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kyle cassidy

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Fit is not a weight or a size. [Jan. 8th, 2013|11:17 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison: I Drove Your Car into the Lake Michigan and I Did it For You]

I promise this isn't going to become the fitness blog, but our friend Hanne Blank has a new book out which I'd like to share with you. Hanne wrote "Straight: The Suprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality", "Virgin: The Untouched History" and "Big Big Love, Revised: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them)"

Hanne's a thinker and a talker and a teacher and she's kind and I wanted to talk about her book because I'm glad to know her -- I don't know that Roswell fanfic is appropriate here, but we'll be giving away an autographed copy to the person with the best comment -- whatever that is, it'll be entirely subjective.

So we welcome you to sit back and read this short conversation between Hanne and me, and I also invite you to buy the book, or one of her others.

Clickenzee to go to Amazon

Q) Who should buy this book?

I know it says "Fat Girl's Guide" on the cover, but really, it's for anyone with a body who has issues or problems or fears or freakouts about movement and exercise or about doing those things where other people might actually see you do it.

Q) For me, the gym was intimidating at first -- there was a sort of locker-room culture that I felt alienated from, I was afraid that people would notice that I didn't know how to use the equipment -- I very much felt like an outsider. And then there was the shower. All this really served to make me want to stay home. How can people find or create friendly & supportive spaces for exercise?

There are a couple of general approaches, but they both really boil down to "show up and be present and learn."

Some folks feel more comfortable if they get together with friends and like-minded people to exercise in a group, for instance, walking or cycling buddies, or a group of people renting out a pool together. Then there's some cameraderie and shared experience while you all get your sea legs at the same time.

Other people just hit the gym, or the sidewalk, or the trails, or the pool, and figure that they'll learn by doing with this just as they would with anything else. A lot of the intimidation we feel around exercise is really unfamiliarity that just happens to push our body-image and incompetence buttons.

Bear in mind that you don't *have* to do anything at the gym except show up and get the lay of the land until you feel comfortable. If the setting is unfamiliar enough to freak you out, there's nothing wrong with going in and just hanging around a bit. Or take it in stages: change to your gym clothes except for your shoes before you go, then go into the locker room just to change your shoes, then spend half an hour poking around some of the weight machines (or what-have-you), without putting huge pressure on yourself to Do A Full Workout Plus Negotiate The Entire Locker Room And Shower Routine All At Once. You just don't have to.

Asking for help is also completely cricket. The phrase "I've never used this particular machine before, can you give me a rundown?" is very useful.

Part of the picture here, too, is that as you get used to exercising around other people, other people will get used to your being there exercising around them. You'll stop feeling like everyone's staring at you, and they'll stop wondering who the new person is. Win/win.

Q) What if I can't afford a gym, or there's not one near me? Am I doomed? What can I do?

There's plenty of stuff you can do at home (videos come to mind -- and there are lots of them online now)... and there are places to walk/run/ride bikes/climb trees/play minigolf/etc. out in the world that are not gyms, and many of them are completely free of charge.

Q) I was really lucky throughout my exercise routine to have a partner who was very supportive, who based meals around what I needed to eat, who didn't do things do disrupt the eating plan that I'd laid out, who complimented my progress and put up with the hours that I was spending away. When people commented on my blog post, one common thread was living with a partner who unintentionally sabotaged their goals. So my question really is what should allies be doing and not doing? And not just partners at home, but friends and family -- how can people who aren't exercising and aren't interested, how can they be good allies for those who are?

Don't get in the way.

I'm going to say this again: don't get in the way.

That's the single biggest thing. If you live with or love someone whose behavior patterns have changed because sie is now adding exercise to hir routine, let hir. This is called letting someone have hir autonomy to do the things sie wants and needs with hir body.

You can negotiate various kinds of active support if you choose, like planning part of your schedule around a partner's aerobics class so you can share a ride, or planning shared meals that work with what your partner wants to eat (should s/he change his/her eating patterns, which may or may not be the case) et cetera. But the big thing is to just not get in the way.

Q) At first exercise is something that people do they grit their teeth and do it because they want the result. But for some people, there … something that happens and suddenly, or maybe over time, they like what they're doing, they like going to the gym or rock climbing or biking or swimming or roller derby or whatever. What's the key? how do you get to be one of those people who goes from slogging through it to someone who's compelled to do it because they enjoy it?

There's no magic bullet or secret password. I cannot tell a lie: you may never become the kind of person who enjoys physical activity so much they really look forward to doing it, and prioritize it organically as a pastime. That's okay. There are plenty of things in our lives that we do because we benefit by doing them and we appreciate the benefits enough to prioritize doing them, not because we're just so danged happy to be doing them. This is a perfectly reasonable kind of relationship to have with movement and exercise, as it happens.

I say this because I've watched people abandon exercise/movement because they haven't magically become one of those people who really likes to exercise, then suffer physically for the lack of movement. "It doesn't excite me" is understandably not an incentive but it is also a really bad reason to suffer. Taking Vitamin D and St. John's Wort daily doesn't excite me, either, and it often gives me a slightly upset stomach for a little while, but y'know, I am a lot better off if I just take the damn things.

But back to your question... I think that what breeds a fondness for movement is exactly what you suggest: time and fluency. Everyone likes being competent. Everyone likes getting to the point where a new skill feels natural and normal and easy. So the best advice I have if you want to become fond of moving your body is to stick with an activity long enough to get comfortable, and see how it goes from there as you improve your skills.

Q) As we spend more time at the gym and figure out how all the machines work and where the towels go, how can we be better gym citizens in making the gym a more welcoming and safe space for people just coming in?

Make eye contact and say hi to people in a friendly way. No staring.

Don't give advice unless someone actually asks you -- personally -- for it.

Don't read over other people's shoulders, looking at settings on machines to see whether they are doing more/less/faster/slower than you. It's none of your business. Keep your eyes on your own damn paper.

Don't assume you know why someone is at the gym, or what their goals are... they may not even have any, and that's totally legit.

Don't assume you know what's going on with anyone else's body or physical condition unless you are, in fact, their doctor or their coach. You are not the Physiology Whisperer, and the fact is, you simply don't know from looking at someone what's up with their body, health, or physical condition.

Familiarize yourself with the notion of Health At Every Size (HAES) -- the important idea that every body at every size can be enabled and encouraged to be as healthy as is possible for that body at that time, whatever that may look like. Here's a good quick place to start: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=76

Q) As soon as I started going to the gym people came out of the woodwork to tell me that I was doing it wrong. My inbox flooded with people saying I was working out too much, or eating too little, or I had the wrong shoes, or a million other things. How do you find feedback that's useful? How do you sift through the comments from friends, relatives, enemies, and legitimately knowledgeable people to find the things that help?

This phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has ever mentioned an illness or ailment on the Internet. Everyone has a body, and thus they have opinions about what works, or doesn't work, for bodies.

Truth is, bodies differ and the same things don't work for everyone. Most people have some idea what works for them, but that doesn't necessarily mean it'll work for you... or that you even care about whatever it is.

Most people also have some decent horse sense about what might work for them and what's not likely to click. Trust your gut. If a suggestion sounds like it is reasonable and doesn't seem like it can do you any harm, then try it if you like and see what you think.

Feel free to ignore the rest. As I say in my book, opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one and everyone's fond of their own, but that doesn't mean other folks get to insist that you admire theirs just as much as they do.

Q) When I started working out I soon realized that "weight" wasn't really a good way to measure the progress that I was trying to achieve, but we seem to be really hung up on weight. How should we be looking to measure the results of working out?

Fit is not a weight or a size. Nor does weight loss generate fitness all by itself. What generates fitness is imposing physical demands on your body, and your body responding to those demands by becoming stronger and more robust.

My favorite single DIY technique for measuring positive change in fitness level in an externalized way is to see how long it takes you to walk a mile (or a kilometer) at a comfortable pace, get a baseline, then check again after you've been exercising for a while. As your comfortable pace gets faster and your times get shorter, you get a good indicator of how your strength, stamina, and robustness are improving. Not glamorous, but very reliable.

Personally, I think most people also can tell when their bodies are benefiting from a new body practice subjectively, too. You feel different, and doing various things feels different to you -- some things start to feel consistently easier, you get consistently better at particular skills, and so on.

Q) If someone said to you "I'm on the fence. I'm thinking about starting an exercise program but … I know it's going to be difficult, and I have body issues and weight issues and locker room issues and I'm not sure I want to open those cans of worms, but I'd like to be convinced" -- what would you tell them?

I'd tell them to try an experiment and set a short time frame, say 100 days for a nice round number, for doing some kind of low-commitment movement at least every other day. It doesn't have to involve a gym. It could be going for a walk with your dog for a half an hour every other day. It could be using your mom's dusty old exercise bike for the duration of a podcast of your choice every other day. Or you could go whole hog and decide to go walking on a gym treadmill and then do some exercises on a few of the weight machines every other day. Whatever seems like it's doable for you.

Do it every other day for 100 days and you have, in fact, started an exercise program and you can see how that feels and where you want to go from there.

Q) Someone says: "I love your book, you understand where I'm coming from, I'd like for you to be my personal trainer or answer questions about my exercise program." Is this possible? If so, how?

I do movement coaching in various ways for people, and I am happy to talk to folks about how these things can happen. I'm able to set up client meetings in person in the greater Boston and Worcester, MA, areas, and in the greater Atlanta, GA area; I am also happy to work with people via Skype or phone. Sliding scale is available for those who need it. Please email me at hanne at hanneblank dot com if you'd like to talk with me about this.

Q) My sister got me a book on geriatric weight lifting for Christmas and when I opened it my first thought was "how old do you think I am?" and it makes me wonder when it might or might not be appropriate to give your book to someone as a gift. If there's someone out there thinking "I think so-and-so might really like this book but I don't want to be triggery or come across as a concern troll," what would your advice be?

In my experience, there is a lot to be said for giving someone a potentially triggery title by saying "I read this and really liked it and regardless of the title, it really had some great advice and I thought you might like it too." This makes the book and its attendant issues into a shared thing, you're not just being presumptive or prescriptive.

Do make sure you've at least skimmed the book, though. And that you mean it when you say you thought it had some good advice and that you liked it. (Being able to point to some things you liked helps a lot.) Otherwise you are, in fact, just being a presumptive prescriptive jerk.

You can get The Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts here, (you can also read a lot of it using "look inside), find her on the web here or follow her on twitter at @HanneBlank

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[User Picture]From: midnightstation
2013-01-09 05:11 am (UTC)
My wife got me a $100 folding work out bench for the holidays from Amazon. I have a set of adjustable dumbells that I got her 3 Christmses ago that I use. My wife and I are now working out three nights a week. I pulled a few exercises from online. I chose one exercise for each muscle group I want to work on. I did this three times so that the times we work out in one week each one is different. So far it is doing us well. We help inspire each other. I jog on the other nights when I can squeeze in the half hour of time to run uptown for 20 blocks and come back.

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[User Picture]From: chamisa
2013-01-09 06:43 am (UTC)
This fat girl found herself signing up for the gym last summer, much to her surprise. She realized that if she actually wanted to exercise in such a place, she had to pretend she was "one of those people who go to a gym" long before she actually was one of those people who go to a gym.

It felt like such an audacious act, signing up for a gym. Like, how dare she? She wasn't one of those people, after all.

But then she got there and looked around and noticed that by far the majority of the people there were not young, lean, hard-bodied, intimidating specimens of perfection. The bodies she saw came in every flavor of size, age, shape, and fitness level. And everyone was doing their thing, not really paying much attention to the new fat girl who walked in and bumbled around trying to figure it out.

She is still surprised to find herself going to the gym (and still bumbles around trying to figure it out, though much of it is feeling surprisingly normal and routine now)--and on a regular basis, even!--and to find herself saying things like, "So, today, I'm going to the gym, and then I'm going to..." or "I want to go to the gym today," or "I worked out at the gym today....". In spite of the fact that it's becoming routine, there's still a big part of her that feels like an imposter when she's there.

Although there are definitely days when she finds herself actually wanting and needing to exercise, she also thinks she might always be slogging through it to some degree.

Somehow, she found herself signing up for some personal trainer sessions, and has started lifting weights. Her arms are sore right now from the last session.

A few weeks ago, she did something she never would have imagined herself doing, and she is still surprised about it. She signed up for a fitness challenge at the gym. She is actually going to participate in a fitness challenge. At a gym. With other people.

The main challenge is not going to be with everyone else who signed up, though, it's going to be with herself.

She has no desire to run a marathon.

(Also, she doesn't usually talk about herself in the third person. It just sort of happened.)
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-01-09 04:03 pm (UTC)
One thing I really liked about Hanne's interview is her saying when you try something, try it for "100 days" -- not a week, not even two weeks, a good hundred days and to give yourself that time to get good. I realized that after 100 days in the gym I felt a lot better about being there -- I still feel a bit like an outsider, because I can't lift all the weights or row all the miles, but even though i feel on the outside, i know there are things that i can do that i couldn't do before ... and that i belong. the 100 days to make a decision makes a big difference.
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[User Picture]From: elektra
2013-01-09 08:24 am (UTC)
I managed to lose 48 pounds last year. 15 to go. I keep telling myself I need to add exercise to the mix, that dieting alone won't do it. I was working out regularly a year ago, but I had surgery on my toe in December 2011, and that stopped me cold (surgical bootie for 6 or 8 weeks). I just never got going again.

I've been following on your blog and it's really motivating me. Just reading about what you've been doing is going to get me going, damn it! (But nothing is going to get me outside until it's warmer . . . then again I hear that might be next week).

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[User Picture]From: nerak_g
2013-01-09 03:40 pm (UTC)
She is one of my favorite revolutionaries.Her signing here the other night was FANTASTIC!
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-01-09 04:46 pm (UTC)
I hope you took photos!
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[User Picture]From: thespian
2013-01-09 03:52 pm (UTC)
I love Hanne Blank. I remember being all OOOOOH when someone I was casually dating was *also* dating her a decade ago.
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[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-01-09 03:52 pm (UTC)

Fit is not a weight or a size. (truly awesome convo between awesome people)

User nerak_g referenced to your post from Fit is not a weight or a size. (truly awesome convo between awesome people) saying: [...] Originally posted by at Fit is not a weight or a size. [...]
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[User Picture]From: phantommuse
2013-01-09 05:22 pm (UTC)
I would really love to read this book.

I have been "the fat girl" my entire life. Literally, I've never been "skinny" or "healthy weight" or any term that even remotely suggests that I am or ever have been anything other than fat. It started with what people liked to call “baby fat” – and then eventually the teasing at school, when I'd come home crying every day and learned to hate my body at a very young age. I was (and still am) a very emotional person, and while some people might take teasing as an incentive to change, I've always felt compelled to blame them for their attitudes and then go cry in the corner while I eat a tub of Ben & Jerry's.

Last year, I started a blog called "My Fat Life" because every time somebody talks about wanting to fit into their "skinny jeans" I cringe a little -- I've never had skinny jeans. My idea of skinny jeans would be the still-very-plus-size jeans I wore 10 years ago that are tucked away in the closet because they were too comfortable to trash just because I can't squeeze myself into them anymore. I've literally been fat my *entire* life.

The problem with being a life-time fatty is that I have no sense of what it means to be a normal size, but I do remember a time when I still felt healthy. I remember a time when I used to say "Yes I'm fat, but there's nothing wrong with me!" Unfortunately that's no longer true. The longer you remain fat, eating those tubs of ice cream, feeling sorry for yourself, the sooner you end up unhealthy. The sad part is that I don't really remember the point at which things changed from "sort of healthy" to "can't stand up for more than 5 minutes without needing a rest" -- and that's scary.

The long term effects of being overweight mean that I am in constant pain. Along with hereditary conditions, I also suffer from depression and a slew of other things I won’t even begin to list. As such, I've felt like there's not a lot of hope for me in the world of exercise. Everything I've tried makes my joints hurt so bad it takes several days to recover, so it's been hard to find low-impact ways to keep myself moving. Unfortunately, the less I move, the less I'm *able* to move.

I am trying to break out of the vicious cycle of self loathing and eating to try and fix it. And I realize perhaps the only way to do that is to work on something besides just my diet.

I sometimes feel like I'm the only fat girl with pain issues, because so much of what I see focuses on eating right and exercising. I like the concept of "healthy at any size" but my current size is incapable of being healthy. The weight puts a strain on my back, my knees and legs, not to mention my heart and lungs and every other internal organ that's having the life literally squeezed out of them. Still, I think exercise advice from another fat girl would be the best kind, because books by people who have never been fat, or people who say they used to be fat but weren't actually *morbidly obese* don't ring true for me.

A woman in a class once told me that she had weight loss surgery because her health chart said "morbidly obese" and she thought "MORBID? I don't want to DIE!" and that was enough to scare her into doing something. I had hoped it would help me too, but I still find myself looking for excuses.

While I may not be gym fodder, I imagine this book has a lot of other advice on how to keep moving, and keep motivated. I like the 100 day idea -- I was once told it takes 2 weeks to create or break a habit, but 2 weeks has never seemed like enough to me. Not when you're trying to change the way you live your life.

I'm worth at least 100 days. And just reading this interview has given me a push to start today -- I will walk for 10 minutes every day for the next 100 days (or more, if I'm feeling up to it). That doesn't seem like a lot, but for me, it's a big step. I've always been a fan of the term "baby steps" but I'm a big girl, and every step I take toward making myself healthier is a pretty big step.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-01-21 10:37 pm (UTC)
send me your address
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[User Picture]From: evilmommytina
2013-01-09 06:26 pm (UTC)

A Once Happy Fat Girl Still with Body Issues

Hi Kyle... For twenty years of my adult like I walked through life in a 200+ pound body. At 5 foot nothing that is heavy. It got worse as years rolled along, but honestly, I had strong self esteem when it came to body issues and sex. Now, after gastric bypass, which literally saved my life having horrible hypertension and sleep apnea, I find myself struggling in massive ways with my body NOW. I weigh 103 pound soaking wet... and although I no longer struggle with lugging around a heavy body, I can't seem to push myself to being intimate for fear of what I look like with all this skin. Compared to friends in my WLS Support group I have a tight little frame... but my brain is malfunctioning when it comes to embracing my new ME.

I would LOVE to have a copy of your friend's book, because quite frankly, I am still a big gal in a now tiny package... who still has ISSUES the size of a locomotive.

Hugs, Tina

Edited at 2013-01-09 06:27 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-01-21 10:38 pm (UTC)

Re: A Once Happy Fat Girl Still with Body Issues

send me your address
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[User Picture]From: iamgerg
2013-01-09 07:19 pm (UTC)
I've been skinny, then fat, then skinny, and fat again. It's hard man. I have COPD and exercise hurts. It hurts more when I'm not exercising regularly, and it hurts less when I'm in shape, and carrying around fewer pounds... but it still hurts. I don't run because it feels like someone took a Brillo pad to my lungs after, I work with computers so I'm too sedentary for my own good. It's hard. I don't have the magic bullet, I've given up on dieting, and I fight to stay away from junk food.

I don't have a lot to offer to others going through this... but there are three things that have honestly helped me through my ups and downs so I'll put them here.

1) My ADHD brain can't deal with regimented exercise, so I do what I call wandering meditation. I'll get on my bike, or go for a walk, but without a destination in mind. (this works better in urban areas) I'll just head out and explore. Go down streets I've driven past, walk on the opposite side of streets I regularly travel. (dogs love it when you take them on these meanders.) I don't worry about my heart rate, or the time, of how many calories I'm burning or how many miles I've travelled. I just move, and try to limit my world to what my senses bring in. If you take away all of the expectations of exercise, you can't do it wrong. And lets face it. Moving is better than sitting.

2)Treat food as an experience. Food is such a quintessential part of our lives, and yet we put so much baggage on it. This is fancy food, this is healthy food, this is fast food, this is comfort food... yada yada yada. Try this, take a bite of an apple, and ask yourself what is the experience you are having? Most of us have eaten hundreds of apples, but have you ever sat down and listened to the sound of eating an apple? Does is crunch? crack? What about feeling it? Can you describe what parts of your lips and teeth an apple touches when you bite one? Where do you feel the juices... what words would you use to describe the apple? Instead of reading a book and drinking tea, try drinking tea while you drink tea. From the hot beginning of a full cup, to the last lukewarm sip, Do the flavours change? The colours? The smells? You will be amazed at how complex simple foods are, and how kinda one note, manufactured foods can be.

3)Stop Drinking your calories. Milk, Soy Milk, Soda, Beer, Cappuccinos. I love them all. But too often I find that I use them to hydrate myself, or to wash down my meal, or to quench a thirst... the problem is you don't taste them when you do this. If you aren't going to take the time to savour a drink, just use water. Like a nice rich hoppy Beer, then take the time to roll it around your tongue, and taste it. If you are thirsty, drink water.

Life is to short to compare yourself to a chart, or an image on a wall. Food can be addicting so don't hate yourself for craving it. If you buy a Big Mac don't wolf it down before anyone notices, take the time to savour it, find the flavours, find the textures, find what it is that satisfies you, and then try to find that satisfaction somewhere healthier. If exercising bothers you, figure out what bothers you about it. For me it felt like gasping for air as I hauled my weight around, so I swim now. I take my camera and I wander, I try to find restaurants and small shops. I see where that road just past the bridge goes.

There is a Buddhist idea of learning to water the flowers. The garden of your mind will pop up weeds and flowers. You can try to pull the weeds but they will grow back. So all you can do, is only water the flowers. If you stop watering the weeds, they will shrink and die. Find what works for you, and encourage yourself to do it, if something doesn't work,if you can't keep something up, don't blame yourself, don't guilt yourself, hating it, doesn't change it. Accept it as part of who you are and find something else that does work.

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[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-01-09 09:14 pm (UTC)

Fit is not a weight or a size. (reposted cuz i wanted to promote this :)

User lyonesse referenced to your post from Fit is not a weight or a size. (reposted cuz i wanted to promote this :) saying: [...] Originally posted by at Fit is not a weight or a size. [...]
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[User Picture]From: akrissy
2013-01-10 12:23 am (UTC)
On the topic of understanding the locker room (ladies side)... Early in my attendance to a new community gym n pool, I asked the front desk woman when she was by herself and no one would hear me asking "so what is the etiquette in the locker room? Do I have to stay wrapped in a towel as I try to get dressed so not to shock anyone by my nekkidditty? ". She smile and said it was not necessary, folks wander as they are comfortable so if naked is my thing, all good as long as I'm not leaning my chest into someone else's gym bag (or them).
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[User Picture]From: tweekie
2013-01-10 07:39 am (UTC)
I've loved Hanne Blank ever since I got my first copy of Big Big Love (the first edition). I've since gotten several more copies when I find them, both new and used...it's funny how they seem to wander off with my friends and not come back to me. But that's why I keep getting more copies. :)

I just got a bike...yesterday, in fact. Freecycle is a wonderful source for free exercise equipment! I am fairly new to this area, and I am *so* looking forward to exploring both my neighborhood and beyond. I have problems with my ankles when I walk too far (they have a tendency to want to buckle under, which is a *really bad thing* when you realize you've reached your destination and can't make it back home). So, I decided a bike was the perfect way for me to get to those places that are *just barely* too far for me to walk to, and get some exercise and hopefully strengthen my ankles in the process.

My boyfriend also decided we should join a gym (he is larger than I am), and that is exciting too. It is one of the ones that preaches itself as a "no judgement zone", so I am expecting all body types and fitness levels. :)

My body image has improved over the past few years. I just came to a point where I decided, "This is what I look like. You can love it and look, or don't love it, and don't look. And I am fine with either choice."

I am very excited about Hanne's new book, its release is perfect timing for me. She has such a great outlook, and she encourages so many people that need that extra push to get where they want to be. Thank you, Hanne, for being such an inspiration to us all.
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