Salad waster

Years ago, I sat for my phoenix tattoo and soon after wrote this blog. I had just gone through a divorce and felt as though I might not survive. This phrase is commonly used in a laughing matter to express frustration or recount something unpleasant like a bad commute in traffic. For me, I literally questioned if I was going to be able to live through that moment in time. 


My tattoo allowed me to work through a mountain of issues in five two-hour settings by purely experiencing physical pain. I couldn’t be more proud or love my phoenix more. Ask any friends of mine and they will agree that I cannot go anywhere without someone commenting on how badass it is or who did my work. 


It’s 2019 and there are still people that think tattoos are fleeting forms of drunk ideas symbolizing an irresponsible decision or a mechanism of passing time while you were locked up. They don't see that it can be a form of therapy; just something to regret. Unfortunately, my father's side of the family fits in this judgemental and outdated category. 


Three years ago, my sister was engaged and I was concerned I had not heard any news regarding the wedding, bachelorette party, or bridal shower. Truth be told, I wasn’t thrilled she was getting married as young as she was. I had spent my adult life making a “thirty or after” wedding rule, but this was her decision and I was willing to support her choices. However, my family had other plans for my role at her wedding: a back row seat near the exit. I was not allowed to be in her wedding party but was invited to buy gifts for her shower. The details regarding this exclusion are small and can sound petty on paper but the feelings around family dynamics are big and serious. 


First, a bit of background. I waited my whole little life to meet my dad. My parents ended their high school relationship scorned and angry. They have their issues that have nothing to do with me personally but would trickle down and permeate my entire childhood (but that’s another blog). When I turned 17, I used to lie about going to a sleepover and drive to Houston (1.5 hours away) to visit this magical man that looked like me and shared my name. Most of these visits were conducted under two hours because of the logistics of the lie.

During college he would come and pick me up for dinner to “feed this poor chick” and I cherished these moments. He was fun, loud, and also had giant thighs. I could tell he had hesitations about me, his oldest daughter, because of my collection of resistance propaganda in the form of piercings. You could see the “this wouldn’t have happened if I had raised her” look in his eyes. But he didn’t raise me, he chose to take a backseat in my life. 


Back to the present. The wedding sent me into a spiral of feelings for almost a year. The words “we love you but we don’t love your tattoos” resonated with me like a hammer to my knees. Today, that shallow, self-righteous attitude still makes me angry but more in the form of sadness for my sister, dad, and stepmom. Judgement cloaked by religion and the inability to empathize must be a heavy burden for them to carry. I am not sure how they sleep, but I am guessing it must be pretty sound when you only have to be accountable to yourself and your own narrow worldview.

I do have a giant tattoo but I have taken the piercings out. I am a responsible business-owning adult. My friends are the shit and I love my job. Overall, I feel I am a pretty badass bitch. Unfortunately, my sister won’t get to know that ever again. Since the wedding, I have had zero communication with her. She attempted to approach me and initiate a topical conversation at a funeral but I just don’t have room for that in my life. I have tried to stay in contact with my father but it's rarely what I want and mostly sends me into a mini-depression for days, so I quit. 


Two weeks ago, I walked into a local restaurant to pick up an order for lunch and there he was. Dad in a booth on a business lunch. Sometimes he texts saying he is coming but rarely follows through to actually meet. This time was just too much of a surprise. I’m not sure what happened in my body but the old swift kick to the back of the knees feeling came on hard once again. I try to keep these harsh but mostly sweet and sad feelings in Houston where they live. Now they were here right in front of me at my favorite lunch spot in Austin. Vomit rose in my throat as I stayed in his line of sight while adjusting my hair. Surely he would see me, surely he would make eye contact, get up rush over and hug me because he was so glad to have run into me. Please get up! I stared at him, giving him every chance to look up. Nothing. I left and lost control of my emotions in the car. I texted friends. I cried. I threw my salad in the trash and went back to work. 



The family you pick.

I find myself at age 38 yearning for that mother love. Friends often say, “friends are the family you pick,” which without those friends I would be in a puddle somewhere so for me that saying rings true. The difference is, however, that it’s different. When you have family living in Houston and they just refuse you, for idiotic reasoning, it doesn’t make logical sense.

I am extremely lucky to be able to coach a high caliber group of women made up of incredible mothers, successful business owners, lawyers, surgeons, writers, and everything in between. I know their kids names, camps they go to, major roadblocks or successes for them, and what their family dynamics are like. I am privileged to these mother’s dreams for their children, and let me tell you…they have dreams. I know everything. I know this because we share with each other class. Women can multi-task like mother fuckers...so there we are between sets, me listening, them talking, me responding. On the surface, I am really involved and offering whatever I can as help or advice. Deep down, however, I am shooting jealous arrows through my eyeballs at these mother’s unconditional love for their kids. How lucky these kids are to have these powerful, strong women at the helm of their lives.

I often ask the ladies, “what would make you never speak or be able to lock eyes with your own child again?” I like to ask this question as an open-ended one. I want to make them think and dig around to come up with a plausible scenario. Not one of them has ever come up with one damn thing.

At first, I found this experiment astonishing. Then I realized that the only actual astonishing factor was that I thought I would receive an answer from them. Maybe I was hoping for one, so my situation didn’t seem so odd or sad.

It has been fifteen years since I have felt a motherly touch and I have missed it dearly. What I have not missed is the mental toll its absence has taken on me. The power of manipulation, the anger, the taking of taking sides, pitting people against each other, and the persuasion of my belief in myself — that I was not good enough to even stand in the room with — are all issues I have dealt, and continue to deal with.  

I have been sad about this facet of my life for so long and it took me 15 years to realize that I have to draw a boundary. I cannot allow this type of person in my life. It is poison and taints my ability to know myself. The effects of this realization feel like a funeral. In a lot of ways that's exactly what it is, it’s grief, because what I want will never be again.

I tease several cousins about a ‘disturbance in the force’ when I know a parent is in town or near. It’s like I have a sixth sense for it. I do really know when someone in my family is near. I am on guard, sad, depressed, angry or more of a homebody because of their proximity.

Mothers that truly love, understand what love is, respect their kids, and at the same time have a healthy mental faculty will never turn against their kids.I encourage anyone reading this to go make your kid feel like the best human in the world. Only a mother could do that.




Here’s Why You’ll Never See Bad Pictures of My Butt

This article was written about my women’s program by a long time client, and great friend. Check it out on Medium.com

Small businesses have a hidden-in-plain-sight advantage over bigger businesses — a direct connection to their customers and to the communities they build.

The women of LIFT riding the devil’s tricycle. Photo by Dave Re.

Jen Shaw has been helping make women’s butts look great on (and off) camera for ten years. She’s the owner of LIFT, a women’s only strength and conditioning program in Austin. Shaw came up with the idea for the program while coaching at a Crossfit gym. Like any good entrepreneur, Shaw listened to her customers — repeatedly. Female clients would say they loved working out together but wanted more focused strength-training coaching (think: more Olympic lifting and fewer wall-ball reps). Shaw wanted to give women the kind of community they craved and the space to train in, so she decided to venture out on her own.

Jen Shaw and I back when she started her women’s only lifting program and today, running the show at LIFT. Photos by James Scheuren/Dave Re.

Over the last decade that Shaw has owned and operated LIFT, I’ve religiously shown up multiple times a week to work out with her. I’ve been through a career change, had a baby, recovered from having that baby, and through it all, I’ve watched Shaw grow her women’s only program exponentially. She’s helped me train through significant life events. But what really impresses me about Jen is how she listens to all of her clients and is able to meet them wherever they are — in training and life — she offers them exactly what they need.

Listening to clients and understanding their needs doesn’t just result in great looking butts — it sets Shaw’s business apart. Seeing LIFT grow over the years has given me insight into how small businesses can differentiate themselves from bigger businesses through fostering real connections with the people they help. Here are three things (aside from countless weights) I’ve picked up from Jen over the years…

Women have babies.

I started working out with Shaw at age 29. Back then, I needed to get in shape and educate myself about nutrition. She helped me accomplish both, and learn how to maintain them consistently into my next life stage: pregnancy and postpartum recovery.

It’s unsurprising that this is a common pattern with Shaw’s clients — women have babies — and when she realized this aspect of her clientele, she wanted to be able to coach us safely and effectively through both pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. She started training as a doula to gain more exposure to what she was preparing her clients for in the gym. Then, she became certified as a BirthFit coach and the gym became an official affiliate under the brand that’s known for safe and effective exercise and weightlifting through pregnancy and postpartum recovery. The athletes at our gym rejected the cultural shaming around weightlifting during pregnancy and Shaw came prepared with a safe and effective methodology. You don’t train for a marathon by sitting on the couch for nine months. She learned how to support us through this very physical (and often emotional) life transition, and none of us will shut up about important it was.

Me, bench pressing at 6+ months pregnant vs. pushing 250# uphill (not pregnant).

“I want to support and nurture women throughout every stage of life.” -Jen Shaw

Small biz tip: Your clients are people, and people go through many different life stages. It’s important to get to know your clients and the lives they’re living, to differentiate your business and help stoke personal growth.

Learn how to take pictures that make your clients look good so they’ll feel good — and share them.

Shaw is intermittently taking short videos and photographs during out workouts, and no one ever looks unfortunate. Yes, that’s intentional. And no, not every gym does that well. She’s not a photographic genius and I know she takes lots of garbage shots. But, she’s become a good editor and she knows what to post and what to trash based on how well she understands her audience.

Small biz tip: Your clients want to feel proud that they’re part of something, and they want to help you tell that story. Scroll through your Instagram feed, and you’ll notice sponsored ads from companies with staged photos of models that perpetuate perfection or idealism instead of real-world grit. Don’t do that. Instead, opt for authentic people in actual situations. They will share said photos with their network, and more real people will come knocking.

Nurture your community and it will grow itself.

When my son was born, the women I work out with brought my family food every night for THREE weeks. They were like ninjas, sneaking up my lawn to stealthily drop a hot meal in the cooler on the doorstep. If I invite you to come to work out at my gym, you may think that I hate you (because the workouts are hard), but the opposite is true. Lifting heavy weights at the crack of dawn with some of the most badass women in Austin is an initiation, an honor, and a great reason to get my butt out of bed.

Jen has gone out of her way to make sure that we see each other in normal person clothes too, not just when we’re dripping sweat in one another’s eyes — so that we can support each other outside of the gym in addition to the support inside the gym. We’ve taken it from there and cross-pollinated our lives: we talk to one another as mentors, we hire each other for jobs, cast one another for commercials, and babysit for each other’s kids.

Small biz tip: The feeling of belonging holds a lot of power: it’s a deep-seated human need. Create an environment that supports authentic connections to build a community of people who will help each other beyond the “walls” of your business. It’s a win-win situation that will also help you grow your business organically.

Small businesses don’t always have to consider themselves at a disadvantage when comparing themselves to bigger competitors — they have a unique opportunity to be right there on the frontlines, and get to know the real people behind the “customer” designation businesses place on them. Being able to interact with people directly means listening and molding their businesses’ offerings to better serve them. Jen Shaw and LIFT are an incredible example of the direction a business can take when its shape and growth are inspired by and built for the people they’re supporting.

Shaw’s programming to build functional strength isn’t just for lifting groceries or fat babies, but it helps with those, too.



New year starts a new Lift Lifestyle

I love a new year, a new start, a trash dump of the year before, and a beginning that I can recreate for myself and others. One of my biggest fears in life is being stagnant. Being someone that harbors huge goals yet does not take the steps to change in order to meet those goals. Someone that has big dreams and never lives them out. That’s my nightmare. A new year provides internal forgiveness so if you didn’t do what you needed to do in the prior year, you have a fresh start. I encourage anyone reading this to take note of the goals that didn’t happen, trips that never occurred, habits promised but never forged, books never read, relationships never fostered, and forgiveness never granted. Do it. A new year brings new meaning into the picture.

Today is day 14 out of 90 in the 2019 Lift Lifestyle health and wellness program. I start this program in the new year for all the reasons above and more. This lifestyle program takes sleep, nutrition, and confidence to a whole new level. Just two weeks in and people are setting PRs in the gym, sleeping better, and most importantly, they are thinking about what they are eating. They are looking at the plate of food in front of them and deciding what energy that plate will give them.

This program is about looking at food as a way to fuel our lives. Food is energy and its time to start thinking about what the hell that actually means. We need food to survive. It’s that simple. We need calories to make it through the day and glucose to work our brain. What complicates this formula is a lack of awareness, a complacency, and the myth of being too busy.

Lack of Awareness

People can tell me ten facts about their fancy smartphones but cannot tell me the difference between a protein and a fat. Seriously, it’s actually that bad. To most of the people reading this, you have food accessible wherever and whenever you want or need. You don’t have to forage or eat some random berries that you found after hiking for miles in a forest. You can go to Whole Foods, H.E.B, Central Market, etc., and have an array of fresh whatever-you-choose. Yet that doesn’t happen. You don’t know why you aren't sleeping but damn you sure need some bread and cheese. This signals a complete lack of awareness of the energy and nutrients you consume.

Complacency

There is literally nothing worse than using a quote … but I’m going to do it.

 

“If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.”

Thomas Jefferson

Change is that simple. Doing the same thing day-in and day-out for years and expecting something to change is insane. Not exercising daily, eating a ton of crap, and not sleeping will inevitably take its toll. You have to wake the fuck up and do something. Something must change and you have to intentionally decide to do it yourself.

The Glorification of Busy

My eyes cannot roll further back into my head when someone asks me how to reach a goal. I give a straightforward answer, and there typically reply is, “I am too busy for that.” Being busy isn’t a thing. I acknowledge that it’s a big step to come to me and ask how to reach a personal goal. There were thoughts that set the conversation in action. Maybe even months of wondering if a goal was even possible. Then taking the initiative to have a vulnerable conversation with someone you trust just to brush the answer off by being too busy? NO. I just can't let that happen. There is time, let’s figure it out!

Step 1: Tell someone what you want. Share with a friend or loved one. Say it aloud. Make it real AF.

Step 2: Make a list of your day, minute by minute. Is each minute serving you? Are you actually physically doing something each minute? (No, the answer is no.) Are you even doing anything between 3:45pm - 4:15pm? What can you do in that time to help you reach your goals? Be real, you can make time in your day. Rearrange things and shift priorities to where they should be.

Step 3: Realize everyone is busy and you are not special. While it does take longer for some folks with work, travel, kids, school, and everything it’s NOT impossible for anyone. It just might be on a different timetable or take a few more steps than you are comfortable with.

Goals in this program are all over the map. Most deal with losing weight, gaining muscle, losing fat, sleeping better, fitting into old clothes, or just to feel better. Sleep and food are the answer. How you get there is up to you. Follow the steps: seek help, organize, and recognize your own personal timetable.

If you are in the same spot, pitted against what seem to be insurmountable goals, I encourage you to join this program. Start now, renew your goals, and stop making excuses.