Top posts for September

Here are the top posts from last month’s 30in30 challenge:

September is my mom’s birth month. She was on my mind, and subsequently, on my blog. Early in the month, I wrote about the Barnes and Noble she never had the chance to enjoy. Later, on her birthday, I shared a co-worker’s wisdom about mothers and grief. In short, losing a mother can leave you broken-hearted, even a decade later.

I talked about vulnerability and learning to be “intentionally transparent” with the one you love. Easy to want, but often hard to do. It boils down to being honest with yourself first. That level of honesty and clarity about myself and my needs is at the root of an emotional wellness strategy I learned in September.

Emotional wellness is important, but wellness extends to many domains. In honor of National Women’s Health & Fitness day, I wrote about prioritzing physical wellness in the face of a busy lifestyle.

Last month, Diana Nyad made history, and she endures as a testament to dreaming big, and never giving up. It is with that spirit that I welcome October. I’m revising and devising my goals and striving forward each day. I wish the same for you.

Last, but not least

I debated yesterday and today about what kind of entry I would write for my last 30in30 this month. I wondered if it would be a roundup of the top posts of the month. I considered featuring my favorite posts. I pondered whether or not to share my my girlfriend’s story about lupus (spoiler alert: coming soon).

Today during dinner, there were unexpected fireworks. I thought about posting that story, including the fact that several patrons ran out onto the balcony just to witness the display.  We all clapped at the finale.

But the truth is, I’m sleepy. It’s past my bedtime and I’m just happy I made it through another challenge. As always, I learned a lot about myself and my life during the past 30 days. I’m in a completely different place than I was during the last challenge this March. I’ve moved and I’m acclimating to a different way of life. The promise of new employment came and went. I’ve gotten my running mojo back. Surprising story ideas are brewing. And I’ve made small but significant strides in my professional life.

Lots going on. And in the middle of it all, I wrote one post every day for the past 30 days. For the time being, I’m planning to pull back a bit. I want to try something new…

My goal is to write one post per week. These may be more developed than my previous posts. Not sure yet. I like the discipline of a regular schedule, but every day isn’t sustainable. So this is a compromise I’m trying out.

We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, do you have any topics you’d like me to write about? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Last, but not least: Congratulations to me!

Knowing that to give up is to be defeated by oneself, continue single-mindedly to take small but significant steps in the shaping of your destiny. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Great arms, nice donk, and other reasons to lift

I wrote about prioritizing fitness for National Women’s Health & Fitness Day earlier this month. One commenter, fellow FAMUan Peter McKay, suggested I do some posts focused on strength training. It’s something I’ve done off and on over the years. More on as of late.

I’m not the kind of person who enjoys going to the gym use the machines or free weights, but I found a total body barbell-based program that includeds choreographed reps with upbeat music. I believe there are way too many fitness options to force yourself into doing exercises you don’t like. The program I found was a perfect fit for me.

I’m not an exercise scientist, nor a fitness trainer. I am, however, a few months away from 40 and in pretty decent shape. I lift (in addition to running and dancing) because I like the results.

Here are 8 reasons I lift weights:

  1. New acquaintances compliment my arms. They’re not chiseled, but they are toned. I like them.
  2. I feel myself get stronger each session. Who doesn’t love progress?
  3. My energy is high all day long.
  4. Some say I look like a dancer. My core is stronger and my posture is more erect.
  5. I have more power during my runs.
  6. Thanks to squats, my donk looks nice in jeans.
  7. I imagine myself to be a warrior goddess when I clean and press.
  8. I feel sexy when I’m strong. Don’t you?

She was right.

“I’m so sorry.”

The chocolate brown woman shook her head as she embraced me, the two of us in the nearly empty corridor.  It was August, the beginning of the school year. It was my first time seeing Mrs. Jackson, a long-term substitute at the elementary school where I worked. My had mother died unexpectedly just before the last days of school the previous year, so coworkers who saw me still offered condolences.

“It’s been ten years since my mom died. You never get over it,” she said to my cheek. I nodded as we pulled away, not sure how to take her news.

Today is my mom’s birthday. It was ten years this May.

She was right.

===============================================

Mama’s voicemail sounded an alarm. “I’m not feeling well. Call me back.” I returned her call right away. No answer. Heart pounding, eyebrows raised, I left a message in return, chiding her for scaring me by leaving mysterious messages and then refusing to answer the phone. In my nearly 30 years of life, I’d never heard her say anything so ominous.

 

Thankful Thursday

The past several Thursdays, I’ve seen Anika tweet simple gratitudes. As I was sitting here admiring today’s gorgeous weather, I thought it might be nice to do a couple.

  • After days of clouds and rain, I’m overjoyed about the sunshine, and thankful I can enjoy it.
  • I was able to run this morning and witness the dawning of a new day. I’m thankful for my good health.
  • She’s on my mind a lot because her birthday is tomorrow…I’m thankful for my mom, RIP.
  • I’m happy for  the chance to reflect upon and learn from past choices. I’m thankful for evolution.
  • I’m thankful for friendships that endure time and space.
  • I’m thankful for vulnerability and love.

Your turn! What are you thankful for today?

Make it non-negotiable

Today is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. People who have met me via social media and in real life, know I make #templebuilding a priority. The days I get up and exercise in the morning are the days I’m off to a fabulous start. But there was a time when that wasn’t the case.

I’m a self-described athlete. I ran and biked like most kids in my neighborhood growing up. I was a gymnast in elementary school.  A cheerleader in middle school. I danced (band auxiliary) and sprinted (varsity track) in high school.

I engaged in fewer structured activities in college, although I danced (partied) several hours a week which definitely counts for something. After college I had an on again, off again love affair with local gyms.  I stocked up on exercise DVDs for the off again moments. Even as an elementary school teacher, I woke up early enough to exercise, chant, drive 30 minutes and still get to work by 7 a.m. I prioritized prayer, sleep, laughter, water and movement. They kept me in good spirits and good health.

When I became a full time doctoral student in 2007, things changed. I found myself a recluse when class wasn’t in session. All the time I read and wrote papers, thought about theory, drank coffee and ate McDonald’s. Seriously. All the time.

Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.
Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.

A few months in, the side effects from that “food” and the disgust from Super Size Me, spurred me to choose healthier meals.

(Sidebar: I didn’t eat fast food for a year after that, and with the exception of two iced coffees in 2007, I’ve never consumed McDonald’s again). I was no longer exercising, because who had the time? But I knew my body was ready to move again.

Despite my desire to exercise, it was a struggle at first.  I had to force myself to stop reading or writing to go for a walk or a short run. I argued with myself – one more page, or one more paragraph. Then another. I’d panic as I watched the setting sun, realizing it was now or never.  I’d throw on some fitness gear and get moving.

That happened many times, until:

  • I realized I always felt better after exercise, and
  • I scheduled it. I made it non-negotiable.

The very first time I put an exercise appointment on my calendar, my dissertation advisor wanted a meeting. I had to break it to her, “No, I’m not available at that time. I’m exercising then.” She, a woman very much into self-care, supported me and offered several other times even with her busy schedule. I understood then, to the degree I was serious about taking care of myself, I could figure out the rest.

And so I set my exercise schedule daily. I incorporated strength training, swim lessons, and running, all depending on my class and homework schedule. I treated exercise like any other important appointment. I was definitely going to attend, so I had to plan the rest of my day around it.

Over time it has become less of an appointment and more of a way of life. Sometimes this means running on treadmills when I’d rather be outside. Sometimes it means a 15-minute high intensity interval workout instead an hour of strength or cardio. Sometimes it means evening workouts although I definitely prefer sunrise exercise.

The point is, I’ve made it a part of my regular routine. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Happy temple building!