Tag Archives: parenting

Please Be Nice to That Girl – She is Me

My twins are taking a summer class through the local school district designed to help ease their transition from kindergarten to first grade. Kids from various elementary schools around the district are participating in it. On their first day, I recognized one girl in their class as someone who attends the same elementary school as my kids, but was in a different kinder class last year.

See, I taught an empathy through art class at their school last year and this little girl – we’ll call her Jennifer – was a big fan of it. After I lead her class in the program, she would always say hi to me in the hall and even stopped me on the playground one time and asked me to push her on the swings. I complied happily; I like kids in general and I dig this kid in particular for a few reasons. First, she is kind, friendly, and greets everyone with a bright smile. Second, she has the coolest hearing aids I’ve ever seen.

My guess is that Jennifer was born hard-of-hearing and the hearing aids do what hearing aids do. She and her parents must figure that if she has to wear hearing aids then she might as well wear them with style. One is bright pink and the other is florescent green. On Jennifer, I would dare to say that they are downright cute.

On the first day of their summer class, Jennifer didn’t notice me. Yesterday, she did.

I was standing off to the side of the cafeteria, waiting for my kids to pick up their sack lunches when Jennifer suddenly bounded up to me and said, “Hi!” and flashed her usual cheerful smile. I said hi back, chatted with her for a moment and then noticed her dad holding her spot in the lunch line. I asked Jennifer if I could go over and meet him. She was delighted. I introduced myself and filled him in on how his daughter knows me.

About that time my kids came back with their food. I introduced them to Jennifer’s dad and asked if they knew Jennifer. I got the sense that my kids knew Jennifer was in their class, but hadn’t really interacted with her much before that moment. Based upon how Jennifer interacted with my kids I suddenly recognized a familiarity in Jennifer. She was very much like the child I had been. My kids and I said our goodbyes to the two of them and went on our way. I realized that my kids have a special opportunity this summer.

Last night at dinner, I shared a story with my kids. It went something like this…

Hey guys, I want to talk to you a little bit about that girl Jennifer from your class. You see, there’s something I’ve never told you about myself that I want to share with you now, and it might help you understand Jennifer a little bit better.

You see, I was born with a concave chest cavity. The middle of my chest – it was kind of pushed in, and doctors and my parents were worried that if something wasn’t done to correct it I wouldn’t grow right. So, when I was your age and starting out in school, I had to wear a big brace that went from my shoulders down to my waist. It made me stand up straight, pulled my shoulders back, and forced my chest out. Everyone noticed it and some people treated me differently because of it. People always asked me about it when they first met me. It made me really self-conscious. Do you know what self-conscious means? (Happily for them, they didn’t. My wife and I explained it.)

Anyway, another way to say it was to say that I was shy. I had a much easier time talking to adults than I did to kids. Kids sometimes seemed like they didn’t know how to treat me, or they seemed like they didn’t really want to be my friend because I was different. Now, I don’t know Jennifer all that well, but from what I’ve seen she reminds me a lot of me at that age. I noticed that she seems to have an easy time talking to me, but seems to have a little bit of a hard time talking to you.

I just want you to know that it would mean a lot to me, and it would probably mean a lot to her too, if you would try extra hard to be friendly with Jennifer. She seems a little shy, but she also seems nice and pretty much just like any other kid. See, I was just like any other kid except for my brace, and she’ just like any other kid except for her hearing aids. I had to wear my brace to help my chest and she wears her hearing aids to help her hear. With my brace on I stood just like anyone else and with her hearing aids on Jennifer probably hears a lot like you and me.

So, guys, what I’m trying to say to you is this… I hope you will make an effort to be friends with Jennifer, because I was like her and it meant a lot to me when kids made an effort to be friends with me. I’m still friends with a lot of the kids who befriended me when I was shy. So, when you see Jennifer, think of me, and try to be her friend.

I don’t know if my story has a happy ending. I can’t tell you if my twins will go on to be great friends with this young person who reminds me of me. But I can tell you this: Whether you’re five or fifty-five, being kind to someone who is different from you is always worthwhile. It might take little extra effort at first, but will pay you back in the form of a loyal friend.

5 Reasons Disney Should Release a PG Version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, In Theaters

Photo by Lucasfilm
Photo by Lucasfilm

Imagine my disappointment…

Everything was going along nicely.  When I was four, my parents took me to see the original Star Wars in the theater, igniting my lifelong fandom.  Next, I was lucky enough to marry a woman who is as big a Star Wars geek as I am, or geekier (I mean, how lucky am I, right?!).  Then, with great excitement, we introduced our five-year-old twins to Episodes IV, V and VI* this fall in anticipation of taking them to see Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  And what happens next?!  The movie is released with a PG-13 rating.  As you would expect, my reaction was much like Luke’s upon learning that Darth Vader was his father… “Noooooooooooooooo-ooooooooooo-oooooooo!”

My wife and I were concerned about how much violence might be in the film for it to get pegged with a PG-13 rating.  So, we decided to do a date night on opening day and check it out before exposing the kids to it.  We loved the film, but agreed that it’s too violent for them.  We don’t even let them watch the evening news, yet – that shit’s scary.

So, I’ve decided to appeal directly to you, oh benevolent Disney Corporation to please release a version of The Force Awakens in theaters re-edited to garner a kid-friendly PG rating.  In case you’re hesitant, I’ve put way too much thought into this and come up with a five-point proposal as to why you should do it.  Here it goes…

  1. Ticket Sales

Oh sure, you might have broken all-time sales records on your opening day, but there’s no reason to let that stop you from opening up the film to a broader audience and selling even more tickets.  Think about it, my wife and I already went to see the film once and we will go again to see a PG version with our kids if you release it.  There are literally millions of other parents exactly like us.  Literally.  Millions.

  1. Toy Sales

OK, I admit that my son already has a LEGO Tie Fighter and will be getting an X-Wing for Christmas (shh… don’t tell).  But just think of how many more The Force Awakens toys he would be begging for if he could actually see the movie!  I’m sure he’s not alone.  Heck, my daughter isn’t as into Star Wars as my son, but she loves Leia and she’s bound to love Rey even more once she sees this movie.

  1. The PG Legacy

Until Episode III came along and changed the game, Star Wars had a storied legacy as being a PG franchise.  People were delighted by that fact.  Come on guys – bring the PG Star Wars legacy back to theaters.

  1. Because Disney

You’re The Walt Disney Company for goodness sake!  Seriously, the words “kid-friendly” and “Disney” are practically synonymous.  Do it for the children!

  1. You’re Going to Eventually Anyway

Someday, Star Wars:  The Force Awakens will appear on broadcast television, probably on ABC.  So, why not simply make the edited for TV version a couple years early and release it in 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D?  You know you want to.

So, there it is… five compelling reasons why you should help all of us Star Wars Super Geek parents out and make a PG cut of the film now.  Let us buy our kids some overpriced popcorn and sodas and give them the experience we had long, long ago.

May The Force be with you.

 

 

*We didn’t show our kids the prequels.  Why bother?  Episode III is PG-13 and way too violent for them.  What’s the point in watching I and II without III?  Besides, they learned all the backstory they needed from IV, like their parents.

A Message to Kids from a Father: If Your Parents Hurt You, They are Wrong

I usually keep this blog pretty light.  This week, I’m going taking an unusual turn to talk about a serious subject that has been on my mind a lot lately – child abuse.  Here’s the thing… I am the dad of four-year-old twins.  I love being a dad.  Right there next to picking the right life partner, it’s at the top of my list of best things that have ever happened to me.  I see stories on the news of child abuse and neglect, and it tears at my heart.  I could not imagine ever hurting my children.  To the contrary, I see my role as father as being their protector.  A big part of my job is to create a safe haven for them away from the cruelties of the world.  So, when I see, hear, and read about stories of child abuse on a weekly basis in the media, I can’t help but get angry, upset, and frustrated.  It is a parent’s job to protect their children.  Sometimes, the kids I hear about in these stories are old enough that they could have reported their parents’ abuse or reported it sooner, but didn’t.  The reasons for this are complicated, including the fact that they still love their parents, might be convinced that they did something to deserve how they are being treated, fear retaliation, or fear separation.

I have a message for any young person who might be reading this.  There is something that I want you to have crystal clear in your mind.  It is this:  If your parents are hurting you, they are wrong.  It doesn’t matter what you did.  It doesn’t even matter if you think you are a bad kid.  There is nothing you could do that should result in your parents causing you physical harm.  Do you understand?  It doesn’t matter if they call it discipline.  It doesn’t matter if they tell you that you “made them” do it.  They are wrong.  You don’t deserve to be hurt.  A parent should never slap, hit, kick, punch or otherwise harm a child.  Period.  End of story.

It might be scary to think about taking steps to remove yourself from an abusive parent or parents, but for the sake of your own safety, you need to take them.  Find a safe adult that you can report the abuse to.  Maybe it’s a teacher or school counselor, a neighbor or a friend’s parent.  You need to be brave and take the necessary steps to protect yourself from the abuse.  You don’t deserve to be treated the way you are being treated.  You deserve to be safe.

If you aren’t ready to tell someone you know about the abuse, but you would like to talk to someone, then you can contact the Childhelp hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Their counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Good luck, and remember: No parent should hurt a child.

Mind Trip Part III: What She Does and How She Does It

In March, I brought you the story of Rebecca Berger, who changed the way she thought about weight and radically transformed her body and improved her health.  In the first part of her story we looked at her struggle with weight gain and how she was eventually able to make a physical transformation after mentally reframing how she thought about eating and exercising.  In the second installment, I shared some what motivates Rebecca and her own insights into her inner life.  Today, we wrap up Rebecca’s story by delving into her process and how she stays focused upon it.

Now that Rebecca visualizes her day-to-day approach to eating and exercising as a journey, she sees each day as just one small segment of that journey.  A meal is a footstep along a path.  One workout is another footstep.  Eating the wrong thing is a simple misstep off the path that can be counteracted by taking the correct footstep at the next meal.  The important thing is keeping one’s mind focused down the road.  Know where you want to go and the path becomes clear.

Rebecca’s journey includes keeping a written journal of what she eats and her workouts.  Her day breaks down like this:

4:30am – Herbalife shake for breakfast
7am – Snack:  Greek yogurt
9am – Snack:  A cheese stick or clementine oranges
Noon – Herbalife shake for lunch
3pm – Snack:  Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or ham
6pm – Dinner:  Veggies and a small piece of meat, either chicken or fish
9pm – Bedtime

Number of calories consumed daily:  1350

You might notice that Rebecca’s diet is high in protein.  She says, “We live in a carb-rich environment.”  So, she intentionally eats in such a way so that if she does want to treat herself a slice of cake at an office birthday party, then the carbohydrates don’t tip the balance too dramatically.  Her mindset is always focused on reaching her goal weight, but she emphasizes that she doesn’t let weight be too much of a factor.  She sees this journey as being stretched out in front of her for the rest of her life, so reaching her goal weight next month or six months from now is less important that sticking to her path for the long term.

Her journey also includes exercising five times per week.  She loves cardio drumming and leads sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  Each session burns about 500 to 800 calories.  She does strength training a couple of times a week.  Her favorite form of strength training is kickboxing on a heavy bag.  Sometimes her workout is simply walking for an hour.  Part of the journey is keeping exercise fun.  That means getting some variety and trying new things.  An aspect of exercise Rebecca has grown to love is that it gives her renewed energy and stamina – things that help her keep up with her young children by keeping her youthful.

When it is all said and done, the most important thing about the new mental framework Rebecca has created for herself around eating and exercising is staying positive.  Setbacks are temporary.  The future is bright.  Keep moving forward toward your best self.

Mind Trip Part II: Getting Inside Her Head

They say you are what you eat.  Some who have combatted weight problems and won would be more likely to tell you that you are what you think.

At the beginning of March, I shared Rebecca Berger’s story with you – how she had spent much of her life overweight and struggling to take it off; how she eventually made a mental shift that allowed her to lose weight, restore her health, and remain trim and fit.  This week, we delve deeper into what goes on in Rebecca’s head that helps her be the person she spent so many years longing to be.

First, Rebecca has completely reframed the way she thinks about eating and exercise.  She used to think of healthy eating as dieting.  She used to think of exercise as a chore.  Now, she thinks of the entire eat/exercise package as a journey.  Each time she eats or works out it’s a footstep along that journey.  In Rebecca’s words, “Inches add up to feet.  Feet add up to miles.  Every good thing you do is an inch in the right direction.  Don’t let one bad thing derail you.  So, you made a mistake and ate something you shouldn’t.  So what?  Get over it and move on.”

Part of Rebecca’s mental process is about staying focused, motivated, and positive.  She says that she loves the quotes of Muhammad Ali for this.  She has posters of him in her office.  Some of her favorites are:

  • “The only limitations one has are the ones they place on themselves.”
  • “I’m going to show you how great I am.”
  • “Champions aren’t made in gyms.  Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”
  • “Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
  • “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

To get more into her head I asked Rebecca the following questions…

  1. What is the first thing you think of when you get out of bed in the morning?

First, I give thanks.  When each foot hits the floor I say, “Thank you God… for this day.  Please help me to do your will.”  As I pack my lunch I think of the choices I will make for the day and think about improving over the day before.

  1. How do you picture yourself, mentally?  Like you are now? Slimmer?  Heavier?

I see myself as I am or slimmer – usually at my goal weight.

  1. What do you think when you see yourself in the mirror?

I am much less critical of myself now than I use to be, when I look in the mirror.  I look for improvements in weight loss and muscle definition.  I must admit I think I look older now.

  1. How is your thinking different now than it was two or three years ago?

I think about things in a much more positive way.  I would get down on myself for every poor choice.  Now, I realize that it’s a lifelong journey and if I want something I plan and I account for it.  Plus, all things in moderation.

  1. What is/are your major motivator(s)?

I have sayings and signs everywhere.  But if you’re asking – what is my WHY – it’s my kids and family.  I want to be the parent they deserve.  My mom had knee problems that limited her from many activities as we were growing up, I don’t want my health and fitness to do the same.  Plus, the thought that if I continued to gain weight and not manage my health I would have risked being here for them – and that brings me to tears.

  1. Are you a happier person than you used to be?

ABSOLUTELY YES!  I have a much more positive outlook on life.  I have energy and I have confidence that I did not have before.  I often thought of things in life as a HAVE to, instead now it’s a GET to.  When you lack the energy to make it through the day so many things seem like have to do instead of getting to do.

  1. What frustrates you?  How do you work through it?

I occasionally get frustrated because I have slowed down on the weight loss, but then I think even if I never lost another pound I would still be a happy person.  I also still work with my [Herbalife] coach.

  1. What do you want more than anything else in life?

I really think I have found a passion with for fitness and exercise.  I would love to open my own nutrition club.  But again I think it is my kids and what I said in 5.

Is it possible that what goes on in our heads is what truly shapes the bodies we walk around in?  Rebecca Berger has reframed how she thinks about eating and exercise to transform her physical being.  Maybe, when it’s all said and done, when we are fighting the battle of the bulge, the real battle we are fighting is a mental one.  Maybe, before we change what we eat and how we work out, what we really need to do is change the way we think about all of it.  What do you think?

Tips for Taking Road Trips with Young Children

My wife and I enjoy taking road trips with our twin preschoolers.  They are four-and-a-half now, and these techniques have evolved over the past couple of years to keep them contented and enjoying the ride when we travel by car.  Whether you are taking a day trip or driving vacation, I hope these tips will help guarantee you happy trails.

©Matt Vasko, 2015
©Matt Vasko, 2015

Prep them for the trip.

We start to prep them a couple of days in advance for the fact that they will be in the car for a while.  We get out a map and show them where we will be going and how we will be getting there, pointing out landmarks and towns they should watch for along the way.  Our goal is to get them excited about both the trip and the destination.

Give ‘em leg room.

You might be packed to the gills, but resist the urge to pack items below their feet or in such a way as to restrict their movement.  Little ones swing their legs when they are in the car seat – it’s just what they do.  It helps to keep them from getting restless.  So, be sure to keep the area under and around them clear so they have room to squirm.

Engage them in the experience.

The beginning of the drive is the perfect time to start to engage them in the trip.  Ask them to point out to you when things start to look new and different than the area that they are used to – you might be surprised by how well they know their usual surroundings.  Once you get into new territory for them, point out things you notice that might excite them (“Look, a windmill!”, “Cows!”).  Encourage them to point out the new things they see.

Combat hunger.

On long road trips, hunger is your enemy.  Take a variety of healthy, car-friendly snacks.  Start with low-mess snacks you know your kids love and go from there.  In a cooler, we keep baggies of precut and cleaned carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, broccoli, strawberries, and blueberries.  Our kids still enjoy fruit and veggie pouches, so we are sure to take those because they are super-easy and usually tidy.  A company called Bamboo Lane makes a product called Crunchy Rice Rollers, which leave some crumbs, but are a healthy hit.  We also pack some of their favorite dry cereal and snack cups to serve it in.

Music, music, music!

Be sure to take along their favorite music on a mix CD (if you still use that technology) or whatever medium that will allow you to play it over the car’s sound system.  Some of our favorites are Lori Berkner Band and Veggie Tales tunes.   We take some new-to-them kid friendly music and use the trip as an opportunity to introduce them to it.  Car rides are also a great time to have a good old-fashioned family sing-along.

Plan for napping… but not too much!

We try to plan our stops so that we will be on the road for a several-hour stretch during the time before, during, and after that when they are likely to fall asleep.  This is usually our longest stretch of non-stop driving all day.  Since they are asleep for a chunk of it, it seems short to them.  I recommend letting them sleep for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, but no more.  If they sleep all day then they will be full of energy when you arrive at your destination that night.  They will be wired when you are exhausted and that is a bad combination.

Stick with water.

We just give the kids water in sippy cups in the car.  With water, they drink just enough to quench their thirst, but not so much that it makes them have to go to the bathroom.  Let’s be honest, if you want to make any real time on the road, you don’t want to have to be stopping for someone to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes.  They haven’t learned to limit their fluid intake yet, so if you give them something tasty like milk or juice, they’ll probably drink it all then then need an emergency potty stop.

Make rest stops count!

Each time you stop try to make it someplace where they can run.  It will help them stretch their legs and get their wiggles out.  Exercised kids travel better.  Whenever we stop for a meal we always have the kids use the restroom on our way back out to the car.  We call it a “safety” stop and it is exactly that, because it saves us from having to get right back off the road as soon as we are back on it.

A note about media time:

If your kids have a Leap Pad or handheld game console then take it with you.  Just be sure that you have enough battery life so that they can use it for as long as you want to allow them to do so.  Nothing reduces a child to tears on a road trip faster than dead batteries.  For our part, we save this type of entertainment until the kids are getting near their breaking point, and then bust it out.  We figure that part of raising good travelers is teaching them to love the road as much as we do, and that means engaging them in the trip as much as possible.

Prepare for anything.

Make sure you have something handy to clean up spills and wipe little hands and faces.  No matter how hard you try, there will probably be at least one emergency potty stop.  Know that it’s coming and then it won’t bother you so much when it happens.  Treat the trip like quality family time and you are sure to create some great memories.  Travel safe, have fun and enjoy the ride!

Giving Time

My Wife had grown accustomed to the phone calls.  Those calls I would make between 4:30pm and 4:45pm more and more often.  The ones that started with, “I’m sorry,” followed by my sigh and, “I’m going to have to stay late again.”  Five o’clock was approaching too quickly.  There was too much that needed to be done by the end of the day, which meant that the end of the day was going to stretch on past five until who-knows-when.  Such, I thought, is the life of a salaried employee in corporate America in the 21st century.

As I reached for the phone, it rang.  I glanced at the caller ID.  It was my Wife, hopefully not calling to make sure that I was leaving on time.  With luck, she was calling to tell me about something entertaining or wonderful that one of our three-year-old boy/girl twins had just done.  As a stay-at-home mom, she was always good about letting me know when something exciting had happened at home, like a new word spoken or new feat achieved.  Those were the calls that recharged my batteries on these too-long days.

“Hi Sweetie!” I said as I brought the phone to my ear, mechanically inserting some cheer into my voice to start the call on an up note before delivering the bad news.

She said just four words, but they would soon change my life forever.  “I got the job!”

“Congratulations!” I heard myself cheer, my mind zooming off in a million different directions at once and then rushing back to the here and now.

She paused.  “There’s just one catch.  They want me to start next week.”

My heart sank.  I stammered.  I wasn’t sure what to say.  My Wife had been waiting all summer for this call and it was beginning to seem unlikely that it was ever going to come.  We had planned for her to stay home with the twins until they started elementary school, but then her dream job working for her alma mater had opened up and she felt compelled to try for it.  This was not the kind of position that came along every year.  The last person that held it stayed for a decade.  Knowing this could be her only shot at the job for a very long time she had gone for it, not even sure if she would be seriously considered.  Now it was hers!  But what about the kids?  It wasn’t like her parents or mine lived close enough that they could just pop over and watch them for a couple of weeks until we figured out childcare.

Filling the silence on my end of the line she stated, “This could be my career job.  This could be where I stay for 25 or 30 years.”

“I know, but…” I trailed off.  “Can we talk about this when I get home, tonight?  It’s getting late and I still have a lot to do before I can leave.”

“Of course, Sweetie.”  She said understandingly.

Before hanging up I added, “Hey, I love you… and I’m proud of you.  Well done!

That night, after putting the twins to bed, we sat down to try to figure out how we were going to make this work.  We had kicked around some childcare options during the summer, but landing the job had seemed like such a hypothetical that we wanted to be careful not to get overly excited.

My wife got straight to the point.  “I checked on the childcare offered at the university.  It’s an option, but it’s presently full and there’s a waiting list.  That’s okay though, because I think I’ve figured out the solution.”  Then, she said the words that I will never forget, “We could trade places.  You could stay home with the kids.”

Suddenly, I am 12-years-old again sitting on the back porch with my Dad in rural Ohio.  The sun has just set peacefully across the corn fields that stretch on for miles.  The crickets are chirping.  My Dad is explaining to me, my older brother and younger sister that in the months since his father’s death he has come to realize how much he regrets having worked two jobs during our early childhoods.  He says that his Dad – who had died of a massive heart attack on the assembly room floor of the automotive plant he worked at for 40 years, just one week before retirement – had spent his life talking about the things he was going to do after he retired; the things the two of them would do together.  My Dad announces that he feels like he owes it to himself and to us not to repeat what he has come to see as his father’s mistake.  He is done with telling us about the things that we will all do someday when he doesn’t work so much.  “I’d always felt like I needed to get ahead,” he says.  Then, in a voice heavy with remorse he adds, “No amount of money was worth the time that I won’t get back with you guys.”  He concludes definitively, “I’m quitting my evening and weekend job to spend more time at home.  We can get by.  It’s the time with you guys that matters.”

I snapped back to the moment.  Without another thought or second’s hesitation I stated with determination, “Let’s do it.”

 

It has been a year-and-a-half since that night and I’ve never looked back.  We were able to convince my Wife’s alma mater that she was worth waiting a few weeks for, so I could give proper notice to my company – a company that I cared about or would not have struggled through all those long days and sometimes nights and weekends to give it my best work.

My kids are four now and started preschool last fall.  We made the decision to put them into a cooperative preschool so that I would get to participate in this milestone with them.  Even better, I had them at home with me for a whole year, last year.  I will forever cherish that time – and this time – with my children.  I never thought that I would get to have such a close relationship with them as I have grown to, that I could share so much of myself with them as I get to, or that my heart could be filled with such joy by an opportunity that I didn’t even know I wanted until it presented itself to me.

I am grateful to my Wife for the gift she has given me.  Like I was, she is a salaried employee.  She still has some late evenings, but fortunately for our family she took a lesson from all late nights she saw me put in during our children’s first three years and has drawn very clear boundaries for her job.  She is using some of her vacation days to work at the co-op.  She’s making time for the important things.

My Dad and I have spoken many times about my decision to stay home with the kids.  He is wildly happy for me.  He’s pleased that I value the time I gained with him when he started spending more time at home to the extent that it made me make a big change in my own life.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from this whole experience, it is this:  We only get one shot at being parents and our children only get one childhood.  There are no do-overs, but it’s never too late shift our priorities, change our course and become more like the parent we dream of being.

Mind Trip: How One Woman’s Mental Shift Changed Her Life

“I felt like I wasn’t even showing up for my own life.  I said, ‘This ends today.’

We are all given just one life.  What if you felt like you weren’t living the life you were meant to live?  What would you do if every fiber of your being was screaming at you to be something different than what you were?  Would you change?  Could you change?  Rebecca Berger experienced exactly that, made the change, and her transformation will inspire you.

Throughout her childhood, Rebecca had always been bigger and taller than everyone else in her class.  She was athletic and loved playing basketball and softball, but late in junior high she started having trouble with her knees.  Heredity and the strain of sports combined to put her in such a state that her right knee required surgery.  Suddenly sedentary while recovering, she started putting on weight.  Along with the weight came body image problems.  Through high school, even though she had become active in sports again, she continued to feel overweight.

Rebecca’s weight problems and body image issues followed her into adulthood.  “This will be the year I lose weight,” became her annual New Year’s resolution.  Still, she never seemed to be able to take off the weight.  She would work at it for a while, but she would slip and eat something she shouldn’t here or there and then next thing she knew – feeling defeated – she would be right back at the weight where she started or heavier.

In her mid-twenties, Rebecca was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS, a health condition that can affect fertility.  Now married and wanting children, her doctor advised her to lose weight, as it can sometimes help women with PCOS to conceive.  In addition to being overweight, partly due to the PCOS, her doctor also informed her she was also pre-diabetic.  Determined not only to have a child, but to have a healthy pregnancy, she redoubled her efforts to lose weight.  This time, for the first time, she had real success.  She lost 20lbs before she conceived in 2004.

After giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Rebecca aimed to continue the weight loss journey she had started before becoming pregnant.  She was disappointed to find that she could only make it back to her pre-pregnancy weight before plateauing.

In the spring of 2007, Rebecca had a second child – this time a darling boy.  Her dreams of family fulfilled, she had little time to focus on herself.  Like so many of us, her life was dedicated to working and caring for her family.  She was happy, but something still wasn’t right.  At night, when the house was quiet, her weight and body image issues would put her into a funk.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2008, her neighbor introduced Rebecca to Herbalife, a health and nutrition company.  At that time she was the heaviest she had ever been and thought perhaps this would be the answer she’d been looking for.  It worked – sort of.  She was able to take off 40lbs, but slipped back into old patterns and 20lbs of that came back.

There came a point when Rebecca started to feel like she wasn’t the person she was meant to be.  “I used to sit on the couch and have my kids go and get stuff for me,” she said.  I thought, ‘this is not why I had kids – I did not have kids to make them my gofers.’  I felt like I wasn’t even showing up for my own life.”

She says that December 26, 2013 is the day it all changed.  That was the day when the mental shift happened.  “I got on the scale and it wasn’t good.  I said, ‘This ends today.’”

It was like at that moment a new Rebecca emerged.  It was as if the person that she had always wanted to be took control of the reins.  Between that day and June 1, 2014, Rebecca lost 50lbs.  And she has kept it off.  She says, “I feel like I’m back in my own life again.”

Rebecca Berger, Before and After
Rebecca Berger, Before and After

What changed?  Nothing… and everything.  Familiar with Herbalife and having had success with it before, Rebecca continued to use it to help her along her path.  But the real change was on the inside.  Rebecca transformed the way she thought about herself, about weight, and about exercise.  She says, “What’s different this time is a mindset.  It wasn’t a diet anymore; it was a lifestyle change.  It is a journey this time… I’m still on that journey.”

Later this month we will delve deeper into the mental process that has brought about Rebecca’s physical transformation, but for now we’ll leave you with this thought from her:  “I always say that losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is 80% nutrition, 20% exercise, and 100% mental.”

Where the Heck Have I Been?!

If you have been a devoted follower of my blog since I started it last summer, then you’ve probably been wondering where the heck I’ve been for the past few months. The truth is that I took a couple of weeks off to focus on finishing my children’s book and a couple of weeks quickly turned into three months.

One of the harshest realizations I’ve had since deciding to pursue writing as a profession is that being at home with my kids doesn’t allow me as much time to write as would be optimal. I thought that I would be able to do social media marketing management part time, write part time, and parent the rest of the time. It’s turned out that once I’ve finished my part time social media management work while my kids are at their ½ day preschool – I usually have about an hour before I have to get back to parenting full time again. Significant chunks of time to work on writing projects are few and far in between.

Trying to keep up with the blog and write a book felt like too much. So, I decided I’d sneak away from Super Eclectica for a couple of weeks to finish my first kid’s book. All went according to plan until I finished the book and decided that I didn’t want that to be the first book I would attempt to get published. It’s a Christmas book and it didn’t seem as marketable as another book idea that I had on the way-back burner. So, I decided that since I’d taken time away from the blog I should just launch straight into that project. Which I did… and am still doing… but it’s not done yet… and the blog has been languishing.

Eventually, the pull to come back to consistently posting to my blog became too much… and here I am. I’m back, baby! And I have a new commitment to you, the reader. I will now be posting to Super Eclectica every Wednesday come hell or high water. Why? Because it matters. Because YOU matter.

To help get things started with a bang, tomorrow I will be featuring my first blog post from a guest writer. She’s an English professor at Citrus College in Glendora, California, and she’s written an entertaining piece about how she uses “50 Shades of Gray” to teach grammar, entitled, “50 Shades of Grammar.” I guarantee you’re gonna love it.

Thanks for tuning in and I’ll be seeing you regularly!

Parenting: Answering the Tough Questions

My twins just turned four and they are starting to ask tougher questions.  For example, a couple of days ago my daughter inquired about the little boy pictured on the weekly store circular (next to the words, “Have you seen me?”).  A few weeks ago my son asked why there was a man standing on the freeway off ramp (holding a sign that read, “Homeless, please help”).

When my kids first started asking questions about the world I made up my mind that I would always answer honestly.  It is, I thought, better to help your children learn to navigate the realities of the world head on, rather than to lie or over-simplify.  My wife is on the same page.  However, this new line of questioning has me wondering to what extent I should open my children’s minds to the harsher realities of the world.  Do four-year-olds really need to grapple with the concepts of missing children and homelessness?

So far, I have chosen to stick with the plan and answer their questions plainly.  My answers have been succinct, but to the point.  I explained to my daughter that the boy was missing, his parents are looking for him, and they put his picture on the circular in case we might have seen him.  She was concerned and expressed that we should look for him.  I said, “That’s exactly right, they want us to watch for him when we go places, with the hopes that we might see him and let them know.”  I told my son that some people don’t have a home like we do, that some folk aren’t as fortunate as we are, and that we should be grateful for what we have.  My wife and I have taught the kids about gratitude, so circling back to that seemed to help him understand it.

I know that these questions are just the tip of the iceberg.  The questions about death and where babies come from are inevitable.  I am interested in hearing from you.  How do/did you address the tough questions with your children?  Have you tried to protect your children from the harsher realities of the word?  If so, how have you gone about responding to their tougher questions?  If you answer head on, have you had success in framing answers in a certain way that help them comprehend matters?

I’m certainly willing to admit that I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to having all the answers.