Time to Get Really Real About This Shit

Over the past few years I have been increasingly more unhappy with my weight and physical appearance. I don’t need any pep talks on how we’re all beautiful no matter our weight…yada yada or how my husband doesn’t care and loves me anyway. This isn’t about anyone else but me! I am not happy looking like I do. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror and I get angry about it. Which makes me want to eat a donut or two or six.

About 10 years ago I lost 35 pounds on Weight Watchers after the birth of my youngest. I became a Life Time member. I kept it off for a long time and like many women, especially in my age category, I slowly gained it back. Blah.

So I’m over my goal weight and have to pay to be in the program. So what, I’ll do it. I’ll pay to have to have a stranger record my weight and me record every bite, lick, and dip I take. I’ll try to remember to “get my water in”. I’ll do it if I can lose this fucking weight. I’ve yelled and screamed at the mirror and my size fours, sixes, eights, AND tens. It doesn’t help and I’m over it.

Did I tell you I hate to sweat and exercise too? Yep, hate it. It hurts, it sucks, and I have no clue as to what I should be doing. I’m embarrassed to be at the gym, too scared to ask anyone how to use the equipment (as if we all just grow up knowing how to work a military press…uh, I hope that’s a real thing…), disgusted at myself for getting to this point.

But I decided to join the YMCA and with the help of my friend and trainer I have managed to go to the gym for 2 weeks. This is HUGE! I was doing good if I made it 2 times before and I came to a realization that has helped me.

In the past I wanted to lose weight to get healthy. I wanted to work out to get healthy. While that is good and important it wasn’t enough. It didn’t drive me or motivate me. The results are too slow to notice much, and the reasons weren’t strong enough so I’d quit. But then I started to think about why I REALLY wanted to lose the weight and realized it is complete and total vanity. Yep, it’s all about ME!

I want to look good. I want to turn heads (and not because I have chocolate frosting on my face). I want my boobs high and my ass tight; I want my abs to be hard and rippled. I want to have the confidence I used to about my physical appearance. I am unapologetic about this realization. I’m taking it and running with it, literally. I may not ever get to where I want to be but if wanting it drives me to keep going then I’m all for it. I am accepting who I am. I am vain about my appearance. Get over it.

I Learned These 4 Things About Life on the Back of My Bike

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I never envisioned myself riding, let alone owning, a motorcycle. It has proven to be something I really enjoy doing with Bob. I’ve learned a lot while on the back of the bike. These are 4 things I needed to learn about life. These 4 things not only help me with the stress and challenges life brings, they are also good things to remember while on the back of a bike.

  1. Relax and enjoy the ride.

Yes, it’s cliché, but that’s the thing about clichés, they are often true. Life can be stressful, and well, hard at times. It seems to me that if I can stay calm and relaxed the things that stress me out don’t seem to bother me as much. I’ve learned that the act of worrying itself does not stop the bad thing from happening or prepare me for it anymore than if I don’t worry. So I choose to relax. I am far from perfect and have to constantly remind myself of this, but if I can do it, it does help.

It’s the same when I’m riding. If I am tense or anxious the ride isn’t as good. When I was a brand new rider I stressed over certain turns, situations, and road conditions. I would work myself up with fear about what would happen. Instead if I just leaned into it, and let it happen, it was like the bike knew where I was trying to take it. Instead of forcing it, I just relax and enjoy where it takes me.

  1. Don’t hang on too tight.

What is it they say about squeezing sand? The tighter you squeeze the more it slips away? Staying loose and flexible on the back of the bike is the most enjoyable way to ride…and live life. When you have a death grip on the handlebars you’re more likely to over correct, and crash and burn. Same thing in life- ease up a little. Don’t hang on so tight to the things you think are important. If they really are that important you won’t have to hang on to them at all.

  1. Focus on the journey, not the destination.

When Bob and I make “plans” to ride it goes a little something like this:

Bob: Wanna ride today?

Me: Sure. Do we have a destination?

Bob: South.

It’s never about where we are going. Life shouldn’t be either. Cause where we’re all going, if we get right down to brass tacks, is death. I’m in no hurry to get there. I wanna take in a all the feelings, smells, tastes, and other experiences along the way. The journey is what life IS! Don’t get so focused on where you are going that you lose sight of where you are.

  1. You’ll get hit by a few rocks and bugs, they sting, but don’t let that stop you.

When I ride I hate getting hit in the face by bugs, even small ones sting, and rocks fly up from other cars on the road. As much as I try to protect myself it is impossible to prevent them from hitting me. When a bug does hit me, I can’t waiver. I have to keep my eyes on the road ahead, stay steady and straight with my steering, and keep right on going. This is the exact same thing to do when life’s lumps get to you. You take ’em, you stay steady and strong, and you keep going, you have to -just like on the bike- the alternative isn’t something I want to experience

I Admit It. I Was Wrong, You Were Right.

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One day about 14 years into our marriage my husband made a demand. He’s never demanded anything. We have always respected each other and talked about any major life changing decisions or big money purchases so when he made this demand, I knew he was serious. He told me he was buying a motorcycle. In fact, he already had one ready to purchase and was going up that day to give the guy the money. He let me know that while he preferred that I went with him, he was going whether I went or not. He told me he needed this and had put off the purchase until our children were older, but now the time had come.

Okay. This was about the last thing I wanted to spend money on, and I knew they could be time and money consuming. I also knew that they were dangerous and riding one put you at a much greater risk of dying on the highway. I knew nothing other than those two things- expensive and dangerous. I went with him to see the bike. The conversation between my husband and the seller of said motorcycle went something like this “…yeah I did blappity blah, blah, with the doohickey and that made the bike really cool. Now it rides like shit, the seat’s uncomfortable, it’s the ugliest color of yellow you ever saw, and you’re likely to spend your retirement on it, but hey man, it’s a bike.” He would probably have a different version of just exactly how it went down if he were telling the story, but this is my blog.

So, off he rode and I followed home in my car. I have never seen this man as happy, except maybe on our wedding day and the births of each of our 5 children, but other than that this was his climax of happiness. He was giddy. And I knew our lives would never be the same.

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He talked me into riding with him and I got to understand first hand why he loved riding so damn much. Shit! I was hooked too. We rode that bright yellow Dyna all over every weekend we could. The seat was the worst and my ass would hurt so bad at the end of the day. But it was something we did together and the kids couldn’t go so we never had any tag-a-longs- it was awesome!

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The biggest reason I loved it so much was that it made him happy. I loved seeing him ride (I’ll admit to a little bad boy fetish). We met new people that are now some of the closest friends I’ve known. I experienced the world in a much different way on the back of that bike. My senses were heightened; I smelled and felt things in the wind that I didn’t even know existed.

Eventually the seat got to be too much and we went together to get a bike that would be a more comfortable ride. Within 6 months of having the new bike I decided I wanted to learn how to ride, but Bob refused to teach me anything but the basics (in hindsight it may have saved our marriage, he knows how independent and stubborn I am and that I would have never been able to let him teach me).

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I took a course at Johnson County Community College. Originally I was enrolled in an all women’s class, but couldn’t attend it so I took the motorcycle-training program with a group of about 20 men. They were not easy on me and I had to prove myself over and over. Nothing gets me going more than to tell me I can’t do something, especially if it’s a boy. I passed the course, passed the test and got my license.

I started out riding an 883 Iron, but soon realized I didn’t like it. I wanted something more. I purchased a Dyna Streetbob (think Sons of Anarchy) in denim black, dropped it low, changed the stock pipes, sprinkled in my own small touches here and there and oh my gawd! That bike is one bad-ass bitch!150163_3678992818324_121215312_n

Now the only two things I knew going in to this adventure were confirmed. Motorcycles are expensive and dangerous, no doubt, but they are a hell-of-a-lotta fun! On the back of that bike, I have no stress. I can’t let my mind wonder into places that cause me anxiety and tension. We get to spend our time together doing something we both love. I am so appreciative that he made the decision in the way that he did otherwise I would have tried to talk him out of it. I don’t think I would have won, but I sure would have tried.

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My Biggest Life Lessons Summed Up in 4-7 Minute Increments

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Every year I go back to the place where I proudly break kids…into final rounds as a Forensics tournament judge. From the instant I walk through the door the frenetic energy is palpable and the chatter in the main commons of the building sounds like a million and seven crickets amped on adrenaline and caffeine and sugar cubes (don’t forget the sugar cubes).

Nervousness and excitement pull me in. I glance over and see my very first forensic and debate coach, Coats, as she’s known, and I flash back to what seems like an entire lifetime ago, how long exactly is irrelevant. Paola High School is my Alma Mater and my “Panther Pride” still swells as I walk back through the doors.

The halls smell a little like au gratin potatoes with a top of note of nervous sweat and hormones, particularly today. It’s not lovely.

What seems perfectly normal to me- the behavior of the contestants of this tournament- would probably be concerning to anyone else not familiar with what to expect. Thespians line the halls, mumbling, chanting, and some even yelling with gestures, pacing back and forth as they emote through the walls as if they are speaking to another person. All of this seems somewhat out of place amongst the typical lockers, drab walls, stained carpets and bulletin boards of the high school, but yet today, I wouldn’t expect anything else.

I love it here, today! It was through Forensics and Debate that I learned the most about who I am, my personal character, and exactly what I am capable of. Something about being thrown into a room with one other person whose sole purpose in that moment is to judge you makes you do one of two things, either you fall flat on your face, or rise to the occasion. Fortunately, I experienced both.

I figured out I had control over some things happening in that room. I could practice and prepare, I could learn the lines and develop the character, and I could use my voice to deliver a message or evoke an emotion. What I had no control over was if the person listening would appreciate how I had chosen to prepare the piece. I had one shot at it with that one judge.

Once I opened that door and entered, gave my introduction and headed into my first lines there was no turning back until I was done with my selection or time was up (sometimes I hoped for the latter). Confidence played an enormous part! I didn’t get a ton of confidence in high school like some kids do, but I got some. What I did get was a solid foundation of which I could build throughout my life.

I learned how to feel crazy scared, nervous, and want to run but how to stay in the moment and push myself to do it anyway. Learning to breathe, swallow hard, and to take that first step into the room is a skill I still have. I don’t necessarily still need it, but I had to learn it to get to where I am now. Recognizing that I survived the sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, dry mouth, and chose to stay and “fight” rather than take “flight” has made all the difference in my life.

Forensics in not like a team sport where you have all your team mates at your side, working together toward the win. Yes, a team in forensics scores collective points, but each individual is alone. Each member of the team must face their challenges individually and over come them on their own. Nothing prepares you for life’s obstacles more than learning how to trust and depend on yourself, and how to push through that fear and do it anyway! I may fall on my face, chances are I’ll rise to the occasion, but at least I got a chance to experience it and learn from it in 4-7 minute increments in forensics first before facing it in real life.

This Is What We Prepared For

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This year, along with turning 40, my oldest child will graduate from High School. He and I have had numerous conversations, too many to count, about what he will do once he is done. The pressure he puts on himself, as well as the pressure from peers, is very real. Of course I want him to be successful and find his path, but I will not put any more pressure on him.

My kids and I have always had a great relationship. I could probably count on one hand the number of times my son and I had to get a little serious in the conversation. See, here’s the thing- I have always seen my kids as adults. I don’t mean that I expected them to behave like you would expect an adult, or that I gave them responsibilities that an adult would have. I mean I always kept the fact that they would be adults in the forefront of my mind.

I parented with mindfulness before I even knew what that was, or that it was even a thing. Every situation was an opportunity to learn. Actually it was more like, every situation something was learned, and I had to get out of the way so the Universe could do its job to teach it.

Sometimes that felt like I was the best parent ever, like NO one had done it as good as me- ever! I had this shit down. Like when I ask my youngest to do absolutely anything, and she cheerfully accepts the task. Not only does she complete it but she also asks ME if I need anything else done. Yeah, that feels good.

On other days, it felt like I was the biggest schmuck in the world. Like, my kids’ non-existent college fund would obviously go to therapy, and I would die a miserly old woman with no one around me to love. It was not easy but getting out of their way and letting them develop into adults was the foundation of my husband and I’s parenting. In other words- let nature take it’s course, rescuing is only necessary if someone will get hurt, and most of all, they are PEOPLE.

I know my son will choose the path that’s right for him; after all he’s been doing it since he could talk. I’ve always trusted him, now is the time where it all comes together, and we’ll find out if he trusts himself. I can’t wait for the next stage, though the teen years have been among my faves!

The Big Four-Fucking-Zero

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When I turned 27 was when I felt like a true adult. By that time in my life I already had 4 children, 6 years old and younger. But it was in that year that I felt like I could no longer make excuses for shit. I used to tell people when they asked my age that “I am old enough to know better and too young to care” well, at 27 I started caring. It was then that the weight of the world finally hit me. I realized that there was no stopping it, no turning back, and that no one was coming to my rescue. I was responsible and would be held accountable for my actions, and not only that but I also was responsible for the 4 children of mine that would some day become grown ups.

So, my focus shifted. My outlook changed, but the people around me did not. They were the same on August 24 as they were on my birthday, August 25th. There was also a lesson in that that I would not know until many years later. The lesson was that even though we all live, work, play, and interact with hundreds of people in our little bubble, each of us individually is but a blip in the whole scheme of things. No one is paying very much attention to any one else because everyone has their own little bubble that they are tending to. As important as I think I am, there are 6 billion people that think the same thing about themselves and the immediate people around them. This was a good lesson to learn.

I couldn’t wait to turn 30 when it came around. I always thought that 30 was when people would take me seriously. If I could just get to 30 years old I would be considered an adult. I think some of this thought process was because I carried some baggage about being and looking so young. I was THE youngest person to graduate from my high school class. I was a year behind in privileges of everyone around me. I started college at 17. Add to that a “baby face” and the fact that people thought I was the babysitter when I took my kids out. Yep, 30 couldn’t come soon enough.

My 30s were great. I mean if you take out the diagnosis of a mental illness, my life was pretty much perfect. I loved being a mother and a wife. My husband and I were very much deeply, blazingly hot in love (as we still are today). No one took me any more seriously than I took myself. Yeah, I learned that lesson in my thirties. It wasn’t up to anyone else how I felt about myself. I chose how and when I held myself accountable. I figured out that I decided what was right for my family and me. I learned that the only opinion that mattered was mine. The trouble with that is that I tend to be very critical of myself but that’s another lesson waiting to happen.

This year I turned 40. Yes the big 4-0. I had so many people asking me if I was “okay” with turning 40. Uh, yeah, I am. They keep telling me nothing would ever be the same (it’s a damn good thing!). My body would fall apart; my brain would start failing. So far, forty is FREEDOM and LIBERATION. A number on a calendar does not hold me down, puh-leeze! I accept that things change and it’s beyond my control. But things CHANGE and that is exciting to me.

I am 100% authentically me. I am aware of my impact on others, and can decide how much others will have an impact on me. I am capable of lifting others up and encouraging them through some of life’s challenges that I myself have faced. Yes, a lot did change when I turned 40, but every single bit of it was something that needed to change inside of me. I am working out the kinks, and have not yet reached my goals. The lesson on my plate currently, and has been for a couple of years, is that we are all connected. This may sound easy, simple, and cliché but I am learning how this philosophy plays out in reality, how it looks when practiced. I’ll keep you posted.