Being “Off Plan” Has Been my Best Fitness Decision in Months

I posted before about loving the Anna Victoria work out plan and about how much the virtual community around that plan made a difference in my fitness journey.  There’s still love in my heart for the virtual fitness community, especially on instagram. I still adore Anna Victoria as a fitness guru but I’ve moved away from following her plan.

I posted about this, too, when I talked about longing for more creativity in my fitness.

So here’s a little update stemming from those thoughts:

For a Beginner, it Has to be About Beginning

That seems overly simple and ridiculously obvious, but hear me out.  Even the beginner plans I’ve tried have a number of expectations.  They tend to look super do-able on paper but in the middle of a work out maybe not so much. Besides that, even when they are genuinely within my abilities there are other problems around success and failure when this journey is just at the begining and so, so fragile.

Being “off plan” might be one of my best fitness decisions yet.  When I followed a fitness plan created by someone else, even if I loved all the components of that plan, it created equal opportunities for failure and success.

If I followed the plan with dedication and discipline I would see results and experience all the joys of success. As someone who loves lists and plans I took great satisfaction in checking off work out after workout, day after day.  I really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that came with completing first one workout, then one week, then another.  I liked knowing I wasn’t alone but actually participating alongside so many other people subscribed to the same plan.

All that said… each day that I missed a workout or each move I couldn’t physically do in a given workout became a hovering failure.  A bit of a cloud above my head and they added up until they felt bigger than my successes.  As soon as the list of perceived failures grew longer than the list of successes and check marks the cause seemed lost.

Now, like much that is related to fitness, the failure I felt so discouraged by was as much in my head as anything else.  With a little work, I’m sure it could be overcome.

It would have been a worthy cause to overcome those hang ups.  However, I chose instead to rethink my approach to get around the hangups.

What “Off Plan” Looks like For Me

Now I commit to one hour of working out per day. I have very few rules for what that hour has to look like.  It can look the same every day or different every day.  So far it’s the same every day and I’ve been focused on cardio using the treadmill in the garage.

This allows me to be a little gentler with my expectations of myself at the beginning of my journey.  I don’t have the strength, endurance or agility that I have in the past.  As frustrating as that can be, having minimal expectations has given me the opportunity to rebuild while also forgiving myself for what I’ve lost, and what I’ve gained.

So far, moving “off plan” has opened more possibilies and given me a healthier mental approach to fitness.

What has changed your fitness routine?

Carmen

 

How your Relationship can Weather any Storm

It seems obvious that the days we argue, find ourselves on different pages, and miss each other’s signals are the most difficult days in my relationships.  I mean, duh, right? Nobody likes fighting or feeling like something is just off in their relationship.  It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable and it can feel downright scary when you don’t know how to get back to the good days.

I was blessed in that my parents never fought – well, certainly never in front of me.  If they disagreed or ever felt off-kilter I never saw it. I love this about my childhood and when I talk to people who tell a different story I feel really grateful for the harmony that always existed in my household.  While this blessing taught me a lot, there’s one thing it didn’t teach me: how to weather a storm.

I had an amazing example of what love looked like and what happiness meant but I never witnessed a relationship survive a fight.  I never knew how a marriage could navigate rocky times without sinking or even that a little friction here and there could be normal.

In the first three years or so of Ben and I’s relationship, maybe even longer, we never ever fought.  People who knew us as a couple wondered out loud how we could be so damn happy all the time. I appreciated the praise for our relationship success but I could never articulate how we had achieved it.  For me, it was just natural and normal. It looked like my parent’s relationship and like Ben’s parent’s relationship.  We never had to work at it.

The hard truth is that in those days it might have been easier to live this bliss because life really didn’t have too many serious stresses.  We were in high school and then at University.  We were only just beginning to taste adulthood and we knew then that life was sweet with minimal bills and a lot of time available to spend together.

As we’ve progressed into full-time jobs with more serious bills (ahem, student loans – the very ones that previously made finances so stress-free.) and a lot less leisure time to spend with each other or with anyone, for that matter, we’ve had to face a new and evolving set of challenges.  I think our relationship has faced a couple of unique sets of challenges, actually.

Building a life together brings one set of challenges.  From living together and maintaining the house together, lifestyle choices to mutual bills.  Building a life together has challenges and difficult conversations built in.

On top of that, we’ve had to grow up together. I’ve talked a little bit about this and probably will talk about it again from time to time. As romantic as it is being high school sweethearts if the relationships are really going to last forever there’s some work to be done to transform from teenagers who love each other into adults who function as a team, whose lives work together and who still love each other.

I think we’ve been lucky.  Even with the challenges we’ve faced we really haven’t had to weather too many storms.  That being said I wanted to take a second here on getting through the days we don’t like to talk about.

Finding ourselves lacking harmony some days was really scary because for so long we never felt that way and we didn’t see a lack of harmony in our households growing up so it started to feel like we must really be doing something wrong.  It wasn’t our normal so it felt like a battle neither of us was ready for.

The way we survive and the best advice I can give is simple: love first.

When the love of your life drives you crazy, disagrees with you, makes little mistakes over and over again or just seems to be lacking something you need from the relationship, take a deep breath and love first.

Someone somewhere in something or other I was watching about relationships once said couples have to fight while still being on the same team.  You can be upset with each other and you can ask each other to do better in the relationship but always be on the same team.

When you start to feel like you’re on separate teams in some sort of ultimate opposition everyone loses.

What does that look like?

Sometimes it means pausing the argument to ask yourselves what you want the result to be and finding out if maybe you just have different ways of trying to get to the same place.

This happens to Maggie and I sometimes.  We’re both strongly opinionated, highly organized, goal driven and a tad bit stubborn.  When we see someone else in the pod, particularily each other, veering off the path we really feel we should be on… or if someone asks us to change ours… get ready for a world of resistance and friction.

Then at some point someone asks what the freakin’ point is and we realize we both have the same answer.  We’re trying to force each other to the same destination we’re just trying to get there in different ways.  Realizing we were on the same team and had the same goals the whole time has solved basically any fight we’ve ever had in a matter of seconds.

Fun fact: Want to clear men out of a room? Start an argument with your girlfriend.  Never seen Ben or Tom make themselves dissapear faster than when their women are on the path to disagreement!

Sometimes it looks like creating a compromised vision of how you want it to end so that even though you weren’t fighting for the same thing to begin with you have created a new goal you can both work towards.

Sometimes it means going to bed and seeing how you feel in the morning.

Everyone says you shouldn’t go to bed angry. I sort of agree but I think more importantly you should never go to bed (or anywhere) letting your anger be bigger than your love.

I hate going to bed angry.  It’s a terrible feeling and I never get a good sleep.  But staying up all night depriving yourselves of any sleep at all is going to put ya’ll in a worse mood and move you further away from resolving your disagreement.

Ben and I have never slept in separate beds simply because we refused to sleep together. If we’re not sleeping with each other it’s because one of us isn’t home, because I am only sleeping for a few hours in between classes.  If we’re supposed to be in bed together, we are. Even when we’ve upset each other.

It’s part of putting love first and living the truth that we’re on the same team.  We don’t let frustration and disagreement divide us.

When it feels hopeless let yourself remember all the reasons you’re here.  How did you end up together? How did you end up living under one roof? How did you feel as you laid the bricks one by one and built this life together?  You made a decision – actually, you made a lot of decisions – to get here.

Staying here is a decision, too.  It’s a decision that makes sense with the hundreds and thousands of decisions you’ve made as a couple so far.  But ending it undoes all those other decisions.  Deciding to leave and turn away from love is a decision to remove all those bricks you laid and unbuild this life.

For me, it was worth building and on our worst days, it’s still worth fixing.

Lastly, when I read about peoples worst relationship days they talk about feeling like something is beyond saving.  Another piece of advice in my head that I know I got from somewhere but can’t remember where is that you can build something new.  Deciding that your relationship isn’t working the way it is doesn’t mean you need a new person.  Love is pretty limitless.  When you refocus on love you can assess what parts of the life you built aren’t functioning and focus on rebuilding those and doing better instead of swinging the wrecking ball and walking away.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes relationships end and there’s nothing wrong with deciding that what ya’ll really need is to part ways.  That being said, I believe in love and the way I see it love can weather a lot of storms when you are willing to repair what you’ve built when it gets damaged.

Carmen

#MondayMotivation My Fave Fitness accounts on Instagram

This Monday I thought I’d share a little of my #MondayMotivation with you.  I’ve written before about how instagram specifically can play a big role in fitness and fitness motivation.  It’s a less interrupted feed than facebook, plus we “follow” more than we friend.  Above all, it’s so visual and can help us see our own goals when we see everyone else crushing theirs.  

Here’s a few of my fave accounts from my feed

@AnnaVictoria

Anna Victoria is the main personal trainer type that I follow. I prefer accounts that I guess at least seeeeeeem less like the ultimate interaction with them is for you to buy what they sell.  Obvi it would be ideal for Anna if you’d like her content so much you buy her products BUT the reason I’ve followed her for so long (and even bought some of her products) is that she is the QUEEN of #realtalk about body positivity. Her fit body is her business – her body is the ultimate ad for why you should pay to know her workouts – but she still shows us the rolls, the changes, the things that bug her.  She practices the kind of body positivity she preaches and I love it! 

@thefitwaywithashley 

If there’s an overall vibe for an insta account…thefitwaywithashley is perpetually cheerful. She always smiles and her captions are full of real talk and honesty about how this fitness journey goes.  She shares about having “good body image days” and also douting if she should post a certain photo because of that pressure we all feel to only share the things we feel amazing in and nothing where we think our imperfections show. Plus all her workout photos are a great reminder to get your butt to the gym, on to the matt, wherever it needs to be for you to get your sweat on! 

@Fatgirlfedup

There are SO many reasons to love this account and about 1 million other people agree.  This account follows Lexi’s journey and 312 pound weight loss, achieved with diet and exercise, over two years. She also gets real about the less photogenic side like loose skin and skin removal surgery.  She provides so much motivation by sharing her story and makes you feel like if she could wake up and start this journey 300 pounds ago, you can too!  

@robinmolyneaux__

I love that Robin’s account showcases a little bit of everything. She’s stylish, she’s funny, she’s real and she’s fit.  We’ve messaged back and forth in the past and she’s the sweetest, most encouraging soul.  I love that there’s so much support out there in the instagram fitness community and Robin is a real life example of how awesome that can be! 

@losinggravity

Okay at this point is it a surprise that I’m sharing another AMAZING account full of #realtalk? It shouldn’t be.

I love the story of a big girl getting it together and sharing her fitness success. Especially when the bio is clear that these results are from diet and exercise. From where I’m at (ahem, way bigger than I want to be) these are the stories I admire because these are the stories I’m trying to write for myself with each healthy meal and every work out. Plus there’s a lot more to it than “I didn’t have abs and now I do” or “this dress didn’t fit and now it does”.  Changing our bodies can have a lot of side effects and losinggravity is here with the honesty about it all.

@inked beauty.getsfit

I love this account because as of literally today hers is a body that shows progress (She posts great before and afters) but she still looks real. Gorgeous. Fit. Strong. and REAL. I get so discouraged when alllll the”fit girls” I see look the same and as amazing as they look, as happy as I am for their success, as much as they should keep chasing their goals… it makes me feel hopeless because I am SO far from being THERE with them.

This account though is so much realness and honesty it’s amazing.  Plus she is some pretty legit fashion and tattoo #goals so it’s not just the same content over and over! 

@bodyposipanda 

No list of my fave instagram accounts could ever be complete without this one.  In the midst of my insta-scrolling and fitness motivation bodyposipanda is the voice of self love and body positivity! She’s here to remind us all that we don’t have to change a thing about our bodies and we can celelbrate and love our bodies even when we know they don’t fit in a certain box (or size!) Seriously, she’ll make you smile every damn day! 

Polyamory and Commitment

People sometimes ask us about how commitment fits with being polyamorous. The question can be framed in several ways. We get asked why we got married in the first place, or if we really value our marriages and how we could value our marriages but still want to date other people. We also get asked how we could commit to our partners when we’re already committed to someone else.

All of the answers go back to one truth that is central in our choices and our relationships: How these things fit together really depends on how you think about them and the role you want these things to play in your life as a whole.

Of course, if you think of romantic commitment and monogamy as being the same thing, then it doesn’t fit with polyamory. There are lots of people out there who choose to have open relationships or engage in non-monogamy of some form but still see their long-term lifestyle revolving around one, monogamous partner.  There’s nothing wrong with commitment meaning monogamy for you but that doesn’t mean that the definition or boundary carries over for other people

For us, making a commitment of any kind is simply a personal decision where you decide to incorporate something into your long-term vision of your life.  We all do this with jobs, choosing where to live, lifestyle choices like going to the gym or doing yoga, having kids, etc. We are designing our forever. We are deciding what our goals are for 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now. We are using our current situation and experience to understand what we want from the future. I think we all have a few “never agains” and a few “forevers”.

Therefore, in our lives, it’s okay to decide that a partner who isn’t our spouse is still part of our forever.  We’re looking at our lives right now, our experience of the past year or so, and our experience prior to dating each other and we’re realizing when we imagine our future, we see each other in it.

Sometimes I get the sense that people worry for us and feel we’re taking this big risk.  They fear we’ll get our hearts broken and as people who love us, they don’t want to see us experience any kind of pain, least of all heartbreak.  I love and respect that the people in our lives care for us this way and would do anything to protect us from pain.  Still, I don’t think we’re taking risks that are truly above and beyond the unavoidable risks of love.

Honestly, from day one I have known that it would hurt if I lost Ben. I have loved that man through a lot of ups and downs. We’ve done a lot of growing up together.  If my marriage ended, it would be an unimaginable loss for me. The thing is, marriages do end. When I married him we put ourselves at risk of becoming bitter divorcees.  Falling in love and furthermore, basing your life around that love by moving in together and facing the world together, is a leap of faith.

It’s the same leap of faith whether you do it once, twice or more.  And it’s still the same leap if you make it with one person at a time or three.

I believe love is worth it. Ultimately, I am okay with taking the risk because I believe in love.

Alright, so I’m cheesy. That’s not new!

Maybe that helps clear up some of the misconceptions about the ability to be committed to more than one person. We generally all have more than one person we see in our lives forever. Best friends who talk about our lives, our dreams, and goals with. Best friends who we hope will have kids the same age as ours so they can grow up together, too. In my life, it just happens to be that I’m dating more than one of my forever people.

But there’s another misconception at play, too. Many people who are aware of polyamory or at least various threads of non-monogamy have the idea that while polyamorous relationships might have many goals, commitment isn’t one of them. As polyamory becomes more widely discussed in the media and more widely known, a list of potential relationship goals such as romantic and emotional fulfillment, support of different interests, and meeting different relationship needs is also known. Maybe you have one partner who is more reserved and supports your undying love of watching movies and talking about philosophy while another partner loves to party and supports your need to experience new things and travel.  However, most people don’t imagine polyamorous relationships as committed.

In fact, many of them are!

For us, being polyamorous is a belief about our infinite ability to love and choosing a committed lifestyle is a relationship preference. We could believe in infinite love but not want this “settled down” lifestyle. We could also want this settled down lifestyle without wanting polyamory or even want an “unsettled” lifestyle but with only one partner at a time – none of them gaining our commitment.

You see? Loving one or loving many and loving short-term or long-term are two different preferences. It just so happens, for us, we prefer to have multiple partners who are committed to a long-term life.

Introducing more Creativity to how I look at Fitness

As I was planning out my week I started thinking more about how I wanted to incorporate workouts and good food.  I did really well throughout October in terms of working out often and making little changes to my eating habits.  The start of November though has seen a lot of that fall away and old habits proving their strength. As strong as those old habits are, I’m fairly certain my determination to improve is stronger.

This is actually the first week I’ve truly planned out what my fitness and food looks like based on reflection for what I want.  Usually, I am working more closely with a program like the Anna Victoria Body Love app but I sort of got bored with the repetition of that program. I enjoyed it, in a lot of ways, but for a number of reasons I had trouble making it stick.

I’m realizing that maybe what I’m lacking right now is creativity and taking the time to listen to what my body and mind actually want. I know I want to be healthier but I’m thinking of how that looks for everyone else. I see all the “fitness gurus” and “health experts” that post gorgeous photos of their salad and encourage you to commit to their workout program.  While that works for some people, it hasn’t been working for me.

It’s really easy to feel like a failure when what works for everyone else isn’t working for you.  If it works for all those people then maybe I’m the problem, right?

Every other aspect of my life seems to be taking off and fitting together.  So what’s missing with fitness?

Creativity.

In every other aspect of my life, I’m engaging those cliches like “follow your heart” and “be yourself”.  Creativity is the common thread guiding my work and improvement.

So this week, as I plan out my creative projects like writing, social media and content creation I’m including fitness.  I ask myself questions about my work and projects such as what I have time for, what I’m interested in, what I’m craving and feeling.  This is a big part of how I develop my writing especially, and how I determine what I want to broadcast on social media.  It’s acknowledging what is happening in my life, what is happening in the world and the direction I’m interested in developing in.

Now, I want to apply that to my fitness strategy.  I’ve developed a plan to incorporate focusing on different parts of my body with focused workouts each day, similar to how I did with Anna Victoria but open to more creativity in the actual movements and routines.

I’ve also planned to include yoga in my day because it allows me to reconnect mind and body and celebrate a movement that feels good.

What popular strategies have you tried and hated in self-improvement and fitness?

What’s your Personal Brand

One of the biggest mindset shifts that has helped me successfully make a living by essentially freelancing services that I’m interested in providing is thinking of myself as managing a personal brand.

In this mindset, any service I provide – anything I do in exchange for money – is part of the brand.  My teaching, my writing, this blog, and my social media services are all products offered by this brand.  It’s personal to me and exists in direct relation to who I am as a person but it’s a unique section of my life.

There are a few reasons why I think this mindset is important for others with a similar work style or similar work situation.  Let’s look at those reasons now.

Working from Home but not Working When Home

Okay, that’s a bit confusing but let me explain.  I work from home.  In my family, we make jokes about how I never leave the house and might easily be mistaken for a captive of my family rather than a member of it because they all go out into the world but I spend endless hours in one room of the house.  The jokes are like a thinly veiled coping mechanism for what we all know is an odd reality. I don’t leave the house often.  Sometimes I get so stir crazy I have to leave for the sake of leaving without any actual mission other than getting fresh air.

So how do I know I’m done with work? Honestly, the entering and exiting of physical spaces is something that we often take for granted in our lives. We enter our workspaces and know we are at work, we exit them and can start thinking about our personal lives again.  I’ve done a decent job of making my office my physical workspace and letting what happens in the office stay there when I leave it BUT it’s always right there, calling to me when something could use my attention.  Why wait until tomorrow morning when I could just go grab my laptop and attend to it right now?  Thinking of your work as existing under the umbrella of a personal brand helps to add one more layer of separation between your personal life and your professional one even when the two cohabitate in one physical space.

Not only have I left my office but I’ve mentally left the headspace of the brand and so whatever needs to happen will have to wait for me to get back in the office and back in that headspace.

Your Brand can Turn Down a Project

It’s really hard to turn down work when you’re a freelancer working from home.  You figure there’s always a way to shuffle your calendar around and make time for one more project because security is so elusive.  Work is work and money is money, right?

Sure. But if you’re so busy taking every opportunity that comes along you may end up with a set of projects that don’t fit or make sense together.  This seems pretty benign on the surface but can actually become quite problematic for your overall productivity.  If your projects don’t make sense together then they can start to battle each other for your time and switching projects will become a big interruption to your workflow.

For me, working on Oh My Mermaid and working on Playful Greetings social media work really well together because a lot of the organization can happen from one single platform so time spent on one can easily coexist with time spent on the other.

Thinking of new projects as coming in under your personal brand gives you a buffer between them and you that will allow you to reject them without feeling guilty

You can say to yourself and the potential project, “I’m sorry, that project/job/contract doesn’t work with my current portfolio so I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my schedule or do a good job of it without hurting my other projects.”

When the reason you’re saying no is that it doesn’t work for “the brand” rather than because you just don’t feel like saying yes there’s a lot less guilt and obligation.

It’s also easier to ask for an Opportunity 

Just like it’s easier to say no because it isn’t personal, it’s also easier to ask for an opportunity because just like when you turn something down, rejection isn’t personal.  When you feel like it’s just you, as a person and a freelancer, saying to a company that you’d like the opportunity to work with them then when they say no they’ve rejected you. And that sucks. Nobody wants to feel like that.

But when you apply feeling that you’d like to add that opportunity to your personal brand portfolio and you get the rejection it’s easier to just move on, work on your existing projects and look for the next opportunity that might be an even better match for you and your brand.

A Personal Brand is Something you can feel Proud of

One of the biggest struggles I notice as an independent freelancer is that there is a lot less positive feedback than I might have access to in a regular old brick and mortar job.  As a student for most of my life and in the various regular jobs I’ve had I’ve always appreciated the positive and negative feedback that lets me know what’s going well and what isn’t.

Working in isolation, as I talked about earlier, feedback can sometimes be seriously lacking.  It made me feel like I was lost in space having no idea if I was going the right direction or what was going on.

Thinking of my work as a personal brand somehow makes it a bit more tangible.  I start finding ways I can measure performance.  Income, of course, but also through social stats, leads, and projects.  I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished with Oh My Mermaid and the other projects I’ve taken on.  That’s something that reduces the sensation of being lost in space.

So overall there’s a lot of good reasons to start thinking of yourself as managing a personal brand to create an extra mental layer between your work and you as a person.  It’s better for your mental health and self-worth to feel that it’s still a job, at the end of the day and you do get to be off duty even if that just means going to a different room in your house.

Does Attraction to Someone Else mean Doom for your Relationship?

We set a lot of relationship boundaries based on policing our own and our partners’ attraction to others. Regardless of our relationship structure – polyamorous, monogamous, swingers – both in terms of limiting and encouraging it, we have rules about attraction outside the relationship.

It’s a difficult topic and I think the boundaries we ask our partners to agree to and how those conversations go tell us a lot about ourselves and what attraction means to us.

The reason I say it’s difficult is that I believe attraction is a natural feeling that we can’t really promise we will or won’t feel for someone other than our partner.  For me, the more important discussion is how attraction should be handled when you’re in a relationship.  I don’t believe we can ask our partners to deny ever feeling attracted to another person but we can set up rules, guidelines, and boundaries for what to do with those feelings.

From the beginning of my relationship with Ben onward the rule, I suppose, was to just ignore any attraction we felt for others.  Come to think of it, it really wasn’t a big discussion. In trying to think of what the rules and boundaries were in order to guide how I write this I realize they were implied more than spoken.  Perhaps the key was that we never denied the possibility of attraction to another person.  We accepted attraction itself as a normal part of the human experience and, if it ever came to it, emphasized our trust in each others loyalty and commitment.

The rule was that we were exclusive. Period.  Whatever feelings you might feel were normal and we weren’t policing each other.  Instead, we were placing importance on actions and trusting each other to maintain those boundaries.

The attraction was normalized at a very casual level like commenting on the attractiveness of tv or movie characters. It wasn’t a secret endeavor when I went to watch “Magic Mike” in theatres, and of course, it couldn’t be a secret what the selling point of the movie was. Even less so when I went off to watch “Magic Mike: XXL”. Ben never got upset or offended that I’d be interested in these movies.

Likewise, as we came to the time when friends were getting married and bachelor parties are happening I always supported the idea that one party or another may see him and friends going to a strip club or at least a Hooters where the selling point of the trip is no more a secret than the point of a movie called “Magic Mike”.

Was it unreasonable to expect, when we were so open about attraction in an abstract way, that it could also apply closer to home with the people we see on a regular basis?

Actually at about this point in writing this piece curiosity got the better of me and I messaged Ben (because we’re the kind of people that text when we’re in the same house) to ask if he had random crushes or felt attracted to anyone when we were supposed to be entirely consumed with loving each other in the tradition of monogamy.  He admits that there were people he found attractive and, being a man, he wouldn’t call it a crush but none the less.

I realize that feeling anything crush like when you’re in a relationship with someone is this big taboo. We’re supposed to deny that we can be so in love with one person and also kind of hoping some other person thinks we’re cute.  But it’s our nature and there’s nothing really wrong with it.

The trick is knowing what you can or should do with those feelings. For us the answer was to do nothing. Random attractions or crushes always faded but our love never has. Clearly, our love for and commitment too each other wasn’t damaged by knowing there were other attractive people out there.

It wasn’t until the spark between Maggie and I became more than a passing crush that Ben and I had to discuss what taking action might look like instead of quietly ignoring and moving on from a feeling of attraction.

Even in that moment, in those conversations, one truth guided us: Feeling attracted to someone else didn’t really mean anything about the feelings we had for each other.  Admitting that I had feelings for Maggie and an interest in pursuing those feelings never turned in to a statement about my relationship with Ben.

This is the common confusion I think people have for what multiple relationships mean.  People often imagine that developing feelings for and pursuing a relationship with someone outside of your existing relationship means that you’re choosing something instead of that relationship.  There’s a lot of implications that come with it – if my partner wants another relationship have I left them unsatisfied? What are they seeking that I don’t provide? Have I failed them in some way?

These are normal questions but they also reveal a fatal flaw in our thinking about relationships.  They reveal that we expect ourselves to be everything to our partners (and probably expect them to be everything to us in return).  Even with amazing compatibility, this expectation might be a bit much.

Most couples find whatever it is they don’t get in their relationship, whatever it is their partner doesn’t provide, in hobbies and friendships.  Hobbies allow them to connect with others that have similar interests. Their friends can provide different support than their partner. These things alleviate the pressure for our spouses to be all things at all times for us.

Not only that but they alleviate the pressure without anyone having a conversation about it.  You just kind of go off to your hobby or with your friends and don’t identify that what makes them different than your spouse is something you need and that without them there providing it you’d have to seek it.  We kind of act like everything in our lives could be stripped away and if we just had our spouse on a desert island we’d never want anything more.

However, in polyamory we accept the idea that there can be romance just as there can be other satisfying elements to the connections we build beyond our relationship and one romance doesn’t inherently harm or detract from another any more than multiple hobbies or close friends do.

Polyamory has allowed me to explore an interest in cars that Ben doesn’t share, allowed me to build a different network of friends and attend different types of events with Maggie.  It’s given me a lot more dimension and depth to my life without any of my partners being forced to feel inadequate or think of themselves as a failure because they, too, are able to become more whole and explore different sides of what they need outside of the relationship they have with me.

Now I said earlier most people find needs their spouse doesn’t meet by engaging with hobbies, work, friends, and whatnot.  There’s nothing wrong with this at all! We don’t need polyamory but we do need to acknowledge that attraction to someone else or desires outside our monogamous relationships are normal.

 

A Weekend Getaway to Blue Mountain

This past weekend Ben and I went on a little weekend getaway to Blue Mountain resort in Ontario.  Since I share so much of our lives here I thought I’d share our vacation, too!

We did things a little differently. Actually, going on vacation at all is a little different for us. We’re kind of the masters of a day trip. We don’t mind long drives or getting home late so we usually just go to events or go sightseeing and then make the trek home. Deciding to go somewhere and stay not just for 1 but for 2 nights felt like we were spoiling ourselves.

We wanted to make the most of our time there and make it a weekend of indulging things we don’t normally give ourselves time for.

First of all we made room in the budget and also go the style of vacation we would enjoy most by using Airbnb.  This was our first airbnb experience and we are now happily singing its praises. Instead of staying in a shoebox with a bed we were able to rent a 1 bedroom condo 2 minutes from the village. Having a kitchen to cook our fave breakfast food in plus a super cozy space to netflix in the evening made a huge difference in our “lifestyle for a weekend”.

img_0652In the spirit of doing things we don’t normally make time for I took myself to the spa while Ben rounded up some groceries and supplies.  I enjoyed a hot stone massage and a facial at Kalola spa in Blue Mountain village.  It was so relaxing but definitely a splurge that I’ll save for rare occasions and not make a regular habit of. As much as I enjoyed it in the moment it was a pretty fleeting pleasure which made the investment seem disproportionate.  I don’t regret the decision to treat myself at all but it was definitely a vacation lifestyle treat and not a regular lifestyle need.

On Saturday we found an adventure tour company offering ATV tours.  Ben grew up with a 3-wheeler and had a few friends who had 4-wheelers so he was happy to go adventuring on one. I’d never ridden one in my life and so I was super excited to try it out.  It was an idea to satisfy our craving for adventure and something off the beaten path.  I can’t say enough good things about the company and how nice the trails were.  There was a little something for everyone with rugged hill climbs, muddy, winding trails through the trees and wide open well-groomed pathways where we could speed up a little bit.

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I honestly had no idea what to expect from either the experience of riding an ATV or the environment we’d be in so everything was new for me.  I didn’t anticipate the effort it took to maneuver the ATV. I mean, I guess I just never really thought much about how much they weigh or that grippy tires let you do a lot of cool climbs and ride over everything but also take work to control.  You’d think everything after crashing a car for fun would be a breeze but I still took my time getting used to it.

Perseverance paid off, though! By the end of the hour long tour I was really enjoying myself and as soon as we were in the car we were both talking about visiting again.  The company operates all year round so if you like to adventure through heat, mud, raino r snow they’ve got a tour for you and a few different options for what you want to drive.

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The tour guides were super nice and chatted with us after, as well.  People and personal connections can make such a huge difference and these folks are a great example of how good people leave a lasting impression for their business – thank you so much for an amazing experience, ya’ll!

 

In the afternoon Ben and I headed back in to the village (after a hard earned soak in the resort hot tub!) to try out the “Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster” we’d read so much about.

Check out this article to see why we had to check it out:

here we though we’d be gliding gently down the mountain admiring the fall leaves… nope! We got to glide gently up… and up… and up.  On the way down you could pull your breaks if you were really scared but it was strongly discouraged by staff as you slow down everyone behind you and muck up the timing of the track.  It only seemed polite to push forward at full speed wondering how anyone could be afraid… then your cart rattles around the 1st bend far faster than you expect.

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This moment separates the strong from the weak.

We loved every adrenaline-fuelled second so much we rode a 2nd time before going to get dinner.

We wandered around the village, shopped a little and then returned to relaxing at the condo.

On Sunday we went for a scenic drive and hiked around the mountaintop taking pictures of the partially snowy landscape.

We were really picky about what we comitted to with this weekend. We wanted time to relax and focus on each other as a couple while still enjoying the unique experiences the area had to offer.  I think we accomplished this with a few great experiences like the ATV tour and the coaster while taking the rest of our time to relax and do whatever we wanted without stressing out.

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What’s your weekend getaway style? Are you a fully scheduled weekend warrior or a worry-free weekender with an open calendar?

 

 

 

 

For Fit Sake: Week 4

Holy moly I can’t believe I’ve followed through on these little updates for almost a month. October has been all kinds of good to me! There have been tons of celebrations and time with friends and we’ve even had mostly good weather. This weekend I get to top it off with a weekend getaway to Blue Mountain with the husband.

All that being said, weeks 3 and 4 have been weaker for my dedication to fitness and eating well. It didn’t disappear altogether but it did get a little sidelined by my dedication to working 40-50 hour weeks with weird working hours and wanting to pour more creative energy into this blog.

Something I really struggle with on these weaker weeks when one thing or another moves to the top of the priority list and fitness suffers for it is feeling like it’s the end and I’ve failed. If my dedication or the hours I’ve physically and mentally put in to being healthy this week are less than what it was last week then I must have failed.

Anna Victoria’s programs work in 4-week cycles so I’ve also started to think in this pattern that gives time to assess and refocus every 4 weeks.  Since I’m at this first milestone I want to take a moment to break old habits, celebrate victories and look forward.

I’ve still been following Anna Victoria’s fitness strategy with the Body Love App but truthfully it’s been a bit glitchy and in order to avoid letting those glitches become total barriers to my workouts I’ve started branching out a little more on my own with workout moves I like but still following her circuit structure and dividing my 6 workout days the over the same schedule so even though it’s a loose interpretation of her workouts the inspo is still there!

Honestly, I think I kind of flip back and forth between, on the one hand, liking the “don’t think just do” of a workout plan like Anna Victoria’s or any other app/plan where you just open it up and follow along and then, on the other hand, also liking the control and ability to do something different all the time of creating my own plan.

I’m not sure I’d say I’ve seen hardcore results just yet but it’s only been 4 weeks and as I’ve already admitted 2 of those weeks were seriously imperfect. I haven’t gained any more weight though and that’s a big bonus and an encouraging sign that I am successfully putting a stop to the bad and throwing it in reverse.

I think it helps that I know at the end of the week I have these little notes to post. This and instagram do make me want to do better!

Those are some of the bigger thoughts and here’s a point form version of the small victories and changes:

  • When I couldn’t make a great food choice (on the road, busy days) I found a way to not make the worst choice.
    I have a tendency to give up easily when I can’t eat well and just go from a plan of eating veggies and lean meats to thinking if that can’t happen I might as well dive into a pile of burgers, bacon, fries and everything else salty and fried. I’ve pulled back on that I gone with healthier fast food options like booster juice or subway in place of burgers and poutine (sometimes).
  • I’ve been more mindful of movement and stillness.
    If I can’t work out for some reason, like teaching a 14 hour day and really truly feeling there’s no time for a good workout, I’ve worked on pushing to maybe stand while I teach for a bit or walk around the house for 2 minutes in between classes. I’ve made sure that movement is a part of my day even when it isn’t the ideal workout or hardcore sweat sesh
  • I’ve stayed focused on the big goals.
    I promised myself a massage if I could stay focused this month and I’ve watched the calendar, keeping in mind the longer term goals so that day to day ups and downs aren’t as significant as setbacks.
  • I’ve lost around 3 pounds. I’d rather shed that in a week or so than a whole month but you know what, it’s still 3 pounds I’m down instead of up so I’ll take that and try to improve moving forward.

Carmen

Poly and Parenting

It’s kind of funny – as I write that title I’m like…  uhh I can’t write this, I’m not a parent yet, duh! But then again, not being a parent, let alone a parent in a poly relationship, has not stopped a single person from sharing their thoughts so hell, why don’t I give it a try.

We get a TON of questions about how our relationship affects our plans to be parents.  It’s not the questions I mind so much – actually we welcome more or less all questions because we’d rather people ask than assume.  The annoying part of these questions is the number of people who ask and then immediately tell us what they feel is the correct answer.

Can I just pause for a second here and tell ya’ll something? We’re not “trying”. We want kids to be a part of our future not our right now. So whatever we haven’t figured out, we’ve got time.

But I’ll be honest. When you get serious in a relationship you talk about the future. You talk about values, what kind of lifestyle you want, what your big life goals are, and what a family looks like or means to you.

If you want to be pessimistic you can imagine a different future for us than what we imagine for ourselves but ya’ll know it’s rude to root against someones love life and what makes them happy. And I know ya’ll aren’t rude.

So let me answer some questions:

Yes, we want children.

No, we don’t know how many but 2 is a good bet.

No, at this point we don’t plan to plan who the biological parents are. Oops – there’s a controversial one. Here’s the thing, we all plan to be the kiddos parents. I’m not going to parent a child any less because they are biologically Maggies or more because they are biologically mine. We all live under one roof and we operate as a family unit.  We plan to keep it that way as we think about bringing children in to our lives. They will be loved and looked after by all of us.  Like any other couple, when we’re ready, we’ll be throwing out the birth control methods and carrying on as usual. What happens from there happens.

I know people think it has to be pretty simple to just plan who you’re getting knocked up by, but it’s not.  I’ve tried to talk on this blog about how each of our relationships is unique and no one relationship gets to set the rules or boundaries for another. For me to say I wanted to have a baby with one man specifically would be allowing my relationship with that man to limit my relationship with the other man in order to ensure the biological parentage of the child. Given that we all expect to parent equally, setting those kind of boundaries doesn’t make sense for the relationships we’ve built.

On a related note, we won’t be announcing the biological parentage of babies born in our family. I mean, why would we need to? We’re assuming that our family and friends who will continue to be a part of our lives as our family grows will love our growing family for what it is: a family.

The world is a confusing place, we’re pretty sure that having 4 loving parents is not going to be a huge problem for our children. I mean, we had this conversation about same sex parents, right? There were a bunch of people who could barely fathom same sex relationships and so were completely unhinged at the idea that a child might not understand having two moms or two dads. But children understand love. Time and time again they’ve proven this to the world. Even the young children in our lives now – children of friends and family – handled us coming out better than most. It goes like this:

“Hey, you know how you have this Aunt and Uncle?”

“Yeah”

“And they love each other?”

“Yep.”

“Well, they also love this other man and woman.”

“Okay.”

“And basically the four of them just all love each other and they’re very happy together.”

“Does this mean I get extra gifts at Christmas?”

That is the most vital question a child has asked about our relationship. Does two more people coming into a relationship they’re familiar with mean that they get more Christmas gifts.  Whoa – so confused.

You can stop worrying about our childrens confusing home life now. They’ll be fine.

We have similar values about raising children. That’s a big part of how we know our children are safe from the concerns of others. We believe in raising children in a loving environment.  We believe in rules and routine.  We agree when it comes to dicipline. We believe in teaching them about the whole world, not just our world. We agree with each other on the important things.  They’ll be loved beyond belief.

These hypothetical children will be ours. No really, like any parents, parents to be or hypothetical eventual parents the bottom line and most important fact I can possibly provide you: who to have children with, what our household looks like and how to raise them is entirely up to us and absolutely doesn’t need your opinion about what’s best. You might feel that opinion passionately, you might even be a little bit not okay with the idea of us raising children as a polyamorous family. That’s fine. But if you think that your discomfort or opinions are a factor in our family plans I’m not super sorry to inform you, you’re mistaken.

Carmen

 

 

One Pale Girls Beauty Faves

Okay, so it’s no secret that I’m pale. Generally, I love my skin. I’ve never been into tanning or trying to change how I look. Okay actually I do like a little tanning moisturizer in the summer months to make my legs just a couple shades less pale… but most of the time I love my skin tone.

The problem with pale skin, for me, is that every tiny mark shows. Tiny scar? tiny zit? tiny bruise? It’s all so easy to see so it only takes a couple little imperfections before the little imperfections are all that’s noticeable on my face – especially for me looking at myself!

So this week I’m sharing a few of my pale girl beauty faves! I am nowhere near the super skin and makeup pro’s out there so this is for your everyday pale girl just trying to get by!

First up – Sunscreen! The easiest way to help your skin is to protect it from damage. I swear by Neutregena because they are a skincare company first and foremost so their sunscreen will do more than protect your skin from a sunburn! It feels so much nicer than regular sunscreen and never causes me the rashes, itchiness and acne that other suncreens can.

But of course, sunburn or not, acne happens from time to time. So what’s my fave way to get it gone, and fast? I am totally hooked on the entire line of Kate Somerville products but my biggest must-have is this powerhouse acne treatment: EradiKate. I use this stuff before bed or before makeup and it immediately lessens swelling and redness.  Within a few hours I don’t even notice the zit anymore. It’s awesome!

Let’s talk makeup. I’m nowhere near as talented as some of the makeup bloggers out there.  I do have my beauty faves though. I really love Kat Von D’s products and I especially love that as a beauty icon she celebrates her pale skin and doesn’t try to change how it looks. It makes it easy to love her products and feel great as I pick up the lightest shade on the shelf. I use her primer as a base for her liquid foundation.  When I’m feeling the need for a little extra contouring or a little extra coverage I reach for the concealer and powder foundation (this helps with an extra matte look, too!)

PS. Nothing beats Urban Decay’s setting spray for serous all day all night wear!

I make my pale skin pop with a bold lip – now I know, I’ve seen the bold lip trend on every skin tone and it looks amazing on us all – but I’m here to remind pale girls to have some fun and not shy away from the bold shades that catch your eye! Personally, Too Faced Melted Matte is my line of choice and you really can’t go wrong with any of their shades.

Now outside of your everyday beauty you might want to do a little extra pampering.  What better way than a facemask? The Glamglow Multimasking set speaks to my very soul because there’s nothing this boss babe does more than multitasking so why not bring that flare into my beauty routine?

And what about the rest of my body? Girl, I got you!

Since literally like grade 8 I’ve been fighting imperfections and uneven tone all over my body using Bio Oil. It’s a classic. You’ll find a million new products released every month advertising the same stuff but honestly, I’ve never found any that work as well as bio oil. After years of use the biggest thing I can say is yes, it works but you’ve got to commit to using it. Nothing delivers results if you only do it occasionally!

I like to add a little daily feel-good with a moisturizer too.  The oil is a great way to fight uneven skin tone, scars, stretch marks and imperfections but it feels pretty utilitarian. I like to give my skin some extra love with some coconut based moisturizer like this one from the body shop!

Woo – that was a lot of links and suggestions for my fave products to show my pale skin some love and keep it looking its best. I hope you found a few ideas and maybe your own new fave product.

What are your go-to products to keep your skin looking it’s best?

 

 

Carmen in Canada’s Top Ten Tips for Teaching Online

As I was writing “working with less” and thinking about what we as online teachers put out there to other potential online teachers, and each other, it got me thinking. I said with that post that you shouldn’t be intimidated by veterans and the elaborate set ups you see online. However, what would be useful when you’re just starting out?

I’ve been at this around two years now and turned it from a side hustle to a full time gig. Here’s my Top ten tips:

  1. Pick something you’re comfortable in and wear it all the time.
    For me, it’s a plain black, long sleeve shirt. I bought several and I keep them on hand. I put it on and then don’t think. From class to class, company to company throughout the day it’s professional without being over the top and it’s comfortable without being too casual.
    If I’m feeling ambitious I might up my game with simple, elegant accessories or a little extra effort in hair and makeup. But truly, you’re in a small box on a screen, keep your look simple and clean.
  2. Pick a space you like being in.
    Sometimes on the really long days I migrate around the house if I’m feeling stiff or stir crazy from endless hours in office. I do that less now than I used to, though. The more you create a space you enjoy being in the better you’ll work in it. So go ahead and hang those twinkle lights, white boards, posters… whatever it is to make it cozy and comfortable for you.
  3. Smile and laugh.
    Smiles and laughter transcend borders like nothing else. When I teach children I also sing with them and I laugh at the sound of myself singing so they know it’s okay to have fun while in class. When I’m with adults I tell embarrassing stories about myself and laugh with my students. Remember that being a teacher is a position of authority and you can be intimidating to your students, especially when they can’t understand the language. But this isn’t regular school – if they don’t like you they won’t book your class again so welcome them and make them feel comfortable.
  4. Take breaks.
    Value your time. A gap in your teaching schedule does not need to be filled with errands and other commitments. During working hours I try to make my gaps refreshing and celebrate the mental down time. I watch netflix, eat, fetch tea, shower and go for walks. Anything to refresh my mind and body.
  5. Use breaks
    That being said, a good passion project on the side doesn’t hurt. Often I write blog posts during my break, check in on the social media channels and promote the blog. I try not to work to intensely in between classes so I don’t exhaust myself but I do like a good side hustle.
  6. Build a props collection as needed.
    When you wish you had X, Y, or Z to reach for take note and either create it or find it to purchase in the near future. This way you build a collection of props based on what will support your teaching style and not just what you see other teachers have.
    Try to avoid wasting a lot of time and money guessing what you’ll want and buying things “just in case”. Stick to things you know are useful.
  7. Organize and Re-Organize.
    As you collect props and equipment you’ll need to create an organization system that works. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. For me – I have one drawer that stays open all the time on my right hand side. It acts like a tray-shaped side table that holds stuffies and props ready. Smaller things like cue cards sit underneath my laptop (which is raised so that my camera is at a flattering angle). Not only should you have a system but as you’re teaching you’ll shuffle stuff around.  When you finish class, shuffle things back where they belong or chaos will eat your work space.
  8. Get your fam on board.
    It took some getting used to for my family to know that even though I’m right here in the office at home, I’m not available.  I felt guilty for a long time, too, as they adjusted.  It feels awkward and strange that sometimes they’re eating downstairs all around the dinner table but I’m not there because I have a class to teach.  It took a while for the idea that what I’m busy doing up here in the old spare room is actually just as serious as the work they do from 9-5 every day and I needed the same kind of respect and space they enjoyed at their offices. Don’t be afraid to have that conversation with your family and help them understand that you need them on board with this job, too.
  9. You are Your Brand – Have Personality!
    Remember how I just said that you’ve got to make students comfortable because unlike regular school, if they do’t like you they don’t have to take your class again… Well as an extension of that, you are a sort of brand. Even though there’s a bigger company or brand you’re teaching with – the company who you work for – you are what makes students come back to book you class after class. I’ve written before about how I have a sort of “Teacher Carmen” personality that is separate from who I am as a whole person (See Carmen in Canada). That’s my brand. That’s the consistent experience that students can connect to, come back to, and rely on. Be yourself – be memorable – build yourself a brand as a teacher.
  10. Pay Attention to Trends & Competition.
    When I started there weren’t a ton of companies doing online education the way my company was. Now? Ther’es a TON of companies.  Pay attention and maybe work with more than one if you want this to be a full-time gig with reliable money. If your company closes its doors they don’t owe you severance or benefits. Nothing.  Pay attention so you know if your company is losing its edge, and keep yourself open to opportunities!

Bonus Tip: Start Now!

You can email me at ohmymermaid.blog@gmail.com and I will tell you more details about the specific companies I work with and I can refer you, which means I’ll be there for you through the whole process of applying and starting out!

This is a job, so have fun with it and make informed choices to create security.  However, it’s a job that is interacting with other human beings so be human and have fun!

Carmen