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Dear 22 year old

thI have been where you are. I know what is going through your head. I am still there most days, but I have got some age on me now. I know things you do not know at 22, or do not believe yet anyway. It is hard to believe them, when all around you everything goes against it. But, I am writing this because at 22 there is still time. Time for you to change your thought process . Time for you to become head strong. Stronger than you already are so that when you do have years on you too, like me, you will be able to look back and think, “I’m so happy I was able to change my way of thinking.” The reason is this, your mind is one of the most powerful tools you have. It can help you, it can hurt you. It had done both over time to me. It continues to do it daily. I wish I had someone to say this to me at 22, really at 15.

My story begins at 15, really younger, but for the sake of this we will say 15. I looked around, I noticed what was going on. The girls getting the attention from the boys. Meeting them at the movies. I could not figure it out. I was outgoing, friendly, had plenty of friends but I was not one the one the boys noticed outside of the “friend zone”. I realized what they did notice. I became obsessed with it. Exercising like crazy, becoming “healthy” is what I said. But at one time my parents considered sending me off to treatment because my “healthy” behavior had gotten out of control and on my large boned frame, the weight I had lost down to was skeletal thin. However it paid off where I wanted it to at the time. According to what the “norm” was anyway.

At age 16 the first boy notice me and asked me out. We hit it off. blah, blah, blah, fell in love, married when we finished college at 21 and the rest is divorce history. I could not keep up the charade. I am not born to be a naturally thin person. I am not a skinny girl by birth. I began to gain the weight back when I began to eat again. Just eating healthy, minding my own business, still exercising like normal and eating like normal, but gaining weight above Skeleton’s level. After gaining the weight, this person who promised me forever, better and worse, realized he only like the size I was at 16, not the size I had become 12 years later. Immediately my mind went to the place , “no one will ever want me, love me, if I am not small”, really there was evidence of that right?

Time passes. My soul was searched. Prayers were prayed. I cannot tell you all scars heal, but now I know that body shaming is a real thing and a real problem. I actually lived it the entire time I was married not only by my ex-husband but his family also. The people out there that talk, whisper, stare. They are not secure with something they have, something they are dealing with. Yes, I said I struggle now. Because I did not change my thought process early enough.

That’s what I want for you. Change your mind now. You are good enough RIGHT NOW! RIGHT THIS SECOND you are GREAT, exactly how you were meant to be. Whoever does not see that, whoever comments to the contrary does not deserve a second thought. I know it is not easy. I KNOW it is not easy. But you can do it. You HAVE to do it. Now. Change your thought process now and stop body shaming yourself. NOW.

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OMG! It only took 5 days to get it all down

(Photo credit : http://www.dumpaday.com )

I’ve literally been thinking of this post all week, if not longer. It all started when this video started making its way around Facebook. Penelope and I have turned this over and over. We’ve watched, read comments, tried to see every angle of the point of the video.  I have very mixed feelings about the video and the reactions. The original video was posted on www.coffeeblocks.com on May 11, 2015 and it is entitle “Moms Empower Us”.

This make day 4 of trying to work on this post and at the rate I’m going right now, with the penguin in the room, it looks as if I’m going to run over into day 5, which will help me back up some of what I’m trying to “say” in the post.

Day 5….it will be done.

Okay, so if you’ve watched the video you have had time to form your own opinions. My purpose of the post is not just about the video, the video just happened to spark the thought process. If you watched the video with no sound you opinion may vary slightly from what it may be if you watched it with sound. I have picked out a few comments from the Facebook post just to give some insight to how different viewers formed their opinions and how they relate to how I feel about things. Trust me, the comments run wild, over 1,400 of them if you feel the need to read more.

Let me start with the comment that sums the main purpose of not only the video, but also this post up:

“I’ve thought a lot about it since seeing a friend share it. I see all sides. I think the part that bothers me most are the judgmental comments. I understand the “point” of the video is to lead by example and not give up, but the people that have got it figured out (not saying it’s easy) -the balance of it all, shouldn’t be so quick to judge the ones (myself included) who don’t quite have it all worked out yet. It’s not easy for anyone, I agree, but it’s harder and may take longer for all the pieces to fall together for some. I know I need to take care of myself as a mother, but I’m working on the balance part. What works for your child may not work for mine. Besides taking care of ourselves as moms and teaching our children that, we could also start teaching our children understanding and encouragement of each other as women/moms.”

We can start with this one because it is mine 🙂 Originally the video made me angry. I admit I watched without sound and all I saw was fitness obsessed moms ignoring children to achieve the perfect body. And the comments I read that encouraged them enraged me because I felt it made mom’s like me look bad or feel bad because we are not able to achieve what is shown in the video. I understand that once you watch with the sound on you get the message of empowerment and how the children never see “mom give up” and all that. But I still stand behind my initial thought that not all moms can achieve what is shown. And I don’t agree with comments like the following:

“The negative comments are why and how I ballooned to 225 lbs after having 3 kids. It’s also the reason children are self entitled and spoiled.”

(Not my quote) Really? Children are self entitled and spoiled because moms choose to spend what little time they may have during their day with them instead of running up and down bleachers? Huh? How about my theory that it may create body image issues in children if all they ever see mom do is work out and not spend time with them. What about that theory? I’m not suggesting that the moms that have taken the fitness route and have dedicated the time and energy to become healthier and more fit have had it easier. I know their have been sacrifices made in their family life and personal lives. Please don’t misunderstand me. What I am trying to say that I feel that women/moms that area able to achieve this level of fitness commitment have almost turned this into a new type of body shaming for those moms that aren’t able to. With Facebook post every other second “what’s your excuse”, “on Friday’s we flex”, “I ran 200 miles today uphill”. Great. I applaud you. I even have friends like this. Am I a bit jealous? ABSOLUTELY. No denying that. But I will not be shamed into giving up to the little bit of time with my child at 4 years old, holding her, playing with her, to go achieve the latest fitness craze.

But if other working mom’s can do it, why can’t every working mom do it? Because not every working mom, whether in the home or outside the home is the same. Just as not every child is the same. Those children in the video were content to play by themselves even if only for 30 minutes. And their were plenty of comments giving “advice” on what to do with those darn kids that aren’t. I don’t need your advice. I KNOW MY CHILD. I know what works and what doesn’t. I also know my schedule and you don’t. Some say, “I get up at 5:00 to work out while everyone else is sleeping, that’s the sacrifice I’ve made.” Good for you. Do you know that some moms are still at work at 5:00 a.m., just getting home, or in my case I’ve just dropped off my 4 year old with her Nana so I can go to work? I’m not going to go on and on about the schedules, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da,

The bottom line is this. I would love to be healthier and I do what I can by eating right. I also do what I can by the little bit of exercise I can do when I can do it. Don’t assume that because moms don’t look like the video they don’t want too or haven’t’ put out an effort. Empowering women isn’t just about fitness goals, it’s about supporting one another in everything. Quit judging, quit making assumptions. I’ll raise my child with out lifting dead weights you raise yours while pushing a stroller. I don’t care. Let’s just stop. Stop body shaming in all forms. Stop judging and being so mean. Lets really start empowering.

Being a woman is hard enough….

rachel_mcadams_mean_girls_20080813_02

(Photo credit: http://tcnjjournal.pages.tcnj.edu)

I am working through the Blogging 101 course that WordPress is offering this month. The other day I searched through the blogosphere (learned that new word…you like that dontcha ?), and I came across a fellow blogger, The Wanna Be Island Girl, and part of one of her post really stuck with me. The post title is The Sisterhood, and I will be making a few references to the part of her post that is leading me to what I am trying to say.

I think about it all the time. Women are nasty to other women. I see it all the time. For no reason either. I just don’t understand it.

“But, I’ve always had this deep rooted appreciation for girlfriends and women in general who lift each other up. We have enough tearing down in society and it makes me sick. ”  (The Sisterhood)

This is what sparked my thought process. Women need to lift each other up, but women need to teach their daughters the same. I can tell you from experience that this behavior can sometimes be learned. It also starts young. I cannot believe that at 4 years old my little penguin has to worry about (well, she doesn’t really worry because that’s how she rolls) about cliques on the playground. Really? I see a generation of parents (women) who don’t realize what their children are absorbing and don’t realize they emulate their behavior. When these daughters see their mother isolate another woman, these daughters are being taught this is an okay behavior.

I’m not preaching. Believe me I have my side of me, especially my Penelope in my head, that can be judgy and nasty. I always catch myself and remind myself not to do that and especially not to say it or convey my feelings in any way that my daughter may pick up on. There are a group of women in my church, that I refer to as the Alpha moms, or Stepford moms depending on how snarky I am that day. Mind you I only refer to them this way in my head or to my husband, but in front of my child I am nothing but smiles. But I observe them. I know how I am treated by them, and I sit back and see how their children treat other children who aren’t “like” them.

Now, these Alpha moms have never been outwardly rude, it’s the hidden rudeness that really crawls my skin. The “I’m the perfect mom with the perfect look and the perfect kids” attitude that just make me cringe like nails on a chalkboard. We exchange pleasantries and I overhear their latest pintrest pin and that’s where our “sisterhood” ends. But, as I said I observe. The same way that their children have seen their mother treat me in a subtle way as an outcast, with my less than perfect clothes and tattoos, I’ve noticed they treat my child and other children who may not fit the “mold” the same way.

So why don’t women build each other up? Why isn’t there more of a sisterhood? Because it’s learned at an early age not too. Now I’m sure some readers may be thinking “you are just as snarky and guilty of this as they are”. Well, I am…..but only in my head. And the reason I point that out is that I make a big effort to let my little girl know that 1) it’s okay for her to be the way she is and 2) we accept everyone for who they are. She has never seen me or heard me be anything but gracious and nice to these other women nor will she. She can form her own opinions when she is old enough. But as a mother, I will not stand by and let their mini me hurt my child either. Right now at 4, her hurt feelings are easily smoothed over, but I know more difficult injuries are coming and I’m bracing myself for blighting my tongue and having to continue explaining that she is okay being the way she is. I will teach her to build up others, women especially.

But I beg, I plead of all women to just take a moment and be real. Be real with yourself, your children. Being a woman is hard! It is not butterflies and hearts. It is not perfect hair and makeup. Can’t we stop pretending, making others feel bad and just be there for each other as women? Can’t we be honest and share those honest stories with complete raw vulnerability that everyone knows but no one will talk about? To build each other up as women we need to start with being honest as women. Remove the screen, the facade, and just be real. Discuss the really hard, nasty stuff that gets swept under the rug.