I could write about the creative and challenging workouts, the hike up the mountain for lunch or the sunrise yoga.
I could tell you about the nutrition seminar or the cooking demonstration or the morning trip through the perimeter of the grocery store.
I could share details of the lobster and ribs on the island or the delicious mountaintop nachos or the farm to table feast on the actual farm.
But that’s not the story of Strong is Beautiful, the weekend health and wellness retreat for women I attended this past weekend. It’s so much more than that.
Life is only as good as the people you get to share it with.
My weekend was full of love, laughter and lifting.
It was full of sweat, tears and sheer joy.
It was full of beautiful women of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and personalities.
It was full of hugs and kisses and encouragement.
It was about strength and having the courage to put yourself first. Because as women we forget to make ourselves a priority, even though we are better mothers, partners and friends when we are happy and whole.
Find your tribe. Love them hard.
My weekend was spent at my gym, my happy place. The place where I feel most connected to myself and to nature. Where I am in most in tune to my body and what it needs to flourish physically and mentally. It is my therapy when my crazy world of single motherhood and writing and nonprofit management just get to be too overwhelming.
What made my weekend so unique and indescribable was the company I was fortunate enough to keep. Forty-five other women who made memories in three days together that will last a lifetime.
What was my weekend really all about?
It was about relaxing pontoon boat rides, swimming and floating on the river.
It was about sharing an outdoor shower with a group of women while listening to silly water-themed music.
It was about suppressing fits of giggles over a loud cricket in the middle of the night.
It was about late nights around the bonfire talking and dancing to loud music and early mornings to gather and learn.
It was about sunset walks and adventure at every turn.
It was about women baring their soul so that others could show them they are not alone in their fight.
It was about holding hands when fear arose.
It was about dirty feet and pine needles in my bra and feeling completely content with the world.
Where there is love there is light.
We all need a place to go when we need to recharge and reconnect with ourselves. A place where we can find and be our true authentic self. Mine happens to be in a wooded setting overlooking a river in central Maine.
Have you found yours yet? What is it like?
Photo Credit: WolfPack Fitness
I see you.
On the surface, you look like everyone else. You blend in. Your appearance and persona is nothing unusual. Not for you. No one would ever know your story because you keep it to yourself. It is none of their business, after all, and they wouldn’t understand anyway.
But there is pain underneath that appearance. Discomfort. Uncertainty. Just enough of the emotion seeps through that I can see it. I see it in your eyes. I see it in the way you hold your body. Something is not right.
I’ve been there.
I hear you.
You reach out privately because you know there will be an ear. You hope there will be understanding. A light in the sea of darkness. A glimmer of clarity where there seems to be a never-ending swirl of confusion.
Though it is hard, I listen. I listen because others did when I needed an ear. I recognize the pain, the denial, the uncertainty and fear.
I’ve been there.
I feel you.
Your words penetrate me. I feel them in every bone of my body. My chest hurts, and my eyes burn. I re-live my own past experiences. I feel angry and sad. I know. And I can’t do a thing about it but listen and absorb.
I share my experience and though our stories are different, we are the same at that very moment. We are one. I may be farther along, but don’t let that fool you. It is easy to fall back into that hole.
I’ve been there.
We’ve all been there. As mothers, as daughters, as wives, as women. The drive to make good and keep peace can be our downfall.
But keeping the peace isn’t always the answer. It can numb us when we really need to feel. If we wait too long our hurt hits us like a ton of bricks. We become angry. And that is when change needs to occur.
The problem is that change is hard and scary and there is no guarantee what the future will hold. So you must let go and trust that you are strong enough to make the change and heal the pain.
It’s a process. One that is unique to everyone who is brave enough to go through it. Like a roller coaster ride, it is fraught with emotion. There are dips and turns and periods of anxiety and fear of what is coming next. The exhilaration and satisfaction at the end, however, is worth the ride.
We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to make that change. Whatever it is.
I see you.
You are not alone.
Does this post resonate with you?
This is an original post written by Jennifer Iacovelli for World Moms Blog.
Photo Credit: WolfPack Fitness
Today (March 22) is a big deal to me because it is World Water Day.
Actually, access to clean water and sanitation is a big deal to me year round.
The seed was planted a few years back when I was first connected to WaterAid America as a member of the Global Team of 200, an offshoot of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. My first water-related post was published on my blog, another jennifer, in January of 2013. I was struck by the statistics around how women and girls in particular were affected by the water crisis, not to mention just how many people still lacked access to clean water and sanitation.
Since then, I’ve written many more posts on the topic, donated to WaterAid America, visited classrooms to talk about the importance of water and toilets and had the opportunity to visit Nicaragua to see WaterAid’s work on the ground firsthand.
The Author in Nicaragua. Photo Credit: Alanna Imbach/WaterAid
Why is water so important to me?
I start my day with a hot shower that is only 10 steps from my king-sized comfy bed.
I brush my teeth, often leaving the water running while I do so, and don’t worry about swallowing the water from the faucet.
I fill a water bottle directly from my kitchen sink without any additional filtration.
I have all the water I need to cook, water my plants or wash my car in the driveway.
I pay less than $0.60 per day for easy access to clean, safe water in the home I own, an extremely low percentage of my personal income.
This privilege is not lost on me and is particularly poignant when I read through WaterAid America’s State of the World’s Water 2016 report.
While it’s easy to assume that the poorest people don’t have water access because they can’t afford to pay the bills that come along with it, the report actually shows us that the poorest are often paying significantly more than citizens who are lucky or wealthy enough to have an “official” water point.
Here are some of the key findings of the report:
- Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea and Angola are the nations in the world with the lowest percentage of households with access to clean water.
- In Papua New Guinea, an average person living in poverty will spend 54% of their salary to access the World Health Organization-recommended minimum of 50 water liters per day to meet basic needs. The average use in the US is about 370 liters per person, per day.
- India, China and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people waiting for access to clean water.
- Cambodia, Mali, Laos and Ethiopia have made more progress than any other nations on improving access to water for their populations.
- There remain 16 countries in the world where 40% or more of their population does not have access to clean water – due to lack of government prioritization, lack of dedicated funding, shortages in human resources and/or the exacerbating effects of climate change on water availability and quality combined.
I was particularly struck by the fact that the United States of America was not included in the list of 42 countries with 100% access to safe water (0.8% of the population is without access; 63 countries are listed ahead of the USA).
Download: Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water 2016
Everything I do for WaterAid America or for the cause of clean water and sanitation is on a completely volunteer basis. I make the time to write, give, talk and act. This past Sunday, I got my gym, WolfPack Fitness, involved with a water-themed outdoor workout for the second year in a row. We wore #blue4water while raising awareness, weight and funds for WaterAid America. It is my way of being part of a global conversation that needs to be had to ensure that marginalized communities are not left without a resource that is a basic human need.
Photo Credit: WorlfPack Fitness
What will you do to celebrate World Water Day?
This is an original post written by Author and Blogger Jennifer Iacovelli for World Moms Blog.
When’s the last time you took the time to be grateful for you toilet?
Unless you’ve just renovated a bathroom or just really need to go, if you live in a developed country you probably don’t put much thought into how amazing it is to have a running toilet in your home.
Today, November 19th, is World Toilet Day. It’s a United Nations-recognized day about global sanitation, an issue that affects 1 in 3 people worldwide.
WaterAid, with whom I traveled to Nicaragua last year to see their work on the ground, is commemorating the day with their State of the World’s Toilets report. The report reveals the most difficult place in the world to find a toilet (South Sudan), what country has the most people waiting for a toilet (India), and which developed nations are facing their own struggles in ensuring toilets for all (Russian Federation).
WaterAid also released the #GiveAShit smartphone app in the United States and Canada. The fun app allows users to create and share their own customized poop emojis, learn sanitation facts, and take a stand on behalf of the 2.3 billion people today who live without access to a basic toilet.
Here’s the poop emoji I created:
Potty talk and poop emoji are fun ways to bring up a very serious topic. The lack of clean water and sanitation around the world come with dire consequences. Here are some facts from WaterAid:
- Around 860 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation
- 1 out of every 3 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa drops out of school once she starts menstruating, because there are no toilets at her school
- Women and girls living without any toilets spend 97 billion hours each year looking for a place to go to the bathroom
- The lack of access to sanitation costs the world’s poorest countries $260 billion each year
The State of the World’s Toilets report is an eye-opening read. While I am somewhat well-versed on the topic of global clean water and sanitation, I learned a lot from its findings. I was most surprised that only 17 countries in the world have reported that just about every single household in the country has a safe, private toilet, and the United States wasn’t one of them.
The report also went beyond the health consequences of poor sanitation and addressed gender equality, education and economic development. Without access to a clean, safe toilet, women and girls are more vulnerable to harassment or assault, kids can’t attend school because they are sick and hospital beds are filled with people who have preventable diseases.
The good news is that the United Nations member states have adopted new Global Goals on sustainable development back in September. Goal 6 aims to deliver access to water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone everywhere by 2030. (I wrote about why this goal was the most important one to me on my blog.)
The 17 global goals may seem lofty, they are certainly attainable. It’s important for us as global citizens to be aware of these issues and to use our voices to keep world leaders accountable, making sure they keep to their promises to reach everyone including the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized people in our world.
How will you celebrate World Toilet Day?
This is an original post written by Jennifer Iacovelli of annotherjennifer.com and Author of Simple Giving.
Me and my boys on one of my very first training sessions. And on our very first training session on an island!
“You’ve got big muscles, Mom!” my six-year-old giggled as he poked at my legs.
“I’ve got muscles like you too,” he flexed his biceps and smiled proudly. He has been watching me get stronger physically through strength training, but he’s observing much more than me building muscle.
On September 26, 2014, I made a commitment to myself and my boys. I walked down a long gravel driveway to my first outdoor strength training session unsure of what to expect. All I knew is that I wanted to take care of myself and become as strong physically as I already was mentally. If I could take care of myself – mentally, physically and spiritually – then I could be the best mom for my kids.
The previous seven months were long and hard. I separated from and divorced my husband, made some incredibly tough decisions, sold my house, moved into a much smaller rental with my two boys, changed my name, worked on my book and started a brand new life.
I was happier than I had been in a long time, but I was worn out. There were days that I felt like I should have been wearing war paint. In the process of all this change, I lost weight. They say the divorce diet either makes you eat more or not at all. I had to force myself to eat during the hardest months because I was in survival mode for so long, my body never told me to nourish itself.
My first workout at WolfPack Fitness was intimidating. Training is done outside or in a barn, and the equipment is unconventional. I had very little arm strength and could barely lift a wooden beam with two arms for a landmine press or control a lightweight sledgehammer to smash a tire. My form was terrible, and I had a lot to learn.
It took time, but I learned. I learned proper form. I learned how to master basic movements we use in everyday life. I learned what my body was capable of. What I was capable of.
In the process of this learning, my kids were watching. My gym is also a wonderful, supportive community. I made instant new friends and so did my kids. They often come with me when I work out. They can explore nature or they can join me. Either choice is an enriching experience for them.
My boys spray painting cinderblocks, our home gym equipment.
Today, I can easily do several landmine presses with a weighted beam and smash the heck out of a tire with a heavier sledgehammer. I can even do pull-ups off a tree branch and wield a cinderblock over my head.
I have gained a solid ten pounds of lean muscle. I am strong, not only for a woman, but for a human being. My body has never looked better, and I have never felt better.
I’ve gained the muscle, as my six-year-old likes to note, but I gained much more than that.
Lifting weights has brought me closer to friends I have known for years and introduced me to new friends who have loved and accepted me from day one. It has given me the energy to jump with my kids at a trampoline park for two hours as other parents sit and look on.
My training has grounded me, allowing me to handle all the wonderful things the universe has thrown my way over the past year. It has given me a level of self-worth that I have not had in a very long time.
As mothers, we do whatever we need to do to take care of and protect our kids. Too often it’s our own self-care that suffers in our quest to be the best mom we can be.
I choose to lift myself up through strength training. How do you lift yourself up?
This is an original post by Jennifer Iacovelli of anotherjennifer.com for World Moms Blog.