Picture this…

What if you just pretended you were beautiful.  Even if you didn’t believe it.  Just acted on the assumption that your body and face were beautiful to look at and everyone loved it. How free would life feel?

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My attempt at beach pin-up. Feels pretty freeing to pretend I am beautiful.

 

I tried that. Not intentionally really…I just kind of gave up worrying because I’m old. I’m sick with fibro and I am tired. I’m tired of pulling at my clothes and swimsuits to cover my fat etc. I’m tired of being hot when I go out in the sun because I’ve covered my fat so much. I’m exhausted at a beauty regimen that is sort of simple compared to most of my friends. I am pretty much exhausted at life most of the time. So, I just gave up over vacation.  I took a vacation from caring about fat or my double chin or my red face or any other perceived faults.

I think I was encouraged by my sister a bit. She oozes beauty out of her pores. She is young, blond, vibrant with dazzling blue eyes that are unusually shaped. It gives her an allure I can’t describe.  She is so unbelievably beautiful and I’m all the time being told she looks like me. That reflection, seeing her sometimes when I make a certain face in the mirror, has made me feel beautiful and young. Having her close really makes that connection hum for me.

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Isn’t she the stuff of magic?

I’ve always thought highly of myself, a relatively good self-esteem, but I’ve always been a really good fat person too. I covered myself so not to offend someone, from even before I was truly fat. I made sure my “faults” were covered. I never wore stripes. I covered my legs for the most part. My belly hasn’t seen the light of day since I was fourteen. I wear a skirt with my one-piece swim suit, and usually wear a cover up until I can slink into a pool unnoticed. When I read about the body positive movement I was behind it all! I was like “You go girl! Wear that bikini!!! That woman is a badass, but I could never do it.” I would look down at my fat belly and think “No, not my belly, my belly is not for public consumption.” I believe that I should be free to wear what I like. I believe anyone should be free to wear what makes them feel good. I just didn’t think I was at the place where I could put that belief into practice.

 

The body positivity movement is inspiring, but also defending it can be exhausting. There are people who just don’t understand how horrible it is to hate yourself, or maybe they do? I like to think that they truly believe they are trying to help, even if what they do can harm the fat people in their lives. I like to think the best of people. In my own life, I try to not discuss weight with my loved ones. I get so angry and upset. I am tired of explaining that I have to be in control of my body. I have to feel good about my body in order to provide self-care. Why would I care for myself if I felt my body was not worth the time? We want women to care for themselves, don’t we? I want the women in my life to care for themselves, especially my sister. She is so young and energetic. I want her to think of her body as the beautiful miracle it is. To do that, I want her to see me loving and caring for my body. It may not affect her self-esteem seeing me love myself, but I can always hope. As an older, plus size woman I have learned to actively love myself. I take time to maintain my body and I am learning to cast off all those social conventions that have made me feel uncomfortable with certain pants, stripes or swim suits.

This week between learning about the body positive movement, my sisters influence, and the fact that my fibromyalgia flared I decided to love myself. I decided to cast away all self-doubt and just swim, walk, and laugh with abandon. My sister helped me pick out shorts. I wore shorts in public for the first time in years. My mayonnaise legs basked in the sunlight while looking for whales in the Atlantic Ocean. I ran in with my fat arms waving in the breeze and didn’t care. I was too tired with my body aches to pull down my swimsuit over my thick thighs. Did we get shunned? Made fun off? No. Actually, a woman came over and offered to take pictures of us. She said she was enjoying watching us laugh and looking like we were having so much fun. She wanted to help us commemorate these moments. It was a pretty amazing day at the beach.

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Don’t we look beautiful happy?

The last day we were there my sister was kind of bummed we didn’t get to swim in the ocean again and we usually try to do something a little crazy and life affirming when we get together, so I suggested we get into the ocean with our full clothes on. I was wearing leggings, an exercise bra and kind of a fancy shirt. Right up until we got to the water, I was going to wear my shirt because I had always said, “Never my belly.” At the last minute after placing my purse on a rock, and giving my husband my phone to take pictures, I triumphantly whipped off my shirt and bared my belly in my exercise bra. I just dove in and laughed at the wildness of running into the ocean almost fully clothed. I was having too much fun splashing and laughing with my husband and sister to care about how my white fat belly looked in the sun. Again was I laughed at? Pointed at? I don’t think so. I wasn’t paying attention. Frankly, I didn’t care one last bit.

I felt triumphant. I was bonding with my family and I was not ashamed. It has made me want to take care of my body even more. I was exhausted and sore after. I don’t want to be exhausted and sore while on vacation anymore so I am working even harder. It isn’t shame that works, it is capability that inspires me. Please listen, if you feel like only shame works. It doesn’t. Living is a pretty magnificent carrot. It’s hard living when you’re shrouded in shame.

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That’s right! That’s my beautiful belly.

Out of Mourning, a New Resolve

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I am sorry that this smile is gone.

My beautiful, young, full of life cousin just passed away in her sleep. Ashley was nine years younger than I am. She passed away at thirty-three due to complications with her ongoing lung disease. She will be missed by so many. I really admired her spirit and determination. See Ashley has had lung problems all her life. She spent so many days and nights in the hospital being watched over by her poor Mom and Dad who worried constantly. She was a slight little thing as a kid and grew into a rebellious youngster. All of us are rebellious at one point but when you have bad lungs smoking and drinking are even worse. Luckily this time was short. She pulled it out quickly and then focused on her health. Ashley died being a wife, a devoted step-mom who undeniably adored her charge, a spitfire (crazy smart opinionated women run in my family) and amazingly a weight lifter.

It would have been so easy for Ashley to ruminate on the fact that she was born with a set of defective lungs. She could have sulked and stayed in bed, but she rallied and built a full life for herself. Not only that but she built her body up. She worked out steadily and ate well. She built up a business. To see her do all that with the body she was given, makes me feel inspired to do the same.

The past two weeks I have been requiring myself to do yoga absolutely every day. You know that hashtag #yogaeverydamnday? I haven’t really understood that because I feel like it has a negative connotation and yoga has always been enjoyable to me. This past two weeks I have been understanding it. There are days when I have had to crawl to my yoga mat and start by laying on the floor to stretch lightly. I slowly loosen my creaky muscles until I can move without pain. Then I move on to stretches that require all my muscles. It has become a requirement for all of my days. If I don’t do it then I will be in pain all day.

I think that it would be easier sometimes to just stay in bed. I have spent many days this year in bed with the pain and I am sick of it. I hope the ritual I have adopted will keep my out of bed for the foreseeable future. I haven’t tested this theory during my dark days when Aunt Irma visits, but I guess we will see. My physical therapy is working and I am so happy about it.

I think this new resolve is coming from a place of remorse for how much I have let my body sort of fend for itself against my vices.

Perhaps I can take up her mantle of good health. Maybe someday I can be someone people look at and say Hey, she had all that pain but she still put her health first. I hope so. I just have to keep making that uncomfortable walk/crawl to the mat every morning. If I can build on that. I might be able to follow her example.

First Step – Research

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My old treatment plan – bed and pain pills.

I’ve always been a proponent of learning. Since I was wee, I have loved reading and considered it power. My earliest dreams were to get out of my small town and experience more of the world, and my immediate answer was to educate myself so I could have the money to do so. Education and reading has always been my most valued tool. Which is why my inaction in helping myself, health wise, should have been puzzling.

So often doctors counsel us to not WEBMD ourselves. Don’t Dr. Google they say. However, what is a patient to do when doctors don’t listen, or maybe they do but don’t have the answers? I’m not saying Dr. Google is the most reliable source of information, but there are sights that service specific ailments, and are manned by reputable sources and there is the library.

A doctor will see us fifteen minutes every couple weeks IF we are lucky enough to have insurance. Even if they know what’s wrong with us, is that really enough time to tell us all of our options for treatment or even how to enact that treatment. I have spent more time with personal trainers, farmer’s market proprietors, and house cleaning people, and spent less money on all of those services. Is it sad that I found out more and had a longer conversation about where my peaches were grown from the farmer’s market proprietor than what it means to be diagnosed with PCOS from the proprietor of my healthcare? I’m not saying that my doctors are bad in any way. I have loved my general practitioners back in Boise and here in Philadelphia. They have my respect and I feel I have lucked out. Still, I feel like there is no such thing as comprehensive medical care. I am saying that the system is wrong and the only way to combat that is to educate myself.

Sadly it took me too much time to realize that. I have just taken what doctors have told me and done what they have asked and that is all. Total trust and reliance in the medical profession has been my go to for far too long. I have been given many diagnoses in my quest for pain relief: PCOS, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, and dysmenorrhea. (The last one I believe is just a bullshit excuse not to do anything about a woman’s pain.) I was told the doctors recommended course of treatment and I followed it, but only their course of treatment for about ten years. I listened patiently and did what I was told. There are many social cues that tell us to follow what the doctor says. I guess that is appropriate because of all their education they deserve respect. However, there should have been a point in each of those diagnoses’ which as a patient I took responsibility to be more educated and this year I have. Let me say, it has made me feel better.

In my defense, it has been hard before now. I am extremely lucky in that my husband is supporting me right now. My number one responsibility is to get rid of this pain. While it is still not easy to read books, scout message boards and research web sites while either on pain pills or in massive pain, it is better than while working forty or more hours a week. However, I am working toward a better life none the less. I have been researching so much my physical therapist may just learn a few things from me.

My plan is to become so informed on all my diagnoses’ that there isn’t any course of treatment I don’t know about whether western medicine, eastern medicine or natural remedy. This has been the best thing I have done to make me feel as if I have power. My library card, my laptop and I are a powerful trio that has provided me with many answers.

My newest diagnosis is that I have a too tight pelvic floor. This is a fairly new field- pelvic physical therapy. I was told by a gynecologist here in Philadelphia that it has only been available in maybe the past five years. So when I feel pissed off that no one realized this was my problem until now, I must understand the science wasn’t there. I have read a couple of books, countless web sites, and watched many hip opening, hip stretching videos. I have met with my physical therapist twice who has examined me twice. My therapist gave me one exercise to do every two hours. So far this is what she asked me to work on. I have done that but I am also doing about twelve more stretches as part of my everyday yoga routine. I am keeping track of my diet and how it makes me feel. I am reading up on nutrition and supplements for IBS which is related to the pain. I am also trying to work on my related fibromyalgia and am looking into getting a hysterectomy to take care of my “dysmenorrhea” AKA painful periods because I believe they caused this problem in the first place. I am building my own comprehensive care.

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My new treatment plan- laptop, Nook, yoga mat and notes. 

This week is the first week in years I have gone an entire week without one single Aleve or any other pain pill. It is the first week this year I haven’t needed something heavier than that. I have hope. If all my research has done is give me the fallacy of control, then right now that is enough. More than that, it has definitively made it so that I can make more informed decisions when the doctors give me a choice. While I have to understand it is because of my new cutting edge pain expert gynecologist and this physical therapy, I also feel a good part of the solution has been my determination and my library card. I’m in charge now.

Crash Toone

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This was one of my very high pain days! 

About three weeks ago, I had an appointment with a genetic counselor. I didn’t want to go, but I saw it as a stepping stone to getting my hysterectomy. With my fibroids and supposed Endometriosis, I thought this might remove my pain. My doctor said that she wouldn’t take out my ovaries unless I was at great risk of cancer. I can’t tell you how much that ticked me off. I was under the impression my ovaries were causing me pain. So what? I am supposed to go to this appointment to find out that I am at great risk for cancer? Really?

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. I refused to take the blood test. I don’t want to know if I am at great risk of ovarian or breast cancer. I really don’t. I also don’t want my DNA on file with some lab for them to test. The counselor told me I shouldn’t do it if I felt uncomfortable. So I didn’t.

So I went back to the gynecologist, who is also a pain specialist, who told me that there was no reason to get my ovaries taken out because my ovaries are not causing the problem. She is now telling me that I may not have endometriosis, but too tight pelvic muscles, IBS, and too much stress. Since I have heard for years that this pain is part of my reproductive organs, and this doctor’s office agreed a couple weeks before, I had a hard time believing this new information. It took her the better part of an hour and an intense examination to, sort of, prove it to me. Rather, I should say to get me to shut up and go away dismayed and disillusioned.

I walked to meet a friend who was there for me because we both knew this appointment wouldn’t have definitive answers. She and I talked and she amazingly enough comforted me as much as you can a person who is overwhelmed with emotions, and hasn’t really processed something. On the way home after leaving her I fell in a rather dramatic fashion on thirteenth in the middle of two restaurants outdoor seating. I did a slight somersault and knocked over some chairs. It earned me the nickname Crash, which I have to say I am taking a liking to. Husband says it’s shocking someone hasn’t said that before. Not only because I am unbelievably clumsy at times, but because I like to attack problems and even social situations with all the subtlety of a hammer. I think it makes me sound like a superhero Crash Toone.

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Part of the damage from my fight with the pavement

That was about two weeks ago. Since then I have been processing all this information and I have started physical therapy for pelvic pain. I have also had two of the worst weeks of this pain I have ever experienced. I don’t know if that means it is working or not. I have been on my pain pills most of the time but when I wasn’t I was crying from a deep engulfing depression. It’s been overwhelming. It has been isolating so I haven’t just stopped blogging until now but also haven’t talked to a lot of family and friends. I just had to work this out of my system.

See this new diagnosis I am holding as tentative. It requires me to go to three different doctors several times and change my diet, my exercise program, and my schedule. It is also very expensive. I could go through all of it and still be in pain.

My homework from my first physical therapist appointment is that I have to do ten upward dogs every two hours, and for three days write down my food intake and my waste outtake. That’s uncomfortable. I still have to make some other appointments. I know I should have more done but I promise you that I have been going through the worst pain in my life so far, and hopefully forever.

Last night I finally put on my big girl panties and decided to do attack this with more vigor. I am not going to be grudgingly going to my doctor’s appointments. I am going to be CRASH TOONE, attacking the pain. I am going to plan and write down everything I eat, cut out everything I need to, and do all my physical therapy. I am researching everything I can about all of these diagnoses, and going above and beyond. If this doesn’t fix me I might just have to camp out at my Doctors office until I get an answer. Crash Toone is done playing around.

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Crash Toone: Because superheroes should always have a red lip. 

Questions about the Yoga Community

 

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My first prototype outfit: jeans. It worked until my workouts got more difficult.

I just finished my fourth day of “Thirty days of Yoga with Adriene” and I am finding that I love it. Husband and I are amazed at what are bodies are able to accomplish after only four days of practice. We still have problems though because we didn’t understand two of the shoulder stretches and we continue to have wardrobe malfunctions. It is okay because we are at home so there is no embarrassment but it is quite annoying.

First off, my husband’s pants kept falling down. It is so cute to me his pale cheeks glowing in the darkness of my living room, if not distracting. It annoyed him to no end. He just let it stay down but our apartment is pretty cold. After the work out I was teasing him because he had a striped pattern on his buttocks from the yoga mat. I however didn’t apparently have the concentration to keep from pulling up my pants which would fall down every time I did downward dog. It wouldn’t uncover my butt, it was my tummy. My pants would go down leaving my large white belly swinging in the breeze. Not only that, but my boobs were almost suffocating me because the bra I was wearing wasn’t very good. So I kept having to maneuver them this way and that in between poses. Downward dog, which we kept coming back to, wasn’t as enjoyable as usual. I was trying out an outfit that I thought might work on the outside.

See I usually do my yoga in pajamas. I can’t do yoga on the pier in my pajamas. Even if I could it wouldn’t be that comfortable since they do yoga on the pier in the summer and all my pajamas are fairly warm. (Husband is pretty insistent on keeping the apartment artic cold.) Going to do yoga at the pier is one of the things I have promised myself as a reward for trying more difficult poses and longer yoga work outs. I would love to meet other people who love yoga as much as I do because my family and friends are sick of me talking about it. I would love to be around other people who can tell me if I am doing things right, and HELLO it is doing yoga on the pier. I mean I love the water, and I love yoga. It seems like the nexus of joy.

I don’t think I’ll get to do it this year because I have nothing to wear, and finding something in my price range, in my size seems near impossible.

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Khaki capris? Now I do it in my bra and hubbies underwear but not going to show you that…lol

I have been able to really embrace yoga as an exercise, but nothing more than that.  I’ve been adding yoga feeds to my Facebook and Instagram. Yoga magazines and Yogis are almost consistently positive and usually educate me on being a better human. I enjoy that because I am always striving to be calmer, and more helpful to other humans. Also it is extremely dark on social media, and a dark time for all this year. I need inspiration just to keep from sitting around depressed. What I didn’t count on were the countless articles and ads that show me clothing I can’t have. Continue reading “Questions about the Yoga Community”

What a Miracle is my Body

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This is me after a seven block walk. I sweat profusely.

So much of my life is built around distracting from my endometriosis pain right now. I watch TV or listen to music while reading. If I engage my mind enough then I can ignore the pain. It is only partially successful.

I realized, as I walked to the library, that distraction is how I’ve always gotten through exercise. I don’t like to sweat. It is uncomfortable, although I am working on that distaste. Exercise has always caused pain in my ankles and I’ve never been good at it. Today, I walked in the heat as fast as I could manage to the beat of my Lady Gaga Pandora channel. I used the beat of Pitbull’s Shake Senora to move faster and faster. By the time I made it to the library I was dripping with sweat and my pants were sticking to me. If there were such a thing as tiny men, they could have slid down my cleavage like a slip and slide.

This is in total contrast to my yoga experience. Every move in yoga has to be thoughtfully carried out. For one, my balance, as it stands, is horrible. Some of the poses require me to be on one foot or one knee. I have trouble with standing on two feet or balancing on both knees. I am learning and practicing over and over, but seriously have to concentrate. I have to feel every part of my body and muscles I didn’t know existed. Normally when exercising, I would try to ignore pain in my muscles or work through it, using the adage “no pain, no gain” or more likely I’d give up. With Yoga, if there is pain—I am doing something wrong. Not only do I have to concentrate on my muscles, hand and foot placement, and balance, but then there is the breathing. Yoga just isn’t the same without the breathing. The deep breathing brings in a sense of calm that I have never experienced with other exercise.

It amazes me the contrast. I love the difference. I believe that is why I love yoga. I love how I can totally immerse myself in the activity. I breathe in and out slowly and deeply. I free my mind of anything that doesn’t have to do with the pose at hand. When it is really good and I have focused enough towards the end of the practice I am more aware of what my body is doing than I have ever been.  By focusing intensely on what I am doing and making sure it feels good.  There is gain with no pain. Don’t get me wrong I feel strain on my muscles but I don’t feel pain.

I have always ignored my body because I have been told no pain no gain.  I wasn’t very good at sports because of my bad ankles, and I was never the type of body I wanted. I got told repeatedly by society, my family, and even “friends” I was the wrong body type. When I repeatedly fail at something, I tend to forget about trying it again. I have hated my body because of what it could not do. It could not be good at aerobics, softball, or volleyball. Even worse, It could not be skinny. Don’t get me wrong, it was thin at one time, just not the thin that was popular in my youth. It was curvy thin. I hated it. I wanted to be the woman who could wear pleated pants and poufy shirts a’ la Different World. I wanted to be Lisa Bonet.

I surely didn’t want to be me, with my curves and very strong muscled legs. I wanted to be like a reed in the wind. Then I became known for my curves and then abused because of them, and then I wanted to be a bulldozer, not a human.  So more and more I retreated into this body, and wore it like a coat, a covering for my soul but not something that affected my soul.  IF I could distance myself from my body then I would not be responsible for it or how it made other people think about me. I thought I’d focus on what I was good at, reading.

Recently, I have distanced myself so far from my body because it seemed mean to me: the pain my body brings me, the interruption to my day, and pushback of my goals. My body has been a bitch for quite a long time. (While some of that has been caused by me ignoring her, most of it hasn’t. Endometriosis can’t be exercised away. It can only be burned away or excised by a doctor). Trust me it wasn’t hard to get mad at my body.

Yoga has helped me to forgive her. Yoga has helped me see that this body people made fun of, that wasn’t good at sports, had weak ankles and poor balance – even she could be loved. At first yoga was another distraction from the pain but as I got into it, and as I started awakening the understanding of my bodies minutiae it started easing the pain. I started to realize that just like any love I had to actively participate in the caring for the object of my affection in order for it to thrive. Those balance issues are still there, but it works my ankles and they are getting stronger. I am so aware of my body, I can tell when I am going to start sweating. I feel the heat from within and I welcome it. For the first time in my life I welcome the sweat. What’s more is that the first time I did it, I was really bad at it, but the more I practiced –miraculously- I got better. For the first time in my life I got better at exercise. Each pose takes time to master, but when success comes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my body.

It is only recently through yoga and my families help have I been able to figure out a way to celebrate what my body is capable of. I am super stretchy, more than the average bear. My body likes yoga, it craves it. I am a good swimmer. I am a good dancer, with a natural rhythm. My legs are super strong. I ride bicycles with ease. I am double jointed in my fingers, I do a mean downward dog, and I am working my way up to hour long yoga sessions. I am resilient. I fail at these poses but keep trying.  I am able to heal pretty easily if I take care of my body. I am finally able to see what a miracle is my body.

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Oh, and I can give good cuddles. Look at him smile. That’s some good cuddling.

 

 

You Can Take the Girl out of Oklahoma…

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This was how Oklahoma welcomed me. 

 

About a month ago I went to visit my family in my native state of Oklahoma. I was inspired by my family to move more and to enjoy the simpler things that I sometimes ignore. My family is extraordinary and every time I am around them it is as if I have been given new life. Sometimes it reaffirms who I am. Being away from my home state for so long sometimes allows me to forget what I have inherited and how deep those Okie roots run: the laid back sense of humor, master story telling, and the vein of gumption that runs through all of us.

It’s that tenacity and live wire like energy that is contagious. Inspiration to move and accomplish the physical is everywhere.

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Going to the grocery store with Mom is like an aerobics work out. I was still getting out of the car and she had a cart inside already. 

In the mornings Mom and I would do our perspective exercises. She does a video by Gilad, a very handsome, bulging, swarthy man. She’s done various videos of his for years. I don’t enjoy the aerobic videos so I went over to the corner and played my Pandora music channel and did yoga. This concurrent clashing music didn’t even bother us. At one point we discussed how this could be a metaphor for our relationship.  I said it is funny how we clearly like different things but still hang out because we love each other so much.

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We are so proud of my beautiful, smart, strong sis.

I was encouraged to walk by my sister Katie because she walks everywhere. We trekked all over the OSU campus before I had to take my shoes off and sit until someone brought the car to me. My feet were done but she was still going. I feel after 40 you shouldn’t have to suck it up.

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Yep, we even fed a horse! These people live super special lives.

My brother and his wife have a handsome five year old son named Caleb and he inspired everyone to get physical. Katie and I even risked and failed at cartwheels. That family spends most evenings outside in the sun after dinner riding bikes or watching Caleb ride his big wheels up and down the driveway. I got to ride bikes, slide down slides, fight imaginary wolves and run through the park. Caleb and I even had a session of yoga together. That was so fun. There are these children’s yoga videos on YouTube, and he loves them. A fifteen minute video story of going to an amusement park with a Hispanic penguin had me sweating!

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First time on a bike in years, can you tell?

 

While some of these attempts didn’t work out so well (one slide left me with a swollen and bruised thumb, another with two skinned knees, the cartwheel left me with a slightly sprained ankle, and I also got kicked in the head more than once while rough housing,) the fun that I had was more than worth it. I will never forget this trip because I learned I miss being playful. It is absolutely the best exercise. I miss that idea that my body is here so I might as well see what it can do. Seeing what my body is capable of is an activity I have neglected and it is actually fun. My new fitness goals are: being able to perform a cartwheel, AND get enough arm strength to walk only on my hands while someone holds my feet by the time I go back to Oklahoma. We tried it this time. While I could hold my brothers legs while he walked the living room, I couldn’t quite walk on my hands. I will though mark my words. I am doing planks every day.  If I can walk on my hands then maybe there is even a handstand in my future! Now that is exciting! Won’t my nephew be so proud of Aunt Danielle?

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I felt like this was the appropriate image for a mic drop…