Sports Moms – When It’s Your Turn to Be Inspired

football benchAbout two weeks ago I was brought to my knees by sharp pain and then was overcome with panic.

I thought I had a heart attack.

A little thick around the middle, and always in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to become more active. Not running-marathons-and-and-eating-kelp-sandwiches-active, but more active.

Flashback a billion years to all of the summers, winters, springs and falls that I sat on the sidelines cheering on my athletically gifted kiddo. I drank a lot of tea from drive-thru windows and kept the company of other parents doing the very same thing.  As he ran and played, I was plopped in a lawnchair, making sure that when he looked up, Mom was there. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking at 11pm after late baseball games so he went to bed with a full tummy. So my  butt got a little chunky.

I have been all of the following; a baseball mom, a football mom, a cricket mom, a basketball mom, a curling mom, a badminton mom and  a did-you-do-your-homework-mom.

During the past two weeks, I have developed a greater appreciation of my child’s experience during his childhood of sporting.  How much did my presence feel like pushing? How much did it feel like support? I guess I’ll never really know.  What I always hoped was that he was doing something he loved, that made him feel good, and made him feel proud of himself. I wanted my boy to have confidence.

What I do know is that pushing through the discomfort of new levels of physical movement takes some grit. Trust me, I’ve had to have grit a’plenty during my lifetime, but it’s been a mental grit. A determination to get through one day at a time. Physical grit, not so much.

My body has always had a comfortable ease about it. I was built for hugging, cuddling, and lounging during long, philosophical conversations about religion, politics and gender equality issues.   Wine adores my body. So does chocolate, champagne and puff pastry.

So I’m swinging a golf club for the first time, and running my ass off, and sweating. Like a man. It’s not pretty, and parts of me actually hurt.

I can’t help but think of my son. I think of how hard he as worked to accomplish the things that he has. He’s on a national sports team, plays a bahzillion sports, and maintains his grades, and also puts up with a rather flamboyant mamma.

My old bones ache in places where I forgot it could possibly hurt in the first place, and it reminds me of how hard my son has worked and what strength and grace he’s had to develop in order to accomplish  it all.

Running at my little gym, I have an extraordinary view of a public play-space and just beyond that a beautiful lake in the middle of our bustling city. I watch parents come out and play with their kids, some of them shooting baskets, and others, likely tired single-moms like I was, sitting in a chair and keeping an eye on their kids as they play.

portable locker roomI want to go out there and tell those weary parents that it’s all worth it; that team sports and athletics are worth every early morning, every weekend taken up with tournaments, and all of the leaving early and working overtime that has to happen to make it work.  Not because it just keeps their bodies healthy, but because it develops character and forms strong bonds of friendship. I want to tell those parents that gaining an extra ten or twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Missing your kids’ childhood is.

So, this afternoon, when what I really want to do is nap with the cat. I will likely be running my little 30 minute marathon, because my son sets a damn good example and if he can push himself to do it, damn it, so can I.

When you raise an athlete, there comes a turning point where you are no longer their inspiration. Instead, they become yours. It’s a very hard feeling to describe. Pride doesn’t quite cut it, but joy comes close.

 

 

I Need Your Help: Podcasts & My Fat Ass

rsbushesBefore I go on a rant, let me point out that the purpose of this post is to get your feedback…

This morning, on my day off, my precious day off, I woke up early to annoy my kiddo before he set out for school and maybe, just maybe get in a nice walk and some writing.

So, it’s raining, and some big goof ball in a blue shirt just walked all over my daffodil greens while using his  leaf blower. Not only do I subscribe to the theory that the use of the leaf blower is evidence regarding the downfall of civilization (I’m sure Donald Trump has one to shoe away the leftover talcum powder that he spritzes his undies with apres shower).  I also subscribe to the theory that some giant lanscaping a-hole should know enough to not be blaring that ridiculous contraption prior to 9am outside of bedroom windows.

Anyway, with the drizzle and the bad atmosphere at my little writing window, I decided to make my way to the treadmill next door and walk a bit while my laundry was laundering.

Why? Well, because I’ve been unwell and rather inactive lately. Walking is easy exercise, and frankly, I need it.  I’ve done classes, punished my body with hard workouts and long runs, but I just can’t seem to work up the chutzpah to spank myself into fitness submission lately.

I’m more in the mode of loving the goddess. Which means my taste in music has changed. In fact, I want to listen to stories. As a writer, I do believe that we are nothing but the stories we tell ourselves, and that sharing our stories is the spiritual equivalent of excellent nutrition.

Which brings me to my latest fascination; Missing Richard Simmons. It’s a Podcast about the theories surrounding the disappearance of Richard Simmons.

Not only am I fascinated with this story, I’m a big fan of Mr. Simmons. Despite a terrible relationship with my late mother, I fondly remember her telling me to get off my fat, ugly, ass and sweat to the oldies with her. Ah, yes, Richard Simmons.

I’ve listened to TEDtalks and CBC writing podcasts, but there’s something about this one that has me hooked. Maybe it’s the anticipation of an answer about why such a charismatic man decided to duck out.

But I’m almost finished with the series, and I want more really great stories; nothing sinister or dark, just a really, good story and a sincere desire by the storyteller to enhance our lives. With this, I feel like I could walk forever. Fitness could be my bitch.

Please share your podcast suggestions to keep my butt and my heart in shape. Also accepting DVD copies of Sweatin’ To the Oldies. Not kidding.

PS – To GK – give up your argument about massive amounts of leaves, give up the wasted fuel and instead give the neighbour kid thirty bucks and a rake.

 

 

 

My Culinary Relationship with Mother Earth – We Be Jammin’

rearviewmirroI remember the year the apple blossoms froze on the trees. It was 2012. We didn’t have fresh Ontario apples that year, and the prices sky-rocketed.

That was also the year I stopped making apple juice.

So what?

Well darlings, I’m a country girl at heart, and a big part of enjoying the seasons is enjoying whatever our harvest yields. A big part of showing love and coming together as friends and family is sharing a meal together.

The lack of apples impacted a generations long tradition of baking apple crisp, apple pie, applesauce and apple juice.While I live within the rushed pace of the city for now, I stay connected to the seasons and to what matters most by enjoying the tradition of preserving. Apples are the end of the summer fruits, and it was a strange feeling knowing that something as stable as our seasons and harvest were being affected by the impact of consumerism (aka global warming). Our harvest seasons are part of the essence of who we are and the organic rhythm of life.

flat of berriesStrawberry season signals for me the start of true summer. Rhubarb is spring. Of course you can’t forget asparagus and radishes. With the appearance of little white blossoms and bright, juicy, red fruit, I know that the strawberries cometh and that it’s time to enjoy in abundance what the earth provides, and squirrel away the rest for winter.

Yesterday I took a beautiful drive out into the country, got a flat of strawberries, and came home to make my first batch of jam. Next will be raspberries, and this year there will be beets, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and salsa.

 

 

pouring jamEvery year, I think of my grandmothers and my mother, who carried the tradition and taught me how to do these things.  I remember standing on a stool to stir the jam as it cooked, and when we used to use wax to seal the jars.

I remember hot jam slathered on homemade bread. The smell of granny’s kitchen when she made her chili sauce with the cheesecloth sachet of spices simmering in the pot, and being told countless times to go get another jar of this or that for whatever was on the stove. We used to count the number of jars of jam, tomatoes, beets, etcetera in order to ration them until the summer came again. It was never because we couldn’t afford to go to the store to buy more, it was because we subscribed to the rationale; who the hell would eat a can of fruit or vegetables plied with preservatives and chemicals that tasted second rate at best, when you could eat something that tasted good and wasn’t laden with other goop? It just didn’t make sense. And it still doesn’t to me.

There are few people my age who know how to do these things anymore, and I wonder what they must be missing out on, counting summer by work-weeks instead of by the season; strawberry season, raspberry season, plums, pears, apples, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers…

This might even be the year that I get back to making apple juice. Just the thought of hot cider by the fireplace makes me want to cuddle with someone. During the winter months, there’s nothing like opening a jar of peach jam to remind you that soon, summer will be upon us again. Or maybe it’s a jar of tomatoes for a rich, hearty stew.

jam 1Living in the city for the past 16 years, you’d think I’d prefer the convenience of buying something off the shelf, but I don’t.

I love the slow process of gathering, preparing and preserving my own food, knowing that it’s fresh and wholesome. Knowing that what I’m eating and what I’m sharing with the people I love is the best that I can give them.

Wishing you a bountiful summer, and an extra pair of hands in the kitchen.

 

To-Do Lists; Faking it ‘Til You Make It

autumtodoBalance is hard to maintain.

I’ve tried pilates balls, running, meditation, hard work and hard partying.

Last night an old pal asked me what was on my Fall To-Do List. After I told him, it felt kind of mediocre. A little pathetic even. They were simple, fun things, with nothing that really deserved a blue ribbon or a mug shot on a trade magazine.

But those simple things do matter.  It’s the little things that string together moments which define a life.

Wandering off the beaten path at the McMichael gallery last week, a dear pal and I talked about the year we’ve had. When I discussed my summer and autumn to-do lists, his remark was a chuckle, “It’s like faking it ’til you make it“. And he was right.

Hardworking, intelligent, emotionally capable folks, (like moi) tend to be good at isolating themselves when they feel vulnerable. I have learned through experience just how important it is to call out for a lifeline and grab hold.

My friends have answered that call as best they can, given their own chaos and capabilities.

A relatively new pal suited up at the last-minute and humoured my desire to participate in Nuit Blanche. Others have shared coffee, baseball games, girl talks and gone shopping with me ( I hate shopping).

My seasonal to-do lists may seem forced, but so far so good. Each day my heart mends a bit more. 

 So far each item on my simple lists have provided me with connection to other wonderful human beings, and that my darlings, is what life is all about.

Lay Your Body Down;What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

faintingI’m not the kind of gal who runs from trouble. What I mean is, when the going gets tough, I stick in there. Always have, and likely always will.

You see, for the people out there who don’t know what it’s like to be ‘free’, I direct you to a line made famous by Janis Joplin but written by Kris Kristofferson;

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

In other words, I’ve never had anyone who’s had my back and the only ‘thing’ I have to lose is my sense of self. Even though I come from a long history of a-holes (that’s French for lunatics and weirdos),  I’m the woman who always shows up, smiles and does what needs to be done.

Some days I hate it. I hate that people have so much damn faith in me. Some days I’d like to be the southern-belle who swoons and takes to her bed until the villain knuckles and offers her an icy mint julep and the keys to happily-ever-after.

Anyone who knows me knows that I would never do that. I’d be the southern-belle with mud on her skirts and a villain by the balls short and curlies with a shot of bourbon at the ready, and a poetry salon going on all the while in the parlour.

I live and love in a fiercely loyal way. It can be heartbreaking and it can be beautiful. As my darling cousin reminded me, “When you love, you love BIG, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” In other words, I fall completely head over heels and give 100% of myself. If I’d only invested in a tissue company, I might be able to stop my nine-to-five and open my home to artists and their muses…alas my sweet peaches, I digress…

Coming from a painful upbringing, I value ideals more than I do material things: friendship, honesty, loyalty, and stick-to-it-ness. I fight for what is good and right. I fight for the ideals and people whom I love.

Lately I’ve lost a lot. A lifetime of lost hope, and maybe even a future I was so looking forward to.

A wise grief therapist, in a Southern Baptist drawl reminiscent of an old-time, passionate, protestant preacher once said,

You will need to lay your body down

Walking up the stairs to my office a couple of weeks ago, those words came to me.  I realized that I have not had the opportunity to do this. More importantly, I’m out of practice and I’m not very good at it. But I try.

You see, when you’re ordained with the heavy knowledge of the human soul and its suffering, it’s not a job you can retire from, or hand to anyone else. It is simply yours to hold with all of the suffering and joy that comes along with it.

But you can rest. You can lay your body down; for ten minutes while you try to calm your mind, or two hours while your physical self recovers from being at battle with your anxiety. You can take time to feel the pain that you had no control over coming into your life, and you can release it. You can choose not to carry what is not yours and to replenish your own self in order that you may continue to love those whom have earned a place in such a completely loving heart.

There have been many, many tears lately. Years ago I thought that I didn’t have any left. I was wrong, but as I allow my emotions to wash over me, I remember my Sifu’s story of a woman weeping in meditation. She said nothing, simply rubbed the woman’s back until she stopped sobbing. This kind of emotional release is exhausting, and soon wears us out. Like meditation, we are aware of the rise, the expression, the pain and the release of these things that remind us we are fully human, just as we notice joy and laughter and love. The painful things suck though, and we’d be more than happy to avoid them. But this is life darlings, in all of it’s stunning and frightening mystery.

So, just a little note from an old gal who feels like she’s had her heart and soul ripped out, don’t ever give up on what you believe in. Don’t stop making wishes on old dandelions that are waiting to be blown out into a universe waiting to answer your prayers.  Don’t give up on love, on friendship or on bringing something good to the world every day, even if it’s just having the courage not to quit.

But do lay your body down, and please, remind me it’s ok to do the same.

The Courage of Vulnerability

wetkittyYou know you’re tired when….

…it’s a relief to be sick so you can sleep

…you’d rather come home and go to bed than take someone to bed

…you wish you’d collapse so someone would finally take care of you

Maybe you’ve had a week like that? A month like that? A year like that? A lifetime like that?

Most strong, independent people have a hidden wound that keeps them going somehow. They’ve learned through heartache that vulnerability can be a dangerous thing and despite adversity, they keep on showing up and taking on the world alone.

From time to time, it’s impossible to be  everyone’s smiling face for the day.  You just can’t do it any more.

No matter your training, your practice, your dependence on cheesy motivational sayings, sometimes you just feel inadequate.

Tired, old, fat, ugly…whatever your personal self-inflicting wound weapon of choice, you use it on yourself.

Regardless of how awful you feel about yourself, there’s someone out there who can relate.

Hopefully they offer a sympathetic ear, and know enough to hold off on the advice, or, my personal favourite, the ‘suck it up cupcake’ followed by a thousand reasons you should be thankful, or worse, a thousand reasons they have it worse off than you.

What’s important is to recognize that you feel this way for a reason, and that reason is most likely that you are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As in exhaustipated.

Be gentle with yourself. Wear your fat pants. Have a nap. Take a day off. Don’t pick up your phone. Cancel a date with that soul-sucking social contact. Eat that chocolate bar. Take yourself to the spa. Order take-out.  Accept someone’s offer of kindness…

Yah, that one can be pretty hard to do when you’ve perfected the independence thing. Sometimes courage doesn’t mean being someone else’s savior. It means being vulnerable so someone can be yours.

Sure, it means exposing yourself to possible pain, but it also means exposing yourself to great love.

Sometimes someone extending a kindness can be so touching it feels as if your heart is breaking. But you have to let yourself be vulnerable in order to let someone else help raise you back up.

Try it, you just might find out that being vulnerable isn’t as awful as you think.

 

 

Fitting Room Therapist

prettyI hate shopping.

Unless it’s for Christmas decorations, special baking ingredients, or helping my kiddo pick out something he really wants, I’d rather be a zillion other places.

The stop at the shop was a fly-by on my way home from day twenty-something in a row at work.

In the harsh direct lighting of the fitting-room cubicle, I was left alone with my naked self, and worn out panties.

There’s something about being naked with myself that shakes me down.  All of a sudden, I am face to full-length face with a three-quarter, panoramic view of my bare tushie. It makes me sweaty and anxious. Not ideal.

I wear suits to work, and jeans at home. Rarely do I do anything any more that doesn’t involve work, sports-mothering, or getting cozy with my keyboard, and literary obsession.  When it comes to love-making, unless I’m in a relationship, sex-o-the-day seems like a waste of wardrobe. Light candles and answer the door naked is my philosophy.

But I’m getting off-track darlings. Let’s go back to the stale air of the fitting room cubicle. I have to travel next week. For work. It’s a casual environment, but not so casual I can wear my yoga pants and Parrothead t-shirts.

In the harsh light, with one knee high rolled half-way down my calf, and my spare tire glowing in the fluorescent lighting, I let myself admit just how tired out I am.  “I’m dehydrated, tired, and coming down with a cold“. Immediately my internal therapist gave me permission to go home and rest.

Years ago, it would have been a very different internal voice.  years ago, I would have berated myself for not living up to the physical ideal that we know all ‘worthy’ women hold themselves too.

Years ago, I made a quick stop into the mall between work and going home. I had the rare, single-parent luxury of working late  (please don’t miss the irony in that statement). So depressed about my own body image, I made myself stop for a glass of wine.

I was so tired out, the wine made me tipsy, and when I get tipsy, I get happy and giggly. Suddenly all was right with the world, and the shopping mall I was in. I was feeling so good that I meandered into Godiva and treated myself to one of my favourite things in the world; a milk-chocolate covered marshmallow.

I then made my way to A favourite store. When the unsuspecting saleswoman asked if she could help tipsy ol’ me, I took her on a tour of the shop, pointed to everything I liked and instructed her to bring it to me.  All in XL.

I sat my naked body down in the fitting room and savoured every bite of my milk-chocolate covered marshmallow. When the saleswoman timidly asked how madam was doing, I managed a slurred and sticky, “Splendid”, between licking the last of the melted chocolate off my fingers.

I’ve become a whole lot more comfortable in my own skin since then. That drunken evening of not-giving-a-rat’s-petunia in the fitting room was a turning point for me.

If you’re a happy drunk, I highly recommend tipsy-toodles shopping as step one in your quest for fitting-room-freedom. It’s a whole heck of a lot better than berating and hating yourself.

Today I happily  made my purchase (sober), and then drove home with the windows rolled down and the dulcet tones of Willie Nelson blaring full-blast. I’ve come a long way since that day I felt so sad and unworthy that I needed some hooch to get me through the whole fitting-room ordeal.

Who is that blonde-haired, well-turned out woman with the awesome taste in music,” I could hear the man in the jeep next to me thinking as he eye-balled  the Willie-Nelson-mobile while we were stopped at red light.

She’s a woman who’s come a long, long way“, I thought to myself as I stepped on the gas. It was time to go home and rest. This old bod has been good to me, and it’s time to love it back.