Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Serious Matter

Thanks to the NFL and pretty much every other business and corporation painting the town pink, we know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. But October is also the awareness month for another issue that largely affects women: domestic abuse.


Domestic abuse is such a major issue, and the fact that it is not widely discussed is more than disconcerting, to say the least. Do we not talk about it because it doesn't affect us? Do we not talk about it because we think it only affects a certain type of person? Do we not talk about it because we think it's uncommon? Do we not talk about it because we view it as excusable or as warranted? Do we not talk about it because we think we are alone? Do we not talk about it because of the connotations? Do we not talk about it because we are scared?

The reasons ultimately don't matter, I suppose. The fact is that we don't talk about domestic abuse.

Well, friends, I am going to talk about it.

Why am I going to talk about it? Because one in three women are abused in her lifetime. I guarantee that you know -- whether you know it or not -- someone who has been affected by domestic abuse. That is a terrifying statistic, and that is why we need to talk about it.


Often when we think of domestic abuse, we think of violence: black eyes, bruises, broken bones. That is one type of domestic abuse, and it is certainly a major issue: domestic abuse is the leading cause of injuries to women, more than mugging, car accidents, and rapes combined.

But domestic abuse is so much more than that. Domestic abuse is "the pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner." Yes, this includes physical abuse, but it also covers emotional, psychological, sexual, and economic abuse. Abusers use tactics and behaviors to intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound their partner.

Victims of domestic abuse come from all walks of life: rich and poor, white and black, educated and uneducated, heterosexual and homosexual, religious and secular, young and old, female and male.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse also come from a variety of backgrounds, which is especially problematic. Ninety percent of abusers have no criminal record, and they are frequently kind and generous to everyone outside of their intimate relationship. Not only do they not look like monsters, but they may (and often do) begin a relationship as an absolute Prince Charming.

That is one of the reasons why women find it so difficult to leave. They are in the relationship, after all, because they love him -- and because they believe that he truly loves her. He is kind and compassionate and loving and does wonderfully amazing things for her. He understands her and consoles her and compliments her and brags about her.

And when he "messes up," he apologizes profusely and says that he will make things better.

And she believes him.

After all, she loves him.

This, my friends, is the cycle of abuse.


Another reason women may find it difficult to leave is because they do not have the resources to do so. Often, if a woman wants to leave, she has difficulty finding housing, as family members may fear for their own safety or landlords may not be willing to lease property to a victim of abuse. Fleeing from domestic abuse is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children.

In addition, women may fear the repercussions of trying to leave. The closer the victim gets to leaving the abuser, the more the abuse intensifies; not only does the level of abuse rise (and the safety of the victim become more compromised), but the frequency of the abuse increases as well.

I want to make it absolutely clear that abusive relationships are not always physically abusive, and I also want to stress that one type of abuse is not necessarily worse than the others. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says, "Emotional and psychological abuse can often be just as extreme as physical violence. Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped by the abuse."

Manipulation and control are never okay. Never.

Feeling unsafe in one's home is never okay. Never. 


So what do we do?

First, if you are in an abusive relationship, know this: what is happening to you is not your fault, and you do not ever deserve to feel worthless or unsafe. Please also know that you are strong and that there are support systems available; the National Domestic Violence Hotline, for instance, is available 24/7 (1-800-799-SAFE).

Second, if you know someone who is an abusive relationship, there are a number of steps you can take as well. First and foremost, be there as a non-judgmental, supportive listener. Second, encourage your friend or family member to seek outside supports and to develop a safety plan. Third, allow your loved one to make her own decisions; after being in a manipulative, controlling relationship, having another person telling her what to do could be detrimental. Above all else, simply let her know how much you love and care for her.

Here are a number of other resources:
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
  • Safe Horizon:
  • WomenSafe:
  • National Resource Center on Domestic Violence:
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence:


Peace, friends.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Workout Plan

First, I want to thank you for the outpouring of support (via the blog, Facebook, text messages, phone calls, etc.) upon my last blog post. It's hard coping with a major lifestyle change when you're away from everything you know, but I am extremely lucky and incredibly thankful for the amazingly supportive friends and family I have from afar as well as the absolutely wonderful girlfriends I have made in Minnesota. A transition like this is never easy, but you all have helped me tremendously, and I am so grateful.

Now, let's get down to business: the business of the working-out variety.

When I left you last year, I had just finished the Summer of Running: I ran the Lincoln Half Marathon in May, eleven miles of the Market to Market Relay six days later, the Dam to Dam Half Marathon a couple of weeks after, and the Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in July. In the midst of all of that, I had a cortisone shot in my knee and cycled approximately 20 bazillion miles.

Cardio was my middle name.

Amber and I prior to Dam to Dam 2014

Me after Dam to Dam

Aly, me, Stacey, and Leslie after the Rock n/ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

After the Rock n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (aka the hottest, most miserable race I have ever completed -- note to self to never sign up for a race at the end of July)

In September, I thought I'd give the knees a little break and focus more on strength-training than cardio. I used a Groupon to join MaxT3, a killer bootcamp at a downtown CrossFit box. These workouts were phenomenal: lots of pull-ups, kettle bells, ball slams, squats, etc. I was certainly wiped at the end of each workout, and I both felt and looked stronger. However, these workouts are just not for me: I get too focused on the goal (going fast to beat everyone else) and end up disregarding form, not upping weights, etc. Also, the gym was super unorganized (and is now something else entirely), so I did not have a hard time letting go of that membership.

When I started coming up to Minnesota in December, I began working out with S. He is a powerlifter and in crazy-good shape. He put together a training program for me, and we started working out together at a lifting gym up here. I absolutely loved spending time together at the gym; S. was basically my personal trainer and gave me such great feedback, helped me with my form, spotted my heavier lifts, and praised my growth. I continued this powerlifting routine in Des Moines and felt amazing. I lost weight, I gained muscle, and not only was I noticing visible change in my body, but I was also feeling so much better, so much stronger.

Unfortunately, the workouts fell by the wayside when I got crazy-busy this summer. I couldn't work out as much as I wanted during tennis season due to late nights and lack of a gym (since I was using the school's weight room in Des Moines). In addition, my nutrition was less-than-stellar as I did not plan enough in advance, was out late for meets, etc. Then I was out of town and/or packing much of the summer, which in turn cut into my routine. When I moved up here, I worked out a few times (enough to get a membership at the lifting gym), but shortly thereafter, things took a turn for the worse relationship-wise, and again, exercise was the first thing to go.

About six weeks ago, I started doing yoga, however. A friend convinced me to go to CorePower Yoga with her, and I ended up getting a free two-week pass. I think I went at least six times in that two-week period. I loved it -- and it was just what I needed, especially because I was an emotional disaster. Yes, there were definite physical benefits to my practice (even in that short amount of time), but there were far more spiritual benefits: yoga grounded me -- centered me -- during this time of absolute turmoil. I felt tremendously better during the classes, but that feeling of tranquility (and those ujjayi breaths) really, really helped me in the many periods of distress that followed.

I moved out of my home nearly three weeks ago. Unfortunately, most exercise has ceased in that time period. My free-trial ran out at the yoga studio, and while I bought a Groupon for another studio, I want to wait until I'm settled in my new place to start that. (As you can imagine, trying to start a new routine while living out of a suitcase is not an easy feat.) I have done a few things, though:

First, I went on a few walks. My mom and I walked three miles around Lake Zorinsky when I was hOmaha, one of my new best friends and I walked around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, and that same friend and I wandered around the Galleria and another cute shopping area in Edina this weekend (and yes, that does count as walking).

I call this one Lake Harriet in Autumn.

Second, I had a night of dancing with three great girlfriends -- who just so happen to also be my colleagues. I am totally counting this as a workout, as I wandered around downtown Minneapolis and danced my booty off in three-inch heels. Two days later, my quads are still burning.

Seriously, how gorgeous are they?!

While the walking and dancing count for something, I am in dire need of a legit routine. So, here's the plan:

  • I want to continue powerlifting (squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press, and accessory work). I have never felt better in my life. Seriously. First, lifting heavy weights makes me feel like an absolute badass. Second, it makes me feel grounded (check out this article by Henry Rollins). And third, it makes me feel (and look) soooooo good.  My plan is to lift three times per week.
  • I want to continue yoga. I bought a Groupon for ten sessions at Heat Yoga Studio, and while it's not CorePower Yoga, I am nevertheless excited to continue my practice. Like with lifting, I feel so grounded (and spiritually connected), and I also know that it does wonders for my physique. My plan is to practice yoga at least one or two times per week.
  • I want to start training for another half marathon. Thirteen point one miles is my absolute favorite distance, and my goal for next year is to PR. I would love to hit 2:30, and I strongly believe that I can do this, especially with continued lifting and yoga. Running during the winter in Minnesota sounds a bit problematic, but I will have treadmills (ughhhhhh) at my new place, so there are no excuses. I will run outside until it gets unbearable (either in regard to temperature or precipitation), and then I'll resort to the treadmill. I want to start off with low mileage -- like, a mile at a time -- and build up speed and endurance. I also need to select a race to schedule. (Any ideas?) That will help me set up an actual training schedule for when the weather gets a bit nicer. My plan is to run at least three miles per week.

While that's a lot more exercise than I am doing currently, I am really, really looking forward to getting back into the groove. I'm going to start this plan next week but also give myself a little leeway since I'll be getting settled; I will legit start the week of November 8th -- no excuses.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

An Update

It's been awhile since I've blogged. Like, it's been over a year since I've blogged.

No-Blogging Excuse #1: When I last blogged -- August 17, 2014 -- I was gearing up for my tenth year of teaching. The start of a school year is always quite stressful, but last year seemed especially so since we were implementing a new grading system -- and basically changing our entire curriculum in the process.

Not from August, but my partner in crime (Lindsey) and I during our staff golf outing
Also not in August, but my other partner in crime (Mags) and I on her wedding day
No-Blogging Excuse #2: In late October, I met a guy. Because he lived nearly four hours away and we spent nearly every weekend together starting in the beginning of December, most of my free time was spent either traveling, hanging out with friends that I would miss while I was away, doing miscellaneous things to keep the household running (especially amidst all of the traveling), grading papers and lesson planning so that I would have weekends free, and having long-distant date nights (i.e. Netflix binges, Words With Friends marathons, and hours-long phone conversations).

Como Park -- loooooove

No-Blogging Excuse #3: Sometime in the spring, we discussed the possibility of making our relationship less long-distant -- like, zero-distant. I started looking for jobs and interviewing up north. After countless applications and several interviews (and job offers!), I landed a stellar opportunity.

Oh yeah: I also traveled to Washington, D.C., to change the world (and/or to drink wine with my Freedom Writer besties, Cathy, Katie, and Denise)

No-Blogging Excuse #4: June was spent winning the state tennis title, traveling to Michigan to see my brand-new nephew (and his older brother and parents), packing boxes upon boxes (mainly of cooking crap, books, and treasures), and hanging out with my most wonderful friends that I would miss ever so dearly.

State Champs!

Snuggly Sawyer

No-Blogging Excuse #5: In mid-July, I bid adieu to Des Moines and said hello to the Twin Cities. I spent the first few days unpacking and then the next several weeks planning for a new job -- a new curriculum, a new grading system, a new everything. I met with colleagues, attended trainings, and made new friends. I also welcomed many old friends and family to my new home and explored a brand-new city.

My BFF (Katie) and I at Minnehaha Falls

No-Blogging Excuse #6: Somewhere in this whole process, something went wrong, and my relationship did not turn out as anticipated. There is so much I want need to write about and process regarding that, but I have not yet decided how to do so. For now, suffice it to say that the last several weeks have been the most overwhelmingly stressful and emotional of my entire life.

Six no-blogging excuses might just be a record for this ol' thing. I assure you, though, that I am recommitting myself to it. I have missed writing so much, and I think this creative (and therapeutic) outlet is much-needed right now. I cannot promise that I will write consistently, especially in the next several days as I gear up for my third move in 15 weeks, but I promise that I will try.

I am super stoked for a recommitment to healthy living and have somewhat of a plan in place; I look forward to sharing that with you all soon.

For now, though, I want to take a minute to thank the incredible people I have in my corner. I have certainly dealt with a lot over the course of the last month-and-a-half, but I have also put my family and friends through the ringer, and they have never wavered in their love and support for me. They have bent over backwards and have gone out of their way to take care of me, and as hard as it is for an independent (and yes, stubborn) woman like me to admit, I needed it so desperately. I have always known the importance of family and friends, but these last several weeks have just reinforced how lucky -- and how grateful I am -- to have so many wonderful people in my life. Thank you.

Erin, Alicia (+ Baby), Katie, me, Emmy Jean, Leslie, Mindy

Sunni (aka my twin) and me

(Also, I am still adhering to the "I only post pictures where I look good" policy for this blog, so while I have many more people for whom I am thankful, these are the only recent photos I can find where I look decent. And no, they are not from the same day, despite me wearing the exact same outfit. Stop judging me, okay? I'm living out of a suitcase. K thanks.)

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