Friday, June 30, 2017

Our Departure from The Learning Village

It is with bitter disappointment that I write this post, but I feel it is necessary to explain the reasons that my family and I will no longer return to The Learning Village or work with Teri Verhine in any capacity in the future.

We have been part of this homeschool community since I was pregnant with Sean, over 9 years. We have found friends and friends-who-are-family, worked and played together. We found so many of our people and I love that no matter what comes in the future that we will always have that connection. We felt welcomed and included and were grateful to have found a secular group. I give Teri credit for all of the things she did to make this community a reality.

In 2013, I began to work for TLV (then, GA-EPH) as an instructor, hoping to offset the cost of my children’s classes with the money I could make as an instructor. I also served on an “advisory board” (not a Board of Directors in any true sense of the word) of parents to help give feedback on policies, etc. I worked at TLV for three years, leaving in May 2016. GA-EPH, and now TLV, which are separate unique corporations, both operate(d) as a Georgia domestic nonprofit organization. Neither had obtained (or applied for, to my knowledge) 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the IRS, though I have emails as far back as 2013 stating the intent to file for 501(c)3.

During my three years working as an independent contractor, I experienced numerous delays in receiving the payments due to me. Over time, it became apparent that other instructors experienced this, too. Sometimes, I let the money owed to me go toward the costs of my children’s classes for the next session. I stopped requesting that this be done and insisted on payment rather than allowing the float, partly out of concerns that it could artificially lower my gross income and get me in trouble with the IRS, and also because I had begun to have concerns over the cash flow management at TLV.

In each of the three years I taught there, it was easy enough to collect payments owed to me in Sessions 1 and (usually) 2. It was much more difficult to collect payments in the second semester, Sessions 3 & 4.

I was given the following reasons for my delayed payments:

  • The check was lost in the mail, and had to have a stop payment put on it, and another check issued (this is the reason I received most often)
  • Forgotten checkbook
  • Forgotten checks
  • The checkbook was in Teri’s possession but lacked actual checks
  • She had my checks for a long time but didn’t volunteer to give them to me, expecting only to pay me when I asked for it
  • Unsigned checks
  • Check made out to the wrong person or entity (as I was offering my fitness classes under the umbrella of my other job, those classes were paid directly to my work)


If one or another of these things had happened once, maybe twice, it would have been understandable and I would have overlooked the occasional oversight. However, these things all happened to me at least once, many of them multiple times, over the three years (24 total class session) I was there.

I began to get frustrated by the end of my first year, and certainly well into the second year. After talking with other instructors, I learned that I was not the only person to experience slow payments and to hear these excuses, which was alarming. I remembered receiving and delivering “lost in the mail” checks on behalf of another instructor going as far back as 2010.
I regret to say that I had a role in enabling this behavior. It was only toward the end of my working relationship with Teri that I began to complain. Why? Partly, I didn’t want to rock the boat. My kids and I were happy in this community. Partly, I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Partly, it just felt like a jerky thing to do. Mostly, I didn’t speak up sooner or more directly because I DESPERATELY wanted to keep the wonderful aspects of this community going. I wanted to see my friends, I wanted my kids to see their friends. I appreciated the wonderful learning experiences we all had.

I began to become aware that this was taking a toll on me, though. I would avoid asking Teri for my check sometimes because I just knew I couldn’t stand to be lied to and disappointed yet again. I just couldn’t face being handed another excuse. So I’d give her longer than I should have before asking for payment.

Because my fitness classes were offered via my other job, I was in the unfortunate position on many separate occasions of having to tell my boss that his check was still forthcoming, and making him aware that I had concerns about slow payment. I felt terrible about exposing him to this risk (of potential nonpayment), though I was prepared to eat that cost if it ever became necessary for me to do so, so he would not be financially harmed because of my continuing to work for Teri though I had concerns about not being able to collect money due to me.

Once, I wrote her asking for my checks, upset that I hadn’t received them. It turned out I was asking for them prematurely. I had gotten so upset and jumped the gun, expecting that I’d encounter yet another delay. Teri informed me that I was asking early and I told her I had misunderstood the policy. This is important because since then, she has used this single incident on multiple occasions as a way of suggesting that I had misread my contract and therefore my other complaints about slow payment are somehow to be dismissed. She did this to me in the meeting yesterday, in fact, as I expected her to.

In January 2016, I informed Teri I would not be returning the next year to teach. The precipitating event for this was not over money, though I had had to wait for my final check from the previous semester for nearly 6 weeks, due to it being “lost in the mail.” Rather, she had raised her voice to me in what I felt to be an unprofessional manner in front of colleagues and customers over my fitness equipment. Again, giving her the benefit of the doubt and understanding that everyone loses their cool sometimes, I waited until the weekend to email her about the incident, requesting that such matters be handled more professionally in the future. I received no response, but was informed that she was discussing my email with other colleagues and parents in person the next time we had class.

Given that she hadn’t responded to my email or acknowledged it in any way, I believed that I had no choice but to resign. I made myself a promise long ago after working in a couple of similarly unprofessional environments that I would never do it again. On top of this incident, by this point I had grave concerns about this pattern of slow payment. It was time for me to be done working for Teri. This decision wasn’t made lightly, especially considering that it involved a significant reduction in the income I could provide for my family.

However, we weren’t quite ready to quit TLV altogether. Our beloved teachers were all there, one was returning to teaching there after a break.

I was on the fence about returning, because collecting the final checks due to me at the end of Session 4 in 2016 was extremely challenging. After several days and back and forth texting about how my checks were still outstanding, I finally told her I didn’t believe her any more (this time, it was that she had mailed them to me the day after classes ended, so they must have been “lost in the mail” again). She sent an email to (supposedly) all of the instructors from Session 4 explaining that several people hadn’t received checks, and claiming to have mailed them out. The instructors were BCC’d so we had no idea of knowing who had received this email. I responded, copying all instructors directly. I learned later that there were instructors not included in on this original email.

From there, Teri and I and some of the other instructors began a back and forth discussion about the slow payment issue. It was a heated email thread, but the outcome of it was that several instructors collected payment and Teri developed an invoice and payment schedule for the next year’s instructors. While still extremely unhappy about my experience, I made peace with the fact that things would improve going forward. My family remained at TLV as students for the 2016/17 year.

Imagine my extreme disappointment upon learning this spring that instructors, one of whom teaches my own children, were still having trouble collecting their payments. I don’t think disappointed covers it: livid, heartbroken, nauseous. That begins to describe it.

When it became known that there were changes to the instructor contracts coming up this next year that made no sense (requiring teachers to roll in supply fees and have their 20% cut to Teri taken out of the new total, instead of passing through expenses as expenses), when we were being asked to donate more time on top of money to the “village,” when vague fundraising plans were being discussed, people began to ask questions about how the money is being used at TLV. For maybe the first time, parents and customers and onlookers became aware of the ongoing issue with paying instructors in a timely manner, though of course it had been an open secret among instructors for many years.

I don’t want to rehash those discussions, which all took place within the last few weeks. The end result is that we did not receive clear answers to these very reasonable questions. The end result is that any hope of communicating about and resolving this issue was cut off when Teri closed those threads to comments and instituted administrators to approve posts.

Why isn’t the money paid to teachers on time when it is all collected up front from the parents? I still don’t understand. I have yet to receive any clear answers on why paying instructors on time (to the tune of thousands of dollars a session) is such a problem. Why remembering to bring a checkbook–with checks in it– is such a hassle. Why knowing who to make a check out to is challenging. Why instructors can’t be paid directly via PayPal, or even have the parents pay teachers directly. Why the US Postal Service is so incompetent in only her neighborhood. Why some instructors were routinely paid on time and others weren’t.
As a result of the Facebook discussions in the last couple of weeks, seven instructors have pulled their classes from TLV. Many families, including mine, are pulling out completely.

Teri held a community meeting yesterday, June 29, which I attended, in part to contradict her when she tried to make it sound like my complaints about slow payment stemmed from MY misunderstanding/misreading of my contract, as if I am/was to blame, as if this issue was only ever isolated to me, on one occasion. She cut me off before I could finish listing out all of the excuses I had personally experienced over the years. I’m glad I attended and glad I spoke up.

It infuriates me to write this, but even as she was trying to insinuate that my issue with getting paid was both a single incident and also my fault, even as another instructor contradicted her claims that instructors for 2016/17 were paid on time according to her schedule, she failed to bring a checkbook yesterday that had checks in it, to pay two instructors what she owes them.

Ultimately, this is about trust. I don’t trust Teri, and haven’t for a long time, to follow through with payments (or refunds due to parents, or doing things like sending out checks for drama scripts) in a responsible, timely manner. I don’t trust her to pay the instructors of my children as agreed upon. She has, repeatedly and for many years, taken advantage of my own willingness to let things slide in the interest of keeping up appearances for the sake of our children and the community at large.

I simply don’t believe anything she says, and I cannot sanction TLV or any enterprise in which she is involved with my presence or my money.

My family and I recently had a heart to heart discussion about all of this, and in the end, we were all pretty much in tears over our agreement that we need to leave TLV. But it is morally necessary. I only regret not speaking out more loudly and clearly in the past, and for staying long past the time when I knew Teri could not be trusted.

I do have copies of all of my text exchanges and email, as well as screenshots of the latest FB conversations (should those be deleted, as I expect they will). I have evidence that backs up my direct experience.
Though I hope they will, I don’t expect other instructors and parents to be as vocal as I am choosing to be about my experience. This is an individual thing to decide, and there are many factors in play here, including what is best to do for oneself and one’s family, and it’s a difficult thing to think about and make a decision about.

I do hope, though, that more instructors and parents will choose to speak about their experiences publicly, if only to corroborate what I am saying here. My other hope is that those who choose to continue their association with TLV will be vigilant, ask questions, insist on payments and refunds as agreed upon in a timely manner. I want these matters to remain in the light, or else they will never be solved, and the community (and children) will continue to suffer the consequences.


I stand by everything I have written here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The 5 Years Ago Exercise, Part 2

Two years ago, on the eve of my 43rd birthday, I wrote this post.  In it, I looked back on snapshots of my life going back in time every 5 years.

And now, on the eve of 45, I am in the mood to do the same.

Today, I'm living in the woods (of suburbia) with my family, in an old house called Wildhaven. We still haven't fixed it up yet, because we still own our other house. So we are fixing up THAT house and hoping to get it on the market very soon. We love Wildhaven, and I will love it better when it isn't so drafty and the kitchen is updated. My kids are 13, 10, and 7. We are leaving the eye of the parenting hurricane (where everyone is potty trained and nobody is a hormonal preteen/teen) and reentering the storm. The next few years are going to be interesting! We have one dog who is 3 years old, and zero cats.

I am a homeschooling mom, but most of my teaching is aimed at other people's children. I teach classes at our homeschool group, and this semester I've got CrossFit Kids, SOLE, High School Economics (two sections) and am advising the Stock Market Game teams. I also each CrossFit Kids at CrossFit Kennesaw and coach a regular shift of CF classes with the big kids about once a week. I love all the fitness stuff and have recently decided that this is the direction I want to keep moving in, particularly in the realm of kettlebells and kettlebell sport. I just completed my 7th kettlebell sport competition last week, which we hosted at CFK, and earlier this year I accidentally made Rank 1 in Biathlon at The Arnold. I'm a little bit obsessed with kettlebells and currently I own at least 11 competition bells and half a dozen or so "baby" bells.

Five years ago, I celebrated my 40th birthday by going to the wedding of two friends, and then afterwards out to a bar where lots of people cheered and I drank a beer. It was awesome. The kids were 8, 5, and 2, we had zero dogs and one ancient cat. We were just about to enter the eye of the parenting hurricane (where everyone is potty trained and nobody is a hormonal preteen/teen). As far as we knew, we'd be living in that house forever. I was a homeschooling mom, and my older kids had begun to take classes at our homeschool group. I thought "maybe, someday" I might teach ONE class there, when the toddler was big enough to take in his own class. I had just started CrossFit at CFK a few months prior, and was beginning to work up the nerve to attend classes more than twice a week. I already felt a gazillion times better and younger, having dropped about 45 pounds earlier in the year, and I was eager to learn how to be stronger and not get hurt in the process.

Five years before that, I was 35. I had a 3.5 year old and an 8 month old, and two cats. And boy did I EVER have a 3.5 year old! I still can't believe we all weathered THAT parenting hurricane, and now here we are again. :) We spent Thanksgiving that year in Asheville, NC with family, and Brendan and I got to see whatever Harry Potter movie was coming out that year. (That 8 month old baby is planning a Harry Potter birthday party for 2016.) Also, we were probably done having kids, since we had a boy and a girl, and had recently begun to reach out to other local homeschoolers to try to make First Contact. We still are friends with many of those people today. We started thinking about investment opportunities around this time, and I began looking into how to buy property in North Georgia, just for fun. And we owned Red Top Software still. (Entrepreneurial adventures just seem to happen to us.) I had a better level of fitness because toddlers.

Five years before that just before my 30th birthday, I was on the cusp of quitting my last "real" job, for no other reason than I refused to work for an emotionally unstable boss. We'd been living in our house for a couple of years, and had so much extra room we hardly knew what to do with ourselves. We had no kids except for the cats, but in the back of my mind, I thought "maybe, someday, you know, just one." Still, I planned to go find another job after the new year, because just "staying" at home and doing "nothing" was SO not for me. Type 1 diabetes, 9/11, children, and food allergies were still all in the future for us. And a life of fitness was not even on my radar either. Though I was beginning to notice that I hated walking up stairs and avoided them if I could.

Five years before that, I was 25. We had just gotten married and were NEVER going to have kids. I was working in a better job than the one I had secured when we first moved to Atlanta. I was a data processor for a health information company, dreaming of a time when I could hit the Big Time, and be a Vice President of something, with an office and people to manage. I couldn't imagine anything more fun. Brendan had his first programming job. We had one cat, and one had just suddenly died and we were pretty traumatized that we couldn't imagine getting another one ever. I drove a crappy car still, and we lived in an apartment just inside 285 (the famous/infamous Riverbend) and we had more free time than we could possibly ever appreciate.

And going back five more years, I was a sophomore in college, with no idea of what lay before me and only the vaguest idea of what I might want to do with my life.

Part of me wants to go back to my college self and just look at her and say "YOU. JUST. WAIT."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Proud

I wrote this on Facebook the other day, and tonight it occurred to me that this might be the thing of which I am most proud recently:

My friend Diana just posted something that reminded me I wanted to share a recent success in my dual quests to defeat the Perfectionism Monster and be a badass kettlebell lifter.

I did a short snatch test (snicker) the other day and was initially unimpressed with my results. Got a few more reps than previous attempts, but overall, was pretty disappointed in my progress in 16kg snatch since March.

The PM started whispering and I consciously decided to tell it to shut up, enjoy the fact that minute, unimpressive progress is still, you know, progress.

I found all the positives I could in that set (higher RPM than normal, excellent breathing technique, didn't want to die until the last few reps on each hand compared to previous wanting-to-die feeling for the entire last full minute on each side).

I remembered that "deliberate practice" (as discussed in the book I'm currently listening to, Talent is Overrated) takes time and dedication and also feels pretty sucky while doing it. So far, this is my main takeaway from this book: deliberate practice is really really painful. As I am choosing to pursue this sport right now, I am choosing to endure the pain and I am learning to trust the process, that I will reach my goals sooner or later. As it happens, maybe it really be a LOT later than I initially thought, but the only person who cares about this fictitious timeline is me, and I think I care less than I thought I did.

And so, with relative peace of mind, I have managed to forget all about this "defeat" I suffered until just a little while ago, and looking back on it, I realize I view that training session as an overall success.

This is me, growing as a person here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Musings from the Odyssey 2014 Trip

Now that our #Odyssey2014 trip has been over for a few days (I hope you've followed along on Facebook, but maybe I'll repost those updates here on the blog), I've had a chance to process it a little more. Here are some of the things I learned (or am still mulling over) from this experience, in no particular order:

I have a lot of respect for single parents. All I could think about on the way to Vermont was that I would have help (in the form of my spouse and our extended family) once I got there. All I could think about on the way home was that I would have help at home. Even knowing that help lay ahead of me, the road trip wasn't easy for me (I really hate driving!) or the kids. But we did our best and did pretty well for the most part. I apologized a lot, so there's that. :) You'd think that I spend almost all of every day with these kids I'd be better at it by now, but there is really something knowing that Brendan will be home at the end of the day and on the weekends that gives me the strength to push through sometimes.

My children are amazing individuals. I had challenges with each one during our trip (and sometimes the fault lay with me), but each one did so well. Ryan and Morgan helped with planning and navigating, Morgan assisted Sean in the back seat of the car when he needed it (not often), everyone was self-entertained for the most part at events they weren't especially happy to go to (ahem, kettlebell competition). Seeing them in their aunt's wedding, all calm and composed and looking sharp in their fancy clothes, was just amazing. I am grateful for all of the adults and older kids who talked to them and got to know them as individuals, who went out of their way to help me, who cared enough to make peanut allergy accommodations, who involved them in what they were doing. This is the way to forge relationships with children, and I haven't met a child yet who hasn't responded favorably to being treated as an individual worthy of respect by other adults. I hope one day they can appreciate how fortunate they are, to have so many wonderful caring adults in their lives.

I am glad to have been able to travel to kettlebell competitions, but I am worried about my ability to do that in the future due to time and expense. There's only one a year in GA at this time, and I'd like to do at least two or three a year to keep up my training. So I need to buckle down and save up some money to fuel this habit I've developed. :)

As hard as it was to schedule time off and arrange things to get out of town for a block of time, we need to do more of it. I loved seeing parts of the country I haven't seen any or much of, and getting to Canada (however briefly) was great, too. (Apparently I need to become independently wealthy to sustain both this new travel goal and my kettlebell habit!) We are desperate to get out west next year to see my grandmother and family out there. 

Deep breathing techniques work well in stressful traffic and/or parenting situations. Yay, kettlebells and yoga! And The Beatles' "Across the Universe!" Basically, yay to me for being a badass hippie!

I am definitely more extroverted than I used to be. I loved seeing all the people we got to visit with on our trip SO MUCH. I am very motivated to find better ways to stay in touch with friends and family who live outside my immediate area. I also missed my local friends/chosen family a whole whole bunch. I found myself talking about our homeschool group and CFK quite a bit over the trip, and every time, I got this warm achy feeling because of all the wonderful people I know here in Kennesaw and how I missed them. My challenge as a new extrovertish person is how to balance my time and also how to cultivate deeper relationships because doing so requires time and shared experiences and semi-regular interaction, I think. And of course I have my very closest people to keep close, too. 

I learned that I do not know how to work a regular gym. Thank goodness there were free weights for deadlifts and kettlebells for goblet squats, because hardly any of those machines made any kind of sense to me. :)

I used the driving time to ponder a lot about where I want to go along certain career paths that are before me. Yes, I think I have some actual career goals now, for the first time in over a decade! This is exciting and interesting, and obviously poses a logistical challenge because in case you haven't noticed, I have a jam packed schedule. Having a career path (or two or three as it happens) is important to me because I am dedicated to making sure I have some things I am doing and can do once the kids are launched. I am halfway through, see. Ryan is 12, and I've got 12 more years until Sean is launched (to just go by the somewhat arbitrary age of 18--this can be +/- a year I guess). I haven't been idle in this area for the last few years, and I will be doing what I can to build on some foundations I've got in place now so that I am not feeling at loose ends as my career as homeschooling mom/chauffeur draws to an end.

I saw a lot of homes on this journey: two of my old homes, homes of friends and family, etc. Each one inspired me to improve our own home. I thought a lot about Wildhaven and how we can work more dedicatedly to fixing up our fixer-upper. Budget is a concern, but we have a lot of things we can do pretty immediately to spruce up the place. Even if we can't turn the back porch into a four season room yet, we can at least make some progress on decluttering and turning some unused space into more livable space. Immediate projects include creating a crafting/sewing area for Morgan, getting rid of toys that the older kids have outgrown, and figuring out what to do with the weeds, I mean, yard. Those modest goals will do for now. It is overwhelming, but I know if I chip away at it, we will see some progress quickly.

Audiobooks are the greatest invention known to man. I say this as someone who used to be a big audiobook skeptic. We finished the last two books of the Kane Trilogy by Rick Riordan, heard Geraldine McCaughrean's Hercules and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (and I always paused that book at toll booths, lest some culturally unacceptable language assault some poor innocent toll booth worker!), and started, wait for it . . . Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters! To hear my kids laughing at Peabody brandishing her parasol at bad guys and arguing with Emerson is a joy. Each book brings new discussions and terminology into the family lexicon. Every once in a while, I need to change over to music, which feeds the soul in different ways, and the kids hate it. But we used effective communication and mutual problem-solving techniques to work out an acceptable plan. Yay, PD!

I've got other things I'll be thinking about in the future, but I'll end with one final musing:

There's no place like home. But I'm not convinced "home" is necessarily geographically fixed. I mean, it is of course. Wildhaven is our home. But home is also a state of mind. I felt at home as long as I was with people who loved and understood me. And I was, every second. Realizing this helped me appreciate being in the moment during the trip (something I have a hard time doing), because no matter who I was with or what I happened to be doing, I felt happy and content and loved. In other words, at home.

Monday, June 02, 2014

10 Reasons I Might Not Be Eating Paleo

As lots of you know, I've been eating paleo/primal/real food for many years now, to the overall benefit of my health, and I am committed to continuing this good eating plan forever and ever.

But, that doesn't mean I eat 100% paleo 100% of the time! If you see me consuming something that is definitely not paleo, here are some reasons why that might be:


1. I'm traveling.

I find it difficult to eat 100% paleo when traveling, for various reasons. So I make travel-related compromises. I will sometimes eat fast food like french fries (made in god-knows-what-kind-of-oil). Generally though, I opt for a salad of some kind, but will usually forget to ask them to leave the cheese off. I won't use unknown salad dressings, so I often end up eating fast food chicken and dry lettuce. Meh. I usually have good snacks with me, too, of course, but sometimes it gets boring eating out of a cooler or only nuts and beef jerky, etc.

For me, travel is stressful enough (I've got kids, duh) so I choose not to add food stress on top of travel stress. 


2. I am eating for joy, usually when I'm on a vacation, at a special event, or at ATLOSCon.

My sister-in-law is about to get married, and you betcha I'm going to eat some wedding cake! (Gosh, I hope they have wedding cake!) When I go to the beach, I love to try crab cakes and other local seafood (fried up in god-knows-what-and-I-don't-care-kind-of-oil). I drink wine, sometimes a LOT of wine (ahem, ATLOSCon).

Sometimes, eating is about taste and texture and celebrating.


3. I am doing a food experiment relating to my physical health.

Lately, I've been experimenting with my calorie intake and macro ratios because I'm in training for a kettlebell competition. I have been trying to consume more calories than I had been, and specifically, I have added in extra carbs post-workout. In addition to sweet potato (my favorite), I've been trying out how rice affects how I feel and/or my training. Oh noes! A grain!!!! I know, think of the children, right? It's actually been working out very well.

The VAST majority of the time, my eating decisions follow from this purpose: feel good and recover well while training hard.


4. I am doing a food experiment relating to my mental health.

Since my food issues have a mental health component due to bad eating habits in the past, I sometimes choose to eat something just to see how my brain handles it. So, at a family event back in the spring, I ate some cupcakes. Like a lot of cupcakes. Then I learned something—I have no self-control when it comes to cupcakes. I have also learned this lesson with candy corn. See? Now I know!

Knowing the kinds of foods that trigger binge eating makes it a million times easier for me to simply avoid going there in the first place. 


5. I am making a conscious compromise on food products/quality due to budgetary reasons.

I would love to serve my family grassfed beef and free range eggs and fresh produce directly from a garden, or at least Whole Foods, every single day.

I have five people to feed, and a finite budget. Sometimes regular grocery store eggs must suffice. Sadly, a personal chef is also currently out of the budget.


6. I am making a conscious compromise on food products/quality due to reasons of convenience.

I would love to serve my family grassfed beef and free range eggs and fresh produce directly from a garden or at least Whole Foods, every single day.

I have five people to feed, a crazybusy schedule, and a distinct lack of gardens filled with fresh produce in my immediate vicinity (same problem with WF). Sometimes, produce from the regular grocery store must suffice. Sadly, a volunteer personal chef is also MIA.


7. I am super hungry due to training (and probably miscalculation of my calories/macros) and need to eat something—anything—NOW, because lives might be in danger.

Referring back to #3—sometimes I miscalculate how much I've eaten/need to eat and I'm really freaking hungry. So I will eat the paleo equivalent of a candy bar (a Larabar). Or coconut milk ice cream. Or even actual ice cream.

Interestingly, though this happens about once a week (I'm still new at this), I haven't noticed any major detrimental effects. And the body count remains at 0, so that's a win.


8. I want to eat cheesecake. Or pizza. Or drink a beer.

When we moved into Wildhaven (our home) two years ago, we ate our first family dinner on the back porch. It was pizza and beer, which, if I'm correct, is the traditional Moving Day meal all across the world. At that point in time, it had probably been six months since I'd had pizza and even longer since I'd had a beer. It was glorious. Okay, yeah, maybe that was a special occasion (or a combination of special occasion and eating for convenience). But here's the thing—sometimes I eat something just 'cause I'm a grownup and I wanna. But I generally take the time to make this decision with my eyes wide open.

Every once in a while, I consciously, deliberately, and delightedly indulge in a mood and eat for joy. No special occasion needed. 


9. One of my kids is sick and I haven't been to the grocery store in a while.

A logistical fail that happens from time to time: one of the kids is indisposed such that I am unable to leave the house. This is inevitably timed for the day I was planning to head to the grocery store. Therefore, I am left with the choice between eating nothing or eating chips and salsa or leftover pizza or something.

John Lennon once sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Yup.


10. I am eating carelessly and mindlessly.

By far, the least likely reason I might be eating non-paleo food. BY FAR. I have worked hard to overcome bad habits such as stress eating, and if I fall back into such a pattern, I'm home alone or with my family. Really, it's not such an issue any more (knock wood).

It is always best to assume that I know exactly what I'm doing and why in any given food-related moment. 


I hate to feel defensive about what I'm eating, particularly as a non-low-body-fat-American. Happily, it doesn't faze me much any more if I get looks from others. But I've been thinking about this off and on for a while, and see, now I've got a blog post to point people to in the future! :)

Thoughts on this? I can't be the only one out there.

Also, stay tuned for my related post: "X Reasons My Kids Might Not Be Eating Paleo" (the X is because I don't know how many reasons I'll think up just yet)!

Monday, March 31, 2014

This Is What A Real CrossFitter Looks Like

So, I've been thinking a lot about body image and body acceptance for a while now. It is a tricky thing, figuring out how to get rid of conflicting and sometimes crazy notions of what I "should" look like and come to terms with both reality and how my brain works.

You'd think, after three and a half years of CrossFit, after five or so years of really eating well, after losing about seventy pounds, I'd look like those ab-muscled, sleek women in those fitspo images.

Instead, I look like this:



And I am beginning to finally be okay with it.

I have begun to accept that after years of obesity, producing three kids, and now heading toward menopause (hopefully not for a while yet, but I'm 43 so it's on the horizon), and also just not having a terribly genetic propensity toward leanness in the first place (definitely an endomorph type), abs just maybe aren't in the cards. Actually, I have lots of abs, but they (and many other muscles) are "camouflaged." :)

But still, I worry. I worry what people think when they hear I've been CrossFitting for so long, because I don't fit the image. I worry they think I am exaggerating or even flat-out lying when I say that I usually eat really cleanly and am extremely active. I worry nobody will ever want me to coach them because I carry too much body fat. (Too much by whose standards?)

I get irritated at the advice to "just" eat paleo or more carbs or fewer carbs or protein or avoid this or take that supplement. Eat dairy; avoid dairy. Red wine's fine; avoid all the alcohol. Eat nuts; OMG don't even. Honey, I've tried it all, and still haven't figured out my ideal combination yet. That's okay. I'll keep trying. And yes, I've got hypothyroidism and a busy life and an allergy to grocery shopping regularly, so those factors don't help either. Those aren't excuses--they are facts about my life right now, things I need to work around. (Context: just like assholes, everyone's got one.)

I get truly pissed off when I hear people disparage "fatties" for going to the gym or having the nerve to run in a 5K race (overheard a guy complaining about all the fatties once during a race, and for all I know, he was talking about me). You can't tell what a person can do just by looking at them. Trust me. I've been overtaken in 5K races by enough pregnant women and other folks who are probably twenty years older than me. You can't tell just by looking.

I hate that I really considered not undertaking my new obsession, kettlebell sport (which is so awesome OMG, and you're going to be hearing a lot about this new sport in the coming years as it becomes more popular, which it surely will, in part because I am writing about it here on my world famous blog).... Anyway, I almost didn't even try it because it is a weight-classed sport. It took some nerve to do my first competition, I tell you, but it all worked out fine in the end. Didn't even faze me in my second competition.

But enough of what I hate and worry about. Here is what I do and here is what I am.


  • I recently pulled a 265 pound deadlift. Not too shabby.
  • I can do pull ups, and toes-to-bar, and handstands, and all kinds of badass moves.
  • I achieved Rank 1 in Kettlebell Sport Long Cycle. I can snatch a 20kg kettlebell and jerk a 24kg bell. (Heh. I said snatch. And jerk. And yes, I'm still 12 in my head and no, I still haven't stopped laughing at those terms, despite all this time in CF).
  • I finished my third CrossFit Open and did not suck at all the things. I can do 84 thrusters and 84 bar-facing burpees and not die.
  • I also do not suck at yoga, being pretty strong and naturally flexible. Speaking of awesome yoga people, this is a great post I recently discovered, and is the inspiration for the title of this post. I second all the things she says. 
  • I generally feel awesome, and last time I had all the basic bloodwork done, the results were in the "pretty much fucking awesome" category. My resting heart rate is usually around 55-60 beats per minute (which that dude complaining about all the fatties in the race would surely never believe).
  • I can teach people how to move well and make it fun and interesting and motivate them to keep going. I have people, mostly women, ask me for ideas regularly about moving well and getting back on the exercise horse (so to speak, I don't know nothing 'bout horses). I think I am sought out because they know I know about the struggle to keep doing it, to stay motivated, to keep trying your hardest even though there will not be size zero dresses in the future. How we all know size zero dresses aren't and shouldn't be the goal, but that it's hard to get that idea out of one's head. How it takes effort to renew your courage and keep walking into the gym when you still are not lean after all this time, even though you know that the only person really even worried about that part is you, that nobody else at the gym cares about that even a little. And how challenging it is, this ever-lasting puzzle, worse than that 2048 game, to figure out how to keep your focus where it needs to be (health and fitness and mobility and strength) and not body fat percentage, and yet try to find a place where it is okay to want to improve one's appearance. 

So those are some things I've been wanting to say for a while. And for the record, here is what a real CrossFitter looks like:






I'm the one in the middle, in case that's not immediately obvious. My awesome teammate is to my right, and my awesome daughter is on my left.


Also: KETTLEBELL SPORT. You heard it here first, people (well, many of you). ALL the cool kids will be doing this soon. It's sweeping the nation. So look out!



Edited to add: Note on the title of the post: Just to get it out of the way...I'm not saying that those folks with all the abs don't look awesome, because of course they do! This post is just to show what A (one, singular) real-life person who does CF and eats cleanly looks like. A data point, an example among many others, understanding that there is a certain amount of variance within the population. So...not intended to be THE one and only example, etc. etc. etc. I'm not into fat-shaming OR fit-shaming.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

And here we are once again! Time for another Year in Review. The trick this year is that I haven't been blogging regularly and therefore can't easily go and reread old posts to jog my memory (Facebook is kind of a pain to search). Let's see how I do, shall we?


2013: The Year of Being a Peopleguy


January

  • You may or may not recall that our cat, Rhombus, chose New Year's Eve 2012 to pass away after a nice long life. It was sweet (she came and said goodbye to each of us before going downstairs to her favorite box for the last time), and also put something of a damper on our January as you might imagine. Also, FYI, if a pet dies the night before a major holiday, the vet and other "afterlife care" peopleguys will not be open for a couple of days. Which makes things awkward at the house. Just sayin'.
  • We had the puppy spayed in the first week of January, because there wasn't already enough pet-related trauma and drama going on. She had some complications and it took her a full two weeks to completely recover (she's fine now).
  • Also, we officially launched our CrossFit Kids program this month. I have had a great time coaching these kids all year and I've learned TONS about coaching (both kids and adults). 
  • Speaking of CrossFit (as an aside, there is no secret handshake in CF, but they do tell you to begin every other sentence with "Speaking of CrossFit...." in case whoever you're talking to has forgotten you like to do CrossFit---kidding!), I participated in a team competition on January 19th. Really, it was so much fun, and I am still impressed with how my teammate and I did on WOD 2 (remember that one, T?)
  • The kids went back to GA-EPH, our wonderful homeschool enrichment program (that I often refer to as a co-op, even though it is not strictly a co-op in some respects). 
  • I ran in the Hot Chocolate 5K in downtown Atlanta. They aren't kidding–it IS the sweetest race!



February


  • The major event this month was that I became an aunt! My niece, Anna Jean, was born and I flew up to Indiana to love on her some and teach my brother how to do a proper swaddle. She is super cute and my kids ADORE her. I am determined to out-aunt my sister, but admittedly I'm the underdog as she has auntie experience already because she is Super Auntie Extraordinaire for my own kids. Still it's fun to try and I'm sure Anna won't mind. And I'm SURE my sister-in-law and brother won't mind all of the spoiling this kid will get as the object of TWO motivated aunties! :)
  • ATLOSCon 2013 planning was well underway, and I remember having a couple of planning meetings to choose the classes.
  • I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and I'm still thinking it over nearly a year later.
  • Wow, I'm wracking my brains to remember what else happened last February, but I'm pretty sure that apart from Anna's arrival and my short trip up there to see her, we had a pretty regular normal month. 



March


  • Speaking of CrossFit, once again, I competed in the CrossFit Open. I mostly did okay, though I am apparently still pretty irritated about failing so many 75# snatches in the first event because I find myself just sitting here stewing about it. In my defense, I had done 70 burpees and 30 45# snatches by that point. But STILL. Hmph.
  • I did make modified Kid WODs out of the Open WODs and that was SUPER fun and I plan to do it again in 2014.
  • We received an offer on the cabin this month, our first since listing it for sale in August 2012. I didn't expect much to come from it, but everything actually worked out in the end. And really, WAY faster than I thought.
  • We celebrated one year of living at Wildhaven on the 17th. As of this writing, we are still not completely unpacked.
  • I submitted a couple of proposals to GA-EPH to teach some classes during the 2013-2014 year. To my shock, they were accepted and so I participated in an Open House.
  • Somewhere in this time frame, we finished up watching whatever show we were watching together on Netflix (this is our family evening activity, hanging out on the big couch together and watching something). So we decided to go ahead and watch this Doctor Who show all of our friends have been talking about for a while. We started with the 2005 reboot of the series, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Miss Morgan turned EIGHT on the 30th. How is that even possible, I ask you? 




April

  • I spent much of this month printing, signing, and faxing paperwork to several real estate peopleguys over the sale of the cabin. We were happy to team up again with the awesome realtor who helped us buy Wildhaven (an experience that scarred us all) and extra happy that the cabin sale was pretty smooth.
  • We took a final trip to the cabin, including the puppy, to say goodbye. Our dearest friends came up for a night, too, and really, it was a lovely weekend.
  • Morgan performed extemporaneous gymnastics in the GA-EPH Talent Show, and it was awesome.
  • Ryan turned 11 on the 18th and I still haven't gotten over it yet. ELEVEN, I tell you.
  • We all fell in love with the 10th Doctor (though it was so sad to say goodbye to the 9th), and Ryan took a picture of David Tennant to a hairdresser in order to get his hair cut just like the 10th Doctor. By this point, we were all a little obsessed. 
  • After having watched my friend Lisa do all this crazy stuff with kettlebells for about a year, I was thrilled when she and one of the coaches offered a kettlebell clinic early in the month. 
  • Speaking of CrossFit, I also took the CrossFit Kettlebell Certification class at the end of the month, and the rest, as they say, is history.




May

  • The cabin sold on the 7th, and thankfully, all went smoothly until the end (the Wildhaven purchase has forever made me doubt such things until all of the papers are signed and money has changed hands). And then we paid off some debt and had some savings. Who knew such things were possible? :)
  • We paid our first visit to the GA Renaissance Festival. OMG SO MUCH FUN.
  • My mother-in-law came to visit in the middle of the month for Brendan's birthday and also to see Morgan's gymnastics meet. And we all went to Medieval Times, which we haven't been to since Ryan's 6th birthday (when I was pregnant with Sean). We were all still coming off our trip to the Ren Fest, and Sean in particular was highly impressed.
  • Coming home from Medieval Times, I realized something was very wrong with the insides of my head and thus, my MIL got to spend her last day of her visit babysitting for me while I went off to the doctor to get medicine for my sinus infection.
  • This sinus infection was pretty ill-timed, as ATLOSCon 2013 was beginning in about five minutes. Luckily, everyone, including my houseguests, was pretty understanding about my "it is what it is" kind of attitude toward the house and other things I was in charge of arranging. Somehow we all survived.
  • And not just survived, we thrived! ATLOSCon 2013 was enormously enjoyable. This year we had karaoke, courtesy of Amy and Robert, fantastic talks (courtesy of everyone I went to go see talk), an AMAZING bourbon tasting (courtesy of Guy and Alisa), wonderful babysitters at Wildhaven (thank you, Alizah, Sam, and Annika), terrific houseguests (Robert, Amy, Arthur, Chris, Athena), speaking of CrossFit, we had a super awesome fantastic team WOD at CF Kennesaw again this year, a wonderful script reading of Atlas Shrugged (courtesy of Chris), and, of course, stilts (courtesy of Brendan). Really, you should come to the next one. Because we are awesome. 




June

  • Once June began, our usual kid activities paused. So of course we took up another one. Morgan and Ryan joined the local Kilometer Kids program, which is sponsored by a local track club. Kids train twice a week and then run a 5K at the end of the session. I volunteered as a coach, because apparently I think I can now coach all the things. I actually did pretty well, once having to manage 16 kids on my own due to a shortage of coaches. Not only did I keep track of them all, we all managed to have fun that night.
  • By now I had parlayed my casual interest in kettlebells into a commitment to do a local competition in August. Still not quite sure what I was getting into, but I began training with a coach and prepping for the comp.
  • We went to the Ren Fest one more time, because it was just SO MUCH FUN the first time. This time, Sean got a bow and arrow with his own money.
  • Sean turned FIVE, a WHOLE HAND, on the 20th. How unbelievably rude. 
  • Sean got a ton of Doctor Who toys, particularly Bad Guys (his favorites are Daleks and the Weeping Angels), and had already decided to be a Dalek for Halloween.
  • And then Penny made it to one year on the 25th. Halfway to full grown maturity, wheeeee!




July

  • On the last day of June, we headed up to the Midwest for a 2 week vacation. We have never had a 2 week vacation ever and while it was lots of fun, I'm not sure we are up for another 2 week vacation ever again. Because 2 weeks is a REALLY long time to be living out of hotels and in other people's homes and out of the minivan and to have someone keep your dog.
  • The first leg took us up to Lafayette to see my niece and also her parents (heh). My brother let my kids shoot off fireworks in his driveway, to the delight of ALL his neighbors, I'm sure. One day we took the kids over to Purdue and let them run around like crazy people. I've been making visits to Purdue since I myself was an actual baby, and I kind of like that we have continued that tradition. Of course, having my sister-in-law and brother just right there makes it easier, but I think we'd do it anyway, as Purdue is pretty much on the route to Chicago.
  • Then we went back down to Indianapolis, another old homestead, and visited with everyone on my mom's side of the family. We hadn't done that in about nine years, just gotten together for the heck of it, without a side reason such as a wedding or funeral. We had a blast, and the people at the hotel were SUPER understanding (not to mention appreciative of all the custom). We took the kids to see the Indianapolis Children's Museum, which is still my all-time favorite. Morgan rode the antique carousel that I myself have been on many-a-time.
  • On the 4th of July we headed to the greater Chicagoland area to see some of Brendan's people as well as attend a little bit of OCON. I spent 4th of July evening drinking wine with Brendan's sister, having caught the fireworks show a few days earlier at my brother's house. 
  • The next day, we went into the city, which we don't do that often I guess, because the kids were all like, "They have a city here?" We kept them with us one night at the hotel and took them to the top of the Hancock building and Water Tower Place and the little beach that's right there on the lake and walked around the city at night. They adored it. So of course we only let them do that for a day and then sent them right back to Brendan's mom, who took them on adventures for a couple of days until Brendan and I were done at OCON.
  • We met SO many people at OCON, I really can't do it justice now. Standouts include Hannah, Mike, Audra, and David, whom I've known via FB for a while. Oh yes, and I met Jeremy in person, too! I've known him via the internets for a long while. And of course, there was fun with old friends, too, and I went running along the lake with Arthur a couple of times. 
  • Then we headed back to suburbia for a few days. I was invited to teach a Positive Discipline workshop for teachers at Nurturing Wisdom Academy, so I did that and it was fun. 
  • On our way home, we stopped in southern Indiana to see my sister again, her ex (it's all very friendly, yay), and meet her new beau. Then we came home and vowed never to travel again.
  • Speaking of CrossFit, about five minutes after I got home, I went to a snatch clinic at the gym and finally PRd my snatch. So now I'll be stuck at 95# for another year, I expect.
  • And I was training kettlebells during this whole time, at my brother's house, and mother-in-law's house. I have no clue what their neighbors must have thought about that sight.
  • I ran in a 10K race at the end of July. Yeah, you read that right–10 whole actual K.
  • The rest of July was a blur of kettlebells, coaching CF Kids, and unpacking. Still, no complaints. A definite improvement from July 2012!




August

  • The very first weekend of August, Morgan, Ryan, and I ran a 5K race with Kilometer Kids. It was Ryan's first race, and Morgan's second, although it was the first one she actually ran (she ran most of it). SO fun. They adored Kilometer Kids, and so did I, but we had to drop it for the fall semester due to other time commitments. We are hoping to pick it back up in the spring or next summer.
  • The second weekend found us in Tybee Island, for a long-promised long-anticipated beach vacation. It was only a long weekend and we brought our pup, to see how she would do on a longish road trip (about 4.5 hours one way) as a trial for the holidays. She did great. We liked Tybee pretty well--we rented a little house near the beach, ate tons of yummy seafood, swam and played at the beach (without the dog however), toured Fort Pulaski (VERY COOL), watched some firefighters put out a hotel blaze, wandered around Savannah's River Street (Brendan and I used to vacation in Savannah before we had kids), took advantage of the fact that our rental house had cable and watched some of Shark Week. We are going to try to get to a beach every year if we can, and that's about when I decided to make Exploring Georgia a fun travel goal. We've lived here for so long, but there is much we haven't seen--the Okeefenokee, Callaway Gardens, the coastal islands, etc. I'm hoping to try Jekyll Island next year for our beach trip.
  • My kettlebell competition was mid-month, and it was so awesome. I competed in Long Cycle (clean and jerk), and got 121 reps with the 12kg bell (which is the "beginner" weight), and won a trophy and a medal. I was so impressed with what the other athletes were lifting and I knew that, while I definitely wanted a break from bells, I would be back at it again soon.
  • August brought the start of a new "school" year for us homeschoolers, and I was now teaching FIVE classes. Speaking of CrossFit, three of the classes are CrossFit: two for kids and one for moms. I also taught Introduction to Economic Concepts to middle and early high schoolers using Peter Schiff's book How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes as the basis for discussions. The fifth class was inspired by Sugata Mitra's prize-winning TED Talk "Build a School in the Cloud" and is called Exploring the Cloud through SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environments), which has basically turned out to be an internet research/mystery-solving/critical thinking/team building type of class for 8-12 year olds. I have enjoyed the challenges of each class immensely, and learned a lot about teaching, my students, and myself. I'll be teaching all of these class plus one more beginning in January 2014.
  • And because I wasn't busy enough, I planned out my very first online Introduction to Positive Discipline 7 week parenting class. I am determined to finish my full certification in the next year or two, and I'm slowly getting there.
  • Morgan did gymnastics all summer, too, and was back for the regular classes again (she shows no signs of getting bored with it at all). She wasn't promoted as expected back in May, due to some strength gains that needed to be made as well as some significant changes to the standards at each level. This has worked out very well all around (particularly on our schedule and budget), and she has been progressing nicely this year. I expect her to be promoted on next year.
  • By this point, we were all caught up on Doctor Who, and pining away for the 50th anniversary special in November just like all the rest of the world. One day, I went to the gym and there was a life-size cardboard cutout of David Tennant that someone brought us (thank you, Bill and Gina!) and we brought him home. The dog is still afraid of him, but she's getting over it.
  • We embarked on our first home project that was not thrust upon us by some kind of emergency and decided to have the siding replaced. It was very old, possibly original to this 40 year old home, and we wanted no more critter issues (there were huge gaping holes in some of the siding, inviting mice, rats, chipmunks, possums, and god-knows-what-else to come and enjoy the cozy shelter of our home). So while all this other stuff was going on, we were getting quotes from siding and painting peopleguys and arranging to have the siding replaced in September.
  • The second half of August was all about settling into new routines and getting back to what passes for normal here at Wildhaven.




September

  • And we got new siding put on the house, much to the dismay of the dog, who found the process both worrisome (due to loud sudden noises) and exciting (due to lots of fun new people to play with). The house is now a pretty blue instead of a drab gray, and one of my projects for 2014 is to get a new front door to replace the current one with a huge crack down the middle, and paint it yellow.
  • All of my classes were up and going, such that, if you counted the ones I coached at the gym and my online parenting class, I was now up to 9 classes a week. At some point, it dawned on me that I might be a teacher now. I mean, a teacher apart from "homeschooling mommy."
  • Kelly's daughter Livy had a sleepover for her birthday, and Morgan was invited. And then I invited myself to the sleepover and got to have a fun evening with MY friends, too. Morgan was initially very concerned that my presence would ruin all of her fun with her friends, but as we expected, the young girls stayed upstairs, and we older girls stayed downstairs, and rarely the twain did meet.
  • Speaking of homeschooling, yes there has been some of that, too. Ryan and I embarked on Life of Fred: Fractions, and we are making slow progress. Now that it's cold, neither of us wants to do it because we spent the summer doing math out on the back porch, which feels very nice math-y sort of place to us both, and neither of us cares much for doing math in the kitchen. But we will persevere, I assure you. Morgan started ALEKS math, an online program that I much prefer since the kids can work more independently and at their own pace. She finished one level already and will start the next one in January. We've also been listening to audiobooks frantically, going through the Harry Potter series a second time, all of LotR and The Hobbit, all of the Percy Jackson series (and we just started the Heroes of Olympus series), The Hunger Games is going currently, and I am probably missing a few books. At some point I will insist on Anne of Green Gables, but I'm having fun with this Heroes of Olympus series myself. Oh, and I have The Killer Angels just waiting for us, too. On the way to Chicago in the summer, we listened to a book on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which was fascinating.
  • ATLOS had an outing to Martinis and IMAX at Fernbank, and that was Brendan's and my anniversary date. 
  • We visited Hillcrest Orchards with our homeschool friends, an annual outing that has become a Don't Miss event. It's your regular apple orchard, only it's populated by creepy mannequins. It's really indescribable and you MUST come with us next year.




October

  • The first weekend of October, we hosted a small gathering of friends to discuss personality theory. Some people stayed with us and the discussions happened here. It was tons of fun.
  • I also ran a 10K trail race at Kennesaw Mountain with a friend of mine that first Saturday. It had me wondering why I ever run on the roads at all. So pretty and love running trails. Yes, I said "love" and "running" in the same sentence.
  • The next weekend, we had the ATLOS annual fall picnic. Always a fun time and what a beautiful fall day it was!
  • Speaking of Kettlebells, kettlebells started back up again in earnest, having decided to go to a competition in San Francisco in February 2014. I decided to stick with Long Cycle again, but work up to the next bell weight, 16kg. That would put me in a position to make rank, if I get enough reps. It's a lot of work and a lot of fun, and as of now, I'm confident I will not embarrass myself in February, assuming I can get over this chest cold and get back to the gym. But I am getting ahead of myself.
  • Classes were going pretty well. The PD class wrapped up, and while I consider it a success, I was not thrilled with some of the technical challenges to running an online class. I have some ideas about how to make the experience better all around so I'm considering trying it again in the new year.
  • We took our annual trek up to Carlton Farms for pumpkin picking and corn maze hiking. We made it an ATLOS event, and so met Elizabeth and Michael for the first time. And Elizabeth works with Brendan, we discovered. By the way, Carlton Farms is a set location for the film Mockingjay--we are very much looking forward to seeing it in the film and are so happy for the Carlton family because they are really nice people.
  • My sister-in-law got engaged! (I think it was in October that this happened.) So now we have a fun family event to look forward to in 2014!
  • For lots of reasons, we decided against having our annual Halloween bash and looking back, that was a fantastic decision on our part, especially because Halloween was on a Thursday. Middle-of-the-week things tend to be challenging with our busy schedule. We took the kids to the neighborhood down the road, which is much better suited to trick-or-treating. Brendan was Hagrid again, Morgan was Hermione, Ryan was an Empty Child, and Sean was indeed a Dalek. At the last minute, I was inspired to be The Jerk.




November

  • November was classes, coaching, kettlebell training, gymnastics, work, and life. I am enjoying all of the things we do, but I need to learn how to pace myself. Sadly, this probably won't get to happen at this point until after the co-op school year ends. :/
  • Ryan got braces on the 11th. It was a little traumatic, getting them on, but after the first few days, things settled down and he seems to be used to them now. I was not inclined to make anyone get braces for purely cosmetic reasons, and I thought for a while that his issues were cosmetic. However, some consultations over the summer convinced us both that he was probably going to lose a tooth due to some crowding issues and so he made the decision to get the braces (it was his decision, once we determined it was something we could afford). His issues are pretty minor and we hope he will be done in 18-24 months. Fingers crossed!
  • I taught a short online Positive Discipline workshop for more teachers at Nurturing Wisdom up in Chicago. Again, some challenges with the online-ness of it, but fun. I am really enjoying teaching PD more and more and hope to do more of that in 2014. Maybe even an in-person class.
  • Speaking of Kettlebells, I got all officially registered for the kettlebell competition, and my friend and training partner is going, too, so we are representing as "Kennesaw Kettlebells." An official team! Hopefully we can grow our team beyond just the two of us, but we are happy with our tiny team for now. And we have a great coach, Jerry, so I guess it's really the three of us. Maybe we can convince Jerry to compete himself at some point!
  • I turned 43, and while I am no longer the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, I really still am. I'm just the Answer + 1. So you can calm yourself now.
  • Ryan decided to give rock climbing class a try, at the invitation of his friend (and one of my favorite students) Ethan. He ADORED it.
  • We had an ATLOS hike up and around Kennesaw Mountain. It was chilly, but really a perfect hiking day. I need to hike Kennesaw Mountain more often.
  • Because I am still too cheap for cable or satellite, I made arrangements to take everyone to see the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary show at a movie theater. SO MUCH FUN. Very special.
  • Brian and his partner Mik came to town for Thanksgiving. Kelly and Aaron and Livy came for Thanksgiving dinner. The next day, we took Brian and Mik rock climbing and trampolining. It was a fun weekend.




December

  • The first half of December was filled up with classes--co-op (me teaching and the kids taking), CF Kids, CF classes for me, kettlebell training, rock climbing for Ryan, gymnastics for Morgan, and a partridge in a pear tree.
  • We attended three holiday parties this year. The first was the annual Reason's Greetings ATLOS party, at the home of friends Dawn and Dwane. Gorgeous and fun. The next one we went to was Brendan's office party, which was large and amazing as it was last year. Speaking of CrossFit, the third party was our CrossFit party (which I guess can be considered my office party, heh). Always fun people. We are pretty much all amazing and badass.
  • ATLOSCon 2014 planning officially got underway as Kelly, Miranda, Ken and I had the first of many meetings at our favorite centrally-located Starbucks. 
  • Brendan's sister Eileen and her new fiance David (though we've met him before as he has been Brian's friend for years) came to Wildhaven for ONE NIGHT ONLY with their dog Ibi. We had a really nice evening with them, and the kids were very excited to meet their new Uncle. :D
  • We took a one week excursion to the Midwest the week of Christmas, essentially retracing much of our July trip, although on a smaller scale. We spent the first half of the week in Lafayette with my brother and his family, and it was so fun to be a part of Anna's first Christmas. My parents and sister were there, too. Also, it's SERIOUSLY COLD up in the Midwest, and now I remember why we moved to Georgia in the first place. Then we betook ourselves up to Chicago to see Brendan's family. Highlights from this trip include Actual Snow, Restaurant Yoga, Indiana Bourbon, Adorable Baby, Doctor Who Christmas Special (goodbye, Matt Smith, sigh), Arni's Pizza, Lou Malnati's Pizza, and Wonderful People.
  • Oh yeah, and we had the dog with us on this trip, and she did so well. She has now met three of her four dog "cousins": Ibi, Chloe (my sister's dog), and Willie (Eileen's dog who is at my mother-in-law's house still). She has yet to meet Oscar, my brother's dog, but that is unlikely to happen as he is not a fan of kids and whenever we come to visit, we have all these kids with us. But maybe we'll find a way to introduce them. She is fine with other dogs, but I have learned that it will just take a while for all the canines to settle the you-know-what down and simply peacefully coexist. Ah well, now I know. 
  • We are having a nice low-key week to end the year and begin the new one. Brendan is at work, and I'm going to try some kettlebells this afternoon if this dastardly cough doesn't stop me (I think I caught Anna's cold, but of course it was SO WORTH IT). We will putter around the house, play with new Christmas toys, put things away, make some cookies and a yummy meal for tonight, and have a peaceful New Year's Eve with my favoritest people in the whole wide universe. Not a bad way to see 2013 off, really.



So, as you can see, I hardly did anything at all in 2013. :D All in all, it was a fun, productive year full of value-pursuit, love, good friends, self-discovery, and joy. There were struggles, too, though I have chosen not to highlight the worst on my Year In Review, as ultimately they are the kinds of struggles that don't really matter in the specifics. There have been lessons learned and course corrections made, and that's really all the purpose they served.

I have been trying to figure out what I want the theme or focus for 2014 to be. As I mentioned somewhere above, I definitely need to learn to pace myself. I also need to learn to be more present in the moment, to just enjoy the moments and people I am with. So that will be a focus. And yet, I want to have more adventures, too. And it would be nice to get more work done on the house, and maybe keep earning some money (that is nice, I have to say, to have some jobs that pay even just a little bit of money).

All in all, I think we are pretty much kicking butt, and we are all healthy and happy and learning all the time. I don't think I can ask for much more at all. So I hope that 2014 is a continuation of the things begun in previous years, and a little more calm and settled down from 2013 (as 2013 was from 2012). Maybe peace and calm is a bit too much to hope for given all of our projects and impending teenagerhood, etc. But I'll try.

Happy New Year to anyone who made it this far! May 2014 bring you joy and love and productiveness, and yes, even peace!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The 5 Years Ago Exercise

Tomorrow is my 43rd birthday. I KNOW! How is that possible, when really I'm 24?

Actually, I don't mind turning 43 one bit. In fact, I think I'm a pretty darn awesome 43, and plan to continue along that vein for a long, long time.

Here's where I am today. I am a mom of three, and we've homeschooled them for their whole lives. I teach now, and not just my kids here at homeschool. I teach classes at our homeschool co-op/enrichment program, and I think I teach them well. I coach CrossFit classes, mostly for kids, but I'm branching out into adult coaching, too. I teach online parenting (Positive Discipline) classes and manage an online PD discussion group. I know tons and tons and tons of people (well, it seems like it to me). I have friends from Food Allergy Land, Homeschool Land, Positive Discipline Land, Objectivism Land, CrossFit Land, and more. Sometimes my worlds collide and that is generally pretty cool. I drive a minivan and live in a 40 year old house in the woods that we've named Wildhaven. I am training for my second competition in kettlebell sport, and with all due modesty, I'm pretty good at that, too. I own, with my husband, a couple of small businesses, and am going to incorporate myself in the next year. I know all about life with people who have peanut allergies and T1 diabetes.

Five years ago, my life was pretty different. Maybe drastically different. I was 38, and had a 5 month old, a 3 year old, and a 6 year old. Our official homeschooling journey had just begun, and I was happy to finally have gotten over the reading hurdle (the first big homeschooling hurdle, I think). I'm sure I watched a lot of Blue's Clues and Nick Jr. shows. I was up to my elbows in diapers, and spent a lot of time nursing the baby. I was finally figuring out my issues with food and diet and really improving my eating. I was blogging regularly (Sean is my blogging baby, he got an announcement and everything!), and it was a primary outlet for creativity and communication. I had just joined this Facebook thing and was trying to figure out how it worked.

Five years before that, I was 33. I had one child, who was only 18 months. The words "peanut allergy" meant nothing to me beyond some vague sort of compassion for those poor souls who had to deal with such afflictions. I had recently decided NOT to go back to work in order to stay home with my child, and was voraciously devouring parenting and homeschooling books, and having lots of parenting philosophy conversations with my new friend Kelly.

Five years before that, I was 28. I was a year away from completing my MBA, and planning to leave a stressful job in favor of another, better, more well-paying job that would surely come after. Brendan and I had just purchased our first home a few months before. We were never planning to have any children, preferring instead to be DINKs forever, pay off our house early, take plenty of fantabulous vacations to exotic places, and retire early. I hardly paid any attention to my health at all, being relatively young still, but it was beginning to dawn on me that A.) I was not immortal, and B.) I would really appreciate a working pancreas later in life. The words "type 1 diabetes" meant nothing to me beyond some vague sort of compassion for those poor souls who had to deal with such afflictions.

Five years before that, I was 23. I had just graduated from college and gotten my first job. I lived alone in a tiny apartment in Indianapolis, biding my time until my boyfriend graduated from college after which we'd move away from the Midwest forever. I made $9.75 per hour, ate lots of ramen noodles, and rented videos like crazy because really, it was not a lot of fun living alone. My job was okay--I was ridiculously good at it (because it wasn't hard), and I spent my spare brain cell energy devising ways to improve the processes and make things more efficient.

When you put it like that, five year snapshots, it's kind of amazing, isn't it? I feel like the same person, mostly, but my life is so so so much different than even five years ago. I can't wait to discover what I find myself doing in five more years, and five years after that, and five more, etc.

So onward and upward! To me, and to whoever reads this! Do things now such that your life in five years will look more awesome than it is today. :D