Do I Ever Say Anything Positive About My Body?

Recently, I’ve started to see my daughters’ bodies changing. Not quite puberty yet, but a little rounder here, a little curvier there. Yep, it’s almost time to have “the talks” in my house.

I’ve done my best to protect their body images. I never talk about diet although they rarely see me eat bread or pasta (seriously, goes right to my hips), try not to complain (to them) about the wrinkles and sags, and never complain when my jeans feel too tight.

Growing up, my parents were overzealous in always telling me how beautiful I was, even during my spiral-permed, over make-upped, short skirt wearing period (which seemed to last years.) They always told me I looked great whether I just gained the Freshman 15 or lost a few pounds of my winter chubbiness. I was lucky. Really, really lucky.

And my husband and I have tried to do the same for our girls. We constantly talk about how beautiful they are, along with complimenting their intelligence, kindness, athleticism and any other things we can say to empower them to believe in themselves. We truly believe that positive affirmations can make positive minds.

That’s why when I saw this quote from Kate Winslet the other day, it rocked my world.

‘As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”.  Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.’

Kate Winslet

Read more body quotes by Kate here.

Crap. She’s right. In doing my best to not say anything negative about my body (or anyone else’s), I realized I’ve certainly never said anything positive. What kind of mixed message is that to a girl about to grow breasts (well, maybe one of them will take after my husband’s side of the family), combat acne, face mood swings, and all those other things that come with growing up. Or a girl who is constantly shown by the media what she is “supposed” to look like.

So, I do what I always do in these types of situations. I bring it up in the van on the way to some activity.

I asked my daughters what their favorite feature was about me, and then themselves. My girls loved my hair, my smile and one of them said every piece of me. I told them I loved my long legs, the color of my eyes and how strong my arms have become.

We also talked about what we didn’t like about ourselves, and their answers were hilarious. It ranged from my youngest’s crooked toe to one of my twin’s mole on her ear. I carefully chose my own least favorite features to share with them, because I had to be honest. There will always be things you don’t like about yourself, but there should always be more to love.

I found it challenging to share the three things I liked about my looks, particularly since I’ve spent too much time focusing on the things that I hate about my appearance.

But it was also cathartic. I really believe that unhappiness stems from looking at things in pieces, instead of the totality of a situation. For example, I shouldn’t give up on a ten-year relationship because of one hurtful comment a friend made, or just because my kids eat poorly on vacation doesn’t mean they are unhealthy eaters. It’s about looking at the entire length of something, not just the bumps in the middle.

This is how I’m beginning to look at my appearance. In totality, when I look at myself in the mirror, it’s not so bad. I cannot get so hung up on the individual flaws, or how can I teach my daughters to love themselves? Their whole selves.

Just doing that exercise helped my whole psyche. This morning, without prompting, I told my girls I felt strong today, so I was going to do an extra hard work out, and then I was going to get my summer clothes out because I was excited to show off “my guns”. It was fun to compare our muscles and talk positively for once, as opposed to avoiding the “body” topic all together.

And my goal is to talk more about the positives about my body to my girls. I’m sure it won’t be easy, because I’ve spent a long time focusing on the things I don’t like, but I’m looking forward to focusing on some of the things I do.

Because I believe in positive affirmations, so I better start off with some about me if I’m going to get my kids to believe the ones I’m telling them.

Be kind to yourself today. You deserve it!

I am obviously not an expert in body image issues, so I would like to pass along this article from SparkPeople by Health Educator Liza Barnes. It offers some great tips to help your kids love their bodies. To read it, visit here. 

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Did My Friend Just Tell Me She Has Cancer?

The other day I was going along happily checking my Facebook in between commercials when I read something that pissed me off. I mean flaming mad. One of my sorority sisters from my college days just asked (via status update) for some positive energy. She needed it, because she has cancer. And nothing makes me more angry than someone I care about getting cancer.

Kick Cancer's Ass

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

I used to just get sad when someone told me they got the big C. It used to be rare and usually to an older person. When someone who has lived a fairly full life gets cancer, it sucks. You try to rationalize that they have had time on this Earth and have seen kids grow, grandchildren born, etc., yet it is still hard to deal with and manage your emotions.

But when it happens to someone on the younger side…to someone in the prime of their lives, it just doesn’t make sense. In my twenties when a friend my age was stricken with breast cancer, I was devastated. It just didn’t seem possible. Then it seemed to happen more and more, a few times a year. A high school classmate, a secretary at my kids’ school, my colleague, my girlfriend. It doesn’t discriminate and knows no boundaries.

I’ve found out over wine, via text, through Facebook — and it never gets easier to hear those words. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be the person delivering the news. I have cancer. It changes everything.

And it’s not bad enough that people I care about deeply are affected. Sometimes it’s their child, which I find both devastating and infuriating at the same time. It’s just not fair.

Most of the time, thankfully, my peeps rally and kick cancer in the ass. Big time. They laugh in its ugly face and give it the middle finger.

But sometimes they can’t, and they lose the war after fighting so many exhausting battles. This makes me angry, because these are people who don’t get to see their children grow up, or sometimes have children at all. These are people who were seemingly healthy until having a headache, a lingering cough, a lump. These are people who do not deserve cancer.

It all just makes me so angry. But I think I’m angry because cancer takes so much control out of the lives of its victims. And for those of us sitting on the sidelines, it makes us feel helpless and desperate. Desperate to help out in any way possible.

It is hard to know how to truly help someone fighting such an awful disease, or how to help the caretaker. I want to be there, but I don’t want to intrude. I want to help, but I don’t want to be a bother. I want to tell them something encouraging, but I don’t know what to say. I must do something, but sometimes I end up doing nothing.

Cancer Awareness

So, I spoke to some of my friends and family who are survivors.  The ones who have given cancer a swift kick in the cojones or are kicking its butt right this second. I asked what were/are the best ways friends can help…and was there anything that didn’t. Here’s what I found:

Reach out and be positive: Everyone I spoke with said the large outpouring of love and support they received from friends and family was critical to getting their treatment off to a good start, and keeping them positive during the down days. Particularly to those patients who are immunocompromised or on bed rest, e-mails, texts and phone calls were sometimes the only contact they had with the outside world.

Sometimes keeping it simple is best when speaking to a cancer patient. “I’m so sorry” can be extremely effective, as could “Cancer Sucks,” “I’m coming over with alcohol,” “Let’s have cake,” and “I love you.”

But while support is needed, try to hold back from saying,“Everything will be OK” — at least at first. According to one friend: “It’s a natural statement to blurt out, but it makes the person shut down from feeling their fears and worries don’t want to be heard.” Keep it upbeat by asking general questions, and if you are unsure, just ask if he/she would like to discuss it. If they say no, give them the room and don’t take it personally.

+ Remember that cancer does not define them. Cancer patients and caretakers also want to talk about the things they cared about before the disease entered their lives, so don’t feel awkward sharing funny stories from the PTA meeting they missed, how ridiculous a conference call was, or how your arch-rival mistakenly plucked her eyebrow off.  Sometimes a conversation about the mundane is all it takes to feel normal again.

My friend who beat breast cancer described a lovely encounter she had on the sidelines of her daughter’s soccer team one day. After asking if she was doing okay and getting the quick and dirty about my friend’s treatment, they went back to talking about the game. In her words: “It was beautiful to have someone not need to see it as drama-worthy, but jus a reality in a yep and move on sort of way. Back to soccer talk, just like the guys would do it!”

Gift cards rule: Yes, cancer treatments are expensive, but there often is an immediate increase in every day expenses, such as  gas, groceries, new clothing for body changes due to treatment, etc. as well. I have a friend whose husband has taken time off from his job in order to care for their ailing son, so it can be a strain to cover expenses. Gift cards alleviate some of the financial burden to their family while enabling them to focus on what’s important.

+ Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Whether you are the friend of a patient or caretaker, try to avoid saying, “Just let me know if you need anything.” While this is nice and well-intentioned, most people don’t want to ask for help or can’t even think about what they need until they need it. One survivor told me friends and neighbors would leave freezer-ready dinners in coolers outside their front door, which was extremely useful, or do things such as drop off a dozen bagels every Sunday. Another friend told me her neighbors took care of their landscaping for a year while she focused on beating her thyroid cancer, including shoveling her walk and driveway before she even woke up in the morning.

Pool resources: Car pools, meal schedules, playdate coordination, and grocery shopping are all easy ways to help cancer patients and their families. Unfortunately, these can be a nightmare to coordinate. One mom who was fighting cancer was concerned her children would have to quit activities while she was in treatment. She tried to arrange carpools, but with ever-changing schedules, she felt overwhelmed. Instead, a friend stepped in  and used a few web-based tools such as Find and Remind and Volunteer Spot to coordinate everything from meal delivery to car pools. Since it was all online, everyone who participated could schedule accordingly, and my friend felt confident that her children were always where they were supposed to be, allowing her to focus on getting well.

Set your alarm: I believe in prayer, karma, the power of positive thinking, good juju, and whatever else may help someone in need. Recently, a friend suggested we all set our alarms for 10 p.m., so we would stop what we were doing and send strong, healing vibes to a sorority sister about to begin fighting breast cancer. That means every single day I can do something to help her, and I know our collective strength will help her beat this.

Join the cause to beat cancer: Sometimes despite all our efforts, we lose a friend too early. But you can always participate in helping to find a cure. Fundraising, promoting awareness and early detection, advocacy, giving blood/platelets, sharing research and data —  there are so many ways to help. And there is no greater way to honor someone’s memory than to help find a cure, which ensures no one else loses a loved one to cancer.

Do you have any tips for helping a cancer patient or their caretaker? Share them below!

Thanks to my too-many friends that shared these great tips. Keep fighting the good fight. We are all behind you!

Free Yourself Friday — Snack Guilt

One of the best things about blogging is meeting other bloggers, particularly when you find one that is as twisted as you are due to similar life experiences. Today my new friend Leigh from Eat Clean, Live Dirty is guest posting about one of my favorite topics: snacks at activities. I encourage you to read her post and visit her site because she is, well, hilarious and informative. I’m only a little guilty of being jealous of her, but we’ll save that for another post. Enjoy, and don’t forget, it’s Friday so time to free yourself of any parenting guilt!

Spring has sprung. The flowers are in bloom. And Little League is in full gear all across this great land. You know, baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

I can handle games and practices three times a week. I can put a smile on my face while getting soaking wet cheering on my son’s baseball team (I live in Portland, after all). I can even have dinner prepared and on the table at 4:45 in order to make the 5:30 games (most days). Early Bird Special!

 

What gives me the most angst about baseball season (or any other organized sporting activity in which my kids participate) are the snacks. The gosh. darn. snacks. Apple pie, Little Debbie style.

My four-year-old twins (2 of my 3 Dirties) played basketball for the first time this winter. I was thrilled they were finally old enough to join a sports team after sitting on the sidelines watching their older brother for years. To my surprise, they ho-hummingly participated. And they were WAY more excited about getting a bag of Goldfish crackers and a Capri Sun post-game than making a basket. Snacks were all the talk on the bench and spurred a race to the goody trough post-game. I had obviously failed them as a basketball mom. I write a blog on clean eating, after all.

When did snacks become such a focal point? A calorie trophy? Compensation for merely showing up? A necessary part of the game plan?

It pains me to see how this is playing out on tracks and soccer fields across America. And it creates guilt. Do I sit back and allow my children foods we discourage at home – at (even before) the dinner hour? Foods that are sugar-laden with Red Dye #40. Or do I put my foot down and take a stand for something I whole-heartedly disagree with – and deny my children a bit of happiness while looking like a total ass? After all, it’s not much fun being THAT parent.

Don’t get me wrong, while working on my own Eat Clean agenda I tried to toe the line. I raised my hand to organize snacks for our fall soccer team last year. I sent out an email that was short and sweet (so I thought): “A healthy snack (minimally processed and nut-free) is encouraged. Fresh fruit is always a good option. Drinks are not necessary since kids will have their water bottles. Thank you in advance!”

Um…yeah. It apparently took [soccer] balls and was not well received. I was told I sounded “bitchy” and “like a Snack Nazi.” Of course, people didn’t heed my suggestions. I believe cupcakes with whipped frosting and flavored juice boxes were the all-season low (not only did we have a soccer game, it was the kid’s birthday that week). Of course! Who doesn’t want a large helping of partially hydrogenated oil for dinner left over from a Charles Cheese Extravaganza? And by the end of the season, I totally succumbed to the “norm” and bought a cake at Costco for the year-end celebration. I was fighting a losing battle and a tub of Betty Crocker kicked my butt. Here people, I know how much you LOVE frosting.

In all seriousness, I know parents advocating snacks are well-intentioned. And while I’m pretty sure the Costco sheet cake wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made, I am choosing to let go of the guilt over post-game snacks. Yes, there are more extreme measures I could take – like contacting the sports associations and requesting that snacks be eliminated all together. But I’m not going to. At least not until my blog goes double platinum (wink, wink).

Why? Because each and every day, I am setting good examples in what I put on the dinner table. I am teaching The Dirties that healthy foods fuel our bodies and make us feel good. I am showing them how colorful and fun fresh fruits and vegetables can be. True learning starts at home. An unhealthy snack two times per week post-game isn’t going to make or break my efforts to bring up my family as healthy as possible. And my kids need autonomy to learn to make good decisions on their own. Having said that, I will continue to provide frozen grapes in eco-friendly bags when it’s my turn to bring snacks. Without a drink. Sure, some Candyland kids might complain like their mom’s iPhone battery just died. But they’ll survive just as they would 30 minutes without Minecraft until they can calmly and happily plug back in.

And if my kids happen to have a tummy ache after eating crap on the ball field, I will chalk it up as a win. So go ahead, eat that Nutty Bar, kiddo – and wash it down with a Dr. Pepper while you’re at it. Because this mom is letting go!

You can read more from Leigh at www.eatcleanlivedirty.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/eatcleanlivedirty.

 

 

Five Signs You Have a Girls Weekend Coming Up

One of my most popular posts was Five Signs You Need a Girls Weekend. I’m no fool. I know my audience.

And as my trip gets closer, I’m not going to lie — the band Europe’s song “The Final Countdown” is playing on loop in my head (and now I’m guessing the song will be playing in your head for the rest of the day now too. Sorry.)

In eight days I will be leaving on a jet plane. That’s 192 hours for you mathematicians.

Now that I am extremely experienced at dumping my kids with my husband or a relative, providing my children with the opportunity to spend more quality time with my husband or other loving relatives, I have noticed there are some tell-tale signs of my impending departure:

  • All the laundry is actually done, folded, and put away neatly in a drawer for the first time since, well, my last girls weekend. All needed clothing and accompanying equipment for children’s activities are in labeled bags. Written itineraries are waiting on the counter three days in advance of departure. Some may think this is done because I am a control freak. Some would be wrong. I do this so I don’t get annoying phone calls while enjoying my lunch-time margarita.
  • The refrigerator is stocked. So is the bar. I do the first because I don’t think my husband actually comprehends how much his dainty girls eat (and subsequently belch), and I do the second to ensure I get to go on another girls weekend.
  • The house is (relatively) clean. I do this to show how much I actually do while he’s at work all day, and to invoke guilt upon my return to a messy house.
  • I am highlighted, plucked and manicured. And usually have new shoes. Why I do this for my girlfriends, I have no idea…
  • The children are actually behaving. I’m not sure if this one is reality, or just me seeing the best in them since I know I’ll be leaving them soon. See next point.
  • I feel guilty. And then I don’t. And then I feel guilty again. Although I write constantly about how parents should not be controlled by guilt, for me, it’s one of those things that I intellectually understand, yet emotionally have a hard time managing. Fortunately, my guilt seems to drift as soon as the Southwest flight attendant says “You are now free to move about the cabin” and is basically non-existent by the time I meet up with one of my besties at the nearest TGIFriday’s for our first cocktail.  I mentioned I was experienced at leaving my kids, right?

In all honesty, the hubster is awesome when I’m away, and I can enjoy my trip even more knowing that his job is a little easier because I had everything prepared.

The new shoes? Well, it is a girls weekend after all, and what girl doesn’t love new shoes?

Do you like Playdates on Fridays as much as you like Girls Weekends? Probably not, but consider signing up for my blog via e-mail on the right anyway. It’s the only way to keep up to date, and who would want to miss out on important information like this!

Let me know about your next girls weekend, and what you did (or didn’t do) to prepare.

 

 

Oh Baby! What Not to Say to the Reproductively Challenged

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, a cause near and dear to my heart.

I have never made it a secret that we struggled conceiving. I’ve discussed my issues with strangers in dentist offices, grocery stores, soccer fields and playgrounds. Sometimes I don’t even know how I got into the conversation. One minute I’m discussing where I’m from, the next we’re talking about my lazy ovary.

My husband — bless his heart — has given women at his workplace the names of doctors and talked about our story countless times. This from a man who is scared to compliment a female co-worker’s new hair cut for fear of a claim of sexual harassment.

I think we just want to help anyone and everyone that may be going through what we did. Or we may have lost any sense of social decorum.

Infertiity

TMI?

But I also understand why people don’t discuss their extremely personal fertility issues. When you are unable to get pregnant, and that’s what you want more than anything in the world, it’s just plain awful. I know I felt humiliated, frustrated, resentful and depressed….and that was just a few of the stops on the emotional roller coaster I rode each day.

Sometimes talking about it really helped. Sometimes I just wanted to crawl into a hole and not see a soul. As someone who realizes great joy out of other people’s happiness, I began to dread being around any woman my own age who could  possibly share the news that they were going to have a baby. I cringed when I heard of celebrities getting pregnant “by accident.” I spent all my spare time reading up on any new scheme that may improve my chances to conceive, just in case my doctors couldn’t seem to figure it out. I had officially boarded the crazy train.

Sometimes my days were spent trying not to throttle the people who constantly said things that I know they thought were helping, even though they often brought me to tears. It wasn’t their fault. Well, not totally their fault. Until they started telling me about the story of their Aunt’s first cousin’s neighbor who adopted two kids and then got pregnant on their own. Yeah, because that would take my mind off of my problems and give me hope.

What was most frustrating about the infertility process was the toll it took on my marriage. Don’t get me wrong. My husband was ridiculously supportive. Not only did he have to go through his own rounds of painful and embarrassing tests and procedures, but he was also lucky enough to be legally bound to a wife who had gone off the deep end. We did our best, but I would not say we had a model marriage during that time.

What was worse, though, is that having to try to get pregnant — I mean really having to try — kinda takes the fun out of the whole sex/romance thing. Peeing on sticks constantly, skipping the cuddling because you want to lie on your back with your legs up in the air (to ensure the sperm gets to the egg), calling your husband and screaming that he has to come home RIGHT NOW or we may miss the optimal impregnation time, does not, in fact, bring sexy back. There’s a reason Justin Timberlake didn’t add that to his lyrics.

And then let’s briefly discuss the actual treatments to help get you pregnant, if they work. The hormone injections, pills, inserts, doctors’ visits, blood draws, lab tests and procedures. Now that stuff is how you really want to spend your time together. I know some people like it, but my version of foreplay is not having your husband stick a needle in your bottom.

The big joke in our house is that my husband and I weren’t even in the same town when I got pregnant. He had a meeting so he took his, um, genetic material to the lab one freezing January day, carefully protecting it in his coat pocket in order for it not to get cold. He had to get to work for a meeting, so I went to the doctor’s office later that morning to “receive the goods,” following up with a return trip the next morning for an additional shoot up of my husband’s merchandise. I think I saw my husband about two times that week. Intrauterine Insemination. Now if that doesn’t scream out “making love” I don’t know what does.

The good news for us was that it worked, and we got a two-fer with beautiful baby girls born about eight months later. I was one of the lucky ones. Millions of other couples have to try for years, sometimes not succeeding. We were ridiculously grateful.

Even though my journey with infertility ended nine years ago, I still feel like my pain is fresh. I remember the pain associated with not being able to conceive on my own. I remember the pain of some of the procedures. I remember the hot flashes from taking Clomid. I remember the pain of my miscarriage, and the sadness of knowing each month that we didn’t get pregnant….yet again.

sperm

And even though I miraculously got pregnant on my own after going through infertility, I will always refer to that time — the time when I was reproductively challenged — as my Dark Times.

So, I have a soft spot for anyone who has faced infertility. A ginormous one. That’s why I thought I would share my top five things never to say to a woman trying to conceive (and yes, these were all said to me):

5. You have plenty of time, don’t worry. I promise you, anyone who is having a problem getting pregnant is going to worry, and trust me, time is never on your side.

4. It will happen when the time is right, so put it in God’s hands. I am a very spiritual person and a believer in Christ; however, God and I had a bit of a falling out during this period. It got so bad that I could barely enter a church without crying. A lot of dealing with infertility is putting your faith — and your fate — in other people’s hands. Being told to give up any more control than I already had just drove me nuts. God did have a plan for me, but people facing infertility don’t need advice or a reminder to have faith. They need support.

3. I would love to trade places with you for a day. My kids are driving me crazy! Seriously, do I have to address this one? Why don’t you just cut me and throw salt right into my wound? I was more than happy to discuss the various issues my friends were facing, but I could not bear to hear anything about being frustrated with having a child. I wanted a baby so badly that it definitely clouded my ability to be compassionate to the everyday woes of a mother. I only kinda feel bad about that now.

2. Is it your problem or your husband’s? Yes, I know. I just shared a lot with you, but this question seems to cross the line, even with me. And I know my other reproductively challenged sisters feel the same way. No one wants to place blame when it comes to being infertile. For men, it is such a sensitive subject and for women it is so emotional. When someone is discussing their infertility with you, it’s always best to let them offer the information.

1. Try not to think about it. When you relax it will happen. This is the one where I often had to sublimate my rage. I was pretty sure if women could get pregnant during famines, wars and other natural disasters, that I should be able to get pregnant on a regular Thursday night after a glass of chardonnay, so giving me another reason to blame myself for not getting pregnant probably did not help so much.

What should you say? Not much. Listening will work wonders. I think my very best friends were the ones that just accepted my highs and lows, and let me vent. They let me vent a lot, without judgement or being condescending.

And the nicest thing anyone ever said to me during the Dark Times: “I am so sorry that you are going through this.  I know you are going to make a great mom. Can I do anything?”

Well, just by saying that, she already did enough.

Did you/are you facing fertility issues? Did you hear any doozies?

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