Mirror, Mirror

It’s hard being a woman today. (And before the opposite sex objects, although I am sure it’s not easy being a man, I can only speak to the XX chromosome experience.) We are constantly bombarded by photo-shopped and airbrushed images of women with perfect bodies, perfect families and perfect lives. At least that’s the way it appears on the surface.  And therein is the kicker…  Underneath that perfectly coiffed, painted and pressed exterior lies the heart of a woman who is beset by the same insecurities as me.

Recently, I was surprised to read a Facebook post of woman who has come into my life at time when I really needed someone like her. Christie Bricking of EmPower is positive, upbeat, dynamic. She has a kick ass, take charge, “living my dreams” attitude. And have I mentioned she has also lost 150 pounds? Frankly, I’m kind of awed by her achievements. See to me, Christie has it all—a loving family, supportive friends, a life journey that has led her to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Her hard work and determination is touching so many lives in a positive way. She’s just awesome. And you know what? She has insecurities. She doesn’t like her arms.

Until she mentioned it, I had never thought about her arms. I was focused on all the other awesome things about her. After her post, Christie came to class in a tank top, completely vulnerable, and I was even more impressed by her. What a brave and courageous thing to do and what a good example for the rest of us. And once class began, all I could think about was keeping the sweat out of my eyes, my squats in proper position and my ripstixs in my hands. Her arms didn’t matter—to me. Afterwards, when I got home, I wished she could borrow my vision of her for a while, see herself through my eyes.

I do not want to minimize her feelings. I understand them completely as I have my list of dislikes about myself as well. But I want her to know how precious her arms are. Those arms have held people she loves beyond measure. They have helped shoulder the burden of heartache and pain. They have reached out to offer a hand of friendship or a pat on the back for encouragement. And while they may not look exactly the way she wants, they are strong! I’ve seen her use them to hold a plank position. Oh yeah, they’re strong alright.

So many women feel this way about themselves. My daughter works in a women’s retail clothing store and has talked about beautiful women who are model thin sob in a dressing room over the way they “think” they look. One woman, a size 6, who had just given birth a month earlier, was crying because she was now a size 8. Hey lady! Your body just grew and nurtured a tiny human life—give yourself some credit–and time.

Last year, I went to a black-tie dinner. Since my idea of “dressing up” is wearing khakis instead of denim, I was out of my comfort zone. Couple that with other issues I have and I was a mess. I had spent nearly two hours getting ready for this event between makeup and dressing. (Yes, it sometimes takes that long, especially if you buy a body shaper that takes two people to help you wear and then leaves you bruised for days because of said application. Talk about suffering for vanity’s sake!) I was miserable and when I walked in, the first thing I see is a photographer and the event goes immediately from bad to worse. But that woman ended up being the best part of the event for me.

See, my husband told me how beautiful I looked but, in my mind, he kind of has to say that because he’s my husband. (And he said it after having spent about 20 minutes pushing and pulling on shape-wear and asking me why in the world I’d do this to myself. Why indeed?) This photographer, however, doesn’t have to say a thing other than “Smile!” When we walked up, she smiled at me and said she liked my tattoo. I had opted to wear a short dress and a tribute tattoo I have for my mom and dad on my leg was showing. Then she looked a little closer and said, “Ooooh, you have a nose piercing,” and turned to my husband and said, “Lucky you! You have a wild child here!” With that one small statement, my self-esteem rose about 1,000 percent. As sucked in and uncomfortable as I was in that body shaper and dress, I thought to myself, “Someone thinks this 51-year-old momma is a wild child.” She saw me as I wished I could see myself and it was enough to allow me to loosen up and enjoy the rest of the evening. Looking at myself through her eyes was an eye opener to me.

Women need to encourage and support each other. We need to advocate for each other and build each other up. That’s one of the many things I like about Christie, her daughter, Savanna and EmPower. I know there are times that I look like a complete goofball in class, off beat, missing steps in the routine, but they make me feel so good for what I did accomplish that I don’t dwell on what I couldn’t do.

I certainly don’t need anyone to point out my flaws and faults. I live with, and magnify, them every day of my life. But I would like to occasionally hear a positive and encouraging word. Why don’t we make a promise? Let’s promise, to each other and ourselves, to only say encouraging words and live encouraging lives. Let’s also promise to share our vision of others with them as well. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to hear that someone thinks you’re a wild child every now and then?

wild child photo cropped

This is the “wild child” the photographer saw that night. She even positioned me so that my tattoo would show in the photo!!

Here is a link to EmPower’s website with their class schedule. As Christie said after class one night, “Everyone needs to start somewhere.” If you’re looking for a place to start a fitness routine or to add something different to what you’re doing, I would encourage you to start here. EmPower Strong Link

(Disclaimer: I have received no compensation from Christie Bricking or EmPower for this link or mention. I am a fan and participant and just wish to share how good EmPower has been for me.)

The “Perfect” Dad

I have hesitated to write this tale as, on the surface, it contains two subjects that people in polite society never discuss in public—politics and religion. However, since it’s Father’s Day and the heart of the story has little to do with taboo subject matter, here goes.

Before I begin, you need some background to set the story up.

I know every parent says this but our daughter, Donna, was a child prodigy from basically out of the womb. I mean, this child survived a difficult birth and still managed to score a 9 out of 10 on the APGAR. (But of course, she is her mother’s daughter.) Up until first grade, she attended a private Christian school. The quality of the education she received was topnotch. She had beautiful cursive penmanship before she could print block letters. She could also read and do simple math by the age of four. Although we did not attend the church affiliated with the school (we were active in another denomination) their overall philosophy was mostly aligned with our belief system. Notice I said “mostly.”

More Background: It was October 1996 and Donna was five years old. I was back in college, working on my degree as I did not finish right out of high school. I attended a small college with a student body of around 3,000. I would sometimes bring Donna to school with me. She enjoyed attending classes as much as she did hanging out with my friends and participating in our functions. Even though I was a “non-traditional” student, I got involved in campus activities, one of which was being an active campaigner for Bill Clinton’s reelection when he ran against Bob Dole. Given his political and legal issues with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that election was headline news for a variety of reasons that had little to do with being president.

Now the story:

One day I was picking Donna up from school and they were outside marching around the playground. Her classmates were in a row and she was last in line, jumping up and down and waving her arms. When I went to the gate to get her, she came running to me, face flushed, out of breath. We walked to the car, got in and I asked her the same question I did every day, “How was your day today?” And this is how the conversation went…

Donna: “Mom, is Bill Clinton a sinner?”

Me, completely taken aback by the abrupt turn of our everyday conversation matter: “Why do you ask?”

Donna: “Well, all the kids were marching around the playground yelling ‘Bob Dole’ ‘Bob Dole’ but I didn’t think that was fair so I was yelling ‘Bill Clinton’ ‘Bill Clinton’.

Me: Why do you think Bill Clinton is a sinner?

Donna: “Well, Mr. So and So said that Bill Clinton is a sinner.”

Me, now aware that the principal/preacher had initiated the idea: “Well, Donna, aren’t we all?”

(For goodness sakes, she learned the alphabet through Bible verse memorization with the letter “A” being Romans 3:23-All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.)

Donna: “That’s true.”

Me, now on a roll: “You know, there’s only one perfect man to have ever walked this earth.”

Donna: “Yes.”

Me: “Do you know who that was?”

Donna: “Dad!”

Me, incredulous that I had walked myself into this very trap: “Jesus?!!”

Donna: “Yeah, Him too!”

And there you have it, a five-year old’s combined views of politics and religion—no one could live up to her dad! Not even Bill Clinton or Jesus!

We had a lot of good talks, from the “perfect dad” to the “I put a rock in my ear today” (and finding out about three months later after an appointment with an ENT that narrowly avoided major surgery that she had, indeed, stuck a rock in her ear) and I am glad that I took to time to ask and listen although obviously, I sometimes failed to act.

And, as typical with any kid, that view of her dad changed as she aged but for one shining moment that is destined to live on as I keep telling this story, Donna believed she had a perfect dad.

Years later, although Bill still may not be “perfect”, he’s certainly been perfect for us—a loving husband and father, a good provider and role model. He’s lucky to have us but we’re even luckier to have him! Happy Father’s Day!