Cultivating Gratitude

It always happens around this time of year. My brain slows down and I reflect on the events and accomplishments of the year, and I begin to think about how I'll approach the new year.

But not in that order. It's so much easier to look ahead in optimism than to look back and account for the year that's ticking by. So I force myself. And in the end I'm glad I did. It turns out 2017 was so much better than I gave it credit for.

Which brings me to this annoying question. Why is it that I always seem to remember the negative? Have you ever felt this way? It hate that I do this. It's so damn easy to remember the bad... and the hurt. And it seems like I have to work to remember the awesome.

This question bugs me so much because I consider myself a glass-half-full kind of gal. I really am. I face a lot of things with great optimism and a positive mindset. And even though that's pretty biased, I'm pretty confident that most, if not all, of my family and friends would say the same.

So WTF, man?

In an occasion of synchronicity, I discovered that there is real science about this! And proof!



And get this. It turns out this tendency toward the negative is NOT. OUR. FAULT. Our brains are diabolically, inherently lazy. We have to force them into action. We have to train our brain.

Which is something that I've been working on since learning about CEN. Re-framing my story so that I can overcome some pretty hefty obstacles. Training my brain to ignore old pathways and connections, and creating new ones. It's both hard and exhausting. But I can feel the change.

So I'm going into 2018 with a different mindset. And I just wanted to share some of the practices that I've implemented over the past several months that are helping me do this.

But first, Matthew McConaughey...

He [God] has shown me that it is a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates abundance.

It’s true. Gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving, and there is a science behind it. Which is why I'm starting a gratitude practice right here, right now. And I want you to join me in this January 30 day challenge. Because I think you'll dig it. And...

I created this handy dandy 30 Days of Gratitude PDF just for you. It's a really easy peasy way to just start already. Let's cultivate gratitude and abundance together!

That One Time a 9-Year-Old Girl Asked Me If She Looked Fat

I couldn't believe it. My daughter's good friend was going on and on (for a good 10 minutes) about how much she hated snow pants because they made her look fat. And then it happened. She got them on and she asked me if I thought her snow pants made her look fat.

She's NINE. years. old.

"Of course not," I told her. "And you have nothing to worry about. Eh-ver-eebody that you'll be with already knows that you're strong and healthy. Annnnd. They will be wearing snow pants too! And I'll bet they won't even think about how you look. They're probably thinking about all the hills y'all are about to sled down. I promise. "

I knew that this moment was going to happen. I knew it from the very moment I learned we were having a girl, that because our society still insists upon objectifying women and girls, body image would be a very real THING that we'd have to deal with.

For eight years, I worked REALLY hard to instill a strong and enduring body positive confidence in Juniper. I knew that I needed to work really hard on that so that when the moment came, she would be armed with a powerful inner strength that would help her win each little battle in the never ending war with negative body image that little girls begin to battle at all too young an age.

So how do we talk to our daughters about their bodies?

We don't.
(Unless it's about teaching her about how it works.)

I did a lot of research and found that the best way to come through to daughters is through example.

Just like with everything else you've got to practice what you preach. And that is no easy task. Especially when it comes to body image! It means that we have to grapple with our very own juju around body image. That means unlearning 20, 30, 40 years of juju. And for some of us, that's big. And scary. And something we'd rather not deal with right now, thank you.

But we've GOT to!

If we want to make a difference, to cultivate happier and healthier young women, to change the way our culture treats women and girls, we've got to be the ones who stand up and DO THE HARD WORK. Because if we don't, nothing changes. We simply pass down this bullshit to our daughters and maybe hope that they do the hard work.

Do The Hard Work —
The 3 Don'ts and the 5 Do's

Stop talking about your body. Don't talk mention whether or not you've lost weight. Don't mention whether or not you've gained weight. If you can't stop cold turkey, then at least commit to not talking about your body in the presence of your children, girl or boy (because let's face it, that's just one of the million ways that boys internalize the idea that girls' bodies should be judged). 

Stop talking about other people's bodies. We have GOT to stop critiquing other women's bodies! The one thing that really makes me absolutely ape-shit-batty is when I see grown women talk about other women's bodies. It happens All. Of. Thee. Time! And it happens right in front of our daughters. We pick up a People magazine and we talk about O my gosh! Did you see what such-n-such-celebrity wore? She looked awful! She looked absolutely gorgeous! She totally gained some weight. She's so damn skinny. She's totally anorexic. I wonder what kind of diet she's on. What did she do to her hair? Her hair is so gorgeous! She totally has a muffin top! She has the best abs ever! Did you see that picture of her in that bathing suit? She totally rocked it. I bet they totally airbrushed that. . . . and the list goes on and on. And let's please stop talking about how she looks at the Academy Awards, or the Oscars, or the Emmy's or Grammy's . . . OUR GIRLS HEAR ALL OF THIS! And they internalize that it's okay to judge other people by the way they look. They internalize that it's important for girls/women to look a certain way. They internalize that they have to look that certain way. (I specifically mention to not judge celebrities here, but also, we need to stop judging other "regular" women — that chic in your yoga/pilates/spin/whatever class, your girlfriends, your frenemies . . . other people's daughters.)

Stop talking about diets. Or whether or not you're eating carbs, or fats, or sugar. Talk instead about eating healthy and making healthy choices. We teach our daughters about fueling their bodies with the nutrients it needs to be strong, and healthy, and capable by our own example.

DO teach our daughters (and sons for that matter) how to cook kale and asparagus and squash. Teach them how to cook all of the healthful, nutritious foods. And if you don't know how, then discover how to together.

DO teach her that running is a great sport that can help her feel less stressed. That swimming, and soccer, and rowing, and fencing, and tennis are all great sports because they teach her how to be a part of a team and how to be a leader. That triathlon is a fantastic sport that teaches how to conquer negative thoughts, like self-doubt.

DO teach our daughters (and sons) that they can do anything they put their mind to. That hard work and persistence are the keys to success.

DO teach our daughters that she doesn't need a man to kill a bug, lift a cabinet, or fix the toilet. Teach her this through example. In doing so we will also be teaching our sons that their future brides are strong, confident and capable women.

DO compliment her on things not related to her body or the way she looks. Like her kindness to others, her compassion, her ability to empathize, her strength, her persistence, her hard work, her confidence, her integrity, her energy, her patience, innovation, focus, authenticity, open-mindedness . . .

DO teach her how to love herself.

Remind yourself and teach your daughters that our bodies are homes to our greater selves — our soul, spirit, energy. And that the radiance of your soul is limited to the health of it's dwelling.



Nevertheless, She Persisted.

I haven't been around lately.

In writing that first sentence, I was simply thinking about not having written here in a couple of weeks, but just as I started typing, it occurred to me that it was also true on at a very macro level. I haven't been around lately.

I've been stuck in this gloomy, stagnant, apathetic funk lately. I'm not quite sure how it started, but I'm finally at the point where I'm frustrated with myself. At 40, I've grown to learn my patterns, to recognize them, and to want to change them. The bad ones, anyway.

Worldly goings on might be somehow playing a small (subconscious even) roll in sending me off to the doldrums. Here are some of the things from the past couple of weeks:

Of course I'm not quite sure if I can blame it all on the aforementioned goings on. Sometimes life just cracks you open and sits back to watch you scramble to retrieve all of your insides and put them back in order. I think that's about where I'm at in my spiral-pattern — I've retrieved all my stuffs, now I go about the business of putting myself all back in.

The stuffs never quite get back in the exact same way. But they get in.



Four days into winter storm Helena and the magic has worn away. Last Friday we were all running around doing last minute grocery-getting before "the big storm" arrived. Because when you live just a hair north of the 36th parallel you get annual snow, but the city lacks resources to keep the roads open. So what may seem like a regular day in Buffalo, is an EVENT in Norfolk. Hence the running around for supplies that will carry you through the next 4 days.

The snow arrived early Saturday morning and fell for the entire 24 hours. We geared up and spent all day out in the white fluff. A lot of our neighbors joined us. We built a mini sled hill on our steps and the little ramp at the bottom that was built to keep the kids from sledding into the street ended up acting more like the ramp it was than the barrier it was meant to be. The kids loved it as they were launched millimeters into the air (just enough to be awesome, but not terrifying), popping right over the ramp/barrier and landing soundly on the road.

Eventually the booze came out and and crepe myrtle on the corner of our driveway transformed itself into a bar. We were out there all day. The kids going down that hill over and over. And the adults circling themselves around the fire pit, drinking and being merry. I love my 'hood.

The first day.

On Sunday the snow had stopped falling, the temperature dropped and the winds came. Some crazy people (TJ + the kids + sundry neighbors) braved the bitter cold for some snowy thrills on the hills of the Lambert's Pointe golf course. We got the call that announced what we already knew — no school, no work on Monday.

The second day.

I awoke on Monday to the sound of a foot of icy snow sliding off my roof and crashing into shards on my driveway. I'm fairly certain that if anyone were standing there at that inopportune time, they'd be gone. We got the call that there'd be no school tomorrow either. The temperature warmed up a little, just enough to allow TJ and the kids to convince me to join them for sledding on the golf course. The best part was the sun shining its glorious beams onto all of creation.

The third day.

Today, Teej headed off to work while the kids and myself are getting all cabin-feverish. And we just got the call that there will be no school tomorrow... and thus a poem is born:

On the fourth day of Helena
my true love gave to me...
two kids watching movies,
many icicles dripping,
another day of no school,
and an endless cup of red wine for me!

The fourth day.

Catch Up

... My half marathon training is over, and the race went well! Actually. To be completely honest, it was the shittiest race I've ever raced — I'm talking 40 degree weather, 20 mph winds and sideways rain. Seriously. The hardest part was that initial step out of the hotel lobby into the two-thirds of the aforementioned elements. And the second hardest part was stepping out from the canopy of the hotel's awning into the sideways rain.

Shamrock Half Marathon 2016

But I'm guessing it didn't suck as much for me as it did for Sandra. She's the gal with the green headband in the photo above. This was her very first half marathon. On the flip side, the half marathon experience can only get better for her, right?

Despite struggling with my training, I was confident enough (and medal-hungry enough) to register (last minute) for the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon the weekend before the Shamrock. That's right. Two half marathons, back-to-back weekends. I swear I'm not crazy. Well, maybe medal crazy. HAH!

Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon 2016

I mean, check out that medal, y'all. The cherry blossoms! Pretty righteous, right? Not to mention that if I also run the Rock N Roll Philly AND the Rock N Roll Virginia Beach later this year, I can get the Eastern Odyssey limited edition medal. Medal hungry. Crazy. Hunzy?