Monday, October 24, 2016

Happy Birthday: Start the Year with a Challenge

Today is my 30th Birthday.
A milestone that according to pop culture means that I should either be ranting about my biological clock and melting down because I'm no longer a 20-something.
Neither is happening.

I am thrilled to be 30 - I made it huzzah!  Actually, I'm just excited to run around saying it's my birthday, like a little kid waiting to get home to presents.

In light of this milestone birthday, I am setting goals for the next year.  This idea of goal setting is based on the promise I made my son last week because he deserves to have a mom who keeps promises.

Goal #1: Run the Ghosts-N-Goblins 5k with my son October 2017. 
This is a 5-K run/walk hosted in my town.  I ran it the first year they had it as a birthday present to myself 2 years ago.  Since then, life has changed and I slacked.  So, I need to get running again.  With the new fitness reimbursement from my job, the gym will be paid for in full - which translates to 0 excuses.
 - To Meet Goal #1:
   - Run 2-3 x per week 15-30 minutes
   - Strength Train 2 x per week 15-30 minutes

Goal #2: Drop the pants!  Right now, I am a size 18, let's aim reasonable to a size 16...and aim even higher to 14.
In a perfect world, I'd like to lose around 100lbs.  This is not a small amount and will take a lot of effort in a number of ways.  But I also realize that the number isn't always the key thing.  This is why I want to focus on pant size.  I'll be eyeballing the weight but I'd like a positive reason to get clothes for my birthday next year.
 - To Meet Goal #2:
   - Follow Steps in Goal #1
   - Experiment and clean-up diet


This is where I'm at for now.  Coming into today with a plan for tomorrow.
Over the next week, the steps I will be taking for meeting these goals: Establish a strength training regime (nothing worse than wandering aimlessly) and write it down, get those details; Find 2 new recipes that I haven't made before.

Signing up for the gym has to wait until my next payday, which is why it isn't on here yet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why I Want To Be Captain America

Let's start simply - as anyone who reads this can probably figure out, I'm trying to better myself.  This is primarily blossoming in a fitness manner at the moment.
As part of this figuring myself out journey I found Nerd Fitness.  I will admit, I adore Steve - the creator.  I enjoy reading the site and have been trying to involve myself on the forums.  Typically on forums, I'm a lurker not a participant.  So participating is a big deal to me and I'm trying to get to a regular posting schedule.
Today, a bit late to the party, I read one of his articles, "Don't Escape, Get Inspired" (Link: http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/10/02/dont-escape-get-inspired).  Also, watching the video is a big plus.
I don't know why but this particular article hit me just right.
So now, I want to be Cap.
But, why Captain America?
Steve Rogers (the guy under the mask) believes in doing what's right - even in the face of extreme adversity.  He doesn't compromise and the means do not always justify the ends.  In a comic book my son owns with Captain America in it, there is a scene where Cap is given the chance to murder a bad guy in order to save the day.  The other good guys (not avengers in this case, aliens) are basically urging him to do it because they see no other options.  Captain America lowers his stance and says "Doing the wrong thing, even for the right reasons, is still wrong."  That line is one part to why I like him.
Other points about Captain America, he is the fighter, the defender, the rally point, the leader.  Everybody looks to Cap for guidance, including Iron Man, Thor, Hulk.  The one guy that is still basically just a person is looked up to by a technological genius, a god, and all the confounding things Hulk is.
Cap also admits his faults.  He has no problem with admitting if he doesn't know something or isn't the best choice for something.
He is also highly adaptable.
I watch Super Hero shows with my son.  Anything with the Avengers in it and Captain America (even when in parody, like Super Hero Squad Show) is still a cornerstone, even when the spotlight isn't on him. 
He doesn't just talk though.  He leads by example.  Captain America was labeled a traitor at one point due to the Skrull invasion (nasty shape shifting aliens used Captain America's personality to further their purposes).  While the world reacts to him with anger and hatred, he carries on doing what he has always done.  He stands for what is right, fights injustice, and ignores that anger directed at him as best he can.
So, yeah, I want to be Captain America.
I think that's a valuable goal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stereotyping and Villainy: Creating Hatred With An Us Versus It Mentality

Let me start this post by saying: We all say dumb things - even me.  Sometimes we know right away that it was dumb.  Sometimes we realize it later.  Sometimes it takes seeing, reading, or hearing a similar comment to realize it.
This is not about the one or two times we all say something dumb.  This is about when that something dumb starts becoming our mentality.

The first question you might be asking yourself is, why is the title Us vs. It instead of Us vs. Them (like the popular phrase goes)?
Well, the reason is that us vs. them works okay in sports and competitions but not so much elsewhere.  In life, when we start thinking of a group of people as a "them", we slowly stop thinking of them as people.  And as soon as people are no longer viewed as people, they become things, its, they are no longer "real".  Once we stop making people "real", they no longer matter because things don't have thoughts, things don't have feelings, things can always be replaced.

The inspiration for this post started with my son talking about the Pledge of Allegiance.  It made me think of the huge debate about the "Under God" add in.  Then previous thoughts sort of clicked into place.

Take a look at the comment section in news articles and watch how quickly it become "Evil Republicans/Democrats" and "Whiny Liberals/Conservatives" are all to blame for everything from Obama's presidency to Brad Pitt and Angelina (seriously, an article about a fluffy kitten who purrs can become a political battle ground).

Now, a reasonable person can deduce that not every Democrat is trying to turn the US into a Welfare State and not every Republican is trying to destroy Equal Rights.  However, if every time you look at the internet, these are the messages you receive - how long will it take before you believe them?

Let's look at race.   All black people live in ghettos and are criminals.  All Hispanics are illegal immigrants that abuse welfare.  All Asians are technological geniuses.  All white people look down on everyone else.  All Middle Eastern people are terrorists.  How many other stereotypes like these and worse have you heard?  These are what I've noticed lately.

Let's try religion.  Christians are bigoted bible thumpers. Jews are greedy. Muslims are extremists.  Atheists believe in anarchy.  Again, how many of these and worse have you heard?

Oh, how about gender?  Women are gold diggers, bitches, sluts, shrews, harpies.  Men are idiots, assholes, violent, oppressors, entitled. 

So what is the point to airing this dirty laundry?  To point it out.

See a lot of people get pissed off at advertising agencies and magazines that promote unrealistic body image to young girls.  Since young females are so impressionable it is irresponsible of these entities to inhibit the growth of self-worth and confidence that these girls need and deserve to have.  The reasoning is that after being bombarded with all these images, girls will believe that what they are shown is the ideal, they will believe the photoshopped hype.

If we can all understand that bombarding a young girl with the idea she can only achieve success in life if she is as fashionable, chic, sexy, skinny as a modified model is bad, why don't we get that bombarding anyone with bad ideas is bad?

If every time you log on to the internet or turn on you TV, you see women bashing other women - how long will it take you to believe that this is okay?  That if another women does something different from you, she deserves to be shamed or harassed?

There is a website for moms that I once hung around - mostly because they had an online game that I played.  Every once in a while I would read part of the forums and it would disgust me.  I sincerely mean that too.  I was disgusted by the attitudes and venom spewed from the keyboards of the women on the site.  Some mother would post a question, asking advice for a parenting concern and the replies fired off had me looking for the trenches.  I was not on the website very long.
I have enough of an issue with people being jerks to each other normally but this is relevant here because this website furthered a stereotype of competing moms.
Some of the women that posted were out of control - you would seriously question what they were doing to raise their kids.  But this only reinforced that "crazy girl" idea.

Okay, now let's move a little further on this...Where do kids spend a significant amount of time?
Connected to the internet.

Over and over kids are presented the worst in stereotyping and vilification of anyone and everyone.  Straight, Gay, Transgender, Gender-Neutral, Married, Divorced, Single, Male, Female, White, Black, Asian, Latino, Native American, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Country Music Fan, Pop Music Fan, Heavy Metal Music Fan, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Spartan-Living, Consumer-Living, and anything else you can think of has haters, professional bashers even.  There is not one thing you could do that is not criticized somewhere online.

Congratulations - we have a culture that not only condones hate, it propagates it.

...
....
.....
The people who speak the quietest often speak most profoundly.  The smallest voices on the internet belong to the people who believe in moderation, who believe in living freely.  That needs to change.
There are places were you can find the lovers, the encouragers, the people that don't bash others for no reason (they may call out dumb but will expect you to call out their dumb too).

Thankfully, there are more and more people getting the message that we need more positive and less negative.  More approval and less reprimand (and vice versa where applicable). 

The first place to start though, is with you.

I've come to a point where I see the differences in people and those differences don't matter.  To me, nearly everyone is lovely and fascinating. 
I'm not saying that you need to run out of the house and start hugging strangers.  But maybe look at where you are biased.  Can those biases be changed?

Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' talks about change the quite effectively:
"I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change"

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires (sorry, couldn't help it).
Only you can change your actions.  You can't change other people but maybe, you can inspire them to change.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adventure Saturdays, Mellow Sundays

Since spring of this year, my kids and I have done, what I like to call, "Adventure Saturdays".
These are Saturday only activities because my husband gets the car on Sundays (we only have one car) and serve several purposes.  First, they get me and the kids out of the house for several hours; second, this time gives my husband time to sleep since he works third shift (two kids + small apartment = not much sleep for daddy); third, these days are times for us to explore everything.

The places we've gone on these days include: Boston Museum of Science; our local Children's Science Museum; Two different zoos (a third one come this weekend); an Art Museum; Movies; an indoor playground; and visits to family.
Every single Saturday the kids and I take off for at least half the day and enjoy it.  These days create amazing opportunities for them to explore.  They are also a fantastic opportunity for us to bond.

This year, my son has developed a love of taking pictures.  He was so thrilled when I had photo albums made for him with the pictures he'd taken from one zoo trip.  You would have thought it was his birthday.
Generally speaking we spend between 2-3 hours at whatever place we go.  Sometimes it's more and sometimes it's less.  These days are always so much fun.  They are also very tiring.

Now, to introduce Sunday.  Sundays are our down days.  The kids and I kick back at home, play games, watch movies, and take walks to the park.  We may also get in some early morning grocery shopping.  Sundays are just as much about bonding as Saturdays - just in a different way.
On Sundays, my son helps me more with his sister, we fold laundry together, and learn the simple pleasure of being together without necessarily doing anything.

Sundays also teach me patience.  My son and I are enough alike that if we don't figure out how to manage each other now, his teenage years are going to be hell.  I have learned some of his triggers and how he pushes my buttons, just perfectly to annoy/frustrate me.  I am learning to mitigate the clashes we have and stop them in their tracks.  I will not proclaim to know all of it because as soon as I do, he'll find some new way to aggravate me.  So it is a work in progress and likely always will be.
Sundays we learn how we as a family work together and it gets better all the time.

Honestly, my favorite part of Sundays is when my son and I fold laundry together.  My daughter will play in her crib next to us and we will tell stories and sing songs.  Together we sort all the clothing then he folds the kid clothes and I fold everything else.  It is fun, goofy, and a little outrageous sometimes - we had the baby laughing so hard as I belted out "She'll be coming 'round the Mountain" and he was performing a wacky interpretive dance to it, by the end, we were all laughing.

I'll be honest, there are days when I just want to be alone and not worry about the little ones running around.  But I would never trade them for anything, the little moments and the big moments are all so awesome.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Best Me Today Makes Them Better Tomorrow

So this post is kind of twofold but it is kid focused.  My children are not my life but they are certainly at the center with their dad.  All three of them have impacted my life tremendously.  This is about the kids today.  Maybe I'll talk about the husband another day.

One of the biggest things I want for me kids is for them to "never look back".  This idea is from an article I read years ago.  The point of the article was simple that when kids grow up confident, they will move forward in life and won't look back to their parents - because they know that their parents will always be there.
Think about that for a second, really think on it.  Imagine, you wanted to be a stuntman.  You would start with small stunts and work your way up to leaping off buildings.  By the time you are flying backwards off buildings, there is one thing you are certain of - there will be something there to catch you.  You would be okay with doing those stunts because every other time you've done them, you've been caught.  You consistently fall but know you will always get back up.
Guess what?  Parents are that safety net, the giant inflatable catching the falls.
Every time kids try something new, good parents are right there. Whether that something new is easy or hard; hated or loved; stimulating or boring, the kids need to know that their parents are there.
And every time we adults support them, those kids learn we are there.

At first they will keep checking to make sure but soon that will stop.  Not because they are "too big" but because they know who's behind them.  Who is there to catch them if and when the fall.

I want my kids to move confident throughout their lives, so much so that they don't need to see me or talk to me to know that I'm there should they want me there.

I believe that self confidence is crucial to leading a content, happy life - to succeeding how you want to succeed.  I know from my own experience that my confidence wasn't that strong as a pre-teen.  Then a made a series of choices from where I went to high school to joining the military.  When I came home from the military, I felt the difference in how I perceived myself and it didn't matter what others thought.  Then the addition of a supportive relationship to work out some more kinks and there are people I know today who cannot picture me as the person I was.  Let's be honest, some of it is just growing up.  But I wouldn't have made the decision to join the service without knowing my parents had my back.  I had friends and teachers who told me that it was a bad choice and basically that I would be deployed and they would never see me again.  It sucked.  At home though, my choice was respected and that helped me push through the naysayers and navigate that minefield.
To this day, my military service remains (in my head) one of the best decision I ever made. 

Not to say everyone needs to join the military (I wouldn't even recommend it to some people) but at some point we all make a choice, a decision, that is made infinitely easier or harder by the people standing behind us.  And having the people who have been there your whole life behind you - that makes it easier.

So, in line with the idea of wanting to have confident children who grow into confident adults, they must first have an example.

Every action I take in front of my kids send them a message.  A message about me, about adults, about behavior, about relationships. 
My husband and I have never fought - no, I am not exaggerating.  We both grew up in households where there was yelling and made an agreement not to have that in our house.  When we disagree about something, annoy each other, or even hurt each others feelings, it is handled without a fight, without screaming.  We handle our issues through honest communication - talking and listening.  The biggest thing is honest.  If a topic is "put to rest", we both have to agree to that and let it go (it does not become something to harp on 3 months later).  We solve problems through calm conversation.
What do my kids learn when they see that?
I hope they learn how important a communication is in a relationship.  How important honesty is in a relationship.
When I make a mistake, even to the kids, I apologize.  Yes, I do say "I'm sorry" to my son and mean it.  I hold myself to a set of standards of behavior and that includes admitting when I am wrong.
I hope they see and learn that lesson too.
I always say "please", "thank you", "you're welcome", and "may I?"  Because how will they learn, unless they see someone else doing the very things we adults are always telling them to do.  And yes, that does mean that when I forget, my 7 year old will correct me.  I'm okay with that, since I correct him too.

This is why I part of why I want to be a better me.  If I am constantly pushing myself to try new things, to explore my boundaries, then that is what my kids will see.
I don't hide that I go to the gym to go running - my son wants to come with me.  I have to remind him he can't go yet but I'll take him once he's old enough.  When I try a new food, I'll tell him about it.  He is then more willing to try something new too.  Just not too new because you know he didn't like it last time he tried it...in his batcave...when I wasn't there (Translation: Too new/strange looking, check back later).  I'll take the victories I can get and we celebrate him trying new food.

Of course, as my daughter gets older, there will be different issues and different examples to set too.

I will seek to continuously grow and improve myself.  Not out of shame, disgust, peer pressure, or any other negative reason.  I will do it because I want to be better and more awesome than I already am.  And I will do it, so they know that you don't have to be perfect to be awesome and amazing and ultimately to be you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Worrying about Boys or Girls

I have come to the conclusion that I really loathe the statement (and it's various incarnations), "With a boy, you only have to worry about one penis but with a girl, you have to worry about all of them."
The sentiment basically boils down to - A girl can get pregnant and a boy can't.


So, why does this bother me?  Simple, it is inherently sexist and makes it sound like every daughter must be protected from villainous penises.


I have two kids, one of each.  I have to worry about both of them equally.  I would be just as concerned about my son impregnating a girl, as my daughter getting pregnant.  Why?  Because my son will be responsible for his actions.  If he gets a girl pregnant, you can bet he will be held responsible for that situation and all the headaches, heartaches, and changes that come with it.
He is being raised to understand his actions have consequences and he has responsibilities.  Right now, those have more to do with punishment for breaking stuff and making sure he dresses himself in the morning. 
If he ever finds himself in a situation with a pregnant girlfriend, he will be expected to step up to the plate in whatever capacity is required.


For my daughter, yeah, I don't want a pregnant teenage girl any more than a teenage expectant-father.  But I will not teach to run the other direction from boys.  I will teach her that she alone is responsible for her actions and her body.  And she can only hold herself accountable for them.


I want my children properly educated, so that whenever they decide sex is okay for them, they will approach it smartly.  Utilizing effective birth control measures if necessary (who knows, one or both may decide "not until marriage" and at the point they are okay with letting life happen). Not hooking up with someone while impaired.


I may have joked about a bullet-proof vest for the boy or picking buying a shotgun.  But truthfully, when the kids are teenagers, I just want them to live that time of their lives without worrying about an STD or baby or who knows what else.
I want them to experience high school as kids and nothing else.


Right now, these thoughts may seem out of place - my oldest is only 7 - but the foundation for the people my kids will become is laid down now.


I need to think about what kind of people I want my children to grow into now because by the time they become teenagers, some of it will be too late and some of it will require hard lessons.  I would rather start now and build a strong foundation.


Most important of all, I want them confident enough to be themselves inside and outside the home - whoever that self is.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

To Run Again

At the start of this year and this blog, I had jumped back into the fitness game.  Then my work hours changed and the momentum that I'd built vanished.  I hadn't given up on it but I needed to reevaluate what was going on in my schedule and reconfigure things.
For the record, I'm routine based.  Changes to that, depending on the nature of the changes, can throw me off track for a while.
Hence, now, my work schedule has been altered again.  Which brings me back to a more favorable schedule.
I haven't been inactive since my "break" but it's be mostly limited to Saturdays when I'm out with the kids.  Our Saturdays involve a minimum of 1.5 hours of walking for me and running/walking for my son.  Typically, we are moving about for 2.5 hours.  But that is only one day a week and not enough for me.
So, I started thinking.  When I think of myself in terms of exercise, when did I feel at my best and most capable?  Running.  There was a time when I could run at 12 minute mile pace for what felt like forever.  I'd reach a zone and just go.  It was consistent and relaxing for me.  I also felt like I was amazing because I'd reached that point.
When this year started I focused on strength training because, in all honesty, strength training is the "most bang for your buck" in terms of exercise - particularly with free and body weight.  However, while I enjoyed feeling stronger, it didn't get to the same point that running did, the point where I just wanted to go.
One of the biggest things about any type of exercise is that if it feels like a chore, you are less likely to succeed.  There are always opportunities for excuses especially if it is something you really don't want to do.  However, an exercise you enjoy - soccer, dancing, weightlifting, etc. - you will go back to it over and over again because it isn't a chore.
I thought about that in terms of my own situation and realized while I like strength training, I didn't love it and wouldn't miss it.  I miss running.  I miss being able to hit my pace and not gasping at air.  I missed feeling awesome when I went a little bit further and little bit faster than the day before.  Those were success I could count on and feel every single time.  When I ran, I never stopped improving and never stopped pushing.  Running, I have realized, is my exercise of choice. 
Now it is time for me to pursue running again and I'm excited.  I'm looking forward to hitting the treadmill.  I'm thinking I might set mileage goals just for fun, once I get more established.


Right now, I might only do one day during the week to get started and back into the swing.  I need to rebuild a habit I lost and slow changes work best for me. This week, tomorrow actually, will be my first day back on the treadmill.  I'm looking forward to it.  I'm looking forward to becoming a faster me.  Again.