I feel pretty?

Rewind the clocks back to a nine year old version of me sitting on my grandmother’s bed watching her zipper up her dress, cinch her belt around her waist, and fasten her clip on earrings to her lobes.  Her waist looked so small, her fingers were so delicate.  “Grandma- you’re so pretty.  You’re so skinny.”  “Sarah,” she said to me “I’m slender.  Skinny is for crack whores.”

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My slender, lovely, loving Grandma.

Now, some find this story funny.  Others find it a little concerning.  To me, it’s an honest and endearing reminder of my grandmother.  The one who, good and, let’s face it, brutally honest, loved me to the moon and back.  But, it is also, in my adult years, a curious glimpse into body image and self awareness.

Like almost everyone I know, I struggle with my body sometimes.  I wish I was thinner.  I wish I could find clothes I feel good in.  I would love to take care of that underarm jiggle.  And I am taking steps to make positive change.  I’m working to feel better in those clothes.  I have taken stock of what I eat and feel good about how I have changed my daily intake.  I go to the gym and enjoy my workouts.  I play with my kids and run around in our backyard.  And here is where my quest for “slender” has taken on a different tone in recent years- I have these kids who soak up what I say and how I say it.

If you know me well, or honestly if you don’t, you might know that I come close to idolizing my mother.  She was smart and funny and kind and beautiful.  She taught me to be an independent and thoughtful person, but she did have faults and, one in particular, she passed on to me without even thinking about it.  She struggled with her body image.  In passing comments, in trying on clothes, in dressing for formal events- she had much the same struggle that many of us do.  And when she talked about it, or tugged at her clothes, or bought things without trying them on to avoid a different size, I heard her and worried about my own body.  I am now responsible for how I think and I am trying to change it, but those nagging concerns about my hips, my belly or my arms linger.

Another story.  In February 2012, joined by my husband and my father, I found out that our first baby was a girl.  I was so excited- I knew she would be a girl and now I had confirmation.  Justin and I already knew her name- she would be named after our mothers.  Nina Patricia was already a source of joy and pride.  And then, I started to overthink having a girl.  I started reading article after article about how to talk to girls about their bodies, how to love themselves.  She wasn’t even born yet and I was telling people to make sure not to call her cute or pretty or beautiful first.  “Isn’t it interesting,” I would say, “if we just make sure to call her kind or smart or thoughtful first, her whole self worth will change.”  ……

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My hope for my children is that they see what I see.

So, here’s my question as I consider my body image and how to talk with both my children, daughter and son, about our insides and our outsides- what’s wrong with being pretty?  When my daughter asks me why we go to the gym, I tell her that I exercise to be strong and healthy.  Which is true.  But I also exercise to be pretty.  Pretty as I see it.  I am DEFINITELY influenced by media and what popular culture thinks of as pretty, but I know what makes me feel good.  A hard work out, the right jeans, and a little make up helps me feel pretty.  And along with pretty comes confident and strong- when I feel pretty, I feel more prepared to take on the world.  It’s a loop really.

So, here’s where I am.  I want for Nina and Ryan to learn how to be confident about themselves.  But I also want for them to know how to use the tools at their disposal responsibly.  I want to teach them good eating habits, sure.  But almost more than that, I want to teach them how to move their bodies, how to feel good about their clothes, how to be proud of their appearance.

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Feeling pretty is important and fun. It’s just not the only thing.

I am happy when people tell Nina she’s smart and kind and funny and brave because she is those things.  But, I also like when people tell Nina how pretty she is, how gorgeous her hair is, how great her smile is.  Because both will be important- in the right measures.

Thanks, friend crush.

1. A friend who inspired me 

25. Trader Joe’s sparkling lemonade

42. Going to Target alone

347. dropping Nina off at school and watching her play with friends

I have a friend crush. What’s a friend crush? Think elementary school- innocent, sweet- meeting someone and wanting to be friends. I met Jessica when my first baby was just 2 months old and ever since, I’ve had a bit of a friend crush. Jessica is kind, supportive, funny, smart and artistic. She is a mom who has made it through these first hard years and has been open to listening, chatting and having coffee when our schedules allow. She has also inspired me to be grateful in an everyday kind of way.

One of the things that almost anyone who knows Jessica knows is that she loves the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.imgres This book, above all else, centers on a message of finding the joy in our every day lives. Now, it is a religious book- there is a whole lot of Jesus- so if that’s not your cup of tea, proceed with awareness. I will say though, I have read this book cover to cover, and as a person who grew up in an interfaith home and continues to question everyday, I put the religion aside. That wasn’t the point for me. The point was to find large and small things that make me happy. The point was to find 1,000 things that I am grateful for.

5. coffee

30. summer thunderstorms

31. screened in porches to watch thunderstorms from

128. FaceTime double date night with my brother and sister-in-law

143. wine and chocolate

For the past 2 years, I have been keeping a list. It is on my laptop desktop and every now and then, I open it up and add a few items to the list. Sometimes I just add one; sometimes I add a few. I’m not as far along to reaching 1,000 as you might think. As of today, I am thankful for 428 things. I don’t do it everyday but I am also not in a rush. I try not to repeat things, but let’s be honest…I’ve got two small children, I’m sleep deprived, and I have 428 things…coffee is on there twice.

11. Nina’s “battle cries”- they won’t last forever and they’re fantastic

30. evening walks with my family

138. Feeling my little boy kick 

149. laughing until it hurts

256. having a really good cry

I started keeping this list as a result of a conversation I had with Jessica two years ago. I was exhausted, cranky, and feeling frustrated. For a lot of reasons, I was having a personal pity party. I happened to see Jessica that day and she, without knowing how ungrateful I had been feeling, told me about a talk she would be giving at our mother’s group meeting. She would be talking about this book and her own personal list making. I set out to investigate and ended up starting my thankful list to remind me of all the good there is in my life…even when I’m low.

415. flowers from my mother in law

428. sugar free vanilla soy lattes from Starbucks

I’m not there yet, but I think about hitting 1,000 things and get a little sad. This has been a great exercise. It’s also sort of a time capsule of my life- I read the list and think about what inspired each thing. Maybe I’ll go for another thousand.

Pass the non dairy butter?

Do you know what the #1 resolution buttermade on December 31st every year is? I don’t either… But, I’m guessing losing weight is up there on the Top 10 list. I fell victim to this particular resolution this year. Really, I am looking to feel healthy and feel better in my clothes…but that often boils down to dropping a few pounds.

So, with the goal of losing weight in mind and my husband fully on board with this plan (he’s really the best), I began contemplating my diet. Diets are annoying. I get bored and frustrated and want immediate results. No, patience is not one of my virtues. Enter husband, with clever idea- what if every month in 2015 we did some sort of diet modification and a corresponding physical activity? Might not be sustainable or we might do something for 2 months, etc, but it seemed like a good jumping point.

January was no carbs, no booze (yes, I know…no fun.) We also did the 7-minute NYTimes workout every day from December 28th until January 31st. Two hundred and forty-five minutes of cardio, core, and strength and a fridge eerily empty for a month, I feel stronger. I feel like maybe some of my clothes fit better. But what for February?

Vegan. We’re cutting out meat, dairy and eggs. For 28 days, I will live my life without delicious delicious cheese and devoid of a juicy burger. Off I went to the grocery store and returned with nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, grains, coconut milk and non dairy butter. I’m weirdly excited.

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