A Month of Gratitude: Part 1

November is here and with it, Thanksgiving, my very favorite US holiday. And not just because of the ample pumpkin pie to be enjoyed, but because it shines a spotlight on gratitude, a sentiment we rarely get the opportunity to dwell on, during the crazy pace of the every day. Last year, someone I know posted a daily gratitude post on her Facebook wall and she has inspired me to stop and spend some time every day during the month of November to consider how very fortunate I am and to catalog all for which I am grateful.

So here we go:

Thursday November 1: Today marks my second anniversary working with InkHouse. When I took the position, I knew I was going to be in a for a wild ride of deadlines, creativity, challenges and successes. Naturally, there are days that are better than others but overall, I am intensely grateful for 1) having a job, 2) being able to practice my passion – communicating, 3) having a job that pays well, 4) working with a group of talented, entertaining, creative and warm people.

Friday November 2: Grateful today for a job that allows me to work from home on Fridays. Grateful that, unlike the poor souls in New York and New Jersey suffering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, I have a roof over my head, heat and power, food and gas. This could have been a very different story.

Saturday November 3: I’m grateful today for music and dancing. On Saturdays, I try and get to a Zumba class and, once I drag myself there, I emerge energized and invigorated. Today I’m also in awe of, and thankful for, the amazing people and organizations that have come together to help Sandy’s victims. Everyone talks, these people actually do. I should do more.

Sunday November 4: Today, I’m grateful for a day to spend with my family. A walk in the park where the colors are still breathtaking, watching my kids skip and play, my dog delirious with the thrill of running free. My husband at my side. I’m also grateful for great screenwriting, random I know, but have been enjoying watching Homeland and tonight, concluded season 1, complete with nail-biting and racing adrenalin.

Monday November 5: For almost 13 years, I’ve been living in the US but have not yet taken the steps to become a citizen so that I can vote. Today I realized that’s it’s time. I’m grateful that I live in a country where democracy  is the norm and aware that, compared to the  many frightful situations in so many other parts of the world, this is not something I should take for granted. Also, I’m grateful for leftover Halloween candy. And pumpkin cheesecake. Both of which I have consumed today! I’m also grateful for hot water because I am cold at night now and sleep better clutching my hot water bottle. Yes I am an old lady already.

Tuesday November 6: My day started with my almost 8-year old climbing into bed for a snuggle. I cherish every single  snuggle and hug with my kids, the chance to both physically and emotional connect, if only for a few minutes. Today I’m also thankful for Twitter. Strange though it make seem, Twitter augments my world, connecting with me valuable new resources and some of the cleverest, nicest people.

Wednesday November 7: So grateful to be waking up to the news that Obama remains President for another four years. For many, many reasons but, mostly, to quote his acceptance speech:  “… if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

Check back next week for another week of gratitude.

My Zumba Journey

This morning I dragged my lazy derriere out of bed and to my 10am Saturday morning Zumba class. Every week, it’s the same. I really don’t want to go. It takes having a serious conversation with myself to talk (aka guilt) myself into it. Off I go, begrudgingly.

Fast forward 60-minutes or so and I emerge – sweaty, my muscles aching beautifully, invigorated and high on the having shaken my booty to great tunes! After all, I’m my happiest when dancing and that’s what Zumba essentially is.

It’s a mixed blessing that, as part of this, I spend an hour in front of a mirror forced to examine my pudgy, jiggly fleshy bits squeezed into my exercise gear. This mostly unpleasant vision reminds me why this weekly “torture” is required. However, what mitigates my negativity, is that fact that I am surrounded at Zumba my similarly bouncy, middle-aged woman. Ninety-nine percent of the class attendees are, like me, in their 40s, working Moms, trying to squeeze in an hour to themselves, trying to squeeze in some exercise, trying to squeeze into their Lycra. Some of them come to class fully made up, wearing dangly earrings. This confuses me. However,  together, we jiggle, strut, samba, cha-cha, groove and sweat, in a merry, flabby fashion. Sure there’s always at least one super skinny gal there, sporting a dancer’s body and a six-pack. I try not to look.

What I love most about the studio I go to – VavaVoom Fitness –  is it is focused on celebrating women, curves and all. Large posters on the wall display a fleshy Marilyn lifting weights, a seductive Beyonce, gorgeous J Lo performing and Shakira’s incredible body. Not a skinny waif in sight. No ripped muscles. Just images of sexy, confident, resplendent curvy woman. The goal is to motivate us to reclaim our bodaciousness, to celebrate our confidence and womanliness through dance. And given dance is something that inspires and motivates me, this is why I come here. However, putting aside inevitable self-consciousness and allowing yourself to circle your hips, grind a little, wiggle your butt, shimmy your shoulders and dance sexy is not always an easy journey. In fact, one of the male Zumba teachers often complains that his hips move better than ours!  The fact is that, in our day-to-day lives, especially as working Moms, there’s no time or, quite frankly reason, to act and feel sexy. Even long before becoming I mother, drawing attention to body through clothes or shoes was an anathema.

But every Saturday morning, for one hour, I revel in shedding this insecurity and I gloriously strut my stuff, buoyed by the music, the dance and the fact that I’m not alone in this journey.

Confessions of a Yo-Yo Exerciser

I love exercise.

I could sit and watch it all day.

If I had all day, that is. And given the choice, I’d rather be eating or sleeping than exercising. Admit it, you feel the same.

Fact is, when you are a working Mom, time is a very precious commodity. Between working, commuting, rallying the troops, groceries, laundry, school drop off, school pick up and trying to stop your house from looking like it’s been invaded by little monsters, there’s barely time for anything. And quite frankly, I’d rather be eating, watching TV, reading Christian Grey or sleeping, than torturing my doughy tummy and dimpled thighs.

Before kids, well, that was different. While no-one could have called me an athletic or muscular type, I enjoyed exercising. Dance, step, Pilates, gym, running, weights. I went to the gym at least twice a week for decades. For many years, I even had a personal trainer come to my home. In fact, this was the key to my success. Given that I am a lazy so-and-so, the fact that I’d paid some to show up at an appointed time and put me through my paces was the best formula to make exercise actually happen.

Fast-forward to the last seven years of motherhood and I have turned into a yo-yo exerciser with sporadic bouts of commitment to various forms of exercise. Since having kids, I can no longer afford the luxury of a personal trainer (see ‘The Shocking Cost of Being a Working Parent.’) These days, the best time for me to squeeze in a”workout” is between 5.45-6.30am, i.e. before the kids wake up and the morning mayhem starts. There’s no time to really go anywhere so exercise, when it happens, is in my basement.

My random attempt at getting into an exercise regime have, at best, lasted 2-3 weeks and have usually been thwarted by sleep interruptions, vacations, business travel and injury – as well as defeatism, boredom and the overwhelming desire to go back to sleep after the alarm goes off so damn early. Here’s what I have tried:

  • I’ve walked on my treadmill, listening to my iPod, watching the morning news or, more recently, random movies from the 80s.
  • I’ve pedaled on my mini-elliptical machine. Ditto. But after 10 minutes I really want to quit.
  • I’ve done several videos taught by various annoying, lithe, energetic women. The last time I did one though, one of my kids surprised me and I turned around too quickly and wrenched my back.
  • I bought one of those infomercial kits with a DVD and resistance bands that promised me I’d burn 300 calories and tone my core in just 20 minutes. I did it twice and for some strange reason, could barely move my arms after (while my flabby middle never felt a thing!)
  • While I was out of work/working from home for three months, I had more time and was able to go to  Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. It kicked my butt. I loved it.
  • Most recently, I’ve been walking in the mornings – now that it’s light again – with a girlfriend and this has been a great success, as long as our schedules have meshed, our kids have slept, our husbands haven’t been travelling and it hasn’t been raining. It’s so nice to be chatting away with a friend and not even realizing you are exercising!

So what’s this Mom to do? I fully understand the benefits of exercising and, certainly, in my (ahem) 40s, I appreciate the imperative to exercise. But my excuses are many, my motivation is on-again-off-again, and my successes are hit or miss. The good news is that I eat a healthy diet and that my weight has stayed within the same range for the last four or five years. That’s not to say I could do with shedding five, maybe ten pounds.

I guess I should just get off my arse and do it.

Wish I could outsource it.

Now there’s an idea …..

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