Wednesday, August 31, 2011

...nEvEr tOo oLd...

Strong is not about whether you are a man or a woman...young or old. Being strong is about having desire. It's about being willing to do something you've never done before. It's about working hard and never giving up.

I saw this video years ago and was so impressed. It just goes to prove that a mother's example does make a difference and that you are never too old to be strong!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

...i hEaRt mArK tWiGhT...

"It doesn't have to be fun to be fun." ~Mark Twight GYM JONES

I don't know him. I've never met him, but I love this man...Mark Twight! His words and videos inspire me and make me feel excited to go to the gym and work harder than I thought I could! This is one of my all time favorites!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

...cuTTiNg oFF LiMbS...

A few years after I moved into my house, I decided that I wanted to plant more trees. I only had 2, so I added 3 more. I chose specific trees for specific spots for specific reasons. At first, each of my new trees had stakes with wires that wrapped around the trunk. I didn't like the way it looked but I knew that it was important in order for them to grow straight and be protected when storms or high winds came. Soon, it was time to remove the support system. My trees were big enough to stand alone.

After a couple of years, I was excited to see that my trees began to much so that they needed trimming. My brother, that doubles as my handyman, explained how you know what branches to cut off. Any branches that were too low or growing down or even small branches growing inward, needed to be trimmed off because they were taking "energy" away from the healthy branches and doing nothing to help the tree become bigger and stronger. It's important to not wait too long because as long as there are branches that need trimming still there...they are taking energy and nutrients away from the branches that are good. And if you never trim the tree, it will never become as big or strong or beautiful as it COULD have been.

Back in February, I did something I thought I would never do...something I thought I would never need to do. I started seeing a therapist. My marriage was a mess and demons from the past were haunting me. I felt like I needed someone to talk to that didn't know me and wouldn't judge me. I still remember the first day sitting in a strange room...on an old ugly couch...looking at a I wept uncontrollably and tried to tell her all the things that have hurt me or that are bothering an hour. I am a control freak. I like to have control because there were times as a child when I had all my power taken from me...times when I should've been protected but I wasn't...feelings I felt that were not feelings I should have been feeling at that age. And so I try to have as much control now as I can, even though it doesn't change the past. I like to do things how I want to do them...when I want to do them. I like to always look just right and stay composed when I can. I felt so out of damaged. This was completely out of my comfort zone, but there was something strangely comforting at the same time about just getting it all out...telling all my secrets...admitting my shame...letting myself be vulnerable.

After I purged myself of all the things that were bothering me...I quickly began to try and regain control by telling the therapist what exactly I was doing to make changes and try to correct these problems. I told her how hard it was/is and how disappointed and upset some people were with me. I told her that I felt alone and scared. Finally, when I let her speak, she looked at me surprisingly unfazed and said,
"You have been hurt badly. You have held it in and made the choice to never use these things as an excuse to protect everyone else and keep a sense of pride. No one would ever believe the things that you have suffered because you have covered them up so well. Now, you have chosen to correct this by cutting off the things and people that cause you pain. The problem is that you are like a tree that hasn't ever been pruned. Instead of getting rid of these things as they came, you waited and let them continue to grow. You had so many limbs to cut off that you now feel very bare and very alone."

This made perfect sense. I had let things grow that should have been cut off sooner and made some huge changes in my life. It wasn't until the secret pain became unbearable that I finally did something about it...and I did it all at once. It has been scary to make these decisions and hard to deal with the consequences that have followed, but every day is a little better. New branches are growing where old, unhealthy ones were and the people that love me are learning to accept my changes and love me unconditionally.

So, you probably wonder what this has to do with anyone other than me. It's a warning if you will. Don't let unhealthy "branches" grow on your "tree" because it seems too hard to get rid of them. Take the things out of your life that weigh you down or keep you from reaching your true potential. Don't have friends that don't accept your commitment to eat and live healthy. Don't surround yourself with jealous people that want to drag you down. Avoid unhealthy relationships that cause you to doubt your worth and rob you of your goals. And when you do need to cut off branches, be brave. Value yourself enough to put in the work it takes to be your best. Don't be afraid of feeling alone at times or vulnerable, because in time you will be glad you made the changes. Finally, don't be too proud to ask for help. When trees have large branches that break or need to be removed, sometimes it takes a professional because the job is too big to do on your own. Rely on the people that care about you to help you make changes.

Just as it takes pruning to help a tree grow tall and strong, it takes making uncomfortable changes in our own lives to become the person we are meant to be. After the struggle...because of the work it takes to get the end...we will become stronger than we ever thought possible.

Friday, August 19, 2011

...LiFe iS LiKe bOx jUmPs...

Box jumps are a funny thing. To some people, they are no big others the shortest box can be terrifying! Some people are okay until they fall or catch their shin on the edge...after that they are wary...or sometimes they then avoid THAT tall of a box altogether. Others can fall and bleed and jump right back up and keep jumping.

I brought my 9 yr old son, Jake to work with me. After everyone left, I was working out and he was on the couch. Next thing I knew, he had gotten some small dumbbells out of the locker and he was doing some shoulder presses behind me. After I corrected his form, I said, "You wanna do a couple of workouts while I finish?" He said "Sure." The 1st thing I was having him do, was a combo of 12 inch box jumps paired with ring rows. He jumped up on the box once...then twice...then the 3rd time he looked a lil iffy. I see it all the time, people get to feeling confident or get tired and they lose focus, get sloppy and that's when falls occur. As he was doing his 4th jump, I said, "When you get to the top, stop because I want to tell you something about staying focused." As I said this, he jumped, caught the box with a toe, hit his knee on the edge of the box, and landed on the lifting platform. You'd think it would've scared me. It didn't. This is normal. People fall or bleed in our gym. It happens.

My biggest concern was not whether or not he was hurt. I knew he'd be fine. I wanted to use this as a teaching experience. He was breathing deep, trying to hold back the tears, shoulders hanging down, frowning and looking at me with big brown eyes that look just like mine. I sat him down and talked about how important it is to stay focused, and I told him that he should get right back to jumping.
"Don't be afraid of the box son. This happens in here all the time. The important part is that you don't become afraid of the box or feel like a failure. One day, you might fall again, and that's okay too. You get up and you jump again and again."
He nodded and smiled at me with glassy eyes, full of tears that he never let fall. We cleaned up his bloody knee and he finished the first of 3 short workouts.

I thought about my very own words as we drove home. That's when it hit me. Life really is like box jumps. Sometimes we are scared to jump. We doubt our ability to get that high, but when we's so rewarding and builds our confidence. Sometimes we get cocky and unfocused. We jump without thinking or looking. We think that we are too good to fall. We might make it just fine a few times, but eventually, we catch our toe and take a tumble. It's humbling and even embarrassing sometimes, and this is where life weeds people out...where greatness is born or dies. Some of us may make mistakes or get knocked down and choose to give up or blame other people. Maybe those get up, but the never try to jump that high again and sentence themselves to a life full of "what ifs" and "coulda beens". But there's also those of us that get up, acknowledge the pain, clean the wound, and keep jumping...even when it hurts...even when we are afraid...knowing that we will probably fall again someday.

You have to choose which one you will be. The fall is not what makes one weak. It's what happens AFTER the fall that determines that. So if you fall, get up. Don't give up. Be strong and remember that failing does not mean you are a failure. It means you get another chance to jump!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

...waLkiNg oN bRoKeN gLaSs...

...(big sigh)...

Some days it feels like you can't there's a road block at every turn...and broken glass on every path. It would be easy to cry or post "FML" as a Facebook status, but that doesn't break down walls or get us further down the path.

I was feeling a little stressed and on the phone getting some advice this morning. I rushed into the bathroom to get dressed to go to the gym and workout as I was talking on the phone and kicked the door about as hard as I ever have with my pinky toe. This poor pinky toe has been broken twice before as I'm always in a hurry and not known for my agility! The pain was so incredible that it took a few seconds before I could scream, cuss, or cry...all three of which I did when I was able to.

After I recovered from the immediate physical pain, my tears went from tears of pain to tears of frustration. I thought, "Why can't I catch a break?!? I just want to go workout and do what I need to do and I feel like I'm always kicking against the pricks so to speak or bathroom doors...whatever!"

Now my toe is throbbing and swollen and I know that it's gonna hurt to put on a shoe. I even said right afterwards on the phone, "Now I probably won't even be able to workout today!" I wanted to give up, unmake my bed, get back in, and scream "FML!!!" from under the covers.As I hung up the phone and dried my tears, I realized that I am unwilling to give up. I don't care who pushes me down, or hurts my feelings, or how many times I break my toe, or what kind of bad luck I face...I am going to keep on standing back up. I can't control what happens to me, but I can control how I react to it. I CHOOSE when to give up and I'm not ready to give up! I'm going to the gym and I will workout without shoes if I can't get em on!

It's fight or flight time and I'm not ready to fly so I better start fighting! Now is the time for me to climb over road blocks and walk through broken glass barefoot if I have to in order to get to something better on the other side. I might struggle and I may come out of this a little bruised and bloody, but I will look back stronger and smarter someday! So what, if I stubbed my toe and it hurts. I have no excuse to skip working out today and neither do you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

...nEEd LoVe???...GiVe iT tO yOuRsELf!...

So, we all know that I am open...and honest with my feelings and challenges and insecurities...maybe to a fault...but it's who I am so this lil peek into my sometimes neurotic world probably won't come as a big surprise. I have always struggled to feel like I am enough. I feel like I'm "Miss Almost"...almost smart enough...almost funny enough...almost lovable enough...almost fit enough...almost pretty enough...almost strong enough...etc etc etc.

I have always looked OUTSIDE of myself for reassurance. It's like I NEED people to laugh to think I'm funny or I NEED a compliment to know I'm pretty. Lots of people think it's a joke when I say this or when I have asked if I look "fat" or if I "look okay". They don't understand why I can't see what they see. I've been very blessed to have many people that have complimented me or reassured me throughout my life, but I shouldn't need that.

Life is full of ups and downs...highs and lows. I feel like my life is a ferris wheel...sometimes I'm excited. I'm rising to the top and feel like nothing or no one can stop me! When I'm on top, I feel alive. I feel like I've accomplished something. The people beside me hold on to me and I am happy. Then come's the descent... I feel a lil afraid...maybe worried, but I'm still holding on to bits and pieces of the way I felt at the top. I start to look to other people to distract me and hold on to me so I can feel safe. I always feel like by the time I get to the bottom, I'm alone. I desperately want help reassure me and remind me how I got to the top before. It's hard not to freeze and easy to give up hope and feel like the ride is over, but anyone that has risen a ferris wheel knows that even when the ride is over...another ride is not far behind...another chance to rise.A couple of nights ago, I was feeling like I am at the my "ride" is over...and . I wanted so badly to have someone there to tell me everything will be say "No, you're not fat!"..."Yes, you are beautiful."..."No, you're not unlovable."..."Yes, one day, you will feel as on top of the world as you once did." There was no one there...just me. It was hard, but I also know that everything in life can be a learning experience...if we let it be.

I'm learning that sometimes "the ride" is over. Sometimes, we have to get off and let other people take their turn. I am not known for my patience so I guess I have felt ready to give up, because my turn wasn't coming soon enough. I want to be entertained and happy all the time and surrounded by people, but that can't always be. So I asked myself why I hate to be alone...and I think the answer came to me today as I was lying on my bed thinking.

I hate to be alone, because I want to be reassured by everyone else, but in truth...I don't need anyone else. I SHOULD be able to get reassurance from within. I should KNOW that I am smart and beautiful and funny and fit and strong. No one else should have to tell me. Compliments are nice, but getting a compliment does not CHANGE the way I look or how well I do things. Having a friend or a special someone makes the ride more fun, but people go away or stop loving you or disappoint you. In the end, if you are not strong enough to pull yourself up and be patient and wait for things to get end up miserable. If you wait on other people to MAKE you happy or to MAKE you feel good'll always be frustrated and desperate.Knowing all this doesn't mean it's easy, but nothing good ever is. That is where strength comes in. Love YOURSELF. Tell YOURSELF it will be okay. Look in the mirror and KNOW that you ARE beautiful and smart and funny and strong enough. Don't look to other people...look to YOURSELF and be strong...even when it feels like the end.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

...hUrTs sO gOOd...

From the time my kids were old enough to crawl, I've taught them to be careful. It's for their safety; their protection. I gave them plastic utensils with rounded edges. I "kid-proofed" my house. I was there to catch them when they fell taking their first steps. I taught them not to touch a hot stove, and to be careful not to shut their fingers in the door. I taught them just like my mom taught me and her mom taught her. No matter how careful a parent is, accidents happen. Bones get broken. Eyes get poked. Knees get scraped. Hands get burned, and fingers get smashed. It's a part of life that all parents try to protect their kids from for as long as they possibly can, but in the end, all kids get hurt and feel pain.

By the time we're adults, it's an accepted fact of life. We know that we will get hurt and feel physical pain somehow...somewhere...sometime, but we are programmed from an early age to avoid all costs...just like I programmed my children when they were babies. We are taught that pain is bad. Pain is scary. When we feel pain, we do everything we can to numb packs...medicine. We want the pain to go, and we are careful never to repeat the action that caused the pain in the first place.

My body is sore and tired today and my heart hurts. Today, I feel pain, but I guess that's not so unusual for me. I workout...hard..and so many times...I experience the feeling of pain. Sometimes, it's my back. Sometimes, my arms. Sometimes, it's my heart; my soul. Sometimes it's hard to tell where it hurts. I just know I feel pain. It hasn't been until the past several years that I learned to appreciate like pain. No, I'm not some kinky masochistic freak. I'm someone that has learned to respect understand work through live in use it for my own benefit rather than fighting against it.

Pain teaches me. It refines me. Sometimes when my muscles ache, and I scramble for the Advil and ice packs, I stop and take a step back. My body is sore...hurting...because today I used it. I worked hard to make myself the best I can be. When it hurt, I didn't stop...I pressed on and grew stronger. When it was hard...I rose to the challenge and built endurance; confidence. The pain, the hurt is an affirmation that I did the best I could. When my heart breaks and my soul is battered, it is because I have been someone...maybe an unkind word or a disagreement...maybe loneliness or disappointment...maybe unrequited love or even betrayal. This pain is much harder for me to embrace. It is very tempting to do whatever I can to ignore this find a way...any way that I keep from feeling this stuff it build a wall and shut myself off from the possibility. I've learned that it is important not to push this pain down but to feel acknowledge learn from it, because this pain also teaches me...even makes me better...stronger too. I am learning that it is better to risk this pain than it is to be alone and sacrifice It may be harder for me to accept the pain of heartache than it is to accept physical pain, but surviving heartache helps me appreciate those that truly love me...that handle my heart and soul with care. It reminds me that the way I treat others really does matter.

Pain is a part of life. It comes whether we invite it or not...embrace it or reject with it or against it. Everyone has experienced the strange phenomenon where pain actually feels good physically. An example being the fact that massaging a sore muscle can hurt so bad and feel so good at the same time. It only takes a moment, but if we jump up at the first touch, afraid to feel the pain, we cheat ourselves out of the pleasure that follows. I will continue to see pain as a positive force in my life; a catalyst for change. I will use it as a gauge for progress. I will be patient and brave and strong and wait until the misery subsides and allow the pain to "hurt so good"...again...and again...and again.

Friday, August 5, 2011

...FiNd yOuR StRoNg...

It’s easy to say that you know how you would react in a certain situation when you are not knee deep in the middle of it. It’s easy to have courage when you are not scared. It’s easy to be strong when things are going well. Dealing with the physical and mental pain that is necessary for growth does not come naturally. Sure, some of us have a higher pain tolerance than others, but as a general rule…it is human nature to want to avoid pain. Sometimes, we are faced with challenges in life that test our faith and our ability to be strong when no one would blame us for being weak. It is in those times that the strength we need is not always easy to find. I got to see this firsthand over the past week.

A couple of years ago, I took my then thirteen year old daughter, Savanna, to the pediatrician to get a routine physical for swim team. Everything was just as I expected so I wasn’t paying close attention as our doctor examined her. Towards the end of her exam, Dr. Sampson told her to take off her shirt so she could check her back. Savanna was not exactly excited about this but she did it. As the doctor made notes, she told Savanna to bend over. I wasn’t really looking at her, but I saw her bend out of the corner of my eye and heard the pediatrician say, “No Savanna. Bend ALL the way over.” Still not looking, I heard, “Savanna! I need you to put your feet together…don’t bend your knees and bend STRAIGHT down!” At this point I looked up and before I could tell Savy to do what the doctor said, the doctor looked at me and said, "Mom, we have a problem. Come over here and look at this.I was shocked at what I saw! My daughter was crooked. She couldn't even bend straight over and there was a very OBVIOUS curve in her spine. In typical "Mommy" fashion, I felt guilty. I started firing off questions like, "Weren't you tested for scoliosis in 5th grade?!?" "How could I have missed this?!?" Even though, there's nothing I could've done...I felt guilty. Things started to make sense. Things like how she was always over to the side when she set up on the blocks to dive at swim meets...and why she couldn't dive straight out but plopped in the water and then had to swim twice as fast to catch up.We were sent to Scottish Rite Hospital for children in Dallas to see a specialist there. They took x-rays and told us that she had a 43 degree curve. It was too late for a brace, but too early to talk about surgery since they usually wait until there are signs in the x-rays that the patient is done growing before they operate. We went back the following year. She now had a 45 degree curve, but was essentially done growing. They scheduled us to come back a year later which was this past spring. The doctor told us that she was not required to have surgery. A 50 degree or higher curve means that surgery is absolutely necessary. He also told us that she had what is called "trunk shift" which means the top of her body (waist up) and the bottom were not in alignment. It had become very obvious just by looking at her, that there was a problem and she was very sensitive about it. In the end, her doctor at Scottish Rite Hospital recommended surgery and she made the choice to do it. Savanna was tired of being crooked...tired of not being able to dive off the blocks at swim meets like everyone else...tired of having to worry about what clothes she could wear to hide it...and tired of feeling different. We supported her decision and made an appointment for surgery.

Fast forward to last week...the week of her surgery. We got up early and drove for 45 minutes to get to the hospital by 7:45 AM on Thursday. Me, Savanna, and her dad spent ALL day seeing doctors, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists. She gave blood, took multiple x-rays, and participated in a study. Her emotions were all over the place, but for the most part...she did well. She was looking forward to getting "straightened out" and although no one sugar coated what she would go through...I knew she had no concept of what she was in for. The doctor decided to do the posterior surgery. There's less chance of infection when the organs don't have to be moved like they are in the anterior option, but that means the doctor has to move the big muscles of the back which causes a lot of pain during recovery. I worried about her recovery. I wondered how she would hold up emotionally.The surgery was successful and went exactly as planed. MOST kids are groggy...tired...and super sleepy after a 4 hour surgery when they are wheeled into the recovery area...not Savanna. She was trying to sit up and talked incessantly. She kept taking my hand and saying "Is this a dream?" I said, "No. You are all done, baby." She would say "I did it?!?!?!" I said, "Yes. You did!" It amazed everyone there...and for the next 2 days...she continued to amaze us. She was so determined to get better. She wanted to be taken off all the things that were keeping her in bed.

Sunday morning they took her off oxygen and took her epidural and catheter out. She was so excited...and then reality set in. Once she was no longer attached to the epidural, her pain had to be managed through pills...and it's not the same. She was accustomed to a constant flow of medication.Everyone has been amazed be Savy's strength and great attitude throughout this process. It's not because she never had any low times. Savanna had times where she cried, but they were few and far between. She also had times where she felt angry and wondered if her decision to have surgery was worth it. The thing is...every time this happened, it was short lived. She was always able to dig down and find strength that I didn't know she had. She still has a long recovery ahead. It's hard to readjust your whole body alignment and it's hard to build back the physical strength after being in bed. Savanna has learned that lying in bed and sleeping is not the way to recover. When she is hurting, she gets up and walks laps in our house...not because I tell her too either. It's always HER decision.Some people think that being strong means NEVER having a weak moment...never shedding a tear...never feeling afraid. I disagree. Being strong doesn't mean being perfect. It's not about being a robot that feels and shows no emotion. When life gets you down or pain clouds your judgement, we all have the ability to find strength and work through those emotions...IF we choose to.

I have been exhausted. It wasn't fun sleeping in a plastic fold out bed for 5 nights and being woken up every two hours. I missed working out and eating normal food, but I wouldn't have done it any other way. What I sacrificed was tiny compared to what my daughter has endured. Savanna has taught me so much over the past week. The last day we were in the hospital, we were walking laps around the floor and she was getting tired and hurting. She turned and looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, "Mom. I'm proud of myself! I think that if I can do this...I can do anything for the rest of my life!" I smiled and said, "Yes you can Savanna! I'm proud of you too!Savanna found her strong. Have you found yours?

*Savanna helped me design a "Strong is the new skinny" tank that goes along with this! It says "Find your strong" inside of a heart and "strong is the new skinny" on the back. The significance of the heart is that when she was feeling stressed in the hospital the day before surgery, I drew a heart on her hand to remind her that she's loved. They are for sale now! To see it, click HERE!