On the Women’s World Cup

30 Jun
When the U.S. defeated China 0-1. Courtesy of Tumblr.

When the U.S. defeated China 0-1.
Courtesy of Tumblr.

Last year around this time, I observed the fascinating male form that runs around a soccer pitch and kicks at other people. Last year was the men’s World Cup (congrats, Germany!). This year, the women get to impress.

While on your weight-loss journey, you’ll look around for inspiration. Because I’m so active, I tend to look at athletes. Serena Williams is my spirit animal. Ronda Rousey is a beast. I think these women’s bodies are incredible. They work out and take great pains to keep themselves in top condition to participate in their sports.

Brandi Chastain

Brandi Chastain

When I was in college, the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup and the poster girl for the sport became Brandi Chastain. With a look of pure glee and a body rippling with muscles, Brandi embodied athleticism. This year I have a new crop of athletes to look up to.

They are disciplined, dedicated and successful. They are accomplishing things most people in their field could only hope to accomplish. And they are good. Really, really good.

That’s why I take issue with anyone who doesn’t appreciate women in sports. Regardless of what some may say, including an actual sports editor at Sports Illustrated, these women deserve the title of role model. They deserve to be inspiration for girls who want to excel in athletics. They deserve to be on the vision boards of women who seek body inspiration. And they deserve praise for getting over the physical and mental hurdles it takes to compete at the highest level.

What I take most from these women is  not so much a desire for their bodies. It’s more a desire to maintain that level of discipline. To achieve what these women have, you have to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. You have to really want it. The same goes for your weight-loss goals.

So as these women attempt to do what the men’s team couldn’t last year and defeat Germany, I’ll be rooting for them from the couch. And I’ll have Seth and Amy’s “Really” tirade running through my head. Because, really? You don’t think these women, and all female athletes, deserve to be watched? Really?

Swimming Safely

24 Jun
The original handwritten caption to this photo: "Negroes at Fairground Swimming Pool."

The original handwritten caption to this photo: “Negroes at Fairground Swimming Pool.”

I grew up in North St. Louis County, Mo., specifically Jennings. Midway through high school, my district decided to (finally) open the pool that had been sitting dormant since the ’80s. We were ridiculously excited. The pool had closed because of lack of funding in the district. Don’t ask me where the sudden burst of cash came from. Jennings is still a pretty low rung on the ladder when it comes to getting money from state.

Jump back about 30-35 years, and you’ll still be in Missouri, but a few miles south in St. Louis City, where my parents grew up. Fun fact: my parents went to the same high school, are both one of at least six siblings (who all went to the same high school) and had never met each other until my father returned from the Vietnam War. Across the street from their high school is Fairground Park, which had a municipal pool.

Fairground Park’s swimming pool has a storied history. The pool was built on the grounds of the World’s Fair amphitheater. It was a ginormous pool, hosting up to 12,000 swimmers a day. It was the largest municipal pool in the country at one time. And it was only open to white people. In 1949, the year my father was born, the pool finally opened to black residents. That didn’t go over well and eventually lead to a riot.

Flash forward to present day and me still trying to get my sea legs back. I’ve thought a lot about this in the past week as I’ve watched a world grapple with the racism that is so inherant that there was actual debate about taking down a treasonous, racist emblem casting a shadow over a town recovering from tradgedy.

The pool I swim in each week has people from all walks of life. As with all workout routines, sweat cares nothing about your bank account. We are all large, small, tall, short, 1%, the rest us. There was a time in many Americans’ recent memory that the color of our skin would have kept us from enjoying our morning routines together. The hate that once would have kept us separated is the same hate that took nine lives a week ago today.

Charleston is Baltimore is New York is St. Louis. It is every city, every hamlet, every unincorporated part of the country. It is a cold bucket of water to the face that race relations may have improved, but haven’t done a complete 180. Symbols of hatred and oppression and tyranny can be washed away, burned or even shot into outer space. We can do our best to scrub the taint of these symbols away. But it’s not enough to push them aside and act like it never happened, especially to the people who can recall the events so vividly.

An honest, no-holds-barred conversation needs to happen between all races for there to be at least a modicum of understanding. Until then, we’ll continue to front like stowing away the symbols of hate in a broom closet will solve all of our problems.

 

Happy Juneteenth

19 Jun

IMG_0102

Editor’s note: I’m going off topic once again because a) it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want and b) this issue deserves to be addressed.

Today is Juneteenth, the celebration of the emancipation of slaves in America. Nearly 4 million people were freed from the bondage and indignity of slavery in America, a process that took nearly two years from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to the end of the Civil War.

That war ended almost 150 years ago. It is a stain on this country that can’t come out. It is blood on a cashmere sweater. It is the family secret everyone knows about but no one wants to acknowledge. It is a constant reminder that this nation was built on the backs of human beings who weren’t considered human. We celebrate our independence from British rule with fireworks and barbecue. But the emancipation of slaves often passes by without much acknowledgement. Not any more.

Not when a Confederate flag flies high above a state capital that watched one of its own citizens massacre a bible study group at a black church. Not when a 5-year-old has to play dead to avoid being killed by a hate-filled racist. And not when I have to read stories about a monster who had been a sweet, smart boy as a child and not his hateful actions that led to this point.

I am angry. I’ve had a queasy feeling in my stomach for the past couple of days because I can’t make sense of this. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Sadly, I don’t think it will be the last. Less than a year ago, I wrote about watching my hometown burn because of the anger boiling up inside its residents at the injustice of the justice system there. Within that time, I’ve watched protest after protest, march after march, and black person after black person killed, attacked and humiliated because the aggressor felt my people weren’t worthy.

I come from a long line of people who just want to live. We work hard, we play hard, we love hard. It’s that love that is keeping me whole and giving me hope in this time of anger and sorrow. Today, I’ll go about my day trying to temper that anger and celebrate the day my ancestors were freed. Because something good needs to happen amid all this tragedy.

Once again, I’ll leave this here because, just like last year, it’s in heavy rotation. I hope it eases you as it does me.

Getting My Sea Legs Back

17 Jun
It's still difficult, but I've got to 'just keep swimming.'

It’s still difficult, but I’ve got to ‘just keep swimming.’ Courtesy of Tumblr

I never really learned how to swim. Like, I never had real swimming lessons. During summer camp as a kid, we would go “swimming” every day. Really, it was just a bunch of kids splashing around in the pool. Some of our counselors would try to help us learn, but for the most part they were just teens flirting with one another while a bunch of kids created pool geysers with their cannonballs.

So, I’d get in the water and try to float, and not drown. I’d try to kick while floating, and not drown. I’d sit on the kickboard in the water and practice treading, and not drown. Until one day I jumped in the water not realizing what depth I was jumping into. And I nearly drowned.

Obviously I didn’t, but some instinct kicked in that day and I was able to keep kicking myself to the top, splashing like a maniac, but still keeping myself afloat. That was the day I tried to swim…actually swim.

And it worked out. Slow and steady wins the race and I was able to bob like a bouey without taking in any water. I learned how to swim under water. I learned how to float on my back and eventually swim backward (my favorite way to go). And then I learned to frog stroke followed by freestyle. Well into my 20s, I was swimming every summer. I strengthened those muscles. And I loved the water.

Flash forward almost 15 years and I’ve lost me sea legs. I’m equating it to riding a bike. Because if you haven’t ridden a bike in some years, you’re more than likely gonna fall over the first few tries.

That’s essentially what has happened to me as I’ve tried to reacclimate myself to the pool. It all began about a month ago when a friend from work invited me to go swimming at the local pool. I’d wanted to try it for a while, so it was nice to get the motivation.

Nervous isn’t a strong enough word to describe my feeling walking toward the pool. It’s an Olympic-size pool with several lanes. You have to share the lanes with others, meaning half a dozen people at any time could be trying to pass you up. It’s a bit daunting to try something you haven’t tried in years in front of a few dozen people with the thought you could drown.*

But fear won’t stop me from getting in a good workout, so into the water I went…with my kickboard. For the past five weeks, I have made great use of that 18-inch piece of foam. I’m strengthening my hips and thighs (great for running) and burning calories in the process. Get like me!

Eventually I’ll move on to arm strokes. I tried it a couple weeks ago, to very little success. You don’t realize how much energy you exert using all of your limbs to propel yourself through a body of water until you get a few feet and get out of breath. But I’m learning, and that’s the point.

I will own the pool one day. Until then, hand me my kickboard.

* I know I won’t drown, for two reasons: a) there are three lifeguards at the pool and b) it’s only four feet deep. But I have a real fear of not being able to breathe, so drowning is really not how I want to go.

Binge Watching Without Binging

10 Jun
Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this weekend for what seems like forever. “Orange Is the New Black” comes back on Friday. For the past two years, I hole myself up in my apartment with a several bags of popcorn, a bottle (or three) of wine and my Apple TV remote to catch up with the ladies of Litchfield.

No more, I say. Oh, I’ll be holed up in my apartment. But this time I plan to not overindulge myself.

Netflix has been a beast with its programming. From “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to “Grace and Frankie,” I’ve watched wonderful women do extraordinary things on television, all while watching my waistline expand over a couple of days.

I’ve only recently figured out the trick. Here’s how to get through your binge-watching weekend without becoming a gluttonous mass.

1. Prepare your snacks early. You’ve known OINTB was coming back for months now. You’ve got a day to prepare. Go to the store and slice up your fruit, get your lightly salted popcorn ready, and have plenty of water. You’re going to need to stay hydrated for this.

Don't stay cooped up in the house. Courtesy of Tumblr

Don’t stay cooped up in the house.
Courtesy of Tumblr

2. You will need to get some air. Around episode 4 is when the “Oh, shit!” moment happens. I promise you’ll be OK. But you’re going to need a breather to prepare for the remaining nine hours of television that await you. Go for a walk. Get the blood pumping. If the blood is pumping, that means you’ll be more alert for the next “Oh shit!” moment.

3. Do a check up. By episode 7 or 8, another emotionally draining event has occurred. You know you’re not the only one watching the show, so call and check up on a friend or family member who has also dedicated their weekend to Netflix. Walk around your home while you chat. Again: blood flow increases awareness. You’re doing yourself and Netflix a world of good.

4. Prepare an actual meal. While apple slices, popcorn and veggies and hummus are great, they will not fulfill all of your nutritional needs. You’re going to need to check some items off of the food pyramid before you finish the season. On your shopping trip for item 1, make sure you grab some things for later (items for a salad, some grilled chicken, some roasted veggies). Take a break from the show to prepare something delicious. It will take your mind off of tampon sandwiches.

5. Take another walk. By now, you’ve finished the season. Good for you. I hope you enjoyed it. Celebrate with some more fresh air. Take a couple of laps around your block and enjoy the freedom that many of your favorite characters will never see.

How do you stay on track during a binge-watching session? What are your go-to binge-watching snacks?

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