strong women


I went on two dates with two different men this week, and the best part was after the second date I got to home to a bag of trail mix and to the documentary Strong! (I’ll include it below and hope you’ll watch).

ladies I train with

I am on the far right. These are a couple of the lovely strong ladies I train with

Date #1 let me know that he was more attracted to petite women, and women whiter than me.

Date #2 explained that he didn’t like women with lots of muscles.  It is just “too much muscles for a woman”.  He used my gym girlfriends as examples of unattractive.

I came home feeling fat, big, too masculine, unattractive and pissed that I felt those ways. Pissed at myself for being illogical, pissed at those men, pissed at societal norms, and culturally standards of beauty that I tell myself are absurd, however, truth is, they still fucking hurt.  Luckily, I’ve great friends like Sharon Moss a national Strongwoman, who by great fortune, posted a link to the movie Strong!  I’ve wanted to see Strong! for a couple of years now, and for this week only it is available for free viewing at PBS’ Independent Lens.

You know, I am not as strong as I’d like to be, but I am strong, and getting stronger and it is coming from the encouragement of the women around me who lift.  Women who value all bodies for their strengths.  Here is a video of me lifting with encouragement from my friend Hannah.  No matter what anyone says I love how I look in it (although I need to work on my form)!  Now, I just need to find someone else to train with as Hannah moved away earlier this week.

Elenamary lifts (click for video)

people I learn from

A month or so ago I went to the 60th birthday party of a good friend of mine.  She gave me a great piece of advice and said “Elena, remember the Mae West quote ‘You are only as young as the man you feel’ ” she tossed back her redhead and laughed but she was somewhat serious.  I like to think I have surrounded myself with a variety of people, and that they all help me feel alive. A lovely, young friend (maybe I’ll get to feel that young soon enough) taught me this week how to push my body to physical extremes for triathlon and that it was mostly mental, he challenged me and I am thankful.  Taking care of my physical body is just as important as taking care of my mental self.  My goal isn’t to wonder about the next life, but to live as much life as I can in this one.  To surround myself with people who challenge me and love me, so that I may never stop growing—that growth is life.  I know much of that sounds cliche, but it really is truth.

This weekend my friends’  Pete and Mary Alice of Electric Grandmother came to town from Washington DC.  I am proud to call them my friends.  Mary Alice has taught me a lot, like the expression of “being the most considerate judgmental person” you will meet.  I am that and she is in a way too. It is a great compliment.  Pete has great patience, awesome listener and accepts all people.  They are living their life fully and opening themselves to others as well as entertaining us in the process with their music.  It was warm, and loving, and a sense of home, to have them shout out dedications to me during their show on Saturday night.

That same night, crashing at my house were Joe Biel and Elly Blue.  I am not sure when I first met Joe, but no doubt it was at some punk music show, I remember us hanging out at More Than Music Fest (1999?) but I think at that point we had already been friends for sometime.  He has always been a solid inspiration and this time, just like last summer (I wrote in a post about how their tour saved my idealism), I felt good about the world knowing he and Elly are in it and surrounding themselves with other awesome people who were also making the world better.  Elly eloquently and with fervor writing about bike-economics, Joe with his film making and documentaries, both of them with their publishing company, and with them as they tour discussing all of this are Joshua Ploeg cooking and bring people into a better awareness of food, and Aaron Cynic (btw Aaron I am still waiting for the picture of all of us on my couch!) with his great journalism skills bringing the collective knowledge of the group together to document for others.

Aaron Cynic & Elenamary

Aaron Cynic & Elenamary

I’ve got good people in my life. Solid people doing good things who have been around for years.  I have sown deeply rooted friendships not only locally, but globally.  How lucky am I?  I have friends who constantly are shocking me and impressing me with their impact on the world.  They are amazing, and I am lucky enough to not only know them but to call them my friends.

always lube

they looked worse a few days ago ;-)

they looked worse a few days ago ;-)

Always lube. More importantly for me, always lube the boobs. I need to remember that. A couple weeks ago I did a sprint triathlon and chaffed a tad in the boobs and thought “man, I should’ve lubed”. This past Sunday I did an olympic distance triathlon (a longer distance), I didn’t lube.  I remember thinking, “meh, it will be okay”. It wasn’t okay I chafed the hell out of my boobs this time. When I saw my doctor Monday, she asked during the breast exam if my partner had done that to me or if I’d done it to myself.
I explained that, I had done it to myself, as an idiot for failing to lube on race day.

the triathlon running that caused that boob chafing

the triathlon running that caused that boob chafing

Truth is, however, I don’t feel like a total idiot, I feel hardcore.  Just like the new calluses and dead skin falling off my hands, the blisters on my feet, the lack of toe nails, I love all of it. I love what my body is capable of. I love the formation of it becoming a stronger person.  I was showing off my scars to my friend Hannah, a power lifter, and she “ewwed” and told me to put my boobs away (in her defense we were in public on the TRX machine).   I explained that no, I would not be ashamed of my boob gashes. My wounds are impressive and magnificent just like the fact that she has bruises up her legs and no skin on her shins these are things to be proud of.  We are living life fully, pushing ourselves, and it is awesome.   All of this, reminded me a great article I read  When Women Wear Bruises to Work,

Almost every bruise, scrape and scar on my body comes with a fond story. The dent from that tree I didn’t quite dodge, the scar from the scrappy rappel, the bump from that confoundedly sandy 5.10 sport route. They are the marks of living life passionately. And the women I want to spend my time with also proudly bear the marks of living in pursuit of adventure.

Like the author, I am glad I am finding adventure and surrounded by other women who are too.

gender differences

I’ve 226 draft emails …they are mostly thoughts, or experiences, things I needed to jot down to remember in the future.  Accidentally, just opened this email gem and it made me smile:

I overheard Lonnie tell Quincy that he couldn’t tell or ask him if he had been working out nor that he had lost any weight. I was shocked by their interaction and then Quincy responded “What? I’m not a woman.  I don’t need lied too”.  The two began to explain that men could be more honest more straight forward, it was more clear cut even when asking about working out.

I turned to Lonnie, and asked him how do you answer if a woman asks you if her butt looks bigger, does that depend on race and ethnicity? He said there was no good way to answer that question because she was still a woman.

I looked at him and said “You know I’ve increased my squats and i think it has made my ass firmer, lift more, and therefore look bigger what do you think?” he looked at me, then looked at Quincy, and then looked back at me and said “We really gotta go feed the fish”.

love letters

I was trying to find an old identification card from when I would visit the federal prison in Mexico.  The ID was in a box of old letters.  Letters from friends, birthday cards, love letters from one boyfriend in particular—I’d forgotten how often he would mail me postcards, send me letters, and leave me little notes, and I didn’t realize I had so many of them.  It was wonderfully nostalgic to read through them.

These old letters from the ex, are a reminder of the lesson to accept the present.  I didn’t realize how much my now ex loved me, thought of me, cared for me, but now seeing the letters realize it was real at that moment.  I need to do a better job of accepting emotions in the moment, not questioning them, just enjoying them and knowing that for now at least they are real and true.

Can’t wait to sit down and read all this old correspondence, much from friends I’ve lost touch with.  Maybe I will scan some of them and upload them.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou’s

Phenomenal Woman

Many women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.