If you want to know what it feels like to get naked in public….

Write the most honest thing you know how to write about something shitty that happened to you, even if (especially if) that shitty thing wasn’t actually earth-shatteringly tragic. Vomit up all the words and then revise them so many times you don’t know if anything you wrote makes sense or is even remotely good but submit it to an editor anyway. Wonder if your words (read: heart) went into an abyss or her actual inbox. Wait for her to reject it, not because you have such low self-esteem, but because that’s just how writing is. Forget about it entirely until you remember again and bug the editor, like “Did you get it? Do you want it?” only way more professional than that. Be elated when she says “We want to publish this.” Count the days till publication. When it is actually published feel a little sick because it is out there and anyone, everyone, can read it.

My essay, Twelve Truths About My Life With Bell’s Palsy is up on Longreads. You can click here to read it.

Like being naked in public, it’s scary at first, but then you get used to it and it’s fine. (Unless you’re at the Wind River Reservoir on a hot July day and just when you’re feeling super relaxed in the water, a park ranger comes to tell your husband his wife needs to put some clothes on because there’s a family who wants to picnic on the beach and nudity is not permitted, in which case it is not fine at all.)

 

Bell's Palsy

illustration credit: Hannah Perry

Real moms, real stories

I was catching up with an old friend over the phone recently.

“You have everything together,” she remarked.

I nearly choked. “What!?”

According to Facebook and my blog, apparently I look like I know what I’m doing. The truth is, I’m making everything up as I go along.

One of the greatest shocks of my adult life is that, at 38 years old, I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, and that grown-ups don’t actually have all the answers.

I went to graduate school right after college, got a masters degree in occupational science, and went to work as an occupational therapist. I figured it was a good career for me, as it would let me work with people, give me a chance to work in healthcare, require me to be creative, never force me to be on call, never need me to perform a rectal exam (the reason I rejected the idea of being a nurse), not require any significant math, and the money was decent. I also liked the fact that my chosen career would allow me to work part-time once I had kids.

After we had Sweet Pea in 2012, I did exactly what I thought I would do and went back to work part-time as an occupational therapist. I had enough work to make me miss my baby just enough, and sufficient time with her so I never felt guilty or stressed about work. Life was good.

When Lady Bug was born in 2014, going back to work part-time work wasn’t so appealing. By then, I was burnt out on healthcare and hiring childcare didn’t make a ton of financial sense. Meanwhile, I’d started blogging in 2007. By 2013 I was getting paid to write, which felt (and sometimes still feels) too good to be true. In 2016, I published a book, I presented at the DU Women’s Conference, and my professional life took a sharp turn in new direction.

I can’t say I’m never going to work as an occupational therapist again, but I’m happy with my current situation, as a freelance writer/speaker/ running coach/ stay at home mom. My road to get here has been winding, and I’m not exactly sure where it’s going. The more I talk to other working moms, the more I realize most of us don’t know exactly where we’re going.

We’re all dealing with fear, guilt, insecurity, parenting challenges, and logistics issues.

So I was thrilled when I found out my friend Brooke Jean was hosting a series of interviews with women, specifically to find out how they’re navigating these exact topics, which she too faced in her journey of balancing kids and a career. This series, Moms Living a Life They LOVE: How to have a Flourishing Family, a Fulfilling Career, and Fun in the Process, features interviews with seventeen real women who are balancing career and family… including me.

Moms Living a Life They LOVE

I’m so honored to be included among this dynamic crew of women—including a few I’ve been following for a while, and whom I admire, like Sarah Bagley and Beth Risdon (aka Shut Up and Run). I am not getting paid for being part of this online event or for promoting it. I just think Brooke’s mission— to inspire women who are thinking about their future and curious about what’s possible and how it might unfold, through hearing the real life stories, tips, and wisdom from women who have been there themselves—is awesome.

It’s totally free to access the interview series, using this link.

After you register, starting April 3rd, you’ll receive one email featuring a 30 minute interview with a real working mom, every day, for seventeen days. These interviews are not edited, professionally lit, or scripted. They’re just real women, sharing the stories, struggles, tips, and wisdom they’ve accumulated through their experiences balancing motherhood and work.

I can’t wait to hear what the other women have to say. Some of the topics we cover in my interview (which airs April 16th) include:
Impostor Syndrome
The Listen To Your Mother Show
-Why I’ve become super picky about who I hang out with
-The freebie I’m giving away

You can register for the Moms Living a Life They LOVE Summit (for FREE) here.

There is Such Thing as a Dumb Question

They say there are no dumb questions. They are wrong. (Side note: Who are they??) There are, in fact, many dumb questions. I know because I ask them more often than Kim Kardashian posts a selfie. In the spirit of conscious parenting and minimizing the urge to stab myself with a Lego, I’ve composed a list of dumb questions to stop asking my kids.

1) Are you ready to go?
Before asking this question, assess the situation. Are the child’s shoes on? Has the child gone to the bathroom? (Alternatively: Is her diaper smuggling a wrecking ball?) Is the child already holding whatever toy, doll, or tchotchke she needs to bring? If not, save your breath and some aggravation. The child is not ready to go.

2) Can you wait a minute?
If you say this to someone who has no idea how long a minute is, prepare for the aftermath: A small voice will ask, “Has it been a minute?” approximately every 15 seconds until you lose your mind. Multiply the number of uninterrupted minutes required to complete whatever you were doing by 7832. Plan to finish sometime next year. Next time, try saying, “Not right now” and then placing either the child or yourself in a locked, soundproof chamber where you or they will remain until your task is complete.

Click here to read all 8 dumb questions parents are prone to asking their kids on Parent.co

Featured Fit Mom: Mandi Castle

I am thrilled to have had the chance to interview Mandi Castle for the second installment of my new series, where I interview moms with big, scary, sexy fitness goals. Mandi is a 37 year-old married mom of two, ages five and nine, living in Dallas. She recently published her first novel, Dear Stephanie, (which btw, I cannot wait to read. It looks sexy, suspenseful, and totally compelling). She blogs at Cellulite Looks Better Tan, and you can also find her on InstagramTwitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Mandi Castle, author

Mandi Castle, author of Dear Stephanie, mother of two, and fitness enthusiast

Mandi got her six-back back after having two kids- and she’s maintained it. When I found out about Mandi’s strong core, I was inspired, but but after she answered my questions, I was seriously blown away. Her level of commitment is insane, in a good way. It is embarrassing how often I’ve found myself wondering, “What would Mandi do?” lately. Here is the inside scoop on just what it takes to get and keep killer abs. As Mandi explains, it’s not a simple case of good genes or luck. It’s work and it’s a choice that she makes every single day.

[bctt tweet=”Here is the inside scoop on just what it takes to get and keep killer abs. “]

But it’s worth it. Mandi says she feels better when she exercises and she loves her body not just for how it looks (and it looks good!), but for what it does. I love that.

Mandi Castle's killer post-baby abs

Mandi Castle worked hard- and re-commits every single day – for her fit, beautiful, post-baby body.

PM: Tell me a bit about your background as an athlete, pre-kids.
MC: I have always been athletic. I grew up playing outside and rode my bike everywhere. In the summer, my street was where kids played. We had basketball tournaments that went on for days, and when we were sick of basketball, we had wiffle ball tournaments. I rarely went inside.

PM: In what ways (if any) did your fitness routine change after having children?
MC: I knew right away that I wanted to “get back in shape” after having each baby. With my first, I started working out at six weeks. My sister-in-law was a fitness coach for Strollerfit, so I enrolled and started as soon as my doctor released me. Once I completed that course, I made going to the gym part of my routine. With my second child, I slowly started back to the gym. I would do 15 minutes on the elliptical machine and almost die. I hate cardio. I added five minutes at a time. When I could go 45 minutes, I knew I could go back to my cardio core class, and I’ve been going to that two to three times a week since then.

PM: Where do you work out? Has that changed since becoming a mom?
MC: I have been a member at the same gym for fourteen years. My rates are cheap, so I’ll never leave, and they offer childcare. They don’t allow babies under six months of age, so that was a challenge when my second child came along. I left her with her dad to work out at the gym, and when he was unavailable, I worked out from home. There are great workout videos online, and I found some that worked for me.

PM: I know your goal was to bring your six-pack back. I am assuming diet played a major role in getting there and maintaining it. Can you tell me what a normal day of eating looks like for you?
MC: I have one major rule I rarely break. I do not eat after 8:00 PM. I also skip breakfast. Some call it Intermittent fasting. I usually do not eat from 8:00 pm until around 12:00 pm the next day. I exercise in the mornings (usually at 10:30), so I eat as soon as I finish my workout. I’ve never been a breakfast eater anyway, so it wasn’t a difficult decision for me. Having said that, I’m pretty strict with what I will eat, and I eat a lot during my “eating” hours.

I try to eat mostly vegetables, some meat, and some carbs. I like to have fish at least twice a week. For lunch, I tend to eat protein and vegetables, so a typical lunch for me is tuna with spinach or a veggie omelet. Dinners are usually my biggest meal, where I add the carbs. I am not a dieter. I just choose healthy food. I drink water more than anything else. I probably drink a minimum of 96 oz of water a day.

I’m not always good. I love tacos and cheeseburgers and pizza. I still drink coffee with creamer (I won’t give that up), and I allow myself something if I want it. I refuse to do a “you can’t have this” diet, so I will eat chocolate, but instead of having a full candy bar, I go for a bite sized one. Sugar is my biggest weakness, and on days when I’m less strict, I can put down some chocolate. I usually will work extra hard at the gym the next day if I’ve allowed myself to “cheat” on healthy eating. I’m also much less strict on the weekends. This is now though, that I’ve met my goals. When I was working toward these goals, I was very strict. Very little sugar, very little carbs, lots of protein, no unhealthy snacks, no drinking alcohol. I drink an occasional glass of wine during the week, and I’ll let myself have beer on the weekend. I think what works best is the rule: everything in moderation. But if you want to LOSE weight, you have to stay out of the fridge and the pantry. That’s the first trick.

PM: What motivates you to work out?
MC: I love my body. I like what I see in the mirror, so I want to maintain it. Of course, the health benefits are also a huge motivator. It’s funny. I eat healthier when I work out. I sleep better when I work out. I am in a better mood when I work out. Exercise is no joke. When your body is healthy, everything else seems to be as well.

[bctt tweet=”Exercise is no joke. @MandiCastle”]

PM: How to you stay motivated even on days when you don’t feel like it (not interested, too tired, time-crunched, etc)?
MC: I never actually WANT to go to the gym. Like anyone, I can come up with a thousand better things to do with my time. I remember when I was writing my book, I would be in the middle of a really great scene, and my alarm would go off to leave for the gym. I hated to stop, but it never fails. I always feel so much better after a good workout, so I go. At least three times a week.

PM: When do you work out? How do you fit it in to your schedule? 
MC: My typical routine was:
Monday: Thirty minutes of basketball (just shooting, not full court playing) one hour of PIYO (a combination of yoga and pilates)
Tuesday: core workout at home (crunches, burpees, planks)
Wednesday: Thirty minutes of basketball (same as above) One hour of cardio core (pilates on speed)|
Thursday: leg workout at home (squats, lunges, donkey kicks)
Friday: Thirty minutes of basketball (same as above) One hour of cardio core
Saturday: one hour of yoga

I started working full time (after nine years of being a stay at home mom) in December. This was the biggest challenge for me. Before, I usually spent two hours at the gym, and that didn’t include the 15 minutes it took to drive each way and check the child into childcare, so making time to exercise was a must.

I fit it in. I work from home, so I spend my lunch breaks at the gym. I do online classes. I sit on a stability ball at my desk (it makes me keep my core engaged all day long). I walk as much as I can and climb as many stairs as I can. And every chance I get, I go to my classes. I usually get to at least two a week.

PM:What were your biggest barriers to achieving your goal and how did you overcome them?
MC: At the beginning, the biggest barrier was the sheer fact that it seemed impossible. I had a lot of flab after my baby, and my body did not bounce back. Every time I looked in the mirror, I could say “You’ll never make it,” or “You got this!” I chose “You got this!” It was a lot of work and it took a lot of will to achieve my goal, but accomplishment feels so much better than failure.

[bctt tweet=”I could say “You’ll never make it,” or “You got this!” I chose “You got this!” @MandiCastle”]

PM: How old were your kid(s) when you achieved your goal?
MC: With my son (my first), I think he was about eighteen months. I have a picture of us on the beach, and you can see my abs. It took longer with my daughter. I didn’t drop my last 10 pounds of baby weight until she was close to two years old.

PM: How has your fitness routine changed (if at all) since you met your goal? 
MC: It hasn’t changed. I have to maintain. If I slip even for a week, I can see a noticeable difference.

PM: What advice would you give women who are intimidated to set a big, scary, sexy post-baby fitness goal?
MC: You can do this. You have to make a commitment to change. You can’t JUST exercise or JUST eat healthy. You have to do both, and you have to have realistic expectations. I don’t think weight matters. I think the most important thing for all of us is to like ourselves, our bodies. Be proud of what we have done but also what we are capable of doing. We made babies. We are superheroes. Who says we can’t look like them?

[bctt tweet=”We made babies. We are superheroes. @MandiCastle”]

Some of Mandi’s Faves
Pre-workout fuel: Er..coffee?
Post-workout meal/indulgence: My favorite lunch is tuna mixed with boiled egg and mayo over spinach leaves. I probably eat that two or three times a week.
Training resources: I love the Beachbody PIYO workouts. My instructor at my gym is Melissa McAlister, and she has a demo on YouTube that is a great start. If you like a good impact workout, there are PIYO dvd’s available online.
Favorite music to listen to when you’re working out: Pop upbeat top 40 stuff. I have Kesha on my workout playlist and Kanye West. Don’t hate me. [Pam’s note: I don’t! I play Katie Perry when I teach spin class!]

Thank you, Mandi for giving us the real deal on what it takes to get and maintain your toned abs. Whether your goal is a six-pack or not, Mandi’s story is a great reminder that over time, consistent hard work and dedication pay off.

Featured Fit Mom: Mandi Castle

[bctt tweet=”Are you a mom who has achieved a big, scary, sexy fitness goal? “]

Are you a mom who has achieved a big, scary, sexy fitness goal? I want to hear about it! If your goal was daunting at first and made you feel like a rock star when you met it, then it’s big, scary, and sexy enough for me. Click here to get in touch and talk about being part of this series.

The Gift of Imperfection

It is good to know you are not perfect. It makes me feel a little better about me!

My friend wrote this in an email to me last week.

That’s all I had to do? Let my friend know I’m not perfect to brighten his day? I’m all in. That’s easy. I am so not perfect. But didn’t he already know that? We’ve been friends ever since we met in a parking lot on warm, early fall New England day in 2006. My running group had just finished a twelve miler but I still had four more to run before I was done. His running group was milling about in the same parking lot. I don’t remember exactly how we connected. I was hot, dehydrated, and glycogen-depleted at the time. But he needed to get four more miles in, too, so off we went. He has been as reliable and motivating a running partner a girl could have, ever since that fateful meeting in the parking lot.

Over the years, we’ve passed the miles with trash talk, laughs, and of course very serious conversations about very serious things, like life, love, career, family, and everything else that makes life interesting and complicated and painful and amazing.

He knows I’m not perfect. And as awesome as my disciplined, successful, tenacious, big-hearted, funny friend is, I know he’s not perfect either. And yet… It’s so easy to forget. It’s way too easy, especially in the age of social media, to compare our insides with our friends’ outsides.

Earlier in the email conversation, my friend  mentioned the weather in Rhode Island and so I mentioned the weather here in Boulder (lots of snow but sunny, in case you were wondering), and then I asked myself why I was sharing information about the weather with this friend who has pounded up hills with me, making me breathe so hard I couldn’t cry about a breakup even if I wanted to, which I did, very badly. He was at the going away party that was so lovely I almost couldn’t bring myself to leave Rhode Island for Boulder. He’s watched me blow my nose into my sleeve in the pre-dawn darkness about a thousand times. We are so beyond small talk.

So I wrote this:

I cried this morning b/c Lady Bug was up a million times before midnight and I have slept through the night about 4 times in the past 4 weeks and I am soooo tired and Lady Bug has been soooo clingy and I yelled at her this morning and Sweet Pea was like “Mom, she’s just a baby!” and so I went to the gym b/c I thought a workout would help my mood and I liked the idea of leaving  them in gym babysitting b/c I wanted a break and then I thought “We’ve been up for less than 3 hours and I already need a break and I’ve yelled at my 20 month old. I am such a failure.” So obviously I should get a job right? But the logistics of childcare (not to mention the cost) with 2 kids and one in preschool… Not super enticing either. Some days are just hard.

And my friend wasn’t like, “You yelled at a baby!? You’re a monster,” which was what I was telling myself. He told me he was glad to know I wasn’t perfect. Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen

[bctt tweet=”There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. -Leonard Cohen “]

So can we all just go out and be our imperfect selves and live our best, messy, beautiful lives and love each other and- here’s the hard part- ourselves- not just for everything we are, but also for everything we’re not? I’m going to keep trying.

 Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Give the Gift of Imperfection