Belly of the Beast

I accept my body as it is. I really do. It’s been through a lot. It has kept fighting for me, even though sometimes it feels like it is against me. I know this because I am still breathing. I know this because my body has grown and birthed three humans. It has then fed and carried and soothed them. It’s not easy for my body to do these things and to then be also pinned to a desk and a screen in order to make a living. It’s not easy for my body to be a motivational speaker, hostage negotiator, and entertainer (aka a parent), jobs that carry overtime hours that are immeasurable. It’s not easy for my body to live in a concrete jungle when all it wants to do is have open air. It’s not easy for my body to be bent forward, texting and answering and waiting and doing and shouldering. It’s just not easy.

And sometimes, when I get dressed into my pjs way too late at night, I catch a glimpse of my belly and I’m like, oh wow. What is going on in there tonight? Sometimes it looks like a drained elephant. Sometimes it looks like I may actually be 6 months pregnant. Sometimes my belly button looks like it is a lone hiker in the Grand Canyon. Sometimes it has got a pooch and a sturdy shelf under my left rib cage. Sometimes it just looks like a belly. But, after seeing this, I bring myself back to all that my belly has done and all the burdens it holds and I feel nothing but gratitude and acceptance.

HOWEVER. Gratitude and acceptance with my body can often be confused with resignation. And, so, lately, I’ve become willing to find the middle ground here and say, yes, I accept this as my body and it’s changing appearance does not affect my worth … but also, yes, I wonder if there is a medical condition inside my belly that deserves care?

I wonder.

This reminds me of when my middle kiddo was barely 2 years old and I got rushed to an emergency biopsy of my breast, after I felt a suspicious lump. My gynecologist, upon feeling it, turned white as a ghost and called her breast surgeon colleague on her cell phone while still in the office right away. Everything turned out ok, thankfully. A benign fibroadenoma. But, after the biopsy, I met with the surgeon to discuss the results. I was lying down on my back, shirt off, in order to get examined. After she was done, she told me to sit up, which I did by rolling straight forward. She sat back quickly and said, “Oh, you have an umbilical hernia, huh?” I guess the rolling forward movement had caused my belly button to do its alien maneuver, where it used to pop straight out with any forward flexion of any kind. Instead of being like, OMG, HELP ME, IS THAT WHAT THIS IS, I got extremely embarrassed and was like, oh yeah, no bigs, I got it figured out.

I felt so so so lost right at that moment. Like, crap, I’m a former ballet dancer, a former Pilates teacher, a current postpartum corrective exercise specialist, I own a business called MommaStrong. This is NOT supposed to be happening to me and I MUST be doing something wrong. I remember feeling invaded and exposed and simply convinced myself that she was wrong. I did not have a hernia, I thought. I was too strong for pregnancy + childbirth to have affected ME.

I think back to that moment often now, after having had a third baby, and after many years in between that have granted me knowledge that has brought to our awareness the prevalence of deep ab dysfunction. And I wonder why, at that time, I felt such a huge ping of shame and embarrassment when she saw my umbilical hernia? In fact, I question if I still am living with it now? What am I not talking about when it comes to my belly? What am I still hiding? Why? If this were an injury to a non-mother or an injury to another part of the body, I wouldn’t be so quiet about it. There is something in here that elicits a sense of failure because I couldn’t walk out of pregnancy and childbirth like a glowing rock star. There’s something that feels like it eroded my worth because this part of my body didn’t come out unscathed. Like, somehow because I have an injury here or a lasting condition, something is very wrong. And, add to that the fact that my profession is functional fitness and deep ab/pelvic floor integration … wow.

So, I am going to tell the truth. I have healed my body in most of all the ways. I have entirely resolved my back pain, my SIJ dysfunction. I have healed my formerly constantly pulled neck and impinged shoulders. I have taught my body to be with, without causing former damage, degenerative disc disease courtesy of a life as a ballet dancer. I have reintegrated my abdominals and managed my diastasis recti. I am not in pain every day like I used to be. I am actually really impressed with how much I have healed and I am incredibly proud of what I teach.

But.

I still have stuff happening with my belly. What gives? What is it? I don’t mind the loose skin, the stretch marks, the not-flat belly. I’m good with these. Truly. But the lingering pooch doesn’t feel normal. There is something more happening here and I know I am not alone. I read so many emails and so many messages from other members who are like, hey, I’m integrated and out of pain, but something is still not right in my midsection. They don’t mention size or appearance, they mention a KNOWING. Something isn’t right in here. Some of them wonder … is it digestion? Is it a hernia? Is it an injury I can’t see? Did my deep abs not recover? Why does this worse later in the day? What am I doing wrong?

Now, if this topic wasn’t stuffed into the container of “Get Over It: Things that happen when you have babies”, then we would listen to this KNOWING and we wouldn’t tell a person to “accept it” or “celebrate it”. We wouldn’t tell people to make peace with it. We would say, huh, let’s take a look and see what is going on.

Right??

Right.

So, that is what I am going to do. I’m going to take my acceptance of self and body, and ALSO take my knowing … and I’m gonna trudge through the belly of the beast. I’m going to ask questions from professionals, get evaluated, experiment, test, try again, keep asking and I’m going to see what happens. Maybe the answer will be: Not much you can do about it. In which case, you know what, after all the investigation I’m going to dedicate to this mystery, I’ll consider that an expert answer backed by substantial evidence.

You and your belly deserve unconditional love. You and your belly ALSO deserve expert answers with substantial evidence. Both things can happen. We don’t have to choose one or the other.

Join me this summer, along with Jya Plavin, Stephanie Dillon, Viki Kelly-Quirk, and a special guest, for a most spectacular online Zoom workshop called The Belly of the Beast. It will be the delivery of all that I have learned, sandwiched between these incredibly brilliant humans who will be discussing breathing, ab anatomy, digestion, stress, and even social/cultural influences. Here are the details:

Saturday, June 26th, 2021
1–4 CST | 11–2 PST | 2–5 EST

1 hour 45 minutes of education around our “centers”:

  • Courtney’s story
  • Anatomy and muscle function of the deep abs
  • Anatomy and function of breathing
  • Stress vs stressor response and relationship to posture and ab function
  • GI Issues and the relationship to deep ab and pelvic floor function
  • History, Culture, & Bellies — Oh My!

15 minute break
1 hour “Centered” Class*: Breathing, intense abs, anchor point activation, and posture
30 minute optional Q&A after the workshop

And, all participants get a bonus swag package sent to them!

*Modifications during the Centered Class will definitely be provided for those who are pregnant or newly postpartum, but also be aware that some of the suggestions will be applicable only after full recovery from pregnancy/birth.

I hope to see you there.


PS: SWAG BAGS!

Imagination Station

 

 

I’ve been trying to write an introduction to a book proposal for longer than I care to admit. I keep chasing words like they are pixies adorned with promises they can’t keep. Nothing has felt right. 

 

These pixies keep telling me to write something profound. To make a conclusion. To have a clear path. To be wanted and wise. And they love to speak a poetic truth when I can’t capture it. When I’m bathing a baby. When I’m squabbling about algebra homework. When I am cleaning the rabbit cage. When I am very nearly sound asleep.  

 

Life just keeps happening and I keep saying, tomorrow. I keep believing:  Tomorrow. I keep wanting tomorrow. A break. A blip. A space. And then even when I get it, I’ll be honest, I fill it up with something less than productive. Because what I decide I need at that moment is some escape in the form of faux me time. I realize that I’m not being kind to myself when I say that, as the reality that sits in front of most of us right now is that we have no idea how to sequester productive creative time away from faux me time. We have to pick one and, let’s face it, if isn’t paying the bills or taking care of tiny humans, then it must be something brainless and entirely numbing. This is where we all are.

 

It’s ok.  

 

And while I say it is ok, on the other side of that statement is a big hill to climb up that says, YES AND. It is ok. Yes. And. It is also time to dust off the heart and soul and dig deep because we don’t want a year to turn into a decade and a decade into a lifetime. I’m not suggesting we have to do anything grand. I don’t intend to qualify this statement with inspiration to suddenly make your dreams come true or quantify it with self-helpy goal setting. Instead, I am just suggesting something else … it starts with a shhhhhhhhhh and ends with a _______.

 

Maybe there’s a little knock on the door to the part of you who used to doodle or sew or make jokes. Or the part of you who turned the music up way too loud and danced until you were breathless. Or the part of you cut out images from magazine or collected rocks from the sidewalk and glued them into collages.   

 

I don’t know. But I know it starts small and with a flicker. I also know that courage keeps it lit. For me, when I feel the flicker, I also feel a frustratingly real fuck-it moment, which stands in my noggin like a huge fork in the road:  Escape or Tap In. I most often decide on Escape and then I turn on Netflix or Hulu or Prime or HBO or omg there are too many subscriptions stop it you know if you know. I think I will find something profound or fulfilling and then I end up falling asleep. And I wake up and go, hmmmm, maybe I won’t do that tonight.  And then tonight comes after a day of YOU KNOW IF YOU KNOW and, well, I am cooked. But I don’t want to go to sleep. I need some tinkering time. The flicker comes again and that dang ol’ fork in the road appears AGAIN. 

 

Tonight, however, I took the Tap In option. I’ll admit that that happened mostly because this was a work-related deadline. The good news is that that deadline was a useful disguise, as it has entirely helped me tap in. And as I sit here right now, I wish so badly that I could bottle up what the courage to take this option feels like right now. It’s not beautiful like we think it is. It is not a smooth beverage. No. It’s bitter as hell at first. You want to throw it across the room like a toddler and demand a better flavor. The first sip of courage is medicinal. But, the next sip soothes your throat. The next, your belly. The next, your bones.  

 

This is what I feel right now. And this is what I want to remember. It won’t feel good or easy at first and then it is just is exactly right. Even if no one ever sees it or it is all blabber blah blah with no editing like this here blog … your willingness to keep that flicker lit—just briefly even—is 100,000,000% worth it.  

 

I’m going to spend this next month of April sipping on the courage to be creative. I am going to fail most days/evenings. I am going to fall asleep on the couch after convincing myself that that show/documentary was a good idea. I am going to stay up too late doing stupid procrastinating stuff. I am going to avoid creating anything many many times. My forks will often be towards Escape. But, it’s ok. Because at least I’m going to try. I’ve got to wake this part of me back up because it’s what helps me make sense of my world, what helps me laugh and giggle, what helps me soothe my children even when I need soothing, and what helps me stay close to things that matter most.  

 

Come to Imagination Station with me this month and get some inspiration from four amazing members of our own, all artists and creatives and thinkers and tinkerers. You’ll also be challenged to do 5-15 minutes of daily exercise with me, which in all honesty is the best secret life hack for courage that I know. It sounds simple, but we all know it isn’t easy, which is why you deserve company as you trudge through it.  

 

I will see you there, each day. You can register as a current member by clicking on Challenges in your browser navigation. If you aren’t yet a member, well, sign on up (you get 14 days free) and then click on Challenges. Oh, also, bonus move: You can gift a friend a month.

Bad Attitude Approved

 

It’s beautiful out today. 73 degrees and blue skies. The best of the best of Texas weather. And I am ashamed to admit that I feel a teensy bit of resentment at the beauty of this day. I also feel some embarrassment in admitting that. I should be grateful. Thank goodness for this warmth and this sun, you know? I mean, just last week—exactly one week ago—Houston was in the middle of an insanely intense “freeze” in which we lost power and water for days on end. Side note: I still don’t have running water and have no idea when I will get it back. And before you think that us Texans are merely wimps who can’t handle some snowy weather, remember that 1) we were unprepared; 2) it was in the single digits; 3) our homes are not built for cold temperatures; 4) the Texas power grid failed; 5) this was worse than any major hurricane I have ever been through and 6) I lost my beloved fish, all three of them (Sushi, Cat, & Fish) plus their snail friends.  

 

Yet, even with all those factors listed out, I’ve been rummaging through my brain as to why this event was so hard on me and on everyone I know. We’ve been through worse, yeah? We’ve weathered storms, right?  But, I don’t know. This one just took a huge bite out of all of us. We all feel the same way today, like a battered person exiting an abusive relationship. Everything on the outside is just moving along like nothing ever happened, meanwhile we feel as if we have been dragged behind a truck on a gravel road. This was even more apparent when I drove past a laundromat on my street that had the following quote on its sign: The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude. 

 

It slapped me in the face a bit, to be honest. I suddenly started bashing myself for not having more fun with the whole thing. I started remembering how, yes, the candlelight was so nice, and YES, it did cause me to go to bed earlier. And, YES, this whole year has been a reminder about connection to the things that matter in life. And, YES, it was so sweet to cuddle with Wyatt underneath a bazillion blankets. And, YES, there was snow. And, YES, my kids now know how much water we waste by flushing the toilet too many times and they also know how to camp in any weather. And, YES, we are all going to be ok, eventually. 

 

After driving a bit past this sign and shifting my attitude towards adventure rather than ordeal, I couldn’t help but feel a strong gurgle of resistance in my underbelly. I wanted to scream at the sign: ASSHAT, YOU DON’T KNOW ME! And then it hit me. Of course the winter storm felt harder than hard. I have zero left. I am tapped out. The last year has been a year of pivots and resets and beginning agains and I can do its and so much mothering of others and so much unmothering of myself and so many unknown obstacles and so much scary stuff and so little time to read, think, write, be. UGH. Of course. Of course. Of course. Why would I expect myself, in this moment, to have the capacity to do more than get through it? Why would I expect myself to have a good attitude right now?  

 

I’m not going to dive into this much more or continue a conversation that I am not equipped to have entirely. But, I want to flag it. And, for the mundane and trivial purposes of this blog post, I want to grab an opportunity to focus my attention on adventure. I want to reach into that sign at the laundromat and grab the word “Adventure” and put it in my pocket on my terms, in my way. I don’t want to lose my grasp on something that is so key to self expression and whatever we each deem “The Divine”. BUT, this also means, for me, that I have to start by removing the constructs of adventure from constraints we see on Instagram with families living in vans with content children, solo humans hiking on trails with no nap times or bedtimes or dishes, or stamped passports with stories untold. I want to place it instead inside a reality that I live today, exactly as I am. 

 

So, like catching a firefly in a glass jar, I’ll be spending the next month examining my relationship to adventure. I’ll be figuratively going out at dusk to gently coax the sparkly light inside the jar for just a minute. Just enough time to see it glow and to remember this spark of mine. If I look closely enough, I’ll see myself at age 16, leaving home to be a ballerina. I’ll see my 7 year old self with scraped knees and a rat’s nest of white blonde hair, making mud pies in a park far away from my house. I’ll hear the creek and the sound of slippery rocks under my feet, clanging against each other with earth and substance. I’ll see my barely 18 year old self traveling the world, dancing on stages in foreign countries, taking time off to stay in hostels and amongst no one I knew but myself. I’ll also see saying yes to marriage and a baby before I was 25.  And after that, to be honest, the sparkly light gets a little dim.

 

My question this month will be: Why has it dimmed? What can change? What cannot change? What am I missing in my support system? What do I need to heal? How can I redefine and reclaim adventure? How can I let go of expectation and find new meaning in the underwhelming? How can I let my freak flag fly, even as a busy overworked parent? 

 

I invite you to join me in this investigation this month, as you attempt to show up every day for 5-15 minutes of exercise. There’s no right answer here, only a cushion for curiosity. And, because I need some guidance and inspiration, we will be led by our own member, Courtney Naliboff, whose posts in our online community contain the phrases: “Feminist rock band” and “cross country ski on the frozen reservoir”. Ahh! For real. She will be providing daily bonus content to give you a way forward with adventure on your terms … with or without a good attitude, of course.  

 

Join me. Join us. You can register as a current member by clicking on “Challenges” in your browser navigation. And, you can gift a friend a month in case you want to start a new punk rock band and need to recruit some people. Just sayin’. Why not?

 

I’ll see you there.

Invisible Mess

 

I’ve recently started inexplicably fantasizing about big plans for my backyard. Note: I’m not a gardener. The only plant I have successfully kept alive for longer than a few months is a jalapeño plant, which in Texas is basically The Easiest Thing Ever. I mean, you have to actively work to get them NOT to continue living. But, yet, here I am. Each day, I add another thing to the list: A vegetable garden! A fairy garden for Wyatt! Maybe a Koi pond? Oh, and that compost thing out there, I’ll get that working. AND YES, soil. I’ve got to have a glorious ecosystem out here of bacteria and microorganisms that will just make everything bloom with green, juicy life. I even decided I would rebuild the deck.

 

Ahahahahaha. That last sentence. Hahahahaha. Watch me.

 

In any case, I’ve started with a pair of gloves, a rake, and a clipper thingy for errant branches and such. I’ve raked and pulled weeds at every break in the day, to the point where now I reward myself with a completed D15 by giving myself 15 minutes of raking and pulling and mud. Oh, wonderful mud. Mud full of bugs, frogs, weird snakes that are really just lizards without legs, red beetles that might eat my face off, and goobery grubs. Yesterday, I even pulled a bunch of beloved and determined ivy off of a sad tree. The ivy had wrapped its beautiful vines all around the tree’s delicate branches, the tree clearly trying to weather the relationship against all odds. After I pulled the ivy off, I realized that almost an hour had passed by. I had no idea at the outset how intensive the vine business was going to be. I didn’t know that pulling one part off of one branch would start pulling on another branch, that one deeply embedded into another plant and even growing straight into the wood of the garage. I didn’t know that one vine is actually nested with about a thousand others, all crammed contentedly together like my kids in a single hotel room bed. I didn’t know that the roots of vines are like tough limbs compared to their dainty skyward fingertips. Clipping them is not an option. This is going to involve better tools, I now know.

 

I feel kind of silly not knowing about these basic landscaping facts. And maybe it dips into a deep knowing that I have, in my grown up life, moved so far away from these little moments of nature and attention. That knowing comes with shock and shame and sadness, a sludge of “s” words that do nothing but summon an unrealistic wish for a simpler life. Sigh. But, that knowing also comes with a kid-like drive to keep at it. I wake up in the morning and think about the vines and the mud nonstop. My mind just keeps going back to the task and it is the closest thing to mindfulness that I have felt in a while.

 

I don’t know why I just attach that word to it … mindfulness … but I did. The minute I wrote it I felt like some dutiful girl in high school, getting the answer right. I guess I needed to make it purposeful or contained. But, if I am really honest about my drive to clean up the backyard, then I would be brave enough to say that I want nothing tidy about it. I want to clear a way in the overgrown tangle of things. I want to get dirty and smelly and muddy and sweaty and I want to be out of my house. I want to clean something up in a noticeable way that stays clean longer than 3.5 minutes. I want some space to call mine, a space that works. I want fairies and magic and summer nights with fireflies. I want my kids to play and be away from screens. I want them to eat green food right out of the ground. And, well, I just want to dig into the invisible mess that has been the last year and make it all beautiful.

 

I suppose it is easier to deal with the invisible mess of my backyard than to deal with the invisible mess of my life, courtesy of 2020. The vines are not my thoughts or my missing to-do items or my broken heart or my tired body. They are not embedded in my worth and my serenity. They are outside of me and, so, there’s something deeply satisfying and liberating about making piles of leaves and making a change to the space. I don’t walk around telling the trees they are failing because their leaves are all over the yard. I simply clean it up. It’s the season for it. I don’t put pressure on the rotting wood or the dying plants. I don’t wish they had done better. I say, “Oh crap, you’re not been taken care of. Let’s start over.”

 

And maybe this is why this backyard dreaming is here. Because I want for my life, myself, and every amazing person I know that same sentiment: Oh crap, you’ve not been taken care of. Let’s start over.

 

I’m starting over this month of February, the actual real Begin Again month for busy caretakers. January can go take a hike, if you ask me. I’ve had COVID, our country has had an insurrection, my friends and family are scrambling still, and, well, Dove chocolate needs a bigger bag of Silky Smooth Promises. If you don’t know about that last item, then you don’t know. But you will. In any case, yes, February, hello. We are going to run a 30 Day Challenge focused on the Invisible Mess in your life. The vines, the roots, the things that need better tools. And all the while, you—beautiful human—are going to attempt to show up for 5-15 minutes of scrappy exercise each and every day. I will be here and mud will appear. Probably also horrible tales and tails of bugs and critters.

 

Join me, the MommaStrong Team for this adventure, along with our very own member, Isabelle Wright, who has graciously agreed to lead us through daily bonus content on the topic of your own Invisible Mess.

 

Not a MommaStrong member?

Become a member today and then go to “Challenges” to register.

 

Already a member?

Simply log in and click on “Challenges” in the teal navigation menu. OH AND YOU CAN TOTALLY GIFT A FRIEND. Just sayin’.

 

See you soon.

Free Yourself



‘Tis the season in which we get bombarded with messaging and marketing about becoming our best selves. Some of the messages we see are direct: Lose weight, be happy! Some of the messages are more coded: It’s finally time to make yourself a priority! At the end of the day, though, both avenues to your fragile post-holiday brain are focused on selling you the idea that this is going to be the year to get shiny and in shape. Maybe it’s even the year to get in control of your life, after a year spent in the throes of a pandemic and a version of the unknown none of us could have predicted.


I’ve been in the fitness industry for over two decades and I can tell you that those ideas are not worth pursuing, not now and not ever. I can also predict that this year will be a very lucrative year for wellness companies, as every single person I know—including myself—wants to be shiny and in control of their life in 2021. This may be the year that even the skeptical among us take the bait and hyperfocus on a diet, a new trendy fitness program, a juice cleanse, or an expensive vitamin regimen.

When I dial back this urge, even in myself, I discover that underneath it all is a simple desire to be healthy or, to be more fancy about that word, it is a simple desire to be in a state of congruency with my insides and my outsides. If I want to be shiny and in shape, the truth is that I want the simple state of good enough health. I want good enough digestion, good enough sleep, stable blood sugar, lack of illness, good enough mental health, and good enough connection with other humans. The hard fact, though, is that none of us have had Good Enough of any of that this year. And that is what makes us so vulnerable. Our standard of self care has slipped to extremely low levels out of a duty to make all the impossible things work. And we all want to reverse this quickly, don’t we? And we all believe that with a little bit of elbow grease and will power, we can change the course of our lives.


The reality is that this is not the case. No one could have done this year better. No one could have resisted the urge of the sweat pants, I promise. We’ve all just stayed above water and this is not the time to wish we had looked more graceful while flailing. Instead, what if it is the year to re-anchor ourselves to the basics of good enough health and surrender the outcomes of what that might look like for each of us?


For me, personally, this means that I am going to take stock of what Good Enough Health means and I am going to claim it without taking the bait which hooks me into the idea that I need to diet, tone up, or buy tons of skincare products. And I’ll admit there will be some grief in this process. I want to believe forcing myself into a container where sweaty, toned, smiling, tanned humans live will scratch the itch I feel. I want to believe that I can pummel myself into superhero behavior, which would mean that the difficulties of last year were my fault, which is oddly comforting. I don’t want to face the underbelly that we, as tender humans, are tasked with living in unpredictability every single day. And I don’t want to face that reality because then it means that it could happen again and it also means that my job is to find joy/health/peace/security even when it does.


Ugh. Right?


So, what is the way forward then? I have chosen to greet this grief by freeing myself instead. If New Year’s is all about control and containers and cleaning up and betterment, I am going to opt out of that and instead choose to let myself find freedom in a new version of wellbeing. I mean, let’s face it. Doing it the other way has never ever worked for any person I have ever met. At least not sustainably. And worse yet, if we really dig into that, we’d discover that doing it the other way has actually caused more harm than good.


Here’s my hypothesis for this New Version of New Year’s: If I opt-out of containment and opt-in to freedom in certain areas, I will then measure my health on qualifications that equal congruency with my true self. And at the end of the day, when I’m old and I’ve earned my wrinkles, I’ll look back at 2021 and be proud of the choice I made. This takes courage. This takes letting go of the golden carrots that dazzle us with idle promises. This takes watching other people chase those carrots and not joining them. This takes believing in ourselves and in the long game. This takes surrendering our expectations and accepting where we are, right now. This takes all the icky yucky things we want to avoid right now because, holy crap, we want comfort and solutions.


But, stay in the muck with me. Focus on freedom. We will be tackling it all month in our January Challenge in the following weekly breakdowns, each one guided by a different expert:


Free Your Brain


Free Your Resolutions


Free Your Time


Free Your Body


It takes courage to believe this could work and it takes a teensy bit of messy, imperfect willingness to give it a shot. I will be here with you, each step of the way.


SIGN UP TODAY  

Oh, and invite a friend … see the link below the sign up button that lets you gift a month.

Snails & Joy

 

As I watched a “pandemic-purchased” snail slurp its way up the side of our fish tank last night, I realized it was the first time in a while that I had had sustained attention on something without thinking once about work, or chaos, or my phone, or dinner, or dishes, or all the things. Instead, I was just 100% involved in trying to figure out what is what on the creature’s anatomy. Is that his/her mouth? Wait, are those the eyes? But, what is that part? And then I just got lost in watching this velvety, amorphous living thing and started imagining its tiny heart and its tiny brain and wait does it have a heart? I don’t know.


According to Google, it does. And not only that, once you discover snail anatomy, you will be where I was that night by the side of the tank: Utterly in awe. So tiny. So slippery. So fragile. So protected. So much purpose. So not dependent on wifi and gadgets. Hahaha. I walked away from the tank and took a deep breath. I felt calm and inspired, the combination of which made me feel a tinge of sleep-deprived joy. I need more snail watching in my life, I thought.


The truth is that I’ve come so far away from snail watching or anything idle. Sure, there’s a lot to be done in work and in life. But, how long did that really take me to stop and contemplate snail anatomy? Answer: Like 2 minutes. That is doable, it’s just that I have absolutely wrecked my brain and my attention span, which also means that my tolerance for dopamine surges is now at an unmanageable level. And I know I’m not alone. I watch my kids and my friends and even strangers. We are a restless bunch right now, yeah?


I know about restlessness. I am a person with a substance abuse disorder. That means that when I use something—anything—that changes the way I feel, my brain and my body say MORE. And, yes, there is a chemical component to this. But, for me—and this is solely my experience—there is also a spiritual component. I never knew that using any sort of substance was my misdirected way of trying to feel what I felt while watching snails that night: Connection. Connection to the mystery of life, which is also connection to the warm, outer space-like, expansive, possible, inspiring thing we all feel in our tender human moments.


I was told early in my recovery that connection is the opposite of addiction. I didn’t understand at the time, but now I do. Now I get that even in the darkest of my days when my shadow was running the show, I was chasing joy then too. I was trying to hold and contain the surge of the Feel Good, the tether to the pulse of something-anything-yes-that, and the release from pain and heartbreak. I’ll admit that there is ton more to addiction than this one component, from trauma to mental illness to genetics to environment, but this one part feels important to me right now, this December.


Why? Because I’m tired. I’m a slashed tire. I’m running out of air. We all are. I want to feel something that I know—as a person in recovery—takes work. It’s not a drink away like it used to be. It’s a long, still look at a snail slurping its way up the side of a fish tank. It’s a stopping of a wheel that is spinning so fast towards burnout and depletion and then a spinning back in the opposite direction towards health. I know how to do this. And I’m here for it. But it takes work. Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s just a spa day away. I mean, that might be a good supporting tool, but it’s just not the full scoop.


So, this is what December is going to be about for me: Connection. Doing the hard work of resisting the “attention economy” during a month that begs for me to indulge in it. Doing the hard work of being still. Doing the hard work of taking a breath. Doing the hard work of feeling actual feelings. Doing the hard work of listening to myself and even my shadow self. Doing the hard work of just listening to my kids and lending them some modeling of a different way to deal with restlessness. Doing the things that bring earned joy.


I don’t feel like doing it alone and, thankfully, this month, I get to be a student too. One of our own members, Viki Kelly-Quirk , will be guiding us through a structured swim in the lake? river? pond? of Connection. Here’s the outline:

Week 1 (Dec 7-Dec 13) Theme: What is connection?

Dig a little deeper into what connection is beyond just the obvious. Try not to get too “out there” and provide evidence-based research into the science of connection, etc.

Week 2 (Dec 14-Dec 20) Theme: Self-awareness

How do we know physically and emotionally that we are connected? How do we know we are not?

Week 3 (Dec 21-Dec 27) Theme: Inconvenient Connecting

How do we stay connected even when it is inconvenient, even when it would feel better to check out … like, say, for instance, during the holidaysssssssss?

Week 4 (Dec 28-Dec 31) Theme: Connecting for the Long Haul

How do we create a feasible, sustainable relationship to connecting? Instead of this becoming a resolution or a goal, how does this become a life style and a non-negotiable? What is the benefit?

Come hang with me. And the snails. The challenge started today and you’ve got a few more hours to register! Click the “Challenges” link in the navigation menu once logged in at mommastrong.com, and make sure you are signed up. If you need help or are unsure of your registration status, email us at help@mommastrong.com.

Belly of the Beast

I accept my body as it is. I really do. It’s been through a lot. It has kept fighting for me, even though sometimes it feels like it is against me. I know this because I am still breathing. I know this because my body has grown and birthed three humans. It has then fed and carried and soothed them. It’s not easy for my body to do these things and to then be also pinned to a desk and a screen in order to make a living. It’s not easy for my body to be a motivational speaker, hostage negotiator, and entertainer (aka a parent), jobs that carry overtime hours that are immeasurable. It’s not easy for my body to live in a concrete jungle when all it wants to do is have open air. It’s not easy for my body to be bent forward, texting and answering and waiting and doing and shouldering. It’s just not easy. And sometimes, when I get dressed into my pjs way too late at night, I catch a glimpse of my belly and I’m like, oh wow. What is going on in there tonight? Sometimes it looks like a drained elephant. Sometimes

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Imagination Station

    I’ve been trying to write an introduction to a book proposal for longer than I care to admit. I keep chasing words like they are pixies adorned with promises they can’t keep. Nothing has felt right.    These pixies keep telling me to write something profound. To make a conclusion. To have a clear path. To be wanted and wise. And they love to speak a poetic truth when I can’t capture it. When I’m bathing a baby. When I’m squabbling about algebra homework. When I am cleaning the rabbit cage. When I am very nearly sound asleep.     Life just keeps happening and I keep saying, tomorrow. I keep believing:  Tomorrow. I keep wanting tomorrow. A break. A blip. A space. And then even when I get it, I’ll be honest, I fill it up with something less than productive. Because what I decide I need at that moment is some escape in the form of faux me time. I realize that I’m not being kind to myself when I say that, as the reality that sits in front of most of us right now is that we have no idea how to sequester productive creative time

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Bad Attitude Approved

  It’s beautiful out today. 73 degrees and blue skies. The best of the best of Texas weather. And I am ashamed to admit that I feel a teensy bit of resentment at the beauty of this day. I also feel some embarrassment in admitting that. I should be grateful. Thank goodness for this warmth and this sun, you know? I mean, just last week—exactly one week ago—Houston was in the middle of an insanely intense “freeze” in which we lost power and water for days on end. Side note: I still don’t have running water and have no idea when I will get it back. And before you think that us Texans are merely wimps who can’t handle some snowy weather, remember that 1) we were unprepared; 2) it was in the single digits; 3) our homes are not built for cold temperatures; 4) the Texas power grid failed; 5) this was worse than any major hurricane I have ever been through and 6) I lost my beloved fish, all three of them (Sushi, Cat, & Fish) plus their snail friends.     Yet, even with all those factors listed out, I’ve been rummaging through my brain as to why

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Invisible Mess

I’ve recently started inexplicably fantasizing about big plans for my backyard. Note: I’m not a gardener. The only plant I have successfully kept alive for longer than a few months is a jalapeño plant, which in Texas is basically The Easiest Thing Ever. I mean, you have to actively work to get them NOT to continue living. But, yet, here I am. Each day, I add another thing to the list: A vegetable garden! A fairy garden for Wyatt! Maybe a Koi pond? Oh, and that compost thing out there, I’ll get that working. AND YES, soil. I’ve got to have a glorious ecosystem out here of bacteria and microorganisms that will just make everything bloom with green, juicy life. I even decided I would rebuild the deck. Ahahahahaha. That last sentence. Hahahahaha. Watch me. In any case, I’ve started with a pair of gloves, a rake, and a clipper thingy for errant branches and such. I’ve raked and pulled weeds at every break in the day, to the point where now I reward myself with a completed D15 by giving myself 15 minutes of raking and pulling and mud. Oh, wonderful mud. Mud full of bugs, frogs, weird snakes that

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Free Yourself

‘Tis the season in which we get bombarded with messaging and marketing about becoming our best selves. Some of the messages we see are direct: Lose weight, be happy! Some of the messages are more coded: It’s finally time to make yourself a priority! At the end of the day, though, both avenues to your fragile post-holiday brain are focused on selling you the idea that this is going to be the year to get shiny and in shape. Maybe it’s even the year to get in control of your life, after a year spent in the throes of a pandemic and a version of the unknown none of us could have predicted. I’ve been in the fitness industry for over two decades and I can tell you that those ideas are not worth pursuing, not now and not ever. I can also predict that this year will be a very lucrative year for wellness companies, as every single person I know—including myself—wants to be shiny and in control of their life in 2021. This may be the year that even the skeptical among us take the bait and hyperfocus on a diet, a new trendy fitness program, a juice

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Snails & Joy

  As I watched a “pandemic-purchased” snail slurp its way up the side of our fish tank last night, I realized it was the first time in a while that I had had sustained attention on something without thinking once about work, or chaos, or my phone, or dinner, or dishes, or all the things. Instead, I was just 100% involved in trying to figure out what is what on the creature’s anatomy. Is that his/her mouth? Wait, are those the eyes? But, what is that part? And then I just got lost in watching this velvety, amorphous living thing and started imagining its tiny heart and its tiny brain and wait does it have a heart? I don’t know. According to Google, it does. And not only that, once you discover snail anatomy, you will be where I was that night by the side of the tank: Utterly in awe. So tiny. So slippery. So fragile. So protected. So much purpose. So not dependent on wifi and gadgets. Hahaha. I walked away from the tank and took a deep breath. I felt calm and inspired, the combination of which made me feel a tinge of sleep-deprived joy. I need

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