A Beautiful Life within the Details

I woke up to the first rays of morning light diffused through our bedroom window. It’s been such a long winter, oh how I appreciate the sunlight and the above zero temperatures.

Wiping sleep from my eyes and patting down wisps of crazy hair, I walk down the stairs to the kitchen. Why is every light on? I remark inwardly that my oldest son must have gotten up for his 11 p.m. snack of a couple of buns with melted peanut butter. As my coffee brews, I look out into the back yard willing the grass to turn from brown to green. I decide I’ll go look for patches of green later in the day, the firsts signs of spring will melt the icicles off of any Albertan’s heart.

Coffee in hand, I check my calendar to see what is on the agenda for this week. I always feel one step behind with work, kid’s after-school stuff, and kid’s school assignments. I mentally take note of this week’s tasks: 2 photo shoots (pretty excited for these), a school bake sale, my first attempt at hot yoga with a friend, Volunteer tea at the school, School forms to hand in, and packing to visit family for Easter. No one tells you that you will feel like you are going back to school when you have kids.

I feel that familiar nagging sense…the monkey that was chillin’ in the corner, meanders over, wraps his little monkey hands around my long neck and then settles onto my back. Hello Monkey on my back, haven’t felt you for a day.

I wonder what about this week makes me feel this way. Almost all of those tasks are doable. I am after all a grown ass woman with the capacity to juggle. I decide it’s the bake sale. It wasn’t until I volunteered to hand out bake sale items years ago that I understood the pressure that can come with such a little assignment. To see the kid’s faces when a Mom puts in extra effort to make a seasonal treat is pretty cute. Kids will also turn into socialite snobs if the treats don’t live up to their refined sugar-lovin’ palate.

You see, a week ago, at 8:20 a.m. (10 minutes before the kids leave for school), my son moseys into the kitchen and announces that he needs bake sale items for that morning. Mother Hubbard!!! As I was hastily making popcorn and looking for some sort of worthy receptacle to house the popping buggers, my son giggles and says “silly me Mom, it’s next Wednesday but I’ll take that popcorn in my lunch. Cool?!”

Back to this morning, in the words of my Dad “I beam up the internet computer” to search for an Easter themed bake sale item on Pinterest. My sorting parameters are this: quick, under 5 baking ingredients, preferably no oven required, but still worthy to bring an oooooooh or an ahhhhhh out of a Kindergarten’s mouth hole. I find the addition of chocolate can produce this result.

I decide on this little diddy…

easter egg

Bird Nest Cookies

Perfecto. A while ago, the parent’s association sent a letter home that bake sale were now going to be healthy items. So I made a healthy item, and tried to push my healthy fair (like that shady puppet on Sesame street trying to sell an “O”) among the table of cupcakes and chocolate cookies only to bring those healthy treats home with me.

Pssssttttt…how would ya like to buy a healthy treat?! Circular and not sweet…

Sorry, I can’t compete with cupcakes. I’ll add some oats to chocolate and call it a day.

I inwardly congratulate myself on not being a loser Mom today, because that’s how I felt last week. My house was in shambles, laundry piled to the roof while I compiled a year’s worth of tax receipts. I missed sending the registration to school for my son’s introduction into Junior High next year. The finale was on one special night when I awoke to the melodic sounds of a puking shitting dog. Yay. On the day my dog blew up, I had convinced myself his kidneys were shutting down by the end of day. I stalked him in our yard and didn’t see him pee once. Turns out he ate garbage because I left the door open a crack. I like to think he sauntered up to the slightly ajar cupboard door, opened his little dog peepers real big and said “hmmmm, what do we have here?”. Then he quietly opens it with his little paw hand like a human (he stands upright at this point) tenderly picking out garbage food. Sets himself a miniature dog table where he cuts garbage food with a fork and knife after tying a mini handkerchief around his hairy chest.

Anywhoooo, I wasn’t a loser today. Nope, I was calm, collected and competent. Look at me pinning recipes like a Martha.

Wrapped in her favourite fluffy blanket, my daughter shuffled slowly into my office and leaned into me cheek first. That’s how she hugs. She leans in, clenches her eyes, and waits for her hug and kiss. It’s adorable.

I yell up the stairs to my other two sleeping kids and start on breakfast. My son Lukey comes down already dressed and ready to attack the day with his trademark unbridled energy.  I told myself I wouldn’t be that Mom who would make different things for each kid, yet here I was getting cereal with OJ for one and a peanut butter bun with bananas for another. It’s just easier that way. One size does not fit all in this house. Lukey loves left overs, it’s not uncommon to walk into the kitchen first thing and see him bellied up to the island eating mashed potatoes and steak.

My oldest son listens to Metallica while he gets ready. He yells a good-bye as he sprints out the door and revs up his ’87 Chevy to go to high school. He’s a great kid with a killer sense of humour. I wonder how he became so responsible. Lord knows I wasn’t as responsible at his age. I decide to apologize to my parents next time I see them for not being a responsible teen. I may even buy them a greeting card. Note to self: buy a greeting card suitable to wash away 18 years of frustrated memories. I wonder if perhaps my parents have forgotten the time I convinced my sister to tie sheets together and climb out the second story bedroom window. I am thankful the wood pallets broke her fall. I also wonder why my parents never replaced that chunk of carpet in their bedroom I burned while lighting kleenex on fire. One has a hard time forgetting that when you step on a burnt patch of carpet right beside your own bed for years.

Off track again…

I start on the younger kid’s lunches, sign agendas and out-dated forms with a hand-written “hope it’s not too late to hand in”.  I always add a smiley face because I figure that will make it better.  The smiley face is a lost art. My favourite thing to do to my husband is to add a smiley face and dot his “I” with a heart after he signs the bill at restaurants. ha! What an ass I am.

I realize we are running late. I brush the knots out of my daughter’s hair while she shrugs her shoulders and grimaces with each stroke of the brush. Note to self: make hair appointment to get it thinned out. I repeat myself in a raised voice that can only be likened to Grover. “We are going to be late, let’s go!” No one can find frickin’ socks. Where do the socks go? After getting the kids out the door at a feverish pace, it takes seconds for the Mom-guilt to settle in like a thick fog. I think about all the ways I could have shown more patience, and reprimand myself for not signing forms on time. From Mom-hero to Mom-zero in 10 minutes flat.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. This crazy, always-behind, calendar of tasks is the small picture. I will miss this some day. In thinking about this time leaving, I already feel the pangs of missing it. My kids need me, and I need them. We may not be a well-oiled machine, but we work.

I am perfectly imperfect. It’s not my job to pretend I’m a perfect Mom because life is imperfect. Authenticity lives within imperfections.

We love.

We fight.

We make-up.

We love some more.

I will treasure the way my daughter Tess leans in for hugs cheek first, hates getting her hair brushed, and needs solitude as she eats her cereal in peace in the morning.

I will treasure the way my oldest son Ty listens to Metallica in the morning, eats 11 p.m. snacks, and revs his truck a little too loud.

I will treasure the way my middle child Luke eats steak and potatoes for breakfast, can never find matching socks, insights panic over the wrong bake sale day, and wears collared shirts under hoodies everyday (buttoned right to the top).

These little seemingly insignificant details are what makes up a childhood. They are what makes up the memories a Mom will always hold dear to her heart.

I hope you can find the beauty in your own little life details today and embrace imperfection. Because it’s beautiful.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

 

7 Gym Myths Debunked via a Former Couch Potato

Recently at the gym, I was talking to one of the trainers. I commented to him that the gym was abnormally quiet, just a handful of people worked their little hearts out. What he said in reply got me thinking. He said: “it’s the same regulars here today, there’s not an overweight  person in here.”

I hadn’t noticed the physical shape of anyone there, I was focussed on my workout. While I didn’t take that comment as judgmental, but rather an observation of the gym culture at that moment, it did put me right back into my pre-exercising head. I wondered why I didn’t feel like I “belonged” at the gym when I started this journey. I remember being fearful of the gym, all that equipment that I didn’t know how to use, all those fit bodies…like they would all stare at me and judge me while I worked out. I wish I knew then what I know now.

So I’m writing this to the fearful 242 pound couch-potato Me of the past…

Chrissy heaviest 02

 

from the dorky gym-lover of the future…

Leduc Rec Pic

 

Myths and Fears of the Gym

Myth #1: Everyone will stare at me or worse yet, they will laugh at me.  

Everyone at the gym is there to get their sweat on. No one is looking at anyone else. Chances are, many of them have the same insecurities as I do. The gym is just a place to go to work all your frustrations out, and show a little love to your heart and body in the process.

Myth #2: I’ll be embarrassed by my red-faced sweaty face.

Sweat is just our body’s way of cooling our internal rising temperature as we exercise. If we are sweating, that means we are working hard. If we are working hard, we are achieving our goal to get our heart rate elevated. As our heart rate elevates, we are actively burning calories. Further to that, the calories we burn at the gym are just a small part of the calories we burn after we leave the gym. Are you sweating during your workout? Congratulations, you are working hard! Personally, when I see someone sweating a lot during their workout, I have a lot of respect for how hard they are working. It motivates me to work even harder.

Myth #3: No one will show me how to use all that equipment. 

There are always attendants & trainers walking the floor. Most gyms will show you free of charge how to use each piece of equipment. You probably have a friend who knows how to use them all. Ask them. Ask a stranger at the gym how to use a piece of equipment. People are happy to help.

Here my friend Kristine helped me out one day by showing me how to stretch using a roller after my run. Like a weirdo I took pictures of her so I’d remember how to do it for next time. ha!

Kirstine web

Kirstine2 web

 

Another day, my friend Linda showed Bon and I how to use a Squat rack…

IMG_8582

 

I’m very thankful for their help!

Myth #4: The weight training area is for Men. Women will get big and bulky if they lift weights. 

I bought into this myth big time. I used to think the weight training area was for “muscle heads”. If anything, strength training is especially important for women as we naturally have less muscle mass than men do. Further to that, as we age, we lose muscle mass. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine:Loss of muscle mass, also known as Sarcopenia occurs as a result of aging. After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. Percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it.  By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.”

Ladies, don’t worry about getting big and bulky because of weight training. We just don’t have the genetic makeup for that (or the testosterone). I also didn’t realize how hard it is to build a lot of muscle. I used to picture body builders when I thought about strength training; however to achieve that form, you need to follow a very strict diet and spend a lot of time focussing on each muscle group. It’s not a reality for most of us. So muscle your way into that strength training area and reap the benefits of improved body composition (muscle is more dense than fat, so it takes up less room), improved resting metabolism, sharpened mental focus, reduced signs and symptoms of chronic conditions (arthritis, back pain, diabetes, depression), improved muscle strength and tone (which leads to improvements to daily life activities), improved posture/mobility/balance, reduced risk of osteoporosis, improved blood-pressure, and increased self-esteem. The benefits are endless.

Hire a trainer to show you how to lift with correct technique or join a class. There are also tons of free online resources. My favourites: http://www.bodybuilding.com  and  http://www.coachcalorie.com

Before you know it, your confidence will rise to the point you no longer feel out-of-place. Our bodies are incredible machines that adapt quickly & positively to increased demands. Adding strength training to your exercise program has huge positive benefits for your future health. Think of it as an investment towards aging with vitality. Everyone belongs in the strength training area. What makes one person more privileged to be there over another?  Nonsense. 😉

 Myth #5: I don’t have time to go to they gym. 

Time management is tricky within our busy lives. Once you really look at the benefits of exercise and how it will positively affect all aspects of our life, isn’t it worth it? Even 30 minutes 3-4 times a week can produce big results. Don’t have 30 minutes in one chunk? Split it up into 10 minute segments. It takes about three weeks to turn an activity into a habit. Just keep at it, and before you know it, exercise will become an essential part of daily life. I often think about how exercise is essential for my positive mind-set. I wish there was a camera showing people their facial expressions before and after a workout. Exercise releases endorphins. There’s a reason they call it “Runner’s High”. You actually feel a high when you are done! ha! How great is that?! Go get your daily exercise high. 🙂

Myth #6: I don’t “belong” at the gym. I’m not one of those fitness junkies. 

Oh my, did I believe this myth. Now that I’ve travelled this road to reclaim my life for 10 years now, I now understand the importance of a well-rounded balanced approach to health, happiness, and vitality. It’s not about a number on a scale or a short-term diet. For me, it requires a lifestyle of eating healthy (I follow the 80/20 rule), cardio, strength training, flexibility, and a focus on those elements that feed my soul and mind with positive. The old me would have read that last sentence and rolled my eyes. I just didn’t realize the joy that would come from living this way. The idea that another’s health and well-being is more important than my own is ridiculous. I used to believe taking that time for myself was selfish. It’s not selfish to take care of your body, mind, and soul. It’s essential for health and happiness. Of course we all belong at the very place that houses equipment to improve our cardio/muscular health.

Myth #7: I’ll go to the gym when I’m more fit.

I had to take the power & intimidation out of the word “gym”. It’s just a space to sweat and work. That’s all. What I’ve gained from that atmosphere is something I didn’t expect. Although I prefer to workout alone, I have gained social interaction I didn’t expect. The people I have met at the gym are amazing. There are no classes of people there. Those business professionals who sport a suit in their day jobs wear sweat pants just like I do. We are all the same, working towards a common goal. It’s not about your external appearance, it’s about pushing yourself a little further every time. Gaining confidence with each workout. It’s about feeling pride within your efforts. Why does one have to be at a certain fitness level to enjoy those elements? Again, ridiculous nonsense.

If you share any of these myths that I once believed, I hope I encouraged you to think about the gym atmosphere in a different way. Go try it out if you’ve been fearful to do so…what do you have to lose (except a bunch of calories burned and a whole lot of stress of your shoulders)?

From my heart to yours,

Christine

The Privilege of Complaining

We just returned home from a wonderful first-ever-family tropical vacation to Mexico.

Click HERE for some Ocean/tropical eye-candy.

Mexico14-271 web

Mexico14-101 web Mexico14-106 web Mexico14-135 web Mexico14-204r web Mexico14-246 web Mexico14-280 web Mexico14-317 web Mexico14-341r web Mexico14-479 web

Leading up to our trip, I researched the resort Sandos Playacar like a mad woman. A chick could spend an entire day reading reviews on Trip Advisor. I know this because I did and after reading many a review I was so confused whether it was good, bad, or so/so. I took the negative reviews with a grain of salt, because I’m not that picky. Give me friends/family, a cold drink, a chair by a pool, food I don’t have to cook, a clean room, and I’m a happy girl.

When we got to the resort and spent our first day playing by the Ocean, swimming in the pool, eating our weight in Mexican fair, and enjoying a few Cerveza’s with my hubby, I couldn’t help but think about how complaining is a privilege to many of us. If we have food on our table, a warm home to call our own, sports to take our children to, a school to attend our Kid’s Christmas concerts, a religion to practice without threat of persecution, words to speak freely, and a relaxing trip to take with our family….then we are privileged.

One of the main complaints I read on the message board was “It’s a really long walk from the rooms to the beach” and  “it takes forever to wait for a golf cart to pick people up”. One commenter said “I waited 10 minuets for a golf cart, and I finally just walked there myself.”  I was expecting a long walk through hot coals the way many commented about it, and what I found was a 5-10 minute walk tops through beautiful trails surrounded by lush vegetation, birds of paradise, palm trees, & monkeys. Golf carts passed by us every 5-15 minutes. Perhaps I sound like I’m standing on a soap box, but because of my life experiences I feel strongly about this point. To be able to walk or even jog is a gift. If you have your mobility you are blessed. I have witnessed my sister lose all her mobility due to MS. What she wouldn’t give to walk “a really long way” to the Ocean.

Complaint: “they staff didn’t always greet us as we passed by and some didn’t know English”. Ummmm….it’s Mexico. English is not their native language.  We are vacationing on their land and the staff work their asses off while we lounge by a pool. I was in awe of how hard they all worked. They work circles around me. It was so hot out, and they were working in that heat with pants/work boots/shirt while we sauntered by (or flew by in a golf cart) sporting bathing suits and flippy floppies.

Complaint: “My clothes were musty when I got home from the humidity.”  Ummmm…that’s because there’s an ocean right outside your air-conditioned room.

Complaint: “The food wasn’t that great, we were sick of the buffet after a week.” Ok, the food! There were so many choices everyday and a different choice every night. I had to roll my ass to my room because there was so much delicious food every where we looked. Food for 24 hours of the day. And outside our all-inclusive resort, there is poverty.

Complaint: “It was loud”. Yes, the sounds of people enjoying Zumba, kids laughing in the pool, and music floating on the tropical breeze can be loud for sure.

Complaint: “The rooms are outdated”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go on Vacation to stare at a modern room. There’s a whole ocean outside the door, and so much eye candy to look at.

Now the irony of a post complaining about complainers is not lost on me. 😉  I’m writing this as a reminder for my own privileged tush too. I have a blessed life. I need to remember that. I complain about ridiculous things.

This is the main reason physical fitness is so important to me. I have the gift of my health and legs that will run if I urge them too. I’m thankful for my health, for my family/friends, for my home, for my life, and for the gift of insight.

From my heart to yours,

Christine