How to Get Into Your Skinny Jeans in the New Year, One Way or Another

The new year is a time to turn our thoughts to fitness and renewal. There’s fresh hope that this will be the year we look our best. Sadly, the older we get, the fewer calories it takes to run our bodies — making this goal all the less likely.

The #1 Way to Prevent Arthritis? Get in Motion Jingle Jog 2010

But don’t get down. There’s a New Year choice: Give it up now and save on the gym membership. Or dig deep and challenge yourself to try something new.

I’ve heard that as a woman over 40, I need to cut my calories in half to maintain my weight. And that’s just to maintain. My friend Dawn took this to heart and asked her OB/GYN if it was true.

“No” her OB/GYN said. Dawn breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s 2/3 less calories. You have to eat 2/3 less to maintain.”

Dawn has lived in Paris and knows a thing or two about fine wine, delectable cheese and tasty bread. “2/3 less” isn’t on her menu. She decided to fight back and hired a personal trainer to help her prepare for a half marathon this spring. An admirable thing for anyone, but especially for Dawn as she’d never run before in her life. Not once.

For me, it’s been a Godsend. I’ve been lumbering along trying to become a gym person, someone who gets out at lunch, sweats it out, showers and goes about my day. But my workout partner moved back east. So, half of the time I’d end up at the gym, the other half at the Chic-fil-a right nearby. The Chic-fil-a was just so much easier. I didn’t even have to get out of my car.

So when Dawn asked if I’d run a 5K with her, I jumped at the chance. It was fall and the holiday pounds were on the horizon (make that on the lips, soon to be the hips). At our first 5K, I thought my lungs would explode. Seems lifting the Chic-fil-a isn’t such a good workout after all. But I finished. Mostly because I was too embarrassed not to.

The next month we signed up for a second race. This time I actually got out and ran a bit beforehand. (Not looking foolish can be a strong motivator.) We weren’t the fastest but not the slowest either. While we ran it occurred to me that she’s been looking good from all this training so I asked.

“Are you in your skinny jeans?”

She nodded. I was filled with happiness for my friend, but a touch of jealousy too. [Read more…]

How to Give the Gift of Courage

Courage originally meant, “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” ~ Brené Brown

I’ve watched this video at least 15 times. I posted it on Facebook. I shared it on Twitter. I emailed it to my friends and family And I swear, my personal tagline: thinker living by heart — was created at least a week BEFORE listening to Brené Brown.

But don’t you love the magical way that The Universe (and the internet) brings like minds and souls together?

I was inspired, of course, to buy her book, The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m locking myself in “the cave” to devour it. Already, this line on page xi has grabbed me: “It was clear from the data that we cannot give our children what we don’t have.” Sound familiar?

So apparently the personal quest that I’ve been on for these last few years has not been a solo mission. Not only has Brené been on a similar journey but so was everyone who replied to my email with “Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to see that today.” … or variations of it.

Brene packs in 20:45 min with lots to chew on. I’m certain that each of us got something — exactly what we needed out of it, whether “Connection is why we’re here.” or “You can’t selectively numb.”

For me as a mom, this was yet another reminder of how important it is for us to be courageous. And to be courageous, we have to LOOK INSIDE.

Yes, it’s so much easier to stay on the surface. Certainly, it’s less messy and uncomfortable but the price we pay is steep. We are electing to lop off huge chunks of our hearts in order to keep our hands clean. When we opt out of disappointment and heartache, we also pass on joy and bliss.

You who have, through small miracles lived through both ends of the spectrum, know the real cost.

It’s Christmas is in two days. Can you give the gift of courage to your children?

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.

If you are interested in joining me for an online class focusing on the themes of Brené’s work, find out more about the Winter Session of Dream Lab. Class starts JANUARY 10.

How to Listen to a Birth Story

Women have been talking about their births for thousands of years. And yet somehow, as the tide of childbirth has shifted dramatically in the past 70 years, we’ve forgotten the importance of being on the listening end of a birth story.  The next time you hear a mother start to discuss the details of her birth, consider taking these recommendations to heart:

Take Responsibility For Your OWN Emotions! I cannot stress enough how important this is. Women should be free to share their birth stories without fear of “offending” another mom. For example, if a woman is sharing how she labored without any pain medication, please do not jump to the conclusion that she’s calling you a wimp for choosing an epidural! Whatever your birth experiences were, they are yours and yours alone. Maybe you’re still carrying disappointment or sadness about your births, for any number of reasons, and those emotions often resurface when hearing another woman’s story. But instead of projecting your emotions onto another mother (which we sometimes unknowingly do), own whatever emotions you’re experiencing and resolve to set aside time to work through those feelings. By doing so, you will be better able to objectively love and support other mothers.

Do Not “One-Up” Her Story With Yours! Do we really think it’s helpful  to say, “Oh 20 hours of labor, that’s nothing!! Listen to my whopper-of-a-birth-story…” Certainly it is in our nature as mothers to talk about our births.  Even elderly women will gladly share all the details of their births when asked. We want our stories to be heard and they should be heard! But choose with caution the opportunities to share your story. Instead, if you’re listening to another woman’s story, listen intently and remind yourself that this is her time.

Respond with Empathy. Many women are burdened with painful emotions they are carrying from their birth experiences. Often we feel uncomfortable when a person is sharing about their grief or sadness. In our discomfort, we end up saying things such as, “Well at least your baby is healthy” or “the best thing is just to move on.” But to a hurting woman, these well-intended words are like pouring salt into her wounds.  Instead, validate her emotions. Phrases like, “That must’ve been so scary for you” or “it’s understandable why you are disappointed” are reassuring and can aid in her healing. And if you really do not know what to say, you can always respond with, “I’m so sorry you experienced this.” Remember: you might be the very first person to respond to her pain with empathy and kindness.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.”

~Brenda Ueland

by Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker

How to Let Go: The Back Story

Is this a “How to Let Go” or a “How to Move On”? Or maybe it’s a “How to Be Successful”. Because, essentially, it is really a little of each and I was quite torn on which title would best suite this post. But for all intents and purposes, when listed in the preceding order these how-to’s are placed exactly in the order by which you would get yourself from the first point to the last point. So, maybe this should be a mini-series? I might just let you all decide.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it somewhere before, I’m not one to let go. To me, letting go has always meant giving up. Except, maybe it’s really not.

I’ve always had a penchant for sticking things out. You know that one song with the lyrics that go, “hold on loosely, but don’t let go”? Try “hold on tightly and don’t let go.” That second one is me. Don’t get me wrong, perseverance is a mighty good thing but only to a point.

When I was in high school and I had to move to a different town I was determined to remain faithful to my boyfriend- even though my dad didn’t want me to have anything to do with him. No telephone contact. Not even letters. Only, the letters rule was a surprise. I found out when I accidentally stumbled on a few and a picture the boyfriend had sent me that didn’t make it to the trash can. I found a way to make contact. I didn’t date anyone else. I didn’t even go out because I didn’t want other guys to get the wrong idea. For  TWO YEARS!!!

Do you know how long that is in high school time? It’s kinda like dog years. In the end, there was an end. I met someone else and he wasn’t right for me either, but by that time I was much more willing to move on.

Flash forward a few years to my marriage. Crumbling after only TWO years. Hold on tightly, I thought. Don’t let go. But the tight holding only made things worse. It made the fighting worse. It made me miserable. I lost 20 pounds in just a few weeks time. And then I did it. I told my husband, “If you need to go, that’s okay. But I love you.” I left him alone. I let him think. I let myself think. Was this even what I wanted? [Read more…]

How to Cut Out Holiday Stress

I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve talked to lately that have been bracing themselves for the holiday season. I know, there are a million extra things on your to-do list but… nothing good can come from holding yourself so tightly like that! I’m a one trick pony on advice here… BREATHE!

But Lee Woodruff is the author of Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress. She has some tips for us on beating the stress for the holidays… not just for Thanksgiving, but for all those typically stressful times!

1. Get organized.

2. Ask for help.

3. Reward yourself.

How To Rehab Your Relationship

Going to good couples counseling is something like repairing an injury.  We’ve hurt each other with our words over time and have learned ways to limp along in our relationship, not quite as strong as it once was.  So going to marriage therapy for me is like digging in a wound, trying to line it up straight and strengthening what has been there all along.  This is work, people.  I’m not sitting on the sidelines anymore crying about my emotional boo-boos.  I’m in rehab.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m in it to win it.  So I’m doing the work even though I have moments of pain and discomfort.

A part of our regular practice these days is to talk more (so obvious, right?).  I don’t just mean talking about the family schedule or finances, but the things that have injured our relationship.  The hard stuff.  And because we can’t spend $200 an hour on all of our little stuff, it’s gotta start with us.  So our wonderful therapists, gave us this common Couples Dialogue to structure our conversations (or at least get us started).

I know, the name even sounds mamby-pamby, but if a couple can agree to the process then I tell you, this helps to reset the injury so that you can be strong again. [Read more…]

How to Break Free from…

FOOD, in my case.

I have observed that people are obsessed with food. Note: observation v. judgement. I am certainly among such “people.” So it was with some aspects of scientific interest that I embarked on the “experiment” of The Master Cleanse. Danielle Smith graciously recorded pre- and post- real time observations of my 5-day detox/cleanse/fast.


What did I learn? [Read more…]

First 4 Weeks of Motherhood

Hello from Mommyland! Riggs is four weeks old today. I don’t even know where to start. The delivery went amazingly well. I was in labor for eight hours and pushed for one. The hardest part was pushing with no feeling from the waist down. I had to play some pretty tricky mind games with myself to figure out how to do that..but I managed.

I visualized delivering a baby but I wouldn’t let myself think about it actually being my son. If I did, I would start crying and get all emotional. I had my Holding Hands bracelet on and I was able to focus on each woman who gave me a bead.. I could see their smiling faces and remember what they told me each bead represented. That too made me get emotional. So during the actual pushing…and I am not making this up.. I made them turn on channel 4 and turn the tv up really loud during the 5 o’clock news. I remember during one contraction screaming, “Oh my Gosh, Vickie got bangs.” I had to distract myself so I would stay focused. My husband at one point said, “This is it! Riggs is almost here…just a few more…” and I interrupted him with, “Don’t say HIS NAME! I have to focus…I don’t want to break down”  another memorable moment was when I made my doctor stop what he was doing and smile at me. You have to understand. Dr. Chadwick is a very happy man and always smiles. I had never seen him look serious and it was breaking my concentration. He gave me a fake half, smile and I made him do it again. I think I was getting on his nerves and the baby looked a little annoyed, too 🙂

But he made sure Baby Riggs (told you his name wasn’t really Skittles) was perfect…. Here he is just a few minutes after he was born.

After all those blogs about my worries and fears, I am happy to say that not one of them has come true. I mean yes, I am up feeding in the middle of the night and yes, sometimes it takes me an hour or more to get him back to sleep, and yes, my days are consumed with him and yes I am lucky to get a shower…yes, my husband and I don’t have alone time like we did… BUT I love all of it!

God blessed me with a very easy going baby… he caught on to breastfeeding right away and latched on perfectly. My husband gets up with me during EVERY feeding… he changes his diaper while I get ready to feed him… and we take turns putting him back to sleep. That little boy loves his daddy.

I catch my husband just smiling at me while I am talking to the baby. And I swear he has told me how much he loves me in the last four weeks more than the entire pregnancy. Not that he didn’t before but he is much more affectionate and tells me daily what a great mommy I am.

I am not bragging I am just telling you that husbands really do love you even more once they see you with their child. Oh! and he just up out of no where arranged for my sister and brother-in-law to watch Riggs while we have our first date night tonight.  That is definetely out of character and I didn’t even have to say anything to him.

My mother being here for the fist week and a half was a huge help.

Just watching her and how she reacted to his cries like during his first bath… taught me how to respond and not over react.

Also, all of the advice from Zen and Practical Mommy has really helped. I felt so much more at ease and prepared once he was finally here. My friendships with those two wonderful women have changed me. They encouraged me to trust God and my instincts to guide me. They also made me realize how much your child can guide you.  I also appreciate my son more… because I am not spending my time worrying.

I would have to say that the worst part was recovering from the delivery. I was in pain… and things just weren’t the same. But four weeks out and I am feeling close to normal. I am walking two miles every other day or so…I wear a lot of yoga pants… anything with elastic. But throwing on a hat and sweats every day is a vacation in itself!

My biggest concern is how I will fit the feedings and pumping into my crazy work schedule and how I will get Riggs adjusted to it. But I have seven weeks of maternity leave left and I am not spending them stressing about work.

I am so in love with this little boy and his father! Life is good! Thank you for all of your words of encouragement!

Virginia Kerr is a morning news anchor on News 4. You can watch her Monday – Friday from 5AM to 7AM.

Holiday Gift Idea: Holding Hands

My sister, Carmen leaves soon (sniff!) and we’ve been thinking of what I can send for birthdays and Christmas. She agreed that the Holding Hands Bracelet is perfect for our grandmother.

Sterling Silver Holding Hands bangle

“Lola” turned 90 this year and has 13 grandchildren from her four kids! We decided on one bead each for the four of us sisters.

My mom and I share a birthday so I’m giving her one too. And our other sister, CC just had her first child and is just discovering the sisterhood of mommy-hood!

Thank goodness for Skype and Facebook, because even though she’s halfway around the world, we get to Hold Hands!

Eventually, the women in our family will each have one — a shared experience and yet, each will be unique too. Isn’t that so true of motherhood?

Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart.

~ Unknown ~

Every day, my bracelet reminds me of the women who give me strength.

My grandmother and two of her daughters. My mom (on the right) is pregnant with me in this picture!

Four sisters!

Four generations!

Lola's Holding Hands Bead, plus four!

Who are the women who hold your hands and heart?

How To Make Time for Your Dreams

I had the HAPPIEST night ever on Tuesday night. We had a GNO. Like in real life! Not to knock our online GNO’s but sometimes, a girl’s just gotta be able to share the real deal: real food, real wine, and real hugs. We had, what Danielle dubbed “The Fashion Haul of All Fashion Hauls” at dotdotdash.

But in the midst of all the shopping fun, which is well documented in pics and video footage, was a very heartfelt message for us moms.

Depending on your stage of life (or even your stage of motherhood), you may find yourself having to shelve the dreams you once had for yourself. But for Alyson, owner of dotdotdash, the dream didn’t go away. With three kids, ranging in age from 11 to two, a wonderful husband, and everything she could ever want, Alyson has the perfect life. Yet she wondered, “Why don’t I feel perfect inside?”

Alyson shares the internal dialogue that inspired her to start this sweet little storefront boutique tucked in a great St. Louis neighborhood. After waking up from the new mom fog she asked herself, “Do you still really want it? Then you need to take it.” So there.

The business that a few years ago meant boxes and boxes of shirts on her dining room table has grown steadily into what you see here… a line of soft, comfortable casual wear for busy moms who need easy-going clothes. Just to drive home the message that you don’t have to spend a fortune to feel great, Alyson gave us each $100 credit to put together a mix and match outfit. Of course, with Alyson as our personal shopper, who could go wrong?

Your dream might not be your own little shop of fill-in-the-blank-here. It might be, like Heidi Howe’s, recording an album. Or, writing a book. Whatever your dream is, give it some space and time in your life. I’ll say it yet again: how can we teach our children to pursue their dreams if we do not give ourselves permission to do the same?! If you didn’t catch what Alyson said… “You hope that they [your children] find their passion within.”

Full disclosure: Alyson Garland is a dear friend. Our kids are dear friends. And, she’s my personal dresser! *wink* And may be Zen Mommy’s from now on as well! If you watch our videos regularly, almost everything I wear is from her shop in Demun.

Stop by Dotdotdash and tell them MyMommyManual sent you over. You’ll get 15% off your purchase! Thank you, Alyson for sharing the love.

And take a look-see what Kelli and Melody and Suzanne and Danyelle took home at The Fashion Haul of All Fashion Hauls. Actually, Danielle is posting a full write-up with prices and such!

Love you, fabulous St. Louis Mamas! (more pics below)

Sign up! *wink* We’ll keep reminding you to take care of YOU and your dreams! [Read more…]