Thursday, September 26, 2013


"Success has been and continues to be defined as getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down."

Who hasn’t been knocked down in the book of life?  Sometimes bad things happen:  you lose your job, your spouse leaves you and your children, your health is compromised, and you lose a loved one prematurely in an accident or whatever the case may be.  Often there are no explanations for the trials in our lives, but there is always a lesson to be learned.

In thirty-nine years, the universe has handed me what I like to refer to as more than my fair share of sucker punches.  For example, loss of my hearing by age four <JAB!>;   a mentally ill mother who beat me bloody, bruised and hurt me to my deepest core <POW!>;  a very aggressive stage two breast cancer diagnosis at fourteen weeks pregnant <KERPOW!>; the sad, slow, degenerative death of my father <GGGGGG-GOISH!>,the harsh reality of massive life down-sizing post-cancer <pull…the…rug…out!>;  the sudden, instant death of my mother <BAM!> and now another *minor* health bump that will redirect my very near future plans.

Should I be bitter?  Should I be a cynic?  After a few rounds in the ring with forces stronger than Muhammad Ali, you bet I could be angry and miserable at the world.  However, I am not.

My lesson learned (and learned and learned and learned and learned yet again, oh, and for added measure learned again) is that my personal success will be determined by being knocked down and getting back up again (and again and again and again and again and again…….).  Honestly, what else would I do?  Why would I give up?  It is my choice to lay down defeated, or instead, get myself right back up and hope no one really saw that fall.

I remember mapping out my life my senior year with my high school bud, Karen:  We would both wait until age 30 to be married, we would both own red convertible BMWs, I would be a doctor, she a physical therapist and we would have THE life.  The reality, for me, is that I married at 22, had my first child by 24, I ended up in the legal field and now reside in consulting, AND I have yet to own a BMW or a convertible.  Furthermore, I spent many of my twenty-something years planning my life out to the most finite of details (all but the bathroom breaks, people).  I literally mapped it out by year, by age and some other irrelevant planning details.  Recall my previous posts that touch on those wild curveballs of life?  Um, yeah.  Master planner or not, there are side-winders that threaten to de-rail you off your very pathway on a precise, yet irregular, basis.

In any event, as a parent, I now witness the moments of impact for my children in their own treks through their young lives.  The balance of being a super good momma, by providing my children with my advice to foster their own lessons learned and not being a smothering helicopter parent, is super fragile and immensely easy to tip.  Providing guidelines to your child on how to handle the unfairness in life is a must and watching them employ your advice is empowering for both you and for them.  However, when life still throws up vomit in their face and knocks them down, it is increasingly difficult to watch your child get back up and dust herself off.  However, what else should I teach my children to do?  Of course, they need to stand back up again and this time, even taller.  What other choice is there?  The world is a vast place and there are an awful lot of boxing gloves waiting to take that sucker punch!  Lead by example, I say.

There will always be nay-sayers who say you cannot do x, y, or z.  Shouldn’t we be programmed to automatically respond with:  “Well, here is x, y, z and for that matter, a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, I, j, k, l, m ...? “

There will always be instances of life going a full 180 degrees opposite of what we expected or how we had planned.  Shouldn’t we take a deep breath and simply embrace the different view? 

Perhaps, like my own journey through life, yours will be (is) chock full of speed bumps – some harder than others.  I personally tighten my own seatbelt, holdthe safety bar and release giggles amongst the “Yahoooos!” and know that I will fall down again in  life.  However, you can bet your last dollar that I will rise again (even if it means rolling over onto all fours first and going vertical with a grand groan)!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Adventures in Diarrhea Pants

Early July, I was scared to death.  I was beyond nervous, so much so, that an entire flock of butterflies were fluttering around in my tummy.  My bowels rumbled and gurgled with anticipation and a near pre-diarrhea anxiety.  I was about to embark on a new adventure and for a gal that is not easily ruffled, I was quoting Scar from "The Lion King” (minus the sarcasm) with, “I quiver with fear!”

I walked into the old plastic factory that had recently been converted to the latest trend of fitness enthusiasts’ idea of a playground.  My mind had stereotypes running rampant and I instantly categorized each of the people then present in the gym.  The rubber floor had chalk marks on it reminiscent of grade school scribbling, but in an alien-like gibberish.  The room, despite being very large, had very little equipment in it and I found myself questioning what type of gym this could be.  I stared at the ropes hanging from the ceiling and pondered what I had gotten myself into.

Uncomfortably so, I started foam rolling because that’s what everyone else was doing.  Slowly, people starting saying “hi” and making me feel slightly less out of place.  Let me remind you that every single person in the space in these early days was extremely fit and had definition of muscles on their muscles.  I promised myself to keep an open mind, a very wide-open mind and to let myself experience the opportunity of something new.  I also started tormenting myself, telling myself I did not belong here nor would I be able to keep up with these beautiful people.

Welcome to CrossFit.

Within a couple of workouts, I realized that the people are insanely nice, very welcoming and the team atmosphere that CrossFit encourages is awesome.  Sure, you are working out with some incredibly strong folks and some amazingly fit athletes, but you are truly only competing against yourself.  You are pushing yourself to your limits and you have an instant cheering squad alongside of you in your fellow CrossFit groupies.  You are setting new personal records for YOURSELF! 
People accuse CrossFit of being a cult.  I say, why yes, it is a cult.  A cult of people with similar fitness goals you share; an automatic support team to encourage you to meet those goals and obstacles, head on through both thick and thin. 
I am ALL in!

I have been working out for a few years now, trying a vast multitude of training regimens  and different gym environments to keep me interested and to namely keep me feeling strong and HEALTHY.  The only sense of control I have over my health after a tough cancer battle is by engaging in a variety of workouts to push my body to the opposite limit.  I have known the ultimate weakness in health and my mission is to now know the ultimate strength in my OWN health.

With a brain that still thinks it is a sixteen year old track star and a now nearly 40 year old body, the ability to mesh the two smoothly has become quite the challenge and often results in frustration.  Learning how to run at my “happy” pace is akin to me wanting to conquer a roller coaster but instead sitting idly at a snail's pace on the red line from Leominster into Harvard Square.

In previous posts of mine, you have met “Spike”, my gremlin who gets into my head and you have learned of my insanely high expectations of myself.  Many of you have offered sage advice, such as “You are WAY too hard on yourself!” or “You set your goals to unattainable limits!” or “You are doing it, cut yourself some slack!”  Sorry, Charlie – these words do nothing to console me and I have come to terms that I am just different.  (Okay, okay, I am insane!)  I am a goal setter and I am overly ambitious, but I also have that ability to get what I want.  Many of us have that ability but we fail to engage it, let alone use it on a regular basis in life.

Welcome to CrossFit.

In two months’ time, I have found a “home” when it comes to MY happy place; a location where I come out feeling great.  Yes, you read that right.  I have had my ass handed to me at the discreet Jytek Park location.  I have sweated enough in one session to grossly wet the floor around me (yes, I clean it up for the next person behind me).  I have made new friends and I have found quite a few former gym-rat friends who have shifted here to reconnect with.  I have nearly puked.  I have built a lot of muscle.  I have improved my form.  I have broken through those damn tight hip flexors and gotten my squat down, down, down.  I am down fifteen pounds.

(That's NOT me, but damn, that WILL be me!)
The difference:  every....single......workout I have come out of, I have a grin on my face.  I thank my trainer for the workout that I just did!  My body is buzzing and alive.  I feel STRONG.  I have learned an entirely new lingo and I still giggle like a thirteen year old boy every time the trainer says key words like:  “snatch” “clean and jerk” “thrusters”.  I have wet myself.  (Yes, you read that right and apparently, it’s not because I have had kids!)  I am building definition in my own muscles.  Those fears of not fitting in or being able to do the workout have been replaced with fears of starting to look like a man.  (Actually, when I see the super fit women at my CrossFit, I envy them and count down the workouts until I can mold my body into a similar physique - see picture above).
Actually, I am still afraid.....of rope climbs, of pull ups, of muscle ups, and of sharting myself.....but I have a newfound confidence that this body, my body, may be able to accomplish a lot more than I ever thought possible - cancer or no cancer, upcoming 40 years of age or not and limitations are still clearly meant to be surpassed.
Inasmuch as CrossFit is not for everyone, I have realized it IS for me.  I cannot afford the monthly payments, but yet, I have promised myself to do so for as long as I can financially.  There is always a way and cuts can be made in other places.  My health is critical.  My workouts are so very important to my well-being both physically AND mentally.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I feel strong, I feel powerful, I feel healthy and that is my happy place.  I am now able to cross-train including my running, hiking, and CrossFit.  I know any future bad runs I have will be coddled by a dose of slamming some weights around and running around the industrial park. 
Thank you CrossFit 978.

Now tell me:  Where is your happy place in the world of exercise?  Are you open to trying new forms of exercise?  What scares you about some forms of exercise?  Do you exercise for health, for vanity, for peace of mind?  Are you willing to surpass YOUR limitations?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To My Fellow Humans - On 9/11

I have been thinking again.  <Oh no, here she goes again!>

Yes, over-analysis is quite my thing; my thought-process may be shifted, sorted, reviewed, researched, molded, plied, and manipulated from a couple of brainwaves to an extended period of cranium-induced exercises.  <Doesn’t she have an off-switch?  Geesh.>

Today, my mind does circular donuts around the date:  September, 11th.  It has been twelve years since the horrible terrorist attacks on our U.S. soil that forever changed our innermost beings.  Most of us remember precisely where we were and what we were doing at the very moments each plane crashed into the respective World Trade Center towers, into the Pentagon and into the field in Pennsylvania.

What I remember most about the significant date of 9/11 is the humanity that shone through and carried on for the weeks thereafter.  Civilization came together and humans helped each other by digging through rubble; and further by hugging each other for the losses of security, memories of what was and of the countless lives affected that day.

Again, we witnessed unbelievable acts of heroism and courage on April 15th of this year, when Boston was bombed during its biggest sporting event of the year, the Boston Marathon.  People came together immediately to help our fellow humans again.  Blood, sweat and an awful lot of tears were shed and mixed as we cast aside the “Why?” and we simply loved our respective beings, strangers or not.

One element that makes me most proud to be an American is our ability to come together in times of great strife and turmoil.  Differences are most certainly cast aside without a second glance, sleeves are rolled up and we band together as one to care for each another.  Our pasts are completely irrelevant for a brief period: our socio-economic backgrounds and demographics temporarily irrelevant, our religious affiliations and our personal beliefs immaterial for the time being.  People helping people in the most basic, and yet, the most essential and necessary ways – and why do we not do this on a regular basis?  My mind ponders why - why only in tragedies do we cast aside our differences and resort to the crucial need of humans helping humans?

In an effort to not disregard the thousands that do help one another on a regular basis, there are many who support their fellow villagers by fund-raising for those who are ill; by helping with childcare for those strapped by employment restraints or challenging home situations; by supporting those who have fallen upon hard times and providing for them in their time of need; by lending an ear or a heart for someone who’s had their heart broken; or even by the very professions that allow specialized people to care for another as their daily job requires whether it is by fire-fighting, police work, medical skills or more.

My thoughts continue to bounce around in my mind, not unlike the Roomba vacuum.  Instead of cleaning my brain, the views I ponder simply bounce off the constraints of my skull and answers remain elusive.  Why do we not undertake caring for our fellows as a way of life, said actions carried out like the tasks we perform for work and at home regularly?  Why do we not teach our children these actions are just as important as the pleases and thank-yous?  We buckle up for safety in our cars regularly, but when is the last time we embraced a friend or acquaintance for a similar protective snugness in the ride of life?
In these twelve years, post-September 11th, I have learned that there is nothing quite stronger than the bond of humanity.  When humans act together, I am quite sure even diamonds are not stronger.  An act of helping your fellows does not have to be grand in nature.  In fact, there is a cliché that says every small rock casts a ripple, which creates a larger ripple and so on.  Imagine, a world where your small act of kindness may set off such a chain reaction! 

Many acts of kindness are circulating lately, but what about if we did not pay for the coffee behind us and what if we did not send a caring letter to a friend, but instead, we simply incorporated acts of caring beyond those ideas?  Right?  <Right!>  NO!  SAY IT LOUDER!  <RIGHT!!!!!!!!>

Last week, I asked you to take inventory of your friends (Who Are Your Friends?) and ask yourself what you really wanted.  This week, I am challenging you to stop and make a list of five (yes, only five, you can do it!) kind acts you can do for your fellow neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and any other person you may see on a regular basis. 

·         Maybe you bring the trash and recycling bin in for the mother who has her hands full of kids, groceries and backpacks upon her return home. 

·         Perhaps you send a backpack fully loaded with school supplies to your child’s teacher knowing they will put it to a child who needs it (info can be found here:  Cara's Kids). 

·         Maybe that friend on Facebook has been putting on a brave face despite her challenges at home and she needs a bag of apples from your local orchard. 

·         Perhaps your elderly neighbor could use some frozen meals to easily defrost and prepare for himself as his children live out of state. 

·         Maybe the boy on your son’s soccer team just needs a gentle hug and a ride home.

·         Perhaps your boss could use something sweeter in her life, so bring her a plate of cookies.

·         Maybe you mow the grass of the neighbor next door as he tries to balance his life.

Teach your children by your actions, not your directives.  Let us pave the way for future generations starting now.  The list of ways to help each other is endless; your imagination is without boundaries and your ability to support your village is always there. 

How will you help another human being today?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Who Are Your Friends?

Do you ever pause and take stock of your friendship bank?  Have you pondered the character and depth of the people who are in your life for one reason or another?  Do you feel confident you have nurtured and coddled your best relationships?  Are you neglecting a friend or two?

Over the years, my relationships with my friends has certainly morphed and changed, not unlike the colors of a chameleon.  I sit and wonder:  does time change relationships or is it simply an occurrence of people changing over time, myself included?
I moved around quite a bit as a young child until I was thirteen and settled here in Massachusetts.  I cannot say that I have a friend from the second grade that I am still super tight with in this present day.  Thankfully, social media forums like Facebook have allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with some grade school friends from Oklahoma, so that is a unique treat and often affords me warm, delicious and tasty morsels of childhood memories every now and then.
I have my lifetime friends from age thirteen on – those friends that regardless of how frequently we talk; I know that if I pick up the phone and call them in distress, they would be there for me in a flash.  Sometimes weeks pass by in our busy lives that we do not connect in some form, however, I do know that our relationship is concrete enough to withstand the brief delays in communication.  Even in 2013, a brief text conversation allows us the connection of friendship and affords the ability to gently push aside the guilt for not having enough time.
In my early thirties, I struggled greatly with one-sided friendships.  I queried myself relentlessly about why so-and-so always wanted and needed something from me.  Yet, so-and-so rarely gave back in return.  As a giving (and giving and giving and giving) person, my heart stung and my brain could not comprehend the short end of the stick in return.  I exhausted myself in providing friendship and stressing about the emptiness I could not fill.
Nearing my forties, and after a life changing and ever so cliché cancer battle, I literally do not sweat the small stuff.  Sometimes, we need to clear the clutter from our lives, right?  A regular inventory check of friendships has become a new type of “spring cleaning” if you will.  I love people.  I do.  I love hearing all the stories, the trials and tribulations of others, the depth of character from various families, the parental diatribes, and the stuff that comes along with living life.  However, I also want quality over quantity - my time has to count these days.  As many working moms, we do not get much time away from our family responsibilities, therefore, time spent with people outside of the inhabitants of my household has to be worth it.
My children comment regularly on how many acquaintances I have <and usually chastise me for not being able to go anywhere without talking endlessly with someone…..> but I have to stop and consider at times, am I, myself, nurturing all of these relationships?  Are some acquaintances actually friends that need some more of me?  Are some of these friends feeling neglected by me?  Do I need take inventory on my own personal contributions to these relationships?
A couple of people have indeed called me out on not being involved enough with them.  I immediately feel horrible for not being there when they needed me; shame on me for not making the time regardless of my insanely full schedule.  However, when I come back down off my panic pole, I realize that these same folks have not afforded the same effort that they accuse me of failing. Interesting.  What do I do from here?
Let’s bring it back to center, people. 
Stepping back from my so-called inventory of friends, I analyze even deeper and I delve further into my own character pool….what do I want from my friends?
Basically, I want friends to laugh with.  Laughter and silliness is indeed still the best medicine.  I love game nights where rampant laughter has caused sore abs and tight jaws the day after an inappropriate game of “Things” or “Telestrations”.  Friends who will laugh AT me when I get a rare night out and suddenly become a super-charged Energizer Bunny who may make quite a fool of herself.
I want friends who know I am full-blown nuts and love me more for it.  I want absolutely insane friends who encourage me to be more of a lunatic and entice me into actions I may (or may  not) regret.  I want friends who will surpass me in my attempts to cram my life full of memories and out of the box ways to get there.
I want friends who simply take a moment to think of me and send me a text with a “Hey, how are you?” or an “OMG, I just farted so loud my cat jumped!” or a “My child just had the best game of his/her life!” or a “Bec, I need your help, my mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer, would you talk to her?”
I want friends who say let’s get together for a pumpkin beer tomorrow, or let’s go for a hike to be followed by a pumpkin beer.  (Tee hee, yes, I like pumpkin beer).  I also like friends who say, "I tried kale today and it was not bad but what else do I do with it?"
I want friends who are not afraid to open up and tell me just how much their husband is driving them nuts this week, or perhaps, their child is struggling in school or with a bully.  I want a friend to say, I cannot handle the stress of my life right now and I have just knocked down an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s – help me.
Now that I have compiled my list of a million desires from my friends, I will ensure that I offer some of the same to those I call my friends.  I will thank each and every one of you for being my friend, regardless of capacity or “depth” in friendship.  I will only hope that I provide you with laughter, insanity, thoughtfulness, an ear <or probably two in my case since both ears do not quite work right>, and last but not least my heart.