Monday, December 29, 2014

It has been a very long time

    The past two years have been amazingly eventful.  A seemingly calm period of time can be a perfect disguise for earth shattering changes.  As I emerge from my silence, I bring with me lessons learned from choosing to stand still and from haltingly moving in directions uncomfortable to me.
    This first dip into the pool of finding my voice again after metamorphosis of sorts is both exciting and horrifying.  Stay tuned for mini posts as I "clear my throat"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loving Betsy

     I was not cut out for bed rest.  Not quite a shocker to anyone who knows me but I actually believed that being a little older I might enjoy the "time off" from the daily grind a little more.  This year I have had some pretty major changes in my life and I vowed to blog much more and use the extra time to help   all of you learn from or at least laugh at what befalls me.
    This summer was the first time in my entire adult life that I stopped teaching and wasn't on tour or doing some other kind of work. I traveled to Scotland.  Living in NYC for these past 20 years, I was feeling very "over it" and couldn't wait to get away from the city and everyone in it.  Coming from a small town where people are super friendly and talk to each other, it took many years for me to become a NYer in that "shut out everyone around me" way.  I didn't think it would ever happen to me but it did and then some.  This year I found myself nearly agoraphobic in my aversion to crowds and people. I couldn't ride the subway without sunglasses and ear plugs.  It has taken a few months for me to figure out what exactly happened but I think I have. First of all, I work in two fields where I am constantly observed and judged by what I look like.  It is the nature of modeling and of teaching group fitness classes.  Also, living in NYC, we have a good amount of tourists who I "look familiar to" which leads to a very obvious group whispered discussion accompanied by a lot of staring.  My daughter is highly attuned to this and it makes her crazy therefore it is very hard to ignore.
      Secondly,  I have historically been someone who loves to host dinner parties, cook for my friends and have an "open door" to everyone I love.  These past 5 years, I have spent most of my time alone.  There is certainly a lot of growth there.  I do love my alone time, reading and crossword puzzles but there was usually a balance between social time and alone time.  I don't have co-workers in the usual sense and being divorced from the twins father, I don't have them all the time.  I didn't realize that there was a shift happening within my self and my interaction with others.  Everyone experiences challenges in their lives. The changes that they bring to us happen suddenly or over time and sometimes we fail to notice unhealthy trends until we step back and look at our lives and realize that we don't recognize ourselves anymore.
    When I left NYC and headed to Scotland, I was excited to talk with "really nice and friendly people".  I realized the first day that I became really nice and talked to people. Something I hadn't done in NYC for a long time.  When you spend your days literally pressed against strangers, you have to build boundaries around your "self".  It is healthy and natural.  NYers are not unfriendly. They are highly functional in a situation that is very abnormal.  When a total stranger is literally invading your personal space for a large chunk of your day, you have to construct a wall to be comfortable.
    It was amazing to see the change in myself and how much happier I was and how much happier I made people around me when I allowed them in.  I had so much fun in Scotland. I talked and laughed and experienced people of all walks of life and all ages. I had dinner next to an older couple who had me rolling with laughter for hours.  Fun and joy are so much about simply being open to both those things and allowing them to flourish.
    My next stop was my hometown. I had not been home in over 5 years.  The memories that being home evokes are very mixed for me. A lot of joy and a lot of very painful memories vie for my attention.  It is easier for me to be the person I have grown into and "decided" and worked to be if I can be in the here and now.  Although I was born Elizabeth Story, I was adopted by my step father and legally changed my name to Lombardoni when I was 6.  My step father had some mental health issues that made parenting a step daughter a very bad match for him.  Although I forgive him everything and have moved on, I still cannot write about some memories because I know it will too painful for those who love me and I have no desire to put even strangers through those memories so we will leave it at that.
      My Mom called me Betsy from birth.  In 4th or 5th grade, I began to stutter horribly.  Although at school, I was functional, at home it was extreme.  I separated my home and school selves and nobody knew I was anything but a happy bouncing blonde teenager.  The cool thing is that during those hours, I was just that.  I never shared my secrets with anyone at school.  I underestimated the other kids.  Part of me needed it all to be a secret so I could BE happy at school but the other half believed that they wouldn't understand or want to know.
     When I left home, I legally changed my name to Story and banned anyone from called me Betsy. I hated it.  I had earned my right to move on and be happy and forget those years.  For everyone else, I know it must have seemed ridiculous.  I can laugh about it now.
     As I was running alone in Scotland in the rain and contemplating my life, an amazing thing happened.  I realized that I was not really happy and needed to make some changes to let people in again.  I also thought about coming home and how everyone sees me as "Betsy".  I allowed myself to step back and ask myself "what do they see and feel about Betsy"? I was always a very good intentioned person. Even though I stuttered I would stand up and not allow anyone to tease anyone else. I went out of my way to be fair and giving and good (I knew so well how important it was).  Having the home life I did, I could have been angry, mean and lash out at everyone around me. Not that I was perfect (I certainly wasn't) but given my situation, I did amazingly well.  When my hometown friends see Betsy, they like her.  It was me who didn't.  As I ran in that beautiful green ancient land, I realized that I like Betsy too. In fact, she was awesome and I am proud of her.
   My very best friend Jacki, who was the only one who knew everything, started crying when I told her my story of running in Scotland and that I realized "I like Betsy".  She turned to me and said "We all did and I am so proud of you".   Needless to say, when I went home, It was a true homecoming.  I saw old friends who were and are still stylish,beautiful and popular and who I always felt inferior to somehow. I realized that as soon as I found the love for myself as a young girl, I realized that they had "been there for me" all along.  Had I had the courage to open up to them, they would have been amazing.  Suddenly, I felt that amazing connection that only old friends and family can provide.
    As an adult, I am a very confident outgoing person.  I see my faults and weaknesses and am always trying to do and be better. I made it my life's work to help other people better themselves, feel more confident and capable and learn to like themselves.  I realized that I avoided "home" because there was this hole in my "self". There was this innocent phase of my life that I had not embraced, forgiven and loved myself through. Bizarrely, it is that exact time of my life I should have been the most proud of.  When a child is abused, it can either turn them into an abuser or it can teach them compassion. They either take  the wrong road or pull themselves up and fight to be healthy and they are stronger and better for the struggle.
    This month I went on vacation with my other best friend Aimee. We went to regroup and gather ourselves during this very challenging year we are both having.  Kurt continues to struggle with his health issues and I support him completely, but I need to build a life and support system for myself.  Everyone needs to be ok in a family.  Everyone needs their hearts, souls and lives to be full.  We have many people in our lives for many different reasons.  Real love is about wanting happiness for each other.  It is about allowing the people you love to grow and allowing them to be "fed" even if you can't provide them with everything they need yourself.  Aimee and I laughed every day till we cried. I had forgotten that I used to be funny and laugh every day.  That time with her was like visiting myself a few years ago and it was so much fun.
   The whole reason for this blog entry(that is so personal I am a little afraid to post it) is that I want so badly to share what I have learned. To be truly happy, we need to own and embody ourselves in our entirety.  All that we were (our past), all that we are and all that we hope to be.  So many times we hold on to animosity towards ourselves or others that is rooted in our own insecurities.  When we let that go and let love fill up the space that anything else was taking, real happiness and joy can be in our lives and in us.
   For me, it was "Loving Betsy".  Whatever it is for you, I hope in some way reading this will help you understand as much as writing did for me.  I wish you all growth, curiosity and joy.
Story "Betsy" von Holzhausen

Sunday, May 27, 2012

     Some days as I sit on the subway, I realize that people look nothing like their media counterparts.  The faces of "normal" moms on television and magazines are the faces of models with less make-up.  We never see pimples, wrinkles or anything that makes these images less than "perfect".
    The face or body we see in the mirror can be a bit jarring in it's "reality of imperfection". The irony is that nobody (even the people who populate this imaginary media world) is safe from the pressure to be "perfect".  The images we see in magazines, on billboards and on television are achieved by an entire team of people. There are people who do pre-production and then another team who work at the shoot doing make-up, lighting and styling.  There is also an entire crew doing post production work including doing edits, photoshop, cropping and "corrections".
    Many celebrities have seen photos of themselves and said "I wish I really looked like that".  As a model, I am always shocked by the photos I see of myself post production.  I know first hand that these images are not reality.
    How do we reconcile our self image with the images we are bombarded with in the media? Every year I am more convinced that "sexy" is not how good looking someone is. It is the belief that a person is special and confident.  As soon as we look for validation from others or are insecure about ourselves, we become less attractive.  Every human being alive has insecurities and fears.  Most of us will struggle with them all of our lives.  What I am talking about here, are the more public and superficial ones.
    As an instructor and trainer, a huge part of my job is changing people's bodies.  Just as challenging a job is changing their body images and how much joy they allow themselves to experience in their bodies. The irony, is that a person can have body that others would view as ideal and still they can be truly miserable in it.  How many times have you looked back at photos and thought "Wow, I looked great but I sure didn't know it or enjoy it at the time".    
      In fitness modeling, there are the models who have great abs and those that have great legs.  The best abs and legs are never found on the same body.  That is simply because there are different body types. Long legs usually make for a shorter torso and vice versa.  These models rarely admire the body part that is stunning on themselves, they obsess about the others.
    With every year that passes, I become more convince that our minds and our "joy" are where we will find the confidence we think depends on our bodies being "better/perfect/10lbs thinner".  As soon as internal change happens, often times the body changes too.
   How do we begin the journey to being happy with ourselves ?  The first thing is work really hard as shutting off the voices that we have heard for most of our lives that pick very specific parts of our bodies apart.  If I could put most of my clients in a glass room and have a group of strangers make observations, not one person would notice most of the imperfections that haunt each of them.
     A very dear actress friend of mine  told me a story about the leading"sex appeal" coach used in films. She is an 80 year old woman who looks like any random grandma. She teaches some of the most beautiful women in the world how to "be sexy".  She teaches them that being sexy is about holding your own power.   It is believing in that power of "Self" and owning it.
     We all have this ability within ourselves.  We all have the choice of how our energy, love and will are used.  We can be consumed by jealousy and insecurity or we can grab ahold of those reigns and be a force of benevolence and change in our own world and the world as a whole.
    Resist the urge to read "beauty" magazines.  Most of these offer very little information that is salient, useful or scientifically based.  Pick up magazines that will teach you the science behind your body. Find subjects that interest and challenge you.  Focus of learning a new sport or skill.  
    When you are moving, feel how good it feels to have the freedom to move. How wonderful it feels to feel strong and capable.  Get to know your body and your self with an open mind and heart.  Be grateful and not a little impressed  with all you are capable of. These are the things that really matter.  

Friday, March 16, 2012


The winter has seemed a mild one weather wise. Much has happend in the lives of many of us. This year has brought new babies to our lives and new challenges too. For Liquid Strength, this year has brought a lot of growth and many new people to our fold. That is always good news.
I find myself branching out and making the classes always a little bit different. I plan to continue on that road. I think is is really important that we keep those moments of experiencing the power and beauty of our bodies. Letting you work though a series and sit with it a while so you can explore and find the subtleties and self expression within the movements.
My hope for this year is to explore new music and inspirations from other countries and sports/dance/traditions from them.
I am so pleased at strong and open all of you are. Watching you and hearing your stories about how your lives have been effected by your work with Liquid Strength, is beyond anything I could have dreamed of. I feel grateful and proud to be a part of your lives.
Story von Holzhasuen

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Owning our age

Living in Manhattan and working in the fitness and modeling/media field, there is a lot of pressure to be young and beautiful. Sure I feel it. My living is made based on how I look. I see all the women my age who have had filler, a ton of botox, anything to stay young. To be honest, it freaks me out. I completely understand how scary it is to see yourself age. You look in the mirror and you see a face you don't recognize and your arms and knees are shaped like someone elses.
When I see these faces that somehow look unlined but not like their own, my heart sinks. It sinks at the panic I feel at my own aging but also for the loss of the uniqueness and beauty of the human face. It is really hard to say "I'll never do that". like everyone I know, I want to look good and feel good. I want to be beautiful to my kids and my husband (and myself)
I see a change coming that will be against this trend. A movement led by women who are at their happiness prime at over 40 and have no desire to go back to the insecure years. I find older men and women so much sexier because they know themselves, do not "pose" or pretend anything and have a sense of humor about themselves along with a comfort in their bodies and lives.
I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Doing the right thing

I hope everyone is having a great start of the new year. I have been busy getting Abby ready for her audition for the Professional Performing Arts school. As much work as it has been, it has been a way to work together towards a common goal. At 10 (now 11 but just barely), she wanted to play many times when she had a voice lesson. Peeling her away from the play ground for a monologue rehearsal was not fun. Now that we are a day away, she is in the "I would do ANYTHING to get in to this school" mode.
Living enough years on this earth teaches us to keep those goals that seem SO far away as children a little closer to our hearts. We learn that we need to train, sacrifice and stay focused to get or become all we want to be. With our "eyes on the prize", we can keep ourselves pretty much on track.
A few things happened this month that makes me realize that as adults, we likely still have room for understanding (I know I do) better about staying power on that road to get to where we want to be. People learn from positive and negative feedback. We are not all that far away from our beloved canine counterparts in that way. Most times, instead of a person teaching us, it is "Life" that doles out our feedback. Direct or indirect results that have been effected by the choices we have made. The hard part about this process is that "Life as master" can take a long time to deliver the message of "good job". If we are not paying attention, we can miss it. We can miss the entire learning process in the minutia of our day to day.
As we get older, it is harder to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone to grow in new ways. With a combination of ego and insecurity, we bristle at criticism and fail to hear the positive. This can happen in our relationships and in our work. If we can somehow find a way to be open and to "listen" with open hearts , we will hear the love that is often accompanied within what we perceive to be criticism.
Every person on this earth can get better. As friends, parents and workers we have room to grow. If we can embrace that journey and even get excited by it, our lives can and will move constantly towards a better place. Last month, the national director of Equinox came and took my spin class. After class she had some very insightful feedback. Both good and bad. I had a choice to make when I spoke to her. If I chose to listen with my ego and insecurity, I would have heard only the negative. Instead, I listened to her. Having a "fresh pair of eyes on the ground" is a valuable asset. Having taught for so many years, I need to be more in tune with people who are walking into my class for the first time. Every word she said was true. My classes are stronger now from the feedback and wisdom I gained from her. I could almost feel my younger self and older self processing this information and all the various choices I could have made. I am glad I made the right one.
As most of you know, I am divorced from the twin's birth father. Like any divorce, it was tough. I have been working towards a better relationship with my ex husband for years. During this middle school process, we had to work together. We did. In fact, we learned to actually enjoy the process. We both made the right choices and moved towards the greater good. To see our children's amazement at us enjoying each other's company was magical.
This month, I taught my daughter that we have to have "long" vision as we go through our lives. We have to consistently make the right choices and stick to them. Even if we don't see the results we want for a long time. While I was teaching her, I was learning too. I hope that as I grow ever older, I will always be open to that process. I wish for all of you that you will be too.

Story von Holzhausen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life and happiness

I tried to cut and paste a great article by Erika Isler (my cousin by marriage, a very cool lady and a life coach) but it is not formatted in a way that will allow me to do it.
She talked about setting goals that were not "punishing" but that make us happy. I vote yes. One of the beautiful things that come with getting older is that very simple things make me happy. For Christmas this year, one of my best friends (Susan) , Kurt and I made and ate an amazing gourmet dinner. Well, truth me told, I assisted and Susan (who is an amazing cook) made a wonderful dinner. We get the twins tonight and will have our "Christmas" tomorrow morning. In my younger years, the fact that I was not with my kids ON the 25th would have ruined the holiday. I would have missed the simple joy of wonderful food and company because the day wasn't the stereotypical Christmas I have always known. There is such a beauty to traditions and doing things the same as when we were children. What I have found however is that life doesn't always allow or lend itself well to what we imagine is "best" or perfect. Letting go of the control of what our holidays, bodies, families and lives should look like, can allow us to be happy with whatever shape they happen to take.
As we watched yet another tacky, sappy Christmas special (I am the biggest sap about this time of year and Kurt has surrendered to the fact that we will have music/special overload), Kurt casually said "You know, I always thought I would have a big family and live in a big house. But then again, I thought I would marry my high school sweetheart". That may have hurt some wive's feelings. I laughed. I met his high school sweetheart and she was great. She married a man she is crazy about and I would choose her as a friend if our paths had ever crossed in our lives.
When we met, it was instantly clear to both of us that we were a perfect fit. This in itself was and is shocking. I was in the middle of a very difficult divorce, was a single mother of 5 year old twins and my heart was not open to anyone. I never wanted to get married again and was very vocal about it. I was looking for a fast cyclist to train with and that was all. Kurt was younger than I was, never married, successful and always wanted kids and marriage. His friends thought he had lost his mind. On paper, even I hated the sound of it. Successful and gorgeous 37 year old investment banker, never married and a 39 year old single mother of twins. UGH.
Amazingly, Kurt (and his family) never batted an eyelash or questioned it. I sure did. Letting go of the "expectations", labels and resumes that life thrust upon us (me) allowed me to see how perfectly perfect our family was. Kurt's Mom said to me (nearly fainted) "Kurt bought his house, just waiting for you guys to show up and be a family". The first day (this is less than a week after our first date so it could have gone very differently) I met his father, we had lunch and went sailing. At the table, my cell phone rang and it was the twins. As I walked away to take the call I almost cringed for Kurt's sake as he would have to explain to his parents who was on the phone. When we were getting ready to leave that day, I went back into the house and his Dad said "Kurt, on a scale of 1 to 10, she's about an 11". I still can't type that without crying. I had wished for a father to say that about me my whole life.
I learned from this family, that beauty and happiness are there for us to see and embrace. If in our stubborness, we insist on judging ourselves ,each other and our lives, we can be miserable too. How differently it could have all gone.
So much of our happiness, success and joy are found not in our "reality" but in our perception of that reality. We have the ability to learn, grow and choose our joy. This year, as we consider "New Year's Resolutions", let's adjust our lenses and see clearly, lovingly and openly our own lives and our "selves". Life will fly by in an instant and spending it trying to impress other people or making our lives appear to be anything besides what we ourselves want them to be, is the ultimate waste of the gift we have been given.

Story von Holzhausen