A Heavenly Brunch

A blue and red cardinal zip by my bathroom window as I drop my toothbrush in shock. A new sighting after a few weeks of not being visited. I chuckle as I wash my face and think, “For two guys who hated each other in life, they sure do spend a lot of time with each other in death.”

Life comes with unexpected curveballs. Time doesn’t wait until you’re well-adjusted to bring tragedy to your doorstep. And when both of your college sweethearts die in the same year, you develop interesting coping techniques to manage the new normal. Including believing that the souls of said former lovers being reincarnated through two uniquely colored birds.

When Harrison died, my best friend told me I’d see red birds, feathers, and pennies as signs from him on the other side. I never believed in angels, ghosts, or spirits. As a child, I was drawn to talk shows that hosted a weekly psychic or medium. I hung on to every word of the hosted mystic as they relayed the words of the guest’s dead loved one.

“How could someone be so desperate for something that they ignored all logic?”

I thought as I rolled my eyes at the tearful guest. I was sure that all the events were staged. There was no way that anyone would believe that a living person could connect with the dead, grieving or not.

I found myself that desperate after I got the news that Ben died. My quarter life crisis was off to a dashing start. Most girls I know married the guy they spent more than two years with in college. While I was dealing with funerals and wakes; my peers were looking forward to wedding bells and the pitter patter of tiny feet.

Which is cool. I had already decided long ago that I wasn’t going to be anyone’s mama. I also made up my mind that I was going to buy my own damn diamond and keep my damn own name. I was, however, envious of the clear lack of tragedy in the lives of others.

I had wanted all those life events before with both Harrison and Ben. For different reasons and in different spaces of my life of course.

Harrison is my foundation. Our love story was my first and dearest. We shared my first two years of college together.

My relationship with Ben was a lesson. A lesson about the negative consequences of low self-worth and hero complexes. I truly should have stayed friends with Ben. Our worlds collided after a drunken night of divulging our shared ills of being one of the tokens in our predominately white fraternity and sorority.

Each of these men were fundamentally different people. Each of these men taught me integral life lessons.

Each of these men hated one another.

A fact that had me constantly exchanging the stroking of one ego for another. I often laugh thinking about the hoops I jumped through to assure each man of their place in my life. Much to Ben’s dismay he often lost battles and ultimately lost the war to Harrison.

Ben had an unfair life. His perspective of women had been marred by abandonment, the cruel words of high school girls and college peers alike. I had taken it upon myself to “fix” him; which turned out about as great as you can guess it could’ve.

Time had moved on.

I lost touch with Ben after an explosive end to our often tumultuous relationship. I had gained the confidence to stop allowing myself to be a verbal punching bag.

Harrison had a new love, a Ben of his own. And this time I found myself losing both the battles and the war. I was devastated, yet I deserved it. Karma had made me eat crow many times in life before. After fighting tirelessly, I choose to bow out gracefully. I prayed and waited for time to be on my side again.

In the interim, I had decided to focus on myself. I had been in relationships for four years. College was over, and it was time to transition to a new beginning. Harrison and I were still best friends despite the ire of his new lady. I had blocked Ben after a failed attempt to get me to “catch up” with him at his hotel room while in Dallas for business and I had restlessly settled into my post-graduate life.

I was working at my dental job for about a year when I’d gotten the text from Harrison stating that Ben had tried to contact him while in DC for business. We laughed on the phone for hours imaging the scenario of the two sitting down for a cordial meeting with each other.

” You guys should totally have brunch and talk about how much you love me!” I stated excitedly as I giggled awaiting his witty response. I was ecstatic to hear from him. Calls and texts came less frequent during those days; so I savored every conversation I had with him.

I craved laughter and no one makes me laugh as much as Harrison does. I can still feel the rush of excitement I’d get when I saw that name flash across my iPhone screen. My cheeks would pang with soreness for hours after our conversations, a never-ending smile would grace my face as I recalled particularly funny bits of dialogue.

I recall that same conversation as I stare at the red and blue bird splashing together in the newly installed fountain of my current boyfriend’s backyard. Time has brought more change. The second anniversary of Harrison’s death has come and gone. The first anniversary of Ben’s is steadily approaching.

“Good morning Harry, Good morning Benny

I greet the cardinals as I load my coffee pod into my Keurig. I smile as I sip on my caffeinated beverage and ponder when I became the illogical person who believed in signs. I shake my head and place a kiss on my boyfriend’s forehead on the way up to the office.

I have a long list of tasks to complete for the businesses.

My new normal makes me lean on my imagination often. When I dreamed up this life for myself, I had no idea that it wouldn’t include either of these men. My identity had been crafted by my relation to both for so long.

I am navigating what life means when you lose two people that mean that much. I am coping in ways that may seem strange to outside perspectives. I am finding confidence in this journey. I am finding hope in this journey.

I am finding logic in the illogical, with two unlikely guides.

That calls for a heavenly brunch indeed.

For Harry

Happy Birthday my beautiful babe.

 

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)

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3 Ways to Stay Consistent with Health Goals as a Traveling Freelancer

I’m currently enrolled in an accelerated freelance writing course that teaches amateur writers the tools that seasoned authors use to maintain a successful and consistent career as a free lance writer.

Similar to other online courses and seminars, my program began with a pros and cons list of being a freelancer.
Besides the most obvious negative aspect of non consistent pay; the development of unhealthy practices was a prominent concern that I noticed.

With countless hours in front of a computer screen, and no real reason to leave your home, apartment, or pajama bottoms; being a free lancer is the sedentary career your health teacher warned you about.

Growing up in a health conscious family, and having an education in exercise science doesn’t exactly make you a health nut. I have never attempted whole 30 because I’m absolutely positive my sugar withdrawals would be similar to those of a recovering cocaine addict. I live on a steady wardrobe of spandex, cotton and polyester; and my only motivation to workout is so that I can shimmy my ass into the expensive party dresses I wear out on special occasions.

Those aren’t my only motivations. Maintaining the credibility of being a health and fitness coach is also a concern. However the afore mentioned drivers are the most authentic.

Needless to say, I too struggle with making the best choices for my personal wellness. With a heavy travel schedule, completely remote work load and limited availability of nutritiously dense options while traveling; I have to make conscious decisions to make my health and fitness a priority.

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Try some hotel yoga. I wrestle with lower back pain from wild sleeping, fully booked flights, and sleeping away from home. My morning yoga sessions help to relieve the pain associated with my aching spine. These sessions also help me to center myself and focus on the beauty and excitement of the day. Being able to travel the world, complete passion filled work and amplify my voice in the world is a privilege I never want to take for granted. Taking time to honor the moment each morning through yoga provides me with mindful space that is so needed in my day.

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Go vegetarian. I practice intuitive eating. Which means that I follow my body’s natural rhythm and listen to my gut (no pun) when it comes to what and how much I can eat. A practice that really helps me to stay on track during the week or while traveling is to stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet during the day. I give myself a break at dinner time however I usually end up sticking with a mostly veggie rich meal and lean protein for dinner. I still indulge, however I find that I do so less often when practicing eating intuitively.

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Select a hotel with a wellness center. Traveling and vacation seem to go hand in hand. While in a new city, we often want to just forget about our regimes, routines, and schedules. By making sure that there is a fitness facility in whatever hotel we select, I eliminate the excuse of not having anywhere to workout. Working out in an on-site gym is also a nice change in routine with my fitness regime. I usually complete my workouts at home with guided training videos. I detest the pomp, frills and showmanship of the gym crowd so being able to get a great workout at home is really important to me. However, it is nice to mix up my body weight training with weights at the gym. Also being able to use the elliptical for cardio days is priceless when I have back to back coaching sessions scheduled but still need to squeeze in a quick workout. But the best part about training in a hotel gym is that it is almost always empty. With most hotel guests in vacation mode, and not concerned with days off from their wellness routines, hotel fitness accommodations are hardly ever utilized.

Dedicating space in your schedule for health and fitness regimes is difficult especially as a traveling freelancer. Although it is not impossible. By implementing small lifestyle changes, you can achieve big results in finding the wellness practices that fit into your life.

 

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)

Here’s where it starts: My first class as a Zumba Instructor

My first time teaching Zumba was a great experience for me as a new fitness instructor. Our company received an opportunity to teach in-store demo classes at a popular women’s athletic wear store every Sunday in May. We choose to alternate our signature Core Conditioning class with Zumba. Our Core Conditioning class is a high-intensity interval workout that infuses cardio, kickboxing and strength training. Although, technically the fitness aspect of our company wasn’t my responsibility, mom was not a dancer, so I took over the Zumba training.

I actually completed my B1 instructor course the day before I had to teach. Although, I had put together a routine myself through countless hours of watching others on YouTube, I was unsure if my choreography would be okay. However, it fit the Zumba formula and required only minor tweaks.

The day of the actual class I was anxious. At the time I was a preschool gymnastics instructor, so I was sure no matter how large the mistake it still will not be taunted or laughed at in the uniquely harsh way that toddlers do. I had done my studying and time after time each instructor suggested that relaxation, practice and knowing your music was the key to a successful first class.

There were aspects of the class that were going to be outside of my control, but I guaranteed my attendees a good class by following these tips.

  • Focus on giving your best first impression by looking good. I made sure to wear athletic apparel that was flattering and nonbinding.
  • Talk to everyone that shows up for the class. Establishing a relationship with everyone who came to the class helped everyone be familiar with me as an instructor. It also gave them permission to let loose and make the class fun without worrying about being self-conscious.
  • Smile endlessly through each routine. Land a routine, smile. Misstep, smile. Can’t catch your breath, smile some more.

By completing these tasks before starting my routines I was able to instill confidence in my class and show credibility as a seasoned instructor. I soon found that as I started to warm-up, muscle memory kicked in. I didn’t even have to think of what move came next and by the end of the class everyone was exhausted but raved about my routines.

Completing my first Zumba class made me excited to host more Zumba parties in the future.

 

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)