The Gap Between My Legs is Closing – A Poem.

the Gap between my legs is closing

                                                                      and with it- the gap between my eyes and my size. I know-

most-

…some

of the time

that I Look:

                STRONG

                HEALTHY

                WELL

                HAPPY

I Am:

                STRONG

                HEALTHY

                WELL

                HAPPY

 

but

sometimes

my eyes still glaze and the haze of “flashback fog” takes me back to no rack-
ed plates on barbells
and jutting collar-
ed shirts that don’t swell
and space between thighs
and try as I might

the head doesn’t always win over the ghosts of ill fitting sizes of obsession

 

BUT

it’s worth it when it does because my cheeks are flush
and my hair is –annoying!— but lush
and I can sit without pain and I can
lift without shame
and I can run without needing to
and I can rest without feeling…                                                                                                                                                                                                                               too
lazy.

And I can take my own advice
to “look after yourself”
instead of shelving it on the “not for me” shelf”

… most… some… Sundays.

And I move ‘cause it feels good
and I eat not just because I should
and I eat well not just because I said I would
I want to, I want to, I want to and it’s just
the best.
And I don’t fear anything…

most… some… meal times.

                                                                                       and the gap between my legs is closing
and with it, the gap between what I say and what I write and what I think when I look in the mirror

is,

slowly, most times, sometimes…

closing too.

//

This is a hard one to press publish on. For all sorts of reasons. It speaks of my no.1 biggest sin- my need to control my life instead of giving everything over to God. It speaks of my no.2 biggest sin- finding my identity in things other. But it also speaks of a struggle for so many women and girls and boys and men. It speaks of this need to be thinner or leaner or whatever and that anything that gets you there is worth it and that lean = the best when actually, lean doesn’t necessarily equal healthy or even that fit. It also speaks a little to comparison and the way we distort ourselves when we look through a warped mirror like that of social media, or even the people around us. This isn’t an issue for everyone but I know that I can very easily fall into the comparison trap and it plays into my natural competitiveness. But I need to reject that and focus on what’s important in my life:

My God
My health
My purpose

And all of these things point to the same ultimate conclusion: stop looking at yourself. I was going to say “stop looking at yourself through a distorted lens” but I think it’s more poignant (for me) to simply stop being so concerned with the perception of ME and instead be focusing on what God’s doing through me, what I’m doing to help others, what my gifts and talents are and instead of focusing on something so fleeting as my physical appearance, instead be focusing on things of a more lasting and even eternal nature. I am still always going to care about my health and my fitness which will be reflected in my body, but it shouldn’t be my number one priority. My priorities should be my relationship with God, my relationship with others and my relationship with the world around me. And in each of these priorities my love of fitness and love of healthy food plays a part.

Let me explain, if I truly value my relationship with God, I truly value every gift he has given me- including my body- and I believe He wants me to be physically fit and strong to do what he has designed me to do. I know I couldn’t have lost the weight I did, the way I did, with the ease I did, without Him. I not only lost weight but other things in my life which had a hold on me were shed too. I also think He took me down in order to demonstrate the hold control had over my life, even when I didn’t realise it. He continues to work on me in this area and I know fitness is somewhere in this plan. 

Secondly, my relationships with others have developed and grown and my fitness has played a part in that. I’ve been told countless times that I inspire people and that I spur people on. I like to think I’m encouraging and a good friend. I hope I am and that my love of fitness can help others come to a similar place. I also think my “journey” has enabled me to better understand people who are coming from a similar place at both ends of the scale. While I was never a full blown victim of an ED, my thinking around food, exercise and my body was not healthy and I think I can relate to people better for it.

Thirdly, my relationship with the world around me. There is so much to be done. So much to get passionate about and to change. Today is National Sorry Day. We continue to reject refugees and asylum seekers. Racism and sexism is rife. People live in fear. I want to be a part of this change and community engagement is part of that. Food is part of that. Fitness can be a part of that. I believe my purpose is to use my passions- writing, food, fitness, education, social justice, faith… to affect some of this social change- even if on a small scale. I want to make my students think about their words. I want them to think about their vote. I want them to think about their voice. I want my students to make ethical choices. I don’t want them to buy into the economy of fear. I don’t want my students to hate themselves. I don’t want them to make others hate themselves. I don’t want my students to compare themselves to others. I don’t want my students to live unhealthy lives. If I can be a role model- I can change lives… I hope. 

So… even though posting this was scary, I hope it did something for someone. 

If I were you… tackling the social, historical and cultural context. [VCE English]

Ah, the old “understanding of the social, historical and cultural context” criterion. Everyone’s favourite. I think I’ve received more questions about this point and how to include it in essays than questions about anything else in my teaching career.

And that’s because it is tricky. It’s a fine line to walk between showing you know the social, historical and cultural context of a text and accidentally changing your wonderful English essay into a historical or sociological exposition. Despite being a history teacher, I also never really enjoyed teaching this bit because I often found that I wasn’t able to go into enough depth and students would rarely do their own extra research to come to a thorough understanding of the time of place that the text was both set and produced in.

Thankfully, VCAA seems to agree and have since REMOVED this pesky requirement from the VCE English and EAL curriculum.

*cue celebration*

HOWEVER…!

Even though it’s no longer explicit part of the criteria it’s still 100% necessary to think about the time and place the text is set and produced in because of a new part of the KEY KNOWLEDGE and SKILLS for the Reading and Creating AOS and the Reading and Comparing AOS.

In these two AOS’s you are required to show an understanding of the audience, purpose and context of different texts and how these three things influence an author.

To address these aspects of the criteria and show an understanding of how they are affected by each other, and how they affect other components of the text, you still need to know those historical, social and cultural components of the text itself and when it was released.

Why?

For the following reasons:

  • To address how the audience comprehends and understands the purpose of a text, you must first know the context of that audience.
  • If a film was written/released during the Cold War, it will have very different influences to a remake of the same film filmed today. This results in different themes coming through to the audience and also, the different author/director will have a different purpose, in part, because their audience is different.

It may have similar ideas or themes, it may have similar character, quotes, shots etc but it WILL be responding to a different audience and have a different purpose. Consider the horrific remake Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher in comparison with the original Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Same basic story, vastly different purposes, vastly different audiences, vastly different worlds.

BUT, the fact remains that you need to know how to include this stuff in your essays and the KEY word in this whole messy equation is

PURPOSE.

As I’ve said many times before, you need to be aware of the authorial intent and this needs to shape your piece of work. Authorial intent should be an element of your contention and THIS is where your understanding of the audience, purpose and context can come into play.

So, if we’re wanting to be able to develop contentions with true authorial intent in mind, we need to know the context they’re writing in and for and why they’ve chosen the context they’ve set their work in to achieve their purpose.

It’s also important to know this so we can develop alternate perspectives. To a 1950s housewife, All About Eve is probably extremely feminist and counter cultural. To our eyes now, while it has feminist points and some extremely strong female leads, the final outcome for Margo suggests that the intent of Mankiewicz is not as “girl power” as we may originally think.

BUT AMY, HOW DO I ACTUALLY INCLUDE THIS STUFF IN MY ESSAYS?

Well, lovely student, you will pleased to know that if you go with the idea of the context informing the authorial intent which you are already including in your content, you’re already doing it.

Every time you infer that Perkins is presenting Mabo as a flawed by powerful leader who needs the support of those around him, in order not to glorify the man but instead, the movement you are acknowledging that in her context of 2012, Rachel Perkins is encouraging her audience to step up and be a part of said movement. You’re recognising that this film could be as much about her own father as it is about Eddie Mabo. You’re acknowledging that while Mabo is an Indigenous hero, this film is for a mainly white, middle class, reasonably well educated audience who has the power to change.

And you could include this contextual information explicitly in your introduction as the starting point (instead of starting with something that makes me want to die like “In Rachel Perkins’ 2012 biopic Mabo…”) or as a way to enter into that deeper interpretation. You should also be able to incorporate into your conclusion as you finalise your answer and broaden it out to wider significance.

Throughout your body paragraphs consider using language which leads to contextual inclusion. “Despite audience expectations of women…” “Although the film is set in the 18th century, the authorial context of Cold War paranoia…” “The original audience of the film…” “The contrast between the ancient setting and the modern audience…” “The text, while unfamiliar to a modern audience, explores universal themes- a fact made more obvious through the directors use of modern music and shooting techniques.” This technique will also help you tick the metalanguage box. Two in one! Yessss.

Remember that your essay is ultimately an answer to a question and to truly answer that question, you need to know what has shaped your evidence and answer. If you don’t, it would be like using a scientific study to prove your point about hair removal creams being ineffective without knowing that this scientific study was performed using gorillas as test subjects.

Remember, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat VCE!

Or something like that.

Happy writing!

Amy xx

Lessons from Mum- a poem

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Hold my hand when crossing the road

Hold on to the swing

Hold the door open for everyone.

Unless they’re too far away— it gets awkward

Don’t spend longer than 10 minutes on hold

Don’t hold onto your pee too long. It’s bad for you

Maximum hold hairspray is only for special occasions

Hold your breath when using maximum hold hairspray

Hold on, I’m a coming

Hold your head up high

Don’t hold onto people who aren’t trying to hold onto you

Hold faith

Hold yourself in high regard

Hold the people in your life to high standards

Hold yourself to higher ones

Hold your bag across your body

Hold the line

Hold dinner parties

Hold up those who can’t hold up themselves

But make sure someone is holding you*

*I will always be holding you

Hold on tight

Especially when you think you can’t hold on anymore

Hold fast

Hold out for the right man

Don’t hold back

If someone promises you something, hold them to it

Don’t hold back your tears, emotions or thoughts. They all have value.

Hold that plank a little longer

Hold everything in perspective

Hold my hand when crossing the road… and the path… and the raging river and the slow stream and when you’ve gone ahead across the ocean and when we’re only a metre apart and when you don’t want to and when you don’t need to and when you do and when you try and when you’re not sure and especially when you just don’t know.

Hold my hand and don’t ever let go.

~

Thank you for holding me in your womb, your arms, your respect, your esteem and in high regard. I hold you dearer than you will ever know.

Love, Amy

Embracing Winter… Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger Soup

I don’t like the cold. I never have and when I lost weight, I started feeling it a hell of a lot more than I used to.

There was a point (when I was unhealthily obsessed with exercise and eating clean) when I was 8% body fat. This is not a good place for someone who is not training to be a fitness model or a marathon runner to be. I had no fat on me to keep me warm, my hair was super thin, my nails were brittle, my skin was drier than normal (I have naturally dry skin) and I looked gaunt around my face… and I still didn’t have a perfectly flat tummy. SO unfair.

Now, I exercise and eat healthily because I love it and the way it makes me feel. I love vegetables and fruit. I love nuts and avocado. I love seedy, wholegrain bread. I love honey and dried fruit. I genuinely prefer whole, natural foods that taste like their ingredients to overly fatty, deep fried, sugar laden foods. I know what foods fuel my body and I’m learning to listen to my hunger cues- although, this is hard especially after a period of eating to gain weight and eating (healthy foods!) when I wasn’t hungry. IT creates habits which are hard to break. But I know it’s worth it.

While my size 6 clothes and even some of my size 8 clothes don’t fit anymore, my face is full, my hair is thick and my muscles are strong. I’m extremely fit. I train hard. I’m no longer afraid of certain foods and I’m secure enough in myself to be both able to say NO if I don’t want to eat something that I wouldn’t usually (like Domino’s Pizza or KFC, both things which I’ve had to justify choosing not to eat because a] ew and b] it’s bad for me)  and able to enjoy things which I wouldn’t usually eat but want to at that time (like icecream from Il Melograno) without fearing the perceived judgment of those around me.

Winter is one of those seasons where food fears and body shaming arises. People talk about how they’re putting on layers of clothing and along with it, layers of fat. People start glorifying hot chocolates by the fire and then guiltily slapping themselves on the wrist. Ads start appearing on TV claiming that losing weight will help you “Be You” during these cold months. People start spitting vitriol about “crap excuses” like the cold and wet weather keeping people away from training.

It can be hard if you’re only starting out, if you’re coming back to training or even for those of us who train consistently and regularly.

And it isn’t ok. Winter is a hard time for fitness sometimes. It can be cold and wet. It can lead us to want to just cuddle up in front of the fire. And that’s fine! It’s about balance.

Instead of going for an outside run, do a Fitness Blender workout at home or go to the gym and use a treadmill if you’re really into running. Invest in some good quality winter gear if you really want to run outside.

Get an accountability partner who will be expecting you at the gym so you feel like you can’t let them down. If you feel really unsafe driving on wet roads etc, you could even get them to pick you up or you could suggest doing an at home work out while on skype or something similar.

You could also try winter sports to keep you fit during this time of chilly winds and icy rain. Try something like RockUp Netball, for instance!

And if you’re worried about hearty comfort foods, just remember that we’re now in SOUP season. Soup is delicious, can be super (heh) healthy and is easy to make. It can simmer all day in a slow cooker or you can whip one up in  20 mins. It’s warming, soul enriching and just all round, awesome.

I made a seriously incredible batch of soup today to take around to a friend’s place for lunch. It’s only got a handful of ingredients and it was a total case of set and forget.

Roasted Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger Soup

2 large beetroots
6 small-medium carrots
1 medium onion
A chunk of ginger
6 cloves of garlic
Vegetable Stock
Mixed herbs
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) spray

Chop the first 4 ingredients into similar sized chunks, separate the cloves of garlic, sprinkle with the herbs and spray with EVOO spray.

Roast until the vegetables are cooked but toothsome. Remove the skin of the garlic. Tip the veggies into a pot and cover with the stock and blend using an immersion blender until you get to your desired texture. 

Done.

If you want, serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt and some greens stirred through your soup. Crusty bread is a (non) optional extra too.

Seriously. How easy is that? It’s also exceptionally delicious. And very healthy.

So, basically, even though winter is hard sometimes, it passes like all other things in life. I encourage you to embrace it with both arms, a bowl and a pair of super fluffy socks which you can hide under your runners. No judgement.

 

Workout Wednesday (belated, sorry!)- Good Morning, Body!

 

This quick workout is a nice little Good Morning burn to wake you up in the morning or after a long period of sitting down at work. It’s perfect for these cold Melbourne mornings were getting out of bed is tantamount to an ice bath. Basically, it’s a HELLO to your body and a little message to say that you know it wants to move and GET WARM! (You can tell I’m feeling the change in weather, can’t you?!)

Perform 1 minute of each exercise, back to back.

Jumping Jacks
Plank Jacks
Walking Pushups (Both hands on a step, one hand on ground, both hands on ground, other hand on step, both hands on step)
Lunges (1 minute each leg)
Plie’ Pulses
Twist side planks
Dips
Knee repeaters
High Knees

And it’s done, within 10 minutes! If you like, you could shorten the work time to 45 seconds and have 15 seconds of rest between each exercise. You can also make this a full length workout by taking one minute after finishing the 10 exercises above and then repeat it twice through (with another minute between the 2nd and 3rd set).

Feel free to add weights to these exercises as well, to challenge yourself further but it’s not necessary! Your body weight is enough!

Let me know how you go!!

 

Exploring my own city- Manchester Unity Building

When I was a child, I would often “make believe” I was an explorer, adventuring through the unknown- discovering new and exciting places, people and things. During swimming lessons, I would transform into a diver in search of hidden underwater caves and the treasures these subterranean finds would hold.

While I no longer “make believe” (much…) I still love going on mini adventures, discovering places, people and things which thrill me to my bone. I thought I’d share some of these adventurings of one of my best loved locations- my home, my city, my heart land though not my homeland- Melbourne. I guess as I move ever closer to my leaving date (NEXT MONTH!) I find myself wanting to reflect on the places I currently reside and not become too obsessed with what is to come, but to still enjoy the now.

The first adventure I want to share is the stunning Manchester Unity Building.


I had first heard of the tours which they run there when some friends of mine went on a brunch and tour exploration last year during which they were treated to some delicious food and a, by all accounts, fascinating tour of what is now a seriously glam and upmarket dentist (they count the Collingwood football team amongst their clients… along with other less needy patients) but was once the place to see and be seen in Melbourne town.


I knew I had to go. I’ve always walked past that glorious Art Deco facade and wondered what it was like inside but never had the inclination or the cash to get my teeth checked within its walls. So, when Christmas rolled around, I bought my Mumsy an afternoon tea and tour package which included a delicious cheese platter, sparkles, tea, coffee and a little cake for each of us along with the tour.


While it was a horrific day in terms of weather, the tour was incredible and the building itself, beautiful. The dentist who owns the company has put a lot of time and money into restoring this stunning building to its former glory, refurbishing and reversing the evils of 1970s minimalism and neglect. He’s even gone so far as to import the same materials that were originally used in construction at great expense and effort.

It’s certainly paid off and I’m very envious of the staff who get to sit around the most glorious board room I’ve ever seen and have their Christmas parties on the spectacular (though when we went, cold and exceptionally wet) terrace.


The tour finished with us receiving a little gift bag of information about the building and the dentist and a discount voucher for dental work. I may just have to get my next check up while wearing a flapper dress and practicing the charleston. Do join me!