Gym Class Jitters

It’s almost 7pm. My first Crossfit class starts in 30 minutes and I’m still at home. I’ve got the jitters.

Suddenly I’m back in 4th grade gym class. Once or maybe twice a year they’d have us go the rounds through a national or state fitness test, things like sprints, endurance runs, sit-ups, burpees, and the chin-ups bar although girls only had to hang on the bar and not actually do chin-ups.

I HATED gym class as it was, but this fitness test was my annual nightmare. I wasn’t an overweight kid…I simply wasn’t very strong nor did I have any cardio capacity. I scored last or came close to failing every single test that was administered. My heart would pound out of my chest and I would gasp for air whenever I ran or exerted myself. It was downright frightening, not exhilarating like it seemed to be for every other kid.

I have a feeling the phys ed teachers were not taught to monitor whether a child’s heart rate was in the danger zone. I’m pretty sure that was no consideration whatsoever in the mid-70s. No wonder it was frightening for me.

And for a kid who otherwise got straight As in school, gym class was a weekly lesson in humiliation, and this physical test was the single most humiliating event of the year. I didn’t understand what athletic prowess had to do with learning and why we were graded on it. And what did dodge ball have to do with real life at any other time during the year?

I remember the internal battle in my head even then:

“It’s ok, not everybody is an athlete. Some of us prefer books instead. This world is full of all kinds of people. But even still, why am I THE WORST in gym class?”

My family didn’t value athletic pursuits. No one exercised. Our world revolved around food. We kids were not encouraged to be “play outside” kind of people. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I gravitated toward books. So when it came to fitness tests, I always fell short of whatever physical standard needed to be met.


What I’ve learned since then! Ha! Life is gym class. Life is sweat and exertion and movement and strength and balance. Your choice whether you engage in it gracefully.  Your choice whether you get to enjoy the best views, vistas from a mountaintop you made the effort to climb (or to ski down. 😉)

I have no idea what to expect today. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I’ve seen the videos….I’ve heard people talk about Crossfit for a few years now. How incredibly hard it is. How they are pushed beyond their self-imposed limits. The injuries. The transformations. The zealots. The totally ripped bodies of the participants. I want to join those ranks. I’m doing what I always thought I could not do.

Running, weight lifting, push ups, sit ups, burpees, jumps, squats, whatever else is thrown at me. I don’t care if I’m slow. I know I’ll be discouraged. Very discouraged. I just hope I will be able to see some progress. And I clearly need an accountability partner. It would be a bonus to make some friends in the process.

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My friend Amy told me it was ok to be selfish and take care of me. Why have I never heard that from anyone before?

Here’s to a new me, starting today. Let’s see where this gets me at the end of six weeks.

You Must Do the Thing You Cannot Do, v2

Some of you might remember my post last month about how I pressed myself to do a singing gig with my husband in early July. I love to sing, I like the sound of my singing voice, and I have no problem doing it. I am definitely a singer.

What I am not, however, is an entertainer. I didn’t make that distinction in the last post. There’s a huge difference when all eyes are on you – the audience is expecting you to guide them, cheer them up, or deliver a mood of some kind. It can be intimidating. I have way more experience and confidence as a singer but not as an entertainer, not for a whole show. Just wanted to share that. That’s not what this post is about, though…

Nevertheless I did it. I remembered the lines of the songs, no problem, and although I didn’t hit the right pitch with every single note, it was a decent performance. We had a high turnout in our town square for the event and I saw several friendly faces in the audience. Several friends heard me sing for the first time and were genuinely surprised.

I thoughtfully chose my outfit for the night…an off shoulder jumper in blue, not too casual and not too dressy. It was a good hair night…the weather wasn’t too humid so I didn’t dissolve into a sweaty puddle like I am often prone to do. I looked alright, at least as good as I can look lately.


A local photographer came out and took photos of the event. She knows my husband well and likes us both, so she took over 300 photos of the event and posted them on Facebook.

It crushed me.

Several of my friends near and far liked the photos of course, and as that number grew, I grew too…more and more despondent. No hiding anymore that I’m 80 pounds overweight. It’s not like people don’t know….everybody knows I’m obese, but I am careful about the photos that are posted on Facebook. There was no getting around it this time.

And I just sobbed for days on end.

In contrast, my husband was flying high after the event, very happy about how it transpired. He complimented my work over and over, to the point of it feeling insincere. Don’t get me wrong: he doesn’t spew fake flattery toward anyone, but for whatever reason his compliments rang hollow with me. It felt like he was going overboard with the compliments so I would be sure to sing again…and yet this whole time, he was oblivous to how I was upset.

Funny how two people can view the same thing totally different ways, but that’s a truism about life, isn’t it?

I finally explained that I was very unhappy about being captured accurately in the pictures – which are lovely pictures and I should thank the photographer for taking her time to shoot and post so many photos – because I was portrayed exactly as the middle-aged, obese woman I am today, over and over again, from several different angles. The pictures do not lie. And yet I can’t be unhappy because the photographer was just capturing what was otherwise a lovely evening in her very talented way.

He and our kids pleaded with me that I looked fine – beautiful, even. I mean, sure…I was more dressed up than normal and it was “nice” relative to what they see from me daily.

But that’s not what I saw. All I saw were huge hips, a giant belly, short, lumpy arms, and a double chin. I mean, you may as well slap a couple of strings on me and pull me along the Macy’s parade…I’d fit right in!

And then for my husband to realize that I was upset that certain friends of mine had “liked” my photo…it just spiraled down from there. He became hurt that my feelings about what my friends thought was more important than what he thought about me. Then I got angry that he couldn’t just support me at one of the lowest points in my life, not that I haven’t been down in the dumps about my physical appearance before. I’ve been down in the dumps about it for 20 years. Ok, longer than that: how about always. But it got way worse in the second half of my life. Apparently I don’t handle stress all that well and it shows, in ways I cannot hide.

We slept apart for a few weeks. I was so angry at him and disappointed with myself I couldn’t even talk about it. I didn’t want anything to do with him. I figured I was on my own to figure it out, because ultimately I am, so I kept myself literally, physically on my own.

The bottom line is you either accept yourself as-is (which obviously isn’t happening here) or do something about it. I mean, there’s no point in praying about this because God doesn’t answer prayers to solve problems you can and must solve for yourself.

The fact is, when I look in the mirror, I don’t know who that woman is. And I could not hate who and what I see in the mirror more than I do right now. It’s a tough thing to admit but it’s the 100% truth.


Needless to say, July was a rough month.

So I am doing the thing I cannot do. I signed up for Crossfit and it starts tomorrow. I don’t usually announce stuff like this because truth be told, I try various things to get fit and none of them stick….walking, yoga, running, whatever…

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You have no idea….I am not an athlete. Never was. I am not strong, not limber, not coordinated. I get winded so easily and I sweat profusely with very little effort or stress – I always have. The Crossfit facility has no air conditioning. I’m walking around with plantar fasciitis…I have no idea how this will work but I decided that I MUST do this. It was the most radical solution I could devise.

This isn’t even real Crossfit. I’ve enrolled in a six-week “baby” Crossfit program, three days a week. If I can demonstrate an ability to get through that, I can graduate to a real Crossfit program. This approach sounds about right for my fitness level.

I must do something about how I feel versus just sit and cry about it. Here’s to Michelle Obama arms, a perky tush, squares on my belly, and sculpted legs. Wish me luck. Wish me strength and perseverance.

What’s the thing you cannot do? Will you dare to give it a go?

Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

Eyes Truly Are a Window to the Soul

One evening earlier this summer, as we sat on our deck at sunset holding our weekly family meeting, I shared one of the things I am grateful for. I told the kids how their dad noticed that although my eyes mostly look brown, they really aren’t. He told me they change colors depending on the light, my makeup, and what I’m wearing.harry-quan-486229-unsplash

In all these years, I didn’t think anyone had ever paid any attention. All three kids piped up and essentially said, “yes, that’s right…” and our youngest offered, “right now they are green.”

I couldn’t believe it. They noticed. You have to look pretty close to realize this about my eyes but they noticed.

I always wanted green eyes. I think they are so incredibly beautiful. Now, I think it’s a stretch to say my eyes are green. I might describe them more like olive brown, maybe even mud-like the way the dark colors blend together, but hey! It’s still kinda green. I’ll take it.

It really is the little things that mean a lot. I don’t know why that is with me, but it makes me cry tears of joy, of feeling like I am known and understood.

It’s sweet and oh-so-rare.

What have you noticed this week about someone you love, something that has gone unsaid all this time? Have you told them? You just might warm their heart. Tell them.

 

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

Travel Truth

We’ve all heard it said that if you really want to know someone better, travel with them. Somehow I always thought of this advice when it came to friends and people with long-term romantic potential.

But who’s to say you can’t do this with one of your kids? Especially a teen, those mysterious creatures who often withdraw from parents from ages 13-21.

sebastian-leon-prado-547564-unsplashI have these really cool older cousins who raised two children. My family would get their annual Christmas letters and I’d read in awe about how one parent took one of the kids on a trip in high school somewhere in the US, just the two of them, and then they’d switch out where the other parent would take that same, now college-age kid on an overseas trip, just the two of them. They did this for both children.

Being a travel buff, I thought that was an AMAZING idea. My cousins’ kids were so fortunate! And now as a parent with means to do the same, I am taking action. So many years I wanted to travel but virtually none of my friends had the time or means to go so I went solo, aching for a companion. Little did I realize that one day I would give birth to them.


oakie-696139-unsplashIt all started when our oldest turned 13. Growing up he loved geography and soccer and we’d talk endlessly about the places he wanted to visit one day. Seattle was consistently at the top of his list, so he could see the Sounders play. I planned to surprise him with a long weekend trip to Seattle, just the two of us, but by the time I worked out a mutually agreeable weekend, a whole entire year passed. We made the trip the summer before he started high school instead of the year he became a teenager.

Our Seattle trip was so much fun he wanted to do it again, so we traveled to New York City for a long weekend this summer too.

My oldest is beginning to think this is an annual excursion for us, and while I’d love that, I have two more kids in the hopper, so I hope I can afford all this when their turn arrives. Sure it seems doable today, but the other two are closer in age so these trips will add up quickly. I don’t want to over promise, but let me tell you: our time together was magical.

I drove us seven hours to New York, so we got a lot of talking done in the car. We had an almost adult conversation where I shared some things that have been bothering me and he gave me the advice we always give him. He even admitted that he was coaching me to take my own medicine and I chuckled over how I couldn’t argue with him or I’d invalidate the advice I dole out as parent.

We visited Ellis Island, talked about today’s immigration challenges, and discussed my immigrant grandparents and what it must have been like for them to leave their homes and family forever 100 years ago. We visited the 911 Memorial Reflecting Pools and I recounted the story of that frightening day and how worried I was for my friends who lived in the city. We marveled over the endless number of foreign languages we heard over and over again, all day long. I suggested to him that all Americans should visit New York City at least once in their lifetime to see first-hand what a melting pot the city is, almost like Muslims are expected to travel at least once to Mecca, and maybe just maybe as a result, Americans wouldn’t be so afraid of “others”.

We talked about travel, anthropology, sociology, art, movies, musicals, Hamilton, celebrity, history, politics, Manhattan neighborhoods, gentrification, the cost of living, what he wants to study in school, where he wants to live, religion, sex, family, weddings, marriage, and child-raising. Yeah. What didn’t we talk about?

rob-bye-319816-unsplashI took him to a high-end restaurant and he navigated his way through the menu, ordering process, and all manner of dining etiquette through tip calculation. I bought him a New York style slice of pizza and taught him how to fold and eat it. I taught him how to hail a cab, orient himself on the streets and avenues, catch a ferry, and use the subway. I’m excited that I taught him the ways of New York City, and I hope he always remembers it.

He asked a ton of questions and I answered them all without reservation.

My son, who is very content playing video games, talked the whole time. We laughed. He was attentive to whether I was tired or thirsty, and he opened doors for me and others. He was unceasingly polite. He couldn’t get enough of the people energy in Times Square and had to walk through it each day.

He asked if he looked like a tourist or if he was behaving more like a resident. You see, he might want to live in New York one day. I could see him trying it on for size and vibe and watch his face light up as he recognized one landmark after another. I like how he’s a worldly kind of dude for his age.

I saw glimpses of the man we’re raising, and he’s only 15. Last year he tried to engage me in a pillow fight. This year, he gently asked me about something that was tugging at my heart and making me sad. The amount of personal growth he demonstrated from one year to the next and the level of compassion he had shown me was remarkable, and I was dumbstruck over how mature, deep, and intimate our conversation was, because we were talking about things I don’t even discuss with some of my closest friends. I doubt we would have connected at that level had we been at home and stuck in our normal routine. Correction: I am certain we would not have connected at that level.

Do you have any idea how precious this time was? It was New York, and as Midwesterners, we don’t walk nearly that much on a daily basis or cram so much into our day. It was go-go-go the whole time. Exhausting but equally exhilarating. I didn’t want our trip to end.

I better start saving for next year, and for two more kids after that. He’s already got fingers crossed for me to show him around Boston next summer.

Are you longing to connect in a more meaningful way with your kid? Go on a trip, just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be big thing, but go somewhere overnight you’ve never been. You just might find that where you actually travel is deeper into each other’s hearts.

Photo #1 by Sebastián León Prado, photo #2 by oakie, and photo #3 by Rob Bye, all on Unsplash

Do the Thing You Cannot Do

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“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Man, I love inspirational quotes. Especially the line above by Eleanor Roosevelt, who was an extraordinary woman of any time, let alone the era when she lived. One of these days I will read her biography.

There is more to the quote than I share above: in the bigger context, it seems to me that she was talking more about facing tragedy head-on and forging ahead even though everything inside of you may be screaming to shut down and shun the world.

But when I read that shorter quote above, I hear Eleanor talking about fear and courage. There is so much to be said about fear and courage, right? Including how it seems like fear has run amok in people these days. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Fear can be helpful. It can steer you away from danger as we all know. However, fear can cause us to lead very small lives. Lives where we are afraid of new people, new ventures, new foods, new anything. Lives where we don’t know our neighbors. Lives where we never try new things or give old things a second chance.

It’s so easy to cocoon in our safe zone. But this reminds me of another quote, author unknown:

“Some one once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”

I need to make sure the person I am on that last day of earth is a full-fledged singer.

Today I get back on a stage to sing jazz for the first time in 10-11 years. My two youngest kids have never seen me do something like this. I’m not even sure they understand that’s how their parents met.

I’m a little nervous about it. The gig really belongs to my husband, the “real” jazz musician, a percussionist. He’s the one who loves and has been playing this music for nearly 40 years. I’m just a pretend jazz singer.

I have a decent enough voice to where I won’t make a fool of myself, but the first time I tried singing jazz was when I met him about 17+ years ago. Singing with a group was something I had wanted to do for years. The music didn’t have to be jazz, but there is something classic, elegant, and wonderfully improvisational about the art form that is appealing to me. However by the time I gave it a whirl in my early 30s, I found I had become a bit more comfortable as an introvert, not an entertainer charming an audience. I can do it. I’ve done it. But it gets harder, not easier, as I age.

And gigging with my husband and his trio is altogether different. Jazz musicians are over-the-top talented.

See, any jazz artist worth his salt can play any tune, in any style, in any key, at the drop of a hat. They don’t need to rehearse. They just wing it right there on stage, and it sounds amazing. That’s the beauty of the art form.

I’m not that kind of artist.

I am a wee bit more…structured. I have a very low vocal range, which means nothing I sing is performed in the key most people recognize for a given song. And I’m not good enough to just wing it however the group wants to play the song. I kinda need to know what to expect. Predictability is a good thing. As the vocalist, like it or not, all eyes are on YOU. You better be comfortable up there in the spotlight and be having a good time or the audience will sense it, and the fear inside you will spread to them.

I watched it happen a couple of times I had no business being behind a microphone. Eww…those were shameful moments! At least I’ve had a forgiving audience.

I suppose I’m what jazz musicians might call high maintenance! But I do know that I sound better than most of the vocalists my husband has hired in the past. I heard a truly cringe-worthy, unrecognizable “Over the Rainbow” once and told my husband he needed to be an instrumental trio from now on. And he was for years and years, until now.

Having given a lot of thought about fear, and about how one should not hide their talent under a bushel, I’m taking the plunge tonight. It’s time to chuck fear to the curb and give this a whirl. Three songs in front of hometown crowd. Baby steps.

Our city hosts a “Jazz Under the Stars” series in the summer time and the average attendance is 500 people. Could be cool. It’s been a very long time since I’ve sung for a crowd that large. Frankly the more people the better. And the weather this July evening is flat-out perfect, so we could get a few more out to see us perform.

My husband is really the star of the show. I’m doing this to support him. But I’m also doing this because I have pretended long enough that I cannot.

What fear do you need to chuck to the curb? I dedicate my performance tonight to you.

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash