Choices.

choices So nearly two months ago, I got a pretty awesome freelance opportunity plunked down in front of me. Reputable client, work I was digging on, and the potential for some sweet gravy on the budget. And while our budget isn’t hurting, who doesn’t salivate over a little gravy once in awhile?

I chewed on it for three days. Tried to brainstorm “solutions” for how I was going to fit in the work in addition to the rest of my life.

Of course, this opportunity came just after I had written this, so I was definitely feeling the heat of keeping up with all my shit already.

But, the choice seemed clear: I should definitely take the job. The money would be great, and I’m good at what I do, so I could easily make it work.

The choice seemed (also) clear: I should definitely not take the job. I had no business adding more stuff to my ever-expanding plate, even stuff I really like.

I’ll cut the suspense. I didn’t take the job.

I mourned the loss of an interesting freelance job (and the gravy) for a day or so. Or maybe a week. I spent that extra money in my head. A new car was involved, obviously. (But more on that later.)

Here’s where I’m going with this: choices sometimes suck, and you may or may not know if you’ve made the right one. I agonized over this one but ultimately I knew it was right because it was in line with the values and goals I was setting for myself:

Stop adding. Love my people. Work on myself. Focus on what’s here.

I also got a nice little karmic victory a week later when my boss sat me down and awarded me a promotion and a fat (phat?) raise…about the equivalent of what the freelance job I passed on might have been worth.

It’s nice when the universe sends us a neon sign telling us we’ve made the right choice.

But of course, that’s not always how it works.

Sometimes, we make a decision and second guess it. Sometimes, we have to make and stick to a decision over and over and over and over and over even though it makes us wonder if we’re really taking the right path.

Which brings me to this:

VW Jetta

Behold the anatomy of my embarrassing car

This is my car. My 10 year old, broken down, beat up, dented and dinged, dirty with cat paw prints, somewhat humiliating car.

Sometimes I call it the babysitter car, because it looks like something a college nanny would drive.

I can’t really blame my kids for throwing their trash all over it.

It’s been a good car for 10 years, got me where I needed to go, made 2 trips to Florida and back (or was it 3?) and I really loved it before it turned into a cringe-worthy piece of crap.

Much of what’s wrong with it could be fixed, creating a slightly more respectable form of transportation for me, if we didn’t keep saying we were going to get a new one “soon,” so might as well just leave it.

I could probably clean it a bit more often, but you know…I’m getting a new car “soon,” so what’s the point?

(I WILL get a new car this year. You know, soon.)

So why am I still driving around in the shame-mobile? Technically, we could afford a new car. Like any other family, we could afford lots of things, but not everything, so we make choices.

For the last couple of years, I have traded the excitement of getting a new car for a healthier lifestyle.

Working out at a reputable studio like Bodyology with amazing trainers costs money. Eating whole, unprocessed, mostly organic/nitrite-free/free range/grass-fed foods is not as cheap as Hamburger Helper from Walmart.

For the last year (almost exactly), our family has spent $350 a month on a fitness membership. By my calculations, that’s a monthly payment for a pretty sweet new ride.

When I think about that, sometimes it does make me second-guess this decision I keep making.

Maybe I could scale back my workout schedule and work out by myself a couple of times a week. (Yeah, THAT would happen.)

Maybe we don’t need to spend so much extra money on these fancy-schmancy “whole” foods. (Sure, great idea. Extra helpings of hormones, chemicals, and GMO’s, please!)

And when I really think about it, although I’m totally psyched to get a new car (soon, I swear) and not feel like a broke-ass 20-something everywhere I go, it’s also not nearly as important to me as our healthful lifestyle.

harry potter choices

This post would not be complete without one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes.

Choices show our character and indicate our values.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly proud to be driving my crappy old car or anything. I’m just saying that when I think of my ongoing car-shame as part of the price I pay to keep moving forward with my goals, I can keep on living with it.

(But seriously, not that much longer.)

So, what choices are you making, and what do they say about you?

 

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Put on the suit.

Fun fact: I am a huge Avengers fan. So when I title a post “Put on the suit,” there’s really no excuse for me NOT to include this photo:

avengers

Oh, hello.

But this post isn’t necessarily about superheroes. Well it sort of is. But anyway, on with it.

So it’s been a crazy week. (“What else is new, Steph?” you ask.) The school play is tomorrow night so we’ve been running to dress rehearsals, and preparing for shows tonight and Saturday night. But before we GET to Saturday night, we also have a big children’s event at church on Saturday morning, followed by lacrosse practice, then my son’s birthday party on Sunday.

Not to mention the fact that I have family members arriving tonight at 6pm to go over to the school with us to see the play, and the house is a mess and I have no conceivable time between now and 6pm when I could actually clean it. Well, I guess I could be doing it now but I’m pretty sure my husband and kids wouldn’t appreciate my running the vacuum at 5:03am. So yeah, dirty house + impending company=more stress.

My blood pressure just rose writing those two paragraphs.

But in the midst of this week, I had a very cool epiphany on Tuesday.

Tuesday was a kind of “meh” day. After a school delay because of MORE WINTER WEATHER (I can’t even talk about it) I worked from home for most of the day. I also had to miss my date with the iron at 6am because of the aforementioned weather.

I had a ton of work to do but couldn’t seem to get focused.

I tried to focus on cleaning up around the house but still felt so “off.” So I told myself I was too busy (not) working to clean.

I accomplished very little that day except eating a bunch of crap that was in my house for no good reason. You know, just because it was there and I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so stressed and unproductive. So obviously, eating some shitty food was the right answer.

sarcasmI tried to cut my losses by planning a work out date with Mr. Badass at 6pm. But I couldn’t find a sitter.

General malaise ensued. More food was eaten. I figured it was a wasted day and got on with it.

Then I decided to stop being an asshole and signed myself up for the 7pm class to do the ole “kid switcheroo” as my husband came out of the 6pm class.

At 6:20, I (rather reluctantly, in full disclosure) went upstairs to get ready for my 7pm tabata workout.

Again, full disclosure, I tried to think of some excuses that would make it okay for me not to go.

And then it happened.

I pulled on my sports bra and workout gear, and I immediately felt better.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was somehow true. As soon as I was in those black pants with my sweet ass blue training sneaks on, I felt like myself again.

The bad day was left behind. The crappy food. The sense of general wrongness.

I was ready to go kick some ass. (And I did.)

For me on Tuesday, those workout clothes were my equivalent of Ironman putting on the suit.

Ironman

It felt wrong to choose a photo that did NOT include RDJ’s face.

So what’s your suit? Put it on, and kick some ass.

***update: At 7am, I managed to clean up my house a touch, with the help of a handsome husband. I wouldn’t call it “clean and pretty,” but at least  it is “vaguely presentable.”***

Gratitude, Personalized.

I turned 39 last Monday, and I pretty much loved it. I got to have some amazing celebrations with family and friends, and one such celebration took place last Saturday, when a group of some of my favorite kickass women treated me a to night out.

All through that night out, I remember looking around the table and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude to be surrounded by so many strong, smart, funny and generally awesome women…and they were all there to celebrate with me!

To express my gratitude, I had this grandiose plan to write each of them a personal thank you note on fancy stationery.

Well, it’s almost a week later and I have not yet purchased any fancy stationery…so the odds of me finding the time to do so, and write those individual notes, are getting slimmer by the hour.

S0, allow me to take this opportunity to do what I do best: shamelessly exploit the existence of this blog to publicly acknowledge awesome people.

I heart these ladies.

I heart these ladies.

They wined and dined me and would not let me pay a cent. They tried like hell to get the fairly lameass DJ to play SOMETHING worth dancing to…and when he didn’t, they wandered the streets of New Haven trying to find somewhere we could dance. We never did, but just the same I wouldn’t trade a minute of that night.

Each has brought something awesome to my life for which I am grateful:

Cari: You are a perfect combination of New York-style attitude and genuine kindness and caring. I would never be stupid enough to piss you off–anyone who would is obviously a complete moron–but I count myself lucky to have you as a friend. You are a smart, hilarious, straightforward tell-it-like-it-is hot mama, and I love you for it. THANK YOU for celebrating my birthday with me, even though I missed yours. ❤

Karin: What can I even say to convey how lucky I feel to be your friend? You have brought dance back into my life, both literally and metaphorically. Your friendship, your support and your sweet-ass choreography have brought me so much joy and laughter, and I continue to aspire to be as strong as you someday. THANK YOU for dragging me out of my seat even though the music was meh. (That’s a metaphor, too, you know. Love ya.)

Anna: Let’s not even talk about the fact that you were like, in the Olympics, which automatically makes you a complete badass. (I guess I did just talk about it…uh…moving on…) Instead, let’s talk about how much I admire your amazing spirit of compassion, combined with a no-nonsense, let’s-get-shit-done attitude, and how much I appreciate your sense of humor–especially in more stressful moments– your insight, and your sweet dance moves. THANK YOU for being brave enough to move my cookie out of the way when they were bringing the cake. I sincerely apologize for the 2 seconds during which I legitimately considered stabbing you with my butter knife.

Maria: It’s the quiet ones you have to look out for…that’s you, my friend! You have one of the best deadpans I’ve seen, and an uncanny knack for remaining calm that I admire greatly and wish I could duplicate (unless there’s another yet-to-be-revealed side of you that I’ll look forward to meeting someday!) You were probably the best person to be sitting across from me when I got the “We’re in the ER!” text! THANK YOU for celebrating with me, and for keeping me cool when I panicked about the Tough Mudder obstacles.

Kathrin: Another quiet one–but watch out! I’m so glad I get to work out with you 2+ times a week, because for someone so soft-spoken, you kick serious ass. You always inspire me to add more weight, see if I can do more, push a little harder…and you are one of the kindest people I know. There’s something about you that just radiates warmth, and I count myself very lucky to experience it. THANK YOU for being there.

Samm: Where do I even start? You embody friendship to me. I admire your kindness, your wisdom, your continually optimistic and honest, unmuddied outlook, and your loyalty. If I could go back to my 20’s, I would try like hell to be more like you, although I know there’s no way I would succeed in being that cool. THANK YOU for being my friend through some crazy adventures, and making me always strive to be the best version of myself that I can.

Leah: So how often do you play the straight (wo)man to my dramatic outbursts? I’m not sure I can quite convey how grateful I am to have you in my life; it’s like having a piece of solid ground to stand on when life feels like a swirling vortex of doom. (Me? Being dramatic again? WHAT?) You are one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and funny women I know and I can only hope I am deserving of the gift of your friendship. THANK YOU for arranging to bring all these wonderful women–including yourself!–together for my birthday. It was an amazing night, and you made it happen.

As a special gift (and since Karin forgot the Homeys tattoos), I give you all this:

Who remembers his name?

Who remembers his name? Was it Jerry?

If I haven’t said it enough yet, here’s one more THANK YOU for a special night I won’t soon forget, and for the privilege of calling each of you my friend.

A squishy belly miracle.

Sometimes, when it’s been awhile since I posted, it’s because my life gets insane on me. I love writing this blog, but it’s always the first thing to get dropped when I have too much on my plate.

Sometimes, though, I don’t post because I’m just not sure what to say.

A lot of times, a dry spell means some combination of the above two factors. Which happens to be the case in regard to the last two weeks of blog-less-ness.

A lot of stuff has been swirling around in this noggin of mine, and I’m trying hard to wade through the chaff and get at the hard little nuggets of wheat and wisdom. No easy chore.

Sometimes, I catch myself asking, “When will things slow down? When will I have a chance to catch my breath?” And then I remember my favorite quote (which I’ve posted before but will surely post again):

  • “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

So that’s the thing. This IS my life. The life that I’ve created. The harried madness that I call my day to day existence. And I like it; it’s a good life, but I’m always wondering how to not miss it. How to keep from letting it all rush past like a subway train while I am left, swaying on my feet, in its wake.

I look at my kids and see that they are, inconceivably, 6 and (almost) 11. BIG kids. School kids. My son can rightly be called a pre-teen, and that is fairly astounding news to me. I’m not quite sure how that happened, and I’m even less sure how to–if not slow it down–make sure I don’t wake up one day to an empty nest and say, WTF just happened?

Maybe that’s an inevitable part of parenting.

But this post wasn’t supposed to be about parenting, per se.

The thing is this…I love those kids beyond reason but, by God, am I doing this right? Am I present for them? How much of my time is the right amount to give them when I’m trying to balance it with everything else I want? With myself? What about my husband? My job? My friends and extended family?

This feels a lot like the last post I wrote, but it’s different somehow in my head, and I’m not sure I’m explaining it right.

I guess what I’m struggling with is how to balance this at times fun and at times excruciating fitness journey with the rest of my life. Because while I am on a fitness journey, I don’t want the fitness journey to define me, my life, or my family’s life.

I am not a trainer. I am not a fitness or nutrition expert. I don’t have an overwhelming desire to make any of those my profession in the future.

But I do want to be a fit person, and LOOK like a fit person, and promote and encourage fitness and healthful living with my family.

I want to send a message to my daughter that a woman’s body can be strong and powerful.

Mine is.

But society tells me that my strong and powerful body is not pretty or ideal, and I agree. I hate on it. Wish it to be different. Think things like, “Life will be better when I’m not fat.” (I recognize the objective ridiculousness of this statement, and yet I still believe it applies to my life.)

So what message am I sending my six year old daughter by my constant and open struggles to change how my strong and powerful body looks?

It’s a question that keeps me up at night, because I’m pretty sure what I’m teaching her is that how a body LOOKS is far more important than what a body can do.

Luckily, she doesn’t believe this yet.

Just this morning, she came to me as I getting dressed, and lovingly cupped my belly in her hands. “I love you, Mommy,” she said. “When I’m a Mommy am I going to have a squishy belly like yours?”

She looked up at me with bright, eager eyes that said, “I hope so!”

In that moment, I felt the pure and uncapped love of a six year old for her mother.

She was completely unaware of the shame I felt about my “squishy belly.” Blissfully ignorant of the ways in which that shame claimed so much of my daily mental real estate.

To her, it just meant it was me. No inherent judgment, just love for me as I am.

It was kind of a miracle.

In that moment, I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life. What was it all for, this concentrated dedication to making my body LOOK strong and powerful instead of having it just be enough that it IS strong and powerful?

Don’t mistake me…I love working out and the way it makes me feel. I know that clean foods make me feel and perform better, and I have no plans to abandon them any time soon. Our eating habits as a family have changed in a radical and sustainable way in the last year and a half, and that’s been a very, very good thing.

What I’m talking about is the intense energy and focus I’ve expended on which foods to eat, and how much, and how often, and which are “good” and which are “bad” and which give me gas and which ones so-and-so says I should eat and which ones so-and-so says I shouldn’t eat and which ones make me poop often enough and which ones trigger a binge and which ones fill me up the most and which ones to eat directly after a workout and which ones NEVER to eat on a rest day…it just all gets to be too effing much sometimes.

Sometimes it feels just as disordered to me as my days of gagging myself over the toilet bowl, or chewing every bite of a carrot 100 times to make it last the entire lunch period.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe I’d be showing my daughter that food does not have to rule her life like it’s ruled mine.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe my life wouldn’t feel so harried and stressful sometimes.

If I stopped thinking about food so much, maybe I’d have more mental energy to focus on my family, those people who obviously love me more than I love myself, before this part of my life slips through my fingers.

Because in the end, life is good right now. It’s not without it’s challenges and obstacles, but despite my squishy belly, at this moment, my life is lovely and wonderful…and that should be enough.