Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Nothing is Meant to Be "Easy"

Liz is getting on me, saying I have been slacking off on my blog. Sometimes, I just don't think I have anything to say worth writing down for folks to can't have epiphanies everyday after all.  Also, like Thomas Jefferson once said, "He who knows most, knows best, how little he knows."  At the end of the day, I am but a simpleton trying to understand and make sense of the world around me while also keeping my emotions and dreams in check.

I do feel like I have something worth writing about today.  Last night I watched President Obama's State of the Union address.  Per usual, every presidential State of the Union is political , promising, and patriotic.  Obama's speech writers know, you can always count on patriotic statements to get the crowd clapping for you. All of a sudden, everyone is so high on being American that they have forgotten about all of their troubles. They don't feel so short changed after all in terms of unemployment, pay cuts, and every day woes of being stuck in a rigid social order in a country that has always promised social mobility. 

The President talked about the value of working hard and getting forward.  For many, this seems like a pipe dream.  I know I can speak from experience as a single working woman.  I feel very grateful to have not one job, but three jobs.....all to be able to make ends meet and plan for my future.  I am not saying this because I feel oppressed. I am saying this because I feel lucky; lucky to have the energy and resources to work, lucky to have had parents who taught me the value of hard work. Parents who would not let me cry when things just didn't go my way. 

In education and coaching I see this a lot.  Kids getting upset because things seem "too hard."  Striving for that "A" is too difficult. Or doing extra sprints after practice to get faster so as to get more playing time from a coach.  Why can't we find more joy and rewards in the pursuit that is difficult? That is why it should be even more satisfying. 

Consider Sgt. Cory Remsburg, Army Ranger. (My father was an Army Ranger and Vietnam War veteran, which probably accounts for his low tolerance for complaining when things got tough). The President reflected on Sgt. Remsburg, informing us that Cory signed up for the Army on his 18th birthday and since 2003, has had ten deployments with the US Army. On his last deployment, he was almost killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He was found face down laying in a nearby ravine. The bomb left him in temporary paralysis and in a coma for three months. He had shrapnel in his brain and in the explosion, one of his fellow Rangers died. After dozens of surgeries and loss of eyesight in one eye, he has now rehabilitated and is able to walk and talk.   He told President Obama that "Nothing in life that is worth anything, is easy."  What a lesson for all of us to learn, which Sgt. Remsberg learned in the most trying ways. 

My Dad, who has been deceased for 13 years, used to teach my sisters and I US Army Ranger cadences when we were younger and he would take us for jogs around the neighborhood. He would always sing, "R is for rough and tough."  To Sgt. Remsburg, they don't come any tougher than you.  

Thank you for reminding us that it will always be inevitable in this life to struggle, experience pain and bear witness to setbacks. My current challenges and problems pale in comparison to everything that you have been through. Nevertheless, I will never forget your story nor the hundreds of thousands of other stories of great American sacrifice which have become part of our cultural history and future. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thoughts on Female Body Image

I started this blog because my friend Liz wanted to keep up to date on my training cycles, PRs, and upcoming competition preparedness. Well, Liz, I hit a new a PR in the gym this week. Except this PR was not on the front squat, back squat, clean and jerk, snatch, or deadlift. I hit a PR for my body weight. That's right. I'm celebrating weighing the most I have ever weighed in my entire life. I didn't studder, gals. I am celebrating gaining good weight. Weight that has become so dense thanks to Steve and Phil's cycling for powerlifting.  Weight that will help me squat, push and pull more weight with in competitons and in life. Heck, now when my single girlfriends need help carrying televisions or heavy boxes up the stairs in their houses, they call me before their male friends or husbands of our girlfriends. 

When I first stepped on the scale for weight and also had my body fat caliper testing for our transformation challenge in the gym, my jaw hit the floor; not because of my body fat percentage, but because of my body weight.  I was sad at first because as young American gals, our culture is consumed with making all of us look skinnier, slimmer, and lighter. Magazine covers encourage us to do it.  Television ads never show the athletic, well-endowed, strong size eight girls. They only show the well cut size twos and fours looking all cute and perky running around in pink. Hell, my most recent ex boyfriend even told me to be careful lifting heavy weights because he didn't want me to get "too big" or be "one of those weightlifting girls."  What does that even mean? (Funny considering he had cauliflower ear) 

 Even as little girls, we grow up thinking the boys won't like us if we aren't perfect, pretty and skinny.  Well. Lucky for me I live in a sub cultural world of sport and fitness that supports women getting stronger and happier. If in that pursuit I have not dropped a single lb or made myself look more like a skinny biatch, then I'm ok with that. I can acknowledge that the weight on that scale screaming at me, is nothing but raw, brute strength. For that, I'm thankful.  

I recall a day a few months ago that I was lamenting to my friend Laura, a salt of the earth Midwestern gal, who grew up on a farm in Minnesota, about not being like the " cute and skinny girls." Laura's work ethic and attitude has been nothing but positively contagious for me throughout our friendship.  She responded, " ...we all have those moments but you have to stop and think about the amazing things that your body is capable of doing based off of how you are built."

God gave me two big legs and two working arms. A large rear end that the Vogue models and  Hollywood starlets would gawk at. Most importantly, he gave me health and energy to chase down powerlifting and Strongman dreams. So thank you, Laura, for reminding me of our human physiological capabilities being more important than being a cute, demure, size two. And God, thank you for my large rear end, massive hamstrings, and ever evolving traps. The better to yoke carry, kick soccer balls, and squat with.  I will make the most of everything I've got while I can. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bluegrass Reminders that Broken Hearts Heal

Through the years, one of my favorite North Carolina bands, Chatham County Line, has helped me close my eyes and tread through the tough times. Before I even knew it, my eyes were opened and the pain would temporarily subside.  Consider my favorite "Alone in New York."  This has always been one of those songs that has made me feel less "alone" when I have been heartbroken.  It was always a go-to listen to remind me, that the broken hearted in the world can always ache in solidarity with each other.  This particular verse was ever-present proof,

"As the subway cars I ride, holding on to the shifting tide, the people all look away. But in their silence they pray, that there's someone out there, in this big city, someone out there, someone for me..."

Our hearts break for so many reasons. Family members and friends pass on. We love and we lose. We miss someone like hell. We experience financial setbacks, familial concerns, physical sickness, or spiritual emptiness that fuels a loss of faith. I was thinking today, that I always played this song when I was actually lonely myself. It popped up on a spotify playlist this morning while I was cleaning my house, watching my two basset hounds chase each other around, wagging their tails happy like two hogs rolling around in mud. All of a sudden it dawned on me, I am not lonely anymore. Not today. Not at this moment. I smiled listening to the lyrics knowing that eternal truth that all the saints and sages have passed onto us, broken hearts do mend. As the Carolina sun shone through my den window I felt satisfied knowing that their wisdom was true. We may not always know the hour or the day when these states subside and we can be in the clear. Maybe that is all part of God's genius master plan. If our sufferings in this life are truly redemptive, no wonder why we start to feel better again. I know for the rest of my time on earth, I should predict that these bouts could be around the next corner.  When they are, I can rely on this bluegrass wisdom. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wisdom from the Icelandic Strongman for Strongwomen

Today is training day for my upcoming NC Strongest Man and Woman Competition in February.  To prepare for training, our rough and ready Icelandic Strongman coach sent an email to all the ladies preparing for these pursuits. He referred to us as "Shield Maidens" and told us to carb up and get ready for a day of tough training.  Of course, not a single one of us ladies knew what he was talking about. He went on to inform us that shield maidens were wives of the Vikings and unlike in Ancient Sparta, the women fought along side the their husbands (Vikings) in battle. Therefore, he would be using the same implements with us that he uses with the men that he trains.  Another similar thought was set forth by my powerlifting coach Steve at Crossfit RDU, on Thursday. While asking him how to warm-up for a heavy deadlifting day, he gave me proper sets, weights and reps and said "we will warm you up just like we warm up the boys."  Since this year is my "year of gratitude," I cannot be thankful enough for being surrounded with strong willed men (physically, mentally, and spiritually) who encourage the women around them to be equally as tough. Moreover, that their coaching reflects no special accommodations or preference for treating women like tender, breakable beings.  They push us to our breaking points, inspire us, and believe in our physical capabilities. Moreover, they find our strength pursuits to make us even more feminine. Today, on behalf of all women everywhere, I salute the "Svavars" and "Steves" of the world. May our strength improve daily because of coaches like you. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Plea from Pope Francis

Pope Francis proclaimed in his daily mass homily, at the Vatican today, about building our most important relationship, with God. He observed, "...what kind of a relationship do we have with God?  Is it a formal relationship? A distant relationship? When the word of God enters us, it changes our hearts.  When we grow closer to God, the heart is closer to the Word."  Let the daily transformation begin for all of us.  If we are Christians, we tie this closely to our Judeo-Christian God. For non-Christians, that our moral compass and our choices still reflect those of love and empathy. For other worldly faiths, that the golden rule still translates.  Whatever faith language we speak, that we all try to remain in solidarity.  Today, I am thankful to 2014 TIME magazine's person of the year and his ever-important pearls of wisdom.

Today is YOUR Day

Whether yesterday was an awful day or a great is YOUR day. Get your coffee, get your life on track, and go out there and grip it and rip it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thursday February 15, 2014....

Ultimately, there are so many things we all fear on a daily basis; fears that delve from the present and fears that transcend even our futures. Lest we forget that we possess the autonomy to control our behaviors and our perceptions of the world.  I choose faith to combat my fears that sometimes keep me up at night, relying on God to give me the grace and trust necessary to keep moving forward.  Countless times throughout the day I fall short of recognizing His power, but somehow, He manages to bring me back in the game.