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Monday, April 30, 2012

Body Viving and Dropping the Ball


Saturday 4/28
It’s no secret that the gym is a favorite place of mine. Saturday, I rushed out to my gym at a particularly early 8:45 in the morning to make it to a featured master class, Body Vive. Inevitably, there will be many future posts on things I am grateful for pertaining to my gym, but on this day, I learned how thankful I was to be able to laugh at myself.
When trying new things, there is always a learning curve where mistakes will be made and perfection is not expected. Thank goodness! Growing up, I constantly felt the pressure to never make a mistake and carried the expectation to be perfect (now, I understand my parents’ intentions were to push me to reach my highest potential, not to cause me stress… yet another thing I am thankful for, in retrospect). This forgiveness to err that I’ve adopted towards myself was much called for during Body Vive’s 55 minutes of new steps and movements.
Regardless of my unfamiliarity with the class, I took a spot, front and center, directly face-to-face with the instructor, my Body Vive ball within reach. My first thought was “Gosh, I hope I don’t drop that ball and make a fool of myself!” Of course, the self-fulfilled prophecy that it had become, not only did I drop my ball once, but lost it a second time! Initially, I felt embarrassed as I chased the ball as it rolled passed other less-butterfingers-prone Body Vivers, thinking I was probably the only klutz that lost her squishy, purple ball. I laughed it off and fell back in to formation.
A few steps later, we were instructed on a new move that had us turning in different directions, in (what was meant to be) unison. My feet fumbled beneath me as I mis-stepped, mis-turned, and mis-Vived.  Much to my delight, it seemed most of the room joined me in my confusion as we crashed into each other and bobbed when we should have weaved. At that moment, I unclenched my useless grip on attempted perfection and released it with a wave of laughter. Truth of the matter was, most people in the classroom that morning were just as new to the program as I was. I was NOT the only one making mistakes, stepping left when told to pivot right. But, I was the only one that thought my self-described epic errors made any difference!
After I realized the normalcy of my mistakes, I allowed myself to laugh at my missteps. I was able to enjoy myself as much as everyone else was enjoying the wonderful class and got an added ab workout from all the laughter. If I can’t laugh at my own mistakes, then I impose a sentence on myself to take life far too seriously. I guess you could say that on Saturday morning, in my first Body Vive experience, I learned a valuable life lesson to be grateful for the ability to laugh at myself, all stemming from dropping the ball- twice!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lessons From Teenagers


For the past 16 months, I have been a nanny/mother’s helper to two teenage boys. I must admit, it is a cushy job- No diapers to change, no disastrous messes to clean up after and, lucky enough, both boys have hearts of gold with stellar behaviors. The only nuisance I have to deal with every once in a while is to break up the occasional fight over whose turn it is to walk to puppy (to which I often end up taking responsibility for, myself). 
Over the short period I’ve known and cared for these kids, I have seen them take on new challenges and grow through them. I watched as the younger boy graduated from middle school and entered his first year of high school. I observed as his older brother stressed over SATs and college prep, went through hours of driving lessons and, most recently, got his drivers license.  
No doubt, I am grateful for the job I have that supplements my income as I grow my YOUfit brand, but today’s post is about more than the gratitude I have for this part time job. Seeing these boys five days a week for hours each day, I feel like I have become part-time mom to them. This in itself continues to reveal valuable lessons on a daily basis, but today my eyes were opened to something I was told I could never understand until I had children of my own…
The older of the two boys was given instruction and permission by his mother to drive to the store to pick up a birthday cake for his brother. Instinctually, I wanted to ride along with him to make sure he would be okay. Not wanting to insult or undermine his newfound ability to drive, I resisted. My next thought was to discretely follow him with my car, remaining a mile behind, unknownst to him. Again, I resisted.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he was a highly cautious teenager. I would not have to worry about his wreckless driving- it was the other nuts on the road I was worried about, after all. As he grabbed the keys and checked for money in his wallet, I found myself demanding his undivided attention as I instructed him to “be careful and make sure to text me as soon as he got back home to let me know he was ok.” At that moment, I recognized my parents’ words coming out of my mouth…
When I first learned to drive, I rolled my eyes every time my dad always sent me off with a reminder to be careful. I brushed off the importance of letting my mom know when I got to the mall okay. I was a typical kid! But, here I was, feeding this teenage boy the same exact parental lines I had scoffed at just years ago. Suddenly, they didn’t seem so laughable.
I got to the gym, where I still am now, and watched the clock. I went to and from the locker room, checking my phone for a text that said I could stop worrying. Thirty minutes passed… nothing. An hour passed… still nothing. Finally, I called him to ease my nerves. Oblivious to my concerns, he casually picked up his phone, thankfully alive. I breathed a sigh of relief, gave him a half hearted scold for not texting me when he got back to the house, hung up and finished my workout. Sure, kids will be kids, but eventually, we all grow up and, hopefully, if we’re lucky, we get the opportunity to see things from the perspectives of our silly, overbearing parents.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today's Gift


With 10 minutes left in the day, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss today’s gratitude blog. I’ll keep this extra short and simple as I am certain it will come up again in the future in much more detail.
“Tomorrow” is not always guaranteed but when it does come, I seldom express my gratitude towards it. When I wake from a full night’s sleep, I feel refreshed by the energy of a new day. No matter if the day before had brought me anger, fright, heartache or sorrow, having fully recharged my batteries overnight, I can move forward and leave those emotions in “yesterday.”
This is not an excuse to put off til tomorrow what can be done today nor is it an excuse not to live in the present- I avoid procrastination and embrace the now to the best of my abilities. This does not mean there is no place toappreciate the gift of a new day. So tonight, as I lay my sleepy head down to rest, I will kiss today’s challenges and troubles goodnight and leave them behind as I drift off towards tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sniffing Flowers


Spring time paints nature’s canvas with vibrant colors of blossoms, awakened plants and revived leaves. As I walked Biscuit this morning, I took a valuable lesson from her. At first, I got slightly annoyed that she would stop every five steps to explore a new scent or unmarked territory. I tugged at the leash, trying to get her to continue forward, but she persistently diverted her attention away from the path. “Come on Biscuit!” I half-heartedly scolded at her, to which she gazed up at me with big brown eyes that begged, “Mom.. slow down. Sniff the roses with me.”
Just because I am human- allegedly the superior species, does not mean that lessons from dogs and nature are invalid. This morning, my dog directed my attention to what became today’s Mind-Body Gratitude topic: flowers.
As silly as it may sound to be thankful for flowers, just like anything else in this world, they offer a lesson to be learned upon close enough examination. Sure, like many others, I love receiving a bouquet of fragrant blooms or a single, pristine, long stemmed red rose, but my focus today is on the less obvious beauty of flowers; today, I celebrate their effortlessness.
I walked past a sprinkling of tiny periwinkle flowers that has sprung from the sidewalk. Regarded as weeds, these gorgeous petaled growths needed no man-made fertilizer, trimming, nor any other form of fuss, yet their beauty was unmistakable.
In a beauty obsessed society, men and women pluck, snip, paint, spray and suture in pursuit of a perceived perfect appearance. So much effort goes in to looking and feeling one’s best that the simple answers are often thrown by the way side. With the proper self-care and inward compassion, each person’s beauty can shine through. The flower instinctively grows towards the sun, knowing that it is a basic need in order to thrive.
True, in this day and age, it is more difficult to live the simple life. The pressures of finance, illness and hardship strains the ability to  metaphorically turn to the sun, allowing health to find us. What we can do, however, is take a hint from the simplicity of an effortlessly vibrant flower, and do the things that we instinctively know are good for our health: eat wholesome foods, get adequate rest, drink plenty of water, move around more, laugh and play. These are the makings of human livelihood. These are the simple keys to optimal health and happiness. Allow your body to accept the benefits of these primal needs. Stop tugging at your own leash and let your body tell you what it needs. The most beautiful things in life cannot be forced- they can, however, be allowed to just happen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Learning


The more prevalent and available something is in everyday life, the easier it is to overlook and under-appreciate it. My mind- hardly a moment goes by when I don’t use it (even though some would beg to differ). There are so many things that the my brain does for me that I owe thanks to but today’s gratitude post goes out to its ability to learn.
As a student of life and self-professed nerd, absorbing new information and picking up new skills always gives me a natural high. The world holds a never-ending plethora of knowledge to challenge the brain, ensuring that the possibilities of boredom or stagnant ideology are only achieved once the mind is closed off. I strive to remain open to accept the daily lessons placed in front of me to be discovered.
Opportunities to expand mental horizons are never in short supply, especially in today’s world that has been shrunken by technology. I can listen to a podcast recorded hundreds of miles away or read an article written by a man I will most likely never meet. I can go to the book store for an instruction manual or search through online how-to forums and teach myself a new skill, adding to my list of trades (which, by the way, is a very effective confidence booster!). I never scoff at my childhood list of “what do I want to be when I grow up” because there are no excuses to end the pursuit of them (short of, perhaps, marrying Leonardo DiCaprio). 
Just as my body will age and slow if I do not constantly condition it, my mind will grow stale if I don’t put it to use. I stretch at the end of a workout to keep my muscles supple and much in the same way, I attempt a daily crossword puzzle to maintain mental flexibility. I may use anti-aging products to keep the skin on my face free of lines, but I fully encourage the wrinkles in my brain to form freely with every new thought.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fighters' Energy


A grey, rain-cloud covered sky on a particularly dreary Sunday morning makes sleeping in late and claiming residence on the couch an attractive option. Sunday morning, to me, means Body Combat- a 10:15, hour long, mixed martial arts group fitness class at the gym- and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Group exercise classes are all fun and offer a great change of pace to a workout routine, but to purpose this class as solely a calorie-burner would be doing it a disservice. It is so much more than punching and kicking in unison- every week, I leave the class stronger- not only physically (and boy, is it an awesome physical challenge!) but mentally, as well. Today, my gratitude goes out to the class that leaves me completely breathless and drenched in sweat. The charge of a classroom filled with people, all fighting for the same goal of fitness is intoxicating. I feed off of the palpable energies of the other class participants around me, allowing it to push me farther and harder.
I would be a fool to not mention the role of the instructor, Lori, as she sets the tone, bringing out the best in each and every Body Combatter in the room. It amazes me to watch how one person can create a motivational wave amongst a consistently filled studio. The inspiration from the class sticks with me throughout the week as I hear her cues of not only which leg to kick with, but also to never stop fighting, never give up.
This class that has become a routine a part of my week. I always leave with a renewed appreciation for my body and a reminder of how strong I really am. The motivational vibration from yesterday morning’s class is still buzzing within me as I kick off my week and, without a doubt, it will help pull me through these next few sun-less, rainy days!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lesson from a Happy Old Man



Having just celebrated my 24th birthday, I’m amazed that I’ve made it this far. It exhausts me to even think about another 50+ years of life ahead of me, but don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see what it holds for me. It is far too easy to get caught up on the things that make us frown and let the simpler things fall by the wayside. Who has broken your heart, what bills need to be paid, how long your current to-do list is… in retrospect, none of that really matters in the long term. Emotions are fleeting, money will come and go and the to-do list will never, ever be a complete to-done list.
There is an elderly man that resides at the Christian Care Center in the town over that has found his way to my heart. Always dressed in an orange overcoat, a green cap, glasses and toting a plastic shopping bag, he stands on the lawn of the care center, watching the cars drive by on the main street, waving at those that take notice of his presence. He has become somewhat of a fixture on the side of that busy road. As long as the sun is shining and the ground is walkable, people have grown used to looking for this simple, yet somewhat odd man. He seems to have come to know certain faces and recognize familiar cars, as he usually appears during peak rush hour times. It is not uncommon for passersby to rap a quaint honk of the horn and give a friendly wave as they roll by.
The simple joy that this man exudes inspires me. All feelings of road rage dissipate once I see him wagging his wrist and greeting all cars that drive past, as if he were a Disney princess on a stagnant float. I wanted to know his secret to happiness. What kept him smiling after all the decades he’s endured?
On a particularly beautiful afternoon, I parked my car, gave the man a hug, and thanked him for always bringing a little light to my day. Through his thick spectacles, he smiled and shared a bit of his soul with me. From his plastic shopping bag, he pulled out two Peanuts’ desk calendars and proceeded to recite the short cartoons aloud, like a story. He explained that every day, he visited his girlfriends in the care center and shared a laugh with them at the humorous quips of the day. He placed the calendars back in to his plastic shopping bag, gave me one more hug and sent me on my way, my heart a bit lighter than it had been.
No doubt, this man has suffered the same hardships of life that everyone must face now and again. Being human, I’m certain he’s experienced anger, sadness, frustration and rage at one point in his life or another. But, despite all the challenges he inevitably conquered in his life, he has managed not to lose his smile. It may be possible that this man might have a few loose screws in his old age (heck, I know I already do!), but his happiness is nevertheless sincere. He shares this sage wisdom as he stands cheerfully waving on the side of the road, charmingly spreading a bit of joy to everyone that passes by.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Puppy Love


Today, I have a new found love for my beautiful, peppy, half-senile dog, Biscuit. A wonderful family has so sadly lost their furry family member and the outpouring of love, support and prayers towards them have brought me to tears. It is so clear that this four-legged creature was so much more than a pet- he was truly a son, a brother, a companion. I was reminded of the fleetingness of life, whether it be of a puppy or my own, and vowed to not let a day go by where I hug my Biscuit and tell her how much I love her. She gives me so much joy and sometimes I like to believe she has brought my family closer than we ever could have become without her. So, to my Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier that snores ever so loudly in my ear as I try to fall asleep, I love you with all my heart. I promise to use my feet to take you on long walks and my hands to rub your belly just how you like. I promise to use my muscles to throw your favorite squeaky lady bug toy and my arms to hug you forever.

Setting My Intention



The Mind-Body Gratitude Project will include daily posts focusing on the things that I am grateful for, in awe of or have inspired me, drawn from personal experiences, observations and interactions. My intent is to be constantly humbled to the things I have, as it is all too easy to focus on the negatives in life. I hope to encourage positive thought, an attitude of gratitude and focus on the good things that give life meaning and purpose.