Monday, April 28, 2014

Love Yourself Tomorrow

Growing up, I tried to remain physically active: horseback riding, dance lessons, aerobics classes, jogging with friends, wakeboarding, longboarding, but nothing held my attention for more than a few months at most, usually a few weeks. I was never overweight, but I knew I wasn’t health—I wasn’t fit. I knew how alive I felt after exercising. But when my life got busy, exercising fell to the back-burner, again and again.

Two things changed my outlook on exercising. One came with my baby girl: unwanted weight and baby blues. My self-esteem plummeted, and I hated it—I hated me. I felt sluggish, useless, and it was winter in Idaho, so I constantly felt trapped and antsy. I wanted to be more for my daughter, an example of high self-esteem and happiness. But that goal was far from what I had become.

But the second thing, along with encouragement from my husband, came through school: I took a Women’s Health class—a class that I recommend every woman of every major take. In that class I learned that while becoming physically fit has its advantages for your physique, the most important benefits are for your physical and emotional health. Exercising couldn’t be about turning me into a bikini-bomb-shell, because the reality is that few people who exercise will ever feel that way about their looks. Exercising became an opportunity for me to feel strong, successful, and pro-active. I was no longer holding a daily pity party; instead, I took charge and dealt with my problems. And even after exercising that first day, I felt happy again. I hadn’t lost any weight, and I certainly felt sore in the morning, but I felt alive again. And as I developed a regular exercise routine, three to six days a week, the feeling stuck.

Bob Livingstone, author of The Body-Mind-Soul Solution, explains what happened to me. Livingstone suggests that neurotransmitters are affected by exercise (88). Endorphins are probably the neurotransmitters most of us are familiar with regarding exercise: endorphins release during exercise and make us happy. But on the topic of serotonin production in exercise, Livingstone quotes a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “Physical activity has the same effect as antidepressants . . . Aerobic exercise stimulates neurotransmitters in our brain to produce serotonin which makes us feel good. And exercise, unlike antidepressants, has no negative side-effects” (90). Imagine: a solution to mild depression that doesn’t require the cost—monetarily and emotionally—that exists in prescription solutions. Of course exercise is not a fix-all; there are some who will still need to pair depression medication with regular exercise, but exercise is the healing power—the natural key God designed in our bodies to deal with depression, stress, anxiety, and sluggishness.

It would be six more months of off and on exercise before I found an activity I loved enough to stick to. ZUMBA fitness was my activity, something I enjoyed so much that after a year attending classes, I went on to license. Since moving to Arizona and having a second baby, I had to cancel my license, but it hasn’t changed my dedication. I discovered myself through exercise. And I became whole. I became a happier, more confident person, a better wife, and certainly a better mother.

Most people know that exercise is good for our bodies. The benefits are endless: exercise sharpens your mind, strengthens your muscles, enables you to deal with stress, improves your physique, enhances your self-esteem, reduces your appetite, clears your arteries, reduces cholesterol, strengthens your heart, reduces high blood pressure, reduces your risk for colon cancer (87) and Alzheimer’s (89).

Do I have you yet?

What if I told you that exercise generates new brain cells, and studies show those who exercised “displayed improved decision-making abilities and improved cognitive performance” (97)? What about the study where “patients with epilepsy felt better . . . [and] improved their seizure control with regular exercise” (92)? Furthermore, exercise “enables you to stay physically strong as you age,” reducing “muscle loss, joint stiffness, ligament failure, and injury propensity” (96). Aka, exercising today staves off the old-fogies’ bed pans tomorrow.

But the bottom line—exercise is good for your physical and emotional health.

Find something active you love and become addicted. Your body and mind now and in the future will thank you. Posted on the chalkboard at my old ZUMBA fitness dance studio Fuzion in Sugar City, Idaho was this quotation: “Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it.” Exercise because you want to do something good for your body—something good for you, not because you want to fit into a pair of jeans. I guarantee if your motivation is the latter, you’ll likely be disappointed and quit. If your motivation is the former, you’ll be successful and healthy. So start today and love yourself tomorrow.

Works Cited
Livingstone, Bob. The Body-Mind-Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise. New York: Pegasus Books, 2007. Print.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fire Watchman for Welders, As a Beginning Technical Theater Student

The Arc is blue—it dazzles,
but looking at it burns retinas.
So I stare at the two-by-fours, blue by reflection, but less brilliant.
As Lot’s Wife, I long to see the glow, the glamour, the awe-full radiance.
But I close my eyes, not a grain of salt sighted.

Fiery sparks sky-rocket and fall lamely—
the misted stage precaution pointless.
But still I stand, and euthanize the flickers.

I guess I do what I’m told.

I wrote this poem in my junior year in college and it won me second place under poetry in our Pre-Professional Writing Conference. Granted, I'm pretty certain my poetry professor was the only judge. So feel free to take that hoopla with a grain of salt.

The handy-woman in the picture is me as a beginning technical theater student. Unfortunately, I'm not welding in this pictureI'm grinding. But with the sparks, the gear, and the time period, I thought the picture deserved to be here. Working with the welders during this depicted semester was, obviously, the inspiration for my salty, award-winning poem.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

17 Steps to Writing “Like”able Status Updates and Stop Annoying Your Friends

Keep it to twenty words or less
I want the info and I want it fast, particularly if you’re trying for a witty post. Cut, cut, cut the fluff.

Read your status update before you post it
Typos make you look foolish. Clean it up.

Try action verbs and avoid overused adverbs and adjectives
Going right along with eliminating unnecessary words: try switching out those to-be verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) with some action verbs. And eliminate overused adverbs and adjectives like “totally” and “very.”

Blah: “We’ve been together five terrific years today and went to the Dodger-Diamondbacks game to celebrate.”

Oooo: “Celebrating our five years together with a little friendly rivalry at the Dodger-Diamondbacks game.”

Beginning with the action verb and eliminating the “to-be” verb immediately puts my friends in the action.

Be realistic
When sharing a video, blog, or meme, give it to me straight. I’m much more likely to look into it if you’re honest with me. Refer to my friend Amy’s self-test about posts like “BEST EVER!” or “Most amazing------in the world!”

“Is a dog jumping through a hula hoop or a 5-year-old kid singing a crappy rendition of a song the best thing you have ever heard or seen?” Likely not.

Use exclamation marks and CAPS LOCK with trepidation
Unless you are literally jumping up and down and about to run through the streets shouting your news to the heavens, keep your punctuated “excitement” to yourself.

Post 2 times a day or less
If you limit your posts, you by-product only post the best of the best, and your great posts don’t get lost in the mundane, and therefore get more likes. If you’re using Facebook as your only source of validation and feel the need to post about every menial thing, go ask your mom to give you more hugs. #momhugs

People like relating to your post, so find the nugget in your status that makes people go, “Amen!” or “Happens to me all the time!”
We’re all here just trying to relate in the human experience. State your universal truth and give us specific details. Don’t leave out the details because that’s what makes the truth funny or interesting—aka “like”able.

“Just signed up for Spotify Premium solely because I was sick of listening to 30 second commercials for 1) Trojan and 2) terrible rap artists” (Natalie Wall).

“When your child poops on your pants the day after you did laundry and you think, ‘It's not that much poop . . . a little water . . . no one will ever know’” (Yours truly).

Funny observations
The world of comedy exists in being able to translate funny observations into words. Join the world. Everyone loves a good laugh.

“Cell bio fact of the day: the race for zygote fertilization isn't about being the fastest sperm-swimmer. It actually comes down to being the best mucous-eater. So congratulations; you all once ate egg-mucous faster than your competitors” (Natalie Wall).

“I'm watching my carbs. I'm watching them go in my mouth. I'm watching my gummy bears too” (Kyle Martin).

Quotations, usually without commentary
If you overhear or engage in an amusing conversation, we love hearing about it. Don’t feel the need to also tell us it’s funny by posting after the quotations, “I could not stop laughing.” We know. We just read it, and we laughed too.

Cim: “I had a dream where you kept your tummy to yourself and didn't put any babies in it.”
Me: “Oh?”
Cim: “Yeah. It was a scary dream.”
(Shannon Cooley)

Satire and Sarcasm
We all love a little snarkcissism. Just don’t go too far or too often into the “pity me” zone. #momhugs

“11:39 PM: hot date on the couch with my cell bio textbook and a bag of Smarties. Living the dream” (Natalie Wall).

“I enjoy short walks on the beach. Really short. More like driving past the beach. I enjoy seeing pictures of the beach. I acknowledge beaches” (Kyle Martin).

“Sorry I opened your Valentine's Day chocolates. I was hungry and you're imaginary” (Kyle Martin).

Nobody cares about your play-by-play except your mom, so text your mom instead
Basically, post two times a day or less, and this one sorts itself out. #momhugs ‘Nuff said.

We don't care about your baby's mile-marking #momhugs, but we do care about funny or sweet things your baby says.
Again, two posts a day or less and this one pretty much takes care of itself. This mom rocks my socks with her kids’ dialogues:

Mari: “Can I have a drink, please?”
Me: “Sure, what would you like to drink? Milk? Water?”
Mari: “Yours.”

THIS, people. This is a parent’s life in condensed form.
(Shannon Cooley)

If you’re going to mush about your spouse or partner, keep it short and specific.
Avoid clich├ęs—“He's the best husband in the world!” That just makes everyone roll their eyes.

And while we’re on personal relationships, NEVER use Facebook to say negative things about your spouse or (the one I usually see) your kids.
I know your kid is a terror; I’ve met him/her. But if you’re not planning on soliciting advice on behavioral problems, stop using Facebook to complain. Wait until your kid is asleep and definitely can’t hear you, then call your mom and vent it up. #momhugs

Fishing posts
If you’re not willing to share the drama (and it’s likely we don’t want to hear it anyway) then don’t post at all. “Worst day EVAAAAA!” “About to kill this school’s admin!” Come on, people. Call your mom. #momhugs

Don’t be a hater
State your opinion, share your beliefs, quote a scripture—terrific. But Facebook is not the medium for hashing out your beliefs against others’. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind over social media. Get off Facebook and go build yourself a soap box.

Don’t force their hand
Posts that read like chain mail often have the exact opposite effect. We all like to think we’re intelligent enough to decide for ourselves whether or not we want to post, like, or share. Leave it up to us. 

Call your mom, be intelligent, be funny, and be nice.

Thanks to Shannon Cooley, Kyle Martin, and Natalie Wall for letting the world benefit from your fine examples. Here's to making News Feed a better place.

This is what Andilyn thinks. Comment below with thoughts of your own.

The Unusual Hand-Hold

Aaron rolls onto his stomach, punches his left arm under his pillow, and begins to fade. I roll to my right side, bend one knee and breathe, settling in for what I’ve dubbed as quiet time, but might actually be a mild form of insomnia. And tonight’s topic of self-conversation is my five-year anniversary, which dawns tomorrow. As I’m musing, Aaron shifts in his almost-sleep and slides his hand over my right shoulder and strokes my braid away from my neck almost as an answer to my reflective thoughts. I rest my left hand on my left shoulder and lock my fingers with his as he drifts off completely. The unusual hand-hold launches me into a memory and I inwardly chuckle at the irony.

I was eighteen and three weeks out of high school. To celebrate our independence, two of my girlfriends from home and I went and did exactly what we would have done at home: we found a dance party. About half an hour in I figured I should break away from my pack and meet a guy. The heavy music forced condensed pleasantries:

“Hey—Andi!” I pointed to myself, knowing from experience that repeating Andilyn seven times and finally conceding defeat gives me a sore throat.

“Air-ih!” he pointed to himself. “Where’re you from?”

“Arizona! You?”



I could have asked him to repeat his name, but I wasn’t interested in giving him a sore throat. He would have saved himself a lot of time then if he would have asked for my number; although, I doubt I would have given it to him. I had seen enough movies about college to know that twenty-year-old boys are predators, so I put him in the possibly creepy category and made my way back to my pack after the song. Poor Eric.

Three days of tireless Facebook searching/stalking later, I received a message and a friend request from Aaron Jenkins.

“Hey, Andi. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at the dance at the flight museum. . .” The rest of his message that he undoubtedly spent hours trying to word perfectly escapes my memory now.

 Aaron Jenkins . . . nope. I didn’t remember him. But he certainly went out of his way to track me down, so I figured lying would be the polite thing to do.

“Hey, Aaron! No, of course I remember you! Hey I’m having some peeps over at my apartment to watch Disturbia on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7:30. Hope you can come. I’m at the Ridge.” I wrote my reply in thirty seconds.

So curiosity had me. I didn’t recognize his profile pic, and there would be a lot of people at the movie-night—a good chance to check him out. He would spend the next 24 hours desperately trying to find a wing-man, coming up short, and debating whether or not I was hoping he would come alone.

7:32 p.m. on Wednesday night found me sitting on our kitchen table, shoving a hot dog in my mouth before “people” got there. A young man walked in the open front door and I was face-to-face with creepy-Eric. But, I didn’t invite Eric. And slowly the shouted, “Air-ih!” rolled in my mind, and I realized I hadn’t lied after all. I definitely remembered him.

“Hey, Aaron!” came my roommate from behind me.

“Hey, Kaylin.” They hugged and began asking the “how-are-yous.”

“So what are you doing here?” Kaylin asked.

“Oh, well, I met Andi the other night, and she invited me,” he replied, bringing me into the conversation with a cozy smile. I studied him, contrasting my previous opinion of him as much as the black lights and strobes of the dance party contrasted my apartment’s steady fluorescent. Standing, I would only have reached slightly above his shoulders. Even in my highest heels, I would still be shorter than him. He had strong arms and big, steady hands with long fingers. And our skin color and complexions were almost indistinguishable, which meant he, too, probably had three bottles of sunscreen and aloe in his bathroom cabinet. His comfortable, striking smile pulled for my attention, and I complied.

“So how do you two know each other?” I asked.

“Oh, Aaron sang in an acapella group with my older brother in high school.”

I might have swooned. “Oh, what part do you sing?”

“Baritone and bass.”

I played it cool, “Sweet.”

At this point, Spencer arrived, a boy from my English class, and it suddenly became clear to me that both of these guests hoped I had invited them as more than friends. Aaron became cautious and pulled Kaylin in for conversation again, trying to judge my relationship with Spencer, and I cursed my naivety for inviting two boys stag. Tonight, one would go home a loser. And I now had to give Aaron the sign that he was not the loser without rubbing his victory in Spencer’s face. College was hard.

After the rest of the party showed
up, I directed everyone to the couches while I took my time putting in the DVD. Spencer had an open seat next to him when I finished. Aaron did not. But Aaron’s seat was right in front of the TV, so I sat on the floor next to his legs, leaning against the arm of the couch, saying I’d have more room to spread out. Spencer sprung over and joined me, resting his hand between us. I glanced down, surprised I didn’t see, “Hold me,” written on his open palm.

When the suspense escalated, I sat up, brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my fingers in my pixie-cut hair at the nape of my neck. Spencer stayed lying on his back, conceding defeat. Then I felt Aaron’s fingers lightly brush mine. I thought about pulling away to save face for Spencer but worried that Aaron would take it as a rejection. So hoping my fingers were sufficiently blocked by my head, I reached my right hand over my right shoulder and locked my fingers with his, effectively setting off a roller coaster that would lead us to the eve of our five-year wedding anniversary, fingers locked over my shoulder.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Banana Bread Baby

Dear Mom,

Aaron baked
banana bread muffins.
And Evelyn ate a whole muffin
all by herself.
Hot banana-bread-scent stuck to the air,

but I missed it, my fingers busily ticking at my keyboard in the silent library:
acquiring my degree
like you never did.

Evelyn waddled into my bedroom,
searching. “Mama?” she repeated
tugging on the bed covers, where she often
finds me, sleeping,
because I’m always tired,

but I missed it, busy analyzing when one should or should not use passive voice:
acquiring my degree
like you never did.

Mom, Evelyn crunched an autumn leaf, swept snow from her mittens, touched the hot pink geraniums, and gave one a kiss,
and I missed it.

But you never did.

Two Minutes

1:28 a.m. 

My “me-time” turned into a very late night, a beautiful manicure, and a promise of an even earlier morning, seeing as both of my kids went to bed uncharacteristically on-time. The lights off, I pull my red elastic out of my hair, toss it on the nightstand and flop my head on my pillow when I hear Evelyn let out a squeaky moan from her bedroom. That was the third one in the last ten minutes. And this time, my nails are dry. No more excuses. Aaron checks the video baby monitor and "suggests" I go tuck her in before I get too comfortable. The back corner of his brain that is still awake manages, "Goodnight, dear," as I thump out of bed. I know he’s asleep before my feet hit the floor, but I say goodnight anyway.

I click on the hall light and open Evelyn's door. The light breaking into her room from around my silhouette causes her to stir for the fourth time. She lies diagonally in her full-size bed, the ceiling fan playing both comforter and trickster. Her curly hair weaves around her face and neck like a wool blanket, begging for cool. But her goose-bumpy exposed legs make her restless. Accepting the fact that I might wake her up in my intention to allow her to rest more peacefully, I let the light in. I unwind her feet from the sheet and bring the comforter up to her shoulders. She lets out a deep exhale and rolls so her face turns to mine. Her heavy eyes unstick.

"Do you need to go potty?" I guess.
I pull her minky, pink blanket out of the ball and lay it softly over her covers, under her hands so she can pet it. I lean in to sweep her auburn hair away from her neck, "Goodnight."
Eyes closed, "Goodnight, Mommy."
I kiss her cheek, "I love you."
And with an exhaling breath as she repositions herself on her side, turning away from the door, "I love you too."

1:30 a.m.