#14DaysOfMe Challenge Complete

Two weeks ago, I challenged myself to a #14daysofme challenge wherein everyday I must pick one thing I love about myself, capture it in photo and share it via social media. While aware that this may appear to be narcissistic, I did it to not only change my own inner voice, but to encourage you to change yours. Positive self-talk is one of the most effective ways to improve depression and anxiety, but it takes a lot of work to change that negative inner-voice. The #14daysofme challenge was my answer to kicking off better habits and thoughts about myself.

The first two days were easy. It’s simple to find at least two things you like about yourself, but by the third day it started getting a little challenging. I began questioning anything I liked… What if I share this and everyone thinks “really? she likes that about herself?” What if I’m wrong? What if I sound cocky? What if I don’t like anything about myself? I almost asked Husband to help me out a few times, but I never never did.  You know what? I found something everyday.

And, what’s more, everyone was super supportive. I cannot tell you how nervous I was to post each photo, but everyone single one was met with words of encouragement, agreement and even appreciation. It started getting easier to find what I like about myself. I began feeling more confident and am now very aware when that negative voice sneaks back in and tries to knock me down. THAT is a huge step in the right direction. Oh how, I hope hope hope my little challenge may have challenge one of you to do the same and change your inner voice!

By the end of the two weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking of things I like about myself. In fact, today, the final day, I had a list of things I could have shared, but after reading this beautiful essay by Glennon over at Momastery, I decided to appreciate my many faults. I highly recommend reading it if you have or know anyone who has any sort of mental illness. (addiction, anxiety, depression, etc).

Help us manage our fire, yes, but don’t try to extinguish us.Tweet: What we mentally different need is respect. Help us manage our fire, yes-but don’t try to extinguish us. @momastery http://ctt.ec/e11Cc+ ‎ That fire that almost killed us is the same fire we’ll use to light up the world. And so we don’t want you to take what we’ve got, we just want help learning how to use what we’ve got for good.  – Glennon

(Funny, how you find just what you need at the exact right moment.)

So here it is, all 14 days of me…

The challenge may be over, but it’s just the beginning to my new habit of loving and encouraging myself. What’s more, is this little boost of confidence is already empowering me to encourage and remind others how they too, are beautiful and wonderful. Like, you. You, my friend are beautiful, brave, kind and strong. And don’t you forget it.

Cheers!

A LOVEly Wedding

This weekend was so full of love that I still feel all gooey and melty and on the verge of tears. Two of our closest friends got married and the whole weekend was centered around them and their big day. It may have been their wedding, but it somehow became an entire family affair for us. Husband was the best man, Zoey (sis-in-law) was the coordinator and cousin Steph was the florist. All of these made me the assistant.

Our friend, Genevieve, had a very specific enchanted garden theme in mind for her wedding and like most brides, she had a clear vision of what she wanted this to look like. She wanted arbors covered in flowers and greenery, moss-covered planters, lanterns, tables themed after famous lovers, mis-matched floral dishes, fresh maple leaves for name cards and lots and lots of beautiful fresh flowers. To make this dream of wedding come true she would need a miracle. Well either a miracle or a lot of people who love her.

Turns out, lots of people love her and Matt (the groom)! I cannot even begin to tell you how many people it took to put this wedding together, or how much work and collecting of whimsical-looking mis-matched tableware her Mother collected over the last year. What I can tell you, is that we all worked hard to make their dream come true because we love them, and they love each other. It was something so obvious to anyone watching the weekend celebrations come together. I love weddings, but this wedding was special. Everywhere I looked I seemed to spot small and large acts of love.

As we put together centerpieces, the bride and groom practiced their first dance in the hall. They were so happy/excited/nervous/cute.

practice spin

Dozens of us worked together to created a sort of Wonderland in the reception area. We worked all night and were back in the early morning. No one fought about what goes where, or who should be doing what. Nope. We asked “what next?” and then hopped to it.  Everyone just seemed happy to be there.

Busy Bees!
Busy Bees!
a small glimpse into the reception area
a small glimpse into the reception area

We were literally singing and dancing while working. Even little Luna cooed and hung out peacefully during most of the work.

babyrella

Husband was the best man. He was all the chauffeur for the weekend, the entertainer on the dance floor, the errand runner and if you ask me…he is the best man. He even managed to squeeze in a dance or two for me and Luna.

We actually asked Luna to make a kissy face, but whatever
We actually asked Luna to make a kissy face, but whatever

Genevieve’s Dad presided over the wedding and gave the sweetest ceremony for his oldest daughter.

Even the cooking staff showed us lots of love as they took me in and helped me survive a rough patch with Luna (story to come.)

We spent the night of the wedding dancing away with new friends from that very night and with old friends we haven’t seen in years.

It was absolutely beautiful. We visited the newlyweds the morning after, before they took off for Hawaii, and Genevieve still had tears in her eyes as she talked about “the perfect night” that everyone managed to put together for her and Matt. I’m so happy to have been a part of their big day. It’s a wedding we will always talk about with stories of “remember this”, “remember that” and “I still can’t believe…”. I love that Luna was a part of it too. For the rest of her life she’ll hear about the awesome wedding she went to at 3 months old.

Congrats to the happy couple! I think the amount of love and support shown at your wedding is a testament to how much everyone believes in your relationship. xoxo

Cheers!

Prenatal Workouts

For many years now I have been a very active and health conscious person. I still have my days where I eat like crap and watch too much America’s Next Top Model, but mostly I lead a healthy lifestyle. It all began in high school…partially because of an eating/image disorder and a lot because of my fears and anxieties of dying of heart disease. I had some unhealthy and extreme habits for a while, but after lots of education, practice, training and even a job and teaching certification through the local gym I learned what it truly meant to be fit and healthy.

Now, I’m so thankful to have started healthy habits at a young age because I was healthy when we decided to conceive and can continue my fit lifestyle throughout my pregnancy, which any doctor will tell you is a very good idea. That being said, there are still many precautions I have had to take to keep active during my pregnancy, which leads me  to this post…

I have been a little extreme with my workouts (Beachbody’s Insanity and the Asylum have been my top 2 workouts this pregnancy), but I followed some cardinal prenatal exercise rules before starting these workouts.

1. ALWAYS consult with your doctor before continuing or starting a workout plan. My doctor was happy with my health and encouraged me to continue my regular exercise routine, with caution. He warned me not to work out to fatigue (that’s a challenge) and to always be smart and listen to my body. Throughout the pregnancy I have consulted with him about what I am doing, verified that I am still being safe and got his blessing to keep on keepin’ on. After the “false alarm” a couple of weeks ago I triple checked with the doctor and nurse that my workouts had nothing to do with our hospital visit. Thankfully, they did not.

heartbeat

2. Like the doctor says: Listen to your body! Normally, I will push through my workouts no matter the little aches and pains and fatigue, but not while pregnant. It’s been challenging to change this habit, but I am much more concerned about doing what’s safe and healthy for our baby girl. I have learned to slow down, take breaks, modify and even take a day off or two (gasp!). I actually took two days off of exercising this week because I knew my body needed extra rest and for whatever reason was not up for my normal activity. I did feel guilty, but I certainly don’t regret it.

26 weeks pregnant and just finished the first (modified) day of The Asylum.
26 weeks pregnant and just finished the first (modified) day of The Asylum.

3. Drink A LOT  of water. The week before I found out I was pregnant I was the thirstiest I have ever been, no amount of water could quench my thirst. This pregnancy symptom has stuck with me throughout the whole experience and it turns out there is a good reason for it. Pregnant women don’t necessarily need more water, but need enough water, which most of us typically do not get. If you are working out and pregnant you need even more.

4. Find a supporter. Having someone to workout with or at least hold you accountable is essential. Thankfully, my Husband has become dedicated to working out since we found out about the baby. He encourages me everyday, but is also supportive when I need to take a step back. I’m also participating in a fitness group on Facebook. Two of my friends are Beachbody coaches and they created a group of girls on Facebook to encourage each other to eat healthy, workout  and share success stories. I am not even in the same state as any of them, but it is still really nice to know I have that extra support group.

We often take "Wacky Wednesday" pics to share in our fitness group. This is from our "planking photos" day.
We often take “Wacky Wednesday” pics to share in our fitness group. This is from our “planking photos” day.

5. Make it part of your routine. It’s hard enough when you aren’t pregnant to workout on a regular basis, but it’s SO much harder when you are growing another human! However, if you make it a habit, consider it as necessary as brushing your teeth and stick with it, then it won’t seem quite so difficult. Keep in mind you can break a 30 minute workout into ten minute increments on busy days: a ten minute walk in the morning, ten minutes of yoga after lunch or whatever you can do for ten minutes…it all counts!

6. Think about your baby. Recent studies show that exercising can actually make your newborn healthier, smarter, and easier!

7. Snack on healthy snacks. You’ll need it to keep up your energy and to make up for too many burnt calories. This is tough for me because I LOVE snacking, but in an unhealthy way…I prefer chips and french fries. Right now, I keep soy yogurt, granola, pistachios, and fruit on hand for easy healthy snacks.

8. Don’t overheat. Getting too hot actually causes blood to go away from the uterus to the skin as an attempt to cool off your body. It also raises your blood pressure. So if it’s too hot outside, stay inside and enjoy working out in the AC.

9. MODIFY! The further along you get, the more difficult it is going to be to continue on as normal. At 27 weeks, I am having to modify something new almost every week. The first 4 or 5 months I could do basically every move full-out, but my body just isn’t capable at this point, and that’s okay.

10. Don’t let naysayers get you down. MOST people around you are looking out for you and will give you advice (good and bad) because they love you and want you and your baby to be healthy. However, there will be the occasional few who try to scare you from working out. They may tell you it’s dangerous, you aren’t gaining enough weight or anything else to discourage you. Just remember, if you have the green light from your doctor and you are being safe and listening to your body, then you’re doing the right thing. Just nod and smile to those who don’t understand. I have to say that most of my friends and family have been really supportive, and I am so grateful.

prenatal exercise

Cheers!

Showing Up

friends

I can’t say enough how lucky I am to have such great best friends. Last week, after I lost my Grandma, I received so many calls, texts, messages, etc from my closest friends. They were all there for me in whatever way was possible and sent their love and happy thoughts to not just me, but my family.

The night of the visitation, I was so sick. I couldn’t eat or sleep beforehand and felt l may pass out from sheer anxiety of being in the same stupid funeral home I have been in too many times. I roamed from familiar room to familiar room like a zombie, hugged my relatives and made polite conversation with the many people who came to show their respects. I smiled and talked about my baby bump while trying to force myself to forget the reason we were all brought together.

At some point, I looked to the back of the main room and saw my friend Misti standing with her baby. Relief flooded over me. I basically ran to her and soon discovered the other half of us (our group) would soon be arriving. I have some very close and wonderful friends in Texas, but the four of us have been an inseparable group for a while now.

We huddled together in the lobby where we hugged, felt sad together, laughed together and told stories together. Having them there for me was just as calming, maybe more so, than taking a klonopin with a glass of wine. I was happy they came, but not surprised. They showed up, and I guess deep down I knew they would because that’s what friendship is about, right? Showing up?

Sometimes we drive to funerals, other times we Skype overseas. It’s not always easy to actually be there, but friends find one way or another to “show up”.

After returning to Tennessee, my Mom called to tell me she was writing thank you cards to everyone who sent us flowers and food. She had received flowers from “the BB’s”, but wanted to know who were “the BB’s”.  She assumed from the address it was my friends. I told her that yes, indeed, “the BB’s”  were my friends. Here’s how the rest of that conversation went…

Mom: So, what does “BB’s” mean? Is that like “Best Buds” or something?

Me: Ummm…no.

Mom: Well, what does it mean?

Me: Umm, well…. Braless Bitches.

Mom: I shouldn’t have asked. Although, I can’t say that I’m surprised.

-Silence-

Mom: So should I address the letter to “the BB’s” or the “braless bitches”?

Thanks for the laughs BB’s.

And thanks to all my friends for “showing up”.

Cheers

P.S. For those of you who are wondering…”the BB’s” is an inside joke from many many moons ago. And, no, I am not going to explain it.

What Money Can’t Buy You…

I have taught in very different types of places with very different types of families over the last six years, and have heard a similar question after each experience:

What are the parents like?

That’s actually a much kinder version of the various similar questions I was actually asked.

When I taught in a low-income, high-crime, gang-ridden, mostly minority town in Texas I was often asked, Are all the students raised by their grandparents? and Are any of the parents involved at all?

When I taught low-income, mostly white students in Tennessee I was usually asked, Do your students get any help/discipline/care at home?

When I taught oversees in Albania at an International school the questions became more positive, Are all the parents super involved and much more appreciative there? 

While teaching extremely wealthy over-privileged children in New York’s Upper East Side I usually heard, Are are all the students raised by nannies? Are they all spoiled brats?

It was in New York that I began reflecting on all of these questions. At first I was shocked and appalled that everyone assumes that families are less involved, less educated, less caring and worse parents in the U.S. Most people automatically assumed that parents are better at their job in Europe, why is that?

Then, I was angry that so many people concluded that low-income families and wealthy families are equally bad at raising their children.

Finally, I became disappointed in myself. I often vented to friends and family about the hardships I dealt with in the classroom and failed to acknowledge the wonderful experiences I had with many families.

Now, I want to set the record straight. No amount of money, lack of money or geographical location makes a good parent, or a bad parent.

In every single school I taught I had to handle difficult parents. I had meetings with chid-protective services, angry emails with misspelled words and cursing, parents doing lines of coke on the premises, parents who had no respect or faith in their own children, parents in jail, parents who should be in jail, racist parents, sexist parents, lying parents, uncaring parents, unhelpful parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle parents, nanny parents, you name it I’ve dealt with it.

However, in every single school I had wonderful experiences with families. I had parents volunteer to read to my struggling students on their mornings off, parents come in after school to help me decorate for celebrations, parents who wrote me hand-written thank you letters, parents thanking me with tears in their eyes, parents who would drop anything, do anything, give anything if it meant helping their child, parents who do all that if it meant helping any child, parents who stayed home to spend quality time helping their kids become amazing people, parents who worked numerous jobs to give their kids experiences they never had and parents who were so freakin’ awesome I only hope I can live up to half of their standards.

It does not matter where you live or what your income is to kids. All children need is your love, support, respect, help, belief in them and discipline. It’s pretty simple. No amount of toys or lack of extra special expensive after school programs compares to those basic needs.

It’s time we stop judging families who are different from our own, and start supporting each other. Parenting is hard for everyone, so stop assuming that the single-mother who looks like a wreck every morning is unable to properly care for her children. Maybe she is exhausted from night-shifts  she works so she can be with her children before and after school. Don’t assume that Nanny is the only one caring for the kid in the stroller. Perhaps the parents both work in order to afford their life and health insurance while simultaneously paying off student loans. That Dad on his cell phone carrying the girl in mis-matched clothes with tomato sauce down the front might be on the phone with doctors trying to save his wife’s life. Maybe these parents need a helping hand. Maybe most parents are doing the best they can, and the few that aren’t need our help and some good examples.

I always say that you really get to know your students after meeting their parents. Often, I am guilty of judging a family before I even know them. It’s a constant battle to stop judging, but it’s one I am willing to always fight.

Whenever, Husband and I become parents I hope to respect, help and get to know the parents I meet along the way, and maybe get the same in response. It’s hard enough raising a dog and a Husband. So, on the morning I show up to drop-off  in my PJ’s, hugging my large coffee, with one eye lined and a crying child yelling that I burnt her breakfast again, I’ll prefer a helpful hand or knowing smile. Don’t judge.

Cheers!