clients to appease and appearances to be at. Joanna makes it look easy.

But it ain’t easy. In fact, even as I write this the laundry needs attention, again, I’m out of shampoo, I have to figure out how to grab both kids today at the exact same time from two different places, this blog post has been a thorn in my side for days, I need to write a blog post for my client, and I have a word count for the new novel I must hit. I did manage to brush my teeth, cleanup last night’s dinner, and set the house alarm before I left to go to the Starbucks and write. It’s a win, ladies and gents! It’s a win.

We all know social media and television make life look like it’s all homemade food and hand sewn clothes. It isn’t. Life is messy. I don’t believe half the posts I see from moms who go on and on about how proud they are of their children and how amazing this kid is and this mom can’t believe how lucky they are. Every parent (okay, not every) feels that way about their kid. We all love our children with such a fierceness it could blow up the universe. These same moms also want to pull their hair out of their heads from time to time, imagine a vacation alone on a sunny beach with no one yelling “MOM!!!” and have at some point wondered why they thought being a mother was a good idea in the first place. Oh, trust me, it’s true. (If you don’t have teenagers, don’t weigh in on that comment. Come back to me in a few years. We’ll talk then.) Doesn’t make anyone bad for thinking that. Perhaps our Joanna has glimmered that thought too.

Last night I was talking to a friend who had suffered the rampage of Hurricane Sandy. Long story short, she and her family recently moved back into their home. She’s expecting baby number two and the house isn’t ready, the room isn’t ready, boxes everywhere. I said, “It will all get done in time. Don’t worry about it.”

Why do women feel such pressure to be perfect? Me included. Is it because women before us burned their bras and fought for our opportunities to hold great jobs and raise families and own homes and not need the help of another human being while doing all of this, least of all a man? Or is it because the Joanna Gaineses of the world paint a picture we try to strive for? It would be easier to climb Mt. Everest than keep our stuff together in a picture perfect way without help. Heck, even the climbers of Everest have help. They don’t go to the top alone, why should we?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in this whole it takes a village to raise a child business. No, your child is your responsibility. You raise him or her. The occasional car pool is one thing, but the constant watch my child so I can work and go on vacation in Disney mumbo jumbo doesn’t fly with me. Sorry, my opinion. (Before someone goes nuts, I’m not referring to the single mother working three jobs and living in a studio apartment trying to make ends meet. She needs the help. So, help her.)

But it is okay to say, I can’t do that right now. I can’t volunteer for one more group, or wash the car, or dinner is just going to have to be cereal. It’s okay to say to our partners, I need your help with the kids, the food, the horses, the bodies I’m trying to bury. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Our home, children, job, and appearance don’t have to be perfect. And while we’re busy perfecting all these things we’re forgetting to better our souls. We should strive for more kindness, compassion, and generosity. We need to perfect our listening skills, because as a former Speech, Theater, Commmunications major I can tell you with assurance listening is a skill that can be learned. We need to experience things that make us feel better. Yoga, long walk in the parks, sunsets, coloring books, laughter.

When our souls are running over with warmth and peace we’ll be the better mother, wife, friend, business woman. Then and only then can we become the Joanna Gaineses of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Being Older Irrelevant?

23917309952_de5cbd4619_kI miss being young. I don’t miss everything about it, but I long for the time when my entire future was out in front of me. When I had every possibility in the palm of my hand like the first snowflake of the season.

There are certainly plenty of years still ahead of me and every day my eyes open is another opportunity to accomplish all I’ve wanted to. But those years of being young were simpler times. I miss the ease in which the days passed only bombarded by the trivial mishaps being a teen brings. Of course, there isn’t a teen on the planet that will tell you their lives are easy and I was no different. It is only with the filter of age and time that we can look back at the rough edges of teen life and see only the soft smooth picture that remains.

Things that were important then no longer matter now. I suppose what matters to me today will not matter five years from now either. Or perhaps matter less. The present moment leaves its sting like no other.

If I knew then, walking the halls of my small high school the smell of wax, cooked food and sweat in my nose, what I know now, I would have made different decisions. Not all the decisions. Some were good ones, but others I wouldn’t do again. Even armed with knowledge I’d be bound to make mistakes. We can’t eliminate risk all together though I’ve certainly tried often enough.

There is a level of fun associated with being young that no other time in our lives allows for. Somewhere along the path while I wasn’t paying attention fun slipped away. It wanted to play hide and seek and I was too busy to join in. Shooing it away, telling it to come back later. Fun has found a younger person to play with now.

I may miss being young because our society reveres youth. We disregard the older generation as passe; a burden to contend with. Their stories are thread bare and time wasters. Their skin folded and creased with years of living and not smooth and firm and dewy. They are easily manipulated, not adept with technology. They walk too slowly, drive badly, can’t hear or see you. We are told to fight getting older as if years of wisdom is a war to battle instead an honor to bestow. Society has decided an air brush yields more power than knowledge.

My class reunion is next year. I’m looking forward to it. Many people aren’t interested in returning to the place where they had pimples on their skin, awkward words stuck in their mouths, and two left feet. I think I want to go just to be near the people who knew me when I was young. It was with these people I grew up. We hear music that transports us back to football games on Friday nights, we remember parties on the beach, we wore clothes in neon colors and jeans washed in acid, we read books about children locked in attics and scary clowns. We went to movies on Monday nights with a date.

These were the people in my life long before I had teenagers of my own. My classmates don’t think I’m wrong because I’m old and out dated. Won’t tell me I don’t understand them because they know I was once that age. They won’t roll their eyes at me when I share my memories because those memories are theirs too. My stories aren’t boring and tired because they played a roll in them.

I am not young. That burden is for someone else to carry now. I need to read with glasses when the light is dim, I have eliminated cheese fries from my diet, I hung up my baton a long time ago. I am older, wiser in some ways. I have done some living and have plenty more to do. I have a lot to learn because the older we get we realize we don’t know everything. But I will tell you this:

I am not irrelevant.

 

25 Ways To Relieve Stress

I’m not a drinker. Never was. You can ask the people who’ve known me for years. They’ll tell you. It’s a control thing. Since we all know I’m a control freak, alcohol can get the upper hand and I don’t like that. Plus I hate the way alcohol tastes. Yup, I said it. It’s bitter and gross. Not for me. Not to mention wine gives me a migraine and beer, even one, can make me sick. I must be allergic to an ingredient. It’s never been worth it to me to drink. Why waste the calories?

But I understand why people do drink. If you’re having a bad day, week, month, year and you need a quick way to untie the knots in your shoulders a glass of wine will do it. There have been many times recently I wish I did drink. I’d like something to take the stress away without me breaking a sweat to do it. I’m having one of those moments right now. (And I already worked out today) So instead of drinking I’m going to blow my calories and maybe ease my stress with the one thing I do like.

cookieI’m sure I’ll hate myself later.

As I write this, I don’t know if I should vent out my stress here for all of you to read (honestly, I’m not a good sharer like that) or educate us on ways to relieve stress, but we know them, don’t we?

  1. Pray
  2. Meditate
  3. Exercise
  4. Sit with nature
  5. Listen to calming music
  6. Take a drive
  7. Scream at the top of your lungs
  8. Take a bath
  9. Call a friend who makes you laugh
  10. Read (big one for me)
  11. Play an instrument
  12. Write
  13. Paint
  14. Get a massage, a pedicure
  15. Shop
  16. Cry
  17. Walk on the beach
  18. Help someone else
  19. Jump on a trampoline
  20. Roll down a hill
  21. Watch a baby discover his toes
  22. Smell freshly cut grass (unless you’re allergic)
  23. Roast marshmallows over an open fire
  24. Eat chocolate
  25. Chase rainbows

I have my Healing Music playing. I’m sitting outside watching the trees push the breeze around. The sky is clear, deep blue marked by fluffy, clouds of cotton. The cookie is half-way gone. I barely remember eating it. What’s next?

Another moment. Another chance to catch my breath. A quiet place to read a book. Tomorrow, hopefully.

If I was smart, I wouldn’t get stressed out. In the grand scheme of things, nothing is that bad. Challenging at times, but manageable. I have what’s important. The rest I should surrender. When do you think I’ll learn that lesson?

Not before the cookie is gone, I’ll tell you that.

So, how do you relieve stress? I’d love to hear from you.

Driving In Cars With Boys

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Courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Okay, it should really be, driving in a car with a boy. My boy. Noodge 1. Noodge is taking an SAT prep class this summer. After much research the Coffee King and I decided on one about thirty minutes from our house. Just about everything is thirty minutes from my house. After five years of living in the country, I’m starting to get used to it.

Anyway, today we were getting on the highway and traffic was backed up on the on ramp. Traffic is bad at rush hour in NJ, but this was really bad and sure enough there was a tractor trailer on fire and we were being rerouted.

Thank God for technology and my kid. He navigated the Waze app and I navigated the roads. They were long, windy, and bumpy. Wherever we were driving was way more country than I was used to. No worries, I can handle this.

Until we came to a downed wire. Some crazy people were driving under it. I turned around and went back the way we came not sure how to get back to the highway or to the school with the SAT class. But, technology served us again and with a little guidance from my co-driver, we took more windy, curvy, bumpy, and frighteningly small bridge roads.

Then there was a police officer blocking our way. We’d been in the car for close to if not over an hour by now. I was starting to get the feeling the Universe didn’t want us to get to the class. Far be it for me to argue with the Universe.

So we headed for home. And when I was finally back to an area I recognized I was behind a very large construction truck doing 25 in a 50. My patience had worn thin. I wasn’t handling things so well any longer. We know I’m not a patient person, (number one flaw besides being judgmental) and I hate driving in cars for too long. I expressed my feelings about the slow driving truck out loud. (Big mouth, third character flaw.)

Noodge 1 said, “You sound angry.”

The child is spot on. Scary really.

Me, “I hate driving in cars and we’ve been in the car for an hour and a half.”

Him, “But you got to spend time with me.”

Shut up. Feel badly. Mommy guilt. How could I be so stupid and when am I going to learn to shut my mouth? (Considering my age, probably never sadly.)

He was so right and I hadn’t thought of it that way. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with him and try to tell him that every chance I get. Plus, he’s the kid that lets me hug him unannounced and I take full advantage of that.

But I shouldn’t have become angry at the truck driver even if he was driving like a putz. I should’ve taken a big deep breath and thanked the Universe for saving us from some horrible event and for getting a full hour and a half with my kid. Uninterrupted. No video games. No earbuds.

I quickly apologized for my misstep and thanked him for being my navigator. He’s also the kid that doesn’t hold a grudge, so I was forgiven in a quarter of a mile. But lesson learned. Be grateful for what you have and never mind the rest. It wasn’t wasted time getting a tour of the hills of New Jersey it was quality time with Noodge who will be going off to college in two years and driving around with others instead.

Don’t resent cooking dinner. It means we can afford to eat. Don’t hate doing laundry. It means we have clothes to wear and I don’t have to go to a laundromat to do them. Don’t hate running the vacuum because I have the strength to do it. Don’t worry that your bathroom isn’t updated. At least we’re not peeing outside. Don’t worry that I’m not a best selling author. I have the privilege of spending my days writing and the health that allows me to sit at a desk and type. You get me?

So, how about you? What are you grateful for? What do you toss aside as a nuisance that you can turn into a blessing? I love to hear from you. You, my faithful reader, I am grateful for too. For without you, how would I spend my time besides driving in cars with boys.

The Journey to Bliss: A Detour

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Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Virginia State Parks

I recently read a blog post from Writers Unboxed about letting our creativity rest. It’s a wonderful blog written by a large list of writers for writers about the craft, the business, and the life of writers. If you’re a writer and don’t follow it, I suggest you do. Just the posts from Donald Maass alone are worth hitting the subscription button. (If you don’t know who he is, click on his name. You’ll be impressed. I promise.)

I recently went through a period of not writing. I’m not sure I’d call it a “rest” because I didn’t choose to stop. It was more like a detour. My life became stressful and the voices in my head that feed my work just dried up. I had nothing to say. And was beginning to realize no one was listening anyway. My friends and family told me the inability to write was understandable with all that was going on. One insightful friend said, “three books in three years. You deserve to rest.” Others said be patient (not something I’m good at) the voices would come back. It was over a month before I wanted to sit at my computer again. I didn’t stay there long. Words stretched and yawned reluctant to throw the covers off. The desire to sell my work stayed in hibernation. I had to take a detour whether I liked it or not.

The thing is I’m afraid to take time away from my writing. I haven’t made my full dream come true. I’ve published three books, but they aren’t selling because I haven’t handled that part of my business correctly. I feel like a failure. And a part of me thinks if I stop, if I don’t produce I’ll never have the readership I want. It’s a voice on a loop, “you must write. you must do more. Learn more. Read more. Be more.” Why am I so obsessed with more? Why isn’t what I’ve done enough? Why can’t I take another route, and enjoy the warmth of my accomplishments as the sun streams through my open sunroof?

Is it because I think time is running out? And time resting is time wasted. My father-in-law asked me once if I ever sat down. The Coffee King will tell you, I hate naps. I also hate getting lost. Detours are not my friend.

But I couldn’t force the words. They would awaken when they wanted to.

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Photo Courtesy of Flckr Creative Commons Kate Ter Harr

I let the words lie and tried other things. I read more. A lot more. Genres I didn’t normally read. I colored. I exercised and caught up on some television shows. I sat at my computer and waited for the voices to tell their story. And they did. Slowly.

I’m writing again. It’s different than the other times. I’ve outlined the entire book in more details than I’ve ever used for an outline. I still worry the words will elude me because my word count is low for the time I’ve put in. I worry the story isn’t good enough and no one will like it. I feel the loop of “more, more, more” creeping into my brain, but I can tell it to pull over and turn off the engine once in a while. Not often and not for long, but it’s better than running out of gas on the Parkway.

The full dream will come true. In time. Just not my time. And not my route.

How are you handling the journey to your bliss? What steps have you taken? Are you finding yourself faced with an unexpected detour? What does the road ahead look like?