Attitude is Everything: Fat chick at a Fitness Conference 2.0

I just just stuffed my backpack above me, and sank into my plane seat. I take a deep breath and close my eyes with relief. Im ready to head home and see my family.

I’m exhausted.

Sunburned.

Dehydrated.

And definitely, hungover.

But I feel like I just won the lottery.

My heart is full.

My LIFE is full.

I look down at myself and and survey the scene:

Even though I’m still squeezed in close to my favorite travel teammate, I’m buckled into my chair with ease. It just keeps getting easier and easier for me to travel! I say a silent prayer of thanks, knowing how HARD this has all been for me before.

Walking down the isle of the plane, my sides no longer brush and bump the peoples arms, and it feels amazing to not have to apologize for my existence…walking that gauntlet of shame.

I’m wearing pajama pants, a Palm Springs conference tee, purple shoes, and my purple running man, manicured nails are clutching my purple water bottle and brand new copy of “Love Work” by Chuck Runyon. I notice my “persist” running man, flame tattoo on my wrist and wonder if I’ve not just stepped into overkill territory?

I’m a hot-AF-post-conference MESS!!!!! But, I LOVE IT.

You see, last year I struggled.

( You can read all about that here: https://mandimonblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/fat-chick-at-a-fitness-conference/ )

Last year, I was still trying to be invisible. Despite my efforts, I was still battling with shame, discomfort and embarrassment with my body. And, If I’m being completely honest, not much has changed for me physically in a year. I’m down about 30 more pounds from the Lake Placid Conference. I’ve gained muscle and more endurance, but this time the weight I’m most proud of losing, was in my heart and mind.

This year I was was promoted to manager of my Anytime Fitness club, and I took that position of leadership VERY seriously. I have battled with that dark part of myself that felt fearful and unworthy. I finally surrendered to the fact that my value as a leader was NOT based on a certain number on the scale. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have been offered the position, right?

Being FAT is NOT the worst thing a person can be.

Your value and worth as a human is not worth less if you are fat. But being miserable, ashamed, depressed, suffering with pain and barely alive IS the WORST thing a person can be. And THAT is what has changed for me with the magic of fitness. THAT is what I LIVE to show the people who come into my gym everyday. The scale will move…but I must PERSIST.

My value is here NOW. It always HAS BEEN. I decided to OWN the fact that I am “representing a possibility”.

Ive decided to OWN the fact that I actually have an advantage with my size, and that WONT last forever.

I have the ability to say,” Look at me…I work HERE. I workout HERE. I was changed HERE. I found out who I truly am in HERE. I was welcomed and loved HERE…and so are YOU.”

It has been the most powerful year of my life. Realizing that all of the members in my gym, that I have the honor of representing, are looking to me as an example of persistence, and they are proud of me…that is enough to snap me out of any self doubt or sabotage.

There have been MANY struggles and setbacks…and times where my confidence and resolve was shaken, but there has been a permanent shift in me, and it SHOWED itself this week in Palm Springs.

No longer was I desperately trying to blend in and disappear. I just literally, let it all hang out, and allowed myself to just be MYSELF.

Proudly, alongside my team…my family… just like I am everyday in our clubs. Why would I want to come to conference and be anyone other that who I am everyday with my people?? If I’m constantly urging them to step outside of their comfort zone and believe in themselves…shouldn’t I be??!

Last year I was afraid to workout alongside 2,000 people for a world record breaking 3 minute workout. This year, I jumped into a live, 45 minute group session on the purple turf, in the middle of the trade show, with tons of people watching (and the AF corporate head trainer/she-hero herself, Rachel Prairie!) and did NOT CARE. I know what I am capable of.

This is it. This is who I am, and this is who has been given this amazing opportunity to live in the crazy fitness world and grind.

I TRULY was “hired to inspire” and I am so unbelievably grateful.

To my team, each and every one of you has made more of an impact on my life than you will ever know. You have made me one of you since DAY ONE and I am forever thankful for how you have changed my life and never let me give up. I’m so honored to live this life with you guys.

And, to Brandon and Amber Borden, my club owners, who just won the 2017 O2i of the Year Runningman Award…thank you.

Thank you for changing my life, and then taking a crazy risk in hiring me, believing in me and pushing me to be better and better and BETTER. I am so proud and honored to be on #teamborden and am SO EXCITED the whole AF world got to see/hear how amazing and special you two are. Also, I’m sorry I “Kanye-ed” you on stage. With all this new confidence…I do declare, I literally could not help myself. 😜

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Super Powers and Force Fields

Dear person who walked by me today at the outdoor mall…while I was killing time with my kids before we went to see Captain Underpants, 

I wonder what it was you noticed first?

The mole on my face? 
Or was it how my fat rolls/skin hangs down low in my front now that I’ve lost a big chunk of weight? I jokingly call it my front-butt, but I am FULLY aware that it’s the first thing people see when they look at me.  
Were you offended that I had the audacity to be wearing leggings? 
I saw you look me up and down and lean in to whisper something to your girlfriend as we passed each other. Out of decades of practice, I quietly stopped, turned around and waited for a moment. Sure enough, she turned around to “see” whatever it was you must’ve pointed out about my appearance that was too good to miss, but she locked eyes with me instead.  She was so startled when she saw me waiting to catch her in the act, she didn’t even try to casually turn around. She knew she was busted, and picked up the pace to get away from me. 

 It’s my favorite thing to do now. Stop and stare you right back in the face.  

I turned and kept walking.  
Watching my two kids just steps ahead of me, trying to balance on the edge of the planters, being normal kids. Excited to be on an outing. Un-phased that any kind of micro-bummer-social-event had ever happened.  

I let the sting of it, roll over me and dissipate into the air like a vapor…as I’ve learned to do.  
But it happens. It happens constantly. 
ALL. THE. TIME.  

Anyone who is overweight KNOWS that this is real.  These tiny social stabs that happen constantly out in public.  The exact REASON we are terrified to join gyms…let alone be vulnerable enough to move around and excercise in front of anyone!!
 Despite loved ones insisting we are just paranoid, and no one is looking or whispering about you…they are.  
We know. 

Dear guy about 30 minutes later,  who tried to push his friend “Anthony” over a stair railing to bump into me “accidentally”.  

You were laughing and yelling, “this is Anthony! He’s single, can he have your number?” as I was playfully racing my kids, who had challenged me to run up to the top of the stairs. 

 “Anthony” scrambled to maneuver away from me as quickly as possible, obviously uncomfortable and embarrassed at his friends “light hearted joke”. He just looked at me sheepishly and said,” I’m so sorry!” 

This is actually a pretty common move with groups of dudes when I’m out in public without my husband, so sadly I’m used to ignoring it.  I actually ended up feeling bad for Anthony, who had the balls to face me and apologize, so I just nodded and kept running up the stairs to meet my babies who had already beaten me up there.  
“We beat you mom!!” they laughed triumphantly, while I stopped to catch my breath. “DANG IT!!” I yelled as I smiled big and high fived them both.  They didn’t see what happened, they were just having fun with their mom who can actually DO stuff like that with them now.  

But you and Anthony don’t know that.  

You don’t know who I am, or how far I’ve come.  

You have no concept of my accomplishments.  

You have zero understanding of my ability or power. 
SUPER. POWERS.

My FORCE FEILD of genuine confidence that I HAVE EARNED. 
It protects me.  It tells the TRUTH of who I really am.  I wear it like a belt.  

You have no clue that you cannot hurt me anymore with your judgments. 
You see, I have earned this loose, jiggly skin.
I have earned the right to wear leggings! 
I no longer freeze up with social anxiety, and try to make myself as invisible as humanly possible, to somehow take away the pain and shame of merely existing.

You have NO IDEA that my heart beats LOUDLY with pride and passion for this new life that I get to live! 

Today, I want to THANK YOU.  
Yes.

Thank you, man with nervous girlfriend and random guy with Anthony…
Thank you for reminding me (again!) what it feels like to be/look different in this culture we have.   May I NEVER forget the sting of it…and forget how scary and intimidating it can feel to try and step out into a world that will not easily allow you to love yourself. 
 

May I allow this feeling of strength inside me to ROAR greater than the snickers and whispers of idiots, so that I can continue to “blaze the trail” ahead of me so that others like me, can follow and find their superpowers too.  


When I hear the term ‘blaze a trail’ I tend to imagine someone forging ahead with a torch of burning fire and vigor, leaving a smoldering trail in their wake, which is AWESOME and gets me FIRED UP.  

However, I learned that is actually not what the original term meant when it was first “coined”.  

“A blaze is a notch or mark, like the blaze marks seen on horses’ faces. So, ‘to blaze a trail’ was to mark it out by notching trees so that others could follow. Trees are also often marked this way to single them out for felling. The use of blaze to mean the chipping off of a small piece of bark to mark a path or boundary is American in origin.” -The Phrase Finder 

Which means that while it does seem WAY more fun and valiant to talk of torches and smoldering fire blazes, super powers and epic force fields…the reality is that each time this happens, and it feels like someone has just come by and taken a chunk or chip from the bark of my heart, it is not in vain.

I have been marked. 

But it WILL mark a path for others to follow.  

That pain used to derail me for weeks…shake my confidence, send me into eating binges and spirals of self-doubt. 
 But not anymore.  
That pain is not wasted.  

That pain paves a way to the possibility that you can overcome ANYTHING.  

Please do NOT let the fear of pain or shame keep you from discovering who you truly are!!! 

People HAVE NO IDEA.

YOU will have no idea, unless you push through and find out.

 I didn’t. I’m still finding out every damn day.  

KEEP PUSHING.  

And to think I actually wanted to go see Wonder Woman instead of Captain Underpants?! I don’t think I need to. 😉😜

Fat Chick at a Fitness Conference 

Last week I was on a once in a lifetime trip to New York for the annual Anytime Fitness conference.

I say again, F-I-T-N-E-S-S conference.

Never in my wildest daydreams would I have ever thought that this would be my life. And certainly people who’ve known me a long time would agree. It’s wild times for me, for sure. When I first started this blog in 2013 I was so lost. I had no ideas about where I was headed. All I knew is that I was in pain and writing helped. I knew I needed to change, but I did not know how or where to start.
Fast forward to September 2016, and here is my view from the lodge I stayed at in Lake Placid…as a fitness professional.

What do I want to say about my experience last week?
How do I begin? Where do I start?
Do I start with the amazing and surreal sights and sounds of my 24 hours in New York City, before we headed up state?
Do I dig deep into my wanna-be-writer soul and try to describe how magical and soul stirring it was to be in the Olympic village at Lake Placid, where our conference was held? In the actual ice rink where the “miracle on ice” happened in 1980, one of the biggest sports upsets of all time?
Do I start with the intense gratitude I have for my boss’s, my team, my gym members, my friends, my family, my babies and my husband??? For everything everyone’s done to provide for me, inspire me, push me and encourage me to get to this awesome point in time of my life?
No.
I’ll start with the REAL, less impressive, corners of my heart. That place deep down in the bellows of your guts that threatens to show up and ruin everything you’ve worked hard for with just a few seeds of doubt and shame. Yes, I’ll start there. Because it doesn’t matter where I’m at, or what I’m doing…when the mind starts traveling down that road of negative thinking, nothing else matters. And I know we’ve all been there.

You see, I’m still fat. Forget that I’ve lost 111lbs. To people who don’t know me, I’m still obese. 310 pounds is still ALOT. And that’s the number I carried around with me, and stuffed into airplane seats and restaurant chairs and yoga workout pants while I was gone.
My body is in this weird, middle earth realm of being smaller, stronger and more effiencient…but also (with weight still to lose) still big, and jiggly.  And with the weight loss I’ve had, I’m starting to have skin droop and sag. It’s just the way it is.  There’s no getting around that, I’d rather have that to deal with then where I was at before.

I know it’s TMI, but I’m just keeping it real people. This is the real life account of my “extreme weight loss” and it’s not all unicorns and rainbows!! Some of this is really weird and hard and I understand now why it must take so long to truly transform!! It is a grueling process and the mind takes time to catch up with the changes of your body and vice versa.

Ultimately, my goal is health and FEELING good, and be able to actively live my life.  So, the cosmetic stuff doesn’t really bother me.  Especially when I’m in my bubble where everyone knows me!

Here at home, everyone at our gyms knows ME. They know my story.  They’ve seen me work out.  They know what I’m capable of, and I walk around with complete confidence in my leadership there.  That is why I was unprepared for how my insecurity would start to creep in and feel at our conference.

Being in a group of hundreds (at least 1,000?) trainers and fitness professionals who didn’t know me left me feeling pretty vulnerable.  But I know better!!! I kept telling myself that this is what all of these people are passionate about! Not one person was rude to me or weird to me! The battle was all within my head.  Which leads me to my triumphant moment friends.  You knew there would be one!

The Saturday afternoon before we left, there was a group workout planned so that we could attempt to break three world records. The records we attempted were the most people doing a simultaneous 1 minute plank, 1 minute of squats and 1 minute of jumping jacks.  The squats and the planks I was not worried about.  But I have NEVER done unmodofied jumping jacks becuase I can’t jump on my feet! The pounding is too hard and my body so heavy.  But, in order to qualify for the world record, each person has to do a perfect, unmodofied version of each exercise without stopping for the full minute.

It was a conundrum.

I DID NOT WANT TO DO THIS.  I was silently agonizing over having to do it.  Worried I would fail miserably.  Do I sit out? Do I let my team down and refuse to do this workout that will surely end in my shame and humiliation? Do I surrender to that nagging negative voice that had been pestering me the whole time we were there, saying you DONT BELONG HERE?

Well first of all, my team wouldn’t have let me sit out so that wasn’t an option.  And secondly, I thought about all of my people!! All of my members at my gym at home who love me and whom I feel in some small way I represent.  I decided I’d try my best for THEM.  And so I did. And you know what? I was able to do all three.


LONGEST three minutes of my life, but I did it.  I could do it all along.  And in that three minutes it didn’t matter what my body looks like or all my dumb feelings…all I knew is that I had DONE THE THING.

One of the best feelings of my life, I’ll never forget it.  I was so proud of myself for not surrending to that old mindset that would have robbed me of being a part of breaking world records with my team.  After the workout, the trainer who was leading us from up front ran down to the grass and created a huddle with us all around.  He yelled,”Do you feel that?! This is why we do what we do. It’s magical! It’s tangible!” And I broke down and finally cried.

But, tears of joy!

It doesn’t matter who knows what about me.  I know how far I’ve come and am excited about where I’m going.  And it’s been announced that next years conference is in Palm Springs. 🙂

Boomshakalaka.

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Today is the first time I’ve really looked at a side by side pic and thought, “Holy s#%$! This is actually happening.”

The pic on the left was taken in December of last year. Since then, I’ve had 6 months of ups and downs. Days where I’ve felt invincible and days where I’ve wanted to quit because it all seemed worth less.

The easy part of this whole thing has turned out to be the ACTUAL exercise. Don’t get me wrong!! It’s HARD. But, the body is AMAZING and responds immediately to movement. My strength and endurance has been the one and only thing that I’ve noticed getting better and better every single week.

The HARD part, has been focusing on those victories and staying positive. The MENTAL work of this has been the hardest. Keeping clarity on what to eat everyday and not making lame exceptions to eat crap that will make me feel like crap. Not allowing myself to slack on logging my food on my fitness pal, and being HONEST on there…even on terrible days. Not allowing any room for feeling sorry for myself on days when I kept waiting for some drastic number to show up on the scale. Or, expecting my pant sizes to radically drop, and feeling disappointed when they hadn’t.

The old me would have given up 9 times by now.
The old me would have offered herself some way to excuse herself from the commitment. The old me would have justified that the pain of working out was not worth it without any tangible results.
The old me would have felt sorry for herself and soothed herself with food binges and a “screw it” attitude for weeks before getting sick of herself and declaring a “new start” once again!

The old me had resigned to just being a fat person.
I had accepted it as my roll in life. (No pun intended 😉) I didn’t think I was worthy of being someone who could be healthy and truly in love with life. How could anyone be happy when their heart if filled with despair?

My humor and loud personality over compensated for how miserable I really was for years. I hid behind being loud and funny so that I could be comfortable in social situations. It was a survival method I had used since the 7th grade. I figured out how to be “the funny girl” so that I wasn’t just “the fat girl”. Making fun of myself before anyone else could. Always appearing to be casual and confident, all the while literally being disgusted with myself well into my adulthood.

Hey, I’m all for body positivity and for big girls like me, learning how to truly love themselves!! But, hear ye: there is NO SUCH THING AS A FAT GIRL WHO LOVES BEING FAT. I’m glad that the media and our culture in general is starting to accept the fact that big girls are pretty and want to wear pretty clothes and be models. That’s awesome! But I guarantee you that if any one of these big girls could trade in their body for a healthier and more athletic one that could run and play and DO…each one would in a heart beat. Anyone who would argue with me on that is lying. Being fat and overweight is miserable. It is hard physically, emotionally and spiritually. It leaves you open to all kinds of public judgement and ridicule. And obviously, it puts your health at risk for a long list of problems, ailments and diseases. No, I won’t celebrate being “fat and fabulous”. I celebrate being strong and capable of being the BEST version of myself I can be.

I’m a big girl, and I’m proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish while still being big. I’ve bad to work twice as hard and be twice as dedicated to my health to get to where I am now, and I’m still a big girl! But it sure feels good to be able to DO. It feels good to MOVE.
It feels good to be genuinely confident with myself and not have to rely on my personality or hide behind jokes.

So, to all of us ladies battling the urge to give up??
I started this journey only a few pounds shy of 400lbs. There has been no magic. No pill or drink or special diet. It has been the day in and day out attempt to try, and CHOOSE life. I’ve stayed true to my commitment to my husband and babies and to myself. The hard work is starting to pay off.

For all of us who’ve at one time or another, caught a glimpse of ourselves in the reflection of a store window while walking through a parking lot…and immediately felt that heart plunge of shame with what we see? This post is dedicated to you.

For all of us who have sought comfort in our cars, eating drive thru food, hating ourselves more and more with every secret bite and feeling hopeless to change? This post is for you.

For all of us who’ve cried trying to squeeze into our jeans, or cried alone in our closets trying to find something suitable to wear to a wedding or other special event…this post is for you.

For every one of us who’s lacing up her shoes and trying to muster the confidence to step into a gym, or go walk around the block, or try a beginners yoga class for the first time? This is for you!

For every one of us that is choosing a salad instead of a burger and fries.

Water instead of a glass of wine.

Walking instead of driving.

Believing instead of doubting.

Loving instead of hating.

We CAN DO THIS.

KEEP GOING.

Artistry

So jealous of your art.

Your music.

Your fashion and style.

Artistry.

Creating.

Beautiful people are everywhere.

Very, everywhere.

I want to join you.

Strumming heartache.

Painting wanting.

Writing courage.

Dancing victory.

Singing regret.

Created for expression, but I’m only good at watching.

So, watch I will and learn how to report what I’ve seen.

What I’ve learned.

What I’ve lost.

What I’ve dreamed.

These are all offerings,

of moments that only exist in our hearts now.

They can never happen again.

There is only today.

So throw open the windows and draw in deep.

The day the Lord has made is yours and free for the taking.

Take it and run like hell.

Like hell is chasing you down and grabbing for your clothes.

Just behind you, with the proof of your failure in its clutches.

Talons of doubts swiping at your back.

Running still.

This will be the chapter of persistence.

And the art it will inspire will be worth the pain.

 

 

 

 

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Get a move on!

I just sat down at my computer and cranked up the music.

Subwoofer and all.

It feels so  good.  First song to pop up on my Pandora (Love’s Holiday/Earth, Wind & Fire Radio, if you’re feeling funky) is  Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T”.  Just what I need to light a fire under my ass this morning to literally dust this thing off and get down to business.  He  sings,” don’t you know now is the perfect time…” and he’s right, it is.

It has been way to long.

I have been avoiding my blog, my writing and generally all things I enjoy for sometime now.  I don’t know why I do that?   Must be a part of the weird and continual self-abuse that is my default when times get stressful.   I tend to fold up shop on all things productive and go back to the old way of thinking and managing my emotions when something sucky happens. And yes, sucky stuff has happened.  But I am still here.  My family is doing well.  I have a roof over my head.  All is well. Gratitude washes away all the weariness that has threatened to take over.

The good news is, the time between my old default setting and the fresh and ambitious setting that I prefer is getting shorter and shorter.  Thanks be to God!  My desire to THRIVE is greater than the desire to be feel sorry for myself.

One of my best friends reminded me of a great quote yesterday by the legendary Tony Robbins, “motion is emotion.”

Motion is emotion. 

Our body language and energy level is connected to what we think and feel about ourselves.  How we feel about ourselves dictates the quality of what we do day in and day out.  Even though I feel as though I have to learned this lesson over and over…here it is again today and I’ll be damned if a negative attitude hadn’t snuck in and tried to take over again.  Which is a shame because I have so much to tell you guys about the past few months.  I have gone (mostly) sugar-free.  I have started Pilates.   I began acupuncture to help with managing my foot pain and also to promote healing so that I can get to where I want to get with my fitness goals.  I have been enjoying some great accomplishments!  Even though I have a long way to go, I can”t afford to pull the plug and crawl back into my comfortable cave where everything dulls and comes to a screeching stop just because it seems too overwhelming.

You can’t make momentum out of nothing.  

So today I will GET UP.

GET A MOVE ON.

Maybe put on some Beyoncé and get my groove on.  I will not lie down and let poor and lazy thinking allow me to slip into fatigue and depression (again).  I think this is a danger for any of us moms who stay at home during the day (but that is a whole other blog post!).  If I am making the choice to sit and marinate in all of my negative feelings and fears, how can I ever expect any changes to occur or progress?  This was where I always seemed to fail before.  Throwing in the towel and resorting back to the same old thing before the new thing could take hold.   Putting a halt on all of the things that help me feel better and do better  is about the worst thing I can do.

I will WRITE.

I will post it.  Even if it sucks.  Because I know I should.  Because I know it helps me feel better.  Because I know it helps connect me to everyone else who reads these words and resonates with what I feel, and I know I’m not alone.   Because I know it is my art and my gift and if I want to get better at it, I need to quit worrying about who will read it and what they will think of it.

It’s the perfect time.

Especially now that Pharrell and Daft Punk are in my ear telling me it”s time “to get lucky”.

 

 

 

 

 

I.A.L.A.C. Week

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When I was in elementary school we had this week long themed week called I.A.L.A.C week. There are similar themes in schools today, some are called spirit weeks or unity week. At my sons school it’s a “celebration of reading” week. Basically how it works is Monday through Friday the kids are all given a little bit of a break to do fun stuff like wear their pajamas to school, or a have a crazy hair day. It’s a way of building up a team spirit atmosphere in the classroom and I’m sure a myriad of other benefits that I have no idea about because I’m not a teacher. But something about it MUST have been valuable because the model is repeated in almost every school.

It was no different for me and my classmates during our weeks back in the early 90’s…except for the message behind it. We were all given little buttons with the I.A.L.A.C acronym on it. It stood for,” I am love able and capable”. I can remember the teachers trying to get us to memorize this and kind of burn it into our minds. And here I am at 31 years old writing a blog post about it?! Well Done Grace Warner Elementary, well done. As I was laying in bed last night for some random reason ( my mind is a chaotic and rapidly busy place dudes…) this popped up and I began to really think about it. I woke up this morning and googled it. Sure enough, the I.A.L.A.C. message is still going strong.

This elegant and simple message of teaching children they are lovable and capable started to blow my mind. Maybe for the first time ever I really understand what the point was. It’s EVERYTHING. It’s the truest desires of the human heart.

How differently would my life look if I had believed those words and instead of just saying them for a week at school? What if I had started saying them to myself everyday? Now, I’m not saying that I wish my life were different. I’m grateful for the way my life has turned out because it led me to my faith, my husband and my children. But if I had actually believed in myself in this way…man…woulda, coulda, shoulda right?

What if I actually made an effort to raise my babies this way?? So much of the way I knee jerk discipline my kids breaks them down. I HATE it. I’ll confess that more times than I’d like to admit I’m more concerned about my kids behaving and not embarrassing me than I am about building up who they are and letting them just be kids. That’s a hard sentence to type and send out into the world…but it’s real. What if I was careful to build them up to believe they are SO lovable and MORE than capable to accomplish whatever they set out to do? What if I made MORE of a conscious effort to pray and try to protect them from whatever it is that starts to grow inside us that tells us we aren’t lovable? What if instead of getting frustrated at things that are left undone or chores that aren’t done the “right” way, I shifted gears and started focusing and celebrating the things that my children are capable of and DO WELL?

What if I started giving myself the same grace?

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Origins of a people pleaser

My fourth grade teacher was this large woman with a bouffant hairdo and plaid shirts. She carried herself like a man. Bold. Like a no-nonsense BOSS.
Mrs. Voskuil was tough and mean and hilarious. She was known for her “Texas fly-swatter” that she would slam down on your desk at any given moment if you should be so unlucky to be lured into a side conversation with a pal or at the very worst, to fall asleep. It’s swatter was the size of a dinner plate and when it met the smooth top of a desk it would radiate with a sharp “WHACK” that would leave even the sassiest of kids shaking in their L.A. Gears. The laughter that ensued from your classmates would have been salt on the wound, making the whole scene unbearable. The last thing any of us ever wanted was to be the reason for the Texas fly swatter coming off the hook on the wall.
Besides her disciplinary measures, one of the other stand out memories from being in her class was she and her husband had traveled the world. She had endless slides (!) from places like Denmark and Germany and China. It was wistful but boring. Looking back, I can appreciate all of the time it took to put that all together and share with us all she had gleaned from her adventures. I don’t think she had children of her own. I remember her talking a lot about her dogs.
I didn’t really do well in her class. I’ve been a terrible student most of my life. I never had good grades. I was always more concerned with the social happenings around me than to trouble myself with things like school work, homework or generally anything “official” going on. I used to cause a lot of trouble and be a bit of a dramatic kid ( hard to believe, right?). Spent a lot of time in the counselors office talking about my feelings.
Fourth grade was the year I became a published author! I wrote a poem about how much I hated math, and it was put into a collection of children’s poems.
It was also the year I stole something for the first time. It was a sterling silver bracelet from Montgomery Ward’s that I put in my neon parka while out Christmas shopping with my step mom. I wore it silently under long sleeve shirts. I loved how heavy and fancy it felt. I loved the secret and scandal of it all. Until my cousin Maria saw it two weeks later at my Grandpa’s funeral and asked me where I got it from (I never have been good at concealing my facial expressions). I got in HUGE trouble. One, for making trouble at my grandfathers funeral, two for shop lifting. Had to take it back and have a big embarrassing apology moment with some stern lady sitting opposite of me in a back room at the store. I was mortified.

Discomfort.
Shame was born.

I could list a zillion reasons why I was a bad kid. They’d probably be psychologically sound and true. It would be a long list filled with words like, “divorced”, “remarried”, or “not in the picture”. “Jealous”, “spoiled”, “handful”, “manipulating” and “brat”.
But the truth that I heard whispered about me was that I was a “difficult pain in the ass”.
Even though the exact words weren’t said, it was communicated that I was a burden. A source of agitation. A disappointment. A screw up.

I started to believe those words.

I still do.

Except for now, instead of just being naughty I try really hard to please everyone around me. I go above and beyond to make people like me and accept me. I am fiercely loyal, sometimes to a fault…because I am desperate for the same loyalty back to me in return. The last thing I ever want to do is disappoint my family or friends.
Disappointment always leads to shame and shame must be quieted so it doesn’t crumble you to pieces. This cycle of thinking has been slowly killing me. Literally.

This week I’ve been trying to dig up the roots of my confidence…or lack there of. I came upon my old memories of Mrs.Voskuil. Not because of the funny fly swatter or dreamy slide shows. It was because later on, when I was in high school I would go visit her in her classroom.
( You can’t do this anymore I imagine?) I would get out of school and have to wait around for 30 minutes or so for my siblings to get out of school so we could all walk home. I would go to her class to kill the time and she welcomed the opportunity to encourage me. She began to entrust me with correcting worksheets and spelling tests. I felt important with that red marker, official even. After a few weeks she let me stand in the front of the class and lead a word game she would play with her kids to gobble up those last antsy minutes before the bell rings. I felt like a champion. Those kids started to look up to me and I was proud of myself.
Confident.
She made me feel like I could actually inspire and teach one day. I started to believe her.
Sadly, I stopped going. I found more alluring ways to spend my free minutes. The cycle resumed.
Spending the rest of my high school career grasping at whatever might bring me love without conditions. Love that wouldn’t expire or reject me. Trying desperately to quiet the negative words that usually followed my name. Being a teenager really sucks.
Eventually, I found this kind of TRUE love in my faith.
But sometimes my old belief system keeps me from fully believing…robbing me of true confidence. Keeping me from being who I am meant to be…and thriving in it. I have to continue to press forward, even if it feels stagnant. I know I’m not there yet, but that’s where I’m headed.

In the meantime, take a moment to appreciate some unsung heroes from your own history. It did my heart good to remember ol’ Mrs.Voskuil and her bouffant hair. Wherever you are, I salute you!

It takes time

It takes God time to answer prayer. We often fail to give God a chance in this respect. It takes time for God to paint a rose. It takes time for God to grow an oak. It takes time for God to make bread from wheat fields. He takes the earth. He pulverizes. He softens. He enriches. He wets with showers and dews. He warms with life. He gives the blade, the stock, the amber grain, and then at last the bread for the hungry.

All this takes time. Therefore we sow, and till, and wait, and trust, until all God’s purpose has been wrought out. We give God a chance in this matter of time. We need to learn this same lesson in our prayer life. It takes God time to answer prayer.
— J.H.M.

This was taken from “Streams in the Desert” and was exactly what I needed to hear today.

I wrote yesterday about confidence and have been really digging around to see how people get it and maintain it. Studying how to keep confidence consistent. This has been a struggle.
In the spirit of realology, I’ll confess that I’ve been letting the anxieties of my life choke me. I have been blessed the past 6 months with a sweet little job that has allowed me to focus most of my free time on this blog, my writing projects and the roots of of my food and weight issues. My wonderful husband has been amazing, carrying the brunt of all of our needs. I fear the time has run out…or maybe it’s just where the rubber really meets the road.

I received an amazing text from one of my brothers yesterday. Not sure if its a quote or an original but I wanted to share it:

There is never a reason you can’t attain your goal and be who you want to be. Don’t let the lack of opportunity, finances, or knowledge stop you. We are all born into the world the same way; naked, dumb and speechless, but we learn and achieve.”

So today, I’m praying for faith and patience to trust. Praying that the confidence and momentum I have will not be squelched but multiplied despite the fears starting to stack up. Praying I will learn (finally?) to achieve instead of always going back to what’s old and comfortable.

Flotsam and Jetsam

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One of the best things about keeping this blog and practicing the daily commitment of it has been asking myself each morning, ” What is real? What is true today?” Having to check in and be honest with myself and dig out a nugget of truth seems to always bring me before God in a REAL and meaningful way. It has helped me to create a time of reflection, study and prayer that I was struggling to find before.
That being said, sometimes what I unearth and dust off SUCKS.
Sometimes, what God shows me about myself is not flattering or fun to share. But REAL is what I must be, so here we are.

I have been exploring confidence.
What it looks like, feels like, sounds like.
How is it attained and kept? How is it dashed?
I’ve been wondering why it seems so fleeting.
To be solid and sure and heading in the right direction one minute only to find you’ve allowed yourself to be tossed to and fro. The bible warns against this, calling it childish. Eluding to shady behaviors, teachings and trickery causing the doubt and questioning. It conjures images of being cold and wet. Unsure of your footing. Exhausted from gripping and holding on tight enduring a raging storm on the sea. Waves crashing down all around. Left wondering what the heck happened to the calm, sunlit and promising course you were JUST on?

“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” -Ephesians 4:14 ESV

What is true today?

I have lost my confidence.
I have been out of bounds.
I have been slowly tricking myself into little allowances.
Little here…little there.
Deceiving myself.

“This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!” – Galatians 5:9

Interestingly, the Bible teaches that leavening or yeast is a tangible picture of how sin works in our lives. In the Old Testament the practice of keeping and eating unleavened bread is meant to remind us that we are to live in sincerity and truth by obeying God’s law–that we are not continue in false religion, not to continue in sin. Not to allow ourselves to be puffed up, I would even say, not continue in deceiving ourselves.
Physically, leavening agents include yeast, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), and baking powder. These agents “puff up” grain containing products and make them look larger than they would be otherwise. A PERECT example of false confidence instead of the true confidence that comes from doing the right thing…thus, being able to feel good and proud of your choices.

My “in-bounds” eating calls for me to avoid these very foods. The simple carbs that are the crux of my addiction. Breads, pastas, pastries of all kinds. All of that stuff! It’s NO GOOD for me. Physically or spiritually. I don’t want to be puffed up and tossed about. I want to be confident and vibrant.

The pursuit of a meaningful makeover persists! I will continue to choose each day, each hour, each minute if need be to turn the ship around and get back on course!

Ahoy!!

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