Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Baby Brynn

It's been over a year since I've written on this blog.  It's part of the whole "draw within" process I've been going through the past while.  I admire people who contribute in uplifting, inspiring and honest ways on social media and the internet in general but I have felt to just take a break from being very involved in it myself.
But lately I've felt like I might want to contribute my little voice again to the online world.  The back and forth dialogue in my head has gone something like this:

"You could be an influence for good by sharing on your blog again."
"Hmm...maybe so.  But what would I even write about?"
"Good point, good point.  Maybe you could write about your birth."
"Maybe.  But birth can be such a touchy topic because women have such varied experiences and opinions about it."
"Ok, well maybe you could share about how you've done your recovery so different this time by focusing on the care of your pelvic floor first, then deep core.  How you've been so committed to allowing your body time to heal that you aren't running until 6 months post partum (a hard sacrifice for me since I love it so much)"
"Yeah maybe I could do that.  But I'm pretty busy with these four kids so I'm not sure it's worth taking the time to write about that.  Plus, that sounds so boring."
"Yeah, good point."
"You could share about your reasons for not racing right now."
"Yeah that's a great idea (thought sarcastically). I'd start the post with: So I'd like to take back everything I've written up to this point and I think we should all just set aside our egos and enjoy exercise for the sake of health, not for the sake of proving anything."
"Yeah, I see your point.  Your attitude about exercise is pretty different now but maybe you can share the great things you've learned without taking away from the wonderful experiences you've had with racing in the past."
"Maybe, we'll see.  The internet world can just be so different from reality and I'm not sure I want to contribute so much to it anymore.  I find face to face interactions so much more authentic."
"Yes that can be true but the internet does allow for interactions that wouldn't otherwise happen."
"Hmm... maybe."

I have felt nudged to share again, so I guess I'll just jump right in and go for it.

I'm going to talk to you like you are my friends.  Because most of you probably are and if we don't know each other, then what are you doing reading this you creep.  Haha...just kidding.  Visitors are welcome too.

So (friends) I had a baby four months ago.  Her name is Brynn Abigail and she is sweet and teeny and I've had the most positive post partum recovery that I've ever experienced.  In the past I've been in awe of people who enjoy the newborn stage.  When people would say, "oh I just love caring for my babies; snuggling them and how tiny they are and how innocent and precious and blah blah blah" I would think to myself, "are you for real?"  I mean, you are so very sleep deprived and tender/recovering in many different places in your body, including your brain.  I found in the past that the challenges of that stage overshadowed a lot of the joys.  The joys were there, just sandwiched between so many demands and changes that it was hard to really bask in them.

I believe that we as human beings are so very capable of changing to become the people we would like to be.  I am a religious person, so for me involving God in these desired changes has made all the difference.  I seek His help and guidance daily and He provides.  Through His Holy Spirit I feel nudged to do this or that, read this, talk to that person and so on.

I wanted to experience the newborn stage differently.  So I talked to people who enjoyed it and asked what they were enjoying and how they dealt with specific challenges.  I visualized myself the way I hoped to become and I prayed.  I prayed a lot before Ivy.  Prayed that I could handle the challenges better and prayed for the grace of Jesus Christ to be with me and my family.  Well, Ivy's middle name is Grace as a way to honor and thank God for His help.  The challenges were still there after Ivy but I experienced them differently.  I enjoyed it even more with Brynn.  There were definitely moments of feeling overwhelmed and so tired but joy and fulfillment were the more frequent emotions.

My labour and delivery this time looked something like this:

 I had her at home (in my tub) and I love that option so much.
  I love the competent, nurturing care of my midwife.  I love being able to choose who attends, eat my own food, wander comfortably around my own home, recover and nurse my newborn in my bed.  It was so lovely.  To me birth and racing are so very similar in that you are using your body to do something that is challenging and your thoughts play a major role (for better or worse) in how you experience it.

I've had this quote on my nightstand for months now (probably time to take it off since I'm done birthing babies).
                      "Like a marathon runner, a woman's task in birth is not so much to avoid the pain - which usually makes it worse - but to realize that birth is a peak bodily performance, for which our bodies are superbly designed."   - Sarah Buckley

Even though I've set aside racing for awhile (maybe a long, long while), I still love exercise so very much and I'm still very passionate about positive body image, which have been the major themes of this blog in the past. Maybe I can still find things to write about that will add to the uplifting, inspiring, honest and helpful content on this crazy internet world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Babies and Racing.

My dear friend Claire asked me to be with her during her labor.  What a privilege!  So Friday afternoon at 1:00 we headed over to the hospital and Matt and Claire's sweet little baby was born at around 5AM.  It was really special to be on the other side of a birth and to offer some support to Claire.  She did amazingly well with a long labor.  I will now add "doula" to my list of things I might like to do in the future.  Birth is so amazing.

After a couple hours of sleep, our family quickly rallied (does anyone else with kids feel like you are often rushing out the door for things) to head over to our 5 km race.
Riley on the way over said, "I'm not sure if I feel hungry or sick."  We explained that those were nervous butterflies and they were a good thing because they meant he was doing something exciting and that his body was getting ready for it.
We decided to run the first couple kms as a family and then divide up, me with Riley and Adam running with Kyla and pushing Ivy in her stroller.  The kids set a 6 min/km pace from the beginning and kept asking if they could go faster.  We encouraged them not to but coached them through pacing themselves.  I had a bag of M&M's in my pocket to hand out for extra energy to the kids.  Really they were as much for a mental boost as they were for a physical boost.

Riley spotted an older kid further up on the course and wanted to try to catch him.  So we slowly gained on him and the last 500 m Riley sprinted and had this epic and very cute sprint finish.  The older kid beat him but Riley handled it well and said, "now that gives me something to try for next year."  They gave each other high fives after and congratulated each other for the good effort, like old seasoned athletes would.  Very cute.  A few minutes later Kyla came sprinting in giving it everything she had with this huge smile on her face.  Such a proud mommy moment to see my kids enjoy racing and do so well at it.

Finish times:
Riley (9 years old): 28.5 min
Kyla (7 years old): 31 min

Riley explained to me after the race, "I have two super powers mom.  First, I can choose my emotions, so if I feel tired or something then I can just choose not to feel it.  Second, if my body starts getting tired, my legs don't even listen, they just keep on going."

I love having experiences with my kids that help them develop their confidence to do hard things... and come to know their superpowers.  Participating in sport have helped me understand how much inner strength and discipline I have.  This character development and awareness have helped me in every aspect of my life.  That is why for me, sport is a powerful tool in my hopes of raising my kids to be resilient, confident and disciplined individuals.   

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Our Little Chiquita

Happy month of Cinco de Mayo!

Our little baby Ivy is not such a little baby anymore.  She seems more like a toddler.  I know some people feel sad about this transition but I personally love it.  It's so cute to see her learn to crawl, then to walk, soon to run.  She'd almost done teething, sleeps great and is a spunky, fun little girl.  At 14 months old, she's a bit of a late walker and yesterday I realized that it could be because she spends a good chunk of her day in a stroller while I go for my mornings runs and then again in the evening while we go for family walks.  Well, at least she'll have a good appreciation for nature.

Yep, I'm still running everyday.  Nope, I'm not training for anything.  Someday I'll do it again.

I don't have any recent running pictures but here's one from a weekend run with Adam and Ivy back in the snowy days.  Fish Creek really is quite pretty, even in the winter.

This past weekend we took the kids on a bike ride down in fish creek park.  We have a little seat on the back of my bike for Ivy, Kyla is on the tandem with Adam and Riley rides on his own.  We did a 13 km loop and I was proud of Riley for that.  We passed some triathletes who were training and Adam commented how he felt jealous.  I on the other hand felt like I've been there, done that, don't feel like doing it again anytime soon.  I do have some ideas simmering away in my bucket list though.  I'd love to do a 5 km race with both older kids this summer.  Then, as they get a bit older I'd love to do a family long distance relay race.  I think that would such a bonding, fun experience.

I'll sign off with this fantastic quote I read today from Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Anna Quindlen:

"If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your soul, it is not success at all."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Myth: I Can't Love What I've Got

I used to be a little bit anti-Oprah.  Nothing against her personally, I just tend to be antagonistic towards mainstream things and people sometimes.  But for Christmas this past year, Adam gave me this book, "Things I Know For Sure."  Such a little gem of a book with pearls of wisdom woven through her personal experiences.  I'm now a fan of this woman.  Sorry it took me awhile to come around Oprah.

I love her thoughts on body image in the book and decided to include some of them in a myth for my blog.  Hope you don't mind Oprah.

The amount of time and energy I've spent thinking about my next meal will be incalculable: what to eat, what I just ate, how many calories or grams of fat it contains, how much exercise I'll need to burn it off, what if I don't work out, how long will it take to manifest as extra pounds, and on and on.  Food has been on my mind a lot over the years.

I still have the cheque I wrote to my first diet doctor - Baltimore, 1977.  I was 23 years old, 148 lbs, a size 8 and I thought I was fat.  The doctor put me on a 1,200 calorie regimen, and in less than two weeks I had lost 10 lbs.  Two months later I had regained 12.  Thus began the cycle of discontent, the struggle with my body.  With myself.

I joined the diet brigade - signing on for the Beverly Hills, Atkins, Scarsdale, Cabbage Soup, and even the Banana, Hot Dog, and Egg Diets.  (You think I'm kidding.  I wish.)  What I didn't know is that with each diet I was starving my muscles, slowing my metabolism, and setting myself to gain even more weight.  Around 1995, after almost two decades of yo-yoing, I finally realized that being grateful for my body, whatever shape it was in, was the key to giving more love to myself.

But although I made that connection intellectually, living it was a different story.  It wasn't until about 6 years later, after six months of unexplained heart palpitations, that I finally got it.  On December 19, 2001 I wrote in my journal: "One thing is for sure - having palpitations at night makes me more aware of being happy to awaken in the morning, more grateful for each day."  I stopped taking my heart for granted and began thanking it for every heart beat it had ever given me.  I marveled at the wonder of it.  In 47 years, I'd never consciously given a thought to what my heart does.  Feeding oxygen to my lungs, liver, pancreas, even my brain, one beat at a time.

For so many years I had let my heart down by not giving it the support it needed.  Overeating.  Overstressing.  Overdoing.  No wonder when I lay down at night it couldn't stop racing.  I believe that everything that happens in our lives has a meaning.  That experience brings a messing if you're willing to hear it.  So what was my speeding heart trying to tell me?  I still don't know the answer.  Yet simply asking the question cause my to look at my body and how I failed to honor it.  How every diet I had ever been on was because I wanted to fit into something or just fit in.  Taking care of my heart, the life force of my body, had never been my priority.

I sat up in bed one crisp, sunny morning and made a vow to love my heart.  To treat it with respect.  To feed and nurture it.  To work it out and then let it rest.  And then one night, I was getting out of the tub, I glanced in the full length mirror.  For the first time, I didn't launch into self criticism.  I actually felt a warming sense of gratitude for what I saw.  My hair braided, not a stitch of make up on, face clean.  Eyes bright, alive.  Shoulders and neck strong and firm.  I was thankful for the body I lived in.

I did a head to toe assessment and though there was plenty of room for improvement, I no longer hated any part of myself.  Even the cellulite.  I thought, "This is the body you've been given.  Love what you've got."  So I started truly loving the face I was born in; the lines under my eyes at age 2 have gotten deeper, but they're my lines.  The broad nose I tried to lift when I was 8 by sleeping with a close pin and two cotton balls on the sides, is the nose I've grown into.  The full lips I used to pull in when smiling are the lips I use to speak to millions of people everyday - my lips need to be full.

In that moment, as I stood before the mirror, I had my own "spiritual transformation/a root revival of love," which Carolyn M Rodgers writes of in one of my favorite poems, "Some Me of Beauty."
What I know for sure: There is no need to struggle with your body when you can make a loving and grateful peace with it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Goodbye fall. Hello winter.

Up until just a few weeks ago, Adam has been riding his bike to work downtown.  It's just over 40 km round trip and he's loved it.  He looked into being all hard core and getting chains for his tires, so that he could ride through the winter but after doing some research he said, "I just picture myself riding in -20 at 5:30 am and realize that I would probably end up hating it."  Good call Adam, good call.  So it's back to the bus for him now and he will ride again in the spring.  I think we will start doing the Insanity videos together in the evenings, so that he can get more exercise in his life.

Adam raced in a duathlon this fall and placed 3rd overall.  So impressive!  A duathlon was perfect to train for because he was already riding to work and running during some lunch hours.  The run was on trails out near Bragg creek.  Both of us would love to get into trail running more at some point.

Ivy and I have been getting out almost every day to run.  As it gets colder, we both just add on layers of clothing and it's been surprisingly comfortable.  She stays quite toasty all bundled up in the chariot.     

I'm pleasantly surprised that my body can handle running everyday.  I used to think that I needed a day of cross training in between runs but wanted to challenge that theory a couple months ago.  I add in some strength training here and there and I feel like I have the right approach to exercise for this stage of life.  Plus, now I have a running buddy! (Thanks Kirsty).  I love the convenience of running and I'm glad to avoid the gym until she's older.  I did the gym when Kyla was little and found it hard booking in an exact time with a napping baby and she was sick quite a bit, I assume from all the other kids and germs. 

I've been asked whether I'm training for any races and I'm not.  I feel like if you're going to have a goal, it should add something to your life.  Bring you joy in some way.  Racing at this stage wouldn't do that for me right now.  I have really enjoyed my exercise the past 8 months because it feels like a rehabilitation process.  I've seen so many gains, which is exciting.  I have gained back so much of the muscle I lost during pregnancy, strengthened up my core and pelvic floor and increased my cardiovascular fitness.  I feel healthy,  strong and so grateful for this body that I've been able to use for amazing purposes; to bear three children, race around the world and live a full life.  Pregnancy takes quite a toll on the body and it takes time to recover, that's for sure.  Taking care of myself physically helps me to feel well and be able to offer more to my family and others. Exercise  has been such a blessing in my life.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Myth: Beauty has a best before date

I love the book “The Great Gatsby,” so when the movie came out last year, I was totally stoked to go see it.  Needless to say, I loved the movie, but I especially loved the eerily enchanting song from the soundtrack called “Young and Beautiful” by Lana del Rey.  I listened to it all the time, that is until I actually started listening to the words and realized the following:

(While singing along to the song) Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?

(Thinking to myself) Wait a minute.  Obviously everyone reaches a point when they're no longer “young”, but does that also mean they're no longer beautiful?  I don't like that.  I disagree.

And that was about the extent of that conversation I had with myself and I slowly stopped listening to that song.

Fast forward to a few months later.  I read the book “1984,” and, strangely, my favorite part of the book had nothing to do with how it has totally predicted the future and that Big Facebook is watching our every move.  Nope.  Instead, what stuck out to me was the following passage, which has become one of my most favorite book quotes:

Tirelessly the woman marched to and fro, corking and uncorking herself, singing and falling silent, and pegging out more diapers, and more and yet more.  He wondered whether she took in washing for a living or was merely the slave of twenty or thirty grandchildren.  Julia had come across to his side; together they gazed down with a sort of fascination at the sturdy figure below.  As he looked at the woman in her characteristic attitude, her thick arms reaching up for the line, her powerful mare-like buttocks protruded, it struck him for the first time that she was beautiful.  It had never before occurred to him that the body of a woman of fifty, blown up to monstrous dimensions by childbearing, then hardened, roughened by work till it was coarse in the grain like an over-ripe turnip, could be beautiful.  But it was so, and after all, he thought, why not?  The solid, contour less body, like a block of granite, and the rasping red skin, bore the same relation to the body of a girl as the rose-hip to the rose.  Why should the fruit be held inferior to the flower?

“She's beautiful,” he murmured.

“She's a metre across the hips, easily,” said Julia.

“That is her style of beauty,” said Winston.

And just like that, the feeling I had while listening to that silly song was put into words.  There is no end to beauty (which would be a great line to add to the song “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” by the way).  Simply, as Winston said, the style of the beauty changes.  And might I add, I believe the change is for the better.  If nature requires a flower to slowly trade in its petals for wisdom, experience, and sacrifice, the sturdy and steadfast rose-hip can easily be considered equal, if not greater, to the fleeting beauty of the rose.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Myth: I Can Only Enjoy My Body Once It's 'Perfect'

Thanks to those who have contributed myths on my blog.  I appreciate each of you.  It can be tough to be vulnerable and open with others and I applaud and appreciate your courage to do so. Thanks to those who have said they might still contribute.  Please feel free to do so, if you would like.  If you aren't already, I would suggest following BEAUTY REDEFINED on facebook.  I think you'll enjoy the positive messages in your newsfeed.

This morning I went for a run.

The thud, thud, thud of my feet on the pavement was soothing, as it always is for me.  The air carried the crispness of fall and was cool and fresh on my lungs.  The sun cut through the clouds and I could feel her beautiful energy.  I reminded myself to relax into my gait, to pull through with each stroke, to let my hips move freely and to hold my core strong and balanced.  These things are a practice for me, like in yoga.  For me, it's not about getting them right or wrong, just enjoying the practice of learning to move my body in more efficient ways.   I chatted with Ivy and pointed out the trees and leaves and then laughed as she sneezed each time we faced into the sun.

I love to run so very much.  It reminds me how strong I am.  Some days I love to push myself a bit but most days I just love to run.  At a comfortable pace, just soaking it all in and enjoying the movement.

I've heard it said that one reason triathlon is so appealing, is that it reminds us of what it is to be children.  To swim, bike and run and ultimately to move our bodies as a form of fun and play.  Like children do.

I feel saddened to think that many miss out on this enjoyment of their physical bodies.  Particularly if they are waiting to enjoy their bodies until they have reached some magic number on the scale or a certain clothing size.  Enjoy your body now.  The beautiful body you have.  Find something you love to do and take joy in doing it.  Just as a child would.

I chose this myth because I used to buy into it at a certain level.  I had an "aha" moment last year, where I realized that I was saving a certain piece of my happiness to enjoy once I had reached this hypothetical level of bodily 'perfection' that I had created in my mind.  It was a turning point for me to realize that.  I put a note on my mirror, which still remains, that states, "Guard you thoughts.  Think only positive thoughts regarding the look and care of my physical body."  It's a simple statement but it's changed so much of what goes on in my head.  I have reset some of the criticisms that used to have a neurological pathway and changed them to newer, positive messages.

For those who feel the need to have a goal for the look or size of their body, can I suggest that you be careful that these goals help you to live healthier, fuller lives.  If your current goal is causing you to fill up on commercially prepared diet foods and filling you with stress and deprivation, then please re-think it.  A good goal should be one that helps you to improve as a person, to reach higher and deeper.  To become all you can be as a beloved child of God, with so much potential.  In my opinion, physical goals are much more enjoyable if they focus on what you can DO with your body, rather than what your body looks like. The positive changes to your body come as a by-product.  But I understand that it's wonderful to know that your body is in a nice healthy place.

There are many different ways to measure these things but one commonly held measurement of a healthy body weight is to use a BMI chart.  Here's one below.

Bodily perfection can be so loaded and so different for each person.  Who gets to define that?  Well, I would recommend taking control of your mind and your body by making your own definition.  You can take in good information like the chart above and set aside any information that is unhelpful.  You and I have the power to do that.  I promise you will find greater peace and joy in this life, as you enjoy using your body to move, to explore, to be out among nature, to lift, to climb, to create (including and especially children) and all the other incredible functions that these wonderful human bodies were created by God to do.  This body is a gift and we can all enjoy it.  We can enjoy it TODAY.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Myth: The Media is Telling the Truth

Our whole lives we’ve been paying close attention to whatever media is telling us, whether we mean to or not.What I’m telling you now is that media is lying to you so you will buy stuff. Keep reading and see how you can get out of the trap.

My name is Megan Allen, and I’ve known Kim and her family for several years. Kim was one of my amazing young women’s leaders at church. I’ve lived in Calgary for eight years and am currently attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I volunteered or Kim asked me to write a post for her myth series in the spring and after the craziness of school and summer, here it is!

Ever since I discovered Beauty in high school, my whole outlook on beauty and the media has changed. Beauty Redefined is an organization run by two twin sisters who have PhDs in the study of media and body image. I’ve learned about media literacy and the lies that we see in media everyday. Most importantly, each time I read one of their articles I learn about the tactics all forms of media use to objectify women. Once I realize what is truly happening, I can choose to reject the negative messages. My passion to learn about the subject of media and body image has helped me in school since it is the subject that I always choose to write about when I have an essay due. (So pardon me if I recycle a bit of what I’ve already written!)

What is Self-Objectification?

Self-objectification is described as when people adopt the “outsize gaze” as their own.  What does that look like? Well, it is the result of nearly every attempt of advertising and at the core of having a lack of confidence and discouragement with your appearance.  Media, in all forms, such as television, advertisements, magazines and movies present harmful messages to us its viewers. Media forms are not simply entertainment, but shape our reality and views. This is dangerous because what do you see most in media? You see the repeated and relentless female and male ideal. You know the drill, women are supposed to be in a constant state of perfection- thin, toned, long bouncy hair, sexy, and stylish. Women are objectified and most often seen as a one-faceted object with little regard to intellect and most importantly as appealing to men.  You can see examples of the objectification of women all the time. (Even check out the hashtag #NotBuyingIt to see those working to call out advertisers on it.) But what harm does self-objectifying do?

Self-objectification is considered a national epidemic by The American Psychological Association. They have said: “Perhaps the most insidious consequence of self-objectification is that it fragments consciousness. Chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities.” Those who objectify, especially adolescents, are more likely to be depressed, have eating disorders, have lower ambition, lower GPA, lower political efficacy, and are less likely to run for office or vote.”

The impact of media on adolescent females is profound. First of all, it is estimated that average teenagers spend nearly 11 hours a day using media. These resources such as the Internet, television, movies, magazines, music, and advertisements are full of calculated images of perfected women. The Beauty Redefined Foundation concluded that studies show that constant exposure to sexualized female bodies provides great encouragement for girls to view themselves from an outsider’s gaze. Girls are lead to value themselves based on how they look, and their comparisons come from the oft-unattainable standards created by the media. This pressure leads to widespread body hatred and poor body image, which leads to unhealthy sexual choices evidenced by weakened sexual assertiveness.

Behind the academic sounding facts, it’s clear to see that everyone faces self-objectification, including myself. Ever since I began working on being media literate, I still get caught in the trap of thinking that I’m not enough, nor will I ever be. It’s easy to think that way when it’s too easy for the world to convince you that you are not okay as you are. (I mean if they thought you were fine they would have no way of selling anything to you.) I’ve struggled with body image as early as kindergarten. I went to elementary school in Utah surrounded by dancers, dancers, dancers. Since I didn’t start taking dance classes in pre-school, I thought I was too late so I never tried. Plus it didn’t help that I was always taller than all my friends (who were often very naturally petite) and true to my heritage “big boned.” Until I pursued softball when I was 10, I did not feel confident in my abilities to play sports or in what my body looked like (all this strife before the age of ten!) and even after that, I still thought my body would never be good enough.

I still struggle as my weight goes up and down. With the lifelong battle of trying to be in shape, sometimes succeeding, other times going with the flow, I can now have a defense against all of the negative thoughts. I highly recommend that you all go and read the articles on Beauty Redefined, because they have changed my life. I now can see past the lies in media and think more about the harmful thoughts that enter my mind.

“My body is an instrument to be used, not an ornament to be admired.”-Beauty Redefined

This means that when I choose to go running to focus on my fitness, I’m doing it because I value my body and I want to take care of it. When I put on make-up, it’s to accentuate my natural beauty and also for fun. When I focus on taking care of myself and not on what others may see when looking at me, I’m free from a huge amount of stress. The true harm of self-objectification is that we are not living our lives for ourselves; we are living our lives to be seen. My challenge to each of you is to learn about media literacy, and join Beauty Redefined in “taking back beauty for females everywhere.” Whoever you are, you are beautiful, capable, intelligent, and powerful and always remember it.