An Open Letter to My Boys

Children…ever the one to find another teaching moment, I cannot let social media, your friends or even your teachers weigh in on something so significant and truly life-changing without adding my 2 (teaching) cents.

Last night, I asked Jon to stop telling me about the results as they came in because a) they were really upsetting and b) surely the “important” States would come in later and I (and you) would wake up and it would all be “ok”. But at 4:45 am when I woke up, all was not ok. A true monster was now the elected leader of the free world. 

I will not repeat the “facts” as you can read them on social media or watch them on the news. However, my advice to you kids is to watch and read with a critical eye, arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible and ask questions and then, ask more questions. So here, in my letter to you, all I can tell you is how the last 24 hours changed my life (and I guess by association, yours). 

Like literally millions of people around the world, I am in shock. You saw the debates, the interviews, the memes, the news over the last few months. Donald Trump is the worst of the worst and somehow, despite all of that, and who is a person who I would not in a million years even invite for dinner, is the going to be the leader of the free world. 

As you know, I have been apolitical my whole life. I am not proud of it but I won’t deny it. I truly think it’s based on two realities. One, I (we) live in a county that is fairly stable politically and I have always felt that my one vote would not have much (if any) effect on the outcome. And I write this being very ashamed. I have been the person who does not vote but who does not complain, and somehow I justified to myself that that was ok. But in the last 24 hours, I am woken up to the stark and haunting reality that that is not ok. Again, I am ashamed of my rationalizing thoughts but I think living in Canada, with the political process the way it is and the political parties the way they are, I allowed myself the “out” to call myself “apolitical”. After last night, I am forever changed. To be honest, I don't think Canadians would EVER let it get to a point where someone like Donald Trump would be in the running for a major political office but I also realize that if I don't exercise my right to vote, I am not only allowing for that possibility, but I am also putting my friends and family at risk of that happening. And you my loves, are too important to ever let that kind of nightmare become a reality. So I pledge to you, to my country, and to myself, that I will forever vote in every election, from municipal to federal, with insight, education and a belief that my one vote can make a difference.

And then there’s the other issue about being a woman and a mom and the devastating reality which we now face. And you might say, “well we’re boys so a woman not becoming President is not that big of a deal” (although I don’t think you would say or even think that). I don't consider myself a feminist. I am a woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife and a girlfriend, but I haven’t traditionally defined myself by my gender. And like my stance on politics, and again I am not proud of this thinking (or probably not thinking), maybe this has been because I have had a pretty good life where my gender has not affected (at least overtly) any significant life outcomes.

No more. As a mother and as a woman, it is my duty to tell you, to teach you, to show you, that women, that people, that every living creature deserves compassion and respect. The silly jokes that we hear on TV or read on social media aren’t so silly anymore. Millions of people voted for a man who values one gender less than the other, who devalues people of colour or certain classes (the list goes on). That is not ok. That will never be ok. If I do anything in this world, it is to lead by example to show you that not only do women deserve your utmost respect but that it is due to every single person you meet. You have the ability and unbelievably huge privilege to change peoples’ lives - don’t ever EVER take that for granted and please please please always act with kindness and respect in your heart. There is a great quote that I often see on social media … to paraphrase … it talks about not being proud of your children for the marks they get in school but of being proud of them for sitting beside the kid who is eating alone in the lunchroom. So while I will cheer you on and brag about your every accomplishment, whether academic or athletic, I will applaud louder and my heart will explode with pride when you treat others… women, people of difference races, people who are disabled, animals, everyone …with respect and kindness and compassion. That is how I will measure my worth as a parent and how you should measure yours as a human. 

I am sorry you have witnessed (and maybe you don't even realize the impact at your young age) the world turning on its head. It is a truly terrible thing. But I can only hope that we, as a family, can learn from this, not take our rights and situations for granted and help be leaders in our community. Be the one who sits with the lonely kid at lunch, help an old lady across the street, make friends with as many people as possible and be that kid who everyone says, before they talk about your brains or athletic abilities, how kind and generous you are.

You guys joke that I pride myself on being a “proud Jewish mother.” I do. But today, I am not only that, I am also a “proud Canadian woman.”

 

 

GIVE ME A BREAK!

I am always blown away by the people who come up to me (or who I have overheard) and say “I almost threw up during that class.” What?! Why?! Don’t get me wrong, I am the biggest advocate of working hard and pushing limits. I wouldn’t (loudly) encourage you to “go hard” or “pedal at your max speed” if I didn't want you to give it your all. But “giving it your all” should never mean you go so hard that you want to throw up. NEVER. How is throwing up (or coming close to) a sign of strength? I personally think it means you didn't listen to your body when it needed a break. Trust me, you can work hard and push your limits without throwing up.

And that leads me to the issue of “taking a break” - on both micro and macro levels. On the micro level, “taking a break” during class, in the past, has made me feel weak or not up to standard. I would compare myself to others and say “wow, they must be so much stronger or better than I am because they’re going all out with no breaks.” But my mindset changed when I recently overheard one of my instructors say to her class: “Taking a break shows a sign of strength - it means you’re working really hard.” Yes! If we truly tune into our bodies, know our limits, and give ourselves permission to take a break when we push too hard, we wont find ourselves running to the bathroom mid ride or feeling faint mid class. And that, in my opinion, is what makes us strong - pushing to the point where your body says “ok, hold on, I can go further, but you just need to hold on a minute.”

On the macro level of “taking breaks,” I am always amazed when people apologize to me for being away - either on vacation or because life just got in the way. Never be sorry for “taking a break.” The point is “you’re back!” So if we haven’t seen you this summer because you were on vacation or if you’re just getting back into the fitness routine this fall, don’t ever be apologetic for being away. You’re here and so are we and we will all make a commitment to listen to our bodies, push ourselves when we can, but also applaud our efforts when we just need to catch our breaths.

 

I'm Not THAT Mom...

The kids and I joke about that saying all the time. In our little world that means: I am not the mom who volunteers for the bake sales (although I am admittedly a very good baker and make a "wicked" chocolate chip cookie); I don't chaperone school trips (although I have asked the kids if I could and they quickly deny me that privilege); and, I am not the parent volunteer for their sports teams (although I do know a thing or two about sports and athletics).

So as we approach Mother’s Day, what does it mean to me when they say “You’re not that mom.” Some moms would take offence to this declaration from their kids. And I admit, maybe at first I was a little taken aback. And kids, write this down as the one time I might ever agree with you both, maybe I am a different type of mom.

When the kids were younger, I marvelled at the moms who would create homemade, daily crafts for their toddlers. I think I ordered that book from Amazon. As they got older, I was mystified by the moms who would exclaim how happy they were on snow days. Really?!? 

So what type of “mom” am I? I am the mom who cheers on Ethan from the sidelines but who also tells him it like it is like when he needs to "step it up". I am the mom who cried on the phone to a complete stranger in the Miami Heat organization and, because I think he felt bad for me (in addition to being a living angel on this earth), I was able to surprise Ethan with court-side tickets for his birthday. I am the mom who, when Noah got sick, kept my emotions in check (except in the privacy of my own room) and navigated the health care system with laser focus and intent. I am the mom, who when Noah was diagnosed with Celiac and was given a salad with croutons at Boston Pizza, and being unsatisfied with their response that “it was a small mistake”, took it up to a national level to make sure that the company understood how serious Celiac is and insisted that more rigorous gluten free training should be offered to their staff and more rigorous food preparation protocols should be followed.

On the other hand, and, in fairness to me, I am the mom who did try and have a “make your own hat” party for Ethan’s second birthday. I am the mom who attempted to dress Noah as a slice of pizza for Halloween one year. But, if anything, I am a realist - I know my strengths and weaknesses - themed birthdays and homemade costumes are just not my strengths. 

I would never advocate or even suggest as moms that we pigeonhole ourselves into different “types” of moms. I write this more as a letter to Ethan and Noah to tell them that while I may not be “bake-sale mom”, I am THAT mom - that mom who loves you beyond comprehension and beyond words. I love you both with a ferocity that conjures up images of the “mother bear.” Like most moms would say and truly believe, I too would go to the ends of the earth for my boys - maybe just not a bake sale :)

Thank you to my beautiful, funny, smart, creative and extraordinary boys for giving me the gift of being your mom on Mothers Day and thank you to my mom for showing me that unconditional love is what defines being a mom, not homemade costumes. And thank you to the wonderful community of "moms" who surround me and inspire me everyday...with your wild, loving diversity and for exemplifying all the kinds of extraordinary moms, we are! Happy Mothers Day!

 

 

I’ve Been Schooled

As a small business owner, you pretty much do everything - whether it’s cleaning the dryer lint to painstaking hours trying to figure out payroll. One of the most significant roles as an entrepreneur (and one that must be handled carefully and with insight) is to conduct social media marketing, and moreover, to do it well.

Other business owners often (and begrudgingly) say that social media takes up a lot of time. I actually like social media marketing. But am I any good at it? I used to think so but my teenagers would beg to differ. I use Facebook as my primary source for social media. My Facebook is linked to my Twitter account, otherwise I would never use Twitter (in fact, I only use Twitter if there is a developing news story and I want instantaneous updates). I think my Facebook reach is good…I think…we have 2100 followers and none of them are “bought” (apparently a phenomenon that businesses use to gain attention - frankly, I don't get it). 

In the last year, I’ve been using Instagram a lot more as I love taking pictures of classes, staff, our new space (and I was told that Instagram is THE way of the social media world). Again, I thought I was doing a pretty good job - but apparently “I’ve been schooled.” According to my kids:

  • *My “ratio” is off;
  • *I shouldn’t like everyone back who “likes” me (which seems really mean to me);
  • *I shouldn't be proud of 20 likes (I thought reaching magic number 11 signified success - apparently for the number of “followers” I have, my “likes” should be more);
  • *I use too many hashtags (isn’t that the reason someone in Australia likes my posts?); and
  • *I post too many pictures (isn’t that what Instagram is for? I guess “kids” these days only post a select few and if those pictures don't get some ungodly amount of “likes” in 10 minutes for example they pull the posts down).

Huh? I hate saying this, and frankly it makes me sound and feel very old and “not with it” but what does this all mean? 

A trusted colleague and advisor told me that businesses look to the younger generation for social media insights and tailor their marketing strategies towards them. Based on my teens’ behaviour, I thought SnapChat was all the rage. But apparently they’re not even using that anymore! 

So where does that leave a neophyte entrepreneur like me? Forget “snail mail” - the only thing that’s good for is bills. In fact, how many times can you count in the last month when something “good” came in the mail? Frankly, I’m starting to feel the same about email. I actually dread seeing 32 emails in my Inbox - usually it’s junk or someone wanting something. Tell me the last time you got a “I’m just thinking about you” email. 

Apparently appealing to the “younger generation” on social media means taking advice from kids who can’t operate a laundry machine and have no idea how to make their own lunches. But if that’s what it takes to run a successful small business, I’ll put up with the rolling eyes when I celebrate my 11th like until I learn differently.

 

 

I Never Knew...

When I created Pending Fitness, I knew right away that it was a great idea. My eyes lit up just talking about it and sharing the concept with others made me grin with pride. I knew that the primary goal of offering fitness classes to those who don't have easy access to health and fitness programs was significant and worthwhile. I knew that offering these fitness classes would bring contentment and satisfaction to me personally, and hopefully, happiness and a sense of accomplishment to those who received them.

But here’s what I didn't know. I didn't know that those who received the fitness classes would want to pay it forward to other groups. I didn't know how powerful it would be for a teenager or a woman surviving ovarian cancer to try something new, and have fun with it. And I surely didn't know that I would feel overwhelmed with emotion with each class I have taught. 

I have conducted several Pending Fitness classes since launching the initiative in December. All have been wonderful, including the ones offered to the groups/businesses that have “donated” the classes to others. I want to share just two of the classes that stick out in my mind as having a real emotional and powerful impact on me.

The first class was donated by MEC and the North End Runners. This group, by vote on the night of their spin class, chose Hope Blooms as the recipient of their Pending Fitness class. The vote, in and of itself, was highly emotional. But when those 7 kids came into the gym a few months ago, bounded into the Annex with excitement and wonder, well, my heart runneth over. The plan was to offer a Barre class - and we did for a bit - but they saw the TRX straps and wanted to try them, and so, why not?! To watch the kids’ faces light up when trying TRX (something that clearly they had never done before) was magical! But the best and most moving part of the afternoon was when the program coordinator came up to me at the end of the class and told me that he thought the program was so wonderful that he was going to get his group to donate a class to another group. Wow - “pending fitness” in its truest and most honest form.

The other night I hosted a Pending Fitness class for the ovarian cancer community. This class was donated by Southwest Properties who have been so generous and receptive to the Pending Fitness initiative. I knew that going into this class, I was going to feel emotional. What I didn't expect was for one of the women to come up to me before class and say “I just came from chemo.” Can you imagine how strong this woman must be to have gone through such a gruelling and taxing ordeal and come to do a Barre class? That same woman and I spoke after and she told me that being “on point” actually made her feel good (lessening the sensation that is brought on by neuropathy). My heart started beating really fast and I needed to take a break so I left the room for a few moments. I don’t know this woman but I could tell that she was not the type of person who would want people to “feel bad for her.” She talked about how fitness has helped her through her treatments, and somehow, when others are just too tired or too sick to move, she found resolve and strength to keep active. She readily agreed that that solution was not right for everyone, but can you imagine how inspired I felt? 

I knew that I would feel gratified by launching and offering Pending Fitness classes. I knew that people would respond positively to both giving and receiving the classes. But I never truly knew the profound impact that these classes would have on me and my perspective on the notions of “strength” and “compassion” and “inspiration”.