Don't Do It to Look Hot

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Don’t do it to look hot. Don’t do it to get other people’s admiration, envy, or approval. Don’t do it so those you think are hot will find you hot too. 🔥

Do it to take care of yourself, be strong, move free, feel good, and live long. If “looking hot” is a residual effect, and admirers let you know it, don’t let that define you or your self worth.

Physical “hotness” is fleeting; but the intangible force that attracts others to us and us to them on deeper levels will outlast any surface attraction. Depth of character, kindness, respect, and vulnerability are at the core of the connections we make with those who are meant to be in our lives with longevity.

Deep connections will survive casual flirtations and fleeting infatuations every time; so be sure to put equal energy into the fitness of your mind, heart, and soul as you do your body. Redefine your hotness from the inside out.

#dayfive #dontdoittolookhot

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

All I Got

My mom loved the beach. When we were kids, she took us to Paradise Cove in Malibu to play in the ocean and sand all day while she relaxed and soaked up the sun.

This Mother's Day morning, I took a run at Zuma, as I so often do, and I snapped this photo with my mom weighing heavily on my mind. I felt she was with me, in my heart; but I really wished she was with me in person, walking the boardwalk alongside me.

I would gladly have given up my run and that precious hour of solitude to just go for a walk with her. I pictured a spry seventy-year-old grandma version of her walking next to me, and wanted so badly for this version to exist outside of my imagination.

I remember how excited she was when I moved to Malibu fifteen years ago. I can still see her face when she saw the 180 degree view of the ocean visible from the deck of John's and my new place for the first time. Her jaw dropped when she walked in the front door and looked out at it; and she joked with us about wanting to move in herself.

She was so happy John and I were in love. She was our biggest fan... kind of like how fans of celebrities love their favorite power couple; yet instead of Brangelina, my mom fan girled us. She had a collage of our photos up over her desk at work, and she had several framed photos of us in her house.

She LOVED John. She thought I won the lottery of men. She adored us together and said "aaawww..." whenever we did something even remotely romantic in front of her, like give each other a quick kiss or cuddle up together on her couch. I think she was just so happy for me, and maybe a little bit relieved, that her outspoken middle daughter, who had an argumentative nature, strong opinions, and passionate convictions, found a gorgeous, kind-hearted man that seemed to love me despite these traits... or perhaps, to her surprise, because of them.

When John and I were engaged, she was beside herself with elation and excitement. My wedding day was one of the happiest of her life. She was beaming the whole day with pride... over me, the wedding I had planned on my own, and the man I had chosen to spend my life with.

None of us knew on that day that she wouldn't live to see the life we ultimately created together. It was only a year and a half later when she died, and she left us knowing I was six months pregnant, and that my baby girl was going to finally make her a grandmother.

She wouldn't get the chance to meet my daughter, or know we also had a son four years later. She wouldn't know that we'd continue to live at the beach, raising our family here and still looking out at that same view she had jaw dropped over.

She wouldn't know I would become a writer. That I would write about her often, or that I would begin to write my first book. She wouldn't know that so many people she loved would be touched by what and how I write, or credit her for my creative talent.

If my mom was alive today, I would have invited her out to Malibu and taken that walk with her; and then I would have taken her to brunch somewhere in town with a beautiful ocean view... or better yet, made brunch for her here so she could sit on our deck with a glass of champagne, look out at the ocean, and watch her grandchildren play around her.

Today has been hard for me so far. I don't know why this year more than previous years, but there it is. My family took me to brunch this morning at a local restaurant, after my run, and all I wanted to do was come back home, be alone, and write. I didn't want to see and be surrounded by adult mom and daughter combos celebrating each other over champagne brunch, or listen to my kids argue about whose foot was on whose side of the car and hear my son scream out at the injustice of it all. I didn't want to be informed about what they each wanted for their next birthdays several months away... subjects these kids seemed to think were paramount to broach on this particular day of days.

As a daughter, when you don't have a mom present to show your love and appreciation, there's a risk of presuming this day should be all about you. As a mother, things are rarely all about you, so this could be quite an intoxicating notion. Our culture dangles this day in front of us and tells us we should expect a magical twenty four hours in which our kids won't behave selfishly and our deepest desires will be met without us being asked what they are. If we buy into this premise, we will surely be set up for disappointment and our loved ones set up for definite failure.

I prefer to give more than receive. I love to be of service to those I love, to support them, to give them the parts of myself that can help them. To lift them up and serve them in the best ways I can, using my talents and strengths. That is love to me.

So since I cannot express and give love to my mom in person today, I am sending out my love to her and to all the mothers in my life through these words.

Mamas... I love you. You work hard, you sacrifice, you suffer, you triumph. You go above and beyond - and most days, it goes unnoticed. You plan ahead, you think of how to make others feel special, and you put the wants and needs of your kids ahead of your own most of the time. You are rockstars. I am in awe of you.

I never got the chance to physically be a daughter to my mom and a mother to my kids simultaneously, or to celebrate Mother's Day with my mom and kids together. The time it has taken me this Mother's Day afternoon to write this, and to reflect on my mom, is my special time spent with her today. Thinking about her, remembering her smile, her laugh, her jokes, her love, and writing this... it's the closest thing to showering her with my love and appreciation today.

That's all I got. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.

 

The Gift of Burden

It is the afternoon of Wednesday, April 19th, a couple days after my twelfth wedding anniversary, and I am trying to play catch up on all the outstanding tasks and residual clutter I had put aside for two weeks while we were away on spring break and anniversary celebrating vacations.

I sit at my home office desk trying to rid its surface of what's suffocating it... Kindergarten school work brought home before the break, health insurance paperwork, clipped box tops for school fundraising, and health and fitness coupons, race flyers and vitamin samples from the swag bag I received for running a 10K race just before leaving town.

My computer screen displays the results of the doctor search I had done a couple hours ago on the provider finder of my new health insurance company website. Now a couple minutes after 2:00pm, I can finally call the doctor at the top of the list... surely they'd be back in the office from lunch by now.

I retrieve our landline cordless phone from its stand to make the call, and as I walk back to the desk with it, my cell phone sounds nearby with a notification alert. It's a familiar and comforting chime, the one assigned to the Facebook Messenger app; one that has brought me fun chats and enjoyable interactions with friends and family so often in the past. Yet this time, it's not a link to a good article sent by my sister or a short but sweet note from an old friend checking in on me.

No, today it brings me the opposite kind of news... word that my cousin Christine died this morning, having succumbed to the breast cancer she had courageously survived a couple times already over the past three years. I sit down to read the words written by her brother, "my beautiful and loving sister passed today around 11:30," and immediately break down crying.

I cry for a few minutes before I respond to him with my condolences, and then I cry some more. Through my tears, and still holding my home phone in my hand, I look up at my computer screen at the name of the doctor I was about to dial listed under the specialty I searched this morning: gynecology. The timing was unbelievable.

My annual mammogram was due in March, and I had been avoiding scheduling it for a couple months already because it was going to be a bit of an ordeal... you know, one of those cycles of actions that is more annoying than hard, with so many steps to make it just inconvenient and time consuming enough to want to put it off in favor of things quicker and easier to check off your to-do list.

I had to search for a gynecologist close by, with good recommendations, who is taking new patients, and who accepts my new medical insurance (since the OB-GYN that delivered my son six years ago now does not), make an appointment to get a checkup, pap smear, and prescription for a mammogram, and then schedule a mammogram at the lab to take afterward.

I find that anything to do with health insurance and its confusing coverage is always cumbersome to deal with and makes me wish I had a personal assistant to tackle the minutiae of these tasks. But since it's all me, all the time, I had to take care of this cycle of annoyance myself; and I'd been a bit anxious the last few weeks over the fact that I had delayed in getting it done. Especially since my cousin's words had been replaying in my head, imploring me and all the women in her life to get our annual mammograms each year on time. Since her breast cancer was discovered on a mammogram taken one year after a test that was clear, she wanted to ensure that we all knew how vital early detection was. I had been diligent with my tests ever since; that is, until now.

So it was at the top my list of to-dos for this week; and there I was to-doing it at the very moment I found out breast cancer had claimed her life. I was in shock, not only from the sad news, but from the fact that I received it at the exact time I was finally taking these long overdue steps in my own breast cancer prevention.

After my crying ran its course, at least for the moment, I was determined to call the gynecologist on my screen right then, stuffed up, crying nose or not. I secured the next available appointment for Monday, May 1st, and then called the lab to schedule a mammogram for later that same morning.

There, it's done. I handled it - for myself, and now, strangely, in honor of Christine in this sad moment of unhappy coincidence. So many thoughts swirled around in my head... of sadness, anger, injustice, and fervent opposition to just how incredibly unfair this reality was. Yet I had no time to sort these thoughts out, as I had to leave and pick up the kids from school minutes later. Life was still moving on, and my desire to stop, grieve, and reflect did not surpass my responsibility to take my daughter to her softball pitching clinic or sit with my son and help him with his reading.

I wanted to write. I wanted to get out and process my thoughts on this travesty. I had so much anger to express toward cancer... about its incessant presence in our lives, its suspected causes that could possibly be eradicated if our society was just better aligned with what actually keeps people healthy and less susceptible to contracting it, and its relentless siege on so many people I care about - the latest being my cousin Christine, but also my ex-stepmother Julie, who died of lung cancer just last month, and my neighbor of fourteen years, Karen, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last November... three of my people in six months.

But the words didn't come, my head and heart still muddled in grief and indignation. The next few days were full of the usual duties and responsibilities of my life; yet, they were also full of the usual gratitude for my life, so I decided to focus on the good and the grace, and attempted to replace my anger with acceptance.

When I thought more about Christine and the day of her passing, I considered what a gift the burden of my looking up doctors and making a few phone calls was compared to what she had to bear that morning... taking her last breath and saying goodbye to her children, parents, siblings, and entire earthly world up until that moment. I knew her burden was much greater than mine, and was not the gift that mine was - the gift of life, of possibility, of health, hope, and living and breathing to see another day.

But the more I contemplated it, the more I wondered if maybe her burden was a gift, in an entirely different way. Maybe being free of the pain she had been suffering was a gift, more than I could ever understand. Maybe surrendering and not having to fight anymore to live on this Earth was also a gift to her. Maybe ceasing to endure more chemotherapy, chronic discomfort, hair loss, unrelenting sickness, and emotional turmoil was the absolute greatest gift she could have received that day... a precious gift, all wrapped up in the burden of grief felt by those she was leaving behind.

me with my cousins Christine (far right) and her sister & brothers - 6/28/14

me with my cousins Christine (far right) and her sister & brothers - 6/28/14

I was unable to visit Christine while she was sick. Time, distance, severity of her symptoms, and honoring her wishes for privacy made it so. The same was true of my ex-stepmother Julie and dear neighbor Karen... both of them also choosing to share their experience of illness and dying with only their closest inner circle during their hardest days and most delicate moments.

And who am I, or anyone, to protest these wishes? Unless you are the one lying there, the circumstances around death don't come on your terms. As a bystander (however distant or close a friend or family member you may be), death doesn't follow your course of action or wishes for what you would like to see happen before it arrives. It comes when it comes, and those of us left behind must accept the terms of it, whether we like it or not. Sometimes in death, we don't get to chose what we say, don't say, hear, or don't hear. We aren't the ones dying, so we don't get to call the shots.

It's only in life, in relation to our own life, that we are truly granted the opportunity, choice, and power to say what we feel, express what we believe, and experience moments in which we get to hear and feel what we want, if we are lucky. We are mere spectators of other people's lives, unless they invite us to participate; so it is up to all of us to seize those moments and opportunities to intersect and connect with each other, and make our time here as full and fulfilling as possible. Indeed, there is no doubt we are all connected, but as we come into this world alone as our own being and entity, we also leave this world alone, free to go where our energy takes us.

When I received the details of Christine's memorial service, I discovered that, ironically, it had been scheduled for the morning of May 1st at the very time I had made my overdue gynecologist and mammogram appointments. Of course I've changed them to attend the funeral; but when I finally get to them next week, I will be thinking of Christine. I will remember how much she loved her life, and how she fought for it until she could no longer do so. I will remember her spirit, her determination, her loyalty, her dedication to her family, and the enduring legacy of love she left with them.

And when I get my annual mammogram each year after this, I know I will also think of her and remember how this test, however bothersome to schedule or painfully uncomfortable to go through, is another one of those gifts of burden I will happily bear to live this life I'm so grateful to live.

 

🙏   Rest in Peace Christine, Julie, Karen, and all the beautiful souls we have lost to cancer.

Freedom

Running at Zuma Beach - Malibu, CA

Running at Zuma Beach - Malibu, CA

Freedom from... 

_____________________


Today I am feeling free from things that had bound me for so long.

It's gratifying to cut the cord from those thoughts and behavioral patterns that no longer serve me, my life, or my overall well being.

It matters not that you know with what I personally fill in that blank; but rather that you know what YOU do... or at least what from which you still wish to be free.

Whatever it is, have faith. It IS possible.

Be patient. Do the work, persevere, and it will happen.

#fillintheblank

 
 
 
*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Hope ~ Positivity ~ Perseverance

About a month ago, I shared a piece I wrote about getting my first tattoo in September 2014. Many people liked and shared it, and a lot of the comments that followed were about wanting to see the actual tattoo.

If you haven't read it yet, read it here and then catch back up with us after...

Mid-Life Clarity

"I'm getting a tattoo."

When I made this declaration to a friend some months ago, she quickly decided that there could be no other explanation for this insane notion than that I must be going through a mid-life crisis.

Huh. Wasn't expecting that reaction.

Read more>>

When I wrote MId-Life Clarity, I never thought of sharing the actual tattoo image, as the photo above of me getting inked was all I posted. It was so personal to me at the time that I didn’t want or feel the need to share the specifics. However, since then, many people have connected with the message and have asked to see the tattoo that inspired it.

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Running at Zuma Beach on a crisp, clear and quiet morning is one of my favorite things to do. I like the clear sky, sparkling water, and empty beach in front of me, on days in the off-season, when there is hardly anyone there. I have the long boardwalk to myself then, except for a few dog walkers and a couple surfers heading to the water.

Running is definitely my therapy those days when I need it most; and it helps me channel the calm and patient parent I strive to be when I pick up my kids from school each day.

The last time I went for a run, I took a photo of my tattoo to share here. It is three symbols - an anchor, plus sign, and seed of the wawa tree - and they stand for Hope, Positivity and Perseverance respectively.

Together, the three represent the things I believe are the most essential elements to live a meaningful and joyful life. They are the H.P.P. of H.A.P.P.Y. Along the 'Bu.

Read WHAT'S HA.P.P.Y.? for the full meaning.

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The Road to You

When I was a kid, I wasn’t much of an athlete. I never participated in any team sports, nor did I have any kind of athletic goals. I think the reason was the not-so-unique combination of shyness, insecurity, and a fear of taking risks. Yet these qualities only reared their ugly heads when I was around people I didn't know. As I was often under close observation in public as a child, seen by many but not heard by most, my shyness was in direct correlation with the pressure I felt to be perfect and the feeling of being sized up and judged by others.

Alternatively, my daily existence at home was one of privacy and security, without the intrusion of close neighbors and with tons of room and freedom to play. Running around our green fields and orange groves, and lying on the lawn daydreaming while gazing up at the blue sky and tops of olive trees, my home life as a child rendered me a bit anti-social when out and about in the world. No perfection, structured rules, competitiveness, or team cooperation was required to climb the huge fig tree on our property. Existence and free play at home was non-confrontational, non-judgmental, and void of any pretense or façade. There, I was free to be me; and there is where I most wanted to be.

I did take ballet at five years old, but my mom said I had to stop at six because she didn't think I took it seriously enough. I was SIX. Not sure what she expected, but I obviously wasn't fulfilling her expectations. My older sister and I also took ice skating lessons for a while; but the appeal of being like Dorothy Hamill wore off pretty quick when the discomfort of frozen toes and wet tights got the best of us.

1979 - My sister and I outside the Topanga Mall Ice rink in Woodland Hills, CA

1979 - My sister and I outside the Topanga Mall Ice rink in Woodland Hills, CA

In junior high, my report card of A's was blemished by the B's I received in Physical Education (and ironically, Typing). I wasn't awkward or uncoordinated in any way, I just didn't like to participate in P.E. My skinny and not so tough girl persona defined me as the antithesis of the athletic-type; or at least I allowed it to define me that way. I dreaded running laps around the school track, especially on those really hot days in the valley where you felt like you were going to melt into the pavement. I took a rare risk and tried out for cheerleading in the eighth grade (with the hope of breaking out of my shell at school), but, not surprisingly, I didn't have the pep required to make the squad.

Instead, I took piano lessons, loved art projects, and collected rainbows and puffy stickers. I also escaped into stories, sometimes in books, but most often by watching sitcoms on TV and movies on VHS tape. I can recall many days after school sitting down on the couch watching hours of Three's Company, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Facts of Life with a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies in hand, and with no desire to be anywhere else.

I recognize now that I definitely used television and film to escape the realities of my life during those early teenage years... medicating the disillusionment and stress of dealing with my parent's divorce and the sadness and upheaval of losing my childhood home (the aforementioned ranch with the green fields, orange groves and fig tree). 

Television and film really did their job for me, suspending my disbelief and beguiling me into a intense love affair with fictional narratives and old cinema in those impressionable and formative years. And as a skin-'n'-bones teenager, my indulgence in those Thin Mint cookies didn't prompt me to see physical exercise as a necessity. Couch potato-ing suited me just fine.

In college, I gained some significant weight after a whole year of eating dormitory food consisting of bagels & cream cheese, pizza, sugary cereals and soft serve ice cream. Since I grew up in a house of wheat bread, Quaker Granola and fruit roll-ups (sure signs of "health nut" parents in the 70's and 80's, but laughable by today's standards of health and wellness), as opposed to my friends' regular diets of Wonder Bread, Fruit Loops and Ding Dongs, I had thought I had a good sense and palate for healthy eating.

Yet that first year of freedom to indulge in whatever, whenever, showed in my fuller, rounder face and body, and the "freshman fifteen" I gained was actually more like twenty. It didn't help that I spent most of that first year at UC Irvine sitting in class, studying, writing essays and term papers, and watching movies. 

My sedentary existence was curbed by sophomore year when I shared a dorm room with Giselle, a female student athlete on a track-and-field scholarship for long-distance running. Of course, she ran cross-country in high school, was in great physical shape, and had the most muscular legs I had ever seen on a girl... the stark opposite of my physique, one a bit plump for my thin frame with no muscle tone of which to speak. My new roommate was a physically healthy and mentally positive person, and she became my first close friend that was into fitness or competitive sports.  

Her introduction into my life was also my introduction to running. For the first time, I wondered if it would be something I would like to do. I remembered my aversion to the track in junior high, but the idea of running now intrigued me. She agreed to teach me about training for endurance running, showing me how to run using the proper form and technique, how to pace myself, how to breathe, and where to focus my attention.

I began to run regularly that year and loved it. It worked for me. Finally, I had an alternative to sitting and escaping into the latest romantic comedy romp. Going outside for a run gave me a place to be by myself with my thoughts... to feel empowered to be the me that I was, as I was.

My world changed. My body transformed. I saw it morph back to the skinny version I had in high school, but this time it came with some muscles and curves I had not enjoyed in adolescence. I ran consistently all through my junior and senior years of college, and it kept me fit and relatively sane as a Film Studies undergrad, when my daily existence involved watching endless hours of films, editing endless hours of footage I shot, and sitting for endless hours at the computer writing my Film Theory term papers.

I continued running after graduation and throughout my 20's while working in the film industry. It remained my source of strength and empowerment those years of working on film sets and studio lots where, often frustratingly so, my youthful and attractive female frame and countenance got me more attention than my skill and passion for the art and entertainment I wanted to create. I looked to running for peace, quiet, acceptance, introspection, and blissful solitude in a life and career that didn't afford me these virtues often, if at all.

In the year 2000, a fictional Nike ad campaign for women's running was the focal point of the film What Women Want. In the ad, the image of a woman running alone on a road is seen while the following is heard: "You don't stand in front of a mirror before a run and wonder what the road will think of your outfit. You don't have to listen to its jokes and pretend they are funny in order to run on it. It would not be easier to run if you dressed sexier. The road doesn't notice if you're not wearing lipstick, does not care how old you are. You do not feel uncomfortable because you make more money than the road... And you can call on the road, whenever you feel like it, whether it has been a day, or even a couple hours since your last date. The only thing the road cares about is that you pay it a visit once in a while. Nike. No games. Just sports."

As a single, professional woman, who was also a runner, I LOVED this. It spoke to the twenty-seven year old version of me who ran a fast three miles a day at least five times a week. I connected with the sentiment behind it and the comfort of not feeling measured by or valued for my looks, my job, my youth - at least not when running. The freedom from the judgment of society in general, and Los Angeles in particular, was palpable when I ran. Alone, just me and the road, that freedom and feeling of pure acceptance was very powerful.

Today, these many years later, I am still running. I get the same feeling now as I did when I began. While running, there really are no games - no one to impress, no one to try to look good for, no one to try to amuse or pretend to be amused by - it's just you, moving your body, feeling the wind, relishing the solitude, and basking in the peace that comes with time to yourself, to your own thoughts, to living life at your own pace.

I sometimes wish I could put life on pause - slow it down, take a breath. Do some things before other things inevitably have to occur. Pause a moment in time and FEEL it - experience it for what it is, independent of everything else - before everything else has its chance to weigh in. I feel like I'm racing the clock so often that there just isn't enough time to fit in the things I want to say, do, feel, write, accomplish, BE.

So instead, I take a mini-vacation every time I run. Running, to me, is my life on pause. My mind is free to think what it wants, my body is free to move how it wants, and I feel free of any limitations and restrictions that may currently weigh on me. Using my physical strength to move my body forward down the road is such an amazing feeling and gives me an inner strength and determination not found elsewhere.

That sedentary, skinny, screen-obsessed kid eating piles of cookies and binging on sitcoms and rom-coms would never have thought she'd feel this way when she grew up. But it seems the journey of life is like a road you run on, leading you to you - the you you are going to be as you grow, mature, love, and learn. The you you are going to live with all of your days.

I've slowly come to recognize that this "you" is ever changing. That you aren't strictly defined by where you've been. That where you are and where you are going are yours for the making, and that the road of your life will continue to define you throughout this life's journey. 

There is no getting away from it. It just happens. Without your consent or even sometimes without your knowledge, the curves, detours and dips in the road of your life will change and define you in ways you may never have expected or could have ever anticipated. I never would have thought I would be a runner. Not judging from where I began. But I am. And I am so grateful for that.

If you can't or don't like to run, I guarantee that you can get a similar experience, with equally beneficial feelings and results, from a number of other physical activities that may be a better fit for you and your personal journey. Just find what works for you and DO IT. Take those moments to feel like your authentic self within, independent of all the judgments and labels of others. Enjoy the freedom from all of the comparing and competing that plagues our society and honor the you that you are - perfectly imperfect - exactly as you are inside and out, right now.

I find it on the road. The road leads me to myself, and I love where it takes me.