I am not weak.

… despite what others may think.

I am an empath and it makes many people uncomfortable. I get it. It can be overwhelming. Try living with it every single day.

However, because I am sensitive and feel more deeply than others and express my emotions in ways that others are not used to or are incapable of, that does not mean I am weak. It does not mean I am unable to work or run a business. It means that I approach life in a way that may not work for others. It gives me a unique advantage to really see and feel what others need and want, and as such, I move forward in an unorthodox manner. This is what has made me successful in everything that I’ve ever set my mind to. The passion for life that I possess is deeper than most can handle. At times, it can be too much for me to handle.

Everything I do is for others. It’s in my nature. It is my mission, which I have known since I was a little girl. It wasn’t until I found CrossFit that I realized how to make it a reality.

This year has been one of challenges, successes, losses, and enlightenment. Some of it amazing and exhilarating, others devastating and disappointing. Such is life!

Last night, while sitting in a dimly lit room and after many cups of tea, the following stream-of-consciousness passage came out in a moment of vulnerability. It will make others uncomfortable because of its raw and personal nature. This is who I am and I will not apologize for being real. However, I have redacted a couple lines because, as a business owner, I have to somewhat censor myself so as not to cause any problems.

I feel broken,
but I’m not.
I feel depressed,
but it’s not dark.
Emotions have come about,
as the world begins to implode.
My world.
Your world.
Our world.
This year our country lost hope,
and gained fear.
This year I lost my husband,
but gained a friend.
[redacted]
[redacted]
She left me when I needed her most.
It’s funny, the only person that has my back,
is the very person I hated not too long ago.
It hurts;
I hurt.
My need for a partner in love
is overwhelmingly strong.
It hurts.
My body aches for the gentle touch of a caring hand.
My heart desires companionship
to share the joys and pain of life.
I hurt,
but I’m not broken.

I am writing and sharing all of this to show that highly emotional people are still functional. They are CEOs, they are talented artists, they are your mothers and fathers. We just function in a different way. We may hurt, we may feel deeply, but that does not make us weak. It takes a lot of courage to express raw emotions in a world filled with assholes. It won’t stop us from doing what needs to get done.

The Real Face of Depression

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I am a coach. I am a motivator. I am also depressed.

I know you’re probably wondering how someone can be a coach and motivator, yet be depressed. Yes, it seems like an oxymoron, but I’ve been this person for quite some time. I have wanted to write about my secret for a while, but was unsure as to how it would be perceived or if it would affect my job as a coach or my relationships with others. However, those that have known me for a while know that I’m not one to do things the “normal” way, so this is why I’m finally writing about it.

I’ve always held the philosophy of “be true to yourself” and to do things my own way, and to trust in myself that I will get what I need and where I need to go if I follow my own path. It doesn’t always work out, but most of the time it does. As a result of my philosophy, I won many state titles in gymnastics, I won a national piano competition at the age of 14, and I also earned many achievement awards at all of the schools I’ve attended. I’ve also had some pretty cool jobs, which I got without a college degree. Whenever I listen to my gut instinct, I succeed. When I allow others to dictate the process or influence me too much, I tend to fail – this is part of the reason how I got to where I am today.

inner peace
(I’m working on this.)

What I write in this post is not of the norm, especially for fitness coaches, because fitness coaches are supposed to be happy, uplifting people that know how to make others’ lives better. They’re supposed to have their shit together. Most people would and will freak out because of how open and personal I am and can be. But that is who I am, down to my very core. I am honest, raw, and sincere. I don’t sugar coat, and when I have to, I feel like a fraud.

I refuse to be mediocre; I strive for excellence. Unfortunately, this has been a bit difficult with this depressive cloud following me as of late. I’ve had to put on my “happy face” for so long that it’s worn me out. I’m exhausted, but I have to keep going.

 Physically I smile

A few months ago, a friend of mine talked about wanting to start a campaign called “The Real Face of Depression” to bring awareness to the world that depressed people aren’t just those in the corner crying and pulling their hair out like you see in most depictions, although sometimes we may feel that way. Depressed people are everyday people – they are your co-worker, they are your friend, your neighbor, and in my case, a fitness coach. We look happy on the outside, we have big smiles in our pictures that come up on Facebook, we are the new moms smiling and playing with precious little babies, we are top CrossFit athletes at The Games.

The majority of my depression stems from my experience with the gymnastics coach that I had between the ages of 10-16, the most important formative years of my life. He is a terrible person; he is a pedophile. He went to jail for the things he did, but he is now out. Before you jump to conclusions as to why my teammates and I didn’t leave, it wasn’t that easy. The charm he had and the ability to manipulate was impressive; no one was safe.

Throughout my life, I have gone through phases where I am able to deal with the trauma of the past (that of my gymnastics career, but also from the recent past), but there are also times where I am heavily affected by it. I am currently in one of those phases.

world had drained me

I feel heavy, I feel lost. I feel scared, I feel anxious. I am so fucking angry.

My body literally hurts because my soul is hurting.

There are days where I’m coaching and I have to fight so hard to hold the tears in, and all I want to do is to go home, hide under the covers, and cry.

There are days where I want to drop everything and leave without saying goodbye to anyone.

This shit sucks, but I have to keep going.

strong

What keeps me going are the people I coach, and the little girl that I mentor. For the short time that I’m with these people, I have a glimmer of hope and happiness. Yes, it is and can be difficult, but for those moments I don’t feel as heavy or lost or scared or anxious. I cannot and will not let my depression affect the lives of others.

This is my own battle. I have to keep going.

I am in a dark place, but I know I will get out. I know that I am mentally strong; I just lost it momentarily. I am receiving the help I need to find my way back, but it’s going to take some time. I am so beyond grateful to my friends and family and the support system they have created for me. Writing this and sharing my thoughts and feelings with others helps.

There are going to be those that judge me for expressing my feelings, and that is fine. There will always be naysayers and those that think they know how you should live your life. This is who I am and I am not ashamed of it.

This is my story. This is the real face of depression.

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Stress and Depression Are Dumb. So Are Injuries.

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(My limited ROM in my knee doesn’t allow it to bend like I want it to causing me to squat incorrectly. Oh, and that whole only having 4 lumbar vertebrae – as opposed to 5 – also doesn’t help the situation.)

[TL;DR since I didn’t expect to write this much: overwhelming stress from work and my knee injury caused me to get chubby and depressed creating a vicious cycle.  Didn’t realize how chubby I got until I saw a picture of myself taken yesterday.  Knee surgery on Friday, June 20 to fix torn meniscus.]

So, tomorrow is the big day – surgery day!  This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, but wasn’t sure if it was something that I should do.  I’ve had pain in my right knee since my ACL reconstructive surgery back in 1998, but I just learned to deal with the pain.  I would say about 5 years ago, prior to my starting CrossFit the pain started getting worse, which is why I decided to start exercising again.  I figured my being inactive for about 10 years was causing all of my knee and back pain.

I started CrossFit in January of 2010, and at first I couldn’t run.  It hurt and my endurance sucked balls.  After a few months of CrossFit and getting my body moving again, my knee pain slowly went away and I actually didn’t mind running.  I’ve had a couple of injuries (strained right Achilles, Bankart tear in my left shoulder) during my time with CrossFit, but they were caused by me doing stupid things while playing adult co-ed softball (I have since retired in case you were wondering).  As with any injury or life-changing situation, I felt a bit depressed due to the immediate change in what I was and wasn’t able to do.  The depression slowly went away as I found ways to workout around my injuries – I got really good at pull-ups during my Achilles injury and my legs got really strong during my shoulder injury.  So, you’d think that this current injury would be no prob.  Nope, completely the opposite.

Rewind to late 2013/early 2014 – I was finally starting to feel good again, normal even, and not feeling any pain.  I also felt like I was finally getting my eating habits under control.  As such, I started to increase my training and pushing myself that much harder.  No excuses.  My first full week of training after my shoulder injury was the first week of the 2013 CrossFit Open, so when the 2014 Open came around, I wanted to be ready and injury free. I started deadlifting more, my front and back squat weights were increasing.  I was stoked.  I did well in the Open – I ended up in the top 27% in the world and 29% in the region – and was proud of what I accomplished (I also placed 36th in the SoCal region for 36 year old women! Haha, if only CrossFit were categorized by age…).

Unfortunately, due to the increase in my training and my limited abilities and range of motion in my right knee due to my previous ACL injury and surgery, my knee started acting up again.  I hit a point with my squats where I couldn’t increase the weight anymore.  I was cautious with my training and slowed down when it hurt and forged on when it felt good.  As a precaution, I decided to get an MRI to make sure that I didn’t re-injure my ACL.

My friend Black Widow (BW) and I are pretty similar in abilities and height, and well, when I had long hair people would get us confused, so, we’re a pretty good match for partner competitions.  We signed up for the Dynamic Duel partner competition this past April 26, the weekend after my MRI.  That was my last full-on workout. Sad face.

The Dynamic Duel consisted of lots of heavy squats and my knee did not enjoy them.  I had practiced the 95lb squat cleans the Monday prior to the competition and felt pretty good about them, and felt ready for the comp.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming stress at work didn’t do my body good.

My supervisor went on maternity leave a couple weeks early leaving me with the added stress to figure out some of the tasks that I was to take over while she was out.  The week prior to the competition was her program’s HUGE annual review week-long meeting that I had to take over with the planning and organizing on top of my regular job.  I didn’t sleep much, my meal schedule was off, and I was working tons of overtime.  I was T.I.R.E.D.  Regardless, I was looking forward to competing with BW.

The first WOD of the competition was difficult but we managed to get through most of it.  My body was tired, but nothing felt off.  The last WOD of the day was squat heavy and it messed me up.

The WOD was:
Every minute on the minute for 10 min:
1st partner starts with 7 goblet squats with a 35lb kettlebell, then does 5 kettlebell swings.
2nd partner then does 95lb squat cleans for the remaining time in the minute.
At the top of the minute, the partners switch.

10169191_10152330702245700_648059738262056476_n(This was me waiting for my turn at squat cleans looking at BW while she was doing her goblet squats like, “I don’t want to do this anymore”.)

photo (4)(At home after the comp. I felt super old and broken.)

After the end of that WOD, my knee did not feel right.  I could barely walk and it hurt so bad.  I took a week off from working out to give my body a rest.  After two weeks, I still felt off.  This is when I received the results of the MRI.  Verdict: a small medial, posterior horn meniscal tear.  So this is the pain that I’ve been feeling for YEARS!  After receiving the results, I decided to give my body a break.  I’ve been definitely feeling physically older, and I attribute a lot of that to the stress that I’ve been feeling at work.  I had planned on doing upper body workouts and still exercising regularly.  Nope, that didn’t happen.  Stress got the best of me.

I stopped working out.  I started eating horribly.  I still wasn’t sleeping well.  I started to become depressed, which led to not wanting to workout, eating crap, and no sleep.  It’s such an effing vicious cycle.  Oh, and guess what?  Work got even MORE stressful.  So not only was I doing two positions, my student assistant quit and I, therefore, had to take on her work.  Oh, I was also voluntold to assist with planning four retirement parties all in the month of June.  Sure, I’ll do three positions and plan huge parties at the university on top of my coaching and operations duties at the gym.  Sure, no problem at all.  So you can imagine how vicious the above-mentioned cycle got recently.  I need to learn to not be so nice and to say no.

Yesterday, I had BW take pictures of me doing various squats from all different angles, so I could compare the differences in my body mechanics before and after surgery.  I knew I was getting a bit soft in the middle but I was not expecting to see what I saw in my squat pictures – my big ol’ gut chillin’ right in front of the camera (see below – enjoy!).  It’s gross and embarrassing and I’m upset that I’ve let myself get to this point.  This is what stress and depression has done to me.  Ugh.

photo (3)(Chubby little Ninja with giant spider bite on her leg that you can see bulging out!)

I am very much looking forward to having surgery and getting back in the gym and using my entire body.  My doctor said that I will pretty much be ready to start working out again after two weeks.  I sure hope so!  I also recently (as of yesterday!) hired a new student assistant to work for me over the summer and can start June 30, and I also found out that my supervisor will be coming back part-time July 1.  So, things are looking up!  As much as stress and depression are dumb, I do learn a lot from what I experience during those rough times.  Although there were days where I wanted to crawl into the fetal position and cry for days, or stab a beeotch in the ear, I forced myself to keep my head up no matter how difficult it was.

No matter how exhausted or pissed off I was from work, I found solace at the gym and from my members.  It’s amazing how much better I felt once I got there and saw my CrossFit family even after working 8-10 hours and being at the gym for another 3, and getting home around 9pm. So big THANKS and giant internet hug to my CFSB family. Y’all are pretty neat, and I look forward to working out with you again soon!  I’ll get through this, I always do.

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Patience and Persistence Leads to Progress: Maira’s First Year in CrossFit

BeforeAfter1Left: May 2013, Right: April 2014

April 15, 2013 is the day it all began. Actually, it began a few days before she joined her first class. Taking the initiative to make the call to sign up for a basic movements course in CrossFit is a HUGE step. It’s easy for some, but nerve-wracking for most. When I first saw Maira and her friend walk into my class, they both looked scared, hesitant, and had the look of “what the hell am I doing here?” all over their face. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, or how long they were going to last. That didn’t change my coaching them, but it was something that stirred in the back of my mind. As with the majority of the female athletes when they first start, they gave me every excuse as to why they couldn’t do this or that. (Thanks society for fucking up our self-esteem!) Working with them was a challenge as they had never done anything like this before and had never been encouraged to step out of their comfort zone in this way, and it was my job to break them of their negative thoughts and to convince them that they could indeed do all of this “crazy CrossFit stuff”.

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After a few months or so into it, Maira’s confidence began to grow, as did her willingness to push herself harder and further. Her negative mindset began to diminish as well. As such, she began to post pictures of her lifting on Instagram, and of course, the haters came out to express their ignorance. Did it stop her? Absolutely not. It only made her stronger – mentally and physically. (She took screenshots of some of the messages people sent her and sent them to me. It was pretty ridiculous.) She started eating better, she was smiling more, she had more energy. She was running! She was seeing results, which increased her drive to do more. Now that she was becoming more comfortable with the movements and with who she was (which is awesome, btw!), she no longer wanted to just look good, she wanted to get stronger. This pleased me so.

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Other than the community aspect, what I love most about CrossFit is that it changes and challenges your mindset and every negative thing you’ve ever been told. The workouts that we set before the athletes present a challenge. These challenges suck, but it gets easier. It gets easier in a sense that we approach them differently than how we did at the beginning of our CrossFit journey. It is our choice as to how we approach these workouts (aka challenges), and you soon figure out that having a shitty mindset gets you nowhere fast. This also translates into real life.

 

BonJass

Maira is a twenty-something single mama of a beautiful 6 1/2 year old girl. She also works multiple jobs and has to deal with the usual stress that comes with a “baby daddy (BD)”. Over the past year that I’ve known her, she’s dealt with a lot of drama (even the death of her best friend), but this woman is relentless. There have been days where it looked like she wanted to cry because she was worried and/or stressed about finances or the BD or whatever, but she still came to the gym and did work. In return, I think this new mindset that CrossFit presented to her allowed her to tackle life’s challenges in a positive way.

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Now, after a year, Maira is getting PRs left and right and out-lifting some of the guys at the gym. She’s even lifting with some of the big dogs, too! It brings me so much joy to see how much progress she has made over the past year and to see turning her into the beautiful and confident woman that she was meant to be. Nothing’s gonna stop her!

Maira, I am so very proud of everything you have accomplished this year, and I look forward to many more years with you! Get it, girl.

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What’s Your Motivation?

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My day started with me feeling gross and exhausted. I had a fight with myself whilst laying in bed – one part of me saying, “get your ass up! You’re running late!” the other part of me saying, “it’s okay. You work hard, you need the rest.” Who am I kidding? That is me EVERY morning when the darn “ripples” alarm goes off on my iPhone.

Because I was feeling crappy, I defaulted to my food-based comfort and was adamant about going to Starbucks (even though I was late) and getting a sugar-free vanilla latte and a tomato and cheese croissant. They didn’t have the tomato and cheese (gasp!), so I opted for the spinach and cheese (meh). I also forgot my lunch (again), so I purchased a turkey and havarti sandwich along with my healthy breakfast. As I was walking back to my car, I felt bad about myself because this is not what I had in mind with cleaner and healthier eating. To add to my crappy state of mind, I threw in some Cheez-It at lunch.

So what does this have to do with motivation, you say? A lot. I’m not saying this is healthy, but I have a habit of making myself feel like shit before I step it up and take control. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel as crappy as I thought I would after eating all the bread items. However, it was enough to do the job.

I was debating going to CrossFit because I was so exhausted and felt gross, but I forced myself to go. After I parked, I wasn’t quite ready to get out because I needed to mentally get in the zone before stepping into the gym to see my friends and to do work. I decided to check Facebook (which I don’t usually do before the gym, surprisingly) and saw that my friend Alexis (aka Fancy Pants!) shared a new blog post entitled “The Root of Suffering is Attachment” with the post starting off with “…attachment to things, feelings, people, ideas, expectations…” Oh, the expectations. This really resonated with me. The expectations I set for myself are often too high, which in all honesty is why I am currently exhausted. I reminded myself to “simmer down” and that I am doing okay. I am not perfect. I am doing the best I can. I walked into the gym, and did quite well with my workout. I left starving for protein and veggies and in a good mood.

So what’s my motivation? My motivation is the people I care for. Even though I may be their coach and am the one who is supposed to do all of the motivating, all of the athletes that I coach inspire me; however, my friends Alexis, Susan, Maira (aka Bon Bon), Janyce (aka Black Widow), and Allison in particular are my motivation. They all have their own strengths that push me to be a better person, athlete and coach. Being around them make me happy. My friends that pursue their dreams also motivate me. They may fail, but they keep on pursuing because they believe in their talent and abilities. People like Lakeisha Shurn motivate me. I may not know her personally, but her story and the determination and effort she put into losing weight inspires me. People that actually do the work rather than doing a lot of talking motivate me. We can all “talk the talk,” but not everyone can actually walk.

On a superficial level, my other motivation is this purple sports bra:

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I saw this sports bra a while ago, but didn’t purchase it for some reason. I haven’t been able to find it in my size since then. Janyce knew that I’ve been wanting it and bought it for me when she saw it in my size a couple weeks ago (she’s so rad!). My goal is to comfortably wear this without a shirt over it. Sometimes during a workout I get super hot and want to rip my shirt off, but I am not comfortable enough with my midsection to do so. I know I’m not fat, but I’m squishy and it’s uncomfortable and funny looking. I love my shoulders, arms, legs and booty, but my stomach? Not so much. It may not look squishy to you, but it’s because I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding it. I wore my bathing suit once last year, and never took my tank top off because I was too ashamed of my squishy midsection. Silly, I know.

So there you have it, whether you wanted it or not. Haha! I commend you for making it through all of my rambling about my mundane day. So my question to you is, what motivates you? What keeps you going?

Peace Out, 2013, and a Big Sexy Hello to 2014!

My favorite part of a new year is the overall feeling of hope and positiveness (that was for you, Meadows) from the majority of the population. Goals are being set, people let go of the past, and are determined to bring happiness into their lives. We reflect on our lives and the events that occurred over the past year, and we try our best to learn from mistakes and move on.

Well, 2013 was full of ups and downs for this little ninja. It was a such a great year for so many of my friends, but for me it was extremely challenging. I am definitely pleased that 2013 is a thing of the past, and am very much looking forward to what 2014 has to offer.

Overall, my favorite highlights of the year are the new friends I’ve made, the friends that I’ve gotten closer to, the new personal records (PRs) I’ve achieved at the gym, and the greater community that now exists at CrossFit Santa Barbara. However, I think my favorite part are the gains that all of the athletes at the gym have made. It delights me to see the boost in confidence of the athletes that I coach, how excited they are to come to the gym, how they overcome the challenges that are set before them, and how grateful they are. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people. I am also extremely grateful to Coach T for allowing me to be a part of his gym and to be one of his coaches.

In addition, being a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been life changing. I think most people that go into volunteer work do it to change the lives of others, not expecting anything in return. However, I have learned so much about myself while mentoring my Little, Jimena. It brings so much joy to me to hear her say things like, “You’re the best big sister ever!,” “You’re all mine?!,” “See, I always have fun and am so happy when I’m with you.” It also kills me when she looks at me and says, “You aren’t going anywhere, right?” Things like that shows me just how important my job is as a mentor; how important it is for children to have a strong role model, which pushes me to be a better person, not just for her, but for me and everyone around me.

Even though last year was a bit challenging, looking at my list of highlights reminds me it wasn’t all so bad. Other highlights from 2013 include:

January:
*Gaining the mobility back in my shoulder and being able to raise my arm over my head.
*Avoiding shoulder surgery.
*One full month of being soda free!
*Start of better eating and food prepping.

Related blog posts:
How Ninja Got Her ROM Back
Food Preppin’, Soda-Free Ninja
“You just may come out of this smelling like roses.”

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February:
*Not killing Tall Guy (hey, that’s a highlight, right?)

March:
*Competing in the CF Open and doing way better than I thought.

Related blog post:
If at first you don’t succeed…

Ninja 13.2 Press(Photo credit: Rose Joost)

April:
*Completing the CrossFit Open without injury or pain!
*Competing in my first USPA powerlifting competition and obtaining CA state and American records in the sub-master division/132lb weight class (my American record has since been beat).
*Seeing Jurassic Park in 3D with Tall Guy.
*Returning to softball and not getting injured!

Related blog posts:
Better Than Expected: My 2013 CrossFit Open Experience
Lifting Heavy Things and Putting Them Back Down

Ninja Deadlift State Record

May:
*Cindy & KB’s wedding and gettin’ cray cray with the Josh & Cortney
*Mother’s Day at Chalk Hill with the Foleys and Grammy Eunice (this was the last time we saw Eunice, so it was extra special).

Related blog post:
Learning to Find Hope through Death

Grammy on Moms Day

June:
*Competing in my first local CrossFit competition at CrossFit Ventura
*Mini-moon #2 to Palm Desert
*Marie & Robert’s wedding
*Becoming a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and meeting Jimena. She would forever change my life.

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July:
*Spending the 4th with friends on a boat!
*Movies at the Courthouse
*Seeing Chanel the “corpse flower” bloom at UCSB and smelling her nasty scent.
*Attending my first figure competition to cheer on Karena. Go Team K-Bunny!
*Mandy and Josh’s visit

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August:
* Partying it up at Fiesta with the MasterBatters, where the term “Getting Fiesta drunk” was born.
*Saying goodbye to George, my trusty Honda Civic, and saying hello to my new Honda CR-V, Blurpie.
*Mini-moon #3 to Disneyland.
*My bestie Mandy’s engagement.

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September:
*Susan & Mike’s wedding and Tall Guy officiating it.
*Corralling a huge group of CFSB’ers to participate in the CALM fundraiser competition at CrossFit Pacific Coast and placing 5th.

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October:
*Birthday party at Sky High Sports trampoline park!
*Cindy’s baby shower.

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November:
*Marko surprising me at work with a visit. Totes made me cry I was so happy to see him!
*Delicious Thanksgiving dinner with friends.
*Birth of Chloe, the daughter of my other bestie, Clara.

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December:
*My friend Kari aka “Viva” surprising me at work with a cute note.
*Birth of Jesse Keenan aka “Baby Thor,” Cindy and KB’s little man.
*First CrossFit partner competition with Janyce at CrossFit FAST and placing 4th. Stupid wall balls.
*CrossFit Santa Barbara Christmas party
*Christmas with the family and seeing my nephew
*One year of being soda free!
*Jimena’s Christmas card

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card from Jimena

I look forward to another year with this guy!

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Here’s to a kickass 2014!!!

Learning to Find Hope through Death

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Back in November of last year I wrote a post entitled “Learning to Give Thanks through Death“. There was a lot of death surrounding me at that time, however, it reminded me of the wonderful people in my life and to be grateful for that. Now that death is paying another visit, I am choosing to find hope where many default to sadness. Don’t get me wrong, I am feeling sadness, but I am trying to focus on the positive.

I recently became a mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and last Monday I met my “Little” for the first time. A couple hours after I met my Little, I found out that someone I care for was dying. It was such a strange evening. I went from being completely ecstatic to feeling sadness and worry. Strangely, I felt that these two events were connected.

I have been wanting to be a mentor for so long, but it never fit in with my crazy life. My life is still pretty busy, but I made a commitment to myself to do this. I have an inherent need to help others, especially those less fortunate – not only in a monetary sense, but with family, health, or all of the above. I have felt this way for as long as I can remember. I remember as a child wanting to help other kids who were getting picked on. I remember trying to understand why some people were more favored than others. I could not understand why people were homeless or why people were picked on and bullied just because they were different. I knew then as much as I do now that I want to help people; I want them to know that someone out there cares for them regardless if they know them or not. I have a strong sense of empathy and want, rather, need to do what I can to help.

My Little and I were matched because our number 1 interest was gymnastics. During our first meeting, we went for a short walk around the block to get to know each other and the whole time we talked about gymnastics while she did cartwheels. It was like watching myself when I was that age. It was neat! We also discovered that we love all things purple. My Little changed my life during that meeting. The quick peeks she kept taking and the little smiles of hope she kept giving – it changed my life. Her grandma even said that she hasn’t seen her smile that much before. Here I am hoping to change someone else’s life and I am the one being changed.

Grammy was someone I met through my husband. She wasn’t blood related to him, but a surrogate grandma of sorts. She was so wonderfully kind, sweet, and hilarious. Ooh, and was she competitive when we played a game of Aggravation or cards! Don’t let her sweetness fool you, she will get you. What I loved about her was that from the first time I met her she made me feel like I was part of the family. My grandparents died many years ago, so it was nice to have a grandma again. The type of relationship she had with her husband of many many years is the type of relationship I strive for. I learned so much from watching them interact. The level of care and love was outstanding. She also didn’t sweat the small stuff. I know that’s totally cliche to say, but it’s true. Whatever health issues that comes with being 90 years old didn’t bother her. She understood and just kept on truckin’. If people were being dumb, she accepted it and moved on. No use in stressing. Even though I only knew Grammy for about 3 years, she made a huge impact on my life.

Today I found out and understood why I felt that there was a connection between these two – my Little and I had our first outing alone and Grammy moved on to her next journey. As one life was ending, a new one was beginning. Everything good that Grammy was and everything that I learned from her, I am going to embrace and pass on to my Little. I made a promise to myself and to my Little that I would be there for her and do my best to guide her in the right direction. My Little asked me today if I was her only Big Sister and didn’t have any other Littles. I told her that I was all hers and she said, “You’re all mine? REALLY?!” I said “Yep!” and she replied with a big “YAY!” and smile. Gosh darnit is she adorable.

I am choosing to find hope in the situation. I did have my moments of sadness and tears; they come and go. Although in the literal sense of the word “death,” a life may have ended, but Grammy’s legacy lives on. My relationship with my Little and our lives together, started today.

Grammy on Moms Day