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alone, loss, life perspective

It’s been a week of life perspective and reevaluation; loss does that to you. My Aunt Erma died a week ago today. I haven’t been able to escape the name this week, it’s all over the news and every time I hear it, it’s like a cruel reminder that she’s gone. Like some cosmic joke, as if the universe thinks we’d forget.

Losing someone is never easy. Even if you prepared for it and expected it, the abrupt force of letting go hits you like a mac truck. We weren’t prepared or expecting it, to be clear. It knocks the wind out of you and leaves you feeling like a shell of a person with nothing to fill you up but more pain. In all honesty, the moments of emptiness are preferable to feeling anything at all, especially in those first hours.

We’d lost touch over the years as a by product of growing up and moving away; starting our own families. But she was still my aunt and even when we hadn’t spoken in years, she showed up when it mattered, my bridal shower, wedding and baby shower. She’s been there since my first birthday.

Even when years passed that I hadn’t seen her face, I’d cling to the memories of my childhood. I was the lone niece in a sea of nephews. I was the little girl in the family and we shared special moments, my aunt Erma and I. She was my aunt I loved her, no amount of time can change that.

I was a child, even as an adult, in our relationship. I would always be her first niece. She never intruded or forced her way in, but she was always there and now she’s not. I guess we take for granted that people won’t always be there. There won’t always be time for reconciliation and homecomings. Sometimes people die and things go unsaid. We have to live with that.

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what my uncle, cousins, and her grandchildren are going through. She was a true matriarch and loved her boys beyond anything else and it was reciprocated fully. She is gone and they remain, broken shells of who they were the day before. Fragile and empty, with pain filling up every nook and cranny of space of where she once resided.

My heart breaks for them. I know the look of loss. I’ve tasted it myself. I wanted to crawl into my own body and curl up and die. The world went on around me and it was unfathomable how people could continue to carry on with their lives when the unthinkable had just happened. But that is the way it goes. Loss is personal and profound and no two people feel it the same way.

I watched helplessly this past week as my family had to let go too soon. I saw the blank stares and confusion on the faces of those who loved her as the realization that she is no longer here, swept over them. I saw the wind almost knock them to their knees with that realization.

I learned another valuable lesson this week, funerals and mourning are for the living. When I was a child, funerals scared me to death. I hated them. The loss of a loved one, seeing those I love in such excruciating pain, seeing my relative dead in a casket but now, I know, it’s part of the letting go process. Without it, we would have no closure. Without it, the pain would be insurmountable.

We need this ceremony to let those left behind be comforted, coddled and loved to get through it. It’s hard. It can almost break you and you never fully recover from such a huge loss but you learn to survive it.

I watched my uncle and cousins ( grown men) brought to their knees from this loss. Our entire family rallied around them to lift them up with love and support because that is what family does. You put aside any petty qualms or past hurts and you just be there. Moments of normalcy began to seep through and in the next, the weight of the loss would be bearing down on all of us so heavily that we felt as if we all might be crushed by it.

It was a horrible situation but it served a purpose to remind us all just how important family is to all of us. There’s been check ins and phone calls and texts between all of us because if my aunt Erma’s death has taught us anything, it taught us that life is brief and we have to make the time to love those around us; to show them, not just think it.

You’ve heard the saying to one person you are the world? Well, while our lives may not feel as if they amount to much in the grand scheme of things…to one person, they could amount to everything. I think we take that for granted.

A life well lived and a life well loved is all any of us can hope for. The brokenness that remains behind is a testament to how we loved while we were alive.

That’s the way I survive loss, by remembering that it was a privilege to be able to love these people; to see them smile, hear them laugh, see the twinkle in their eyes when they were happy, hold their hand when they were sad. Life is fleeting and loss lingers so love so full on that it borders on crazy because there is no such thing as showing someone you love them too much.

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Lilly Collins, Netflix, To the Bone, eating disorders, anorexia, To the Bone Realistically Portrays Life with Eating disorders, life with eating disorders

Have you ever watched a movie or seen a show and thought to yourself, “Damn, that’s me! That’s my life!” I know it happens all the time because the human condition is a shared one. We don’t live in a vacuum and life is just a series of conditions, right?

The other day, I watched a movie and I saw me, exactly who I once was and it scared me because, by the way it was written, it was someone else too. Someone else had been where I had been and that made me think again about whether or not my girls might some day go down that same path. It was the Netflix Original To the Bone.

I see me, or rather, who I used to be. The anorexic girl. The one with the conflicted home life. The Unpresent dad, the checked out Mom who tried to help in her own way, while at the same time refusing to admit that there’s a problem at all.

Denial. It where we thrived. My job was to keep my dirty secret. Their job was to pretend it wasn’t happening. I fell through the cracks of a childhood held together by rubber bands and chewing gum.

I was alone, so very alone with my disease. People don’t really want to know when these sorts of things are happening, even if they suspect or even glimpse it with their own eyes, it’s too uncomfortable to discuss; to face head on. So we all pretend it’s not happening. Meanwhile, a child is dying.

READ ALSO: A Day in the Life of a Girl with Eating Disorders

It won’t go away. It doesn’t just stop. Sometimes, the darkness is so enveloping and the loneliness so crippling that you hope they don’t notice. You’d rather just disappear into the abyss without any fanfare or long, drawn out goodbyes. You want to cease to exist and other people’s concern only serves to prolong your agony.

Lilly Collins, Netflix, To the Bone, eating disorders, anorexia, are eating disorders genetic? , raising girls, tweens, eating disorder, bulimarexia, eating disorders, anorexia, weight,Lilly Collins, Netflix, To the Bone, eating disorders, anorexia, To the Bone Realistically Portrays Life with Eating disorders, life with eating disorders

The worst part for me was realizing that I was so good at it. Worse, I was so good at hiding it and it turned me into someone I despised because the only way to survive is to lie. Soon, you’re lying about everything to keep the one secret that you hold dearest to your heart.

There are never good days. It’s just a series of days you control better than others. You are being held at gun point in a prison of your own making; your head. There is no escape. There is no chance for parole. There is just a life sentence and, if you’re lucky, a life lived in daily recovery. Every day, for the rest of your life, you have to choose life because the alternative is that you die. You will literally die.

Though it may seem soothing and tempting, the thought of no longer having to endure; but the fucking guilt of it all is unbearable so every day, you get up, and you make the choice to live or to die.

For 8 years, I restricted and threw up every single day. Every single thing I ate. I threw up. I never binged, unless it was on alcohol and that was more to forget the world of shit I was living in, the complete loss of control and the fact that I was really hungry. I was starving in every sense of the word.

Five years before that, I began dieting. It was my gateway drug to starvation. I was 12-years-old when my journey started. 12, the magical age of awkward bodies caught between a child and a woman. My dad suggested that maybe I needed to “run more”. That was enough especially at that time in adolescence when you gain weight, right before you begin to develop and everything goes to the right place. You know, the exact same age as my daughter is today.

I’ve spent my entire motherhood tenure doing everything I can to not repeat this cycle. Here we are. This precipice that silently scares me to death. I’m constantly looking for all the signs. But I’ve done a good job. She thinks she’s perfect. She loves herself and her body. Then, it happened, beyond my control.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Healthy Daughters

As we were leaving the pediatricians office after her well visit last week, our dr was telling the girls where they rank on the charts. My 12-year-old has consistently ranked around the 98th percentile since birth. But this time, the new dr ( a female and girl Mom) told her “your BMI is a little high, so technically you are overweight.

I shot her a death stare as I wanted to murder her on the spot but didn’t want to make a big deal of it in front of the girls. She continued, but that’s to be expected in a girl your age because most girls put on a little weight during puberty before everything goes where it’s supposed to go.

I saw the gut punch on my daughters face. I felt the humiliation of being told that you’re not perfect. Then, I saw her second guess what she’s always known about herself … we she good enough?

I spent the ride home assuring her that the doctor said this was normal at this age. I assured her that she eats right and is very active and an athlete. She trusts me because I’m her mother. She accepted my words. But I know that now, forever, the seed of doubt has been planted and that crushes me.

Words have weight. Thoughts sometimes should be kept inside your head. Actions are forever.

I know there has been some controversy about the movie To the Bone. But coming from someone who knows, I think it was far from making anorexia seem desirable, or acting as if it stems from a desire to “look skinny.” The writing is sensitive but unsparingly real because it comes from personal experience. There were lines in there that only someone who has suffered from eating disorders would say or know. An anorexic can spot another anorexic from a mile away.

It’s the directorial film debut of Marti Noxon, a writer and executive producer on such shows as UnREAL and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to write To the Bone she drew on her own battle with anorexia. (The film’s credits note that it is based on actual events.) I wouldn’t recommend you show it to your teen daughter but as a parent of a teen girl, or someone who loves someone living with this disorder or even for the girl surviving it…this movie, in my opinion, is a must see.

Have you seen To the Bone and what were your thoughts?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, so I binge a lot of Netflix, but my opinion about To the Bone and my personal experience with eating disorders are all my own.

 

 

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love is, Difference between Love, like and Infatuation

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to explain sex to my girls but what about how to know the difference between love, like and infatuation? It’s actually a very important discussion to have with your kids but how many parents actually have it? I’ve decided that honesty is the best thing to do. I want open dialogues with them about everything.

How many times have you been in love? Like really in love. I thought I was “in love” about 3 times before I actually was. You see, the problem was that I didn’t know what real love was so I kept thinking I was in love but really it was a crush, infatuation, and love but not true, unconditional, forever love. But each time it felt like “love” until I pulled my head out of the love fog and could see it for what it really was.

There was lots of casual dating but each “love” was necessary for the learning curve. If I hadn’t experienced each time I thought I was “in love” I wouldn’t have had any barometer by which to measure when the real thing happened.

Don’t get me wrong, they all had their purpose and I wouldn’t trade any of the experience. Our experiences make us into who we are and if it weren’t for all of those false love alarms, I never would have known when I stumbled backwards into a really good guy and a healthy relationship.

What is the Difference between Love, Like and Infatuation?

Remember when you were in high school, maybe even college, and you fell in love and it was all consuming and insatiable? It was all you could think about and all you cared about. Anytime day or night, all you wanted was to be with that other person. You would have crawled inside of that person and lived if it were possible. Making love was truly an other worldly experience. You could not satisfy your craving for that person.

Remember those days when you were so in love that it hurt your stomach? When seeing that person was the most important part of your day? Remember thinking to yourself, or maybe even saying it out loud, I would die for you? And you meant it. If someone walked into the room and it came down to you and him, you would surely jump in front of that bullet because you loved him so hard that if he died life wouldn’t be worth living any ways, so why not sacrifice your life for his?

Were we stupid? Or was our baby brains just too consumed and overwhelmed by feeling love for someone other than our parents and complicated by all of those hormones that we just couldn’t process it? We knew our parents loved us and they would take a bullet for us so isn’t it logical that we take a bullet for the person who we love beyond all reason and comprehension? I used to think so.

I was one of “those” girls. I loved being in love. I loved loving someone and I loved the thought of someone loving me. Someone wanting me. Wanting to possess me. Someone not being able to live without me. It thrilled me. I believed that was the measure of true love. Someone willing to die for me. Anything less was bullshit. But as most teenagers, I was delusional. I saw undying devotion in the simplest of tasks. He pulled the chair out for me and cupped my face when he kissed me. He must love me. He surprised me with a single rose and my favorite candy at the drive-in, this must be “IT”. Wow, it’s easy to believe bullshit when you’ve never had the real thing, isn’t it?

Anyways, that passion was electric. It was the kind of “love” that had you feeling manic all the time. Coming from an actual person diagnosed with bipolar, that is saying something. I lived in that high to the exclusion of all else. Nothing else mattered and that was the measure of “real love” to me, for a very long time. I thought if it wasn’t all consuming and in crisis and threatened, it couldn’t be the real thing because the real thing was messy and it f*cked you both up beyond all recognition because that passion fire burns hot and high and hard, all.the.time. What I didn’t realize it that it burns out and leaves you both in a pile of ashes. If it was really  intense, it could almost kill you both. But, adult me realizes that is crazy. I don’t want love that kills me. That’s poison.

I learned to live on that high. I craved it as much as I craved love. Then I fell in real love and I realized what I was doing up until then, was accepting what I had been taught to believe was love from the dysfunctional example of my parents and from movies. I believed that for it to be “love” it had to be “go hard or go home” at all times because love is work and if you love someone, you have to be willing to love them so hard that it might kill them and you have to be willing to die for them. I was a child and when you are a child, the world works in absolutes but as I grew up, I realized that real love doesn’t live in absolutes. It thrives in the grey area.

How important is it to distinguish the difference between love, like and infatuation?

For me, it wasn’t about dying for someone or killing for them. It was about being willing to live for them. Not in the “everything I do is for you” way like in all of those sappy love songs that we swoon over when we are kids. I mean in the “I love you so much that I want as many days on this earth as I can get with you” way.

In the way that makes the stupid shit you’re doing fall away and life get clear. When I met my husband, I was a hot mess, in every sense of the word. I wasn’t even living my own life. I was living other people’s expectations and I was basing my happiness on someone else. Then I met the Big Guy. He put me first (maybe for the first time I had ever been first in my life) and my thinking shifted. I no longer had to be on the defensive. I didn’t have to be the aggressor. I just had to be me.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to throw up every morsel of food that went into my mouth. I wanted to live and my 10-year slow suicide by anorexia plan wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to live and I didn’t want him to know just how dysfunctional I really was. So, I started working towards getting better. I got help.

He saw the messed up ugly side of me almost immediately. I was an undiagnosed manic bipolar, anorexic with body dysmorphia and a self-medicating drinking problem. I was fun, then I was raging, mean and completely irrational. It was pretty hard to hide from anyone who was paying attention.

I had developed a bad habit of pushing anyone who wanted to get close to me away. I had long passed the wanting to crawl inside of someone phase. I was selfish and borderline and convinced that I was unlovable because up to that point, I had done everything right and none of it ever worked. I never passed quality control. I gave up and resigned myself to being detached. I basked in the position of being wanted, even if it was all surface.

Then the Big Guy came along and while his initial intention was to purely to hook up. We ended up talking all night after a couple ghosting friends left me stranded at a party at his house. Somewhere between our first disinterested meeting and that next morning, we connected on a cellular level without even trying. In that moment, we became each other’s person.

It wasn’t love at first sight. I don’t even think we were each other’s types. We would have never even have met one another other than a new friend I had met in my LSAT class who happened to grow up with this tall, gangly alt guy with black fingernails and a heart only rivaled by the size of his smile. It took a couple more weeks before we worked out the kinks. Falling head over heels doesn’t feel like what you expect it to. It sort of sneaks up on you and you suddenly realize that this person gives you hope and loves you unconditionally, through the ugly and the hard and the messy and the complicated and they never think of leaving because it’s not an option that even enters their mind or yours. You realize that you can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include seeing this person’s face every morning. , kissing them before bed each night, seeing them in the faces of your children. That is love. It’s a light that never goes out because you don’t let it. You both work at it. You keep it alive, even when it’s sick and sad. You love it back to life.

You realize that you can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include seeing this person’s face every morning, kissing them before bed each night, seeing them in the faces of your children. That is love. It’s a light that never goes out because you don’t let it. You both work at it. You keep it alive, even when it’s sick and sad. You love it back to life.

Maybe real true love isn’t what they write about in the story books or songs. Maybe it is sometimes. I want my girls to know that love can look like a million different things. What’s important is how it makes you feel when you’re with that person. It isn’t big and bold, though sometimes it is, it’s also quiet and steady and safe. It’s feeling happy just being still and not needing an escape plan or contingency plan. It’s not about being willing to die for someone, it’s being willing to work your ass off to live as long as humanly possible to share every day with your best friend.

The person you love as much as you love yourself. The person who gave you the children who you would take the bullet for because it’s the legacy of your love; the thing the 2 of you created. Real love is the kind that makes you want to risk everything to make the world better than you left it because it’s what he deserves. That’s love.

The real difference between love, like and infatuation is that when you find real love…that person can satisfy all of those things; love, like and lust.

How will you teach your kids to know the difference between love, like and infatuation?

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Dear America, election, Donald Trump, parenting, politics, racism, misogyny, bigotry, children, America, American values, xenophobia, America is great

This is an open letter to my dear America. I hope someone is reading and sharing and spreading humanity and kindness faster than the cancer of racism that is devouring the insides of our country. It is destroying us.

I just dropped the girls off at their first day of school and as I pulled away, I started crying. I was completely overwhelmed by a horrible feeling I know all too well. There was a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach and it wasn’t the typical first day of school mommy blues that we all get but it was definitely not new.

It’s the same feeling that I’ve felt every day that I’ve sent my husband off to work since 9/11. It’s the same terrible, sick feeling that I’ve felt every morning at drop off since Sandy Hook. It’s the same fear I have every single time I’ve gotten on a plane knowing there’s a risk. Not because of heights or claustrophobia but because I know that we live in a world where extremists armed with hatred who think they are doing what’s best for them, are fearless and willing to die for their hate like the racists who descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend armed with tiki torches and hearts full of hate.

I spent the past weekend camping in Michigan; one last getaway before the craziness of school scoops us all up and we can’t see past the minutia. We’re about to be swallowed up whole so I wanted a few days of unplugged togetherness, with the people who really matter to me in this world, my children.

Unfortunately, I still needed to be tethered to the real world because of work. I didn’t engage because I wanted to focus on what was right in front of me; what truly matters. I am trying to be present but I see it all happening, this train wreck at 100 miles an hour. Our country is careening out of control and our leader doesn’t know how and doesn’t seem willing to get us back on track.

Dear America,

I kept quiet and let my thoughts settle into coherent actions. But I’m tired of the burden of being a person who always does something. I’m exhausted of telling friends what they already know. I am sick to death of listening while the Internet feigns outrage and shock. I can’t keep giving people who believe themselves to be good, decent Americans permission to keep engaging in the same insanity.

See something. Do nothing. See it on the Internet. Feign outrage. Share a petition on social. Talk to your like-minded friends about the horror and pat yourselves on the back for recognizing that this is, in fact, horrible. 2 days later, forget about it. Forgive the aggressor. Accept the unacceptable as status quo. Move on to the next “cause”. Do nothing.

The time for placing blame has passed, it is now time to take accountability. Complacency is not an option. It never should have been, where human beings were involved. Action is the only acceptable reaction.

We shouldn’t be feigning outrage and shock. We should be genuinely outraged, shocked and pissed off. We should be moved to our feet by our hearts and our minds. We can no longer sit down while the aggressors mow through those of us who dare to stand up for the collective us. America, the home of the brave. 

It’s scary standing up. Those who love you most will tell you to sit down because they are afraid of the danger it brings to do the right thing. Standing up begs to be knocked down but we must get back up. We must endure for if we do not take a stand, we will all be mowed down and our land of the free will not be so free.

Dear America,

I am not blaming you for any choice or vote you cast up until this moment. You know what you did. Your choice is only for you to learn to live with. No one dared believe just how much hatred could breed when given the right growing conditions. But we knew. It has spread across this country like a plague and it is killing all of us.

What I am begging you to do today is to forget about who you voted for or party lines and think about your family, your future and the country that you love so much. The time to dig in has passed. We need to work together as Americans to fix what is broken.

I don’t want to weep when I drop my children off at school because I know that we live in a country currently fueled by hatred. I know there are so many good people in this country. Decent human beings who love their families, their neighbors and their country. The bad apples are in the minority. But they are eating at this country like cancer. Their movement is spreading because it is not being treated. Racism is a cancer that needs to be eradicated.

Dear America,

Stand up. Say something. Do something. Be something. Racism, bigotry, and hatred cannot be tolerated. We need a zero tolerance and we can’t forget. Embrace your outrage. Flame it’s embers and let it fuel you to do the right thing; to stand up to those who would tell us that any human is less than another. Forget what is politically correct and do what is right.

What are you doing? How are you stopping the hate? How are you putting love and kindness into the world? How are you standing up for what is right in the face of what is terrifying?

What action are you taking for your dear America?

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how to explain where babies come from, where babies come from, having the talk with children, explaining sex, how to feel sexy after having a baby, new mom, marriage, pregnancy. feeling sexy after baby, vaginal dryness

Have you had “the talk” with your children yet? At what age did you decide it was time to have that conversation? It’s a big milestone in motherhood and childhood. Admittedly, it’s awkward and weird explaining to your baby where babies come from but if you don’t do it, someone else will or they’ll figure it out as it’s happening, probably too soon with someone who just wants to have sex.

I consider myself a little bit crunchy. I always have. I’ve always been a free thinker; open-minded, the spread love and equality sort. I love the earth and I think at the root, most people are good. I wear patchouli so that’s confirmation, right?

But the other day when I told the Big Guy that I thought we’re pretty hippie in our parenting ideology, he gave me the blank stare. I get it, I’ve been known to hover. But then it hit me, yes, hell yes… I have problems physically letting go of my children but I’m getting better but it’s not about me, it’s about them, this parenting thing.

I’ve always encouraged my girls to be free-range thinkers. I talk to them like people and we have open dialogues about anything they want to talk about from sex to politics and even such controversial topics as which is better…unicorns or mermaids. The point is everything we say and don’t say to our children counts.

I’m sure some people think I’m too free with my girls but I want to raise educated women who can think for themselves, no approval needed, from anyone. Radical concept, right?

My daughters are no longer toddlers. My oldest just turned 12-years-old and my youngest daughter just turned 10-years-old. Things are changing at a furiously fast pace, as they do during childhood. The tween and teen years are a whole different set of firsts.

I’ve been trying to do my due diligence as a tween mom, though. We’ve been discussing birth control and healthy/unhealthy relationships for a while now. Puberty and where babies come from became topics of discussion during preschool and I’ve just been elaborating and filling in the gaps ever since. The older you get, the more you know.

I’ve always told my children the facts as they’ve asked and let one moment lead to the next teachable moment. In fact, once the puberty conversation was done and elaborated upon and extrapolated into infinity, then we moved on to sex (for the 12-year-old). Though it was just the basics about sex, the mechanics of basic insert, ejaculate and consummate sex, she knows how babies happen.

Explaining where babies come from to your child but not birth control is not enough.

We need to explain everything. Turning children loose into the world with just that tiny amount of information is like giving a kid a loaded gun, teaching them how to shoot but not explaining that they could kill someone.

That’s why I’ve also touched on the healthy/unhealthy relationship conversation. I’ve explained that sex between two people who love each other and are mature enough to handle all of the possible outcomes is a beautiful thing. But, I’ve also explained the hard fact that just because you have sex with someone, that doesn’t always mean they love you. It could just mean that they like having sex with you and that’s okay if that’s all you both want.

I don’t want my girls to expect love in exchange for sex because that is not how it works. I think they should be prepared for that. I want them to decide when, where, why and how sex happens for them. I don’t want it to be something they do under pressure or out of some sort of expectation or obligation. You can’t put a timeline on when you are ready. You know because you know yourself better than anyone else.

My girls know where babies come from, how they get there, how they are born and (in theory) what a big responsibility babies are once they are born. Of course, I don’t think anyone fully understands that last one until the baby is in your arms.

My girls are young but they know what birth control is and that it is a woman’s right to choose; who she loves, who/when/if she has sex with and if/when she will become a mother because we are the masters of our own bodies but they also know that we must respect ourselves and our bodies.

We’ve been having the conversations about their bodies since they were toddlers. I’ve taught them that their bodies are beautiful and wonderful. I’m teaching them that sex is not shameful or bad. It’s beautiful and wonderful and babies are miracles. But I want them to know that the sex doesn’t have to mean a baby and babies shouldn’t happen until you are mature enough and ready to start a family.

Becoming pregnant shouldn’t feel like a punishment for doing something that is so natural. A baby should be something you want and try for. A baby should come from love and intention, not on accident. The only way any of this happens is if we have those awkward, uncomfortable conversations with our kids so that they can become free-range thinkers and decide for themselves.

I love the videos by Amaze.org because they are made for 10 to 14-year-olds. It’s not pornographic or above their head. AMAZE  is a collaboration between 3 expert organizations in the field of sex education: Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health. They produce engaging sex education videos that cover the “mechanics” (e.g., puberty) and also more complex topics (relationships, gender identity, consent, etc.). AMAZE wants to help empower parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their kids – the goal of the videos is to inform and spark a conversation. I’m using the videos as a tool to add visual explanation and levity to an otherwise serious conversation.

If you’d like access to these tools to help you explain puberty, sex, where babies come from, contraception and much more like the @AMAZEparents Facebook page (which includes video shares as well as fantastic curated content related to sex ed, health, etc.) because the more information we have the less weird these very important conversations have to be.

How did you or do you plan to explain where babies come from to your child?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored collaboration with Amaze.org but all opinions about how to explain where babies come from are my own.

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swimsuit shopping, bathing suit shopping, not caring what other people think

It happened sometime this week, I stopped caring about what others think about me. I don’t know why or the exact moment when but maybe there is something to exposure therapy.

I used to hate going to the pool or beach in my bathing suit. It’s always been uncomfortable because I’ve always been uncomfortable in my own skin. I’ve never been truly happy with what I see in the mirror and then suddenly, I believe it was Wednesday … I just stopped giving a f*ck. It was like I just couldn’t be bothered to worry about it any longer and it was like a million-pound weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I could breathe again.

You see, I have daughters; beautiful, smart, funny, amazing daughters and I’ve got to be the example of self-love. I’ve always known this and I’ve given it the old college try but my default is self-deprecating. But those little girls’ eyes they are always watching. I can’t hide how I really feel so I have to change the story.

I’ve always made a conscious effort to change and be free with my body in front of the girls. Even though it is counterintuitive for me but I do it because if they see Mommy (appearing to be) comfortable changing, or dancing around the room in her panties and bra or just normalizing nakedness then I’m showing them that it’s okay. That our body is just the skin we live in, it doesn’t define us (even if in my brain I was scrutinizing every single bend and reach). I was faking it ( and not as good as I’d liked) until I made it.

Then a couple weeks ago we were at BlogHer and the girls came with me and instead of spending my free time drinking in the lounge it was mandatory that I lounge in the pool with my girls and I couldn’t refuse because “I don’t want my friends to see me in a bikini ” because WTF does that teach my girls about female friendships? Especially since they had met so many of my friends and thought they were amazing. So I did it!

Disney, swimsuit shopping, bathing suit shopping, not caring what other people think, summer

I walked all over Disney world in outfits matching shirts my tweens because the oldest wanted to. I let go the thought that Joe some stranger I didn’t know might think I was trying to reclaim my youth because I was dressed like my girls. And I fumbled all over that lazy river with my family, jumping and bending and falling all over that tube and I didn’t care who saw me because my daughters were smiling and laughing with me and every time I caught the Big Guy looking at me, it was with those adoring eyes; like I was the sexiest thing in the pool. In that moment, nothing else mattered. I got over myself. I’ve realized something, I have a tendency to get in my own way a.lot. I never needed a bully, I did just fine all on my own.

That was a 10-day trip of just letting stuff go. Then all this past week, at home, I took the girls to our clubhouse pool and by Wednesday I realized I didn’t care who looked at me or what they thought. I realized, I’m just as awesome as my kids think I am. Slowly, I’ve been finding myself letting go of the expectation of who I think I’m supposed to be and am beginning to love who I am because damn it, I’m pretty awesome.

By yesterday, I was bathing suit shopping with my daughters. The 3 of us together in the dressing room as the Big Guy waited outside the dressing room. We were laughing at how terrible some of the suits looked and looking for the redeeming qualities in others.

swimsuit shopping, bathing suit shopping, not caring what other people think, summer

Honestly, I even tried on one that we affectionately referred to as my “GLOW” outfit, complete with a Hulk Hogan pose and I died laughing doing it. (Sorry, not sharing that pic because the boobs made it look a bit indecent.) There may have even been some boomerang shenanigans in one of my suits. The thing is there were no tears, feeling of disgust or anger. It’s just a bathing suit (a piece of clothing) and it has no power over me. I think this was the first time in my life that I actually knew that.

The Big Guy was astonished when I came out with a smile and a suit. I even sent him pics from the dressing room to get his thoughts. He was expecting the usual dressing room self-loathing funk that usually settles over me like thick fog whenever I go into those little rooms but I just couldn’t be bothered with wasting time on this nonsense. I have memories to make with my girls and too many have already been wasted with me tugging and pulling at my clothes. Too many years have been wasted hiding behind a number. I’m curvy and I kind of love that I can appreciate that now.

swimsuit shopping, bathing suit shopping, not caring what other people think, summer

That’s when I realized, that we’ve just got to own that shit. It’s our body. It’s our story. It doesn’t matter if we feel too big or little, short, tall, fat, skinny, ugly or pretty. None of us is perfect. We all have our struggles with something, physical or mental or both. Life is hard enough without being our own worst critic. We have to get out of our own way to happiness. We all deserve happiness. It starts with acceptance.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier. That is doable. But healthy doesn’t necessarily mean a certain weight or BMI, those are guidelines. Healthy is a way of life, not a number. It’s crazy, I’ve never questioned how smart I am. I can quantify that with my I.Q. score and degrees and no one can ever take that away from me but somehow, I’ve never felt that same sureness about my body. I’ve always given the power to others and I’m never doing that again.

Wishing to be taller, shorter, built differently, having a different face, or body parts will just serve to make us feel less than because we can’t change who we are. Sure there are surgeries and diets but why? Who are we doing it for? Believe me, I’ve spent 30 years learning this lesson the hard way. The person on the inside, that’s the person who counts. You matter.

I realized something pretty eye-opening recently, being the mom of daughters has given me the gift of self-love and acceptance. You see I’ve always measured myself against other women and someone else’s impossible standards and I always fell short because when you’re pursuing someone else’s dream, you’ll never get there. You’ll never be truly happy.

My daughters have made me realize that I am the only standard of measurement that should count and no one else’s opinion of me should matter because being my best me is all that matters. Hmmm, the students have surpassed the teacher. I taught them that shit and I firmly believe it… for them but now, I believe for me too. The only standard I need to measure is my happiness.

swimsuit shopping, bathing suit shopping, not caring what other people think, summer

My happiness matters and it has nothing to do with how I look in my bikini or how I think other people perceive me (because believe me, I’m way harder on myself than anyone has ever been on me). It’s about feeling good enough and when I see myself reflected in the smiles of my daughters’ eyes… I am fucking amazing to me and nothing else matters!

Now tell me, what’s amazing about you? What is the one thing you love about yourself?

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tips for raising healthy daughters, heart health

Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with the Healthy For Good initiative of the American Heart Association. The views, opinions and positions expressed within this post belong to The Truth and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.

Food is something that I’ve always had a strained relationship with. Kind of like that bad boyfriend you just can’t quit. Let me rephrase it, it’s not the quitting part that I’ve had the problem with, it’s the walking away in a healthy way.

As many of you know, I have a past with eating disorders. It started when I was 12, the same age my oldest daughter is now, and it lasted actively until I was 25-years-old — though anyone who has ever survived disordered eating will tell you, much like alcoholism, it’s a lifelong disease but unlike alcohol, you can’t quit food and that has always been the trick.

I won’t spend a lot of time explaining my past with anorexia and bulimia because I’ve done that already. If you are interested, you can read all about my eating disorders here and my body dysmorphic disorder here. I just wanted you to know where I’m coming from now. We are all products of our past, after all.

As I said, I have daughters; my oldest is 12 and my youngest is 10 and one of my biggest fears since becoming a mom is that they’d inherit my predisposition to eating disorders. So, I decided years ago that I needed to shift my thinking from dieting and restricting to eating healthy, moving more and controlling my portions. For better or worse, we are our children’s first role models. They see and hear everything we do, even the words we don’t speak. These little people are smarter than we usually give them credit for.

But how does a woman who has spent her entire adult life, since she was 12-years-old, having a love/hate relationship with food and her own body teach two little girls to be healthy?

It’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s something I work on every single day. I have become very aware of just how disordered I was through this journey of motherhood but it’s also made me more mindful of what kind of relationship with food that I want to model for my girls.

My eating disorders have made it so that I have a better handle on what to say and not say, do and not do, in relation to food and body image with my girls. I’d like to think, if anything good could possibly ever come from eating disorders, it was that they made me better equipped to raise strong, positive self-image, self-loving, confident and healthy girls and that almost makes what I went through worth it.

Here are my tips for raising healthy daughters.

So how do I do it? How do I model healthy eating habits for two little girls on the precipice of becoming women? Carefully and thoughtfully. We try to keep red meat to once a week or less. I’ve always fed the girls a variety of foods that included lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Those are the staples but I have also taught my girls that everything is okay in moderation. There can be no absolutes because always and never just end in disappointment and fall short.

It’s my responsibility to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle that includes free will, informed food choices, living actively and drinking plenty of water. No one says that has to be boring. My girls love infused waters. I want being healthy to be a way of life for them, not a chore so we look for activities that they enjoy doing. It doesn’t matter so much what you are doing, just that you are moving. Food is fuel for the body and our bodies really are a temple. But we only get one, so we’ve got to take care of it.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re foodies in this house. We love a good meal full of different colors, textures and flavors. We love to try new foods, the more exotic the better. In fact, we implemented a rule when the girls were still toddlers that you try everything at least twice and if you hate it, well, then you try it again at a later date. This has made for children who are very food adventurous which helps to integrate a variety of healthy foods rather than them always wanting chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese but hey, like I said that’s okay too, in moderation.

One of our favorite things to do, and we’ve done this since the kids were small, is to cook together. Both girls love to help us cook. I found out a long time ago that even if there is something that they don’t really like, if they help cook it, they will eat it. Somehow, their hard work seems to magically make it infinitely more appetizing to them. Plus, it gives us the chance to experiment with new recipes and flavors. For instance, why not throw some fruit on the grill?

These are just a few simple tips for raising healthy daughters.

The biggest thing I do and it really is so simple, if you don’t want your family to eat certain things, don’t buy them. Why not do a pantry audit and add healthy staples to your shopping list. If unhealthy foods aren’t in the house, they’re harder to put into your body. If you don’t want pop and chicken nuggets to be a part of your kid’s regular diet, then don’t let it be an available option. This will eliminate you having to police what your children eat.

I don’t ever want to tell my children not to eat something because I think the natural assumption when you tell someone not to eat something is that they don’t need it. And, speaking from experience, especially coming from a parent, thinking they think you are anything less than perfect is soul crushing. Not that any of us think we are truly perfect but we all believe, at least our parents believe we are.

The key is trying to be mindful and purposeful in what we eat most of the time. Sure, sometimes we want a pizza night or some frozen custard but I really try to make that the exception more than the rule.

If you are like me, you are always looking for good resources to keep your family healthy. The American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good website is a great resource full of healthy living content. It offers an extensive suite of recipes, videos, and editorial/infographic health content. Healthy For Good focuses on the following 4 pillars.

 

  • EAT SMART (smart shopping, cooking, and label reading)
  • ADD COLOR (eating healthier by adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your meals)
  • MOVE MORE (becoming more active)
  • BE WELL (whole body health; including mindfulness, stress reduction, wellness)

Did you know that June is National Fresh Fruit and Veggie Month? What could be a more perfect time to get some fresh inspiration from the American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good Eat Smart and Add Color pillars? I say eat the rainbow! Variety is the spice of life and it’s healthier too.

The AHA’s ultimate goal is to help people navigate barriers so they can create and maintain behavior change. They don’t just tell you what to do, they show you!

Why not join the Healthy For Good movement for amazing weekly tips, recipes and motivation (scroll down here www.heart.org/HealthyForGood and click “join the movement.” I did! What are you waiting for?

What are your best tips for raising healthy daughters or sons?

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discipline, exercise, parenting, how to change bad behavior with exercise

I found the cure to all bad habits and I can tell you the secret of how to change bad behavior with exercise! Nope, it has nothing to do with exerting yourself and distracting yourself. It has nothing to do with feeling better about yourself or being a better person. It’s much simpler than that and I promise you, it works. I am living proof. You can change bad behavior with exercise and achieve parenting level master status. It is discipline in the best way possible.

We all have bad habits. It’s the truth. I try to be a good example for my daughters. We want our children to grow up to be upstanding citizens of the world. We want them to go out into the world and be so fierce and fearless that they impress everyone they meet. We don’t want them to be jerks. One of my life goals is for people to meet my children throughout their life and be like, “Damn, that is one bada** woman!” At the same time, I want them to be like, “What a lady she is.” That’s my mom getting in my head.

I want my daughters to be the perfect lovechild of Audrey Hepburn, Maya Angelou and Lady Gaga. I want them to be fierce, caring and relentless in their pursuit of good and happiness. That’s what I’m going for but I want them to use their words. I want their words to be the vehicle that can gain them entry into any conversation in the world. I want their brains to be their sexiest body part.

I want them to be giving, loving and embrace life and love and people. I want them to live out loud with no walls or prejudices. I want them to fully appreciate the world they live in without fear or self-doubt. I think I am succeeding, or at least on trajectory with this path, with the exception of one small kink…using their words.

This is where it happens, this is what prompted me to figure out how to change bad behavior with exercise.

Yes, embarrassing as it is, I (the writer) have failed my children in the example of using their words.  You see, I know a lot of words. I know all of the words. I am in love with the words. But sometimes, I am a lazy word user and I resort to profanity. GASP! I know shocking. Well, not really. Not if you’re a long time follower of me. I’ve been trying a lot harder to stop with the lazy words because I don’t want my girls to use all the lazy words. So, I made a decision and it is kind of shocking how well it has worked.

This is how to change bad behavior with exercise.

It’s actually very simple. I implemented a rule a few weeks ago that if you (collective you, as in my family) curse, that is an automatic 50 crunches and if you bicker and yell, that is an automatic 200 pushups and so began the hardest few days of my life. Just kidding, I’ve lived through a lot of hard stuff. I was not going to be broken by crunches and yet, 400 crunches in one day…it was pretty rough but it worked almost immediately. Who knew you could change bad behavior with exercise?

The thing that I’ve learned is that no amount of grounding, taking away of friends, tech or play dates will work to curb my children’s bad behavior. They respond much more astutely to positive reinforcement. I’m not surprised because I am the same way.  I’d prefer to get a reward at the end of hard work than to not get punished. I learned when I was pretty young that I preferred to do what I wanted and suffer the consequences, that’s just how I work and unfortunately, I think I passed that strong will along to my daughters.

However, apparently, none of us love doing crunches. In fact, we despise them. Now, these were not your average run of the mill sit ups. These were those blasted ballet/ floor barre/ physical therapy ones meant to target your lower abdomen. No one works their lower abdomen. It’s not natural and it HURTS!

3 days is how long it took to cure me of my cursing habit. 2 days is all that it took for the girls to never want to use any sort of lazy word ever again. You see apparently, our lazy words are not worth getting off our lazy butts and doing 400 crunches. And the bickering, well, my girls hate push ups even more than crunches. Bickering has been at an all-time low. I can feel my sanity returning. It’s all fun and games until someone has to do exercise.

You see, I’m a die hard, forgiveness over permission gal but I had to be the example and so crunch away I did. I’m still doing 150 every day, just in case I stub my toe or something and need that sweet release plus, I could definitely live without a FUPA. It’s so simple to change bad behavior with exercise. Why did I never think of this before?

I’ve also realized that crunches can probably cure just about any bad habit we have. Think about it. You want to gamble, each bet is 100 crunches. You want to drink, each cocktail is 100 crunches. Want to eat that whole sleeve of Oreos? That will be 50 crunches per cookie, thank you. I’m pretty sure most of us would think twice before doing that again because I don’t know about you but a swear word is not worth 400 crunches and there are no cookies worth 50 crunches. Then again, at the very least, I’d be a heathen with great abs!

Would you have ever thought it was possible to change bad behavior with exercise?

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what its like to have an eating disorder, are eating disorders hereditary, skinny, vanity, weight loss, are eating disorders genetic? , raising girls, tweens, eating disorder, bulimarexia, eating disorders, anorexia, weight

Have you ever wondered are eating disorders genetic? I have since the day I gave birth to my first daughter because the last thing I wanted to pass down to my girls were eating disorders. Many of you know that I have been in recovery from bulimia and anorexia for nearly 20 years, with very few slip-ups. But eating disorders don’t just magically leave, they plague you for life. It’s impossible to unlearn those behaviors and almost as hard not to act upon your instinct. I know that’s not what anyone wants to hear but it is my truth.

Today, it finally happened. The day I’ve been dreading since she was born. The day she compared herself to me. The day I had to really consider …

Are eating disorders genetic?

Unfortunately, my research says, yes, eating disorders are, in fact, genetic just like Bipolar disorder, depression and so many other mental illnesses. We like to think we can protect our children from illnesses but what do we do when we are the very people who gave them the genes to develop the disorder? It’s through no fault of our own. We can do everything right and still not be able to protect them from these kinds of things. I’ve tried my best to do everything right and I am super aware of the behaviors because of my own experience but what if none of that can stop any of it?

For me, there is no competition. She is better than me in every single way. She is a tall, leggy blonde with blue eyes that smile, a sweet voice and the perfect peaches and cream complexion. She is everything I hoped to be as a young girl. She is smart, graceful and strong. She is independent, cultured and not afraid to stand up for herself and for what’s right. She is my idea of perfection.

 

In many ways, we are alike. That strong, independent bossy streak that runs deep in her, is all me. Her smile, me too. The intelligence, well she got that from both of us and the culture is something I have been instilling from birth. However, the tall, graceful leggy blonde is not me at all.

I have always been average to tall, 5’7”, dark hair, hazel ish-brown eyes and small boned. My parents are not big people. My mom is 5’3” and my dad is probably around 5’10”. So, I was always the youngest and often one of the smaller kids in the class.

Today, as I was cleaning out my attic to prepare for the yearly garage sale, I was pretty excited because I have a bunch of “vintage” clothing that my newly 12-year-old can rock. These are pieces I loved but just will never look right on me again. I’m not 21 anymore and I’ve birthed 2 children; half tops and low-rise flared jeans are just not appropriate for me in my current situation. Read; an adult with some junk in the trunk and a tiny spare tire.

Anyways, as we sifted through the tubs, I got very excited because I was excited to pass these pieces on. Then it hit me, she is bigger than me now then I was at 21 ( because I was 3 years deep into my eating disorders; I was anorexic.) I knew this might happen, I’d planned to adjust for it but I forgot.

You see, a few months back, I told my oldest about my eating disorders as a preemptive strike. Now, I really struggled with whether or not I should tell the girls because I don’t want them to think less of me, think its ok or, worse still, be responsible for planting that seed in their brain. But I told her because she is starting to outgrow me in height.

Her feet are passing me by and I noticed that when I tried to give her a pair of my shoes, she compared her feet to mine. Firstly, we have different builds. Secondly, she is a ballet dancer who dances in pointe; wide feet are a by-product. But none of that matters because she was comparing herself to me and I was the bar by which she was measuring herself. She judged her difference as a deficit. I assured her that different does not mean less than, it only means not the same.

Today, as we sifted again through the bins, she began trying things on. Things she knew I wore to my bridal shower and on our honeymoon and I could see her judging herself. It broke my heart. I had to jump in and explain that we have different builds and that I was not healthy when I was that size, the size that is smaller than a 12-year-old child. In all honesty, my 9-year-old happily accepted and fits into one of my favorite outfits from when I was 25. I was sick. I could have died and none of that is ok.

I’ve tried to explain that I had already gone through puberty and my shape was different than hers is now. I also explained how I had no boobs and hairy legs when I was her age; to give her some perspective. Still, I saw the defeat in her eyes when she tried on one of my favorite skirts from the 90’s and she couldn’t fasten it.

I know that feeling because even though I was not a huge tween, I was huge compared to my mom. I outgrew her clothes around the same time. This was also the same time; I began my lifelong battle with body dysmorphic disorder so all of this is scaring the shit out of me. Like, I am literally lying awake at night wondering how this is all going to play out and praying that eating disorders are not genetic because they never go away. You are never cured. You are just in a constant state of recovery for the rest of your life. I don’t want that for my girls.

To this day, I follow girls in recovery on Instagram. I’m invested in their recovery from eating disorders. Part of it is because I miss being in control like that and part of it is to cheer them on in their recovery. I want them to get better; to survive and have a life and a family and be able to eat food without mental anguish; cruelty-free without torture. But then I get this thought in my head, what if I’m cheering them on and they see me, overweight now, and relapse?

The same way I am terrified that my clothes are going to push my daughter in that direction. She is almost as tall as me and she is going to be much taller. She is also built more athletically than me. Her father is bigger than my father. She is buying S/M in clothes and I am L/XL and I am afraid she is going to see the gap narrowing too much and see herself as bigger than she is. So, I have to get healthier so I don’t negatively affect the way she sees herself.

Believe me, I know this might sound crazy to many of you, especially if you’ve never had eating disorders but if you have, you know what I am talking about. And if it came down to it, if one of us has to be sick or feel bad or unhappy, please God, let it be me.

I may not be able to change her genetic makeup and predispositions but I can certainly be aware and be present and try my hardest to not let genetics outrank my nurturing. Maybe the answer to the question, “are eating disorders genetic?” might be yes but the outcome doesn’t have to be the same as it was for me.

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