Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paddling Fearlessly toward Tomorrow's Dragon Boat Race

Here I am with the Mighty Women Paddling Club during our first race
 in Tacoma last month. I am on the starboard side, second from the back,
with the dark hair and red hat. 

Tomorrow is my second dragon boat race with the Mighty Women Paddling Club.

I hope I remember everything I've learned in the past five months of paddling three days a week with my team.

In my head I can hear coach Jeannie Zinn barking instructions:

"Sit forward!"
"Get off your bench!"
"Straighten your arms!"
"Rotate to your bench partner!"
"Look forward!"
"Use your legs!"
"Use your core!"
"Give me ten powerful strokes--now!"
"Finish it!"

Paddling a dragon boat is much harder than it looks. There is so much to remember. The most important thing is to paddle in unison with the rest of the team.

When I first started paddling in early February, my biggest worries were that I would fall out, capsize the boat or drop my paddle in the water. Thankfully, none of those missteps have happened.

Six months ago, I was obese and incredibly out of shape. The only exercise I got was waddling to the fridge to get more ice cream. For two decades I had taken care of my family, a house and the needs of my job. But along the way to midlife, I'd forgotten how to take care of me.

As my crumbling marriage and demanding work life became more stressful and I became more unhappy, I packed on the pounds. I am only five foot two, so any extra weight is noticeable.

I felt so uncomfortable with how I looked that I didn't want my picture taken.

I didn't like to be out in public because I imagined other women looking at me--the fat woman--and thinking: "Thank God I don't look like her!"

In October I was laid off from my job. It was sobering to begin a job search as an obese, middle-aged, unhappy divorced woman with low self-esteem. I have an impressive resume, but once I got a face-to-face interview, who would hire me? I certainly wouldn't.

So I started moving my body. I joined our community gym and started doing 30 minutes of cardio a day, and soon ramped it up to an hour a day. My workout buddy, Henry Sessions, urged me forward.

I bought exercise clothes and a yoga mat. On January 1, with great difficulty, I managed to do 20 crunches. It was excruciating. I added five crunches a day until I was doing 200 crunches each morning. Yesterday, the song on my ipod was particularly long, and I did 250 crunches with relative ease.

I dusted off my weighted hula hoop, a piece of exercise equipment I had used a couple of times and then had promptly stuck in a closet. I started hula hooping 15 minutes every morning while listening to my ipod. I had a blast! Since January 1, I have spent 12 to 15 minutes a day hula hooping. What a fun way to change my body, my outlook and my life!

In February, after losing 25 pounds and gaining some courage, I showed up on the dock for my first dragon boating practice. After that first paddle, I was hooked. I love being on the water and the camraderie of my team. I even love Coach Jeannie barking orders at me.

In the past six months, through mindful eating, dragon boating, doing cardio, crunches and working out daily with a weighted hula hoop, I have achieved the following:

  • I have lost 40 pounds.
  • I have trimmed 3 inches from my waist.
  • I have trimmed 7 inches at my naval.
  • I have trimmed 4 inches at my hips.
  • I have trimmed 2.5 inches from my upper arms.
  • I have trimmed 2 inches around my knees.
  • I have trimmed 1 inch around my calves.
  • I am wearing clothing that is four sizes smaller.
  • I no longer wear "extra large."
  • I have firm biceps--and no upper arm wiggle!
  • I have a trim, strong core!
I look and feel better than I have in 15 years. I feel strong, healthy, confidant. Even sexy! In short, I found myself again.

In only six months, I've changed my life.
Tomorrow is my second dragon boat race, and I can't wait!

I'm no longer afraid of capsizing the boat or dropping my oars. I'm not afraid of anything anymore.

The best news is that if I can do it, so can you!

Paddle on!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gratitude in my Garden

My strawberry pot wintered well, thanks to the
good care from dear friend Holly Chamberlain.

Have you ever become so overcome with gratitude that you had to sit down and take a moment to reflect on your good fortune? In our fast-paced lives, I don't think we do that enough.

Sometimes I'm so busy working with my head bent to a task--writing an article under deadline, running errands or pulling stubborn weeds--that I forget to look up and take account of all the good that has come to me.

Before I realize it, I've spent the whole day working on tasks instead of enjoying the moment. Do you do that too?

A few minutes ago I was pulling weeds and picking strawberries in my little garden when I popped a fresh berry into my mouth. When I bit into that berry, I was so overcome with gratitude that I had to grab my laptop and sit down to write.

I have so much to be grateful for that I must share it before I burst. Or worse, before I forget that I am grateful, and instead just continue with my day.

You see, not that many months ago, I didn't think I'd ever have a garden or a place to grow strawberries again. That little berry was enough to nearly bring me to tears.

Not even six months ago, I was unemployed, had to sell my house, downsize, move into a tiny apartment a week before Christmas--and I gave away probably a third of my possessions.

But it was even harder to give up my yard and garden including my fragrant lavender hedge and herbs. I was moving into an apartment with no lawn or even any private space outside where I could sit or garden. But it was cheap, and if I carefully managed my money, I could afford the rent.

I'm a country girl, and even though I've lived in a the city a long time, I still take great comfort in spending time outdoors, even if it's just a few minutes in my garden, getting my hands dirty, pulling weeds and tasting juicy strawberries.

Slowly, after the big upheaval at the end of the year, I've been getting a life back. It's not my old life. It's a completely new life, and that's okay.

For the first three months, I lived in a tiny apartment in a busy commercial district. It overlooked a back alley with garbage and recycling bins visited day and night by people down on their luck. I didn't often open my blinds because I lacked privacy and didn't always feel safe. Sleep was fitful.

I was lugging my laundry outside, around the building and down a dark flight of stairs into a dark basement laundry room. Sometimes the outside door wasn't locked and I feared for my safety.

Fast forward five months from the horrific move and I am happily employed at a great job, writing for our local daily newspaper. Who knew I would love working in the newsroom so much? I am grateful that I have such a cool job and I get to work with great people.

Now I've settled into an incredible vintage duplex with natural light. First thing each morning, I open my curtains and greet the new day. I am grateful for being able to open my curtains. I am grateful for feeling safe and that I'm sleeping at night.

My duplex even has my very own private basement laundry room, so I bought a used washer and dryer. No more schlepping my laundry outside in the rain or the dark. Gratitude!

Out my back door I find solace in my own petite yard, patio and garden. Friends have shared plants from their own gardens. I have planted herbs, strawberries, sunflowers and lavender.

 I'm grateful for my garden. I'm even grateful for my strawberries, which are bearing delicious fruit right now.

This new life is beginning to feel like home.

Strawberries from my garden garnishing my French toast
made with Dave's Killer Blues Bread--dusted lightly with
powdered sugar--and served on my English Spode.
Gratitude can be delicious! Try it!