Since beginning my Journey to Strong last November, I’ve had so many women tell me that I’m an “inspiration.” I have certainly appreciated the support, but I’ve found it difficult to fully embrace the idea that I’ve inspired others to become fitter or stronger.
But, my friend Kristin’s daughter, Julia, gave me an amazing gift that I will forever treasure. She tapped me on the shoulder, halfway through dinner last night, and whispered in my ear.
“I saw you lifting weights on Instagram. I’m strong, too!”
I was filled with emotion. Sometimes it takes a child to remind us that:
we don’t need to be anything more than who we are to inspire others
it’s important to share the small and large victories present in everyday life
social media can be a force for good
AND, our daughters are watching!
Dear readers, venture out and do what you do best…and then share it!
I had to say goodbye to my favorite neighbors last month and, in between the tears, I got to thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor today vs. when I was growing up.
In 1970 I was an energetic ten-year old who loved roaming the street with my siblings and friends. The doors to nearly every home on my block were always open. Mothers worked in those homes and they (mostly) enjoyed the interruption that a pack of kids provided. I loved particularly the woman who baked cinnamon rolls as heavy as bricks and the one who loved to sew but immediately left her machine to chat with us upon our arrival as if we were her contemporaries.
The neighborhood of my youth is a rare thing nowadays. (Hey, I’m pushing 60 years old and I think I’ve earned the right to use the word nowadays!) Seems to me the definition of a good neighbor today goes something like this: a good neighbor is one who doesn’t bother you, respects boundaries and keeps quiet. Of course, this is dependent upon where you live. I think you’re more likely to find satisfying relationships if you have young children and can bond over play-dates and carpools. But, those days are over for me and my husband and I never expected to have the good luck of becoming attached to someone on our block when we moved to Carmel.
Marietta and Frank’s former home is perched on a hill across the street from our home and it boasts expansive windows at the front. So, they could look down on us and see the daily comings and goings. It was quite easy for them to monitor things when we were on vacation. They saw the mail being delivered and they’d know if someone broke in and tried to take off with our t.v.
Our friendship began immediately with the kindness they offered before even knowing us. We moved into our house slowly and I took several loads of things in my car before the big moving trucks arrived. I made the trips solo as Tom was still employed and Natalie was in school and the drive was an easy hour and one half.
It never failed that shortly after I’d unloaded all of the boxes into my garage, I’d get a call from across the street.
“You are working so hard; don’t work so hard!” Marietta would advise in her rich Chilean accent. “Come eat a sandwich with us!”
I’d frequently receive invitations to take short vino or coffee breaks or to dine on superbly home cooked meals. It was like having a more perfect version of my mom living across the street and it was divine.
For five years, we celebrated birthdays and everyday occurrences like the sighting of a family of quail marching across the driveway or the first blooms of azaleas in both of our gardens. And a couple of days after the election of POTUS, we dined together to bond in our shared horror and grief about the state of our country.
Most recently, Marietta saw me regularly racing to my car decked out in my spandex on my way to Zone Fitness. She never missed the opportunity to provide praise and encouragement. One day I’d see her waving from her window, another day we’d meet in the middle of the street before getting into our cars to head our separate ways. She’d often say the same thing about my fitness goals that she said when I began my blog: Do whatever makes you happy!
I’ve been missing the chance meetings at the mailbox and the shouts out of car windows as we come and go. And, though, it’s not even fall yet, I’m already missing the annual delivery of freshly baked holiday fruit cake. Really, I’m missing the rare, warm and comforting feeling of knowing that there’s someone living so close by who cares so much.
So, I flunked swimming lessons. That was over fifty years ago before the evolution of the positive parenting style. I couldn’t imagine that happening today….oh, I hope not. It probably would have been best if my mom had re-enrolled me after my initial failure. But, she never did and so I really can not say that I know how to swim.
But, nowadays I’m game for just about any activity my daughter suggests that will help us meet our fitness goals. And, so it was that I came to find myself enrolled in a water aerobics class taught by Mike, a twenty-something personal trainer, at the Cal Poly University campus swimming pool.
It really isn’t necessary to know how to swim to get a good work-out in the water. We used kick-boards and aquatic dumbbells and the wonderful resistance provided by the water. It was a tough work-out, but different from my regular cardio in one interesting way. I was often out of breath; I’m quite familiar with that sensation nowadays. But, I wasn’t hot and I wasn’t dripping sweat as I usually am. It felt as though my mind kept checking in with my body to try to figure out what was going on. Seems I’ve gotten used to sweating!
Today was so much fun, though, that I just might find the courage to re-enroll in swimming lessons. I didn’t know that I could enjoy a pool without a cabana boy and fruity cocktails as much as I did!
It’s not what you think…that was the setting for my morning spin class! It was fun! I’m visiting my daughter at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and this is a class she enjoys. The only thing better than making a commitment to strength and fitness is doing it with the support of the most important people in my life. We sat there, side by side, sweating it out for 45 minutes.
The instructor was a fabulously fit mature woman who yelled throughout, “Isn’t this a great way to start the day? Ready? Well, ready? If not now …when? We’re taking a ride through the hills. Increase tension! Are you uncomfortable yet?! Get uncomfortable!”
When I began working out, I also began reading about working out. One of my favorite quotes came from Jillian Michaels: “You’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s a phrase that’s become my mantra. I turn it over in my mind all the time and it keeps me moving. So, it was great to hear her singing the same tune as me!
My trainer, Jonathan, is a bit less vocal than this woman. He generally tells me the exercises in the set and the count and leaves me to it, unless I need a correction to my form. (I do not need that very often, as I am fastidious about form!) He will occasionally throw in a “PUSH” or “PULL” and that usually elicits a slightly nasty look from me and sometimes a response: “I AM pushing or pulling!” He’ll sometimes say “looking good,” which is nice to hear. But, what I really love to hear is “You’re getting stronger!” I absolutely beam…I know it…when I hear those words!
As we descended the “last hill” in our morning ride and class came to an end, we were left with the following thoughts: “Feel proud of yourself. You chose to begin the day in a healthy way. And…NOW, DON’T GO OUT AND GRAB A SNICKER’S BAR!!!”
I hadn’t planned on a candy bar, but I will enjoy a glass of local wine with my dinner tonight. Cheers to health, well-being and my daughter, of course!
Meet my little friend Sayler Joy. As you can see, she is only nine months old and yet she is already an inspiration. (And a complete joy, her name suits her!) I saw this picture first thing this morning and I felt such a surge of emotion that I had to write to you.
Recently I lamented the fact that the site of my thighs did not please me. I have the feeling many women share that sentiment. Sayler has a very wise mother and so I wonder: did they team up to send a message to womankind or were they just trying to brighten our day?
In either case, you succeeded and I thank you!
Thank you for reminding us how silly vanity is, how amazing the human body is and how remarkable the miracle of childbirth is. Thank you for bringing a happy tear to my eye. I can’t wait to visit my friend and gently pinch those amazingly wonderful thighs.
I’m a writer; I love language. But sometimes a picture says it all. Just a glance and you can surely see the joy and the pain I feel when I think of my brother. He was handsome, charismatic, kind and very easy to be with. It seems impossible that he’s been gone for 17 years. He will remain forever young as he is in this picture joking about his girlfriend’s early morning romp through the water.
I have one really vivid Fourth of July memory. I was about ten years old…so that was 48 years ago! It was also the year that I fell out of love with sparklers! Since then Independence Day celebrations have been pain-free and carefree.
During the late seventies and early eighties, my husband (then just a boyfriend) and I enjoyed spending time at Shaver Lake at his family’s cabin. We spent the Fourth floating on the barge just like any other summer day. Fireworks were not legal, but they weren’t missed. The evening was spent on the deck of the cabin perched among the trees drinking and eating.
After we married and had our daughter, firework shows were de-rigueur. But, perhaps because of that early experience with a burn, I’ve never really needed the light show to make the holiday special.
Of course, I’m not younger than I was seven months ago when I began working with my personal trainer. But, I feel strong, light, energetic and confident…traits we associate with youth. I could almost forget how old I am, but hands do not lie. I am 58 years old and my daughter is twenty-one. And, this picture reflects the story of our life as mother and daughter.
Natalie is wearing a ring that belonged to my mother. My sister was given a jewelers bag filled with small treasures after mom’s death and passed this on to Natalie. I’m wearing a ring with my birthstone (aquamarine) that my husband purchased for me on a trip to Maui many years ago. There is both pain and joy reflected in the gifts of those rings.
My mother missed the opportunity to know her only grandchild who now wears her ring. She was a deeply troubled woman and I have no regrets about my decision to exclude her from my life or that of my daughter. But, she gave me life and I am grateful for that gift.
The life my husband and I built with my daughter gave me purpose. Today I revel in both the wisdom of my years and the strength of my body and spirit. My life is so much better now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and one of my greatest joys as I age is watching my daughter mature, too.
My husband left this morning for Fresno, California to rescue his mother, Mary, from the 102° heat and bring her home tomorrow to spend the week with us. Our weather is an absolutely perfect 73°. So, despite the fact that my mother in law’s knee is acting its age (88 years old), she is sure to enjoy simply sitting in our garden.
Just in case you didn’t get it: I’m saying I’VE HAD THE WHOLE DAY TO MYSELF! I’ve had the entire house to myself. (Kinda, you’re never really alone when you have three dachshunds!) There was nothing on the calendar…nothing at all! Today was a rest day for me as I torched 800 calories in an hour yesterday at the gym. Then I ran errands and made my list for today. I was looking forward to getting a lot done before Mary’s arrival. This is what I planned to do:
Catch up on the laundry
Clean out the hall closet
Begin writing, if not the great American novel, a really lengthy, profound blog post
Clean out my email inbox and my overflowing magazine basket
And, finally, well, lots more cleaning and tidying…my mother in law is a very neat person; I am not.
But, you know, sometimes life just does not go as planned. After, strongly encouraging my husband to get an early start this morning, I fell into a leisurely, impromptu rhythm. Here’s what I did:
Made another pot of coffee
Poured a cup and sipped it in the sun
Caught up with a dear friend via email… we’re both writers who don’t love telephone conversation
Made a quick lunch and settled in to watch the Giants game
Heated up leftovers for my dinner and fed the dogs
Read the N.Y. Times
Called my husband to say “good-night” and tell him that I missed him
Sometimes the best days are the ones you don’t plan. However, tomorrow I do have plans! I’ll be up very early to begin working on that list!
When was the last time you had a day to yourself? What did you do?