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I’m joining fellow bloggers Jeri and Mommy in a meme about a song that instantly transports you to a very specific time or place. Here’s my contribution:

I was seven and just a tiny, little thing. Honestly, if I say I weighted 50 lbs that may be stretching it. It’s summer, August, I think. A typical hot, humid, sunny New England summer day. I was barefoot and wearing my green bikini, the one with the tiny pink flowers. My hair was in pigtails I was learning to do myself.

I was in the backyard playing with my stepbrother, Michael. We were ‘bowling’. Actually, more like rolling a wiffle ball at a pyramid of empty soda cans. The other kids were around, but we were the only ones playing this game. When the ball rolled passed the cans and under a bush at the edge of the woods, Michael, being the elder, sent me. He was really tall, anyway.

I knelt to retrieve the ball that was just beyond my reach and partly hidden by the previous winter’s dried and crunchy oak leaves. I stretched a little farther and grabbed hold of it. Michael was across from me, the bush between us. Suddenly there was commotion, loud buzzing and Michael – screaming and running away from me and deeper into the woods.

I yelled, “Wait! Michael?!” Then I saw the first one. A very angry yellow jacket buzzing at my left shoulder. I froze. That’s what we’re all taught to do, right? “Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.” Sound familiar? Anyway – back to the bee buzzing at my left shoulder and Michael shrieking and running around. I froze and the bee stung me anyway. When I looked up and in front of me I was aware, for the first time, of the swarm – furiously seeking the cause of their displacement. (that be me … oh boy!)

Out of fear of being left alone, I ran. I passed through the angry, buzzing hive once – trying to reach Michael who was still (I’m not kidding) running, flailing, screaming. I passed back through the hive – this time, afraid of being lost in the woods. I felt strongly about returning to the yard.

At this point my dad heard the ruckus and wanted to know, “What is going on over there?” I can still see him standing there in his white tee-shirt, cut-off jeans and the red bandana (forever) tied around his forehead to slow the sweat before it inevitably leaked into his eyes.

I was, by this time, standing on a pile of yard rubble at the edge of the woods. I remember seeing a shard of green glass dangerously near my shoeless right foot. To my dad I reply, “I dunno …” complete with double shoulder shrug, just as Michael ran screaming toward him, “Bees! Bees! They’re all over me!” Quite literally, they had stuck to him. Wherever they stung, they stuck. He had quite a few, too. (Overall I was stung 9 times, not sure what Mike’s total was)

Flash forward.

I’m on the ladder of the pool, in the shallow end. Dad and Marilyn (his wife & Michael’s mom) think I should wash the stingers off in the pool. Thankfully, the bees did not attach themselves to me and just left their little stingers behind. Typically, I was a fish in the water, but this time was different. I couldn’t let go of the ladder. The water was freezing, Arctic cold. They didn’t make me let go.

Flash forward.

We’re all in the kitchen now. I’m standing, holding the door handle to the fridge. Dad was standing near me and Marilyn was sitting at the table. “How do you feel?”, they ask. “Fine,” I reply, just as the fridge melted and swirled and swallowed me up.

Flash forward.

Daddy’s driving the car, Marilyn is cradling me in her lap. And Michael? (What do you think?) Screaming in the backseat! I was semi-conscious and THAT is when I heard the song: “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”  by War. At that moment I remember thinking it was an ironic message that me and the bees should get along. I have rarely heard that song since, but when I have, it instantly recreates that day for me.

To wrap up my tale, I ended up convulsing there in the car, which apparently freaked everyone out, so they immediately turned around and brought me home to call an ambulance. (911 in 1975? I don’t think so …) I woke up on a seemingly huge, red beach towel in the driveway. I made it to the hospital and was released after 3 days. I carry an epipen to this day.

This is my song story and the first time I’ve ever written it!

Here’s another writing exercise 

Pretend/imagine I am a goat that has been separated from the rest of my goat community. I’m lost in the wilderness, stumbling around. In my panic I am pricked on the thorn of a honey locust, which contrary to its sweet name, is very nasty. The wound is deep and in my little goat mind, I realize I will probably bleed to death, alone in this wilderness. This realization brings the undeniable need to express myself in the hour of my death.          What are my final words?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

(my initial reaction to the assignment) Really? I’m a goat? But goats smell so badly and I am absurdly aware of all odors pleasant and particularly those not so. I wonder if I can be something else … something other than a (smelly) goat? (alas – this is not the point of this exercise) Let’s give this a try:

Here as I make myself as comfortable as I can in this harsh, unforgiving wilderness that I am soon to mark as my final resting place, the following (random) thoughts come to mind and heart. Hopefully there will be a few words that make you think, feel and maybe even desire to keep with you.

On my dying day I can say that I tried at life. I am quite proud, actually, of my efforts.

To my kids I say, as I often have, “I looove you, looove you, looove you … ”  You two are the main reasons I tried so hard. Honestly, you gave my life such meaning and purpose. I needed you to see a life well-lived. It certainly was not one filled with world-altering accomplishment. It was not one that received praise, accolades and awards. But it was a life full of love and learning, growing, stretching and reaching. I taught not to be afraid to fail. Those are the most impactful lessons of all. It is humbling to try and to fail. It is even more humbling to try and to succeed. Learn from every moment.

I have lived honestly with myself. In my experience, when I have been alone with my truth was when I most clearly had to accept the reality of my choices and what I had created. To lie to myself was unforgivable. Alone with my truth was my opportunity to learn and grow. My message to you? Own your truth and accept it so you can learn from it.

Okay. So, I’m dying. I’m dying and writing. What do I want you to know? About me? Not so much. But I have lived and observed some and these are the things I want to share during the final moments of my short goat life. (I have always fancied myself an intuitive, insightful goat.)

I’ve learned it truly is better to give than to receive. (Okay – get over the lame expression and listen. I’m dying here and don’t have much time!) Giving is receiving in disguise. To give from a place that is not seeking return is its own reward. No matter how big or small the gesture, the end result for the giver is to always be better for the act.

Our culture is not lacking in kindness and giving. I see it everywhere, because I look for it. The raucous and overbearing engine that is ‘the media’ has chosen to amplify, has overexposed much, if not all of what is wrong in our world. Don’t believe the bad outweighs the good. That is what they want you believe. Goodness, kindness and generosity are all around us and you will find it if you look.

I have lived not long enough if I am going now, though I do not leave with regret. They, those that are my goat community, they know my love for them because I took the time to share myself, my thoughts and my feelings with them when we had the luxury of seemingly endless time. They know the joy they have brought to my heart and how they have enriched my personal experience. Keep it. My love is yours to hold now.

It’s a writing exercise

I bought this book, “Now Write!” Nonfiction Memoir, Journalism, and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers. Edited by Sherry Ellis.

The first exercise is to write about three things that stopped me in my tracks. Then, I am to find out what they have in common and write about that. I like this first entry so I’m posting it. As is. (When I get to the second part of this exercise, maybe I’ll post that, too)

@ Z’s hockey game … J&B are with me – but they are off with their friends. I am alone.
I have a good spot and my new camera.

There’s a man near me – to my right. His presence is heavy.
I catch glimpses of him – sooo not my type. He has about 8 – 10 years on me. (I’m shooting for my age this time around) He’s wearing an ill-fitted white ball cap and a (very dated/80’s) brown leather jacket with too short sleeves. I don’t dare look down to the pants & shoes … I’ll just say he’s no fashionista.

Fantastic eyes
blue – green
sparkly, mischievous … inviting

He smelled like alcohol
He’s married

It could have been serendipity – it wasn’t.
He’s married – he’s funny – he’s charming – he’s inquisitive.
He smelled like alcohol.
He hinted – very subtly alluded, gestured with a look.

I was witty, funny, charming, guarded.

I could have – we could have
if only I would have
he stood by the door – held it open, just slightly, subtly nodding in “that” direction.

I saw it in his eyes first.
The energy. It was a quiet, low-frequency buzzzzz.
When I felt that buzz I looked to see if it was truly there. It was.
It was there in his eyes, that look that said: “let’s”
It was present in his crooked, mischief smirk – an unspoken invitation.

I was tempted.
It felt familiar.
It would have been redundant.

I declined, respectfully.
“Thanks, but no. I’ve been here with ‘you’, before.” Alcohol, married, thrilling, fun – inevitable hurt – guaranteed pain in my heart.

That’s what stopped me in my tracks.

[To sum up this entry, I feel the need to explain further. During the hour or so that we chatted and laughed I learned that we could have gone for drinks, learned things about each other and so forth. I did not mean to imply that we were about to have a go at it in the parking lot. Just to clarify.]

Can you hear me?

I haven’t found my voice. My writing voice that is.

What do I want to say? [According to the ‘About’ section in my blog, I wasn’t planning on struggling to find topics to discuss …silly, naïve me]

It’s so odd that I struggle to find words. My mouth is always at the ready. My brain runs at a non-stop, at times, frenetic pace. And yet, I sit here and wonder, “What do I want to say?”

At some point, I hope my writings are found to be interesting and entertaining. Possibly even thought-provoking. In particular, ones that inspire others, like you, to comment and leave your thoughts about my thoughts, in writing.

If I keep writing I know I’ll eventually find my way. And so I shall do just that.

I am raising boys and I love it. They are my first and second purpose in this life. I realized this with a confidence and assuredness that was new to me the first time I felt my baby move. It was cathartic in that I instantly knew this was one of my main purposes in life. I was 26 and married and felt like I had done things ‘in the right order’. We owned a home, he was planned. (Both of my boys were. Far too few of us can say that. I wonder what that number is?)

Up until that point I had floundered with career choices, always searching and trying, yet feeling uncertain I would ever find what I was looking for. Then one day I felt it, the good swift kick I needed. My baby moved and it changed everything for me. My focus was now on this human being I was growing. I had purpose.

Fast forward 15 years and I am now the proud mother of two teenage boys. My youngest is 13. They are <wink,wink> charming. It is exhausting and overwhelming and frightening. It is fulfilling, rewarding and joyous. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the obvious that the former is much more frequent than the latter.

There have been so many phases and stages that we’ve been through together. Me and my boys. We three have always shared such a connectedness. My children didn’t go to daycare because I couldn’t part with them. I could not imagine allowing another person the honor of witnessing my children’s firsts – those were mine to have – and I had them. I am forever grateful for the images seared in my memory and for the love that has plumped out my heart.

Now they are teens and don’t want me as much. They don’t want to admit that they need me, so they push hard. I’m still learning what our boundaries are in this stage. It feels much different from the changes they grew through as smaller children. Today’s interactions seem to have more bearing, they feel like they weigh even more than the earlier ones. I keep my mind open to their opinions and show genuine respect (that I feel) for them while remaining the leader of this pack. It’s a very interesting dynamic when your children grow to have 6 or more inches on you and outweigh you by 45 pounds and yet, they’re still children. It’s humbling.

Being a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done and continue to do and will never be something I don’t do. It is integral to who I am, which is a better person for it all. The sleepless nights and the worry over everything from meningitis to aliens. I am a better person for having sacrificed my selfish self for my boys who need me to be fully present, possibly for the rest of my life. And for that I am very grateful.

Facebook scares me

I’ve always been reluctant to join internet networking sites. Putting my life ‘out there’ has always made me a bit uncomfortable. Besides, who wants to know? If I had a LinkedIn profile, what would it say? “Originator of 2 teenage boys and a mortgage … “

I shudder at the thought of people from anywhere in the world stumbling upon my life and learning more than I would tell them in person. Peeping in, like Tom. Admittedly, I’ve been curious about these sites, too. In some of my more vulnerable moments I’ve anonymously searched for people I know well and those that I barely know at all. Peeping in, like Tom.

Recently and reluctantly, I chose to join Facebook. My brown eyes wide open. I really wanted to know what goes on in there, like it’s a place people go and I just walk by. Apparently I am missing something, yes?

Not surprisingly, I found it rather overwhelming at first. There were so many personal-profile-privacy-settings to look at, check and un-check, post, submit and save. Oy. Then I had to view my profile – to be certain it appeared as promised. Even then …. a little sketchy …

Am I in the minority in these feelings of overexposure by participating like this? My guess is that the level at which one is comfortable with the exposure is closely linked to their age. My kids have Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Xbox … it’s a social norm, for them. Me? I was tickled when I started texting. (I am in love with text!)

On Facebook I have my settings kept between Only Me and Friends. Rarely do I have Friends of Friends set and I think I’d lose sleep if I even considered using the Everyone option. Baby steps.

Eventually, if given a good enough reason, I might loosen my grip – slightly.

Welcome to my first blog entry. Though I’ve spoken of writing and posting to a few folks, I haven’t told them that I’ve actually posted. I’m keeping that between us, for now at least. 

A brief intro … I am a female and 40 (‘ish). Mother to two, #1 is 15 years old and #2 is 13 years old. They are men in the making. I’ve been tossing around things to write about and I think I’ll stick with things I know. It only makes sense. So I’m starting with something fitness related, as that is what I do for a living. 

So, let’s give this thing a whirl, shall we? 

I’ve been in the fitness industry for a little over 10 years. I started as a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness instructor. I’ve moved on to management and am running a 25,000 square foot facility that has about 900 members. I love what I do. Not every minute, but most of them. It’s challenging, demanding, requires creativity, is fun and I find it personally rewarding. 

In keeping with this, the resolution season, I’d like to share information that I think might be helpful to those of you that struggle to maintain a fitness routine. 

Healthy eating, exercising, getting enough rest and having fun is, in a nutshell: A Lifestyle. Think about it. You live your life each day. You get up at a certain time in the morning and you go to bed at a similar time each night. Your food choices are pretty consistent from week to week. You may be active or you might not be, you have friends (hopefully) and social activities and so on. Your lifestyle is basically who you are, it’s how you roll. 

So there may be some parts of your lifestyle that you’d like to see improved, changed or completely overhauled. For many of us, the instinct to take the path of least resistence, combined with modern conveniences and the  24 / 7 availability of  Taco Bell has added up to a few extra LBs with a side of little-to-no physical exertion. It’s called your lifestyle people. 

Before you set out to change your lifestyle, take a look at this (thankfully) short list. 

  • The desire to change needs to come from a place deep inside you. The place that speaks your truth so that when you hear it, you have to own it. (U: What if I’m not hearing anything? Me: Generally, I’d say not hearing voices is a good thing, specific to this article, you can still achieve your goals and I will shed light there shortly.)
  •  

  • Make your goal about something other than weight loss. (U: Are you kidding? Me: Not at this time.)
  •  

  • Seek sound advice from professionals in the industry. (U: Where are these folks? Me: I’ll hook you up.)
  •  

  • Have patience. (U: It’s overrated. I want results last week! Me: Seriously? It took you a while to create and maintain this lifestyle, honey. It’s gonna take a few minutes to create a new one, ok?!)
  •  

  • Find physical activities that you enjoy. Fitness should be fun. (U: Yeah, right? Me: Wait, I’ve got ideas!)
  •  

    Ok, now a few details on the items above. 

    You can’t change anything about you unless it’s for you. Pretty much, it needs to be your idea, otherwise it just stinks. Reflect for a moment on the times you’ve attempted to do things for others – quit smoking, go to church, stop swearing … my goodness we are a swarthy bunch! But really, whatever you want to change about your lifestyle has to be of your desire and not the hopes of others. 

    In the absence of this true desire on your part, I say give it a shot anyway! I’ve seen folks come into the club like they’d been kidnapped & stuffed in a trunk, then tossed into the lobby while the perps sped away. They weren’t exactly open to the experience. 

    Once our staff gets these folks properly directed though, this person starts to see results and rather quickly, I might add.  (Let’s face it, some of them are at death’s door,  any physical activity is bound to bring some color to their cheeks.) And then it happens. They hear their truth and feel their desire to own this change for themselves and not for their kidnappers or their doctors. It’s real and about them gaining some control in an area that has lacked that feeling for far too long. 

    Your goal(s) should be achievable and realistic. Losing 100 pounds is a solid idea, but more important is the act of improving your cholesterol levels and reducing your blood pressure meds. I have found that people are more successful when they don’t focus on weight loss as their primary goal, but rather they choose health related benchmarks or activities they want to take part in. Weight loss will happen as a result of your choices. 

    The big goal of living healthier needs to be broken down into parts that you can manage. By working with professionals, you will learn the best way for you to start the journey of a new and improved lifestyle. Most of us in this industry are helpers. What can be said about the majority of certified fitness professionals is that they have a genuine desire to help people live healthy, high quality lifestyles. Most of us are  living these lifestyles now and therefore know the rewards of doing so. We are a ‘shareful’ breed and we want you to join us. 

    Check out: www.acefitness.org to find certified fitness professionals in your area. www.weightwatchers.com also has some great lifestyle information as it relates to nutrition, and www.realage.com is a great site for all kinds of health and fitness information. 

    Patience is required. Results measured in LBs is frustrating. Some days you are down and others you are up. Weight loss itself is only one very small way to measure the success of your changes. So have patience and don’t give up when the scale says the same number all week, your inner physiology is responding and rejuvenating and is not bragging about it, either! 

    Finally, I say find activities that are fun to you. I run a multi-purpose facility with everything from swimming to group fitness to basketball and racquetball. We have equipment and more equipment. It’s all about finding what you enjoy. Be creative. We have a group that comes in with a soccer ball and cones and plays a mini-soccer game on the basketball court. We also have Small Group Training that creates friendships and challenges members at levels they didn’t know they were capable of – all at affordable group rates versus private one-one pricing. Group fitness is a wonderful motivator and helps you to connect with others, which makes it something to look forward to next time. 

    In summary, embrace the idea that a fit, healthy body requires ongoing effort and is the result of a conscious lifestyle. Small choices become healthy habits when repeated a few times. Base your choices on your health and your appearance will naturally follow your inner lead. 

    Please comment, question & suggest! Post them for all to see. If you’d like to contact me privately, You can reach me at: NinaWrites@cox.net