On “cherishing every moment” (Alternate title: Yes, I know someday I’ll wake up and there won’t be anyone to take to practice anymore.)

Can we just talk about this?

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Because I feel like I can’t be the only one who is tired of being told–absurdly–to “cherish every moment.”

This may just be a matter of semantics, but even so…no. Just nopety-nope to this message and the horse it rode in on.

Because I am certain the moment that I spent cleaning the dog’s diarrhea out of my brand new carpet–or any memory that involves my children and vomit– will never be “precious” in my memory.

I am also sure that there is no way for me to “enjoy” any moment when my kids talk back or just generally act like jerks, which even the most lovely of children (and, let’s face it, adults) tend to do from time to time.

I humbly submit that–despite what this well-intentioned inspirational quote wants you to believe–not every moment in life is meant to be enjoyed.

Every moment is meant to be experienced and lived. But not necessarily enjoyed. Not necessarily catalogued as “precious.”

And why the hell would we even want it to be?

Sometimes life is boring. Sometimes life is a total shit show. Sometimes it is sad, terrifying, absurd, embarrassing, mundane or miserable.

And these parts of life are good. They are not “precious” or “enjoyable” but they are good because they are part of the package…part of the “full experience” of life. And without the full experience, well, you haven’t had the full experience. (Should I find a way to say “full experience” again?)

If every moment is joyful, then no moments are joyful. Because without experiencing anger, frustration, fear, sadness, or pain, how can we really experience joy?

And in parenting, the same holds true. If I am not occasionally/sometimes/possibly frequently annoyed or frustrated by my kids and the hard and often mind-numbingly boring work of parenting, then can I really say I’ve had the full experience of parenting?

Can I really feel the joy of the amazing moments if I haven’t endured the not-so-amazing ones?

I would argue no.

But in this parenting landscape, I am so often commanded to CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.

To suck up each wonder-tastic second of being a parent because it defines my entire existence and someday I will be a barren and sad empty-nester with only shattered dreams and memories of what it was like when my home was bustling with activity and schedules and cleats on the floor for me to trip over and American Girl brushes left out that can seriously cut a bitch and I will be WOEFULLY SAD and FULL OF REGRET that I did not soak in the orgasmic joy of having those needle-like bristles sear the bottom of my foot in pain because my children will be grown up and my life will basically be over and there will be no more implements of torture  precious doll hair brushes laying around on my living room floor.

Oh, did I say too much in one stream of consciousness paragraph just then? Oops. (Insert embarrassed face emoji.)

But anyway. We all know this pressure is out there. The pressure to be delightfully blissfully present at every magical instant with your children or possibly be labeled the literal worst parent ever.

If you’re the mother at the park looking at your phone, you’re probably being judged.

If you’re the father on the computer saying no to going outside with your kids to play ball, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re the harried parent yelling at your kid to STOP WANDERING AROUND THE YARD AND GET IN THE CAR BECAUSE WE’RE ALREADY LATE, you’re obviously not cherishing and embracing your child’s sense of wonder and you are definitely the worst. (And if you’ve seen the harried parent I just described, please stop spying on me. It’s creepy.)

Listen, I get it.

I get the core of what these messages that bombard us daily are trying to tell us: childhood is short. It goes by in a flash. It will be over before you know it, etc, etc.

And this message is 100000% true. I am stunned on a daily basis at how old my kids are. When I see pictures of them from even 2 or 3 years ago, they are totally different people even though I am certain I took that photo, like, five minutes ago.

Yes, it goes way too fast. The time is, indeed, short.

Before I know it, in 2 and a half years that will surely pass faster than I can ever imagine, my son will be graduating high school, and meanwhile I’m still trying to reconcile myself with the fact that he is not ten years old anymore.

But..but…

The fleeting nature of their childhoods still does not mean every moment is one to be enjoyed, and I am sick of having this message shoved down my throat…as though I should feel guilty when I don’t spend every waking moment staring meaningfully and lovingly at my children.

I don’t.

There have been multiple times when I–GASP!!–scrolled through Facebook on my  phone while absently saying, “Mmmmhmmmmm…” while my daughter recounted for me in excruciatingly unnecessary detail the plot of the latest book she was reading.

In moments when my kids bicker incessantly, sniping at each other in a way that makes my blood boil, I yell at them and even tell them to get out of the room I am in. In fact, that just happened as I was writing this. I told them to “Shoo!”

I did not cherish that particular moment in the least. Even though they won’t be young forever. Even though the time is so fleeting and precious.

Somebody call DCF. I am clearly an unfit parent.

Oh wait, no.

I am a human being who feels frustration and boredom and anger and sadness, not a robot only containing joy and moment-cherishing software.

You may be surprised to learn that I do not derive indescribable joy from watching them do the same trick on the tire swing for the 20th time.

People…I have been utterly bored at the elementary school band concert. (I know. I’m a monster.)

Final confession: every moment of my children’s existence does not fill me with contentment and joy. Because I’m a human and this is real life and kids can be maddening and tiresome and frustrating.

But here’s the heart of it: their existence is a wonder to me, even when they are annoying or anger-inducing.

I love those kids so fiercely and completely, even when I’m shooing them out of my face because they’re driving me nuts.

And they know they are fiercely loved, every minute.

Even when I’m looking at my phone.

Even when I’m watching TV.

Even when I’m working or reading or talking to my husband or going out with a friend or writing or ignoring them because I’m doing any of these things.

The messages telling us that we should feel guilty or that we are not doing parenting right unless we are cherishing every moment can shove it, because what they really should be saying is love them every moment (even when they are at their worst).

Here’s the thing…no matter what you do, the time is going to fly.

Whether you spend every second staring at them or not, you are going to turn around one day and find that they are gawky teenagers with braces who are taller than you, have full mustaches, and can do a dead-on ironic Trump impression. (That last bit might be a little specific to me, but you take my point.)

You are going to miss things, no matter what.

They are going to keep growing, no matter what.

These little bits of advice to “enjoy every minute” are just our flawed human way of trying to hang on. To romanticize parenthood in such a way that we might stop it from slipping so quickly through our fingers.

But still, it slips.

The time passes. Childhood passes. Life passes.

Some moments–rare ones–are gorgeous and perfect and some are mediocre at best. Others are genuinely awful. We won’t enjoy and cherish every kind, and that’s okay.

We can only do our best to be present in these moments no matter which variety they are. (We won’t even be able to do that every time, and that’s okay too.)

Someday I will wake up and not have anyone to drive to practice.

There will be no overflowing closets full of clothes, shoes and toys to demand someone clean up this instant.

My living room floor will be devoid of hazardous doll accessories and there will be no one staring zombie-like at a video game screen instead of doing homework or chores.

Yes, this will be sad. But that’s life, and life is sometimes sad.

But the good news is no matter how old my kids get, no matter how quickly their childhoods pass, they will always know that they are and have been fiercely loved every minute.

And so I will have done my job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Business Trips, Mom Guilt, and Airplane Bathrooms

I’m writing this on a plane home from a work trip to Phoenix. The guy in front of me has graciously reclined his seat so my computer is tilted at an unnatural angle and I can barely see what I am typing. My seat is located directly next to the bathroom and I swear everyone that goes in there is inexplicably flushing twice.

But I can’t complain too much because the middle seat in my row is empty and I love when that happens. It’s a nice place to put my phone, glasses and water bottle so I don’t have to keep awkwardly reaching under my seat to haul these things in and out of my backpack.

I also can’t complain because my trip was amazing.

I had never been to Arizona and I didn’t expect to love it there (snakes and such) but I did. It had a beauty I had never experienced before and the resort where I stayed for my company’s annual conference was absolutely gorgeous.

(Someone just double flushed again and now she is blowing her nose, in case you were wondering.)

I was also a speaker at the conference and I think I did all right. My initial comments—introducing myself and explaining just why in the hell I had the background to be considered an “expert” in content marketing—were a bit of a disaster. My hands were obviously shaking as I held the mike and my voice was noticeably trembly and high-pitched. As I realized how trembly my voice and hands were, I got even more trembly and high pitched, which was awesome.

It didn’t help that I was the first one to introduce myself, that I actually hate introducing myself in any detail besides my name, and having my boss and a ton of my colleagues in the room watching made the stakes even higher, at least for me.

But as the talk ramped up, I relaxed and got into my zone. The shakiness stopped and, as I watched the audience taking fervent notes as I talked, I became more confident that I was, indeed, an expert (of sorts) with some good information to share with them.

When it was over, the moderator (our Marketing Director) told me she hadn’t realized how much of the presentation she had placed on me but I handled it well, and my boss sent me a text congratulating me on “leading” the panel. I had several members of the audience come seek me out after the presentation and later in the day to let me know how much they enjoyed my talk and even asked a few more questions one on one.

In the end, I was proud of how I did.

Besides my presentation, I had great dinners every night with my colleagues and some awesome clients. I enjoyed the beautiful weather and the camaraderie of our team throughout the course of the conference.

I reveled in the solitude of my hotel room, with a huge king bed just for me and its own balcony looking out over some beautiful scenery of cacti, palm trees, and a pond with a bridge over it. I spent some time reading a book out there, slowly drinking my coffee…which I bought at the coffee shop that served Starbucks coffee and was only about 100 steps away from my room. (Bonus!)

(This just in—the person in front of me with their seat reclined is actually a woman in her 20s wearing a hoodie. I know this because she just went to the bathroom, and, in case you were wondering, she only flushed once. She has now kindly un-reclined her seat and I can see my computer screen clearly now.)

But guys, I didn’t write this blog to tell you about my lovely trip to AZ. (Well, I kind of did but there’s more.)

I wrote this blog mostly to tell you about how, as a mom and wife, I was sometimes guilt-ridden at leaving my family behind. My daughter didn’t help as, on the rare occasion I was able to call home at a decent hour given the three hour time difference and my busy conference schedule, she would say in a mournful voice, “Mommy I miss you sooooooo much.” (Cue knife to the heart)

I knew I was leaving my husband with a packed schedule that included ushering for me at church on Sunday, bringing Emma to her audition for Annie, waiting around for the furnace guy, taking Cooper to the doctor for a shot, and attending a cross country meet and a back to school Open House.

Because he has no flexibility at work, Drew had to take two days off to do all these things.

Then I was asked to stay an extra night in Phoenix following the closing of the conference to attend a “meeting of the minds” with some of our company leaders. I was honored to be invited and felt it was important for me to go.

I knew this was adding even more stress to my family because my husband would have to go in late to get Emma on the bus (after being off for two days) and Cooper would have to skip cross country practice to get her off the bus.

It has been extremely difficult for me to balance my enjoyment of my trip and my guilt at putting this additional stress on my family while I was gone.

I have often though that guilt is a useless emotion because all it does is steal joy, but this is easier said than put into practice, isn’t it?

But to me the statement still rings true, because what has this mom guilt served to do, anyway? In those guilty moments, all that happened was a diminishing of my enjoyment of a really great trip I took without my family.

It has been hard for me to grapple with this—I ENJOYED A TRIP WITHOUT MY FAMILY—and to me it goes back to the balancing act that women seem to face on a daily basis. I say this not to diminish the role that men play in day to day family life, but to point out my personal observation that women more often struggle with the guilt factor.

(Side note: another double flusher and I think I have figured out that most people seem to be flushing before and after they use the toilet. Mystery solved.)

It should be okay for me to go home and tell my family what a great time I had, but I will probably downplay that and instead focus on how much I missed them.

Don’t get me wrong, I did miss them tons and there were so many beautiful things to see that I wished at times they were there with me. But there were also plenty of moments when I was glad to be able to focus on work and enjoying my colleagues and a beautiful place without having to family multi-task.

I wore nicer clothes. I did my makeup full on and didn’t have to rush doing my hair or jump in and out of the shower because Drew was waiting to brush his teeth or hair and our bathroom is possibly the size of a shoebox.

I found the security checkpoint at the airport much less stressful than I usually do because I didn’t have to worry about being THAT FAMILY who holds up other travelers because the kids and all the stuff and the explaining to Emma that it’s ok to walk through the metal detector, because I swear I will be coming through right behind her.

I am enjoying this flight, the quiet and solitude to be able to write this blog uninterrupted. (Except, of course, for the constant stream of bathroom-goers.)

I am enjoying the time to myself and trying very hard to not feel guilty about that. (I am not always succeeding. Obvi.)

Because aren’t women always supposed to put their families first, often at the expense of themselves? I feel this pressure often and struggle with opportunities like this one to focus on me, on my career, and just the sheer joy of having some time to myself.

Time when I don’t have to worry about who’s done their homework, who has or has not brushed their teeth or hair, who is about to miss the bus if they don’t HURRY UP RIGHT NOW, or what activities are on the family calendar and how I am going to balance them with my work schedule.

It was like a vacation just for me. And I deserve to enjoy that.

Ultimately, I think the lesson here for me is that it’s ok to take time for myself guilt-free, even three days of stimulating and inspiring work in a beautiful resort setting with lots of great people and good food…and that I thoroughly enjoyed all these things even without my family.

Even as I write this I feel the guilt dissipating, and I will arrive home happy to see the people I love dearly. Because I did miss them, but it’s ok that I didn’t miss them every minute.

Another important lesson I’ve learned is that tons of people use the bathroom on an airplane and many of them are double-flushers, and generally speaking I’d probably prefer not to sit next to the bathroom again. So there’s that, too.

Holy Crap, Am I Grateful

I’m typing this post from a Starbucks. Because I like to leave while the housecleaner is at my house, cleaning.

For awhile I left because I just felt really awkward having someone clean my house, and escape was my avoidance-of-awkwardness-strategy. Because it really is awkward for me to have someone come and clean my house.

But my GOD do I love it.

I hired the housecleaner about 8 months ago, and I think it has become less awkward for me, because I am paying her a good amount, supporting a woman-owned business, and making my life more convenient by farming out a job I hate (scrubbing tubs and toilets, UGH.)

So in the near-absence of awkwardness, why do I still flee to Starbies when I could just be chillin’ at home?

1) Because I love a two-pump Peppermint Mocha

2) Because I love even more the magical feeling I get when I arrive home and the house looks and smells immaculately clean and it’s almost like a group of benevolent fairies have come and done the work for me. Or, maybe, house elves, but ones that I treat really well and DEFINITELY have given clothes so they know they’re free and they get  paid for their hard work.

It’s really that magic that I’m leaving for.

And as I sit here, sipping a craft coffee beverage and pecking away at my computer, doing a job that I love while my house is getting beautified, it hits me that I am incredibly privileged.

It’s hard to recognize how privileged and lucky we truly are in the day to day muckity-muck.

When the dogs are barking and the bills are due and the kids aren’t following the frickin’ to do list and I will LITERALLY have 90 minutes of driving to bring them to their various activities in the afternoon and DEAR GOD HOW AM I GOING TO GET ALL THE COOKING PREP DONE???

When all of that is flowing through my mind, it’s easy to forget that all my complaints come from a place of amazing privilege. So, on this most grateful of days, allow me to flip my complaints:

  • How lucky am I to have these two adorable animals in my home, who love me unconditionally and are the most kind and companionable of friends every day?
  • Even if organizing and keeping up with our banking and monthly bills is like a part time job, how lucky am I to be able, without worry, to heat my home, feed my family, PLUS have a glut of entertainment options like cable and Internet as well as Hulu and Netflix?
  • How lucky am I to be able to kibbitz about my kids not doing their homework or their chores right away, when so many children have to worry about hunger in their bellies, or where they are going to sleep tonight? My “worries” about my kids are laughable in comparison to the worries of parents who have to be concerned with how to meet their children’s basic needs.
  • And even though the incessant driving is annoying, how lucky am I to be able to offer my kids’ these opportunities? How lucky am I to have not only a reliable vehicle, but one that warms my ass when it’s cold and can seat more people than I typically ever have in it? How lucky am I to have two healthy children who can participate in lacrosse and gymnastics and all their other activities?
  • And even as I whine about Thanksgiving prep, how lucky am I to be able to buy and prepare more food than the 5 people at the table will ever be able to eat in one sitting? My dad, who has battled and overcome brain lymphoma (in remission for 2 and a half years now!) will be at that table, along with my husband and my kids. I’ll be surrounded by love, warmth and good food. How. Lucky. I. Am.

My life is one of extreme privilege…of excess, really, and holy crap, am I grateful for it.

Just for the record, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to whine and complain sometimes. But in these moments, and especially during Thanksgiving week, how can I not just take a moment and recognize the incredible bounty of my life?

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours. xoxo

Home Office Mom: A Love Story/Tale of Woe

I moved to a new team within my company about 7 months ago. Most of the team is remote, and for awhile I was doing a couple of days in the office per week, and a couple of days at home per week. But that just changed a month and a half ago–I am now officially a home office worker since my office consolidated.

I freakin’ LOVE working at home. I start early and I’m raring to go at 7am. I can get stuff DONE before the kids even leave for school. I have gotten into a pretty good groove where most days I have finished the bulk of my work to-do list by late afternoon and can help the kids with their homework/yell at them from my desk while I reply to emails/wrap things up.

I like the quiet. I get a lot more done at home. Of course, I enjoy office chatting, but it could always be disruptive to my work flow. Now, most of my chatting takes place via Skype and I can reply to a friendly chat in a few minutes after I finish up whatever I’m working on. Which is nice, because not replying for eight minutes to someone who is physically standing at your desk saying, “How was your weekend, Steph?” is just…awkward. But on Skype, it’s all good.

Also because of Skype, which captures my likeness in video from the waist up only, I can wear shorts/jeans/comfy pants every day and still be totally professional. I know there are some who would one-up me and say, “I work from home and I don’t wear ANY pants!” but I have not ventured into that expert-work-from-home-person territory yet. Maybe someday I will be so bold. Today is not that day, and tomorrow is not looking good either. I guess I’m just a pants person, ya know?

Anyway, I also find that since I’m already home and working away on the computer, I might as well just eat my lunch as I continue chugging along on my daily tasks.

Sometimes I admittedly play with Photo Booth during lunchtime.

Photo on 10-17-14 at 1.50 PM Photo on 10-17-14 at 1.52 PM

coffee

I do drink coffee until, and sometimes beyond, lunch. Coffee is delicious, and it loves me.

 

Anyway.

My point is that working from home is amazingly flexible, which is definitely what I need right now, and helps me get shit done better and manage my life with two kids who need me to drive them to all of their many activities.

But…but…

It also poses an inherent dilemma. Because I’m home every moment with the unmopped floors and the dirty socks and the dogs (who, I have learned, bark at Every. Little. Thing. All. Day. Long.) Because I’m supposed to be working but there’s laundry and dishes and even though I got the client input on the second round draft and I created a sales training and I kicked off a new poster program and sent about 50 emails of some level of business importance, it still feels like I’m a lazy slob if the house isn’t tidy at the end of the work day. Because I was here all day, after all, and I didn’t even walk the dogs.

And the kids, holy mother of gym socks, the kids.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they came home and just took care of the stuff they know they are supposed to take care of so I could finish my work and we could all have a lovely evening together? Wouldn’t that be lovely? Yes, yes it would.

But does it happen?

Nope.

I’m not sure why it can’t happen that way. I think it’s because my kids WANT me to drink more wine, but that’s just a guess.

Because really, my kids are old enough to know better. To get that they have responsibilities. They have A List. A List of Things for Which They Are Responsible for Doing After School, Even if Mom Is On A Call When They Get Home.

But they don’t heed the godforsaken (kidforsaken?) list. Why? Why don’t they heed the list? The list is easy. It is just four things:

  • Empty your lunchbox and backpack
  • Do your homework
  • Pack up your homework/folder/lunchbox for tomorrow
  • Do your chore from the posted list

Seems simple enough, right? Common sense, even. These are basic responsibilities that my old-enough children should be able to manage without me berating them. Maybe they like to be berated? I can never be sure, but it seems to be the only thing that actually works.

It often goes a lot like this:

Me (to child engrossed in iPod): What are you doing?

Child (with deer-in-headlights look): Playing on my iPod.

Me: Did you do your homework?

Child (honestly not sure): Yes?

Me: All of it?

Child: I think so?

Me: Did you get your lunchbox/backpack/folder cleaned out and ready for tomorrow?

Child: Oh, I forgot.

Me: What’s your chore today?

Child: Oh, I don’t know. I forgot to check.

Me: (dies a thousand deaths, then begins berating)

I just don’t understand it. We have had endless conversations where they repeat back the four simple things on the list. We have had meaningful and productive discourse on how quickly they can complete their responsibilities, and then have scads of free time to do whatever they want. They have each independently learned this lesson in a multitude of different scenarios. For example:

  • You were right, Mom. I wish I had started this project much earlier; I wouldn’t have had to give up my entire weekend to do it now. I’ll know better next time. (FALSE.)
  • Ugh, I should have listened to you, Mom, and put the clean sheets on my bed right after I stripped the dirty ones off four hours ago (said at 9pm by an exhausted 12 year old who had to make up his bed…but then did the same exact thing next time.)

Don’t they understand that hearing them say these things should be a cause for me to celebrate a parenting win? Don’t they get how hollow it makes my mom victory when they can’t keep the lesson in their head? How I can’t truly enjoy being SO RIGHT when they keep forgetting how right I was the very next day? It’s maddening.

If I was in the office all day instead, they would complete all their homework under teacher supervision at the after school program, and I could pick them up and badger them–I mean, talk about responsibilities with them–at home without having to divide my attention with work.

So, in the end, I learn again that no solution is perfect. I continue to try and focus on being grateful for this nearly-perfect-but-not-without-its-drawbacks solution that I am lucky enough to have, and wait for that glorious day when the lesson finally, blissfully sticks in their heads.

(That day is coming. It must be coming soon. IT HAS TO COME, RIGHT???)

 

 

 

Moms, It’s Enough.

Ok, moms. We need to talk about the way we treat each other. Because I’ve kind of had enough and I’m guessing many of you have, too.

Yesterday I was in Whole Foods with my son and there was a bit of a ruckus. We had finished our shopping and were wandering over to the bakery case to see what looked delicious. Because that’s what we do. Because CUPCAKES.

Anyway.

As we passed the mini-coffee shop, which was crowded with a thick knot of people waiting to order their coffees, I saw a mom struggling with a crying girl, who looked to be about three or four years old. She simultaneously kept an eye on a boy of maybe a few years older who was nearby, eating a treat of some kind. My heart went out to this mom, as it always does to moms in those situations. I could see the panic on her face, and I felt her anxiety in my own gut.

We’ve all had those moments, Moms, haven’t we? No matter how old or young your child is, we’ve all experienced those in-public moments where your child behaves in a cringe-worthy way. Typically, the children are acting out in age-appropriate ways–a three year old throwing a tantrum when the answer to ANYTHING is “no,” a teenager rolling his eyes and mouthing off–but how do the onlookers in the store/restaurant/bowling alley/doctor’s office/car dealership/WHEREVER respond? Do they think, “that’s just a kid being a kid” or “that poor mom–she’s doing her best!”? I hope so.

But the truth is, so many times, they think the worst. So many times, their silent judgment is palpable. I have felt that silent judgment, and most acutely I have felt it from other women. Other moms.

Ladies, pardon my frankness, but what the ever-loving hell are we doing to each other with this judgment?

Let me go back to Whole Foods.

We passed the mom with her daughter and started ogling some particularly tantalizing cupcakes. A moment later, over the din of the busy store, I heard an angry voice start to rise. Like most of the other people in the area, my son and I turned toward the near-shouting.

“Don’t you tell me how I should be handling my children! I’m a single mom, and working my ass off, doing my best! How dare you talk to me that way?”

It was the mom I had seen before, trying to hold onto her slippery, squirming daughter while confronting another woman.

I have no idea what this woman said to the mom. I didn’t see her face, only saw the back of her head, her long, reddish hair, and the man standing next to her. She must have replied to the mom, but quietly, because I didn’t hear what she said. I saw the mom’s eyebrows go up in surprise and her eyes widen. Her voice got even louder; she was shouting now:

“My son dropped a napkin on the floor! He’s a little boy! You’re talking to me this way because my son dropped a napkin on the floor and I didn’t pick it up!”

By this point, the entire area of the grocery store was frozen, staring at the confrontation…except for a few unconvincing souls who pretended they were oblivious and tried to keep up the appearance of shopping. A Whole Foods employee swooped in and hovered between the two women, saying something like, “Let’s just calm down, everyone.”

The red-headed woman must have said something else to the mom. If she was already close to losing it, whatever the woman said pushed her over the edge. “HOW DARE YOU TALK TO ME THAT WAY, YOU F***ING B**CH? HOW DARE YOU–”

At this point the husband stepped in front of his wife and told the mom she shouldn’t speak to his wife that way. The mom and the husband began to argue at that point, until the Whole Foods employee stepped in and asked everyone to calm down and requested the mom step away from the scene.

You guys, I felt so much compassion for this mom. I have been her, and I’m sure you have, too. I could see it in her eyes. She was at the end of her rope, all alone in raising her children and all alone in this sea of judgmental faces in Whole Foods. And SHE was the one being asked to leave, a pariah with her two children. My heart broke for her, especially as the crowd of people around her looked away, pointedly avoiding eye contact with the shunned woman.

Yes, she got carried away. Maybe many of the people in the store–maybe you, reading this–think she went too far by swearing at the woman.

Maybe she did. But to me, that’s not the point.

The point is that this mom, doing her best with two small children on what was clearly not their best public outing, faced unfair judgment from another woman, and she lost it. She snapped, and I don’t blame her, not one bit.

In fact, I have to say I was a little bit in awe of her. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to react in a similar way when I have been judged by others when my children chose the worst of moments to misbehave, as children do…but I never quite had the spunk to do it.

In that moment, I could see how alone this woman felt. As she started to turn away with her two children in tow, I walked over to her, touched her on the arm and said, “You’re doing a good job, Mom.”

The relief and gratitude in her eyes was evident. “Thank you,” she replied.

I’m not going to lie. I was really nervous to do that, to speak out and stand with that mom in a moment when she was clearly being cast out and vilified by the people around. My voice shook a little, but I made sure it was loud enough for the others around to hear.

Because moms, I’ve had enough, and I’m not going to look away and be quiet anymore.

I’ve had enough of us tearing each other down. I’ve had enough of us being expected by society to keep our kids quiet, and to be quiet ourselves. I’ve had enough of being judged for saying no to my kids and disciplining them, even when it means they yell and scream in a store. I’ve had enough of women’s stares and whispers, silently and not-so-silently criticizing another mother’s choices.

Now look, no one is talking about abuse here, so let’s just not have anyone read this and think, “Well, if someone is abusing their kid, I will criticize them and call the police!” DUH.

I’m talking about parenting choices. I’m talking about seeing a woman in a store, struggling with her two kids and then criticizing her because her little boy dropped a napkin on the floor and she did not immediately either 1) make him pick it up or 2) pick it up herself because she was just a tiny bit busy with her other child at that moment.

Hey, here’s an idea: instead of looking at that struggling parent and thinking, “Sheesh, she is really letting her kids run wild; she is a terrible mother!” how about looking at her and thinking, “Look at that mom. She is really having a tough time. Maybe I can help.”

Maybe, just maybe, instead of offering a criticism and a judgment, that other woman could have just, oh, I don’t know, BENT OVER AND PICKED UP THE DANGED NAPKIN HERSELF. You know, just to be a good person. Just because she saw this mother needed help.

I’ve had a couple of times when I needed help myself, and all I got was judgment and criticism. One time, especially.

My son was two, maybe three, so this was about 10 years ago. I was 29 or 30, in Target with him, wearing a baseball cap so I probably looked to be in my early or mid-twenties.

He wanted a particular Thomas the Train, and the answer was no. It’s the age-old story, am I right? Toddler demands toy, mom says no, toddler melts down entirely.

So I told my son in age-appropriate language that his tantrum was not ok, he was in time-out and I would speak to him when he was done crying. I gave hime some space but of course I stayed nearby, within sight of him at the end of the row.

It was hard. I know you know it was hard. I knew people nearby–who were pointedly NOT making eye contact–were judging me, thinking “Why is that awful mom just letting her little boy cry like that?” I could feel the hot anxiety in my chest, rising up, willing me to relent and just get him the toy so he would shut up.

And then it happened. A woman approached me, someone probably just a couple of years older than me, but it was clear she thought I was a very young mother. She had That Look on her face. The “I-Know-You’re-Trying-But-You’re-Doing-It-Wrong-And-I’m-So-Much-Better-At-It-Than-You” look.

“I know it’s hard,” she began. I was tense, so full of stress in that moment, but hoping that maybe she would say something encouraging despite That Look.

Nope.

“But it’s even harder for everyone around here to listen to your little boy cry. You shouldn’t just leave him like that to cry, you know. It’s very unpleasant.”

Ohhhhh, the thoughts that went through my mind as my face, I’m sure, registered shock and disbelief. Thoughts of telling her that I could show her what unpleasant was if she didn’t shut up. This was the moment I remembered when I saw that mom in Whole Foods and understood why she completely lost it. Because I wanted to lose it. It took every ounce of my personal restraint not to yell in her sanctimonious face.

Instead of screaming obscenities, I responded in a shaky, clipped tone. “My little boy is crying because I wouldn’t buy him a Thomas the Train. I am trying not to raise a spoiled brat and if you don’t like his crying, maybe you should move to another aisle. And take your parenting advice with you.” *

(*This is a general paraphrase. It’s been ten years. I remember so clearly how I felt, and what my voice sounded like coming out of my mouth, all nervous and shaky, but the exact words are a little foggy. Chances are, it wasn’t as eloquent as how I wrote it here, but you get the general idea.)

She just shook her head at me sadly, like I was a silly little teen mom or something, and walked away. Instead of making a connection, mom-to-mom, or woman-to-woman, because she may or may not have been a mom, instead of offering an encouraging word, she chose to tear me down. I cried on the drive home from Target that day.

It hurts to be cast out in that way, especially by another woman, even more so by another mom. Because we’re all just trying to do our best, follow our own parenting beliefs, and IT IS HARD. Parenting, mothering, is hard every single day. Why don’t we choose unity and encouragement over judgment, criticism and isolation? It would make mothering at least a little bit easier.

As mothers, we all make different choices. Here’s a news flash: all of our choices are valid, Moms. You may breastfeed, she may not. You may let your baby cry it out, she may not. You may give your eight-year-old an iPhone, she may not. You may be a stay at home mom, she may not. You may let your thirteen year old daughter dye her hair purple, she may not. You might have bought the Thomas the Train for your three year old, I did not.

ALL THESE CHOICES ARE VALID. Some are mine, some are yours, some are hers. None is better than the other. They just ARE.

Let’s all join together and say ENOUGH. Enough judgment. Enough criticism. Enough tearing each other down.

Instead, let’s have more compassion for each other as women, as moms. Let’s share the difficult experience of mothering with each other, whether we’re friends or strangers, and support each other, even when our choices differ. Even when we make mistakes, because we all do at some point.

When you see a struggling mom, reach out to her with a smile, or a nod of your head to let her know you get it. Even if you are nervous like me, walk over to her and say, “You’re doing a good job, Mom.”

And the next time you find yourself in that situation, anxious and struggling, not sure if you’re doing the right thing, not sure if you’ll face criticism or judgment, imagine feeling my hand on your arm, and hearing my possibly-shaky-but-loud-enough voice telling you, “You’re doing a good job, Mom.”

Because you are.

In which I make a complete ass of myself. And learn some stuff. (As usual.)

It is rather fitting that this is the first post on the new blog, since I am writing about an utterly humbling experience I had the other day. A serious “DUH” incident in which I made a complete ass out of myself and came off looking like a total moron.

So fitting that I should be terrified of coming forward and saying “I am Steph Nash, not some persona I have created, just me, and that’s enough!” and the first story I tell as Just Steph Nash is one that ensures I am not too big for my britches.

Life is good that way. It keeps me in check. (Said without any sarcasm, for realz.)

(‘God, Steph, stop rambling and spill the damned story!’ you say.)

OK, OK.

So I had signed my son up for a sports conditioning class at the Y and it started at 5pm. That is a challenge for me for sure, and I was going to meet that challenge through a carefully coordinated plan of attack. BOOM. Here it is:

  • Leave work promptly at 4:30 (early, but doable).
  • Race to pick up the kids at after-school care (they were under strict instructions: at 4:30, Coop was to go change into his workout stuff, and Emma–my slowpoke–was to come RUNNING as soon as they were called down for dismissal)
  • Try to get in and out of the school in 5 minutes or less (a major accomplishment)
  • Jet to the YMCA and hustle him in, likely at the stroke of 5:02.

At 4:31, I was KILLING IT, you guys. I had packed all my crap, closed down my computer, flew down the stairs and was in the parking lot approaching my car. My beautiful, new 4 month old car that has made driving so much more delightful than I remembered it could be. I remember thinking to myself, “You GOT this, Super Mom! NAILED it!”

(insert lolz from those of you who know that pride goeth before the dumbassery)

I hopped in the seat, turned the ignition and turned to start backing. Woops, guess I turned the ignition too fast because I didn’t QUITE get the car started. Silly me.

So I turned the ignition again, carefully and with meaning this time, and nothing happened.

Hmmmmm, strange.

Let me try that again!

Nothin.

4:33.

DO NOT PANIC.

I stopped, I looked around my car. Nothing unusual. I hadn’t left the headlights on (my fancy new grown-up car has lights that shut off AUTOMATICALLY…wow, technology!) or the interior light, so it didn’t seem like it could be a drained battery.

I had a thought that maybe the keyless ignition wasn’t working, so I dutifully pulled out the key and tried to turn the ignition with that.

You guessed it, nothing.

I took a breath and came to terms with the fact that Cooper was not getting to the Y today. Shit! I exhaled and let it go.

I tried to call the husband, who always has a way of talking me down from the ledge and helping me see if I am missing something. Voicemail.

OK, I’m a big girl. I can call AAA without consulting him and then go in and sit in my office until they get here.

AAA told me they might not be able to get someone out there til 7:40. SERIOUSLY? I’d given up on the Y, but I had to pick the kids up by 6pm at the latest, so that was just too long to wait.

I felt the panic rise up. Drew was in Hartford, so he couldn’t get to the kids on time.

I thought it was the battery, and I noticed my boss was parked right next to me. I texted her to see if she could give me a jump. Five minutes later, she was in the parking lot with me, along with the building security guard who had jumper cables. We hooked them up. She started her car. I tried to start mine.

And nothing happened.

My boss was freezing out in the parking lot with me in her light coat. The security guard was looking on with mild interest as we tried to figure out why my new car wouldn’t start.

We tried several times. Nothing.

And now, I am seriously panicking.

Well, just me panicking, really. Everyone else was just freezing their asses off while I tried to figure out what to do.

Well, just me panicking, really. Everyone else was just freezing their asses off while I tried to figure out what to do.

How will I get my kids? Who can I call that could pick them up? Jesusgod, am I really going to have to wait here til 7:40? What about my dinner in the crockpot: is it going to burn? Can food in crockpots actually burn? Why isn’t my NEW EFFING CAR STARTING?!?! The dog has to go out–I don’t want to clean up pee and poop when I get home. Will Drew skip his workout to come get me instead? WHO WILL GET THE KIDS? The school is going to judge me for being THAT MOM AGAIN!!!! OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!!

I looked up from my panic and saw my boss on her phone. It took me a second to realize that she was arranging to catch a ride home with a co-worker. She told me I could use her car to go pick up the kids and go home and then she’d have her husband drive her into work in the morning. My boss was going to lend me her car. I was so grateful for her kindness in the moment, and in general to have such a great boss.

So, resolved to all the inconveniences of having a broken car (including what I was sure would be a hefty mechanic’s bill) I shut the hood down and grabbed my purse. I closed the car door and the car beeped at me.

What the hell?

I opened the door and didn’t see anything strange. The trunk, all the doors, and the hood were all shut. I closed the door. The car beeped again.

My boss looked at me, probably with the same confused look I had on my own face.

“Is it in gear maybe?” she asked.

The car was in reverse.

THE CAR WAS IN REVERSE.

THE CAR.

WAS IN.

REVERSE.

THE WHOLE EFFING TIME.

I put it in park.

It started right up.

And I died of shame.

shame-600x320I mean, we laughed in the moment but I really wanted to die.

She had just frozen herself for like 30 minutes helping me, offered me her car and inconvenienced herself, all because I was an utter moron.

And I went and got the kids who dutifully hurried out, Cooper fully dressed and ready to be sports-conditioned in his lacrosse shorts and sweat wicking shirt.

When I told him what happened, he just hugged me and said, “It’s ok, Mom. I’m sorry you had a bad afternoon.”

And my heart melted and I loved my life and my kids and my husband (who had reassured me on the phone while I drove from the office to pick up the kids that it was an honest mistake anyone could have made) more than anything.

Because even at my most idiotic and hare-brained, I am loved. I am enough, even when I screw everything up because I am in such a rush to get everything done IN JUST THE PERFECT WAY THAT I HAVE PLANNED.

Lesson learned. Again.

What the hell am I doing in 2014? Or, like in general?

I’m not even going to go into the usual blah-blah-blah about long overdue posts. I’m just going to get right down to it.

I haven’t written in a long time because I’m not really sure what I want to say. Like, not what I want to say in this particular post but more in general. What I want to say as a blogger. As a person. As a seeker of joy, love and badassery in all aspects of life.

In the last year or so I had someone ask me a couple of times what I planned to do with this blog.

Person: The blog is great! I’m a huge fan! What are you going to do with the blog, Steph?

Me: Uhhhhh….

Well, I’m damned if I know.

Because as much as I am a writer at heart and know I have a story to tell (perhaps many stories) I’m just not sure where to go from here. I can tell you for sure that I don’t see myself as “The Fit Fat Girl” anymore. It was a persona for awhile and it worked, but the truth is I’ve spent some time over the last couple of months wondering what else this blog could be if not the journey from fat girl to fit badass.

I mean, I’d have to change the whole theme, right? Sure, I could go on occasionally posting about my workouts, my challenges, my injury and how I’m working to overcome it despite obstacles. But I’ve written that shit to death already, and frankly it doesn’t inspire me anymore. And if it’s not inspiring to me, there’s no way in hell it’s going to inspire you.

And is my goal even to be an Inspiration to the People? Is it my goal to be A Thought Leader on Fat-Related Stuff?

Yeah, no. So that’s kind of over.

What, then, do I want to do with this blog?

Well, I’d like to make people laugh sometimes.

I’d like to talk about my parenting challenges sometimes.

I’d like to throw out my thoughts, good and bad, about happiness and friendships and marriage and body image and how big the universe is sometimes. And how small I feel sometimes, even though I take up a decent amount of space.

I’d like to talk about laundry and dishes, wins and losses, holidays and vacations and all the regular days in between. I’d love to write about hopes and dreams that are bigger than life sometimes.

I’d like to ponder the reasons that some weeks, I am super-humanly motivated to keep my house spic and span with seemingly no effort, but other weeks I just want to sit in the reclining chair under my special blankie (yes, I have one) and read books on my Kindle because the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mom and a wife and a Marketing Communications Manager and the Person Who Keeps the Trains Running In My Family seem so monumental that I have to escape to Panem or Hogwarts or wherever else a book would take me.

Sometimes I’d like to tell you why I love YA lit and airports so much.

Other times I’d like to write about real issues about which I am passionate, like the representation of women in the media. And homelessness. And the inability of us as a species (me included!) to just have some freakin’ tolerance and compassion for other human beings, regardless of their gender, race, political party, religious (or non-religious) beliefs, sexual orientation, stance on global warming or guns or Duck Dynasty or abortion or What’s-Your-Excuse-Fit-Mom-Maria-Kang or WHATEVER else the conflict du jour might be.

Someday I’d like to tell you the story of my special blankie, and the person who bought it for me when I was 16. And how mad I am at her sometimes, and how much I miss her since she died almost 20 years ago.

I’d like to tell you my whole story–not all at once, but in bits and slivers and sound bites along the way, a mosaic of experiences and thoughts and opinions that, put together, create the largely-imperfect-but-still-kinda-cool picture that is me.

So why haven’t I done this yet? (Maybe you asked, maybe you didn’t. I’ll answer anyway.)

Fear, of course.

Fear that the new direction of the blog won’t be as good, or as well-received as the old direction was for the most part.

Fear that when I write about my strong opinions on real issues, people will disagree with me and I’ll look stupid.

Fear that when I let go of The Persona of the Fit Fat Girl, there will just be me. Just Steph. And maybe you will not find that as interesting or funny or cool or WHATEVER as the Person Who Was the Fit Fat Girl.

What if Just Steph is not enough?

This is, like, the burning question of my life.

(I just stopped writing for like 10 minutes and debated the inclusion of the entire last 7 paragraphs. Whatever. Keeping ’em.)

So, having said all this, what now? At this point I think I have no choice but to move it forward with this new direction, no matter how scary it is.

Shedding the Fit Fat Girl armor is some next level shit for me, people.
I’m doing it. I hope you’ll stick around to see how it goes.

Boot of shame/badassery.

I have been a very naughty girl.

I ignored an injured ankle for a coupla weeks and I got a big ole fat swollen cankle that I could barely walk on. (sad face)

I went to the ortho walk-in and they gave me the boot. I was appropriately shamed at not having seen the line between “I can safely push through this” and “Oh snap, I’m injured.”

The boot is heavy. The boot is clunky. The boot is most decidedly un-sexy and un-cool. My daughter stubbed her toe on the boot and cried, then yelled at me for putting my “stupid boot in her way!”

I promptly set about the business of being lame. I was in a boot, for God’s sake! How effing lame is that?!?

Got my lame face on!

Got my lame face on!

I schlumped/clunked/booted around noisily. And slowly. For like two days.

I was grouchy. I yelled a lot. I had no heavy things to lift.

Then, I got tired of being lame, got into my workout gear, put on the goddamned boot, and went to my workout.

And that’s when the BOOT OF SHAME became the BOOT OF BADASSERY.

With some slight modifications, I kicked the usual ass at my workout. I benched a new PR (110 for 5 reps), did some pull-ups and good mornings, and even got in a little metabolic work…with my feet firmly planted on the ground, of course.

Suck it, boot!

Suck it, boot!

So yeah, no boot-related excuses for me.

And I feel soooooo much better now.

More weight.

So, back in the day when I was a high school English teacher, I taught The Crucible. My students and I were always fascinated by the consummate badass Giles Corey.

The quick and dirty on old Giles is that his wife was hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. And then he was accused…and as you probably know, once you were accused of being a witch in Salem during that time, you were basically screwed. So Giles refused to plead at all; he just kept his mouth shut. The Puritan law stated that a person who didn’t plead couldn’t be tried, so their “just” solution to this was to press the person.

In case you haven’t been pressed lately, this meant they would lay you down, completely naked, place a board over your body, and proceed to pile up a bunch of heavy ass rocks on you until you entered a plea. Or died, I guess. Um…yeah. It’s horrible.

Giles was in his seventies. This old dude suffered the pressing torture for over 2 days, and every time they asked him to enter a plea, he only replied “More weight.” In fact, in true badass Braveheart fashion, he yelled out those two words one final time just before he died.

As in, “Suck on that, Puritan douchebags!”

In The Crucible‘s fictionalized historical account of the witch trials, Giles is emotionally weighted down long before his untimely pressing. He is burdened by guilt after mentioning his wife reading strange books during her “trial” for witchcraft. Not surprisingly, she was hanged, and he feels responsible.

This may be one of those times when you ask yourself, “Where the hell is she going with this?”

Answer: SOMEWHERE.

Here’s the thing: I think of Giles often when I’m in the gym. As I’m loading up the bar for my next lift, I’ll say to myself, “More weight.” There’s something totally empowering about it. (I also like to imagine I have a really badass gaze going when I’m thinking this…but in reality, I’m probably lucky there’s no mirrors in that part of the gym.)

But there’s way more to this than badassery. I imagine Giles feeling freed with every additional pound of rock they dropped on him. The physical burden of all those rocks might have lightened the emotional burden of what he was going through, somehow lessening his sadness and guilt. At least, I like to think that when I lift.

Of course I’m not fighting against the injustices of Puritan society in one last act of defiance like he was. I’m just working out.

But still…when life’s burdens get heavy, it helps to duck under that bar, put something tangibly heavy on my back and make it my bitch.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of the most important reasons I love lifting so much.

You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.

You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.

No matter what kind of burden I’m carrying in my heart when I walk into the gym, loading up the bar and lifting the crap out of some heavy weights makes a world of difference. It takes away the powerlessness I sometimes feel in the face of sadness, disappointment, fear or anger.

So right now, some people I care about are struggling with some majorly heavy emotional burdens. One of them is my friend and workout partner, who is dealing with serious health issues that have kept her out of the gym for a couple of weeks.

The first day that I showed up knowing 1) that she wouldn’t be there and 2) why she wouldn’t be there, I realized almost immediately that I had radically underestimated the power of a lifting partner as awesome as her. I had taken for granted the strength I drew from having her there next to me, working the same lifts, encouraging me when I struggled and congratulating me when I had a win. I missed her and her general awesomeness, and I felt weak.

I faced the bar alone on this particular morning, and again I was glad there was no mirror because yeah, I cried a little. I cried at the sheer powerlessness I felt. My friend wasn’t there and there was nothing I could to help her. There was nothing I could say that would ease her burden or change what she was going through.

I wanted my partner back so we could get into our regular workout groove and her life would be just as it had been, with all that hard stuff having just been a bad dream she had before the alarm clock went off.

More than anything, I wished that I could duck under the metaphorical bar next to her and help her shoulder the hefty weight of all she was dealing with.

But yeah, there was no “metaphorical bar.” This is life, and the only bar I had was the actual one in front of me at the gym that morning. And it looked really friggin heavy. Like, too heavy for me in my sad and somewhat pathetic state.

So I did what I usually do in these kinds of situations. I told myself to shut up. I put on my badass face (I think) and said to myself, “More weight.”

And I lifted the crap out of it.

Yes, my friend’s burden is still heavy, and that weighs on me, too, as someone who cares about her. We all have our emotional weight to carry around, and some days it is almost too much to bear.

But the act of lifting that heavy physical burden, of fighting through the weakness and powerlessness and pushing that iron up high…well, it helps. In some way, it lightens the load on my heart, and makes me stronger inside and out.

More weight? Bring it on.

rEvolution. (A not-so-short story in which I tell a secret and inexplicably use a metric ton of quotation marks.)

So I’ve been keeping a little (okay, big) secret from you, and it’s time to have an open and honest conversation about food and my new philosophy. And the meaning of life. (haha, just kidding. That was my last post.)

Without further ado, here is my shocking reveal:

I stopped giving a crap about what I eat about three months ago.

Gasp!!

Here’s another one that might make your head spin:

Not giving a crap about what I eat is one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I appreciate that this may be quite scandalous to you. You may have a case of the vapors over it. I’ll give you a moment, and then I’ll explain.

(Insert telephone hold music for 30 seconds; I’ll eat a piece of cheese, or maybe a chocolate, while I wait.)

First of all, lemme backtrack for a sec. I may have exaggerated a teensy bit for shock value when I said I didn’t give a crap about what I ate anymore. (I understand that the thought of me exaggerating may also be a shock to you. Please recover from this shock quickly so we can continue moving forward.)

What actually happened three months(ish) ago is that I reached a critical point in my journey, a turning point. I have been evolving steadily for the last two years, in my body and my mindset, and this turning point, I think, is one of the most important ones I’ve experienced thus far.

The end-all be-all of this journey for me when I started was LOOKING the part of a badass…having people know, by looking at me, that I was a strong, fit person.

Hell, I’ll say it outright, I wanted to be thin and look jacked. I wanted to be a size 6 again, and until I was, there was no good reason for me to buy any nice clothes, to really spend time trying to look good or feel good about myself, because I wouldn’t until I met those goals. THEN, I was REALLY going to be awesome.

So to achieve this awesomeness-through-looking-thin-and-jacked goal, I set out on a strict clean-eating regime, eating clean 100% of the time for a full 2 months. After that initial super strict period, I scheduled one splurge meal a week. Sometimes, when schedules got busy, I would have more than 1 splurge but I stayed on track with these eating habits for several months.

While doing this, I missed a lot. I turned down a few invitations and I missed several social events at my work (pizza truck, ice cream sundae truck…why do delicious treat foods come on trucks? I digress…)

At the time, I was okay with missing these things. I felt that I was making a choice to prioritize my long term goals over what I wanted in the moment. They were the right choices for me at the time.

I could have gone to these events and just avoided the pizza/cake, and I fully acknowledge that I made the conscious choice NOT to do this. I was so embroiled in managing my food, and I didn’t trust myself enough to abstain from “bad” foods, so I chose to miss the entire experience instead.

At that time, I felt awesome about these choices. I also felt–and I am somewhat ashamed to admit this–a little bit smug and superior to all those people who were down there snarfing pizza and ice cream while I worked at my computer and chastely snacked on carrots and almonds.

As for my progress, I was doing ok. I was “losing weight” as they say. People were saying nice things to me, I was generally kicking ass in my progress.

And then some evolution happened. LIFE happened.

In November, I went on a splendiferous vacation where I happily overindulged every meal, every day, and halfway through the vacation was so backed up and bloated that I couldn’t button my triumphantly purchased one-size-down jean shorts. I still enjoyed every minute, and every bite, of that vacation. (Thank you, drawstring sweat shorts, for being there for me on the best vacation ever.)

After that vacation, through the holidays, through to mid February I struggled mightily to “get back on track.” I would go a few days of clean eating, then I would binge. I would try again. I was determined, as always, not to give up. To fall down 80 times and stand up 81.

At the same time, I started to gain steam with some heavy lifting in my training. I was loving the lifting, but suddenly I started to feel weak and tired. I wasn’t excited about my workouts anymore. I felt like I had lost my mojo, especially since I was freaking obsessed with getting my fat ass back “on the wagon,” but just couldn’t seem to do it.

I am sure some poor food choices were responsible for some of my fatigue, but as I did some reading and I talked to my trainers,  I ultimately concluded that I was overtraining and not eating well enough to support my training.

I was pushing too hard on too little fuel, and it was hitting me hard.

Now, you might think that this would launch me back into another bout of holier-than-thou clean eating. But, given my yo-yo patterns of the last few months, I decided to try something different, since I was looking for different results besides the super-clean-eating-alternating-with-super-awful-binges pattern I had recently gotten into.

I took a long hard look at my goals and my life, and this was my catharsis (pay attention! It’s exciting!):

Although my journey is not over–and won’t be until my heart stops beating–I am a badass RIGHT. NOW. Without “losing any more weight” or fitting into a certain size or bypassing every pizza party or slice of cake. Before I reach my squat goal or have a day where I feel like pull-ups haven’t completely defeated me (does that day exist?), I am STRAIGHT UP AWESOME, TODAY.

I am strong and fit. I am kind. I am funny. I make people happy. I love fiercely (no matter who makes fun of me for saying so), and I give a lot, in a lot of different ways. In my own small way, I make the world a better place. And what I eat, weigh or look like has no bearing whatsoever on any of that.

I decided that day I didn’t want my life to be about logging food choices and keeping to a breakneck workout schedule that exhausted me for all the other great things I wanted to do.

I didn’t want my life to be about measuring every ounce of food that passes my lips, and I REFUSE to measure myself and my worth by what I ate, looked like, or what the stupid ass scale or measuring tape said.

I realized that food had continued to control my life. Sure, it was clean food, but it was controlling me nonetheless. And I’d had enough. I had too much living to do to let food control me anymore.

From that day on, I stopped paying attention to what I eat. No food log, no measuring cup. And to my shock, I have not gone on a no-holds-barred indulgence spree. Quite the opposite, actually.

Here’s the thing, peeps: three years of being an “off and on” clean eater, and I know what it means to eat clean. I know how to gauge my body’s response to food and I now prefer to eat real, whole foods. They make me feel good. Fast food and processed foods continue to straight up gross me out, so I don’t touch them and probably won’t anytime soon.

But dairy is delicious and good for me, and it doesn’t bother my stomach, so every day I eat my Fage yogurt with raisins and almonds, or banana almond granola, or sometimes with cocoa powder, and sometimes with Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter (amazeballs).

I eat steak and chicken and barbecue pork. I eat peppers and squash and spinach. I eat a crap ton of bacon (mostly turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s. It is magical.)

I also eat chips and pasta and cheesecake when I have a mind to, and at least twice a week I eat a grilled cheese for lunch when I work from home, because it’s delicious. I take the kids out for ice cream when I feel like it. I drink good beer and sweet iced tea sometimes. Last week, I attended this year’s pizza truck gathering and I ate 5 a-mah-zing slices, thankyouverymuch. And enjoyed the hilarious company of one of my favorite co-workers while doing so.

On average, I would say I am “splurging” or “cheating” about the same percentage, possibly a little more (it’s hard to say) than I was with my yo-yo habits of before.

Here’s a major difference though: I’m not calling them “cheats” or even “splurges” anymore. I am calling them “food.” I am calling it “eating.” Because that’s what the hell it is.

The general sum up is that I am much of the time eating whole, unprocessed foods without too much sugar. That’s basically what I eat because of the habits I’ve formed over the last couple of years, so I needed to go through those strict times to create those preferences. And I’m grateful for that.

What I am ditching are two very specific “rules” I once held myself to:

1) that there are certain “off limits” foods that must be avoided until a pre-determined “splurge” period

2) that I need to carefully monitor ever single ever-loving thing I put in my mouth, and keep my calories lower so I can “lose weight”

As a former anorexic and bulimic, I am no stranger to food rules, and they are dangerous and toxic. So they can get the hell out of my life.

And without the food rules, I feel free. I trust myself, and I feel amazing. I feel strong in my workouts (which I have cut back to 4, maybe 5 a week depending upon how I feel) and I am listening to my body…what it wants and needs to be fueled properly, and how I need to balance work and rest to continue to get stronger.

I could give two craps about “losing weight.” Or what the “right” foods are before and after training, or on the days I don’t train, or if I should eat dairy, or if there are too many grams of sugar in something. I check labels for HFCS or any gross chemicals that are not good for me and my family, and I buy organic produce most of the time.

Other than that, I eat. I eat because I’m hungry, I eat because my body needs fuel, I eat because I enjoy it. Sometimes, I forget to eat when I’m busy and sometimes, I eat too much and my belly lets me know…and it’s all good. I haven’t weighed or measured myself recently and have no plans to, but I can tell you all my clothes fit just fine, and I continue to be awesome in general, and to kick ass and make major strength gains at my workouts. My guess is that my body will continue to change over time, and that’s cool, too.

Food is good, and so is life. Eat, people.