Miscellaneous

What exactly is a Bonnie Raitt squat?

I stood at the podium at center stage and surveyed the auditorium. 

The balcony was empty, as were most of the first floor seats, save for my 20 or so eighth grade classmates. 

“O.Henry,” I began. “Who was he?”

I paused after the first sentence and gripped the side of the podium, startled by the sound of my voice in the microphone. As someone who rarely spoke above a whisper, I was stunned that the volume of my voice was seemingly booming, echoing off of the hard wooden seats and cracking plaster walls. I shook less and less with each line I delivered before returning to my seat, trembling as the adrenaline left my body. 

At the end of the class, Mrs. Howard tapped at my Jansport book bag as I walked out of the auditorium. 

“You have a knack for public speaking,” she said and I nodded shyly before walking to my next class. 

I think we were both surprised by the clarity and strength with which I had spoken, since I was loathe to speak up in class or make eye contact when speaking to a teacher. That speech was the first time I realized that I really had a voice. And I didn’t know quite what to make of it. 

 This is how you perform a Bonnie Raitt squat….

This is how you perform a Bonnie Raitt squat….

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Talking was always a problem for me as a student. My dad would come home from each parent/teacher conference and give me the same lecture. “They say that you are a good student but that you need to speak up,” he would say. “You need to raise your hand more. And you mumble too much. You need to E-NUN-CI-ATE.” 

For added emphasis, he would over-enunciate the word enunciate, just to be sure I got the message. I did get the message, I just didn’t care to speak up in class. I didn’t want to raise my hand, I certainly didn’t want to draw attention to myself, and the last thing I wanted to do was use my voice for, well, talking.   

This story came to mind last week when, for the 10th time of the day, someone misheard my directions for an exercise. 

“What is a Bonnie Raitt squat?” Suzanne asked one day in our team training class. 

“Um…I don’t know, but I asked you to do a body weight squat…” I replied. 

We now do Bonnie Raitt squats in class regularly. 

“What is a lame-ass squat?” Another asked on a different day. 

“Well, actually a landmine squat,” I said, as I shook my head, thinking of my dad’s yearly lectures. 

Finding my voice has been a life-long process and certainly not one that’s come easy. It took a number of seasons coaching high school and college kids before I realized that I needed to treat every practice and game as though I was on stage. That I needed to flip a switch and turn my voice and my presence “on” so that I could command the presence that a coach needed to effectively coach.

I don’t write about this today for any other reason than to acknowledge that finding your voice can be really difficult. Whether it’s finding the voice to advocate for yourself with a doctor, the voice to stand up to your boss, the voice to speak up for your children or your family, it can be really difficult to put yourself on stage and find the ability to speak up. It can be startling to hear your own voice ringing out in anger, in excitement, or in delight. 

Often when I write on this site, I do so to give voice to something that someone else might be thinking or struggling with. About body image, about mental health struggles, about life.

But how much better do we feel when we have some solidarity - some understanding that others have been where we have been - have felt what we have felt. So we try, I try, to give voice to struggles and to pains and to some joys as well.

You have a voice.

Remember that you have a voice. 

And as much as possible, surround yourself with people who support you and give you the courage to use that voice. 



My blue sky moment

My cousin’s wife walked into the funeral home. 

She wore a sequined top that shone in the afternoon sunlight, and as she greeted us all with hugs announced “I wore this because I thought it was the kind of top Aunt Juanita would love.” 

We all nodded our approval before my cousin Terri spoke up. 

“Go have a look in the casket.”

Much to her chagrin, and everyone else’s amusement, she was wearing the exact same blouse my Aunt Juanita was laid out in. It was the lightest moment in an otherwise very sad day. But it was the kind of story my dad’s sister would have told over and over again. She had that dry British sense of humor that is common in my family. She had a knack for finding humor in strife.  

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Doug has written a few times about remembering the blue sky - that even when the clouds are hanging above you to remember that there is blue sky above. That moment of levity was my blue sky moment in the day. Recently, I’ve been focused on the practice of gratitude, trying to think of three new things every day to be grateful for, and to think of why I am grateful for them. 

That day, in that moment, I was grateful for my sense of humor and that my family shares in that humor. Humor is how my aunt survived a life of struggle. Humor is how I’ve learned to make the best of sadness. 

I’ve been home to Pennsylvania only twice this year, both times for a funeral. The longer you live, the more loss you will have I suppose. I am lucky, in that I’ve been spared the kind of loss that many others have lived through at much younger ages. If there is a cost to aging, then the empty feeling of losing someone we love must be the price of admission. 

I left the church to the closing hymn of “On Eagles Wings,” crying harder than I meant to as I watched my brother and cousins carry her casket. As I held the umbrella over my mother’s head on our walk to the car, I remembered the quote, “if you live to be 100, I want to live to be 100 minus a day so I never have to live a day without you.” 

Oh the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh. 

Emptiness is a tough feeling. It’s hard to know what to do with the hollow pit in your stomach. We cope in different ways - with food, with alcohol, with anything that will make us feel numb for a little while. Later in the day, after the funeral, I hung out with my dad at one of his local clubs, a time that would have typically been spent in the company of my aunt as well. 

Sitting in that club next to my dad, I missed my aunt - I thought of her laugh and her jokes and her love of Patsy Cline. I looked over at my dad who was sipping his beer, staring intently at a preview of Sunday’s Steeler’s game. I can’t imagine the pain of losing his first sibling - of seeing his family shrink. I felt a catch in my throat and tried to freeze the moment in my mind - I want to freeze so many moments of time with my dad.   

I leaned over and tapped my head on his shoulder for a second, then focused my attention on the t.v. 

Two people, holding their grief together in silence. Holding their grief together in love. 

My blue sky moment? That everyone should be so lucky, to have someone with whom to hold their grief. 



Stumbling into gratitude

I stood at the bottom of the mountain, penned in a box with 150 other participants, thinking of my typical Saturday routine. Sleep in a little, maybe meditate, then sit down with a fresh cup of coffee to write while Rooney sleeps on my feet. 

Today, instead of sipping hot coffee, I was staring disbelievingly at the side of the mountain that I was about run as part of the 2018 Tough Mudder Half. A mountain that in winter, is reserved for skiing.

Down.

Not running up.

 So that’s a hill. And those specs are people…

So that’s a hill. And those specs are people…

All around me people were fidgeting. Some were jumping up and down, others were cracking their necks, while a select few others were screaming.

Like just randomly screaming.

Loudly. 

I stood, cemented in place, unable to shut off the steady stream of sarcasm rolling through my mind.

I looked at my teammate Lauren. 

“I’m not doing this next year,” I said.

“Yes I know. You said that last year, so I’ll remind you that you told me that when we’re standing in line for next year’s race.” 

We both laughed. 

I stopped laughing abruptly. 

“Yeah, that’s totally going to happen again isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yup,” she said. “Totally.”

*****

Next thing I know, we’re schlepping our way up the side of the mountain and I’m dishing out a healthy stream of bad one-liners. 

“Why would I want to be at home drinking coffee and watching College Game Day?” I asked to no one in particular. A guy who was doing his 100th race swept past. 

“Because this is so much more fun!” 

“Yes,” I said. “Yes fun. That’s the word I was searching for right there. Thank you.”

I’m not always proud of my sarcasm, because I know it bumps up pretty hard against negativity. I toe that line of negativity and often cross it, and I crossed it a lot more on Saturday than I wish I had.

Humor is how I cope. And Saturday’s course provided a lot of opportunities to work on coping skills. This was by far the most difficult course I’d ever attempted.

Towards the end of the run, once we had sponges for shoes and mud in places you never thought mud could go, we came around a corner to another mountain. But this one was too steep for walking. We had to scale the mountain on all fours. 

I’d like you to take a moment to recall the famous Chevy Chase tirade about a happy family from the movie Christmas vacation. 

Then add another minute of expletives.

That’s roughly what came out of my mouth at the bottom of that mountain - sans the Santa hat.

There was no way around this obstacle. Literally, the only way out was up. So all of us, many of whom shared my thoughts, threw ourselves into the mountain and just started climbing. 

Half-way up the mountain, I lost my footing. Up to that point I’d been methodically choosing my footholds and hand holds, moving quickly, not giving myself enough time to think.

But suddenly, I had nowhere to put my foot or my hands. I looked down. 

If you do this course next year, let me give you some casual advice when you arrive at this stage of the race. 

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED DO NOT LOOK DOWN. 

So then I looked up. And I’d like to take a moment here to add a second piece of advice. 

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED DO NOT LOOK UP. 

Not gonna lie - I kind of panicked a little. (I don’t think I peed my pants, but it was hard to tell, since I was drenched.)

But here is what’s cool about these kind of races. I said I was stuck, and the woman behind me put her hand up for me to step on it. So I did. And I was able to get my footing again, and after a few minutes, I could see flags in the distance and hear my teammates cheering me on at the top. 

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(When people cheer for me in sports, they can’t help but call me Kimmie, because they need that extra syllable. And for some reason, in that context, I find the name Kimmie oddly comforting).

Once I hit level ground and could stand up, I leaned up against a tree to catch my breath. I looked out at the view. I looked down at the others still climbing. 

And in that moment, I stumbled straight into gratitude. 

Gratitude that I have a body that allows me to scale a mountain. Gratitude that I didn’t have to go it alone. Gratitude for my health. Gratitude for a growing sense of camaraderie with my teammates, many of whom I had the good fortune of getting to know a little better on Saturday.

At the end of the night, a shower never felt so good. Sweatpants never felt so warm. And my bed never felt so soft. And I was grateful for all of those comforts.

But I’m not doing this next year….

Lessons from an ugly teapot

On a Saturday afternoon in March of 2002, we were celebrating my friend Melissa's upcoming wedding. As bridesmaids, we took her dancing on Friday, showered her with gifts on Saturday, and then someone decided that should we paint our own pottery.

For Jon and Melissa.

As a gift.

That they'd have forever. 

My artistic skills begin and end with watching Bob Ross. Watching. While I was fascinated that he could create a painting in under 30 minutes, my skills were limited to stick figures.
 
But, I suppose I was feeling ambitious that day. More accurately, I was so wanting to show my appreciation for Melissa’s friendship that I decided to make a grand gesture. Melissa and I often shared cups of tea while trying to sort out our purpose in life (or mostly she listened to me trying to sort out my purpose in life) so I decided to go all in and paint a teapot.  

16 years later, that gesture continues to be grand. 

Rather than take the simple approach and paint my teapot one color, as my fellow bridesmaids did, I decided I’d paint a nature scene on the teapot. 

 I was an adult when I painted this.

I was an adult when I painted this.

But after finishing a barren tree with no leaves, I decided I’d just paint the other side green. Then I painted the lid yellow and gold, because Jon was a Steelers’ fan.

Then I painted the spout brown because…well, it was already pretty ugly.

By the time I was finished, the thing was so ugly that I felt compelled to add a quote on the outside that read, illegibly, that “it’s not what’s on the outside that matters.” 

When I took the final product to the employee, I tried to bribe her to break it before it made the kiln.

"Oh no," she said. "We're very careful with our pottery."

"But if I gave you an extra 50 bucks..." I offered.

 Nothing says best wishes for your future like a barren, dead tree in winter. 

Nothing says best wishes for your future like a barren, dead tree in winter. 

 My reaction when the teapot reappeared in my life a decade later...

My reaction when the teapot reappeared in my life a decade later...

This teapot, needless to say, has been the butt of jokes since 2002. It has survived multiple moves and plenty of questions from Jon and Melissa's kids. The teapot made a surprise trip from Pennsylvania to Maine in 2013 when Melissa spoke at our wedding. 

Melissa reminded me recently of the teapot last week when she told me that it was currently on prime display on her counter top. 

Originally, I was going to use the teapot as a symbol of what happens when you constantly change your nutrition and fitness routines - jumping from the Whole 30 to the 21 day fix to weight watchers to nutrisystem. 

And I do think that’s true when it comes to health and fitness. Jumping around from program to program makes it very difficult to see progress. You have to commit to a process for at least 90 days if not longer to see results. 

 Um...can you guess which ones her kids painted? Her kids whom are all under 10? 

Um...can you guess which ones her kids painted? Her kids whom are all under 10? 

But as I started writing this post, I was reminded of several conversations I've had in recent weeks with friends and clients. These folks are taking big risks - leaving old jobs for new ones - leaving jobs without a new one - going back to school - starting their own businesses, and deciding that it’s time for a change in their lives.

Sometimes a blank slate, while appealing and beautiful and filled with possibilities is also terrifying. It can feel permanent and scary. 

This teapot, ugly as it is, is pretty symbolic of the way my past 16 years have gone. I’ve started and stopped multiple journeys - second guessed decisions, tried to please other people, and in the process, created something that was sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful, but always, always, always authentically mine.

So I guess my message today is two-fold:

Choose a fitness and nutrition plan and give it time to work.

But follow your curiosity and your heart. This is your journey. This is your story. Write it for you. Take that leap of faith. 

Be kind to yourself, today and always.

My Place in this World

My first class was a disaster.

The exercises were chosen, the stations were set up, and I arrived at 5:15 that morning, groggy from my 3:30 wake-up and two hours of sleep.

 I am lucky. 

I am lucky. 

I looked around the empty gym, quiet from the night, chilly from the cold spring morning, and tried to calm the butterflies in my stomach as I prepared to coach the 20 people about to walk through the doors of what was then, Spurling Training Systems.

By the time the class was over, one person left with a bad knee, others looked bored, and still others were skeptical of "the new coach."

The class ended and I walked to the window, looking at the red sky of sunrise, wondering what the hell I'd gotten myself into. 

Before the next class, one of the other coaches pulled me into the office to give me some feedback. From Doug. Who wasn’t there.

“He watched from home,” the coach said, when I asked how Doug was giving me feedback. “There are cameras.”

I walked out to the parking lot and called Sheila.

“I don’t know what the f*** I got myself into, but I'm not staying past April."**

That was two years ago, yesterday. 

April 5th, 2016 marks the date of my arrival. It’s the date when I finally docked my boat after years and years of sailing around, trying different ports.

Remembering dates is a trait I inherited from my dad I suppose, who can tell you with ease the day he finished his four years of service in the Navy, the day he started in the steel mills, and the birthdays of hundreds of cousins and family members. (Yes there are hundreds..)

In turn, I can tell you that I got my driver’s license on October 19th, 1994, we adopted Rooney on July 11th 2008, and that Jamie Gillespie’s birthday is December 12th. (Hi Jamie!) 

But perhaps no date is as important or memorable for me as April 5th.* 

I stayed past April (clearly), but almost left for a second time that same summer. I loved the work, but the hour-drive and long days were wearing on me. It was a tough decision, and was teary eyed as I told my decision to Doug and the staff.  

What happened next, was something I could have never anticipated.

Doug made an effort to keep me. 

It was the first time in my professional life that I felt valued. Don’t get me wrong, I’d worked plenty of places where fellow co-workers and even supervisors valued me and treated me well. But few were in a position to do anything about it. 

Every few months, I send Doug a text, thanking him for my job. It probably seems like overkill, though I know he appreciates it. But so many nights, on the drive home, I think about the long nights I spent keeping stats at sporting events. I think about weekend trips to random places in Vermont spending time away from my family.

I think about the day in 2011 when I was folding t-shirts at a retail Nike store wondering how, at 34 years old, I ended up here. I think about the 70 hour weeks at a local college, making 25k a year, making no impact on the world, and wondering if I was going to die in a job like this. 

I think about the throws of anxiety and depression.

And that’s when I thank Doug.

I get emails like this. 

 She's a fellow Yinzer too...

She's a fellow Yinzer too...

I get to help people.

I get to help older clients feel more independent. I get to help younger clients (hopefully) enjoy the gym. I get to watch women and men do things they didn't believe they could do. 

I get to work with people like Jayne. 

I work with a staff of guys who are beyond their years (sadly, not in musical taste) in their passion for helping others and in their true love for clients and for each other. I work for a guy who works as hard on being a better person as he does on being a better businessman. 

I get to see the world through the eyes of positivity, struggle, and humor.  

I'm reminded as I write this post, that careers and relationships and good things are not always love at first sight. That even when you find yourself on the right path, there is still work to be done, brush to be cleared, and mountains to climb. 

April 5th will never be just a date for me. 

It will be the date that I came home. 

And how lucky am I that I get to say that.

Thank you, to all of you. Who read my site. Whom I get to work with personally. Who support me in my struggles and let me support you in yours. Together, with positive energy and love and appreciation for each other, we get to move this world forward and shine a light through the darkness. 

And we need that kind of light now, more than ever.

Thank you Doug, Josh, Chris, Trent, Melanie, Judy and Amy C.

Thank you to all of the clients I've had the good fortune to meet. To all of the clients who have become such good friends and the friends who trust me enough to be clients. For every facebook message you write or text that you send.

Thank you. 

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** I bust Doug's chops about this all of the time now - as a business person, he uses the cameras to check on traffic flow at the gym, and he was watching because it was really important that our group training classes were successful. I told him to give a girl a head's up next time though ;-)

*Except the day I met Sheila of course...:-)