Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Skewed Sense of Self

May, 2009. I'm fat. And I don't really care that I'm' fat. I'm an awesome person and I like to have fun with my friends and I'm a great mom and wife and life is good. But now I look back at that picture and wonder how I didn't realize how fat I was. August, 2009. Still fat. Maybe fatter. Gaining. And getting to the point that I really didn't care how I looked. This was taken at a gathering of friends- many of whom I'd never met face to face. And I didn't have clothes that fit so I wore stretchy maternity pants and a 2XL t-shirt.
March, 2010. I'm just a few weeks into my journey to become a Healthier Me. I still like me. I'm still all those great things I was in May of 2009. But my focus has changed. I'm starting to see the fat when I look in the mirror. Crazy, isn't it? I hadn't realized just how fat I was. But the picture don't lie. I was fat. I was pushing 240, maybe even gotten past it.
I've been living this new, healthy lifestyle for over a year now. My diet has improved incredibly. I feel strong and healthy. The benefits of exercise and fruits and veggies amazes me. I like how I look in my clothes again and sometimes catch myself... dare I say... admiring what I see in the mirror.

The funny thing is that I see and feel these changes. I see the label in my clothes that says 12 or 14 instead of 18. I am aware of my muscles. But there are times when I look in the mirror and I see the fat that lingers. When I was at my heaviest, I wasn't aware of the fat on my body. Now that I'm focused on a healthier way of living, I see the fat and I get critical of it for at least 2.4 seconds. And just as quickly. I remember where I came form, how hard I've worked. Most of all, I remember that my goals are about running, endurance, strength, teaching my kids healthy habits.

But I still sometimes have these odd experiences where what I see when I look down at my body and what I see when I look in the mirror don't always match what is actually there. Last week, I posted a couple of pics on my personal Facebook page. I had, on a whim, picked up a top at a store and was trying to decide if I should keep it or return it. It wasn't tight but it was designed to be more form fitting than anything else in my closet. I liked the front view but when I turned to the side, this is what I saw:
I see that poochy tummy. I see the junk in my trunk. I see pants that suddenly seem a bit too tight. I see a shirt that is showing too many curves. I look in the mirror and I see the areas that are still under improvement.

But then a friend left a comment on the pic I'd posted. "the shirt is cute, but as far as your figure, wow Liz! :) You've done an awesome job" " I know I was going to say good job!!! You look really good Liz! The shirt looks cute on you too!" "I wanna butt and tummy like yours. Oh, yeah, keep is my vote!" "It's a keeper! It flatters you and that rockin' body!" Thankfully, I also have friends that save me before my head explodes. Friends like Garret and his comment: "Lovely shower curtain."

Say what?? These friends are complimenting my body? I'm looking for feedback on a shirt and they are pointing out specific areas of my body that they admire? Really? So I went and looked at the picture. I have to admit I hadn't actually looked at it. I took it, I posted it, I asked for votes on keep or return. But I figured I knew how it looked. I figured it was too fitting and would just show off that flab in the front and bumpy in the back- like my arrows indicate.

I'm working to reprogram how I see myself. I'm working on being realistic about what I see when I glance in the mirror. I'm still measuring myself by endurance, diet, exercise, accomplishments and not by pounds or inches or clothing size. But I'm also realizing just how much I need to work on fixing my skewed body image. I've worked hard and the pictures speak to the results of my hard work. And I think remembering that hard work is important when I struggle on a run or lack motivation to exercise or want to dive into a gallon of ice cream. I need to see these pictures below and appreciate them for what they are- representations of the work I've done, captured images of the changes I've made.

I look... normal. This last picture was taken this past Sunday. A group of us went to Marsh, a grocery store located next door to our church, and we shopped for our local food pantry. 9 families, 30 minutes, fellowship and fun in the store, and we were able to donate 300 pounds of food. One of the men from church brought his camera and this is one of the pics he snapped- me handing a can of spinach to Teagan. It's a moment where I wasn't posing, I wasn't aware of the camera, I wasn't sucking anything in or trying to give a cheesy grin to divert attention from my gut. It's a real moment- and I look normal. And I am proud of the hard work I've done and continue to do. I am proud of the changes I've made and continue to make. Most of all, I'm excited that so many of my friends are out there making changes, finding time to exercise, finding ways to change their diets and make their homes healthier.
One of those friends is Heather. And here is where I ask you to do something! She's been busting her hiney (and losing some pounds in the process) to prove her dedication to a healthier lifestyle. She wants to be the next Mamavation mom. And now she's been chosen as a finalist. If she becomes this mom, she will have a 7 week foundation that includes help from trainers, dieticians, nutritionists, and an online support system like no other! I'd love for her to get the votes she needs to win this amazing opportunity. Would you please help her out? Go to the voting page and scroll down to the 4th video- @justheather. Click by her name and then scroll down and click "vote." You don't have to register or anything. Just click by her name, click vote. Maybe you will help change her life!! Isn't that an amazing feeling? Maybe she will make serious changes in her life, in her family's lives, and she will be the one writing a post about being in shock about the changes she doesn't see but is becoming aware of in her own body.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"For the Kids"

This is another post coming out of the amazing weekend I spent with a group of 6 teen girls on a Christian conference for teen girls called The Revolve Tour.


A very serious subject did come up in the car at one point. I was surprised with the openness that the girls shared with me and their friends. And I learned a lot.

Lately, the topic of marriages staying together has come up several times. Facebook, MomsLikeMe, in person with friends. And the discussion revolves around what's best- to divorce or "stay together for the kids." Some argue that a parent who is miserable in a marriage is going to rub their misery on the kids. Some argue that you stay together no matter what because that's what is best. Some argue that they grew up in a house with parents who hated one another and wished that their parents would have just divorced instead. The focus is always the same- it's always on the parents. The kids are usually just along for whatever ride the adults get on.

Sidebar: This is a discussion about your average marriage and not about anyone in a marriage that includes abuse or addiction. There are certainly times that a marriage has to end for the safety of the people involved or for the safety of the kids.

Granted, I was only with a small group of teen girls. And status didn't match statistics- the majority of the girls had parents who were still married and generally happy. But the voice of 2 of the girls has stayed with me.

1 girl knows that her parents struggle. She knows that one parent is seeking a way to leave the other. She knows that other parent wants to fight to save the marriage, wants to hold on. She knows they fight.
1 girl has parents already divorced and has step parents with each original parent. And both of those marriages are crumbling. One has a parent wanting to leave the other parent. One has a parent already left, filing for divorce.

And so we talked about what it means to be a "child of divorce." I came from a divorced family but was fortunate that the man my mother married commited himself to her (through marriage) and to me (through adoption). And I openly shared my thoughts and experiences since the girls were sharing so openly with me.
We talked about families that stay together. We talked about parents fighting. We talked about relationships. We talked about what they see for their future, their relationships. We talked about staying together "for the kids."

The consensus in the car was that staying together is best. Not in misery. Not fighting all the time. Not doing dumb stuff. The girls who are right in the thick of this stuff want their parents to fight FOR their marriage, for their family. They want their parents to be serious about loving each other. During the conference, one of the speakers would come out in the crowd and ask girls about their dreams. What is your dream? One girl- a teenager, remember- said her dream is for her parents to not get divorced.

Kids are selfish, aren't they? And don't we work hard to teach them not to be selfish? And yet the example they so often see in their own families is a parent acting selfishly.

Kids can be cruel to each other with their words and actions. And we rebuke them for it, hand down consequences. And yet they are often witness to our choices to yell and scream, maybe throw things or hurt each other.

Kids don't recognize that their choices have consequences. We strive to teach them self-responsibility, teach them that their choices can cause serious harm to others. And yet they witness us, maybe without our realizing how much they see and hear, maybe with us over-sharing in our quest to place blame or rid ourselves of guilt, stepping outside of our important relationships instead of working with our partner to fix the issues.

Jeff and I feel like we have a good marriage. We have fun together, we miss each other when the other is gone, we are intimate, we talk all the time, we need and want each other, we trust each other. He's not just my husband, he's also my friend. And we are both focused on keeping our marriage good so that we create a solid foundation for our kids. I don't ever want to blow up their world- life will inflict enough battle wounds. I'm blessed to have a husband who feels the same sense of responsibility and commitment to such an important mission. Sure, we fight, we snip, we nag, we complain. It's not all sunshine and roses. There is serious hard work involved in keeping a marriage good.

I could go on and on about my thoughts on marriage and divorce. But I think the opinion of the kids who rode in my van carry a lot more weight. And I hope a lot of people are listening.

They want you to stay together. They want you to be happy and love each other and love them- even if it takes a lot of work. They want you to work hard to keep it together. They want more than just staying together "for them." The demands are high, the expectations are immense. But it lines up nicely with those vows we made, doesn't it? And it lines up nicely with the very lessons we strive to impart on our kids, doesn't it?

Most of all... I think our kids are worth that fight and that hard work.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Side Benefit

I've been sharing this week about my experiences as a volunteer chaperone for our church's youth girls going on the Revolve Tour this past weekend.

As much as I loved the time I spent with those girls... there was a side benefit that I hadn't anticipated.

I bonded with the moms on the trip. Paulette is our pastor's wife. She's a nurse. She's a compassionate woman, she's got a wicked sense of humor, and I have a feeling we could have a crazy night on the town together. Carol is a woman I've known in small ways. Our circles cross sometimes but we've never sat and just spent time together. This weekend, I got to spend time with these 2 women.

Now, we didn't have any sort of slumber party. We didn't sit around and bond and talk and cry. But we laughed- a lot. And we talked. At one point, Paulette and I went and walked around the arena, got some popcorn, and just snacked and talked for a while. OK, maybe there was some standing around and talking and bonding.

And I confess- I did cry. At our last dinner together, just before heading back home, I shared with Paulette how important she was in my being part of our church family. See, when I first joined our church, I ended up miscarrying my first pregnancy just 4 days after my first time attending a church service there. And that church family came together in ways I never imagined for someone they didn't really know. And Paulette was someone who came to me with great love and compassion and really helped me through some difficult weight. I shared that with her- and I cried while doing it.

And the laughter! We laughed about all 6 teens riding in my car while Paulette and Carol got to ride together, listen to the radio, and talk to each other. We laughed while playing Telestrations with the girls. We laughed about men and sex and food and drink. We laughed about the girls and each other. We discovered our mutual love of Skyline Chili, Starbucks, and grown up bevvies.

And now I have 2 more women in my church that I feel a renewed kinship with and am eager and excited to see them again. I have 2 women that I respect and admire that I can turn to when I need parenting advice or when I'm struggling with my kids or my husband or my faith. I have 2 women that I can trust with my kids. It's an amazing feeling when you strengthen the bonds with your family.

I can't wait to have some serious fun with these women again. And next time- no kids!


Monday, March 28, 2011

A Van Full of Teenage Girls

Friday afternoon, 2 minivans headed to the local high school to pick up 6 teen girls. Some are girls from our church and some are friends from school. Specifically, 5 are associated with church and 1 is part of their group at school. All are around 15 years old. All attend public school together.

I have to tell you that I was nervous. I was thinking back to what I was like as a teenager and trying to remember what I thought about adults. But my looking back is skewed because I was dealing with some serious and heavy issues as a teen. Bottom line was that I wanted these kids to like me. I knew a couple of them well enough to be comfortable with them. I'd watched a few of them growing up over the years. But I was worried about them liking me, accepting me, trusting me. Silly, isn't it? I'm an adult. I've already been through that stage in my life where I worry about being liked and accepted. But something about hanging out with teens took me back to that place from my own teen-hood.

I shouldn't have worried. These girls were awesome. I should have realized everything would be fine since I was the only chaperone who wasn't a parent of one of the kids. The other minivan held all the stuff the girls had packed and 2 moms of 2 of the girls. I got the girls and their energy and their laughter and their conversation all to myself. And it was an important lesson, really.

And it is something I want other grown ups to know. If there are teens around you- at church, in your neighborhood- chances are good they are good kids. And chances are good they want to talk to you. They want to know that you love them and that you care and that you see their value.

One of the girls has some serious and ongoing health issues. She has a supportive and loving family. She's smart and witty and pretty and caring. Because she deals with ongoing pain and with a serious health concern, she is more aware of the bigger things in life.

One of the girls has a home life that isn't the best. She loves her parents and I'm sure they love her. But I'm told they are incredibly strict and come down really hard on her over ridiculous things. And that when they come down- they are mean and say things that hurt the heart. And she's this amazing girl. She has this wonderfully silly side that I got to see for the first time ever. She is considerate, polite, and feels deeply and intensely.

One of these girls often seems dark and moody. But she's carrying around someone else's pain as her own burden. And she's scared of what will happen if she ever lets go. I think others see her as wandering, lost, uncaring, and morose. And I see her trying hard to fit that description. But I also saw those layers get peeled back and I saw her let down that guard. I was honored to be able to talk to her from time to time about her dreams, her life, her joy.

One of these girls still holds a child's heart and her joy and amazement flows freely from her. She is a spark. She has hurt in her heart due to having "broken homes." But her love of life and the intensity with which she feels happiness and shares it is going to take her far.

These are your average, everyday girls who are dealing with school and grades and boys and prom and parents and pressure and stress and deep questions and still have a desire to just be kids. They colored on our road trip- crayons and coloring books. They like to play board games, several of them don't really mind hanging out with their parents, they are learning to swing dance. They are passionate about making a positive change in the world. They have goals- being an Army medic, a firefighter, a crime scene investigator, finding a cure for diabetes. I watched them dance and sing and hug and talk and play together.

Personally, I'm eager and excited to be around these remarkable girls. I can't wait to stay connected to them. I saw some of them Sunday morning at church and was positively giddy about it. I'll see more of them on Wednesday at our church dinner/small group time. I learned so much about them this weekend- in just over 24 hours.

And I can't wait to learn even more.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fragments: Sushi, Rainbows, and Chaperones!

This is definitely a day that needs fragments!! I have a ton of stuff to do in a very short amount of time so I'm going to toss a few fragments out and then get busy!
This afternoon, I am going on a trip! I will be gone all night tonight, all day Saturday, and won't get home until after the kids are in bed Saturday night. I vounteered to chaperone a group of teen girls going on the Revolve Tour this weekend in Columbus, OH. I am seriously excited about this and it has me questioning my sanity just a little bit...
We ate at my favorite sushi place last night. It's called Wild Ginger and is close to home and the sushi is truly amazing. Any time I eat sushi elsewhere, I always end up wanting to come back to Wild Ginger. Lately, I've been getting sushi about once a week. Good thing most sushi is pretty healthy! Last night, a couple of friends were meeting up to have dinner together and they chose Wild Ginger- partially because I rave about it so much. I was nervous! Do you ever feel that way? Like maybe you've built it up too much in your mind and maybe it isn't as awesome as you think it is? Thankfully, it was just as awesome for them. They loved it and I'm hoping I can join them there next time! Whew!
My kids love this sushi place, too. Zach likes that they cut up the oranges on the plate in a fancy way- he likes to play with the peels. Teagan, who can soemtimes be a picky eater and sometimes be an adventurous eater, has recently come to love sushi! Here she is with a piece of our favorite roll- spicy albacore with ponzu sauce. Girlfriend looooooves the ponzu. She soaks her teriyaki chicken in it, dips bites of rice in it, I think she'd drink it if we gave her a straw!
Sometimes, getting stuck in traffic isn't such a bad thing. Especially when it means you get to see a huge rainbow!! It was a double on one side of the street and it actually arced over the street- a full rainbow! I was downright giddy- Jeff thought I was weird.
Time for me to head into a meeting that will last all morning. I leave at noon and have to rush home to completely clean out my car. I have phone calls to make prior to departure and a couple of e-mails to send out. I hope you have a great weekend and get to do something fun, relaxing, uplifting... something you enjoy!
Mommy's Idea

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Form Running Clinic

Tuesday evening, Christy and I did something we've been wanting to do for quite some time now but haven't been able to find what we wanted.

Brief history- I started running in February of 2010 using the Couch to 5K training program. I got a video analysis of my gait at a local running store and ended up learning about pronation and stability shoes- and ran happily in them until they started to break down within 3 months of purchase. Then I ended up with knee/IT Band/hip issues.

After I completed that 5K goal, I started following Christy's lead and learning more about running form. We started to read up on and watch videos about Chi, Pose, and Evolution. We fumbled through it all as best we could, applying the philosophy and techniques. Over the next many months, we worked more and more towards "minimalist" running. No rise in the sole of the shoe, midfoot landing instead of heel strike, forward lean from the ankle.

In February of 2011, I officially went full on minimalist with the purchase of a pair of true "weird" running shoes- the Merrell Barefoot. And I've never been happier!

Christy and I have talked many times about wishing we could be evaluated so we would know what we're doing right, what we need to improve on, and what we're doing completely wrong. But if you can find a Chi or Pose clinic or trainer, it costs $$$ to work with that person or group.

Talking to staff at my local running store is no help- I was told "you just run the way you run, there's nothing to changing your form, no purpose to it!" I knew the guy was wrong but also knew my novice runner status wouldn't give me much weight in the argument. By chance, we found that another local running store, The Runners Forum, offers a weekly running clinic called Good Form Running.

Good Form was started by Playmakers in Michigan. And it is, thankfully, spreading and growing into more common running realms. Best of all- the clinic is free. It's a marketing maneuver that works. Not only did I learn from the clinic, but now I'm comfortable at that running store and will go there without hesitation when the need arises.

There are 4 steps to Good Form. 1. Posture 2. Midfoot 3. Cadence 4. Lean

Our instructor, Adam, talked for a bit, showed a video or 2, and then we did a little light running down the store's indoor track strip as he video taped us. Towards the end of the clinic, we watched the video and were able to see, in slow motion, our form. We ran with shoes and then barefoot. Christy and I were ahead of the learning curve since we've already been working on this for so many months. We were able to get positive feedback on some things that we are each doing really well. And we were able to see some things we each need to work on.

My midfoot landing is good. My general form is good. I need to work on my upper body- I tend to move my shoulders too much. Adam says that doing a "posture reset" every mile or more will help immensely- that's raising the arms directly overhead just to pull everything up and into better alignment. Might look silly- but most runners don't worry about looking silly.

I also need to work on my cadence. Cadence is something I've only played with and haven't really spent any time truly working on incorporatinginto my running. I never would have thought of running to a metronome and was excited to learn that there are apps on smart phones that will keep cadence for you. And lean is something I've been working on and need to continue working on. You can run in place at the correct or ideal cadence- going nowhere. It's when you lean forward that you move. You lean from the ankles, not the waist.

I'm going to work on lean drills- standing still and leaning forward until I have weight stopping me at my big toes. I also need to work on strengthening my hip flexors (my Tuesday core class helps with that). I've played with lean and it scares me. When I really get my lean on... I go faster and that can be overwhelming. I came away with a confidence boost- I'm doing this pretty well. Really, I already knew that because my running is improving and I'm running without pain. But having validation from someone who is knowledgable is huge!

I also came away with things to work on and that's important, too. Part of what I like about running is that there is a sense of constant challenge. I can't get bored because there is always something to learn, something to do better.

Check out the Good Form website, check with your local running stores, see if you can find this clinic. It looks like Good Form is now being sponsored by New Balance since NB has come out with a new minimalist shoe and I think that the clinic will become more popular in running stores because of it. My one caution would be to try and work with a store that already sold minimalist shoes prior to the New Balance release. They should have already sold things like Vibram Five Fingers, Newton Trainers, Vivo, etc. Personally, I'd feel more confident learning from someone who really believes and lives this form and isn't just someone who has been trained to teach the class and is currently learning the form.

Run on!!