LemonSpark

If you give this girl a Lemon….
She Is sure to make Lemonade!
And all sorts of other good things….like connections!
It was such an honor to be asked to share my story!
Thank you LemonSpark Stories for having me on the podcast!

You can listen to the whole episode here: https://bit.ly/lemonsparkpodcast

Peace
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Bikini

Today is National Bikini Day! Did you know that? I did not! It popped up on my calendar and got me to thinking……thinking about women and bathing suits.
This past weekend I went to a pool party. I was nervous as I did not know many people and was unsure what bathing suit to wear. I brought a few options, both 2 piece because my only other suit is a one piece that I wear to swim laps.
I put on my bikini and went in the pool….a little nervous. There were about 6 other women there(all over 40)….and all got in the pool. All had on all sorts of bathing suits but what was amazing was that all of the women complemented each other on each other’s swimwear and all seemed comfortable in the water. This was a first for me.
I have never been comfortable in swimwear. I have worn bikinis, tankinis and one pieces but I have never liked the way I look in any of them. I know that this started at a young age. I found an old photo from when I was 17 the summer before senior year. I was covered from head to toe…long sleeve shirt and large beach towel wrapped around my lower half. At first glance one would think it was cold on the beach…nope. The others in the photo (that I cut out!) are all in skimpy 80’s bikinis, short shorts and tank tops. I hated my body and always thought I was fat. I mean I was bigger than most girls but I was not the wafer thin image of beauty of that time.
I gained and lost weight my whole life. I was never confident in my figure and constantly compared myself to others standard of beauty. I looked to others (usually men) for validation that I was pretty.
Fast forward 17 years. I was a 34 year old mom to 3 girls under the age of 6. I was not happy that someone took a photo of me and remember being very upset once I saw it….and saw how large I was. I mean I knew I was big and I was not comfortable wearing a bathing suit at the beach. The photo just made it worse.
At 46, I wrote about my body and the envy of younger women here
Today I went for a bike ride and then chose to read near the lake. I asked a few passing teens to take a photo of me in my bikini. It was uncomfortable to ask but I pushed past those feelings and listened as they coached me on how to pose. I explained to the girls that I am usually the one behind the camera as a mom. One said that her mom “is like you ….ya know….in her 30’s …..and always says the same thing…..” I said well, “I am 55 so…….” They were stunned!
I really just wanted the photos for me and waited until I got home to look at them. Then I got to thinking…..I am at a point in my life that I really have no fucks left to give. Why not be proud to wear a 2 piece? Why not be proud of this body? Do my arms jiggle? Yup! Do my thighs rub together? Yup! Do I have a fupah/pooch/belly? Yup! Who cares? I have carried and fed 4 babies with this body. I have run countless miles and finished 9 marathons. I have peddled enough miles to circle the world more times than I can count. I have enjoyed many good meals and some fast food too (yuck!). It is time I loved this vessel that carries me though the world.
Looking back I would have told that 17 year old to let it go. That not every one is going to like you or your body. Loving yourself is going to get you further in life than the self hate that will lead to many toxic relationships. I would tell that 34 year old momma to stop and take a breath. Those babies love your lap and love to snuggle you. They are watching how you act and listening to how you speak about your body. Teach them to love themselves as they are. 55 year old me is going to love on the woman in the mirror more. She is going to continue to enjoy good food and a good workout, and she is going to wear more bikinis!
Eat the food.
Take a walk.
Run/Ride the miles
Soak up the sun (and wear sunscreen!)
Wear whatever makes you feel like a badass!
Love that person staring back at you from the mirror!
You Are Beautiful!
Peace,
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Legacy

All I have ever wanted in life is to be a mom. I played with baby dolls as a toddler and, as I grew, I moved to Barbies. I played out scenarios in which the main character was always a mom. I babysat, was a camp counselor, taught swim lessons, and took care of kids as my primary source of income for the bulk of my teen years. In my 20’s, I was known as the mom in my group of friends, always taking care of others. I could not wait to have my own children and be a mom for ‘real’!
I was married less than a year before I was pregnant. I celebrated my first wedding anniversary with my infant daughter on my lap at the same restaurant where I was engaged. I was happier than ever because I was finally a mom.
Years passed and I gave birth to 3 more children. I was also gifted with a bonus daughter, making me the mom of 5 children! Heaven right?! Not really. Being a mom is hard work. I gave my kids all parts of me. I was no longer me. I was someone’s mom. I lost myself in being a mom.
Each one of my kids will tell you that as their mom, I have made mistakes and had some colossal failures. I always did what I thought was best but some of those choices were made from poor advice and trauma. I never really trusted myself as a mom….because no one else trusted or supported me as a mom. I was flying blind.
The years following my divorce lead to some disasters as a mom but also led me to trust myself more than ever. It took almost losing my kids for me to learn how to trust myself and my choices as a mother. My decisions are not always popular with my kids and they let me know it! However, my job is to be their parent first. They have plenty of friends.
As my kids and I have gotten older, I think I have gotten a little better at the mom thing. I listen more and talk less. I support more and direct less. I love more and smother less.
From the beginning of my divorce process, my children were assigned a CA (Court Advocate) by the judge (but that is another story for another day!). The first time I met the CA was on the sidewalk in front of my home. I stood there and told her, “No matter what happens to my children or what the court decides, I want my kids to remain together and get counseling. I want them mentally healthy….”
I had prepared myself for the worst….my kids being taken from me. And because of that I made mistakes. I fought to PROVE I was a good mom and in doing so, did not listen to my heart. I lived from a place a fear and listened to others. It took plenty of my own therapy to realize I needed to trust myself …. no matter how unsure I felt or how hard it was.
Being a mom is not easy….no matter how old your kids are. What makes it better? Admitting my faults and making changes. Having boundaries and communicating those boundaries to my kids. Loving my kids for exactly who they are and not who I want them to be.
Fast forward to our most recent family event. I stood for a long time on the fringes, close enough to where I could hear my kids but far enough away so that I was unnoticed. What I witnessed was my dreams come true. All I have ever wanted is for my kids to be friends, to rely on each other. Someday I will no longer be here and I want to be remembered as someone who made mistakes, made apologies, learned from those mistakes, grew as a person, and left a legacy of love. Knowing that my kids not only love each other but they LIKE each other and like being together….that is the greatest legacy. That is a legacy of love.
Peace
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Truth

“Truth –
Fully present. Calm, balanced, at peace. Living my truth. A declaration of self — my soul’s freedom. Embracing who I am and what I stand for. Aware of my faults and loving myself anyway. I am content. This is me. I accept it and that’s what matters.”
– Fellow Flowers Blue Flower

I signed up for a virtual race and chose Team Truth because ….
5 years ago I made a life altering decision.  After being married for over 20 years, I made the choice to leave my abusive marriage and filed for divorce. I made a choice so that my son could live his truth. I made a choice so that my children and I would know freedom.  I have spent every day since,  sharing my story and helping others in similar situations so that they too can experience freedom and live their own truth.So, as my son would say, here’s the “Tea”….I missed the race on Saturday.
I signed up before I knew when graduation would be held and as luck would have it….my baby boy’s high school graduation was on race day. He is the last of my 5 to graduate so….the race was put on hold. Sunday it was hot as blazes and I found a million excuses. My adult kids had spent the night and I was not ready to leave “mom mode” for a run.When I originally registered for the 10K, I was not sure about the distance. See….I have not really run since January.
Why? Well, I wanted to celebrate my birthday, planning to run 5.5 to celebrate 55. I was about a 1/2 mile from my house when my pup and I were chased by an off leash dog. I turned, looked back, missed a curb and face planted …..on my arm which snapped like a frozen twig in the cold winter air. I drove myself to the hospital (much to the shock of the ER staff) only to find out that I had a colles fracture. Closed reduction, surgery, hours of OT and here I am.  What a great way to celebrate turning 55!
Since then, I walk over 10,000 steps per day with my dog but have not really tried to run. 
This morning I went to OT before school. Today was my first and last day teaching from home since March so I had a little time! My therapist asked if I was running yet and I told her I was a little apprehensive. She is a runner too…..”it’s time…” she said.
So, during my lunch hour  I decided to put on my MTM tank, tutu, flower and try for 3 miles. Yes, I was running around my neighborhood in a tutu! Full disclosure, I tucked the medal into my pocket fully planning to take a photo and celebrate just running a 5K. 
Well, I was feeling a little like Forrest Gump,  so I kept going!  
6.2 later…..I was done!
It was not fast.
It was not pretty.
There was walking.
There was crying.
There was cussing.
There were flowers (and my blue flower got lost!)There was another big dog (this time behind a fence)
There was a nervous pup that kept looking back to make sure Momma was ok.
There was a point at which a choice was made….go big or go home.
There was a text to my BRF at mile 5 asking for a kick in the a$$.There was a response “You can do anything for 14 minutes”
There was a friend who drove by at mile 5.5 honking, hollering and playing loud music! (Totally fate!)
There was the perfect song at the perfect time from the playlist when I needed a reminder that I am a fierce badass.
There was an eight year old pup pulling me the last few blocks (because he wanted his ball!)
There was a shade tree to collapse under and take a photo. 
There were a lot of signs that told me that this was the run I was supposed to have today.
I needed this run for so many reasons. 
I stopped caring about my finish time a years ago. 
Time is numbers on a clock. 
I am content.
I accept myself, my life and live my truth.
That’s what matters.
I was Made to Move. 
Forward is MY Pace. 
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Pride

June is Pride month. It is a month to celebrate the LQBTQIA+ community. It is far more than rainbows and parades. While the rainbows and parades are important to increase visibility, the work is year round and ongoing.
Pride is about celebrating celebrating people. Pride is about protecting those trans and queer young people. Pride is about validating intersections. Pride is about honoring those that paved the way like Marsha P. Johnson and those at the Stonewall Riots. Pride is about respecting those that can not or have not come out yet. Pride is about fighting for equal rights. Pride is about doing hard shit. Pride is about love.
My Pride is that of a mom to a gay son. My. Pride is that of an ally. I serve as a safe place for those who don’t have loving and accepting family. I coach parents on how to accept the child in front of them. I coach colleagues in how to ask about and honor pronouns. I serve as a safe space in my school. I am still learning and growing in my journey. I am far from perfect but I follow my heart.
This is why I partner and volunteer with Free Mom Hugs. This organization is a group of affirming parents and allies who love the LGBTQ+ community unconditionally. They are dedicated to educating families, church, and civic leaders encouraging them to not only affirm the LGBTQ+ community but to celebrate them. Each year at pride I walk in the parade just giving hugs and listening to the spoken and unspoken words of so many. I have heard stories….so many stories. Some bring tears of joy and some bring the tears of searing pain. But it is in those moments, there is so much LOVE. Love, acceptance and affirmation…..and did I mention LOVE?
This year I have taken on the task of organizing our group for the Chicago Pride Parade. The Parade has been moved to October this year, and for that I am so grateful as I am hoping for cooler weather!
If you are someone in need of a virtual hug, an in person hug, a listening ear, or just to be seen…. I am here for you. If you need support and do not know where to turn for help. I am here for you. If you are a parent who is learning to navigate a different path and want a friend to walk with you. I am here for you. I am here for you. My head and heart are judgment free zones. I may not have all the answers for you, but I can help find resources that will not only help you but others as well.
For those that are not accepted as they are, I am your mama now. I see you. You matter. I love you!
Peace
#tutulady
#forwardisapace