Friday, February 05, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Defining Success and Trusting the Body (or Not)

Last week, I hated Thursday. Carrying around fear and anxiety all day sucks. But yesterday I felt at peace. I knew what I couldn't do and I made peace with it. I prepared my body as much as I could during the week including playing around on monkey bars, shoulder weight work, stretching, and the evil elliptical (it's a different kind then the one I'm used to and it works my body aerobically like nothing else). I've been eating better, less binging and more veggies without totally depriving myself. I spent a lot of time thinking about emotional baggage that came up from last class as well.

I walked again and this time without that dread hanging out over my shoulders. Although I shouldn't have listened to Serial on my way because dark with murder story equals super creepy.

We launched right into moves this time, and I admit to feeling a lot of relief that we wouldn't be spending a big chunk of class trying to get up on the bar. I tried to get up a couple of times but my hands kept slipping and finally I just did the hop on the bar. I did make an advance in that I could do the hop without holding onto the bar just the rope. My next goal is to hop on with both legs instead of one at a time. While others practiced getting up, I practiced sitting star. I figured since I was already on I was not getting down.
Piper doing sitting star back when she first started almost three years ago!

Once up Jo announced we'd learn tree frog, and I felt that pit open inside me. I was finally on the damn bar, and I wasn't convinced I could hold on for the pose or that I could pull myself up if I even managed to hang on. But I quickly pushed those thoughts away and latched onto my new mantra "Fail once fail again better."

Okay so the tree frog involves handing from the bar by your knees while holding onto the bar with your hands on either side of your knees. You let one leg go and curl it out with your neck extend. It's a pretty move. Simple looking. Not so simple in execution.
Camille in the far back. Her class is doing tree frog here. They look much better than I did I suspect.

Slowly I lowered myself down, nervous because I had lost my grip already in trying to mount. Hanging on by my knees felt surprisingly wonderful. I liked spinning slowly upside down. This made me feel good enough to pull my leg out and bam I was doing the move. I was holding the robes this times not the bar, and when I was ready to pull back up I could do it. This shocked me. I've had a hard time pulling myself up on the robes even when I've been boosted. But this time I pulled right back up to sitting. Feeling confident, I went back to hanging from my knees, and then held onto the bar. I could do tree frog but I didn't feel confident to try to pull myself up so I just came to the floor. But I did tree frog. Twice! That little bit of success pushed me onward.

Once we had all done tree frog a few times, we moved onto learning Alpha and Omega. Alpha involves a one knee hang with your knee toward one end of the bar. You hold with the same side arm as leg. This one proved harder and I fell a couple of times. Grip spray proved my salvation with this one, and I nailed it once I could grip comfortably. It was a much harder move than tree frog and I could only hold on for a few seconds. Endurance is for sure my next step in mastering these moves.

Camille doing alpha during her first performance
Omega was like tree frog but we let go of a hand: the opposite side from the knee that hung on the bar. This was proved a bit easier than Alpha for me but I still only could hold it for a few seconds. Once we practiced this, Jo and Ashley showed us how to do seashell in both moves. This is simply put a gorgeous move. In both Alpha and Omega you grab your hanging foot with your free hand and curved around arching your back. I did it. Seriously. It was hard and it took all my strength but I did it.

What I learned from last night:

One, defining success by one thing is going to make you feel like failure. I have spent the last three classes defining my failure based on upon my inability to get on the bar. Seriously. That is the only thing I can't do in class. I have done all the "tricks," Some better than others and no doubt not with a whole lot of grace but I can do them. But I couldn't see that as success because I got into my head that getting on the bar was the thing. And even then I can get up. Yes it's only one way but hell I get up right?

Don't beat yourself up for the one thing you can't do. Look at what you're doing.

I realized last night that I am very strong in terms of my arms and legs. My abs are mush and this is what is killing me. As I get stronger in that area with all the prep working I'm doing, I know that at some point I will be able to get up there in other ways. I know this because I can do other things really well.

Two, I do not trust my body and this is a problem. We learned a move that everyone swore was the easiest way to get up. Basically you hold the bar with your arms behind you, lower your head and back until you feet lift off the ground and go over the bar. I can not do this because I don't dare to let myself fall. I am not confident that my legs will go up that my arms can hold my weight. It's a major mental block and I'm sure it's what's keeping me from getting on the bar (along with mushy abs). I don't know how to overcome this fear. And it makes me sad.

When I did lose faith in my own body? I suspect it happened a long time ago when I was young. I used to swing by my knees from tree branches and metal bars on the playground. I knew no fear and totally just knew I could swing up and pull myself to sitting. I don't have that anymore, and I feel serious terror at the idea of just letting go. I need to work on this obviously but I have no idea where to begin. But it's a move forward I think in just recognizing the block. When I talked to Ann last Saturday she asked me "What's the problem?" I couldn't answer her then. I had no idea. Now I do. I don't trust that my body is going to get me over that bar and I am scared of what will happen it fails. 




Monday, February 01, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: The Sisterhood

I talked a lot about last class feels with a variety of people: a friend taking the class with me, Ann, H, my mom. Really anyone would listen. I had a lot to process, and I also had the added burden of not wanting to make anyone feel like they failed me. No one did fail me! But I have to learn to wrestle with the things that trapeze brings up for me. Nothing comes without baggage I think, and anything involving my body is going to make me process a lot.

Thus in that spirit, let me begin with: I LOVE TRAPEZE. I really do. The few weeks I've been doing it have been life changing. It's centered me. It helps with my body image and most times it helps my mental state. But all that doesn't mean I'm not going to struggle with the hard stuff not just the physical but the emotional. I made up my mind when I started this series that I would be above all things utterly honest about the experience.

Here's where I struggled last week:
I hate being the fattest girl in the class. Note that I don't hate being fat. I just hate being the only one. My classmates are for the most part supportive and if nothing else the ones who might not be just don't say anything. Still it's hard to not feel like my struggles are because I'm fat or to think that others are not thinking this as well. It's likely paranoia on my part but it's a paranoia that comes from real experiences: not just mine but from many other fat people who love to exercise.  Comments that some might think come from a supportive place often feel condescending when you're overweight.

Amazingly I've not felt this from the teachers which is big and what keeps me coming back.

And all that leads to the biggest struggle: insecurity. It's not just in terms of my body but in terms of my writing, my parenting, etc. Low self-esteem is a bitch and it sucks up a lot of energy. I feel as if I spend much of my day working myself up to do things. Sometimes it's little things like getting dressed and going out in public (what are people going to think? will I be the fat friend?). Other times it's bigger things like sending out a query letter or..taking a trapeze class.

This is important I promise.

While getting my hair cut, my awesome stylist, friend, and fellow writer told me about how she meet a woman who feels competitive with all other women she meets (no names were exchanged). I said almost offhandedly, "I think that feeling competitive comes from insecurity." Ahhh.

I talked this out with H over coffee.

"Do you feel competitive during trapeze?" he asked me.
I had to think about it. "Yeah I do. I don't want to but I hate being the only one who can't do things." And last class unlike the other classes I found myself looking at the other students. I compared myself to them and found myself lacking. I had not done that before.
"Do you want to feel competitive?" H asked me next.
"No."

And just like that an epiphany. There should have been lights and angel music. My insecurity is what is driving me to feel like I have do what everyone is doing and do it as well. It so overshadowed my experience that I couldn't think of anything else. I couldn't think of my successes because I was so busy focusing on everyone else's successes. When I talked to H, I could think of a lot of things I did better than in my first class. I got up on the bar to standing in only two tries instead of the five it took during my second class. I did Skater without my hands on the robe even if only for a few terrifying seconds. I did get up on a waist high bar, and with help I did get up in the underbar way. Pretty impressive when you think about it.

I've always loved how my girls don't see trapeze as competition. They only push to make themselves better. Not better than anyone else just better. And that is what I want for myself. I don't need to compete against any thing but my last class. As long as I'm working toward being better that is enough because I'm not doing this to perform or to be a top student. For once I'm doing something where the only thing I want from it is the pleasure of doing the thing. There's no job waiting for me at the end. No report card. It's just something I can do because I love it.

Insecurity is a real bitch and we're trained from early on to feed it with competition. We're encouraged to be the best in school. We have to get into the best colleges and find ourselves making excuses when we don't get into those schools. As women we're supposed to compare ourselves against other woman in terms of beauty, thinness, how much we juggle, how we parent, and so on. It's no wonder so many women don't like being friends with other women.

Ann asked me on Saturday if I would feel more comfortable with two tracks, one for those who need more modifications and those who don't. My gut reaction was "Yes oh yes" but then I felt a pang. Would I have to leave my class to do this? Because I realized in that moment I didn't want to leave them. I don't want to hold them back either. I've come to feel like these seven other woman embarking on this journey with me.

"Part of me would love it," I told Ann, "But another part of me doesn't want to leave my group. They're so encouraging and we all cheer each other on."
Ann nodded "Yes," she said, "That's the sisterhood."


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Back on the Horse

It felt like starting over. Just one class missed left me a lot of time to mull over things. A lot of time to let the inner mean girl have her words. A lot of time to fret over what I knew we'd be working on in the next class. I pretty much spent most of Thursday at Canopy. It helped in some ways and hurt in others. Being at Canopy is peaceful, centering even when I'm not on the bar. I especially love being there in the inbetween moments when there are no classes or just a one on one session. But on Thursday while the girls did their conditioning class, I watched a Beginner II class, and everyone was so good. I couldn't imagine ever being able to do the things these women were doing and they were only class ahead of me. I went home real low.

Still when 7:30 rolled around, I put on my sneakers, started Baroness up on Spotify, and hit the pavement. It's a quick 20 minute walk to Canopy. I love it. I wrote about it in my novel. The darkness hangs over you like velvet, and it's crisp but not so cold it's painful. The bustle of the hospital smoking and buzzing, the old white mansions with their pillared porches across the road from repurposed Victorians. Turning from the nosier main artery onto the quiet of a neighborhood before crossing the train track to magic. And today even with the fear of failure, I felt that stirring. Here I could fly even if my own muscles made me acutely aware of gravity.

Gravity. She exists right there beside Grace. Mirror opposite perhaps. Or maybe it's that Gravity is the guardian making you work to take a spin with Grace.

Inside, I just fought hard against the fear. It sucked the joy out of me, and I just couldn't fully put it behind me. I missed one class. That's it, and here I stood maybe even more terrified than I had felt the first class. We lowered the bars to around our knees so we could practice getting into standing moves. And I fell. Right away. Damn it. The mortification made me flush. Ashley though wouldn't let me crawl away. She pointed out that I was holding my hips wrong, and sure enough with my hips shifted just a bit more to the front, I got up. I struggled with the bow split which seemed an easy move from the bleachers but way different when on the bar. I could do it with one hand off but didn't quite manage with two hands. In fact, I borrowed a page from my five year old, R, and close my eyes as if letting go was an act of faith. Hell maybe it was. I did better with skater, and I was pleased that it didn't hurt my feet to roost on the bar with my toes. I even managed a little bit of grace with these moves or so I imagined.

But all too soon, we had to lift the bar and I knew what was coming. Fear curled around my stomach like smoke. Ashley and Jo showed us a variety of ways to get up. I couldn't do any of them. I tried though. Jo showed us a move that involved holding onto the rope on one side and jumping up. I could kind of do although I used one hand on the rope and one hand on the bar but I got up. I spun for a bit which I enjoyed and then I did a very ungraceful move to sit on the bar from my sideways landing. Totally forgot how to do a sitting star. But I filed it away so that I could think of it later. Then we had to get down. I wanted to weep.

We learned a new way up. This one involved holding our arms palms down under the bar followed by reaching up and grasping the ropes. Next we had to use kind of magic to propel our bodies up and over: legs first which pulled the rest of us up. I couldn't even lift my leg anywhere near the rope. This time I noticed as my class mates flipped up with ease. I genuinely meant all the kudos I gave them but oh I envied their ease and strength. I couldn't do it. Finally with some help from Ashley I got up. I flipped off almost right away the first time, and the second time in my attempt to do a dolphin, I stayed up for a bit longer. I was so happy I actually hugged Ashley. I'm not a hugger.

Looking back, I had two problems with the move. One I just can't kick my leg that high. I've been practicing kicks today (although I'm pretty sore and beat up). Two I having a huge mental block. I just can't see myself doing this. Ever. And when I do get up with help, I can't picture the way I'm supposed to look. I keep running it in my head so I can see myself in this position.

Everyone in class was super positive and didn't let me beat up on myself. But it was hard to be the only student who didnt't do it on her own. I'm trying to not dwell on this as failure. I did get up even with help, and that's something. More importantly this class sealed my trust of Ashley and Jo. Jo was so open with me after class, and I felt a lot better after talking with her. Ashley freakin' held my legs when I went over that bar, and I'm a big girl. I realized they'll be able to handle the modifications I need to do this class. That's a good feeling. But really the fact that they made every little thing I did a victory makes me feel like I can come back.

I ache tonight. I haven't felt this sore in a long time. I still went to the Y. It hurt but it also felt good to loosen up my muscles on the elliptical. Gravity is a killer but I'm trying to remember that Grace isn't too far behind.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Revelations that Boost

I know, I know, I haven't even had my third class yet. Tomorrow. And yes ya'll can expect a post after the class. Or an explanation of why I missed a class. BUT....I had to share after the kind of down note from last week. The early part of last week was hard. I never know why I have what I call "low self-esteem" days out of the blue. Sometimes I can pin point an event, a comment, or a look that sets me off but other times they just slam into me. Those ones suck the most. They come out of the blue usually when I'm feeling pretty damn good about myself and the relentlessness of my inner mean girl leaves me feeling like I'm on the edge of not being able to breath.

After I wrote my blog, I struggled for a couple of days with feeling like I wanted to quit trapeze. I had a great experience on Monday that left me feeling better about other aspects of my life but trapeze? I just didn't know if I had it in me to continue.

"You're so fat," my mean girl whispered.
"Disgusting." she crooned. "Everyone must be repulsed watching you struggle."

On Sunday evening, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the Y. "Look at your HUGE middle," my mean girl crowed. "It's sick."

Immediately upon returning from the Y, I saw a post from someone in the DC area wanting to know that it would take to get people with chronic illness or felt marginalized in other ways to do trapeze and other circus things. She shared the Sick Woman Theory post which I'd seen floating around but had not read. I'm not sick and I wasn't sure it applied. My sciatica pain was really the first time I even tasted what it might be like to live with chronic pain. It was pretty sucky honestly and I developed a new respect for anyone who lives with pain. But mine isn't bad, and it's so much better now. But I read the link because I do feel marginalized by being fat especially in terms of exercise. Here's what I told the woman " Several forces came together to make it possible for me to step out of my safe place and into trapeze....Melissa and Ann at Canopy really encouraged me. They never doubted I could do it but they also didn't condescend to me. I believed I could do it at my weight because they didn't pretend I wasn't fat. It wasn't insulting and I never felt judged. I just felt seen."

I want to focus on that bit about being seen. One thing I despise is when I say I'm fat and someone says "Oh you're not fat." It's ridiculous because I am so clearly fat. I mean tell me to not bash myself or that my value isn't on my body weight or who gives a fuck if you're fat but please don't assume I don't realize I'm fat. I do. I'm very fat. It's cool. Got that. Thus when I started to think about trapeze I valued that Ann and Melissa honored my body and encouraged me. Because they really believe that trapeze is for all bodies That's pretty awesome.  Been unseen is at heart in the post I mention above. Hedva's manifesto (for what else is this magnificent piece of writing but a manifesto) is all about seeing those who are not seen in public, whose bodies are denied recognition and presence. For me this means not seeing my body in movement, and it's also about making sure my body is seen. Because these two women saw my body, it helped me to start toward a vision of my body doing these things. It's vital.

I told Ann today as we talked about what I wrote last time, and about the Sick Woman Theory, that for the first time in my life, I was trying to get fitter not to lose weight. I want to get fit I told her because I love trapeze and I want to be better. If my body goes down in size, fine, but that's no longer the end goal. The end goal is to carve a space for myself and my body inside this amazing world I've discovered. It's to prove to myself and to everyone around me that you don't need to be ninety pounds to fly. You can be two hundred pounds or somewhere in between.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Plague

Initially I didn't have a post for ya'll about class three. On Wednesday, the plague caught up with me. I ate nothing all day, and pretty much nothing the next day. Thus while I no longer wanted to void everything in my stomach by Thursday night I felt weak and dizzy. Clearly not a good combo for trapeze. Need to say I sat around feeling bummed and sorry for myself. I hated not being there. Hated it even more when my friend messaged to me to tell me how hard class was that night. I stewed on it for a couple of days growing more and more worried that this was going to set me back forever.

In fact, that fear grew as time passed. Considering how poorly I was at this anyway missing a class was going to sink me. I just knew it. They practiced getting up on the bar with the bar HIGH. I already knew this was going to be a challenge. And now I was a week behind everyone else. I started to have the nightmares again. It really felt like the beginning all over.

Today I brought J and C in to have a makeup session with Ann. While Ann worked with Camille, I played with Jude during the parent assisted class. I hung around the outskirts while Jude played on the strap hanging off a bar. I watched longingly as she flew around squealing and laughing. I stared at the bar and wonder if I could get myself on it under the pretext of playing with Jude. Eventually I gave in and sat down. Jude came right over, hopped in my lap, and I awkwardly swung with her. Next we played tagged with me sitting on a strap and chasing her around as she swung around on her strap. I'd catch her with my feet and she'd laugh pulling to get away.

And for that period of time at least, I remembered how much I really loved the bar. Just playing lifted me out of whatever crap I carried inside. I spun around for a bit and I'm sure the other parents were a tad horrified at my own antics on the mat. But I realized I needed that time with the bar. Like needed it. I hadn't realized how quickly trapeze went from something new and fun to a kind of body need. It sounds melodramatic I'm sure but trapeze stills something restless in me. When I spin, or swing, or even fail getting my fat ass up on that bar, I feel like something is centering me. I get now why Camille needs this too. I do as well. It's not so much a soothing although it is part of it. Instead, I feel like I have a jolt that firmly plants me in my own skin.

Today when I got home I rushed around making brunch, and I worried. Was I strong enough to do trapeze? Was I holding the class back with my fat and my weakness? Maybe I should quit. Maybe I needed to do something else for awhile. Get stronger. Again carried back to that first day and the fear that almost prevented me from even attending day one. I thought "Well maybe playing with Jude will keep me satisfied." But I knew it wouldn't because part of the centering comes from the work. It comes from an hour of working my ass off to get my ass up. Part of that jolt that lands me back in my flesh comes from the callouses, the red hands, the sore muscles, and the determination to master something new.

And I settled myself. If I slowed the class down, I'd have to just trust my teachers to let me know. But so far if I was realistic that was not the case. At least at this stage everyone seems to be working through the new stuff at about the same pace. And we're all working so hard it's not like we're focusing on what everyone else is doing. In addition, trapeze is doing something unexpected for me. It's helping me become more attune to my body. It's giving me a tiny moment of centering that carries throughout my week. I'm less irritable, less on edge, less restless, with trapeze in my life. Trapeze is my way of meditating.

I'm still scared that missing a class will set me back. I'm still worried that I'm going to be fumbling to keep up. But I also know that I need to be on that bar on Thursday and I need it enough to push through the worry and anxiety and fear. After all I already did it once a few weeks ago.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Listening to Your Body

This week I didn't have any fear going into the class. Having already failed, I could only fail better, right? I also approached the class in a different mind set. I read a great article critiquing Oprah's new endorsement of Weight Watcher's. Let me confess now so I can get this out of the way. I've been on and off WW for years. I originally lost a great deal of weight on WW, and even made my "goal weight" of 146lbs. But maintaining never worked out. I struggled with the shaming aspect of it all. I remember reaching my goal and having the leader say "Your husband must be thrilled" and I was so repulsed. I didn't give a shit what my husband thought. It was my body. I assumed, rightly by the way, that he loved me and was attracted to me no matter my weight. Hell H married me when I was a big girl.

And I left, and then came back and then left. Like a lot of people. Like most people who diet.

But I have an eating disorder whether it's fully recognized or not. I am a compulsive overeater, and years of abusing my body with food has left me with a very fragile relationship with what I put into my mouth. I'm working on it in therapy but it's a slow road. I used WW the way some people use AA. I didn't give a shit about losing weight, and I didn't do meetings. But it's helpful for my mental well being to keep tract of what I eat. I might not need it someday but right now I do. However after reading and seeing Oprah's endorsements, I changed my mind.

You see I am already the woman I want to be. Being thin is not going to somehow make me that person. I fell in love while fat. I had five kids who are amazing humans while fat. I wrote my novel while fat. I run while fat. I'm taking trapeze while fat. My best life is already my best life. A number on the scale doesn't determine that for me. If anyone is repulsed by my body it seems like it's not my job to make them comfortable by losing weight. Maybe they need to focus on living their best life or something. The endorsement along with an incredibly restrictive new plan ended my relationship with WW.

I realized when I shared the article on Facebook that doing trapeze released me from the last bit of mental anguish I felt about being fat. I am not going to promote the strong is the new thin because I think that for those who don't have strength as an option shouldn't feel marginalized or left out...rather I think that we should do what we can to be healthy within the limits we all face. Rather what] hit me is that my limitations didn't come from real health issues but from a mental block that told me fat girls can't do trapeze. When I finally got on the mat, I realized fat girls can do trapeze. There are limitations for sure which I'll talk about at the end but they're not insurmountable and they don't take away from my enjoyment.

Thus when I went to trapeze I realized that I wasn't scared. I knew there would be things that would be hard for me to do and that was okay. We started with things I could do like the sitting lay back and the sitting star. I even managed to do the sitting star on my opposite side. It was nice being able to start out with what I could do with a fair amount of success. And then we moved onto getting on the bar from the floor. As I described earlier this involves laying on my back with my knees hooked over the car. I have to reach up to grab the ropes, pull myself up a bit by straightening my legs and then moving my hands up the rope. I got up the first time with help but could not do it on my own. I tried until my hands were red and developing callouses. I just couldn't do it. My problem is that I have to get past my stomach. I know this is the issue because the whole time I attempted this I couldn't focus on anything but all the various muscles being employed.

And here's why I love trapeze. It is super physical but it's also very mental. I have to think about every move. It's very different from running for me. Running is an escape. When I run, I am lost in though or in a story or in music. I can feel my body but it's not like I have to think about my body. Sometimes I'll take a few moments to think about adjusting my posture but I can let my mind wander. Not so much with trapeze. There's a strong connection between thinking about the moves and doing them. If I'm not doing well at something, I have to reevaluate how I'm using my body. Last week I learned that I can't pull myself up on the bar with just my abs. It's a combination of arm/shoulder strength with ab strength. This week I learned that I can't do it with just my arm/shoulder muscles.

This mental practice travels outside of the class as well. I think through the moves, and think through ways I could do them better. Last night as I drove home, I decided that I need the bar lower until I can get my stomach down more (and I think I'm going to have to do some reduction there because even if I get that area stronger, I'm going to need to reduce the mass). Thus last night was not a failure because it lead to me thinking about how to make this work for my body. I think all exercise is amendable to this kind of thinking but trapeze really hammers home how modification or accommodation can change the dynamics of one's relationship to a move.

And it wasn't all failure either. I found I could get up to standing easier than I thought I'd be able to. My legs are clearly stronger than a lot of other parts of my body. It was nice to be able to do at least one thing with relative ease. I say relative because standing on the bar HURTS and it's super wiggly. I felt like I was shaking the whole time! But I could get up numerous times.

This class left me drained but still really excited to do more. I woke up sore with red calloused hands but feeling really pleased with my body. I think that with each class I get more comfortable in my skin. It makes eating and moving to make my body the strongest it can be a lot easier. No shame. Only pride.


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Book Review and Give Away!

Yeah, yeah I know I never do book reviews. Or product reviews for that matter. But sometimes I just have to do one or the other because something is awesome enough to shake me out of my comfort zone.  I do have to add a couple of disclaimers. First, I internet know the authors of this book. As an original Rockin' Mom, I know and love Jen. I've been reading Mardra ever since  Jude was born and she's one of the good ones. Second, one of the little pieces of this blog graces the pages. But I promise you I didn't go into this book fully sold even if I did read it with some hope. 'Cause Jen and Mardra.

Let me start with my reservations. I'm at a point where I am seriously tired of parents' voices. There are too many of them, and I think too often in certain communities they drown out those voices with disabilities. I struggle everyday with how I want to write about my beasties. I've started to write less about disability (at least the ones that belong to my children) because I just feel like I might be adding to the noise. So when Jen asked me to hop on the blog book tour, I said yes but as time went on I wondered if I could do that with a clear conscience. This just might be I'm writing this review on the last day. That and ya'll know I procrastinate something fierce. 

I'll begin by saying that the introduction won me over. A section of self-advocacy? Yes please!
And "The combination of genetics, environment, science, and love that makes every person unique is not erased or diminished by Down syndrome." Finally. Your kid is your kid is your kid. Period. Now for the review.

The Good:
First, the emphasis on the positive. Yes the book is relentlessly upbeat. While I'm not normally a Ms. Sunshine kind of person, I appreciate this approach. The book we all read that covers Down syndrome (baby in the pool on cover) freaked me out so much I refused to let H read it. Not only did the listing of every medical condition known to medical science turn me off but the barrage of negative parent stories made me sob late into the night. I just wanted one person to be happy with their new baby. It was there but so rarely it felt more like an anomaly.  

Two, through but not terrifying listings of possible conditions. These were also paced well so that you are not barraged with a list of all that could go wrong. I think this is very important to new parents. You want them to enjoy their babes not be worrying about everything that could go wrong or is going wrong. I think the authors managed that line between informed and terrified well. 

Three, parental voices don't dominate. Well I mean they kind of do because Jen and Mardra are parents but they use the parental antidotes well. There are sometimes snippets and in other places longer pieces. But these stories don't overwhelm the narrative, and really just change up the pace. I think there is a place for parental stories of course but I'm glad they didn't dominant the book. 

Four, there are voices from people with Down syndrome. I would have loved this when I found out about Jude having Down syndrome. And not just their own stories but blurbs on what people with Down syndrome are doing in the broader world. Really encouraging without always falling on the Down syndrome Rock Star mentality. 

Five, the book will be a good resource for years. Since the book doesn't skimp on the grown up side of things, I feel like I could turn to this book today or ten years from now and find information. 

Six, a great list of resources that range from books to organizations to blogs. It should provide something for everyone. 

The Bad:

There's not much I can criticize. Being me, I would haven't minded a bit more on activism. Not just from the parents perspective but maybe more of a tie in with the broader disability community. I also think some pieces about how racial profiles change some of this information.  All of this is there I just wish it had been there a bit stronger. 

I would have liked more positive diagnosis stories. Again they were there but I didn't feel like they had equal voice with the grief narrative. 

As has been mentioned in some other reviews, I would have liked to see more about dual diagnosis including mental illnesses. 

Regardless of it's minor flaws, this book should grace every welcome basket being given out to new parents. It's an excellent resource period. 

Here's the information on the give away!

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If you're interested in buying for yourself or for you local group, here are a few resources:
Author site
Barnes and Nobles
Amazon
IndieBound Booksellers

Fat Girl On a Bar: First Class

Conveniently, I saw my therapist on Wednesday. After talking about the obvious things: my grandmother's death, my anxiety, my depression being better with meds, my worries about maybe having to move, I told her about the trapeze class.

Therapist: Ginger, that's wonderful. I'm so proud you signed up.
Me: Well, I'm kind of dreading it. Part of me is like "Oh cool trapeze! but the other part of me is like "Oh shit what have you DONE!? You fool!? You are so fat and incapable of doing the thing."
Therapist: You realize the second voice is saying things that are not true right?
Me: I don't know about that. I am fat. Really fat. And I'm going to be the fattest person in class. Wonder if everyone laughs at me? Wonder if I get stuck? OMG what if I get stuck? Wonder if I'm too BIG to be helped?"
Therapist gives me the look before saying "Why don't you try to go into this thinking it will be fun and good?"

I tried for the rest of the day. Okay I didn't really think positively. I just ignored that the class happened the next day. Not a hard thing to do with H gone to Austin for the next five days. I cleaned in anticipation of having the internet guy come and fix my internet. Moped around because I didn't have internet. Finished the most amazing fantasy book ever (N.K. Jemisin folks is the real deal check her out), and started another book (Fan Girl which I like but not as much as I liked Jemisin...funny I must be a fan girl). 

Thursday came though and right after awesome man brought me internet back, I had to go to the trapeze place. C and J had their private lessons. At some point, it got around to me coming for the class. I confessed to Ann that I was really scared and I wanted to back out but I couldn't because I had talked my friend into doing the class with me. She said "You're going to be great. You're going to love it. We had our teacher meeting yesterday and I told them "Ginger knows what she needs and she'll tell you."

Sure, I thought. What I need was to not have signed up for a trapeze class when  I weigh over 200 effing pounds. 

Shortly after the girls rocked through their private sessions, another instructor came in. Debbie. She's great. Loves pink and sparkles. She is one of teachers in R's class. She hugs me and hands me a thick envelope.

"Read it." She says sternly as I leave. "I know you'r scared. It's okay. I was scared too. You're going to nail some things and you're going to fail some things. Then you're going to get better."

When I read it, I found a collection of her favorite mantras done up on index cards with a lovely ribbon connecting them. I teared up. Hell these people believed in me. Why couldn't I believe in me?

On the way home, I told Camille about my fear. She launched into a story about a game she likes to play. At first, I thought she was trying to change the subject. Camille does have a habit of wandering off topic. And clearly the topic was her whiny ass mother. I wanted to change the topic. But she surprised me.  She loved the game but she sucked at it. 

"I just don't give a shit if I'm good or not. It's fun and I like it. I just keep trying."

Me: "Are you telling me to not give a shit if I mess up in trapeze?"

C: "Yeah pretty much. Just have fun."

Nothing like your twelve year old putting you into place. She's good like that. I spent the day running around. Piper had trapeze class. Piper and Camille had conditioning class. Lots of adulting things like dropping over due books off at library, dropping Redbox movies off, getting dinner for sundry beasties. And then I had to spin my tires for two hours. I chatted with absent H, and with my mom who persisted in the "This will be fun" mantra. 

I got ready with a bit of a lump in my stomach. What did I wear? I didn't want my shirt riding up over my head. But would we even hang upside down? Gah the thought terrified me. I was pretty sure I'd never get back on the bar if I hung upside down. I settled for leggings and a Tunabunny Tee I stole from H. 

"Any advice?" I asked the girls as I put on my sneakers.

R: It hurts when you fall on your butt.
P: Remember to work hard but to have fun too.
C: Don't give a shit.

Okay. I drive to Canopy my stomach in knots. When I walk through the doors, I am immediately enveloped in warmth and encouragement. The instructors who teach the intermediate class happening during our class are excited. Everyone believes I can do this. Everyone is excited that I'm doing this. No one thinks I can't because I'm fat. 

On the mat, it hits me that things will be okay. Yes I am the fattest person there but no one cares. We are all beginners. We are all a range of sizes. Some of us come with dance and gymnastics backgrounds but most of us do not. Right away there is a comfortable feel to the group. We all laugh fast and easily. We're all nervous but excited. We're all here to try something new. 

I'm hilarious out there. You'll just have to believe me because there is no photographic evidence. Thankfully. First we just sit on the bars which are super uncomfortable (my friend wins the prize for best water spitting comment "Who knew sitting on a wooden stick would so bad."). We spin and sway. I don't get dizzy. In fact, I like the feeling a lot. When I was a kid, I used to love spinning. I'd twist the chains on my swing and just let it go over and over. I'd twirl as a sense of clam swept over me. I realized as I swung lazily over the mat that things were going to be just fine. Perfect even. 

Next we practiced getting up on the bar. This involved very low bars and us lying on the mat. We hugged the bar with our knees and then had to pull up onto them using the ropes. Hilarity ensued. I could not do it. It was my worst fear. The thing that gave me nightmares for a week. But in the moment, it was funny. I could just imagine how I looked trying to haul all two hundred pounds of me onto that bar. But I did. I refused to give up and hauled my fat ass onto that bar. It hurt like hell, and it still hurts today but the sense of satisfaction I felt? Worth it. We tried a couple of "simple" tricks. Sitting lay back and sitting star. I liked the lay back and even moved my hands lower down the robe so I went further back. Sitting star was...well hard. I remembered watching R struggle with this move last year and from the sidelines it looked easy. Not so much in action. But I did it. Not well or gracefully but completed. 

We ended class with "big swings" which means we sit on the bar and get pushed. I knew I had the biggest goofiest grin on my face as I flew. Really flew. If I could do just that every day I would. Imagine being on a swing and magnify that feeling a hundred times. That's what it felt like to soar through the air. I even tried a sitting lay back as I swept up the room. That's when I knew. I was in love. I don't think I'd ever fallen in love with a bit of exercise. But oh my heart was stolen right then. I didn't care if I was what many would deem too big to do this thing. Hell if I had to work twice as hard as the thin girls? I'd do it. 

A wonderful combination of things came to play Thursday night. First, Canopy is serious about being body positive. They've talked to me about it. Read about it. And more importantly put it into play at their studio. I've seen it before in the way they work with kids. It was nice to see it in action with me.
Second, amazing instructors. Jo and Ashley didn't make me self conscious about my weight. They didn't act disgusted or bothered that they  might have to untangle my fat ass. At one point, Ashley helped me by holding my feet. No problem. I appreciated being treated like the other classmates. Third, a great group of fellow students. This is the one that is such a variable. But I really felt so comfy with the six other women. 

So this fat girl is in love. With flying. I doubt if anyone who knows is surprised.