Why I marched for women, and why I don’t care if you wanted me to

One week ago today I took part in something historical – the largest protest in the U.S. – and possibly worldwide. On Saturday, January 21, more than three million or more people across the globe marched for WOMEN.

The truth of the matter is this: with such a widespread movement, it’s hard to put into words what we marched for and what it meant to all the individual people who stood up and made their voice heard. Some did it for unity; some did it for LGBTQ rights; some did it because they were pro-choice and some did it because they don’t like our nation’s leadership.

For me, however, I didn’t march to “bitch about Trump” or because I want to “kill babies.” I marched because despite having “equal” rights, things aren’t quite as equal as people think they are; I marched because I am terrified for the next four years and what it could mean for women’s rights; I marched because I am tired of hearing people excuse “locker room” talk; I marched because I am an intelligent and capable human being, regardless if I have a vagina or not, and should be responsible for deciding what happens to my body. But most importantly, I MARCHED BECAUSE I COULD.

I have a loving husband at home who understands that women are not equal to men; he listens to my tirades about the fact that women still aren’t paid the same as a man (and I’m not saying I should get the same amount of money just because I’m female, no, I’m saying I should get the same amount of money as a man if I’m just as qualified and experienced).

He listens to my grumblings about the fact that tampons and pads are taxed, while Rogaine isn’t. He understands why it upsets me that a woman has to jump through hoops to have her tubes tied if she’s under a certain age or childless – because we’re women, right? We can’t possibly NOT want children, so it’s good that doctors are there to tell us we shouldn’t have our tubes tied. Meanwhile, men, can walk in and have a vasectomy without receiving the third degree about their marital status or child quota. How is that fair? How is that equal?

He listens to my frustration as I try to figure out why so many people – women included – are AGAINST women.

And I get that my rant probably makes me look like a man hater, but I assure you I absolutely am not. I love my husband. I love my son. I love my brother, my father and many of my friends’ partners and husbands. I’m not saying it’s all the men in the world ganging up on women. I’m simply saying somewhere along the way, society has decided what’s proper for men may not be proper for women, and well, that shit just ain’t right.

So there’s a lot of wars being waged. People blogging about how they marched for other women, even the ones who don’t get what the women’s march is about; people blogging about how they don’t want women to say they’re marching for them and how they don’t support the movement at all. 


So now is probably the time where I am supposed to tell you that I was marching for you, even if you don’t understand or support why we’re raising a fuss.

But ya know what, I’m not going to do that. Part of why I so strongly believe in the women’s movement, is because it awards you – as a woman – the power to make your own decision. So if you don’t want me to march for you, then I’m going to assume you’re a strong, intelligent, capable woman who has considered her options and decided you don’t agree with the women’s movement. And while I may not get that, I RESPECT your decision to do so.

But I will tell you this. As a woman who does support this movement and does believe in the cause, I won’t march for you, but I will march for your future daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, mother or any other female in your life. I will march for them because while you may not understand the movement or support it, they one day might, or heaven forbid, they one day might need someone to stand up for them because their rights have been taken away. So whether you want me to march for you or not, I’m going to keep marching for all those other people in your life, because even though you “don’t need to march for rights you think we already have,” not every person in your life may agree with you or feel the same way you do … and if nobody else will march for THEM, then I will.

But trust me, I promise, I’m not marching for YOU.

These reasons, and so many more that I didn’t delve into, are why I marched for women. And pardon my language, but I don’t really give a fuck if you wanted me to or not.

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30 things I’ve learned by 30

Well, it’s happening again.

My birthday is tomorrow.

And while 31 doesn’t seem quite as epic as 30 did, it’s certainly been meaningful in its own way. So now that I’ve been living, breathing and making oodles of mistakes for the last 30 years, I thought it might be worthwhile to jot down the things I’ve learned in my one-day-shy-of-31 years old.

  1. I’m always going to be a work in progress — and that’s completely OK, acceptable and actually a wonderful thing. 
  2. Fall in love — as many times as you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s puppy love, friend love, love for a parent, just fall in, headfirst. You might get some scrapes and bruises along the way, but I promise you, nothing is ever, ever lost by loving.

  3. It’s OK to not know what you want to be when you «grow up.» I have always had a passion for words, for the way you can construe them and twist them to imply and mean things, so I’m completely enthralled in my current profession. Will I be a managing editor forever? Who knows?
  4. Friends doesn’t always mean forever. This one has taken me a while to really embrace, but it’s true. It seems sad in a way, to think the people important to you may not always be, but that’s the way life seems to go, and it’s OK. Shedding people you used to be close to (whether it’s due to distance, life changes or simply parting ways), makes room for new people in your life you might need right now.
  5. Some people, however, do mean forever. I have had the same best friend for over 10 years now, she’s not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere, and if she or I tried to, we’d probably hunt the other down. Because I love her, she loves me, and somedays, she’s the only person in this whole world I want to talk to. Not to mention my husband. The crazy guy who decided to settle down and raise a family with me. I wouldn’t let him go anywhere if he tried. 
  6. Becoming a mother has changed me forever. Every day I learn something new, my children blow my mind with their love, wit and enthusiasm for the small things. When you become a mother, you see everything through your children’s eyes. 
  7. The small things really do matter. Sure, the old adage is true, «don’t sweat the small things,» but more importantly, enjoy the small things. Savor your tiny bowl of ice cream you treat yourself to, smell your kids hair when they can’t seem to stop clinging to you, save that text from someone that makes you feel happy. The small things in life add up to the bigger picture, so don’t be afraid to soak them in. 
  8. Do things for yourself. Whether your working out at the gym, treating yourself to coffee or trying on a killer pair of heels, don’t be afraid to give a little to yourself. Even if you’re single, live with a cat and have no other responsibilities in life, make sure treat yourself to something special every now and then. 
  9. Own a killer pair of heels. OK, so maybe this one is for the ladies, but it’s true. Whatever your definition of «killer» is, own it. They can be four-inch stilettos, one-inch wedges or simply a kitten heel, either way, own a pair. When you’re having an «ugly» day, a killer pair of heels can take you right out of that mood. 
  10. Learn how to cook one super awesome meal. Even if somewhere down the road you don’t get the itch to host a dinner party, you’ll feel like the super-est adult in the world after making an awesome meal all on your own. 
  11. Find a cause and care about it deeply. It doesn’t matter if it’s ending worldwide hunger or world peace, find something to care about, something you can contribute to and I guarantee it’ll make you a better person. Cause that’s what thinking about a bigger cause does for you, yo. 
  12. Make someone a mixed tape. OK, by now it’s probably a mixed playlist for their iPod or maybe a CD if you’re still old school, whatever it is, make one. Anytime someone sees it they’ll have fond memories, and it’s meaningful. special and wonderful to impact someone that way.
  13. Get to know your parents. Sure, they may seem annoying in your teenage years, but one day it’s really going to hit you that they won’t be around forever, and it’s going to scare the crap out of you. So once you’re able to, get to know them. Find out what they loved before they became your parents. Hell, play Nintendo games and visit them on Sundays if you want. Either way, enjoy them. 
  14. Every girl should have a spare pair of shoes (ones that are easy to walk in), panty hose and a jacket in her car. Seriously, it’s sounds silly now, but when you’re on your way to the airport and you rip your only pair of hose getting on the shuttle, you’ll be ecstatic to have another pair. 
  15. Eat real, 100 percent, unadulterated maple syrup. Screw the calories, it’s amazing. And you’re worth it. 
  16. Find your favorite book and read it every couple of years. You’ll be shocked at the different things you can take away from the same 500 pages after a few years have passed. Chances are, you’ll fall in love with it all over again.
  17. Make goals for yourself. They don’t have to be big ones, they can be something as simple as waking up every day and having breakfast … or walking four times a week. Make goals so you can achieve them, which will give you something to be proud of.
  18. If a boy likes you, he’ll call or text, because he won’t be able to stand not doing it. 
  19. Write real letters (the kind with a pen and paper), send birthday cards (not just texts) and remember thank you notes. These are the little things that make people smile. 
  20. I promise you, you do not need that extra shot of tequila. Sure, it sounds like a great idea at the time, but you will NOT miss it the next morning. I repeat, you will NOT miss it the next day. 
  21. Lend a hand whenever you can. Something as simple as baking muffins for your best friend after she has a baby to getting dairy-free ice cream for your mom at the store, be as helpful as you can when you can. You never know when you’re going to need someone. 
  22. Hate less. Trust me, this one is a hard one for me, as I can be queen of the grudges if you really, really upset me. But the older I get, the more I realize how dumb it is to stay mad. When you hate something, you chain yourself to it. When you accept it, forgive it and move on (or away from someone if they’re detrimental to your well-being), you’re free. And I’m serious about that. Not giving a damn about something is about as free as you can get when it comes to negativity.
  23. Speaking of negativity, be more positive. I know, this one is so hard for me too. I have a tendency to see that darn ole glass not only half empty, but also full of like curdled almond milk or something. Trying to find the good in everything isn’t naive or unrealistic, it’s a healthier, simpler way of living. So seriously, start looking for the good in every situation, even if sometimes you have to look a little harder. 
  24. Spend more time with people you admire. Maybe it’s a family member, a friend or an old college professor, regardless who it is, make time to be around them. Spending time with people we admire gives us a boost in the way we feel about ourselves. Because seriously, you’re probably a pretty awesome person, which means the people YOU admire are probably just as amazeballs. 
  25. Don’t be afraid to start over. Sometimes, starting fresh is exactly what we need in life. Maybe it’s your career; maybe it’s your house. Whatever it is, decide you don’t like things the way they are anymore and MAKE a change. Starting over isn’t giving up, it’s simply opening your life to new and better things. For realz though. 
  26. Learn the lyrics to your favorite song. You know that song you always jam to with the windows down and on full blast? Instead of just «hmmm shh muh huh-ing» your way through the parts you don’t know, learn the lyrics to your favorite song. They just might bring a little cheer your way when you need it. 
  27. Try new food. I’m SO serious about this one. Do you know how many people I know that have never had Indian Food? Heck, even Mediterranean food is considered oddball by some people in my life. Try a new cuisine, try a new vegetable, just try something new. Maybe you’ll hate it, but maybe, it might just become you’re new favorite.
  28. Try to understand more and judge less. It can be super duper hard, but more often than not, we don’t know what battle someone is going through. 
  29. Wear red lipstick. I know, again, this one is more for the ladies, but don’t ever doubt what an awesome tube of red lipstick can do for your outfit. You can feel fancy and it’s a great way to break your old routine!
  30. Learn from others … 

No seriously, learn from others. People have amazing things to say, which is why I’m leaving that last one open, because I want to know what YOU’VE learned in your XX amount of years you’ve been alive!

The truth about Barbies, bodies and blame

Today was a fabulous Saturday. I was actually sitting here perusing Facebook because we’d already done a jillion things in the morning and I thought, «eh, it’s OK to kill some time on social media for a few minutes, we’ve accomplished a lot.»

And then I saw an article about the new line of Barbies coming out. They’ve got good-ole-fashioned regular Barbie (with a whole new assortment of hair, ethnicities and activities to choose from), petite Barbie, curvy Barbie and tall Barbie. If you haven’t seen the new models, take a peek at the photo below, it’s one example of each one side by side, but keep in mind you can find them in all sorts of different skin tones now, with moles, bright red hair or even shorter, edgier hair.

 

Now, here’s the thing. Some of you might be thinking «hm, big deal, it’s a doll, who cares,» while others, like me, are thinking «hey, this is a pretty forward move for Mattel to make, good for them.» Seriously, that’s what I thought. I thought, wow, cool, they’re expanding their options, and left it at that. Well, I was going to leave it at that, until I clicked on the comments below the article, because I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, that or just sheer stupidity. 

Before you stop reading, let me throw this out there. Yes, I’m a feminist, yes, I’ve read probably too many books on the topics of not just female body image, but male body image and emotional stunting. So I’m not just a bra-burning (I can’t burn that, I NEED my bra), armpit-hair-growing (more power to ya if you are!), ready to point the finger at everyone else and cry wolf, type of feminist. I’d like to say I’m a modern feminist, which in my opinion, means I think there’s a whole hoard of reasons I’ve got a fucked up body image, ranging from my own head to all those crappy teenage magazines I read as a tween. 

Here’s the problem with the comments I was reading. While there were a few «hey, cool, new Barbies,» statements scattered about, for the most part, more of them read like the following: 

«Great, you’ve ruined Barbie by trying to be politically correct, once again,»

«We’re too sensitive. What’s next, super heroes with beer bellies and cellulite?»

«I never thought about Barbie’s body while playing with them. I just thought they were pretty.»

«It’s the parents job to PAY ATTENTION to their children and to instill the right values. Not some doll.»

OK, I get it, and to some degree, I can see where people are coming from. Of course we don’t want to perpetuate an unhealthy role model for children. We don’t want them to think it’s OK to be curvy. Right? No one wants a fat kid.

WAIT. WHAT?

No one wants to say it, no one wants to admit it, but that’s exactly what they were beating around the bush about. If my kid plays with a chubby Barbie, they might think it’s OK to be that way too.

Yeah, that’s the thing about ‘curvy’ Barbie. She’s NOT fat. AT ALL. She’s got a thicker waist and a butt, good for her, but she’s not equipped with back fat and a second chin. (And for that matter, so what if she was. While being overweight might be unhealthy, I can’t argue on every overweight persons wellness or health, it’s not the WORST thing a person can be. I can think of several things I’d rather my child NOT be; a killer, a liar, a criminal, a CRUEL human being).

So maybe you see where this rubs me the wrong way. The majority of people weren’t complaining about there being different Barbies, I saw very few comments screaming «political correctness» at the tall or petite Barbie, but the doll with an hourglass figure, well, she’s about to bring down the whole doll industry if you ask some people.

Which leads me to my favorite statements of them all; the ones that talk about how they played with Barbies as a girl and never paid attention to her body. Well ya know what ladies, GOOD FOR YOU. But I’ve got some news for you, not everyone who played with Barbies did so in complete and ignorant bliss.

From a young age I recognized there was something special about Barbie. Her shiny blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, ample bosom, tiny waist and legs for days were something that I noticed, even at the age of eight and nine. Sure, I may not have been lusting after those things then, but somehow, when I closed my eyes at night during my preteen years, I dreamt of waking up one day and having that blonde hair, that tiny waist and those giant boobs. I mean seriously, all of my middle school friends and I wanted nothing more than a larger bra size. Maybe that made us shallow, maybe it made us immature, maybe you want to scream that our parents did nothing and allowed us to seek the wrong things. Maybe they did. But ultimately, we wouldn’t know what to have lusted after, what to have secretly hoped for, without all those images and idealizations around us when we were younger. And truthfully, a parent can only instill so much confidence into their children before they stop caring what they think anyway.

So no, maybe Barbie didn’t make me hate my body. Maybe it was the magazines I read, the ones that never called girls fat, but did proudly proclaim their «plus-size fashion sections» in bold letters. Maybe it the models or the actresses. Maybe it was the marketing and clothing stores. Maybe it was me.

But I can tell you what it wasn’t: It wasn’t my parents; they never once critiqued my body, in fact, my mother tried to get me to wear a two-piece bathing suit in my teenage years. It wasn’t my friends; they came in all shapes and sizes, from petite to tall, thin to thicker, athletic to feminine. SO who was it then? Who failed me? Who let me hate my body?

Maybe you think I’m being dramatic. Maybe you don’t see the bigger picture. Maybe you think I should just get off my lazy ass and exercise, eat better and lose some damn weight if I want to love my body. But that’s the problem with having poor body image; no amount of weight, no breast size, no leg length will make me feel beautiful. In fact, achieving these goals simply acts as a catalyst for something new for me to hate, to fix.

Still don’t get it? Scroll back up through the collages I’ve placed in this blog, pay attention to the photos I’m about to post. All of these photos range from the year 1999 (age 14) to 2015 (age 30). We’re talking 16 years of life under my belt, 16 years of knowledge, a college degree, a softball scholarship, a hall-of-fame induction, a husband, two babies and countless ups and downs through life.

Do you want to know what all of these pictures have in common (other than my hair color NEVER being the same, ha!).

At the time every single one of these photos was taken, whether 15 years ago or 15 minutes ago, I FELT FAT. I felt ugly. I felt like I wasn’t worth as much as a human being, simply because someone could point at me and see love handles. Someone could look at me and see that my thighs touched.

And the most absolute absurd thing of all? In all of these photos, I’ve never weighed the same thing. At 5’8″ tall, I’ve weighed anywhere from 140-190lbs in the photos appearing on this post. And I felt FAT in every single one of them.

Again, maybe you think I’m being dramatic, maybe you think «now you just want attention. You just want everyone to come on and comment that you’re not fat or that you’re pretty,» but truthfully, that’s not what I want. That’s not what poor body image is about. If someone telling me I was pretty was enough to cure it, I would have been rid of it long, long ago. Poor body image is something dark and twisty that literally stains the way you see every single picture, reflection or glimpse of yourself.

Consider for example this photo of me on the right, taken my freshman year of college during our spring break softball trip to Florida, where we crammed way too many softball games in a week’s time. I’m on the right, this was pre-tattoo me. I weighed 145lbs. I remember, because it was the lowest I’d been since my sophomore year of high school. Guess what? I used to look at this photo and cringe (now, however, I’d kill to have that body and that metabolism)! My thighs were still too thick, my neck wasn’t long enough and I had virtually NO curve. Do you know how hard it is to be a «curvy» girl without any actual curves? I was cursed with a short, wide torso, so even at my smallest weight, I never got below a size nine over my gigantor-feeling hips.

But that was just college me right? All girls in college want to change something about themselves, right? «Poor body image» isn’t really a thing, it’s just an excuse to whine, right? Let’s fast forward eight years, to when I was the mother of a rambunctious toddler and was getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to go to a spinning class, kickboxing class or just for a run.

I was determined to get healthy and feel better and I got down to 160lbs. I was pretty pleased with myself, albeit my still-size 12 jeans (what can I say? Childbirth did an even bigger number to my already big hips). I should feel proud and excited here, right?

When I look at this picture, I don’t see my accomplishment. I don’t see the joy in my daughters face. I don’t see my pretty, long hair. I don’t see my ample bosom. I see that tiny bit of pudge still protruding above my daughters head. I see that hard-to-get-rid-of pouch that I developed after each child I birthed. I see creases in my shirt that make me zoom in to see if I had upper arm fat or not. I see that short torso which makes it nearly impossible for me to have a curvy, feminine figure.

Still think I’m just wanting attention? Still think I should just get off my lazy ass and exercise? Eat fewer cupcakes?

The last photo is one that makes me the saddest, not because it’s a particularly bad one, but because it displays how long I’ve loathed my body and how absolutely ludicrous it is to.

This was taken in 2012 (yes, the same year as the one above it). I was at nearly my heaviest, but would go on to gain about seven more pounds. And six weeks after this photo was taken, I would give birth to my 10lb, 3oz bundle of baby boy.

I was 34 weeks pregnant in this photo and I still didn’t feel good enough.

The one time in your life people tell you it’s OK to gain the weight, it’s OK to have the extra cupcake, it’s OK because you’re growing a human life, I still felt fat.

My friends commented on my photo «I wish I was that skinny when I was pregnant.» Or, «Oh you’re so tiny!» But it didn’t matter. I didn’t see that. I saw my too-thick arms. I saw the stomach which now surpassed my bust, I saw my love handles, which now blended in with the butt I never had. I didn’t see a glowing mother; I didn’t see a happy, pregnant woman; I didn’t see someone growing, nourishing and carrying a human life; I saw someone fat. I pictured the stretch marks polluting my stomach under my shirt. I pictured the tiny bit of flesh that just barely stuck out over my regular jeans I wore that far into my pregnancy. I saw ugly.

I’m now 30 years old and responsible for raising a little girl. I feel helpless in this battle we’re going to be fighting, because even with an amazingly strong mother and network of friends growing up, I still loathed myself so much. Sure, I look back now on these photos and I realize how irrational I was being, how crazy I am. I’m a relatively intelligent human being; I realize all those thoughts are in my head. And at this age, I realize I’m generally the one putting them there.

But the question still begs answering, what put them there to begin with?

Maybe it wasn’t Barbie. Maybe it wasn’t the media. Maybe I would always feel this way even if I’d never been exposed to those things.

Maybe not.

But if you REALLY think Barbie doesn’t have any impact on how a little girl grows up to feel about herself, then what’s the big deal if they make one with a little extra junk in her trunk?

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Vegan Kentucky butter cake

It’s no secret I have a small obsession with cupcakes. There’s just something utterly magical about tiny little cakes with fluffy frosting piped on them, what can I say? However for a recent family gathering I decided to think outside the wrapper … and let me tell you, it was a smashing success. And by smashing I mean we ate every last crumb of this delicious little dessert.

Some of you may already be familiar with it, but I wasn’t prior to making it this time – the Kentucky butter cake. I stumbled upon a recipe for it on Facebook one morning and saved it because it looked simple enough AND you make it in a bundt pan, which I’m always looking for ways to use that forgotten kitchen item.

So here’s the dealbreaker when it comes to this recipe. It’s “butter” cake, which means a primary ingredient is – you guessed it – butter, so you cannot afford to skimp on the good vegan butter with this recipe. I used Earth Balance buttery sticks and the results were absolutely phenomenal.

If you’re on a diet or looking for some lowfat dessert ideas, just go ahead and exit this post right now (and probably my blog), because you are not going to find that with this recipe.

The beauty of this cake is it’s relatively simple and “plain jane,” so you can bake it and bring it along for any occasion!


 

Kentucky butter cake

(makes one bundt cake)

Cake ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups white sugar

2 sticks of vegan butter (or 1 cup)

1 cup cashew milk

1 cup vegan sour cream

1.5 TBS vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

dash of sea salt

dash of cinnamon

Glaze ingredients:

1 stick of butter (or ½ cup)

1 cup white sugar

2 TBS water

2 tsp vanilla extract

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 and grease and flour your bundt pan, set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir in softened (not melted!) vegan butter, cashew milk, vegan sour cream and vanilla extract. Combine until fully mixed. Pour batter into your bundt pan and bake for one hour. (You may need to bake an additional 10 minutes depending on how fickle your stove is). The cake should pull away from the sides a tad and spring back when you touch it.

Using a skewer, poke holes all throughout the cake. (We want to let all the buttery glazy goodness soak in)! Set aside so you can get started on the delicious glaze.

In a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat, mix your butter, water and vanilla extract. Once the butter melts, stir in white sugar. Once dissolved, pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to cool completely. Once it’s cooled, place your serving plate over the bundt pan and flip it over. Gently tap the pan to ease the cake out of it. Dust top with powdered sugar.

Serve to your favorite family and friends and listen to them rave how delicious this amazing cake is!

 

A letter to the parent of a female athlete

Dear parent of a female athlete,

Let me start off by saying this: Chances are, whether your daughter is nine or 19, she IS trying.

Sure, there are times her mind wanders; times when she laughs with a teammate or gets off track and starts talking about a boy. But for the most part, when it comes down to crunch time, when she’s at her 190th pitching or hitting lesson and doing the same warm-up drill she’s done 1,059 times, she IS trying.

It’s not easy being an athlete. It’s even harder being a good one. And just because she’s an amazing athlete, doesn’t always mean she’s going to be on it 100%.

She’s going to have her off days. She’s going to have her absolutely, downright, terrible days. She’s going to have trouble focusing sometimes, because, well, she’s not JUST an athlete, she’s also a young woman, a student, a daughter, a best friend, a girlfriend and probably so, so, so much more.

So I’m asking you to cut her some slack. If she’s struggling with something she normally excels at, if she’s having an off-day and not hitting her spots, heck, even if it seems like her head is in another world, just cut her some slack. Be her parent. Be her biggest supporter. But please, don’t be her coach too.

Chances are, she’s got enough coaches. But she’s only one mother, one father, heck, some of them don’t even have both. Be her supporter. Lift her up. Tell her she’s doing amazing and if she has a bad day, it was just that — a bad day — it doesn’t make her a bad athlete, daughter or person. It’s just one day. One game. One lesson. One practice. One session doesn’t not define her career.

I’ve been coaching girls for more than 10 years now. Softball was something I was always incredibly passionate about and still am. As a pitching coach, I get the honor of working with a select group of girls weekly to hone their skills. I teach them how to throw faster fastballs, more deceptive change ups and how to put more spin on all their awesome junk pitches. And because I’ve seen your daughter weekly for the last five years, trust me when I tell you this, she IS trying.

I will never, ever know your daughter the way that you do. I don’t always know how she acts at home, to you or to her teachers. But I do know your daughter on the field. I notice when her shoulders start to slump because she made a bad play; I can see the deep breath she takes when she’s just made a monumental mistake and is trying her best to hold it together and stick it out a little longer. I KNOW who your daughter is on the field. Years ago, I WAS your daughter on the field.

But what she needs from you and I, are very, very different things. Unless you, yourself, have played the sport and position she is playing, then please, stand down some. I can’t tell you how many lessons I’ve been in where a dad or mom coaches their daughter through the drills, and not constructively, but very, very critically. «You’re STILL not doing it right, aren’t you listening to what your coach is saying?» «Why am I paying for these lessons if you’re not going to give it your all?» «Don’t you know what your doing wrong? You’re supposed to step this way, not that way.»

I’m not judging you parents, I promise, I’m really not. I know how it feels to KNOW your daughter is capable of more than she’s currently giving. I struggle myself as a parent to step back when my daughter is on the balance beam and falling down for the 15th time. I fight back the urge to ask her why she’s not focusing more, and my daughter is only five, so trust me when I tell you I understand your feelings. But I also know, from a coaching perspective, I know nothing about gymnastics. So rather than tear her down, rather than question her commitment, I’m going to tell her to keep going. To keep trying. I’m going to encourage her, because that is what she needs from me.

And trust me when I tell you this, parents. As a coach, I believe in your daughter too. I know she is capable of so much, if not even more than you already know, and I want for her only amazing things. It doesn’t matter if I have one athlete or 20, I know them all, I coach them all as my own and when they fail, I fail too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a softball tournament asking myself what I could have done better, what more I could have provided, to have helped your girls step up their game. To have helped them play better. To have helped them feel more pride.

So believe me, I think about your daughter. When I her head drop because she just struck out and let her team down, it weighs heavily on my mind and my heart. And I know you feel that pain too. I know it breaks your heart to see your daughter hurt, and it frustrates you because you know she is SO much better than that. But before you critique her, before you ask her why on Earth she would swing at something at her ankles, let me ask you to do this instead: love her. Remind her how brilliant she is. Remind her that no matter how she plays, you will ALWAYS be in her corner, because you are her parent and that’s what your job is.

And as a coach, this is what my job is: I’m going to make your daughter better. I’m probably going to give her some tough love, because that’s what a coach is supposed to do. We push your daughters to do more and be more than they think they can. We spend practices, fundraisers, lessons and weekend trips with your daughters learning about them, investing in them, so we know how far and when to push them. As a coach, I’m asking you to trust me, trust that I know your daughter and that when I make a call you may not agree with, I’m seeing something you don’t.

Once upon a time at a tournament, I had a pitcher give up a homerun. She hung a riseball and it was hit over the fence. She turned her back to us in the dugout, but you could see her shoulders huffing up and down, as she struggled to hold back the sobbing feeling she wanted to give into. You told me to pull her. You told me to get her out of there because she was done. And for a moment, I considered it, because that’s your daughter.

But I didn’t. And you probably really, really disliked me that game. How could I leave your baby in there when she was feeling like that? How could I expect her to come back from that? Why would I put her and the team through this when she clearly wasn’t on her game today. And this is where I need you to trust me. I promise I know your daughter too. And not only do I know her, but I know exactly how she feels, because I had those moments as a pitcher. And I also know, that when she comes back from this, which she did, she’s going to be better for it. She’s going to be stronger. And she’s going to be better than if I had taken her out and let her sulk.

Sometimes, I know you want the opposite of understanding. Sometimes, you want us to come down harder on them. I know you want us to tell them to suck it up and play better. And sometimes, we do. Sometimes, we give them a dose of tough love that is a little too tough. But sometimes, we don’t. Sometimes we have to remind them how human we all are. Because sometimes, we see things you don’t when they’re playing.

The pressure to be an athlete is enormous today. It’s not enough to be good anymore, you have to be the best. And sometimes, that pressure can suffocate you. And when your daughter is struggling to catch her metaphorical breath, it’s not my job as a coach to strangle her confidence, it’s not the time to break her down in order to build her up, we just need to keep her together.

And that is exactly what your job should be as the parent of a female athlete. To consistently be their rock. To be their fan all the time, even if you think they could be trying a little harder or doing a little better. Let the coaches wield the tough love, while you bring all the love.

Sincerely,

Your daughter’s coach.

Five simple tips to getting happier today!

Happy April! Time is seriously flying in the Chubby Vegan Abode.  I’m about to turn the big 3-0 in less than two weeks and Pearyn will be FIVE next month. What on Earth happened to my lanky little baby girl? OK, she’s still really lanky, she’s just not so little.

Between traveling for work, softball lessons, coaching, birthdays and everything in between, we’ve been some busy bees lately. While I absolutely thrive on being busy, sometimes that can lead to cranky pants parents and kids who don’t want to listen; which in turn, leads to a lot of unhappiness.

One of the most common questions I’ve been getting from friends and followers lately is what the heck I’m doing to stay sane and happy. What tips can I give to others to help them find their happy place? And to be honest, I don’t really know what will work for everyone out there. It depends largely on why you’re unhappy and you taking responsibility to feel better. Disclaimer, I’m not a medical professional, so this ain’t treatment, these are just a few simple things I do every day (or close to every day) to improve my morale. Some of these things might seem silly, but you want to know what’s working for me, so here it is.

1. Get up and make your bed in the morning! Yep. This probably sounds really stupid and really lame, but I’m telling you, a clean bed is an awesome sight to see throughout the day, but it also feels 10 times better to get into than a messy one. If you’ve got a little cash to spare, go get yourself a colorful, bright throw or bedspread to make your bed with. Or hell, some accent pillows will even do the trick. Giving our bed a spring makeover has done serious wonders for giving my attitude a makeover in the morning.

2. Get dressed. OK, so this is one I don’t follow this particular tip every single day,  (I work from home and sometimes it’s nice to roll out of bed and attend my meetings in pajamas), but if I’m in a funk, I’ve found throwing on my favorite pair of heels or a touch of mascara can seriously boost my mood. Maybe your thing is that perfect pair of jeans, or maybe it’s just your favorite t-shirt, either way, putting on something you feel good in will help you stand a little taller and smile a little broader.

3. Talk about what you’re feeling. Seriously, quit holding so much in, you’re not doing anyone any good. Not to mention, why do you feel like you need to hold it in? Are you embarrassed about how you feel? Afraid someone will make fun of you? Let me provide a little insight from my experience with these emotions. First off, you shouldn’t be ashamed of feeling a certain way. A lot of times, our body’s make-up is just throwing us off a bit, so you might not even be able to control some of your feelings. And did I mention they’re feelings? They’re messy, they’re supposed to be, and that’s OK. And if you’re scared of what someone might think of you because you’re expressing your feelings, well, you don’t need those folks in your life anyhow. People who love you won’t turn you away, won’t make you feel bad and WILL make it infinitely better.

4. Instead of harping on all the things you aren’t happy about or don’t like about yourself, find three things to be absolutely ecstatic with. Sometimes, for me, it’s as simple as “well, I like my hair today.” Sometimes, for me, it’s “wow, I have an amazing career.” It doesn’t matter what you’re happy about, but focusing on what you’re blessed with is the fastest way to combat what you’re less than pleased with. It won’t work like magic, but if you train your brain to start thinking that way, it gets a lot easier and less negativity invades your life.

 

5. Do something you love, EVERY day. Trust me, I know what you’re gonna say, «but I don’t have time to do something I love every day.» You do, seriously, you do. It doesn’t have to be something costly or amazing. Just something little, that you enjoy the hell out of. For example, I LOVE baking, but I don’t ALWAYS have time to do it. So sometimes I just peruse Pinterest to get some ideas of what I’d like to bake when I get some time. Or I’ll read. I LOVE reading. Even if it’s only five pages, I sit and read for five pages and it gives me a completely relaxed and fresh feeling. 

I know, these things probably seem really silly … or maybe really basic. But they’re working for me. And as long as they keep working, I’m going to keep doing em.’ 

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Turning the big 3-0

Well, it happened.

I turned 30.

Yep. The big 3-0.

To be honest, I never really worried about age in the past. I was a firm believer in the old adage “you’re only as old as you feel,” which, if that’s the case, I feel about 14-23 depending on what’s going on in my life at the time.


Except I’m not. I’m in my THIRTIES. When the girls I coach found out about my birthday and what age I was turning, I received a plethora of compliments “wow, you don’t look that old,” or “I only thought you were like 25, I didn’t think you were 30.” Hey, thanks ladies. It’s good to know that 30 IS considered old to middle and high school girls.

So instead of being all “woe is me, I’m turning 30,” I decided I was going to look on the bright side. Afterall, most of the adults I know have told me their thirties were some of the best years of their life. In your twenties you’re still trying to figure out who the heck you are and in your forties you’re coping with being “middle-aged,” so thirties are when most people I know really spread their wings and had some fun. (Without giving a damn what anyone thought about em’ might I add).

So in honor of me turning 30, I decided rather than creating a bucket list for all the things I wanted to do before I turned 30, I decided to make one for all the awesome things I’m going to do now that I AM 30. I’m in a much better place emotionally, financially and career-wise than I was in my twenties, so I can actually put things like “take the family to Europe” on my to-do list and be confident I’ll cross this off SOME time in the next decade.

Not everything on my bucket list is quite so advantageous. I’ve also got simple things like: try a new hobby, wear a bikini (and be confident about it) and enter a contest. Meanwhile, I’ve got a few more time-consuming things on there, like publish that kids’ book I’ve been working on forever and a day, take my family to Portland and renew our vows and a hoard of other things.

It’s not complete yet, but I’m excited to have a renewed outlook on things.

And it’s pretty hard not to be excited when my husband, family and best friend spent a good month planning a SURPRISE 30th birthday party for me. You should understand something about me: I’m the planner of everything. Somehow, despite the fact that I’m late everywhere and incredibly disorganized, I love making plans for birthdays, date nights, vacations, whatever.

Every now and then though (like on my 30th birthday), I like to whine because no one else will take the reigns and plan something. Well, this year, they got one over on me.

My best friend’s birthday is four days before mine, so we’ve been celebrating them together. We headed off for a girls spa day, shopping and then planned on picking up our husbands later for dinner. Well, when I walked in the door to get our husbands, I was greeted by my close friends and family. Even my in laws made the almost four-hour haul down to usher me into my thirties. We’re talking balloons, lanterns, glitter-crusted champagne bottles, signs, hats, sashes, the works. Not to mention pizza, seitan wings, fried pickles and vegan carrot cake from all our favorite establishments.

 

I was literally speechless (which is quite the accomplishment as well). And I literally had NO idea this was going on. AT ALL. In the past I’ve been known to ruin surprises, so this party will go down in history as the most amazing gift I’ve ever received.

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You can’t make everyone happy

First off, I should probably say an overwhelming thank you for all the support, encouragement and personal stories I received after opening up about my emotional issues. For the most part, you all appreciated the honesty, could relate and were happy to hear someone open up and talk about it like it’s no big deal.

 

Because guess what, it’s not a big deal. There’s nothing I should be ashamed of, nothing I am to be embarrassed about, I had a problem, I sought treatment. If you had a broken arm, you wouldn’t just “get over it,” try harder or let it heal on it’s own, no, you’d go to a doctor and you’d get that bad boy put in a cast.

Suffering from depression, anxiety or a mood disorder is essentially the same thing – only it’s with your mind. Just because you can’t see a physical break doesn’t make it any less real, any less deserving of treatment or any easier to get over. If anything, realizing you’re suffering from it is if anything, harder to uncover.

I can’t tell you how many years (actually, I can, it was 13, but who’s counting) I spent trying to “fix” myself (without the help of a professional) because of this stigma around emotional issues. Why couldn’t I just “suck it up and get over it” like everyone else? Why did my emotions seem to be so extreme compared to my friends and family? People want to play emotional illness off as “being in our heads” and some of us just being “weaker” than others, would YOU seek treatment if that’s what you heard? Imagine you had a fever for two weeks, but instead of encouraging you to go to the doctor, everyone told you to “just get over it” or “rub some dirt on it and get back in the game,” it’d make it pretty hard to take yourself seriously when it feels like NO ONE else does.

I spent 13 years, that’s just a few years shy of HALF MY LIFE, trying to “cope” like everyone else. And after ONE month of being on a low-dose antidepressant, I’ve been able to relax, to not just enjoy life, but to HANDLE it.

Unfortunately (and to be expected), not all of the feedback I received was supportive. In fact, I lost five followers and received a handful of emails informing me of how I wasn’t really being “treated.” Why would I promote and “glamourize” going on medication? Why couldn’t I just go talk to a counselor? Evidently, after spending five minutes reading one blog three readers were able to tell me what was wrong with me, how I could fix it (and it didn’t involve “feeding into the pharmaceutical machine”); something I was incapable of doing for the last decade!

Normally, this type of flack, losing a chunk of followers, would have bothered me in the past. And not in the “I want more traffic and readers” way, but in the “why don’t these people like me as a human being” way. But now, I can honestly tell you, I don’t really care what these people think. I appreciate individuals who want to reach out to me in a respectful manner, however, I have no desire to enter a battle with people who simply want to tell me how wrong I am and how I’m going to fail.

What people don’t see is the way I’ve been feeling for all these years. The coping methods I used (self harm, binge drinking, the usuals), were easily hidden by some of those closest to me. And while I may not have been engaging in those harmful ways over the last few years, it doesn’t mean my mind wasn’t still broken.

Deciding to go on medication was not something I chose lightly. At one point, probably within the last six months, I realized it was probably my best bet for healing myself, but I didn’t want to take that route. I didn’t want to be “weak.” I didn’t want to become dependent on drugs to make me happy and I didn’t want to be robotic – those things all seemed like giant steps back. But after sitting in the exam room with a doctor who has known me since I was eight, crying because I have all these blessings and I’m still not happy, he helped me decide enough was enough. He listened to me and he made me feel like Amanda, not his patient, and so I put my trust in him.

And medication isn’t my only “treatment” method, nor is it something I’m planning on being on forever. I’m not going to put a timeline on my healing, but I also realize this isn’t completely sustainable for me. I’ve also been talking with a counselor every other week, someone who specializes in women’s mental health, women’s transitions (I’m turning the big 30 NEXT month) and young mothers. I’m also finding new hobbies, whether it’s a photography class or a painting class, something I can immerse myself in something that will give me a new “high,” something that can help me figure out who I am outside of this “cloud.”

And I have the support, love and help of my family and friends, which is possibly the most important factor of all.

So I’m sorry if you’re offended that I’m willing to discuss my struggles so openly, I’m sorry if you think I’m weak because I’m on medication.

Actually, I’m not. I’m not sorry about any of those things. And if you want me to be, if you’re waiting for an apology from me, do us all a favor and unfollow me now. This blog is a space for anyone to talk about their struggles, their successes and their battles. This blog is where I want people to find comfort and hope. It doesn’t need any one person’s approval or judgment – especially if it’s hateful and not helpful.

You don’t have to agree with me. But you do need to be respectful.

 

You’re never going to make everyone happy, but as long as I am, I’m going to keep on keeping on.

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The truth about being messed up

You may have noticed things have been kind of quiet on the blog lately.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you all or turned in my laptop, I’ve simply been getting better.

I’ve tried to write this post so many different times, but never had the right words. To be honest, I’m not sure I currently do, but I just couldn’t be quiet any longer. I’ve spent so many years burying so many things; it’s time to be real.

While my family did succumb to that nasty upper respiratory virus that was going around this winter (several times, in fact), that’s not what I’ve been getting better from. Like many women, young mothers, wives, adults, parents, human beings with responsibilities, I’ve been going through a lot, for a long time, like since high school. And I never really understood or accepted that there was something off about me, I kind of just pushed it aside and figured somewhere along the way it would fix itself. I would be fixed. I would be normal.

After a few months of feeling withdrawn, a few months of feeling off center, a few months of experiencing too-high-highs and too-low-lows, I finally opened up to my family and friends and asked for help.

What was the breaking point? There wasn’t an extreme one, more like a compilation of things adding up until enough was enough and something had to be done. I’ve spent the last month on a non-dependent, extremely mild medicine to help with my mood swings (it’s like the perfect PMS pill, OK, I’m kidding, kind of) and I’ve started talking more openly about my feelings.

So here’s the truth about being messed up.

Sometimes, actually, most of the time, it’s not your fault.

This has been a really, really hard one for me to accept. This is actually half of the reason it took me so long to seek treatment. I was convinced the problem wasn’t the chemicals in my brain or the hormones in my body, but instead, was me. It’s not like I was being dealt these terrible life cards or horrible problems in which I had to handle. No, it was the everyday nuances that were wearing me down. So in my head, it wasn’t that I was suffering from depression or anything, no, it was just me. I just wasn’t capable of properly coping with things the way «normal» people did, which in turn, was why I thought I was unhappy.

After a month of being on an incredibly low-dose anti-depressant, I can tell you, that wasn’t the way I was supposed to be feeling. That wasn’t my fault. It WASN’T that I was simply unable to properly «handle» things the way other people did, no, there really was an imbalance. Now, I feel more like me, ALL the time. I don’t have these periods of terrible mood swings, where anything could bring me to tears. Now, things just don’t seem so hard.

The other reason I put off addressing my issues for so long?

The guilt. The guilt I felt and am still dealing with. I had a wonderful childhood, a loving and present family, I was a talented athlete, I had friends, boyfriends, I did well in school, I fell in love, had two healthy, wonderful babies, have a beautiful home, an amazing career, the best of friends and a seemingly charmed life. I shouldn’t be unhappy when I have such a blessed life. In my mind, I wasn’t allowed to be «depressed,» what on Earth did I have to be depressed about? And because I was still feeling those things, I concluded something was just wrong with me. I wasn’t grateful enough. I wasn’t doing things the right way, I wasn’t trying hard enough. In my mind, I had nothing to be sad about, so what the heck was my problem?

The root of my problems, aside from the chemicals in my body toying with me, was that I never validated my feelings. That’s the problem with feelings, as much as you want to control them, you can’t really. If it were so easy to control them, we’d all choose to ignore jealousy, anger, frustration, irritation; we’d just shut them off and choose to be happy instead. But feelings aren’t like that. Feelings are messy. They pop up when we don’t want them to and if we don’t address them, well, it messes us up.

Just because I have an extremely awesome support network and am on an even more awesome path in life, doesn’t mean I won’t feel sad, mad, frustrated from time to time. Are people out there going through much more difficult storms than I am? Sure. Does that mean I’m not allowed to face ones of my own? Absolutely not. Not allowing yourself to be upset, just because someone out there has it worse, is like not allowing yourself to be happy because someone out there has it better. It’s just silly.

Does that mean I’m allowed to throw myself a 24/7 pity party? Heck no. And that’s why I finally sought treatment. That’s why I’m finally starting to feel like me again. That’s why I’m finally starting to discover who the real «me» is. I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, and then I move on.

For the first time in YEARS, I’m experiencing things in a more positive light. And now, all the things I loved to do, coaching, having a family, writing, editing, baking, going out with friends, they’re all so much more enjoyable, because I’m not constantly fearing the low that will come after these «highs.»

I get it. I probably sound like the TV commercial where a cloud was following me around and now suddenly it’s sunny, but it’s really not like that. There are still clouds, still rain, but for once, I actually feel equipped to deal with these things. I actually AM handling things.

And for now, I’m a little less messed up.

I strongly encourage anyone experiencing these types of feelings to start a conversation with someone you trust. It’s completely OK to be messed up, but as I’m slowly learning, you don’t have to feel that way forever. It’s not easy to talk about these kind of things, but it should be. And if more of us speak out and share our stories, it makes it easier for someone else to. 

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The grinch of Thanksgiving

I need to get some things off my chest. 

Some things I’m not so proud of. 

Some things I’ve been struggling with. 

And some things I’m coming to cope with. 

The last six months have been frustrating, for reasons I can’t really find words for right now. I’ve found myself withdrawn from things I generally love, people I love. I’ve found myself forcing smiles and forcing happy thoughts. But the truth is, no amount of force is going to make me really mean that smile. No amount of force is going to make me positive. 

I’ve been selfish. I’ve been trying to cover up all these messy feelings, and unfortunately, today, of all days, they came pouring out. That’s the thing about these emotions; there doesn’t seem to be a right way to feel them. If I let myself be jealous, be sad, be unhappy, then I feel like I’m being ungrateful for what I’ve been given, what I’ve worked for. But if I don’t allow myself to feel these things, then I exhaust myself trying to NOT feel them. Do you know how hard it is to NOT feel something? 

And at the end of the day, I was still bitter. Still upset. Still jealous. Still sad. Regardless of whether or not I allowed myself to show these feelings, they were still there. 

And the truth is, I haven’t really found the answer to my problem — I’m not even sure there is one. I know I need to relinquish control, I need to accept that I will end up with exactly what I’m meant to. I believe deep down there is a plan for everyone, and whether or not I understand the one I’ve been given doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.

I know all these things. I need to believe these things. And yet, I’m still struggling daily with the little nuances of everyday life. Of being human. Of being flawed. Of having lost. Of not receiving. 

Three months ago we parted ways with close friends, we’d «grown apart.» There wasn’t a day that went by up until two weeks ago that I hadn’t thought about this event. What I said, what I could have said, what I should have said. And then, two weeks ago, I was sitting in my basement with my family, our best friends and their children. And everything was so easy. The kids were bouncing around each other, the men were talking about professional wrestling (I know, I know) and the women were talking about candles or something that smelled good. And it was wonderful. It was seemless. And it hit me. Things shouldn’t be so hard. Friendships don’t have to be so hard. People can grow and change and can fight and bicker, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t have been that hard. 

And finally, I felt a lightness. I understood why things had to happen and I feel comfortable and at peace with what happened. 

Today someone I love had amazing news. Wonderful news. Jumping-for-joy, eat-the-whole-can-of-whipped-cream, dance-with-no-music, shout-from-the-rooftop news. And while I was overwhelmed with SO much happiness for them, I found myself wallowing in pity for me. Not because they didn’t deserve it. Not because I deserved it more. But because I was disappointed. So I cried. I let myself feel whatever I wanted and then I decided to be done with it. I would be happy for them. I AM happy for them. 

And just like I didn’t understand three months ago what was happening, I need to just accept that in time this will all make sense too. And regardless, it will all be OK. 

And so today, after being the grinch of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to find this peace. And I’m thankful for the people in my life who teach me these things, help me accept these things and love me just the same. 

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