My Secret Elf On The Shelf Addiction. Help, I Have A Problem

Hey Everyone,

Yes, it’s been like 35 years since I have written a blog post. Ok, not 35 years, but way too many months. If you follow my other social media channels, then you know that I post to them, and my YouTube channel almost daily. I really want to challenge myself to get back into blogging, because there is something about the written word that just reaches people and clarifies my soul like no Instagram post ever can.

I was posting my Elf on the Shelf ideas to my personal Facebook account, when a friend of mine (thanks Tracy) suggested that I should blog these ideas, because she had not seen anything like them before. If I may be so bold, she even used the word ‘Innovative’. 🙂

Anywho, it must be fate or something, because I have really been itching to blog lately, so here we go.

Let me start off by saying that up until about 2 weeks ago, I was (everybody hold onto their seats) genuinely irritated when I heard people talking about the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. Why? Simple. I am a bad person :-). Alright, no, that’s not true. It’s because I really didn’t understand what it was, and I kind of thought it was a little creepy.

Two weeks ago, as I was picking up my son from day care, he showed me his Elf at school, and asked when ours was going to arrive. Never one to take the last open seat on a bandwagon, I said, “Um, I will have to text Santa and find out.” After the kids went to bed that night, I looked up the general idea of the Elf kind of policing children for Santa, and by extension for me, and thought, “Yeah, I’ll give that a spin.” Oh, don’t judge, you know how this ends…with me spending $30 on a somewhat creepy little elf like millions of other parents.

I went to Walmart, then Target, to try to purchase this little North Pole Narc, and they genuinely laughed at me. They were like, “those things have BEEN sold out.” Ok, well, excuse me for not knowing that the freakin’ Elf was #trending. 🙂

Moving on. In comes my personal favy favorton Amazon.com. With the click of a button, my own little personal Elf was on it’s way from the North Pole…Ok, yes, I know it’s from the Birmingham, Alabama Amazon fulfillment center, but go with me here. We are dealing in suspended reality.

He arrives. The kids go through a slew of names from Stinky and Jingles, to Flake and finally circle the wagons back around to Chippy. Yeah, super original, I know. 🙂 Cut them a break, what they lacked in originality for naming our Elf, they make up for in creative ways to destroy their bedrooms, so I guess it all evens out.

The first night, I read them the story, and explained the rules, at which time I was promptly informed that, “Everybody knows that stuff mommy.” Oh, my bad for missing Elf 101 at the local community college. Geez, where’s the magic anymore?

After I put the kids to bed, I had two choices; 1. Hit up Pinterest for ideas. 2. Search my own brain for crazy stuff and see what falls out. Of course, you know I chose option 2, because I feel like I need to make everything in my life vastly more difficult than it actually needs to be :-).

The first night, I wasn’t feeling that adventurous yet, so I stuck him in the cookie display, and positioned him like he was holding a cookie and got stuck in there.

Night 1: Chippy Got Caught With More Than Just His Hand In The Cookie Jar.

Originality Score: I don’t really know, but I am assuming it’s somewhere near a 1, on a 1 to 10, 10 high scale.

elf, elfontheshelf, elfontheshelf2015, ideas, funny, cute, original, new, innovative, easy, fast, funny

Elf In A Cookie Jar

The kids freaked out. They loved it. They were yelling at him about stealing their cookies, and laughing that he got caught. They of course overlooked the most obvious question…How Did That Elf Escape From His Packaging Without Mommy Touching Him? Ah, the magic that is Elf. 🙂

Night 2: Elves Need To Netflix and Chill Too

Originality Score: I think I was probably tickling like a 3 here, maybe.

Night two. I am starting to feel a little more like I can actually do this. I was studying while sitting on the couch, and I thought, man, I would really just love to Netflix and Chill right now. Then it hit me, Elves work hard too. Those little guys deserve to kick it on the couch in their fat pants too, and so this next idea was born. I staged him with an empty soda, and a half eaten popcorn bucket. I crushed up some Oreos and Cheese balls and sprinkled them around him. I added a remote for good measure, on account of it being somewhat difficult to Netflix and Chill without Netflix. Sure, he could have watched it on his iPad, but we decided to go old school, and use a real TV.

 

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This Elf Needs To Netflix and Chill

The kids were sold! This one really made them think this little guy was for real. The crumbs were the real hero of this set up, or as I like to call them, The Elf Question Closer. There was no doubt left for the kids, this little dude was up and about in our house while they were asleep. They said, “he must have been so tired from flying to the North Pole and back.” Yup, mommy win!

Night 3. Elf with OCD

Originality Score: I feel like this one pushed me over a solid 5. If not, please allow me to exist in my own delusion. Thank you very much. Hey, not everyone’s work is appreciated during their lifetime, ok?

So the kids had gone to bed. I was sooo tired that night. I was unplugging the Christmas Tree, you know, because I don’t want to burn my house down and all. Yes, I have a real tree…GASP! I digress. I accidentally knocked a candy cane off of the tree, (clutz) and it hit me like a 2 x 4 between the eyes. Let’s get Chippy to try to fix the broken candy canes. Oh yeah baby, it’s show time.

I go into the garage and grab every kind of glue that I can find; Elmer’s glue, glue gun, Shoe Goo, Gem Tac, yup that’s it. I fooled you with that last statement, huh? I made it sound like it would be like 20 different kinds of glue. Seriously, I was just using a little puffery. Maybe you should lower your standards a little. Who the heck has 20 different kinds of glue?

Aluminum foil in hand, I set Chippy up on the back of the glue gun and touched the gun to the cane. Of course, I had to break a few more candy canes to really sell it, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Whack! Sorry little candy canes, it’s all for the cause.

elfontheshelf, elfontheshelf2015, elf, ideas, fixing, candy, canes, ocd, hot, glue, funny, easy, creative,

Elf with OCD Fixing Candy

The kids were particularly fond of this one. They said, “Man, Santa must really get angry when the Elves break candy canes, huh?” I’m thinking, “You better hope so, or our little elf Chippy has a wicked bad case of OCD. Let it go Chippy, it’s a candy cane. You can buy a whole box for a dollar at Walmart.”

Night 4. Time to Get Shredded Little Dude

Originality Score: I am definitely somewhere near a 6 or 7, but not yet at Innovative.

Ok Elf, If you’re going to stay, then you gotta stop eating that garbage and get fit! We don’t play around about fitness in this house, and I think that Chippy the Elf was feeling like he may have overdone it on his cheat meal of Oreos and Cheeseballs. As I was getting my own gym bag packed for the next day, I thought that maybe Chippy could get in on my bodybuilding action.

He really went ham and decided to lift 200 marshpounds, but hey, Go Big or Go Back to the North Pole, right? I set him up with my Beats headphones, some BCAA powder and a polka dot straw with two large marshmallows. Side note; it is super frustrating when you are trying to complete your evil Elf plan and you can not find the Sharpie, again! Why kids? Why must you constantly take Mommy’s one marker, when you have an entire basket of crayons and markers? Ugggghhh. I showed them. I went into my daughter’s room and took one of her markers to finish this set up. Nanny, nanny boo boo. My marker! 🙂

elfontheshelf, elfontheshelf2015, elf, ideas, netflix, chill, funny, easy, creative,

Elf Getting Shredded

The kids literally dragged me out of bed at 5:10 in the morning to show me that Chippy was messing around with my gym stuff. Some parents have golf clubs, dishes, or electronics that you don’t touch. I have BCAA’s, protein bars, and Beats headphones that are punishable by death. 🙂

They said, “Oh Mommy, since Chippy has your headphones, I guess you can’t go to the gym today.” My face went blank. How had I not considered this outcome? Don’t freak out. I’m freaking out. I calmly said, “It’s cool, mommy has another set of headphones in my gym bag, so I’ll just use those.” Translation, once you are buckled into the car, I will say that I forgot my lip gloss and make a mad dash to separate Chippy from MY headphones. Bad elf!

Last Night. Night 5: Twisted Elf With Weight Issues

Originality Score: This is the one that pushes me over a 9, and may even qualify as Innovative. Hey, relax, I said may.

Alright, as you can clearly see if you have read the post to this part, I may be a little too invested in this Elf situation. Pump your brakes their Judgemental Jenny, you may want to find a mirror, because you’re the one who read all of this. We may just be in this Elf thing together. 🙂

All of that said, when you are this far down the rabbit hole, who knows what you will find, so of course, I keep digging.

I have to attend an event next week, and I have to wear a dress that is very elegant, but in no way forgiving. Though I work out like a crazy person and am super careful what I eat, I think this dress is going to give me nightmares. I keep trying it on thinking that it will fit differently next week, and yet, same result. Hey Oreos and Red Wine, you’re up. I quit :-).

I decided to make the Elf the living embodiment of my struggle. I went to my daughter’s room to pull a dress off of one of her Barbies to complete the look. Sidebar for a second: Remember when dolls had dresses that came off? I had to go through 5 dolls to find one where the top of the dress wasn’t permanently affixed to her body. Who are we kidding here? What Barbie wants to wear the same dress, day in and day out. Who is making these dolls?????

Alas, I found one. My victim was to be none other than, Cinderalla. Naked doll in hand, I tossed her back in the bin and went looking for her shoes. Why can’t those things be glued on? Oh, there you are shoe, in the VERY LAST bin that I looked in. The Barbie Gods are against me, but I will prevail!

I grabbed my scale, an empty wine bottle (give me a break, who doesn’t keep empty wine bottles lying around their house), some Oreos, the shoes, and a tissue. I propped Chippy up, with his butt not able to fit in the dress. Let’s overlook for a moment that he was even trying to put a dress on in the first place :-).

He clearly tried to fit into the dress, which he could not (no comment), probably because of his Oreo and Cheeseball binge from the night before. Sure, blame it on the water weight Chippy. We feel you. He weighed himself, saw the nasty cold hard number staring back at him from the scale, and decided to cry himself to sleep after drinking wine and eating more Oreos. Yeah Chippy, that’s the way to solve that problem. You show those Oreos who’s boss!

#elfontheshelf, #elf, #elfontheshelf2015, #ideas,

Elf With Weight Issues

I snapped the picture of Chippy with the wine bottle for you guys, but I don’t think leaving that out for the littles would have won me the Mother of the Year award, so I did the responsible thing. I pitched it into the trash can with reckless abandon and almost woke up the kids. Way to go Mom!

The kids were laughing so hard at this in the morning. They were like, “Oh Chippy, you can’t fit it the dress because you ate too many Oreos little buddy.” I wasn’t sure that they would understand the set up, but they totally did.

Again, I was really not thinking ahead on this one, because I left him in the middle of the kitchen. Elf:2 Mom: 0. Now I have to tap dance around this Calorie Crime Scene until the kids go to bed tonight.

If you want to know what other crazy ideas that I come up with, I put these pictures on a Pinterest Board for you. I will add a new one each morning. I don’t promise that they will all be ‘innovative’, but I may have 4 or 5 more slam dunks rattling around up there.

I just wanted to say another thank you to Tracy for taking the time to not just click like, but to encourage me to get blogging again. I forgot how much fun this is. I am usually sitting here laughing while I am writing, and hope it brings a smile to your day.

Gratefully,

Raphaela

 

This is Divorce: The Sudden Shift in Your Reality

This is Divorce

This is Divorce.

Hello Everyone, 

For many weeks I have been completely silent online. There was one reason for that only; my husband and I separated for the final time. Just before we separated he began an argument with me about what I had been writing on my blog. He said that I was using my blog ‘to trash him’, which was in no way true. I was simply explaining some of the ins and outs of my personal life, and how you can not allow those factors to cause you to lose sight of your goal. 

That said, for the duration of our marriage, he never watched any of my YouTube videos, nor read any of my blog or social media posts. Suddenly, upon realizing that we were on the brink, he took interest in what I was writing and saying. I am not writing any of this to be mean or spiteful, but only to explain why I didn’t write anything for so many weeks. 

Let’s just say that for the purposes of this blog at this moment that the safety of both me and my children was in question. That reason, coupled with my new knowledge of the fact that he was reading all of my social posts, did not lend itself to an environment where I felt free to share. Has that changed? Only slightly. I am sure that at some point he will make time to pry into my life by reading these posts, but after weeks of losing the right to write on my blog, I simply do not care anymore. 

I decided for myself that he was not going to take one more thing from me, not my training goals, not my spirit, and not my ability to communicate with the world on my blog or any other social media channels.

There will be a time in the future where I may share the details of the final moments of our marriage, but this is not the time. We are getting ready to go through an ugly divorce, a nasty custody battle, and I will not provide his team of paid henchman with any ammunition to use against me and my babies. The only thing that I will say is this. I did what any mother would do in my situation; I protected my children, even at the expense of my marriage. Enough said for now. 

This pretty much sums it up.

This pretty much sums it up.

So what does divorce look or feel like? It feels like having your guts ripped out, while watching your standard of living plummet towards the earth, and having to figure out how to rebuild your life from basically nothing, and you have to do it all with a smile on your face to protect your children from the truth of their life. 

It doesn’t hit you all at once. For me, it happened in little ways. First, it happened the day after he left. I was making our usual amount of coffee, and realized that I no longer had to do that. The next day, it was looking at the door and seeing three jackets hanging, where once there had been four. It is tiny little knives that meet you around every corner.

Little knives in your heart.

Little knives in your heart.

You think you are just going to do the laundry, when you realize that one of his socks was mixed in with the clothing. You are overcome with a myriad of emotions; anger, resentment, profound grief, disbelief, disappointment, fear, and so much more. You look at your children playing joyfully in the bath tub, and you try to establish new routines, implement new rules. You have to tell your children that ‘Daddy loves you very much, but Mommy and Daddy are not going to live together anymore’. You have to fight back the urge to say the things that you are really thinking, because this is not their fight. Thankfully in our situation, they were not asking where Daddy was or why he was gone, so that has been a small blessing in all of this.This is their only childhood, and it is your job to protect them from this terrible new reality. 

When my parents were going through a divorce, I felt like a tattered and worn ball that was thrown violently between two parties that didn’t want to play ball. They were both highly educated, incredibly intelligent people who made the profoundly stupid mistake of not understanding that we were not responsible for their divorce. They would take their resentment towards each other and pour it on us like some disgusting syrupy goo that you could not wash off. I remember thinking that I wished that they could understand that I could, and would not divorce either of them. I was not going to choose one over the other, even though there was plenty of reason for me to do that. I was only issued one mother and one father at birth, and I didn’t get to dismiss them from my life because my parents were unable to make their marriage work. Case closed. 

Why do I tell you that? Simple, because I learned from their mistakes. I know what that feels like. I know the insecurities that created in me and my siblings. I simply will not do that to my children. It is my job to model love, compassion, and strength for them, even if I have to do it as a single mom who doesn’t think so highly of their dad. Is he a terrible person? I will let my children form their own opinions about him. As for what I think, I wouldn’t divorce a kind and loving husband, so I guess you can deduce what I think. I am not saying that he will not make a good husband/boyfriend to someone else down the road, but I am saying that the shelf life of our relationship expired, a long time ago. I was too patient, too forgiving, and simply just too stupid to end it. Thankfully, his actions took care of that for me, and now all I have to do is deal with the collateral damage. 

Do I hate him? No, I still love him. I will always want the best for him. I just no longer want to be a welcome mat for he and his family to abuse. Honestly, I could fill this blog and several others with the terrible things that happened during the course of our marriage from he and his family, but I probably won’t. The reason is because when I decide that I am truly done with something in my life, I release it. I don’t hold onto it, mull it over, regurgitate it and reanalyze it. I try to learn from it. I make my peace with it, and I just go on a more mature, more seasoned version of me. More to the point, my children and I deserve a peaceful life, filled with two parents who love them, and are whole. The only way that he and I will be happy is apart. It took me years and years, almost 10 to realize this, but it is an undeniable fact.

I also have the ability to understand the long game here. Someday, emotions will calm, he may remarry, I may remarry, we will have to learn to find peace in the one fact that we have to co-parent our children together. At the end of the day, years from now, that is all it will be. It will simply be another relationship in my life that I need to manage. It will have a different dynamic. It will have different expectations, but I hope that it will always have love and respect. I know that may take many many years to achieve, but I will conduct myself according to that one goal. I do not want to do or say anything that my children would ever look upon with disgust. I want them to see their mom as someone who took a really bad, and completely unfair situation, and built a life for them that was so much sweeter than the life that they had. I want our story, my story to be one of victory, not simply survival. I want to thrive in my divorce, not just survive my divorce. 

So what do you do? How do you go on? You make the slow realization daily that you were once a person who didn’t have another half. You used to be able to choose your own movies, your own evening activities, meals, vacation places and more. You were a person with hobbies, friends, goals and dreams of your own before you merged them with someone else’s. You realize that for the first time in your 40 years on this planet, you are actually going to be allowed to exist, in your own right, and live your life your way. There are these small victories that happen when you realize that grocery shopping is easier, there is less laundry, and you can really focus on yourself and your children. 

These children are going to need a lot of love and counseling. I can help them with the love, but we are all going to counseling together (Ava, Cash, and I-not the ex). They need to realize that they are not at fault and that they do not come from a broken home. They lived in a broken home, a very broken one, but now they are going to live in a whole home, one where the foundation is solid and stable and sure. I despise the term broken home, because it is positively laughable to assume that simply because two people manage to tolerate each other and live under the same roof, that they are somehow not broken. This is a lie. It’s a lie that society feeds us, to keep us in place, to keep us half alive. 

Sure there is a stigma with walking around with two children, and no wedding ring. People look at you. They make assumptions about you that may or may not be true, but they don’t really know anything about the situation. Just today, the kids and I had to get out of the house, so we walked into town to get ice cream. We live in a very upscale part of New Orleans. When we walked into this store, ordered and sat down, I felt the stares. I noticed one blonde woman and her husband in particular who kept looking at my left hand for a ring, which was not present. 

She was your typical trophy wife; tall, blonde, well dressed, huge ring, etc. She was me until 2.5 weeks ago. She is just walking around in her safe, secure, over privileged life not wanting for anything. What she doesn’t know is that the river that separates her life from mine is not so wide. She could be me in an instant if the tides turned. As I sat there thinking about that, it occurred to me that even though her stares were making me uncomfortable, that I didn’t want to live her life anymore. 

She was at this ice cream parlor, and it obviously meant nothing to them. They ate half of their ice cream and threw it away. For us, it was a huge treat. My children at every last bite of their ice cream, because they know that it will not happen again for quite some time. It occurred to me in that moment that I felt somewhat dead in my former life. We had everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. This new life will come with far less in the physical sense, but we are blooming as a new family unit. 

In case you are wondering if I have completely let go of my bikini bodybuilding training as we have navigated this new life, NOPE! I haven’t missed a single workout. I have lost more than 10 pounds since I began training. It has actually been wonderful to have a goal and a plan to focus on while the rest of my life is very uneasy at this time. Bragging? Not even close. I am simply telling you that when you make a decision for yourself that you are going to do something, you will move heaven, hell, and anything else that comes down your path to make it happen. 

It is going to be a long, bumpy, and windy road until this is over and I can look back and laugh. That said, I am going to strap myself and my babies in and enjoy this ride. I feel alive for the first time in so many years. I feel free to breathe, to exist, and to be. 

Living my Life, 

Raphaela

Bikini Bodybuilding: The First Two Weeks

Bikini, bodybuilding

What to expect during this phase of your journey into bodybuilding.

 

Hey Everyone,

Well, today is officially the end of the second week of my training for my bikini bodybuilding show. I thought that this would be a great time, you know-while it’s still actually in my mind- to give you an inside look at what to expect during those first two weeks. In order to get to the 101 basics of bikini bodybuilding, I first have to walk you through the personal stuff so that you can see ways of dealing with the things that will come your way during this part of your journey. So, let’s take a little trip to make sure that your head is in the right place, so that your body can follow.

Let’s go back for just a second. When I told my husband that I was going to start training for a show again, he was not happy. He is not supportive of this lifestyle or this sport in any way. To be clear, I am not saying this for pity.  I need to say that so that anyone else who is in that position knows that when you finally make this decision for yourself, you will need to go it alone, at least in the beginning.

Two weeks ago, we had a huge fight about this, which I detailed a little bit in my last blog. The point that I want you to take away is that you have to state your goals, out load, for every and anyone to judge. You need to own them, represent them, and be proud of them. Some will judge you, but you will find that most will actually be pretty supportive, or at least encouraging. Strangely enough, most of the people who will actively encourage you are not the people who you are closest to. I really don’t understand why this is, but it is how it will begin for most of you. Knock, knock. Who’s There? Jealousy and Change. Nope, we don’t want you here. Accept that this will be reacted to in many different ways, and just know that it has NOTHING to do with you, and then move on.

For me, when you question something that I have said that I am going to do, it only makes me want it even more. Ok, ok, Raphaela, get back to it. 🙂 Any who, I told him on a Friday that the following Monday I would begin training. We fought. I prepared my meals, my workout plans, and laid out all of my outfits, slowly and deliberately throughout the weekend. I wanted to make this transition as easy as I could on everyone in my family, so I made sure to do these things on my time, not theirs.

On Monday, I got up, got the kids ready, then went to the gym. I worked out, ate clean, drank my water (1 gallon per day…seriously do not skip this). My husband gave me a bunch of lip about how it must be nice for me to go to the gym while he has to go to work. To that I say, I chose a different path in my life. I work for myself, and I have worked for more than a decade at my business to put it on auto pilot, or at least mostly, so that I could have the freedom to do other things. While he was going to work, getting promotions, getting accolades, and moving our family around the country, I worked my a*s off from wherever we were living. I rebuilt my business repeatedly to support him. I mean, I worked all the time, nights, weekends, during holidays, during his repeated deployments, during our moves, 3 hours after I had both of our children, and more so that I could have this freedom. So, basically, I think that it is kind of amusing that he is frustrated by my freedom, especially since it has no financial impact on him. Regardless, I just went right on with what I wanted to do.

At nights, instead of simply sitting down to dinner with the kids, then bath, then bedtime, I set up a mini activity for us each night. I knew that it would make the temptation of snacking or emotional eating less likely to derail my plans. It started with me making the kids meals in little to go containers and then pulling them around the park, or our city, while they ate. We saw a lot of really cool things that we would otherwise have missed. They really enjoy our little sunset dinner cruises. One of our evenings out, we had the opportunity to watch a pilot drawing in the sky. It was very cool and the kids loved it.

 

 

We saw someone writing in the sky.

We saw someone writing in the sky.

When Friday night came, I knew that would not only be a struggle, but a temptation, as we have gotten into the habit of having a few cocktails on Friday night after the kids go to bed and just spending time together. I told him that Friday morning that I would be watching a movie, not drinking and hanging out. He rolled his eyes, which I expected. When Friday night came, I made my 6th meal (right on schedule), and I turned on a movie that I have always wanted to see, and never made time for ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. He asked what I was watching, and I invited him to join me, which he did while saying, ” I reserve the right to go to bed in like three minutes because this movie is going to suck.” No matter, I turned it on anyway. We sat and watched the movie, and our son woke up and decided to sit with us for a bit. The whole time, my husband kept making fun of the movie, and I would just tell him how much I was enjoying it. I watched the movie, finally (only like 30 years late 🙂 ) and went to bed early. He stayed up doing whatever.

I woke up early on Saturday, the kids and I had a beautiful breakfast together and then we went for a bike ride together. Then came Saturday night, aka, the night that I am supposed to have a cheat meal, which I did, but I decided to cheat clean. This means that you eat something that is not on  your normal meal plan, but that you prepare or eat food that is still a healthy choice. Cheat meals can undo a lot of progress, and I just didn’t want to do that. I made my cauliflower pizza and it was soooo yummy. Seriously, I would rather eat this than @Dominos.

Cheat Meal Cauliflower Pizza with Spring Onions,  Tofurkey Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Faux Meat Sausage and Fresh Grape Tomatoes. Yummy!

Cheat Meal Cauliflower Pizza with Spring Onions, Tofurkey Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Faux Meat Sausage and Fresh Grape Tomatoes. Yummy!

 

I know, I know, you are thinking, “Wow, this really doesn’t have much to do with bodybuilding.” Hold your fire there sunshine, because you will soon realize that getting control over the space between your ears has EVERYTHING to do with bodybuilding. You have to train like a champion before anyone even knows your name. You have to show people, with actions that you are not going to be stopped. It doesn’t have to cause fights, but it will likely be uncomfortable in the beginning. In the end, who cares? It is not my issue if others are made uncomfortable by my progress, it’s theirs. That takes some time to really own, but once you really grasp that, you will become a MUCH better bodybuilder.

One night I was going to bed at 9:45 so that I could be in bed, sleeping by 10. He asked my why I was going to bed so early. I explained that I needed eight hours of sleep per night. He said, “Why, because you’re an athlete? Yeah right.” I said nothing. I know what I am, and I know where I am going, so I brushed my teeth, washed my face and went to bed. I could bore you with all of the antics and petty comments that he made, but at the end of the day, it was textbook behavior, so I just decided to pray for peace in my household, and I pressed on. I planned my work, I worked my plan, and I continued training. I set everything out the night before. I prepared my meals for three-four days, two times a week. I drank a lot of water. I peed a lot, like I am considering moving an iPad in there :-). I slept for 8 hours per night, period, no questions asked.

I can not stress to you enough the importance of rest. It makes it vastly easier to train hard. It has a huge impact on your ability to stick to your meal plan. It keeps stress levels low, and it really causes you to prioritize what needs to get done. I go to bed at 10 PM and wake at 6 AM, seven days a week. I do not make exceptions to that rule, because it simply does not pay off to do so. Some may think that is really boring, but anyone on a mission knows that this is absolutely necessary to be fully available and present in your life.

Yesterday, something magical happened. My husband actually texted me asked me how my workout went. I will look upon that as a sign on hope. Ok, that or he was just really bored at work. 🙂 Regardless, my story, and my path will be different from yours. Some of you may have a huge support system, and some of you may not. The point is to take control over these struggles, to empower yourself with the understanding that you can and will effect positive changes in your life, but that it may not happen right away.

Outside of the emotional side of it, there are some pointers listed below that I really encourage you to follow.

Bodybuilding Pointers:

-Write down your workouts before you get to the gym. Know how many sets you are going to do of each, how long you will rest between sets, and leave a space to write how much weight you lifted so that you can track your progress. Say it with me, YouTube is your friend.

-Lay your workout outfits out in advance. This makes it an automatic behavior when you wake up. You wake up, you brush your teeth, you get into your workout gear. If you work out at night, lay them out anyway. Take them with you to work. Finish work, change your clothes and go to the gym. If you have children, make sure your gym has a daycare. If it doesn’t, go during lunch, because you will not be wasting time running around looking for food, because you will already have food with you. Don’t give yourself excuses. I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning to drive 27 miles into Los Angeles to beat the traffic so that I could work out before getting to my office at 7:45 each day. Get it done!

-People say that it’s 80% Diet, 20% Food. I couldn’t disagree with that more. I think it’s 15% Mental (giving yourself permission to succeed, and not giving yourself permission to quit, not concerning yourself with what others think, and not robbing yourself of a goal that you are worthy of achieving), 15% Exercise (seriously 45 minutes of weight lifting 5 days a week and 3 sessions of High Intensity Interval Training 3 days per week should do it), and 70% Diet (It’s not a diet. It’s choosing to put fuel, not garbage in your mouth. It’s understanding that you are building your body, and that you must feed it the proper fuel to make that happen.) A piss poor diet, matched with endless hours of cardio at the gym will not give you a chiseled bikini bodybuilder body. Trust me, I have tried that plan. It DOES NOT work. Stay Focused. Train Hard. Eat Clean!

-Don’t count calories, figure out your macros. There are all kinds of online tools to help you do this. I really love FitDay.com. Enter what you eat, adjust the proportions of food to fit whatever Macro split you are trying to hit. I am currently doing 50% Protein, 30% Carbs, and 20% Fat, but my goals may be different from yours. Macros help you to understand how much protein, carbohydrates, and fat you need to feed your body to make it do what you want it to do. Bodybuilding is NOT about counting calories, it’s about feeding your body the fuel that it needs to be able to perform the way that you want it to perform. Get a food scale. Click here to buy the one that I use. It’s not the most expensive, but it gets the job done, and has for the last 6 years. It’s the cost of a six pack of soda, so don’t make excuses, just do it. Prepare your food in advance, weigh your food, and eat only that amount. This is how you build a lean body.

Get A Food Scale Today. You can not afford to not own this. Don't count calories, understand Macros.

Get A Food Scale Today. You can not afford to not own this. Don’t count calories, understand Macros.

-Write out your weekly meal plan, and stick to it. I eat 7 times a day, no that is not a typo, 7 times per day. I eat at 6:30, 9 AM, 11:30, 2PM, 4:30, 7PM and again right before bed at 9:30. I eat basically every 2.5 hours, and drink a lot of water between meals. I never feel tired, or bloated, or hungry because I am always giving my body just enough fuel to burn and not enough to have to store. On cheat nights, do yourself a favor and cheat clean. The sky is the limit. Check out Pinterest for hundreds of cheat night meal recipes. I don’t eat anything but Fish (Pescetarian) and I created a Pinterest Board, which you are welcome to follow for those recipes. In case you don’t think that this works, you should know that I have lost 7.2 pounds in the last two weeks, so it absolutely does work. I promise. 🙂

-Drink your water. Don’t skip this one. Don’t short change your body, just drink it. Milk does a body good? I don’t know about that. Water definitely does a body good, well great actually :-).

-Watch videos on YouTube of competitions, look at pictures of bikini competition suits, and just generally recenter and refocus yourself several times per day. Trust me, do yourself a favor. People will say that what you are doing is not normal, but you have to remember that you are not shooting for the middle here. You are trying to effect change in your life, and yes, all of the things mentioned above are normal for competitive bodybuilders, fitness models, or anyone else who wants to live a healthy lifestyle where they are proud of their body.

-I would set up a schedule for yourself, as I have done for myself of when and what you are going to buy during what weeks. For example, this week, I purchased my competition heels, in two weeks, I will sign up for my NPC card, etc, etc, right up to the week where you buy your suit and make your hotel accommodations. If you do it in little pieces it will be less of a shock to your wallet, and it is like setting up a system of incremental rewards to keep you moving forward.

I hope you found this helpful. I hope you don’t give up on yourself. I hope you follow my progress, and I hope that you achieve the body of your dreams. If you want more regular updates, check out my YouTube channel for more about Bikini Bodybuilding and more. I shoot videos about a lot of things there, my life, my family, my fitness journey, and just yesterday, about repurposing your old tank tops and turning them into workout tanks. Don’t forget to subscribe so that you are notified whenever I upload a new video.

Here are a few examples in case you want to make your own, or feel free to take my ideas and recreate them. I would be flattered :-).

Ready, Set, Lift. My DIY Workout Tank

Ready, Set, Lift. My DIY Workout Tank

Leave Nothing DIY Tank Top. I wore this today and it really helped me to focus on putting everything I had into my workout today, and leaving nothing in the tank.

Leave Nothing DIY Tank Top. I wore this today and it really helped me to focus on putting everything I had into my workout today, and leaving nothing in the tank.

 

Thank you for spending some time with me. Now go plan your work, work your plan, and maybe I will see you backstage at a show some day.

Loving It All,

Raphaela

 

Dear Body, Let’s Talk: #dearbody

Dear body. A letter to myself.

Dear body. A letter to myself.

Hey Everyone,

Today is Friday, but not any Friday. Today is the day that I am going to share some very personal things about my body, where it has been, and where I want it to go. I should say that I am likely not alone in anything that I will write here. I should also say that I am writing this letter to myself, to my body to be specific, but I am sharing it because I know that this will be helpful for others, as it has been a very eye opening experience for me. So, here we go. Here is the letter that I wrote to my body a week ago, and the decision that writing this letter caused me to finally make today.

Dear Body,

What up! 🙂 It feels kind of weird writing to you, while being inside of you at the same time. Oh well, details I guess. Jesus, where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning. Remember when we spent hours a day on a tennis court together, you know, basically the entire time that we were growing up. I trained you insanely hard to play competitively. I remember what it felt like to want to play pro so badly that it’s all that I could think about. We were so fit, so happy, so hungry, but not for food.

Then the years went on and I started to want it less, life got in the way, and then remember when that as*hole shot you in the arm on Christmas night? Yup, I remember that too. That was some scary sh*t. We survived, but we were forever changed. We were a little weaker on the left side, but a lot stronger on the inside. Remember how you spent almost a year with your arm in a sling, and we had to do everything with one arm? What a year that was. Remember when we could barely lift a bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol 5 times during physical therapy? We cried and cried, but we didn’t quit. We just worked it out, slowly, but we worked it out. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Ah yes, then there was college. Were we training for anything then? Nope. And what happened during college? Let’s see; we started going to dance clubs (country bars) and dancing, and that was fun because we were so good at it. It was good exercise too.  We were so young, our body was perfect in basically every way, and we didn’t really have to work for it. We could just eat whatever we wanted, sleep or not, drink, and it really didn’t show. Those were the good old days.

Competed in some pageants for fun. Why not?

Competed in some pageants for fun. Why not?

Then remember how I thought it was a good idea to smoke socially, and start drinking socially. Wow those were two of my best decisions, NOT! I so wish that I had never begun either of those things. Why, you ask? Simple, because they are disjointed from who I want us to be. Then you got bigger, had cellulite, and just generally started to look less than wonderful.

I was so mad at you for betraying me and not giving me the beautiful body that I once had. You were likely very irritated with me for not taking care of you. We were stuck together, like it or not. Then one day I decided that I would fix you once and for all and I decided that I would just stop eating and I would work out like a crazy person.  Just for fun I thought that I would up the anti and take copious amounts of fat burners, energy pills, and drink tons of caffeine.

New Years Eve. I just didn't think I was thin enough.

New Years Eve. I just didn’t think I was thin enough.

Oh yeah, you got skinny alright. Skinny like someone who was sick, becuase I was sick. My mind was just crazy. It took me years to admit it, because for a while everyone said how great we were looking. I couldn’t stop and you were just along for the ride. I was anorexic, like seriously  anorexic for so many years. I don’t think that I have ever apologized to you you for that, so I am sorry. That was wrong. I hurt you.

I was anorexic. It took me four years to admit.

I was anorexic. It took me four years to admit. I weighed only 94 pounds here at the age of 25.

I was lucky to have some very good friends around me that finally said that I needed to deal with my problem, and I did. I was one of the lucky ones. Together we beat anorexia and we got healthy again. We gained a little weight, and life was normal for a few years. Then what happened to us? Come on, you know. Shorts became replaced by pants. Tank tops were now covered up by cardigans. Don’t you even think about forgetting that sarong thing that covers our butt at the pool every year. I know, I know, I can try to lie to both of us and say that I have been so busy and stressed out trying to build my company, follow my military husband around the country, raise our children, etc that I ‘just don’t have time to be that thin anymore’. I could say that, but it’s a lie. It’s a lie that I have been telling you, well, me, for years. You never bit off on any of that. You never stopped wanting to be better, but what could you do, you were stuck with me. I was stuck with you. We were so unhappy. We went on like that for almost 10 years.

This is not a happy girl even though I am smiling.

This is not a happy girl even though I am smiling.

Then one day, a friend told me that she was getting into bikini bodybuilding. I didn’t know what that was, so I looked it up and for some reason, on that day in 2013, I was hooked. I knew that was my path. I knew that is where you and I belonged. I signed with a team, and we trained, and we trained. We were starting to change. We were starting to look really good. I felt great.

My fitness team: Team Bombshell

My former fitness team. Team Bombshell.

Then, that fateful day (detailed in another blog post titled My Year in Review) you just stopped working. You started falling down stairs, I couldn’t speak correctly, you trembled all the time. We spent months at the Mayo clinic until it was all sorted out.  I knew deep down that you were broken, broken from all of the abuse in the past, broken from a decade of bad decisions, and when I tried to push you that hard without giving you what you needed, you finally quit. I was so emotionally broken. I felt like you took that from me. I gave you time to heal. I found a new way to make you work again. We were sick and we were hurting, but we found a way through it, together. 

Yes, I know that I continued to train you for the last year and half, but not in the way that we are now capable of, because I have learned to embrace the fact that I am not a ‘skinny’ girl. We have curves, which until I learned about bikini bodybuilding, I did everything in my power to hide that fact. You have broad shoulders, a tiny waist, and more junk in your trunk than we know what to do with, but we are strong. We are muscular, and if we work together, we can do great things. For all of those years, I was a ship lost at sea, and you were my unwilling passenger. I knew that we were going the wrong way, but I just coudn’t see land. I didn’t know where we belonged. It was like I was living someone else’s life. I always had this voice inside of me that screamed that this was not all there was for us. It was you. I didn’t realize that, but you were waiting, you were stoking the fire, you were waiting for me to see you for what you are. You were waiting for me to learn to love you for what you are, flaws and all. Thank God you were so patient and that you are still here and now healthy.

There are many people in our life that do not want us to train, that do not want us to compete, and that are perfectly happy watching us live a life that is short of the one that we can live.  They feel that way for two reasons. One, if we train, they will be forced to look at their own behavior and question if they should and could do better for themselves. Two, it is inconvenient for them. They think that we will change, and we will. They don’t see how much happier you and I will be, in all aspects of our life, if we can work together to get to that really healthy place, so we have to have enough faith for all of them.

I believe in you. I know that you are an athlete. You always have been. No matter what I have done to you, or what you have done to me, we have one thing in common, we both want better. I want to make you better. I have dreams. I have goals. I will no longer live this life, where I know that I am leaving things on the table that I don’t want to leave there.

It has taken me 40 years to realize that you and I need to work together to achieve our goals. It’s silly really if you think about it, because we want the same things; goals, accomplishment, rest, training, clean food for fuel, and plenty of water. I get it now. I am so sorry that it took me so long to figure out that I couldn’t short change you, that I couldn’t manipulate you, trick you, or in some other way make you deliver the results that I wanted without the work. I am sorry that you were trapped with me while it took me way too long to grow up. I am asking for your forgiveness. I want a clean slate. Can you forgive me?

I want to move forward with you, in a healthy relationship where we give each other what we need, and where we both benefit from that process. I want you to know that I have always been an athlete too. I think that is why I engaged in so many of the self destructive behaviors that I did. I was fighting you, and not for any good reason, other than self doubt. I want you to know that I don’t doubt you any more. I don’t doubt what you are capable of. I don’t doubt that you can deliver the results if I give you what you need.

I want to compete in bikini bodybuilding. I don’t want to do it for bragging rights, I want to do it for us. I want to do it so that my daughter looks at me and thinks that she can do anything. I want to do it so that my daughter grows up with a healthy body image. God, I don’t want her to go through what I put you through. I want to do it so that I can play in the pool with my kids on a summer day without stressing about my body. I want to do it so that I can go on a date with my husband without wondering if ‘I look fat’. I want to do it for me, because I still have the spirit of a fighter, of an athlete. That fire still burns inside of me, and I need you to help me make it a reality.

Will you go on this adventure with me? I want us to compete at a show in August, in Louisiana. Its far enough that we can train safely, consistently, and arrive stage ready. Will we win? I don’t know. I don’t know if we will win the trophy on this first time out, but I know that you and I will be winners if we work together to achieve that body. We can tweak everthing else after the first show, but we have to get ready, together. Are you with me? After that, we can do anything we want, but its’ going to be an adventure 40 years in the making. I am ready. Will you join me? We have 106 days, 15 weeks! I’ll meet you at the gym, near the weights. 🙂

XO,

Raphaela

Winged Eyeliner for The Makeup Challenged: How To Make It Easy

Hey Everyone,

If you are like me, then you always look at those girls with the perfect winged eyeliner and think, “Girl, don’t step in front of my car.” 🙂

OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it seems totally unfair sometimes that these girls have the ‘perfect’ winged eyeliner. I watched every video I could find and asked every person that I knew how to get this right, and I was still awful at it. Like, if there was a medal for p*ss poor winged eyeliner, I would be sporting gold.

Anywho, over the years, I have developed what I like to refer to as ‘make up coping skills’. These are the tips and tricks that I have finally mastered to make myself appear much better at make up than I really am. I figure that I could not possibly be the only makeup challenged person out there, so I made this video about applying winged eyeliner.

Seriously, if you can mess this two step process up, then you are beyond hope. I kid, I kid. 🙂 I hope this helps you to rock that winged eyeliner this weekend!

Gratefully,

Raphaela Laurean

How To Set Up Your Business For Less Than $10…Seriously!

Hello Everyone,

I finally began shooting this series on Monday. This is honestly the most rewarding thing that I have done in a really long time. Thanks to my business now being run functionally by Amazon, I am free to share all that I have learned over the last 20 years with anyone who is interested. I have had to bootstrap everything in both my personal and professional life, so trust me, I get being on a budget.

I completely understand what it feels like to have a dream, and no way, or no help towards reaching it. This is my way of giving back. I am not selling anything, just providing information for people that need it. If you know someone who you think could benefit from this series, please recommend it to them.

This series will walk you through the step by step (literally) instructions for how to set up your business. The first 3-part video discussed how to come up with and choose your business name, make sure that no one else is using it, and see what others think about your name. The second 3-part video discusses how to set up your blog, domain name, and matching email address yourself. I have already filmed a few videos about how to sell on Amazon, and I will expand on this going forward at the end of this series. Tomorrow, I will be talking about how to secure all of your social media names, link everything up, design your own logo, print your marketing materials, and help your customers find you.

You do NOT need to hire anyone to do any of this for you. If you have been wanting to set up your business, or want to ‘polish’ your brand, then these videos are going to provide you with some very valuable content. Please click subscribe when you are there so that you will be notified when I upload new videos in this series, as I do not regularly post them to my blog.

I am so excited to be filming these, and I hope you find them a valuable nudge towards your dreams.

Gratefully,

Raphaela

 

How To Choose Your Business Name

Hello Everyone,

I just shot a 3 part series (total of roughly 15 minutes) that details what I believe to be the most cost effective and efficient way to choose your business name. Whether you are thinking about starting a business, have recently started one, or are rebranding, these videos contain very valuable (and free) advice about how to get the job done quickly and correctly. I hope you enjoy these. I am posting the first one below. If you like it when you visit my You Tube Channel, just watch parts 2 and 3. Thank you.

Gratefully,

Raphaela

Bombshell Fitness Training Camp Is Intense!

I should start this by saying that one of the only parts of my body that are not sore are my fingers. I just returned from my Bombshell Training Camp weekend with Shannon Dey’s Bombshell Fitness in Daytona Beach, Florida, and all I can say is OUCH! FYI, do not judge the way that we look in these photos, we were soaked in sweat at the end of three days, but so happy to be done.

I was pushed this weekend, hard. I was asked to do things that quite honestly, I had no idea that I could complete. I was asked to run longer, lift faster, jump higher, and just plain push myself to new levels. It doesn’t matter what the specifics of the weekend were, but I will tell you that from the moment I checked in to the moment that the pictures above were taken, the only time that I was not covered in sweat was directly after my shower at night.

The next time that I see a girl that looks that amazing in a bikini, I am going to know how much work it takes to look like that. I have seen my share of challenges during the last 37 years, but this kind of training is all encompassing. These girls train 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with extraordinary focus and commitment.

I know that you are thinking, “no way that anybody trains 24 hours a day.” They do! I guess I should say, we do. We eat 6 meals a day, with a commitment to prepare all meals in advance and eat them regardless of where we are, are how we have to get the food into our bodies. Yes, there are a lot of meals that are consumed with your fingers out of a Ziploc bag, well mine are from Uline (most economical way to purchase a lot of reclosable bags for prepared meals). We train hard 6 days a week. I am not talking about throwing on a pair of yoga pants and working up a little treadmill Barbie sweat at your gym while enjoying the latest Beyonce album. I am talking about the kind of training where when you are through, you are offending yourself, if you know what I mean (hello, somebody needs a shower…STAT!).

If all of that doesn’t sound like enough fun for you, then it would be helpful to understand that we forego life’s little treasures on a daily basis in an all out effort to be committed to putting our best foot forward on the stage to represent Bombshells everywhere. We don’t drink coffee, add salt to our food, consume alcohol, grab convenience food, or a million other little things that most people enjoy without even thinking about it. We drink a gallon of water every day, and we are happy to do it.

My whole point is not to make Bombshells sound like superheros, but to drive home the point that this kind of training takes elite athlete level commitment. I know that a lot of the people in my personal circle of friends and family do not lend Bikini Bodybuilding the credibility that they should, and that is their reality, not mine. As for me, I embrace it. I welcome the opportunity to set high standards and goals for myself, and to wake up and go to bed every night focused on my goal-the stage-the win-the team.

To all my Bombshell Sisters, thank you to those of you who encouraged me, and all of the other Bombshells to dig deeper this weekend. Thank you to Jen Strobo and Shannon Dey for their invaluable, and very frank, advice about how to succeed in this industry.

If you are considering attending a Bombshell Fitness Weekend Camp, I say, “Go For It!” It will be hard, you will push yourself, you will cry (or maybe that was just me 🙂 ), but if you are there for the right reasons, you will finish it, and you will go home with the Team Bombshell pendant hanging around your neck. It will be a reminder to you every minute of every day that you pushed yourself, and that you can push yourself.

Gratefully,

Raphaela Laurean

Getting Started with Female Bikini Bodybuilding.

WITWIBB? What is the world is bikini bodybuilding?

One day about three weeks ago during Superbowl Sunday, a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to start bodybuilding. I looked at her like she was crazy. She is very tiny, and exceptionally fit (she is an officer in the US Marine Corps), and I didn’t see how someone with her body type would ever be a bodybuilder as I understood it. I started looking into bodybuilding, and suddenly realized that this sport is the perfect marriage of all of the items that matter to me in my life; fitness, beauty (inside and out), challenging yourself, competition, healthy living, and a splash of glamour.

With that said, I set out to try to understand if someone my age (37), at my fitness level (about a 6 on the 1-10: 10 high scale) could ever get into something like this, and how. The following is a list of the things that I did last week while I was doing research. It’s by no means comprehensive. It’s just what I did, and if you find that valuable, then it is here for you to use as well. If you want to add something, please contribute below:

-Read Wikipedia to understand the industry as a whole; history, stars, icons, and future.

-Learn about the different types of bodybuilding/modeling (bikini, figure, physique, fitness) and understand the differences.

-Decide which body type/class that you are going to work towards as a goal.

-Understand the various parts of this industry: nutrition, supplements, training, and finances, and compensation (these will be the subjects of some of my future posts).

-Make a commitment to yourself that you are done making excuses, and that no one is responsible for your body but you!

-Make an appointment with your general doctor and get the all clear before embarking on this journey. Ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist if weight loss is a part of your journey, or visit the National Association of Fitness Professionals to find someone local.

-Find a model(s) that motivates you. This will usually be people who are like you; moms, military wives, etc.

-Order the correct supplements and print out their nutrition guide (usually this comes right from the models page on bodybuilding.com).

-Find a local networking/trade event to attend to ‘see the industry’. You may locate this by visiting the websites of the various organizations in this industry, for example NPC.

-Pick one date to go and observe,and then another date to compete. Write it down/stick to it (you know, add it to your calendar)

-Discuss your new decision with the people who you spend the most time around (family, friends, etc) as they will have a heavy influence on you and your success.

-Set up a profile page on bodyspace.bodybuilding.com to be both visible and accountable.

-Start networking right then and there to develop relationships, motivate, and be motivated. Facebook and Twitter are fantastic for following your idols and seeing what they are doing.

-Order at least two industry magazines to help you on your journey (Oxygen and Eating Well are fantastic).

-Dust off your workout clothes, or go buy some new ones.

-Reach out to Shannon Dey at Team Bombshell Fitness for training boot camps, posing coaching, etc. If you are serious and you mean to win, then you work with the best. Period.

Get Focused and Get Ready!

Running To The Bikini,

Raphaela