Check out my post, “How Team Sports Raise Champions” on Huffington Post today!
Have you ever lost a friend? Was that loss in some ways more painful than the end of a love affair? Women’s friendships so often come to a crossroads at which time two women can try to hold on to the friendship, staying connected, or the friends can take two completely separate paths without each other. Many of the essays in this book are about this moment in time, when both rupture and new beginnings are possible.
There are so many ways that friendships can end, and this book describes 35 of them, from each 35 talented and accomplished contributors. At the heart of each essay is the recognition from each writer that she has lost something very real and very personal, a connection that will never be forgotten.
I am proud to be one of the contributors to this anthology, alongside 34 very talented women writers.
Today, I invite you to pre-order the book which I am sure will hit close to home for many readers
by using my special discount code: EX2014LV.
Pre-order the book and support our mission of sharing women’s voices, one story at a time.
Your autographed copy will be shipped on September 2, 2014, almost two weeks before its official publication date of September 15.
Pre-release sales profits will be spent on publishing and marketing expenses and on building our HerStories Project community.
I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.
I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.
I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.
I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next twenty-one years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?
You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.
They came to this country with only the clothes on their back and a light of hope in their hearts that the strongest gust of wind couldn’t extinguish. They walked away from all they knew for the promise of freedom. They left it all behind for visions of a better future for themselves, but more importantly for their children. Those brave souls made huge sacrifices for myself and my siblings, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for them…my parents. As with anything or anyone we leave behind, no longer accessible to us, we don’t fully bid farewell. We still carry with us a little something that will remind us of times we will never again experience.
My parents may have bid farewell to their homes, their families and friends, and the island they called home, but they held on to their language, clothing themselves in it like a well-worn pair of jeans, slipping into it and feeling the comfort of the fabric as it wrapped them in the many memories of their history and home. While my parents learned the English language of their new country, in our home, we were encouraged to speak our native language. Around the dinner table, we slipped into it easily without even realizing it. At family gatherings, children and grown ups alike easily conversed in the Spanish sounds of a faraway land.
I may not have understood my parents adamant rules on embracing our native language, but nowadays I see things clearly. Being fully bilingual has opened doors for me in many areas of my life from career opportunities to lifelong friendships. I can easily slip from English to Spanish and back again in the blink of an eye, often amazing those around me with the ease in which I do so and begging the question, “Do you think in the language you speak or do you think in one language and translate in your mind before speaking?” To answer the question, I think in Spanish when I speak in Spanish. I think in English when I speak in English. There’s no rhyme or reason to my language of choice. I prefer to read in English rather than Spanish. I more often dream in English than I do in Spanish. However, when I pray I find I slip easily into a Spanish conversation with God…possibly because I was taught to pray in Spanish. My conversations with my mom are conducted in Spanish more often than English.
An article titled, How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain, at About.com discusses this in further detail. According to a growing body of research, not only does speaking two languages not confuse people or slow their learning in other areas, it may actually improve your brain—carrying benefits that go far beyond communication. According to Ellen Bialystok, an internationally known psychologist and distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, there is overwhelming evidence that being truly bilingual—speaking two languages and using them regularly—will improve your brain. For bilingual people, both languages are “always on,” always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment.
All scientific research aside, I am grateful my parents encouraged me to embrace our native language. I have personally witnessed those who believe everyone should speak English as it is the universal language, and frown upon those who don’t. I have personally experienced people being offended when they do not understand a conversation being conducted near them, in a language they do not understand. Thanks to my parents, when I am around someone speaking their native language, I keep in mind that those words may be the only familiar thing they still carry with them. It may be the only remnant of their homeland, helping them keep their history alive while they make a new home and create a new history in a foreign land. And, I remember what it feels like to slip into my favorite pair of well-worn jeans, the comfort they provide, each tear a memory that no amount of fading can completely erase.
If you are bilingual, do you think in one language and translate to another
or do you think in the language you speak?
Happy 12th Birthday, Olivia!
Dear Olivia Rose,
Twelve years ago you entered the world and as I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes, I once again voiced the many promises I had been whispering for months as I gently rubbed my growing belly. I promised to always love you with all my heart. I promised you would never be alone in this great big, complicated world of ours. I promised to love you unconditionally, and I promised to guide you on your life’s journey in the best way I know how.
You are turning into an amazing young girl full of wonder and imagination, full of compassion and love, full of hopes and dreams. In all the promises I’ve made to you, the one thing I couldn’t promise – I can’t promise – is to shield you from the doubts and fears the world will create in you.
When we take our long walks on the beach, both in awe of the amazing untouched beauty that surrounds us, I often wish I could keep you in this protective bubble of endless sea, a world in which human nature and life experiences can’t dull your spirit.
However, if I did that there is so much you would miss out on, so I shall continue to walk by your side through all that is in store for you – walking ahead when you need guidance and falling behind when you need to face the world on your own. I do promise to always remain present on your walk, understanding it is your walk and your walk alone, and all I can do is offer my love and my wisdom.
As you continue to grow and mature, my hope is that you walk through life the way you walk along the shores, eagerly searching for sea glass. I hope you never lose your sense of adventure, always imagining possibilities beyond anyone’s expectations or jaded views. I hope you comb the earth for hidden treasures and view the world as a vessel of sea glass waiting to be discovered. Each person you cross paths with a treasure, whether they’ve been smoothly polished from tumbling around or a bit rough around the edges. Each has something to offer you. Do not be quick to discard them.
As you travel, I hope you embrace the many colors you will encounter on your walk and understand the world isn’t always black and white. I hope you learn the lesson intended for you when you expectantly reach for a piece only to be hurt by its sharp point. Learn the lesson and move on. Do not let it stop you from continuing to search for the beauty that lies in wait. Never give up hope. Sometimes the most beautiful pieces are buried a bit under a layer of sand. Do not be afraid to dig a little deeper. There will be times when facing your fear of what lies down the path you are on is the bravest thing you will do. The reward will be great and the experience the greatest treasure you will ever uncover.
As I walk a few steps behind you, I can’t help but hope that you will always see yourself through my eyes because I see a beautiful young girl both inside and out with so much to offer this world. I see an intelligent young girl who is practical and wise beyond her years, but also one who refuses to close her mind to a carefree world of imagination and possibility.
My hope for you is that you never let the obstacles that lay in your path change you, but mostly that you take your time and treasure your walk one step at a time.
And, whenever you find yourself needing company, know that I’m always up for a walk.
“If you think back and replay your year and you don’t recall tears either sad or happy consider your year a waste.”
This line has stuck with me for some time. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I’ve carried its meaning with me each year as I’ve looked back at my life and the string of moments that are now in my past. Moments I may not have fully appreciated at the time and others I vaguely recall fleetingly passing through time…my time, my year, my life. As is often the case, life’s little moments present the biggest lessons but too often we are so caught up in what we are feeling in that particular moment that we miss the full essence of its significance. The present moment stirs up emotions that slowly roll over our heart and mind like a cloud cluster across an expanse of sky blocking the light that could bathe us in warmth and wisdom. It is only when the clouds move on that we look back, not knowing what we are seeking but sure we’ve missed something meaningful.
Thus, if I could give my younger self a bit of guidance now that I’ve had some time to deposit moments in my memory bank, I would share the following.
- Life isn’t always what it appears to be. Always take a moment to look beneath the surface. It is when you dig a little deeper that treasures are discovered.
- There are moments when your heart will break into a million pieces. Know that another moment will arrive that will put those pieces back together and you will be the better for it.
- The moment you think you can’t do something is the moment you’ve allowed someone else’s negativity to cloud your judgment. Believe in yourself.
- There will be moments when your heart will burst with love. Cherish them. These are the moments worth living for.
- At times it will feel like you’re drowning, kicking your legs, burning your lungs, clawing at the surface. Keep going because the moment where you can shoot out of the deep water and break the surface, filling your lungs with air and feeling the sun on your face once more isn’t as far off as it seems.
- There will be moments when you will be so proud of your accomplishments, you will want to share them with the world. Share them and bask in the glory, never forgetting the journey that got you there.
- The moment will undoubtedly arrive, likely more than once, when you will be paralyzed by fear. Do not let fear dictate your outcome. Pray. Listen to your heart. Choose a direction. Take the first step.
- If the moment ever comes when you have to choose whether to forgive or forget, understand that the two do not go hand in hand. You can forgive without forgetting.
- You will have regrets. Do not let them define you.
- Moments of failure are necessary in life. In order to be a winner, you have to understand what it’s like to be a loser.
Contrary to popular belief, filling your bank account with money shouldn’t be your ultimate goal in life. Money may make some aspects of your life more comfortable, give you a sense of security, and maybe provide some experiences you might not have otherwise. However a memory bank full of moments and each tiny detail that makes up a single moment in time is definitely worth your effort. Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to fill your memory bank with “moments.” Good or bad, each moment will be one of many of life’s valuable experiences. It will be scary sometimes to think of what the future holds, but know that it will be filled with many many moments…some of which you will learn a painful lesson from and some of which you will want to relive over and over again. Just know that a memory bank full of “moments” will be more valuable than gold when you get older.
Every time I turn around, I stumble across another viral post whose sole purpose is to get an important message across. The author wants the masses to lean in a bit, cup their ears, and listen…truly listen to what she has to say. And, in a world crawling with people hunched over devices, hungrily devouring more and more useless information throughout their day, what then does it take to get them to listen?
You may have come across the most recent article to have gone viral, EMBRACE – The Documentary. If your news feed looks anything like mine, numerous friends and family members have shared it.
“Body Image Movement’s job is to harness and facilitate positive body image activism by encouraging women to be more accepting of who they are, to use positive language regarding their bodies and others, and to prioritise health before beauty. Our goal is to reach as many women as possible around the world and speak to them about how we can learn to fully embrace and love our bodies.” – Taryn Brumfitt
Taryn, or as she lovingly refers to herself, Taz, had an epiphany while considering a little lift here and a little tuck there. Tired of the pressure to look a certain way, tired of preaching the importance of loving your body to her daughter yet hypocritically wishing her own breasts were a bit more perky and her tummy flatter, she took a long hard look at herself and decided to make a change.
She posted before and after photos of herself like the internet had never seen…her before shot was what many strive for as their after shot. Her after shot is of her as naked as the day she entered this world, before the pressures to look a certain way had begun to slowly seep into every cell of her being. Sound familiar?
IT GOT PEOPLE’S ATTENTION.
Without having to look up from their devices, people started leaning in, cupping their ears, listening.
Beth Whaanga’s, Under The Red Dress photos stirred up some attention as well. When she asked commercial photographer, Nadia Masot to capture her naked body marked with scars from a double mastectomy, as well as a hysterectomy, lymphadenectomy and melanoma lumpectomies, she wanted people to listen. She obviously believed the best way to do that was to get naked, show the world her scars, hopefully drawing their attention to the importance of taking care of their bodies as well as supporting those clothed in their own battle scars.
There are other articles floating across social media where people are getting naked and being heard. Brooke Birmingham refused to put her shirt back on when Shape Magazine allegedly refused to show her photo in a bikini after losing 172 pounds. (I get that she wasn’t completely naked, but you get my drift). The magazine had approached her about running her weight loss story, but after seeing her in a bikini allegedly refused to show her photo citing editorial policy.
“If anything, they should want my picture on their site,” she wrote. “My body is real, not photoshopped or hidden because I feel like I should be ashamed. This is a body after losing 172 pounds, a body that has done amazing things, and looks AMAZING in a freaking bikini.” – Brooke Birmingham
We’ve since learned it was all just a misunderstanding (wink wink) and the magazine has recently committed to feature Brooke in an upcoming issue – as well as other women with similar weight loss journeys who have nothing to hide.
These instances then beg the question, “Do we have to get naked to be heard?”
It seems to me, given most of those getting naked are women there may be an underlying issue here. As women, do we have to shock people in order to be heard or does gender not play a role here at all?
Is it just a matter of a world saturated with so much information 24/7 that the only way to get someone’s attention is to bare it all?
Perhaps, many of us are craving a more basic being, finding the need to strip away all the pressures forced upon us to be someone else…to be more, always more.
Then again, maybe, just maybe the few of us who have reached this state of acceptance simply long for others to experience the freedom.
What do you think?
I admit it. I’m a dreamer. I love to lose myself in visions I’ve meticulously created, each detail sewn together with the delicate point of my mind’s needle. I move right in to this mind palace of moments, dreams, and memories and as I stroll up and down each hallway filled with images, I pause and focus on my surroundings. I soak it all up with unquenchable thirst and turn each corner in search of more, always in search of more. Each room holds the mystery of the future and yet turning the knob and pushing the door open is an action as familiar to me as the hand that reaches for the switch that will bathe me in light.
And much like the lines on this aging hand, past, present and future all reside in this universe. Each thrives separately, yet I am often surprised by the repetitive pattern I sometimes encounter. Like paintings lingering on these corridor walls, the same hopes and dreams resurface time and time again. The same mistakes make multiple appearances. One hallway meets another and then another, each turn can either take me back in time or propel me into a future I long for without providing direction on how to reach it. Inevitably, I reach a crossroad at the end of this inner road and find myself turning my head to either side, squinting in hopes of catching a glimpse of what each hallway holds – a hint of how many doors await in either direction.
I turn to the right hoping it is the right choice, all the while doubting myself and simultaneously lighting the adventurous spark within me. I want to move forward, continue in search of…of what exactly? I take a step back and turn to the left wondering if by a simple process of elimination this is the right direction. I stand rooted to the ground, hesitant to make a decision, unwilling to lift my foot and take that step. Moving in either direction doesn’t bring a sense of comfort so I stand as seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours. I lean my head toward the ceiling, eyes closed and will myself to make a decision, choose a direction.
I can’t. I take a deep breath, slowly lower my head and gradually open my eyes. I am amazed at what I see as a complete sense of calm envelopes me. Before me is the most picturesque garden right outside the small round window that greets me. How did I miss this? How did I not see such beauty and tranquility right before my very eyes? Was I so focused on choosing a direction that I overlooked the wonder that stood before me, patiently waiting to be acknowledged?
We sometimes find ourselves at stages in our life where we feel compelled, pressured to make a decision one way or another.
We believe we must act quickly for fear we will miss out. And yet, sometimes the best decision is to just be still.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? How did you handle it?
The Mom Cafe’s official review of Red Circle Days took MY breath away!
Check it out and comment to be entered to win your own, signed copy!
Two winners will be chosen at random on Friday, April 4th!
Today I am introducing you to a writer who has taken my breath away over and over again with her words…her powerful themes…and passionate messages. Leah Vidal is a gifted soul, who blogs over at Little Miss Wordy. If you haven’t received her profound gift via her blog, you will be happy to know that she also authored a beautiful book titled, “Red Circle Days”.
Oh my heart…
“Red Circle Days” is one of those books you want to linger in for long. I did just that. One chapter slowly read, absorbed…processed…to then conclude my journey with a deep resounding “Aha moment.” I love books like this, that provide such a powerful purpose.
Each chapter shares a story, an anecdote about her life where she transports us to her world full of memories and significant moments that mark something profound for her…and eventually for us too. She captures a palpable substance that threads through her words as her perspective enlightens the reader from a different angle. Life’s observations can either ignite a passion or a purpose… and Leah seems to be able to successfully embrace both.
At the end of every chapter, Leah asks her readers a question that takes a pivotal turn back to their own life, their purpose, their moments. She presents herself as personal and she reveals private reflections that exhibit an open willingness to reach out and touch the reader with lessons learned, insights gleamed and new observations awakened.
Some of my favorite ‘book moments’ include a few lines that have left an imprint on my heart:
“Why do you wear that?”
-Taken from the chapter that resonates so deeply with me, Leah shares a phrase her “friend likes to use when someone comes to her whining about something someone else said or complaining about someone else’s behavior.”
She goes on to share this truth:
“On a daily basis, we run into people who say something hurtful or critical. Some of us have people in our lives that are a reliable source for pointing out just what we are doing wrong…. “Issues” or “jabs” that we are so affected by aren’t ours… “Someone else” made the decision to carry them. “Someone else” made the decision to fashion that stuff down the runway, not us.”
Oh, how I love this insight! How many of us ‘wear’ someone else’s opinions? We can choose to take them off, send them back, and keep our own wardrobe! Removing those layers would certainly be like striping off filthy pieces of clothing that weren’t ours to begin with anyway.
It’s a beautiful perspective, isn’t it?
Another chapter that still echoes in my mind and tugs at my heart:
“All Grown Up”
Leah takes us into the hospital room of her dying father’s request to be home among his beloved family. Leah claims this to be the day she had ‘grown up’, taking on the responsibility and sheer determination to get her father where he needed to be… home. After she “Made all the necessary arrangements to transport him home”, he was ambulanced back to his loved ones surrounding him…
And after asking if all of his precious family was there, “he took a deep breath and finally went home.”
Leah describes this as the moment she grew up, a daughter able to fulfill her father’s last wish.
Oh my heart…
Each chapter calls for us to pause and linger…
These are just two “Red Circle Days” of many in this beautiful book. It’s worth the read. Promise.
You can go here to purchase your own copy, stick it in your car, your bag, or your purse- and take it out whenever you have a moment to linger.
JOB TITLE : FAT PERSONAL TRAINER
JOB TYPE: Personal Training
Position Type: Full-Time Regular
To provide a comprehensive one-on-one educational fitness program to assist client in REALISTICALLY achieving their fitness goals without spending half a day at the gym EVERY day and eating like an effing bird. Those who can currently eat their weight in bread and not gain an ounce need not apply. You’ll just piss off the interviewer.
As a FAT PERSONAL TRAINER, it is your responsibility to provide a comprehensive one-on-one health fitness program through realistic goal setting and education. Produce independent exercises by providing the client in-depth information on equipment usage,
lifestyle management how to quit stuffing their face, and ultimately how to shake the fatty mentality that is ever present outside the gym.
The qualified FAT PERSONAL TRAINER must possess at least five years experience and hold a personal training certificate from a recognized provider or a bachelor’s degree in a sport and fitness-related field. Trainers without either must acquire a certification within six months of their hire date. Certificates are nice, but the most important requirement is that the trainer was fat at some point in their life and is now at a healthy weight in order to truly relate to their fat clients and their lifelong struggle with fitness and diet. The more years of experience the applicant has had as a fat person, the better the chances of getting the job.
DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES:
1. Responsible for understanding what it’s like to have a bad day and crave a tub of Ben & Jerry’s to make it better.
2. Attend all in-service trainings and meetings.
3. Able to understand the overwhelming wave of guilt that immediately follows said face in ice cream session.
4. Accurately record client-training sessions for payment purposes.
5. Must be able to relate to the dreaded daily morning weigh in, butt naked so as to not add another ounce, eyes squeezed shut, praying the Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t registered quite yet giving client enough time to burn it off before the next workout.
6. Given the need to relate to above, FAT PERSONAL TRAINER must not possess a metabolism that burns off calories like popcorn kernels hitting the sun’s surface. Skinny Minnies need not apply.
7. Conduct personal training sessions within the policies and guidelines established.
8. Set realistic goals. Be aware of client’s realistic beach body not the one health magazines keep promising on their front covers. There will be major imperfections that will be glaring in a swimsuit The goal is really to disguise those with a good tan, while feeling good mentally about having hit the gym for that “beach body.”
9. Successfully complete and update CPR and first aid training (for those times when client will look like they are about to go into cardiac arrest in the middle of a workout) CPR will likely not be necessary, but client will feel better knowing FAT PERSONAL TRAINER is prepared.
10. Be understanding when client decides to reward their hard work all week with a glass of wine on a Friday night.
11. Be punctual and conduct yourself in a professional manner.
12. Be even more understanding when client explains how that one glass turned into two bottles.
13. Maintain personal training certification through continuing education. Really, just continue to recall your fatty days and be sympathetic.
14. Ideal candidate will understand client’s daily struggle to stay on track and have a life too in an industry full of unrealistic role models, going to extremes to maintain an impossible fitness schedule, while living off air and water.
15. FAT PERSONAL TRAINER must be able to hear the fat little voice in the back of client’s head that is constantly telling them they’re just a Big Mac away from being fat again.