Sunday, July 28, 2013

Love Hurts (According to the Everly Brothers)

***Updated update: Since the initial winner never contacted me, the new winner is Sherri Skogland Goedker. Woo-hoo for Sherri!
***Update: The winner of the 3-month subscription to Fit to Be Us is Christina Core! Christina, please e-mail me at with the subject "BLOG WINNER" to claim your code by Wednesday, July 31. For the rest of the entrants, remember to enter the code CRYSTALKUPPER at checkout to receive $10 off a 3-month subscription!

So I've decided that breaking up the family-of-six that you see below flat-out stinks.

Yes, it's that time again. Celia leaves for Spain tomorrow. Though she looks quite content to pretend to be an American, she isn't. (Not until she marries an American boy, anyways, which she may or may not have plans for.). She's Spanish, and she's not technically ours.


You would think that I, of all people, would know from the beginning that you don't have to carry, birth and raise a child to feel like she belongs in your family, nor do you have to watch someone grow from infant to young adult to form a lifelong bond; my adopted sisters taught me that years ago. You don't even have to technically meet someone before they have your heart forever; I learned that from my Compassion International and Reece's Rainbow kids.

But I had forgotten how much it hurts to watch them go.

Last year, several months after Celia left, I was driving home on Market Street when I saw a teenage girl walking. She didn't look a thing like Celia, but she was wearing the same grey-and-hot-pink shirt from Seaside that Celia purchased on a trip there. And just like that, I had a lump in my throat and was grateful I was wearing sunglasses.

I suppose I'll have to prepare for more moments like those in the upcoming months.

I was thinking to myself yesterday how loving someone can bring so much joy and happiness, especially when that someone is like Celia: responsible, mature, funny, giving, smart, easy-going and selfless. This exchange-student-turned-daughter/sister is popular wherever she goes, simply because she's easy to love. Doing her laundry, driving her to 6 a.m. tennis practices across town, keeping track of her teenaged whereabouts, etc. certainly was work. But I gladly did it...because she's easy to love and loves me and my family back.

But then it hit me: do I offer that same sort of enthusiasm to others who perhaps aren't so easy? Do I gladly offer whatever I have (time, affection, words of encouragement or correction, gifts, abilities, etc.) to those who test my patience, hurt my feelings, wound my pride and disrupt my plans?

To be honest, I don't think that's an area where I excel. And as a follower of Jesus, that saddens me.

In the Bible, Jesus frequently talks about loving your enemies
. It both was and is a completely radical idea. After all, why should we be kind to those who don't return that kindness? Why should we help those who stomp our advice, money or resources into the dust? Why should we attempt to find common ground with our opposites? Why should we open up our hearts to pain?

Because He did. And because through the pain, our hearts expand, giving us a greater capacity for joy. I'm talking about true, lasting joy -- not just momentary happiness that changes with the circumstances.

If we never loved Celia, we wouldn't know the hurt that comes from not having her here. But we would also never know the fullness that comes from parenting a teenager who's only 11 years younger than us.

If we never left Salem -- the city of my heart
-- I would never cry over what I'm missing. But I would also miss out on the upcoming adventure that is 4 years in Europe.

If we never open our hearts, wallets, schedules and homes to those who have none, we can avoid the heartache that comes from growth. But we would also remain stunted -- mere saplings who never reach their mighty-oak potential.

Even when it's easy (like with Celia), love hurts. If you listen to the Everly Brothers, it similarly scars, wounds and mars.

And what about when it's hard? What happens when loving others leaves your soul gasping for air?

Listen to what a 1950s, born-of-privilege nun working in the rough East End of London had to say:

"What had impelled Sister Monica Joan to abandon a privileged life for one of hardship, working in the slums of London's Docklands? 'Was it love of people?' I asked her.

'Of course not,' she snapped sharply. 'How can you love ignorant, brutish people whom you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and through His grace come to love His people.'" -- The Midwife
by Jennifer Worth.

Maybe you and I don't work with lice and rats, but we all know people who hurt us and our families, try our patience and make unwise choices. Thankfully, we don't have to love selfishness or mistakes, nor excuse bad behavior.

But hopefully, like Sister Monica Joan, I will learn to look past the choices to see the person behind them. For I, too, have been and am wretchedly unlovable...yet receive the ultimate love from my Savior anyways.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How I Healed {Part II & a Giveaway}

For Part I, go here.

I've long loved being active. If you are a Riddle, it was and is kind of a requirement. So, often alongside my large family, I did gymnastics, ice-skating, t-ball/coach pitch/softball, tennis, volleyball, bowling, running, basketball, dancing, cheerleading and other various physical activities over the years. We're a movement-loving family.

Though I was never even close to a star athlete, I was always in great shape. I loved the feeling of telling my body to do something and its quick response. I was fit, strong and happy with my body (mostly).

Then, pregnancy and birth happened. Sound familiar?

Though my story of traumatic birth and recovery is different than most, I know I'm not alone in the struggle to control something that used to come as easily as breathing.

The bladder control (or lack of!).

The "mom pooch" occupying the space where your flat stomach used to be.

The weak core and accompanying back.

The "accidents" that happened every time I sneezed, laughed, jumped or sprinted

When I told my OB on base about my newly-betraying body, she just laughed. "Welcome to motherhood!" she said. "It will get better." But it didn't. Meanwhile, every women's magazine cover, workout DVD, Biggest Loser episode and internet article

Well, guess what, Hollywood celebrity mamas with personal trainers and personal chefs and nannies, I was soon running 25+ miles a week and back down to my trim 125 pounds but I still didn't look like you. It was all rather disheartening for someone like me who was used to her body obeying her (except for my constant demands -- or pleas -- for my thighs to pleeeeease shrink). I purchased a passel of black shorts and gave up the idea of ever running a few miles without returning home looking like I'd hit a lower-body rainstorm.

Until I discovered the miracle that is physical therapy and Fit to Be Studio.

PT was a lot of pool work and at-home exercise assignments. Fit to Be, because of its online presence, was entirely stay-at-home, which turned out to be perfect for me.

This is Fit to Be's philosophy in a nutshell: fitness doesn't have to be impossible. It doesn't have to hurt, or be embarrassing. It doesn't have to involve staring at barely-dressed non-mamas trying to outdo each other with their crazy moves in spacious, toy-free workout studios with gigantic mirrors. In fact, the mainstream fitness industry as a whole has lied to women by telling them that crunches are the answer, and if our tummies pooch out then it's our fault for not working out hard enough.

See, here's the thing: a lot of mothers have damaged their rectus abdominus muscles and now have what's called diastasis. I'll let Bethany Learn, the founder of Fit to Be, explain the rest.

The good news: diastasis can be healed! And it doesn't even involve surgery.

What it does involve: dozens and dozens of workout videos ranging from a few minutes to around half an hour, all with the intention of helping your knit your transverse back together -- no crunches needed!

So here's my top 4 reasons for loving (and using) Fit to Be:
  • It works. This is my favorite reason. I know several women from my MOPS group who had HUGE splits in their abs (one had even been told she would need surgery to be sewn back together). After a few months of using Fit to Be, voila! I have thinner, no-surgery friends whose cores are stronger than they have ever been.

    One friend, a mother of 9 (including twins!), said she felt noticeably stronger after using the program for just a few weeks. Another joined with her mother and both lost inches off her hips.

    And as for me? I can run a 10k while 9 months pregnant with my 3rd baby without leaking a drop and fit back into my jeans 6 days postnatal. I'd say that's pretty good results! (Although I'm sure my healthy lifestyle and diet play a large part in that, too.).
  • It's real. Bethany is no Jillian Michaels, and I think that's a good thing. The workouts are filmed in her home. There's real furniture and life happening in the background. During her outdoor workouts, you can hear crickets and frogs. She knows you don't have all day to devote to exercise, and she treats you accordingly. Her knuckles and toes crack. She has a real body and a real story. And it makes me feel so much better about my own!
  • It's family-friendly. There's not a lot of flesh-flashing and no swearing going on here, so I don't have to shield the boys' eyes or ears. Speaking of the little angels, 
    Fit2B also has an impressive selection of workout with your kids videos! I love exercising with my boys, not just around them. It sets a great example of lifelong fitness, and we all have a blast doing it! Even Avinly can get it on the act; there are several mommy-baby workouts as well.
  •  It varies. You'd think as a runner I would like doing the same things over and over, but I don't (well, except run). And that's another thing I dig about Fit to Be. You can do it while pregnant. You can do it if you only have 10 minutes or even if you're stuck in an office chair. You can choose by time, style or level of intensity. There seriously is something for everyone.

It's not a magic diet pill; you have to put in the work. And given my level of cardio fitness, I do wish there were some more higher-intensity workouts offered. (What can I say, I just love to sweat).

Here's the kicker: thanks to Bethany's generosity, one of my readers will win a 3-month subscription to
Fit2B™ -- a $30 value! To enter, simply leave a comment ON THIS BLOG saying why you would like to win. (Watch a future blog for the winner's announcement.)

And don't forget, even if you don't win the grand prize, you can still save $10 by entering the code CRYSTALKUPPER at checkout.

The bottom line: PT and Fit to Be gave me my body (and therefore my confidence and self-image) back. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this company and how it worked for me. I think it just might for you, too.

Contest ends Saturday, July 20 at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How I Healed {Part I}

**Note to men: you don't want to read this blog. Trust me. If you're one of those, "If you tell me I can't, I will" sort of people, I apologize ahead of time. Don't say you weren't warned.

Hollywood loves to laugh about the way pregnancy affects a woman's body: the weight gain, stretch marks, discomfort, weird cravings and frequent trips to the bathroom. It's great fodder for comedy, to be sure. But have you ever seen any serious discussion on movies or TV shows of what happens to a woman after she has the baby? Yeah, me neither.

When the photo above was taken, I was 22 and fit, having run my first marathon 6 months previously. I was also 9 months pregnant. The pregnancy was unplanned, but I had sailed through the trimesters with virtually no problems. I was educated and prepared for childbirth. And truly, I was -- about the actual labor and delivery part.

What I wasn't prepared for in the slightest was the way the medical establishment looks at pregnancy and childbirth as a disease to be managed.

I was young and trusting. Since I was so healthy, I had almost no experience with doctors, let alone military OBs. I figured they would know what to do and work with me to naturally deliver and naturally recover.

I was wrong.
Thankfully, there was a recovery room available and I was allowed to leave the broom closet!

Here are the lowlights of my precious Jack's birth: there were no available rooms, so I gave birth in a janitor's closet. It took a teenager several tries to find a vein for the IV I didn't want, eventually exploding my vein and finally putting the needle in directly on my wrist bone. The blood went all over the ceiling and wall that was only a few inches away from my face (remember, it was a broom closet, so the room was tiny). I asked them to wipe it away, but they said it wasn't their policy to clean until everything was over. So I stared and smelled my own blood for more than 8 hours.

Though I had planned on utilizing pain management tools like walking, slow-dancing, bouncing on an exercise ball, etc. they strapped me down (literally) on my back the moment I got there, hooked me up to a monitor and wouldn't let me leave until I birthed. The nurses, when they remembered that I existed, never actually looked at me when they entered the broom closet. Their eyes just went straight to the monitor.

The nurses kept offering an epidural, despite my request that they stop. Finally, around 7 or 8 centimeters, I relented. The anesthesiologist was incredibly rude to me, only speaking to Nick and ordering him to "get your wife to cooperate" when I couldn't hold still during the needle insertion...because he was doing it during a contraction. The minute he left, I became completely paralyzed from the waist down; I couldn't move a thing. But I could still feel every last pain.
I started hyperventilating, thinking something was seriously wrong. Nick found the man and asked him to return. He took one look at my back and chuckled softly. "Yup, I was right," he announced. "I thought I put the needle in the wrong place, and I did. Oh well."

Later, I wanted to push, but the nurses said no, we can't wake the doctor up yet. You'll have to wait another 2 hours. When she did arrive, I wanted to push in any other position but lying flat on my back. Absolutely not, they said, and I was too naive to demand otherwise.

I ended up with third-degree tearing...after they gave me an episiotomy. I dare you to Google the definition. I literally could feel myself tearing apart, but when I told the doctor, she said that was impossible. She later took 45 minutes to stitch me up...with no anesthetic. I felt every last plunge of the needle and every pull of the thread, screaming my head off. The nurses told me to be quiet, that I was making it hard for the doctor to concentrate.

They had already whisked Jack away, and eventually I was completely alone. Naked, with not a single sheet to cover me. I was deathly cold and shivering, probably going into shock. I started calling out, quietly at first, gradually screaming for help. A male janitor came in with a mop, methodically mopping up my blood on the floor. "Please bring me a blanket," I begged. And remember, I had nothing on.

He didn't even glance up. "Someone will be here soon," he replied. But they never showed. Nick finally heard me yelling from out in the hallway, found a supply closet and brought me a blanket as my lips were turning blue.

Once we returned home, more terror appeared. For nearly a year after Jack's birth, I suffered from insomnia (often going days without sleeping), and when I finally did manage to nod off, I would wake up screaming from a nightmare in which knife-wielding doctors were coming at me, my hands bound. During the day, I couldn't even drive near the hospital where it happened without my heart jumping out of my chest, so I took alternate routes. I had flashbacks, especially when hearing another mom's birth story. I blocked the memories of the actual night, not writing about it in my journal or even telling my mother. I felt anxious over every decision, fear that something would happen to Nick and overall like a total failure for not loving every moment of motherhood like I thought all perfect mothers did.

(I didn't know at the time that birth trauma is real, diagnosable and that I had it coming out my pores.).

And that was just the psychological part. Physically, I went from being a marathon runner in her early 20s to an old lady who couldn't control herself over the smallest of sneezes, the shortest of walks from the chair to the counter. I was in a ton of pain almost constantly. And because I was so traumatized, Nick suffered for months as well.

Whether I tried to tell my doctors or nurses about the physical stuff or my friends and people at church about the mental stuff, I always got the same responses: "Welcome to motherhood!" "Someday you'll look back, laugh and even miss this time." And my personal favorite: "Well, none of that matters as long as you got a healthy baby, right?" The inference was clear: get over it, weakling, because what happened to you was normal and unimportant.

As a result, I felt like the worst mom ever. The guilt grew, until I decided we wouldn't have any more kids. I couldn't handle another trauma like what I went through with my firstborn.

And then, thank God, we moved to Oregon.

So yes, I recovered. But here's the nitty-gritty on the details, since so many of you have asked.

My midwife, noticing my obvious physical trauma during my pregnancy with Jude, referred me to a women's physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction. (This PT also treated attractive baseball players from the local minor-league team. Thoughtfully, she put up a sign on her door when I arrived for all to see: PELVIC DYSFUNCTION THERAPY IN SESSION. Thanks, Erin.).

The few months in therapy were life-changing. By the time I finished, my core and other related muscles were stronger than they had ever been -- even before I had kids! I quickly became a groupie, which probably freaked my PT out because we had been friends before I ever became her client. (Whenever I saw her in church from then on, my first thought was usually something like, "Hmm, there's that nice chick who felt me up last Thursday."). The benefits even lasted through my pregnancy with Avinly; at 9 months along, I could run, do plyometrics and jumping-jack until the cows came home without leaking a drop.

And for the last piece of my gynecological puzzle, I turned to Bethany Learn, mommy fitness guru and founder of Fit to Be Studio, a wholesome, family-friendly workout website that is all business when it comes down to healing women's bodies.

I first heard from Bethany, a national expert on repairing the postnatal woman's core, at my MOPS group. Her lecture was so informative, so radical to what we moms always hear (crunches are not the answer to getting your flat stomach back, for starters), so full of common sense and so moving that several of us left the room in tears. Since then, including myself, several of my friends have subscribed to her vision with stunning, life-changing results. Not just inches lost and flatter tummies (although those are nice side effects!), but we have our bladder and body control back, minus the back pain that comes from weak abdominals. You just can't put a price tag on that!

There are many reasons why I love Bethany and her fitness company, several of which I will discuss in a future blog post. But here's the skinny: if you've given birth, you probably have issues -- you know the kind I'm talking about. Without going all crazy and Jillian Michaels on you, Bethany can help you heal those problems. Full of exercise videos (we're talking LOTS), informational articles, a supportive member forum and more,
Fit2B™ Studio  is unique in the fitness world and straight-up works.

Interested in learning more or giving Fit to Be a shot? Sign up for 3 months now for just $20 (that's a $10 savings!) by entering CRYSTALKUPPER at checkout. And check out this free workout in the meantime. (Don't forget to enter the code CRYSTALKUPPER at checkout to get the $10 off!).

God worked a miracle in my spirit with the arrivals of my second and third children. But I strongly believe he also used a team of amazing women -- my midwives, doula, PT and fitness instructor -- to heal my physical scars, too.

So when I read Mark 12:30 -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" -- I can now smile where I once cried in pain.

I know, at least, I've got the last one down.