The Benefits of Changing it Up!

change ahead

This has been a year of changes for me. Or shall I say I was forced into making some changes, and now I am embracing those changes and making new ones. I am pretty much a routine kinda girl. I find out what works, and I tend to stick to it. Some people call this anal, I tend to prefer the term disciplined. A back injury last year forced me into some physical activities that did not include running. I did not run for 3 months and then slowly added days back in, with rest days in between, a strategy that I am still employing. However, as any runner will tell you, running is addictive once you get past the point of hating every second. And the withdrawal of running also comes with a withdrawl of those little addictive endorphins, which make you feel so good, you actually forget that running is hard and you go on your next run. And so on, and so on.  So for me to go from running 6 days a week without fail(unless sidelined by pretty much death) for years, to NOT running… was going to take some getting used to.

hot yogaLike I said, I was forced to change, so I decided to take up hot yoga. This was intense hot yoga.Not just your average take it easy but the room will be hot yoga. No, it was more like power yoga at 105 degrees where they practically bolt the doors and encourage you “not to drink” if you don’t have to. I chose to ignore that part since it is already hot in Phoenix and I figure as a “runner” I know my body well and I know when it needs water and when it does not. Plus, that’s easy for you to say when you are just standing inthe front of the class telling me not to drink! Anyway, the class was so intense that it made not running a little bit less sad. Plus, part of the class was a flow period where they played four songs and you basically rocked it out as hard as you could until the seated series. I strengthened muscles I didn’t know I had. I intensified my ability to withstand some serious heat while being very activie, and I was able to unload some stress in the meantime.

And then, well, the classes became harder to get to because of my work schedule, and I couldn’t resist not pushing the poses that I wasn’t supposed to push because of my back so I took up something else. Enter CrossFit. If you have not heard of it, CrossFit is a short but intense workout (45-60) minutes that incorporates a lot of power, strength training, elements of gymnastics, fast-twitch muscle fibers, balance and coordination. It wasn’t a ton of cardio, but what we did was intense and fast. Think push ups, jump rope, deadlifts, overhead presses, box jumps, burpees, sprints with weight, etc….I was sore after Every. Single. Session. It really gave me a boost in my overall strength. I was surprised, however, how much weight some of those ladies could handle, but that many of them could not run a half mile without stopping. There was something to be said for not getting so wrapped up in one activity (for me this was running!) that you lost the benefits that come from crosstraining. Soon though, I could not resist the temptation to push myself on exercises that were not good for my back. I needed to make a change.

I then decided to do something that really scared me. I decided that I could no longer be a 6 day a week runner and I needed a new challenge. So I signed up for a half-ironman distance triathlon in Oceanside next March. Yep, I would be swimming 1.2 miles in the ocean, biking 56, and running 13.1. I’ve never been a swimmer before. I dabbled in it once for about 3 months or  a few years ago, but this was going to require some serious prep. And some extra hair washing and drying… that gets really old (yes, I am a girl). But you know what? Yesterday (after my 15th time or so in the pool), I actually enjoyed it! It started to flow and I felt that Zen feeling that I can sometimes get when I run. Don’t get me wrong, I still have goggle issues, I look really dumb in a swim cap and I am super scared for the beginning of that swim. All the hitting and kicking in the face, the feeling of getting pulled under, the shallow out of control breathing at first, it scares the heck out of me. But I think it will make the completion of it that much sweeter.

I also signed up to hike the 7 Summits of Phoenix. It was a one day, 23 mile hike that I had never done before. Normally I would be in marathon training mode and therefore would not have wanted to forgo my Saturday long run for something like this. But I did. And it was great. I did it with some fabulous friends and it was not competitive at all! I don’t even know what our time was. It was great to be physically exhausted without the stress or goals that I usually place on myself when competing.

7 Summits

I signed up to be a pacer for a “Girls on the Run” program where I run next to a 3rd grade girl for her first 5 k! It will feel so great to encourage her to do her best and to give some of my time to hopefully help this girl develop a love for running, or at least make her feel strong and able bodied in hope that she can carry that in her pocket and call on it when she needs to.

Not all my changes have been physically based. I decided to respond honestly when asked “how are you?” I decided not to sweat so much of the small stuff. I am not perfect, I don’t have to be. I can have friends over and be undecided regarding what to make. I can (gasp!), not serve an appetizer. I can let my kids dress themselves in outfits that I don’t particularly like and let them walk out the door. I can skip a workout. I can ask my husband to lighten the load. I can slow down, mess up, and downright suck. It’s okay, the world will not end.

Elenor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing per day that scares you.” And although one per day may be pushing it for me, I think there is something to be said for shaking things up a bit. It makes you sit a little straighter, pay more attention and be more adaptable. And if I fail? Well, the failure really is in the not trying.

Rediscovering Me

The summer is over and school is back in session for my children. Their school break was a whirlwind of vacations, summer camp and classes, with very little down time. To say I was anxious for the school year to begin is a major understatement. Add to that the extra several days that Tropical Storm Irene brought us and it was clear from both my children’s and my perspectives that school needed to start. When the day finally arrived, I packed the oldest three on the bus for their full days of school with smiles all around. I then settled down with the youngest of my brood, who is only three, for what she endearingly calls ‘Mommy school’. No rest for the weary, as the old saying goes. At least I was only going in one direction instead of four.
Then I got the game-changing email. My dear sweet three-year old was accepted into Playschool! Our town runs an absolutely incredible program though the high school in which they run a model preschool for the students interested in child development. One of my other children was lucky enough to be able to participate as well, so I knew what an opportunity this was. So now I anxiously prepared my youngest for school. New backpack, new lunchbox, new folder, new crayon box. She was good to go, and more then eager to kiss Mommy good-bye and walk off with her friends. I have to admit, as I left my three-year-old ‘baby’ at school I did get choked up. Another milestone. Another era over.
I went home that day and sat on the sofa, and then it hit me. I had the next precious ninety minutes all to myself. I could not tell you the last time I actually could plan to have time with no direct responsibility for any of my children. What would I do? There is always a long chore list in my house…laundry, cleaning, cooking, preparing for this or that. I sat there for about ten minutes trying to decide which chore to pick. I got to thinking. I had ninety minutes for me. What did that mean? Somewhere amid the science homework and soccer games and ballet classes, I lost sight of what I could spend my ‘me’ time on. I love my children, but the role of Mommy almost always comes first. Now, I was thinking about what I craved, needed, wanted to do. I thought of A Mom Knows Best…all the contributors have something exciting to offer you as readers, but also me as a fellow contributor. I am still sporting mommy jeans and sweats, yet I read with excitement Carrie Humphreys’ awesome fashion tips. I love a glass of wine now and then, yet I know nothing about it. Jessica Granatiero and her amazing shop, The Savory Grape, are always hosting tastings and informational get-togethers. Why haven’t I attended? Carla Izzard lives in the same town as I do, and we both share an interest in running, yet I couldn’t tell you the last time I slipped into my running shoes and hit the road. Maureen Umehara always has such wonderfully supportive and thought- provoking comments. I decided right then and there, when Cait was at school, I was going to take those precious few hours a week and work on me, rediscovering the me that is not the mom, the nurse, the educator, the volunteer…but the me that is a person with lots of ideas and dreams. And where better to look for guidance and help then the amazing group of ladies that contribute to this website. Each week I will be looking to work on something about me that needs looking at…and asking for the input of these amazing women. Won’t you join me? Look inside yourself and take a look at who you are, and who you want to be. I am sure the ride will be bumpy, with lots of twists and turns. The destination is a better me, a better us. I know the trip will be worth it.

Do you have a personal or professional goal you’ve been working toward?

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Passion Pact: My Head is Swimming, But in a New Direction

pic Galina Barskaya/ http://www.free-stockphotos.com/download-free-woman-in-swimming-pool-pictures/

My head is swimming…I have an article due today and I can’t seem to focus on just one idea. I was going to write about the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence (and the importance of helping our kids develop both).  I also just had a session with an image consultant (Thank you to my friend Noreen for giving me her free session! Thank you Margaret Batting for the great tips!). So I also planned to write about that experience.  But the other night, as I was reviewing  my notes and typing, I received an update on Facebook and got a little distracted. I was tagged on photos of me that I had done as part of an inspiring project for women. It was the first time I had seen the photos! They were so amazing I thought, “Is that really me?”.  They were challenging (in a good way) how I saw myself.

photos by The Revelation Project, Monica Rodgers and Robyn Ivy

The project I am a part of is called The Revelation Project. Simply put, it’s about finding the real you and letting that “You” be seen (That project will be the subject of a whole other article!). I became involved in the project as part of a pact I made with myself this year.  Remember the article I wrote on aMomKnowsBest titled ,“What is Your Passion?” ? That’s also part of my pact with myself and what I’m calling “My Year in Transition.”  I will definitely do longer articles on each of these topics mentioned. However, for now I just want to take it all in and reflect on my journey so far…
This year, because of my “Passion Pact,”  I’ve started making a lot of different choices in my life. So of course there are going to be changes in my life. Luckily so far this year they have been good ones.  But any change can be unsettling. Change can challenge the borders we set around ourselves and our lives.  In my case, those are the borders I want to break through so I can be able to step into who I am and want to become. In the process, I hope to also let go of who I “think” I am or at least who I think I “should” be.

Last year I was at a point in my life where I just felt empty. So I decided that this year I would fill up. Last year, in addition to having to deal with some difficult things, I was beating myself up about where I was (or really, where I wasn’t ) in my life. I had been putting myself down for not being where I  thought I “should” be in my life.  You know where that got me? Stuck.  “Shoulds” never seem to lead to any place good.

The Revelation Project, Monica Rodgers and Robyn Ivy

How did I get out of it? In addition to several other things, one simple thing I did was change my labels in my head. Instead of labeling myself as “stuck” I started to see myself as “in transition.” Really that’s what life is, a transition, right?  Even when we can’t see any movement, change is there.  The seed in the soil may not look like it’s growing, but it is. The river may look at times likes its not moving, but it’s always flowing.

Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I also  changed the questions I had for myself. Initially I kept asking myself “What the heck are you doing with your life?”. Now this might have even been helpful if it was actually a question. But I finally realized that it wasn’t. It was just a judgment.  When I changed my question to, “What do you want your life to be?”  I finally started to feel different.  I didn’t necessarily have the answers but there was a feeling of movement and possibilities rather than a feeling of stuckness.

Also right now, I’m not just asking questions, I’m listening. Instead of jumping into a new plan for my life I’m listening to my heart to see what little things it wants to do, where it wants go and who it wants to be with. I have a feeling that starting small and listening will also eventually help clarify who I want to be and what I want to do on a grander scale.

So right now, I don’t have a “grand plan” for my life and I’m ok with that.  I have some ideas of where I want to go, but I’m not letting these ideas become “borders” again that limit me. Instead of being jugemental I’m being inquisitive. I’m exploring my heart and seeing where it wants to go. I’m listening to that inner voice that I  feel like I’ve ignored for so  long and seeing where it will lead me. So far by listening I’m feeling more alive, and I think that’s a good thing.

Oh and BTW, in order to follow my pact, I’m also working on giving up the guilt/expectation that as a mom I should put myself last. I realized that belief not only does a disservice to me, but also to my daughters. I want to be a role model for them.  I don’t want them to feel that when they become a mom that they have to put themselves last or let their lives be led by guilt.

Well, that’ just a few thoughts floating around my head. So, yes my head is swimming.  But at least I’m swimming somewhere, instead of feeling like I’m just treading water. However, I have to admit, that even when we feel like we’re stuck treading water, we’re still moving.  The current can still takes us somewhere without us even knowing it..sometimes somewhere good sometimes somewhere not so good…but it’s always an adventure.

renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How about you?  What questions are you carrying around with you? Are they really  questions or just veiled judgments? Are you swimming or treading water in your life right now? Do you think there is a time in our lives for both? Are you listening to your heart or has it become quiet too? As I’m finding out, it’s never too late to listen or to be heard.

Picture 1-Galina Barskaya ;Picture 2& 3- The Revelation Project ,Robyn Ivy and Monica Rodgers; Picture 4 Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Picture 5 renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Proof That it’s Never “too late” to Find Your Passion!

Now I am sure there are many of you out there right now who are all trying to figure out how to balance your busy lives.  We are always trying to juggle a variety of things, which can include any of the following: spouses, children, working, cooking, shopping, paying bills and keeping your house running in some kind of organized fashion, just to name a few.   We can all understand and relate to these issues and then you take me, a  40 plus-year old, divorced and now single mom of an 11-year-old-boy who is also working a full-time job.  As if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I decided to throw training for a FULL marathon into the mix.   26.2 miles!!!! 

“Have I always been a runner?”  Well, that answer would be a profound NO!  Truth be told, I did not like running when I was young.  So who would think that after all these years I would be getting ready to run my first marathon in less than two months?  Correction…ATTEMPTING to run a marathon!

It started almost two years ago, when one of my friends approached me to see if I would like to run a 5K road race.  This would be a 3.1 mile race run through the streets of downtown Providence, Rhode Island.  She gave me a training schedule, and my first thought was “Where on earth will I find the time to do this?”  I was eventually able to run about three-miles without completely passing out,  but as the race date was starting to loom over me, I woke up one morning with the worst cold I have had in a very, very long time.  It took almost two weeks for it to run its course (no pun intended), and that brings us right to the day of the race.

“How am I ever going to do this when I have been sick and have NOT RUN AT ALL?”  This thought and a million more terrifying thoughts were going through my head the whole morning before the race.  My son, my parents and my boyfriend were all there for the big day, and all that kept going through my mind was,

“Will they need to call an ambulance for me?”Tight shot of runnings shoes Well, the gun went off, and so did I.  I did eventually cross that finish line and the feeling of accomplishment and pride was so overwhelming to me.  As I was just getting over that dreaded cold bug, I had officially caught another bug — the “running” bug.

So, now we jump ahead two years, and I have run in almost 26 road races, which include a number of 5 and 10Ks, along with two half-marathons.   I will be celebrating my two-year anniversary participating in the exact same Cox Road Race in which I had started.  The only difference this time is instead of it being a 3.1 mile race; it will be a 26.2 MILE RACE!!!

Looking back now, making that decision to start running was one of the best things I have ever done for myself!   Considering how crazy life is, I was able to find something just for me which,  in turn,  has made me a happier and healthier person.   If each of you can find that “something” just for you, the rewards for yourself are incredible and so worthwhile.   This is something that may not happen overnight and like me, it could take 40 plus years to find, but once you do… enjoy it!  For all of the things we do for everyone else, we all deserve to do something just for us!!!

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Five Ways to Make a Problem an Opportunity

I recently went to a women’s event with an inspiring speaker.  There were some great lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you…Inspiration point

The event was sponsored and hosted by Soul at Work.  According to their website, Soul at Work helps cultivate, connect and inspire “strong women to lead in their own terms and create more Soul at Work.” Organizer, Michelle Gonzalez, hosts events with inspiring speakers who simply share their story.  Michelle then helps the audience pick out themes that are interesting, challenging or inspiring. Each theme is created into the form of a question and then placed at each table to promote discussions by attendees.   The speaker that night was Navyn Salem of Edesia, Global Nutrition Solutions .  The mission of this non-profit  mission is to decrease malnutrition and it’s long term effects in children.  Her quest started in Tanzania but continues to expand.plumpynut

How Navyn accomplished her goal is a very interesting and inspiring story.  She is married with 4 kids (which in itself can be admirable). She also had a dream that she was able to make a reality. She was able to create a program in Tanzania, Africa that helps malnourished children.  You can imagine the immense task of raising funds and starting a program in another country. But she did it and she also was asked to create a factory in RI to create the product that helps malnourished children called Plumpy’nut®. 

While there are many lessons to be learned from her journey, one thing I readily noticed was Navyn’s attitude. She actually gets excited when there is a problem. She loves the challenge.  This is a very different perspective than some of us may have when our very big efforts lead to very big setbacks.   So my question is, “How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back?”  Here’s what I learned from her story but I’d also love to hear your answer to this question.

What do I love in this?  Navyn looked for what she loved and followed her passion.  Sometimes solving the biggest problems starts with focusing on one small part that is deeply connected to your passion. In Navyn’s case, when she first visited Tanzania she could have become overwhelmed by all the help that was needed. Instead, she clarified what her passion was ( kids) and started to find a way to help from there. 

Hooray I don’t know this! That means I can learn something!  As I previously indicated, Navyn gets excited when there’s a road block. She loves a challenge and knows she will learn from it. I try to teach my kids that too.  There’s always going to be in life some homework or some problem in general that they get frustrated with.  We try to re-frame a problem in our house and in a joking manner say “That’s exciting, that means you get to learn something new!”.  Ok, it doesn’t always work with my kids. But I also get them laughing by referring to a silly movie called “Meet the Robinsons” which has the same message.  There’s a focus in that movie on an excitement of learning and not giving up when you fail, just “keep moving forward.”

Confidence in a skill VSSuccess Image confidence in your ability to learn. Navyn did not initially have the skills she needed to accomplish all she needed to accomplish.  She could have stopped there and said, “I don’t know enough to do this”. But she didn’t say that. She realized that while she didn’t have confidence in her skills yet, she DID have confidence in her ability to learn.  How often do we not try something because we don’t think we know enough? 

Let go of your ego. Sometimes you don’t have the time to learn everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Navyn started the project herself but now has a team of people who each have a different background. She pools their knowledge and expertise together to trouble shoot problems and accomplish their goals.  

Sometimes a setback is an opportunity in disguise. While we’re talking about egos, Navyn shared an interesting story where she didn’t let her ego get the best of her. As a result, things worked out better than she imagined.  Navyn had the exciting experience of having her non-profit written up by a well known newspaper.  However,  she went from big excitement to a big disappointment.  In response to her article, someone prominent in her field wrote a derogatory article challenging her and her non-profit.  This was someone whose books she had read and been inspired by.   Imagine having one of your role models publicly put you and your project down.  Some people might have written an angry response from their hurt or let themselves feel beaten down. However, Navyn let it sit and gave herself some time to process before responding.  Realizing  that the author misunderstood some things,  Navyn  wrote a respectful letter back to him.  She  truthfully indicated how she had been inspired by him to start her non-profit.  She also clarified her message (that the reporter had altered) and shared some quotes from his own books to support her points.  The author quickly apologized!  He also wanted to meet her and offered his help with her project.  What looked initially like a roadblock turned into a new pathway.

Ultimately, Navyn’s story was a great reminder to me to not limit my goals and dreams to who I think I am or what I think I can do.  I just need to focus on where I want to go and learn how to get there.  I’m sure along the way I’ll need to remind myself that problems are just ways to challenge us to learn and grow.  Sometimes those problems are even opportunities in disguise. At the very least, they are opportunities to learn.

What do you think? How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back? Have you had times where a problem turned into an opportunity?  Or, do you find it difficult to see problems as anything but barriers?

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What is Your Passion?

Artsy CardsWhat is your passion? Do you have one?  I’m rediscovering mine.  I used to love to do artwork many years ago. But somewhere along the way I started to believe I didn’t have time to be creative.  I was too  busy being a  mom.  If that thought didn’t get me, the “mommy guilt” would. If I couldn’t even manage a daily task of cleaning the house, how could I take time to do art? Do you know that feeling?  Believing that you shouldn’t take time for yourself?

What I found was that by continually ignoring my passions, I lost them. What I was left with was a feeling of emptiness. I felt disconnected to myself.  I used to have a pull toward something I would like to do but I continually denied myself the pleasure of doing it. So you know what happened? Finally the pull stopped happening.  My creative spirit gave up trying to guide me to my passion. Suddenly I didn’t even know what I wanted.  Not only were my passions lost, but I was too.

I was left not only with a feeling of emptiness but also a confusion about my identity. I considered myself an artist who used to do art.  How long can you consider yourself something when you are not even doing it? Now of course I am more than just an artist. Feed Your Soul I am a mom, wife, a therapist, a friend, a sister, a neighbor etc etc.  But art was a way I expressed my “self”. I love that feeling of having an idea and then bringing it to a reality.  Drawing isn’t even only about expressing, it’s also about discovering.  When I draw an object I discover its uniqueness.  I also draw as a way to connect to and discover myself.  So how could I get past the excuses and get back to creating?

First I had to realize that saying “I don’t have time” is a cop out.  We make time for what we think is important. Wasn’t my happiness important?  Also, what role model was I setting for my kids? Did I want my daughters to believe that to be a mother you have to be selfless and give up your passions? No, I want my daughter to be happy and feel they can take care of themselves while also caring for others.

So what am I doing now?  I started doing art.  To help inspire myself I joined an art motivation group. They meet once a month. The only instructions are to create and build something around a particular theme.  I promised myself to forget the guilt (and any other judgments I would normally have) and just do something. I just wanted to focus on the fun of doing art. Guess what? I did it! Was it the best artwork I ever did? No, but it was a start.

Interestingly enough,  I drew eggs.  Eggs are a start to life. Maybe those drawings were a start to feeling more alive.  Passion to me is something that makes you feel alive.  It pulls you toward something you like to do or can learn from. I had felt that following my passion would be selfish.  But actually following our passions isn’t selfish.  When we don’t follow our passion our “aliveness” diminishes. When we do follow our passion it makes us a more “full” person.  When I am more alive and “full” I am better able to help others.

What is your passion?  Are you following it? Or have you forgotten it? It’s not too late. Just start small. Even 15 minutes a day, week or month do something you love in order to start the spark.  This month is my birthday. I’m making a commitment to myself to do at least one piece of artwork a month for a year. Of course I’m using the term “artwork” very loosely here.  I’m focusing more on allowing myself the enjoyment of the process and not as much focus on the greatness of the product. I’m focusing on the fun.  Each month I’ll post my attempts.  Remember: no judgments,  just fun!

What is something you can do once a month? One thing you’ve been meaning to do but just haven’t gotten around to doing?  Let’s start the pact together.  Let’s reignite our passion and find where it leads us.

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