Girl Hero Jami
It’s been a awhile since I’ve posted a Girl Hero interview. It’s shame because these are favorite posts to put together. There are so many amazing women out there and Girl Hero Jami is no exception.
Jami is a 41 year old “life coach” to her 14 year old quadruplets (3 strong rowdy boys and 1 artistic wonderful girl) and a part time psychologist. She has been married for 18 years to a “buddy” from highschool. Jami blogs over at Mom’s Flight School.
Jamie enjoys painting, reading, watching my kidsâ€™ activities, going shooting and just hanging out . Her passions include her family, knowing God, listening to music, laughter, being an FCA Huddle leader, living a life that matters beyond â€œmyselfâ€ and cherishing the countless blessings God has given me!
A few years ago she chose to overcome a string of hurts over the course of her life that she’d never really processed and released. Regarding the experience Jami says, “God helped me to find real forgiveness in my heart and healed me of a lot of old wounds. That is very freeing. You have to let go of the armloads of old baggage so that your hands are free to grasp the joy that is possible each day. Life is so precious. We shouldnâ€™t waste one moment being trapped inside or embittered by the past.” Not only did she overcome emotional obstacles in her life she chose to take control of her physical health as well.
What was your lifestyle like before?
Before Body for Life, I was dragging myself through each day, scraping by on faith, candy bars, and Diet Pepsi. The food changes felt radical; sometimes Iâ€™d just eat what the kids didnâ€™t from their lunch plates. (mac and cheeseâ€¦PB and J…coffee loaded with sugar & creamer and my diet soda). I cringe when I think about it. Getting up at 5 oâ€™clock was radical for me, but it was the only time I could get to the gym and not throw a wrench in my familyâ€™s schedule. I was actually able to morph into a morning person. It was just another miracle for me.
Now I have an appetite to truly live the life I was created for. I am hungry for new experiences and am so much more tuned in to the beautiful world around me. I donâ€™t just mean scenery, but tuned in to the life surrounding me and most importantly being really tuned in to my kids.
What have been your biggest roadblocks and more importantly how do you get pass them?
My mindset has been a roadblock for me at times. I have to focus on facts, not feelings. My feelings can make me miss work outs, obsess on food, and get discouraged. I use to have a whole list of things I told myself I couldnâ€™t do and I donâ€™t do that anymore.
I used to be a sort of worshipper of food, my whole life, really. In the last few years, I am slowly and surely learning the beauty of being in control of my emotions and how food relates to how I feel. Iâ€™m not perfect and sometimes I cave and grab the wrong thing.. Iâ€™ve learned so much about putting food in its proper placeâ€¦a place where it is not the â€œbe all and end allâ€ of my existence. Food is a wonderful gift to be enjoyed, not abused or something I obsess over. I am just so happy that now that Iâ€™m in my forties, that I know what it means to eat to live, not living to eat.
STRESS is a constant roadblock, but I try to stay positive in my head and keep my body moving, knowing that some days are just going to be harder than others.
Does your husband share your lifestyle?
He is onboard with a healthy lifestyle-especially when Iâ€™m on track, we tend to influence each other to workâ€¦or slack. We began our journey of health in 2007 with a couples Body for Life challenge and had great successâ€¦he lost 26 pounds and I lost 30.
Jami and her husband with the quadruplets!
What about your kids? Is it a battle or do they easily share your lifestyle?
This is a funny one, because when Iâ€™m eating super clean, they always want what Iâ€™m having, like protein pancakes. I always put protein powder in their pancakes and waffles. They love healthy foods, but love ice cream and cookies too, which we donâ€™t keep around. I appreciate â€œjunk foodâ€ occasionally, but we only do it once in a while.
When I go to the track or go run stairs, they all usually come with me. I have so many great memories of being at the track with them over the last couple of years. Somehow, that is always a great instigator of conversations about life.
I know you have a son who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. What exactly is that and how has it affected your family?
Aspergers Syndrome is a developmental disability, often called â€œhigh functioningâ€ autism. Itâ€™s basically a brain wiring disorder. It is characterized by a sort of “swiss cheese” type of development: that is, some things are learned age-appropriately, while other things may lag behind or be absent. Furthermore, children may have skills years ahead of normal development (for example, a child may understand complex mathematics principles, yet not be able to remember to bring their homework home). Our son will talk your ear off about chemistry, but may not know what day of the week it is on any given day. He has struggled behaviorally in school since pre-K.
In a mainstream time classroom, Aspie kids often experience melt downs, due to sensitivity to sounds and the activity of a classroom full of kids and an overdeveloped area of the brain that controls flight or fight mode. Some donâ€™t melt down, itâ€™s a spectrum disorder and no 2 people with autism are â€œjust alikeâ€. We have only met a few people who have kids who struggle so much at school, like our son. We end up knowing the principal pretty well at every school our kids have attended. Some kids with AS are inclined to literally â€œfleeâ€ and run away in a highly stressful situation. Heâ€™s run at least once from each school heâ€™s been at since 4th grade, once into the woods of a small neighboring town where his school was located. He was found over 3 miles away just as Search and Rescue were en route. That was one of my worst set of 3 hours Iâ€™ve ever experienced. There are lots of land mines or grenades, as I call them, that drop into our family life because of autism. Everything just stops-and there is a lot of emotional pain-and then we regroup. Sometimes I despise autism like it is an evil beast that wants to kill peace and joy in our lives. That is after the traumatic times, though. My son has another side, one that, when anxiety free is compassionate, clever, and funny. He is an amazing kid.
Mozart, Sir Isaac Newton, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Albert Einstein (among so many others) are believed to have had it. Many experts in the field believe Bill Gates has Aspergers. It can be a gift if a child is able to focus on their â€œspecialtyâ€ and be encouraged to focus on it. They are special kids who need a lot of understanding and can thrive, but most school situations are not ideal for themâ€¦hence all of the amazing people in history who did terrible in school, but achieved greatness in their work.
Here is a great video about a surfer with Aspergers:
What encouragement would you offer to other families who share similar challenges?
Read, study, know what makes your child tick and do whatever you need to do to keep hope alive. Iâ€™ve had my share of despair about how autism has colored our family life. You have to remember you are not alone even though you might feel so isolated at times. I pray a lot and spend quiet time with God. We couldnâ€™t do it as a family without God in our lives, He is my refuge and my strength when I am weak-which seems quite often.
Working out and nurturing my body with healthy food is one thing I can really control. There is a great book called â€œSparkâ€ that has reaffirmed my knowledge that working out helps ease stress and can battle depression.
Be informed and embrace the role as advocate. This site below is helpful if you have a child on an IEP at school. Being well informed about your childâ€™s rights is VERY important to get them the type of help they need. Some school districts are really knowledgeable about meeting special needs and others, not so much. Some try to jam those square pegs into round holes. Mom and Dad are a childâ€™s best advocates and Iâ€™d give anything to have had this information 5 years ago!
You live and learn. I recommend finding another mom to talk to who knows what itâ€™s like to wonder each day of the school year if you are going to a phone call to come and pick up your child from school. I have gotten very isolated at different points on this journey and held back from my friendsâ€¦mostly because I get so mentally exhausted, discouraged, and I figure that no one needs to hear about my same problems over again. Yes, weâ€™ve all got problems, but we need our friends and I often miss them. I feel like that part of my life has been on hold in some ways and that I have been an â€œabsenteeâ€ kind of friend. Within reach, but not very attentive. I know the people who love me understand, though and Iâ€™ve been blessed with some women in my life who just accept me as I am and we pick right up where we left off last time. (My mother included!) Iâ€™m awful at keeping in touch, just ask her. I feel like I save my everything for my kids, I donâ€™t want them going without something that only I can provide them. Hubby, too-I long to make sure they all get their needs met, otherwise I have not fulfilled what I know is my number one purpose.
It is very difficult on the entire family when one member has special needs, whatever they are. It takes so much extra energy sometimes to cope with the challenges. Youâ€™ve got to cut yourself some slack and try to create fun for the family, in whatever form fits. We play a lot of board games and the kids play some computer games with their daddy-itâ€™s a great stress reliever for everyone. We have dinner together as a family every night that itâ€™s possible, and breakfast too. We have family movie night once a week, complete with popcorn and candy. (I donâ€™t eat the candy any more, but I do have popcorn-no butter.)
Speaking of popcorn (one of my favs), how do you deal with cravings?
Chromium picolinate every day is a must if Iâ€™m having sweets cravingsâ€¦if I have my vitamins and that, I do pretty well. When I REALLY need something, I make a protein brownie, or blend milk, a frozen banana (cut up), and scoop of vanilla protein powder and pretend its ice cream. I also love vanilla yogurt, mixed with cottage cheese, mandarin oranges, and a sprinkle of sugar free Jell-O. (Lime or orange)
I also have these wonderful little treats I made up a recipe for. I like to call them Jamiâ€™s Amazing Protein Power Ballsâ€¦lots of ingredients and chopping, but so worth it! They are great to keep in your fridge and you can take a few in a small container if youâ€™re meeting a friend for coffee and are tortured by all the goodies at the counter. They are the ultimate trade up, healthwise!
Jami’s Protein POWER BALLS
1 scoop protein powder of your choice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsps. Splenda (optional)
2 tsps. cocoa powder
2 Tbs. flax seeds
1/4 C. unsweetened coconut flake
2 Tbs. choc. (or carob) chips, chopped finely
1 sm. box of raisins (or 5 prunes), chopped
2 Tbs. almonds (chopped finely)
3 Tbs. vanilla yogurt (or whatever you have)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C natural peanut butter
1/2 C chunky pb (or use a whole cup nat.)
Mix it all together (nice arm workout) and add a wee bit more yogurt as necessary if it is to dry. Roll into 1″ balls (like truffles) and then roll them into finely chopped (or flake) unsweetened coconut, nuts, wheat germ, flax meal, or cocoa powder…plain is fine, too, but they’ll stick together.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate. This makes about 16 and you can substitute things you like better but have a similar consistancy…like apricots for raisins, sunflower seeds for almonds, etc.
I don’t know the breakdown on the numbers because I was winging it when I made it up. It is fabulous to bring a few in a snack bag if you’re meeting a friend at Starbucks and want a healthy “treat” with your coffee!
How often do you exercise and where do you workout?
I work out 6 days a week, alternating upper and lower body, with weights (3 days) and 3 days of HIIT cardio or running stairs. In summer I do some swimming, too. My overall wellness skyrockets when Iâ€™m eating clean and working out each day. Itâ€™s such good medicine for about anything that ails a person.
What is your favorite exercise?
Itâ€™s a love/hate thing with the stairs. We use the ones at the track or we go to a 3 story parking garage nearby that has a nice, glassed in stairwell where you can see the trees and sky outside and itâ€™s covered. It is challenging and makes me feel like Iâ€™ve worked hard in a short period of time. It also sometimes makes me feel like Iâ€™m going to have a heart attack, but it is a reminder of have much further I can go in improving my aerobic health.
What motivates you?
I am deeply inspired by the stories of people who do wonderful things despite traumatic setbacks or people who chose to do hard things instead of the easy thing or whatâ€™s expected. A few of my favorites: Joni Eareckson Tada, Nic Vujicic, Temple Grandin, Cori Ten Boom, Anne Frank, Dick and Rick Hoyt.
Also, a sweet 14 year old girl named Jonnae, who battled leukemia inspired me with her view of life and I fell in love with her heart. She said that we shouldnâ€™t say â€œI have toâ€ about anything, we should say â€œI get toâ€ instead. Itâ€™s a brilliant philosophy that served her well in her hardest days fighting that awful disease. I donâ€™t say I have to anymore. When I was fundraising for Make A Wish, I painted â€œI Get Toâ€ in oils and auctioned it on EBay. Someone who knew Jonnaeâ€™s story bought it and had me send it to her mom. Her message has touched so many who never even met her.
What goals have you reached?
I became a mom after dealing with infertility for several years.
Trained for and placed in a bodybuilding competition. It was my own personal â€œSurvivorâ€ episode.
I overcame the â€œI hate runningâ€ mindset Iâ€™ve had my entire life and did my first 5K last spring.
I have stopped running to food when I am upset.
I have let go of my concern over what the â€œscaleâ€ has to say about me. Here is a photo of a mock up I made of a â€œTruth-o-Meterâ€, my silly named idea for taking true measure of my life. Essentially, instead of waiting to see certain digits, I want to step up and check in with myself to see if Iâ€™m doing the right things to meet my life goals. If I am actively doing most of those thingsâ€¦THAT equals satisfaction. Iâ€™m no longer chasing a size on a tag or certain numbers on scale. Iâ€™m so content with progress and have learned a lot more patience. I want to be healthy in all the right ways.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my kids, like all moms. ;) On the fitness front, it would be completing the Denver half marathon (slowly and with much knee pain) I was supposed to walk/jog the whole thing, but when the gun went off, I started to jog with my 2 friends and once the crowd thinned a bit, it was all running for 2 miles. I should have stopped, but I was too excited. I had never run 2 miles without stopping before.
I did it to raise money for Make A Wish foundation. Our group helped 30 kidsâ€™ wishes come true as a group and my friends and family helped me raise over $2,000. As corny as it soundsâ€¦thinking about those kids and Jonnae, helped me get to the finish line. I occasionally thought â€œI am in pain, no one would fault me for stoppingâ€. It took me 4 hours, but was amazing because my running partners and I spent so much time laughing through the pain we were experiencing. Around mile 10, an old lady in oxygen passed us and then about mile 12 we got heckled for walking. Seriouslyâ€¦these two guys came out of an apartment and saidâ€¦â€Arenâ€™t you guys supposed to be running?â€ as they laughed. REALLY? Ah, we just had to laugh. We cracked up so hard at that. What kind of person heckles someone trying to limp to the finish of a half marathon? God gave me that day as a gift and I will treasure it always.
I love deciding to something that I am not sure I can do. Itâ€™s then I get to see what God will do with my lack of ability! I was having so much pain while training and finally went to see an orthopedic surgeon to see if I could get cortisone shot. He checked me out and said, â€œYou were not made for runningâ€¦your ligaments are too loose and your knees are put on crooked. You can run, but I donâ€™t know if you should.â€
In April, I finished a local 10 mile race called The Pear Blossom Run that has been on my â€œbucket listâ€ ever since I was a teenager. I had my daughter by my side and it was so amazing for us to do that together.
What goals are you working towards?
I have several things Iâ€™m working on. I am working toward doing unassisted pull ups, itâ€™s an exciting time in my life! Seriously, I havenâ€™t done one since high school and itâ€™s my goal to conquer it.
Iâ€™m working toward lowering my blood pressure, which we believe is stress induced. About 40 days ago I made the decision to give up alcohol for good, which will help that, too. Iâ€™m done dabbling in things that are harmful and using alcohol to combat/soothe stress and anxiety is just not happening for me. My doctor recommended that 1 â€œglass of wineâ€ each night to relax, but I always ended up with 2 and maybe a headache to boot. Itâ€™s just not for me anymore and I will learn to love my unsweetened lime mineral water as much as any smooth red wine. If I can learn to drink coffee black (which I did during my BFL challenge), I can do almost anything, so I am really encouraged about this change.
I am working toward true balance in my life: spirit, mind, and body. When one of those is lagging for me, my entire being suffers. I know I wonâ€™t arrive, but I can improve more and more as the days go by.
Most importantly, Iâ€™m working on my goal of being the mom my kids need me to be. They start high school this week and I only have about 4 more years to help prepare them for life â€œoutside the nestâ€. They are amazing people and I am so blessed to have the opportunity to be an â€œat home momâ€ full time. Now, that they are getting older I can see how truly important we are as parents, not just feeding them and keeping things clean. I see them living out so much of what we have tried to instill in them since they were babies. They have such great character. It makes me want to really finish well, my job as mom, while they are still here with us under our roof.
Another short term goal Iâ€™m working on is another BFL challenge in memory of one of the champs I was blessed to call a friend, Mike Harris. I called him my BFL Yoda. He was a judge in real life and one of the most caring, intelligent souls anyone could meet. He helped Steven and I in our first challenge and was a big encouragement to us in our spiritual lives as well.
What would you say to someone who says they â€œcanâ€™tâ€ change their habits?
One of my favorite quotes is â€œrid your mind of canâ€™tâ€ and Iâ€™ve been working hard at that since I came across it a few years ago. There are a truckload of clichÃ©s about â€œcan and canâ€™tâ€ and Iâ€™m pretty sure most of them are true. There are countless people in this world who have overcome great obstacles to do amazing things. I feel that saying I canâ€™t is usually a cop out. We can do so much more than we think we can, sometimes we just donâ€™t â€œwantâ€ to do the hard things and itâ€™s easier to think you canâ€™t than to bust your bum and do it.
If you could play one character in a movie who would it be?
It would be amazing to play someone like Joan of Arc or Eowyn in Lord of the Rings and learn to use a sword. However the role that would be more suited to me, since Iâ€™m a lousy actor, would be someone like Sandra Bullockâ€™s character, Gracie Hart, in Miss Congenialityâ€¦she loves her guns and red meat, is kind of dorky and unpolished, but has a big heart and wants to do the right thing.
One of Jami’s favorite quotes is â€œThe greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that outlasts it.â€ by William James. Jami, you are certainly a woman living up to that advice. Thank you so much for taking the take to share you story and your heart with yes. You are a Girl Hero!!!!!
Please don’t forget to stop by Jami’s blog, Mom’s Flight School!
Hugs and High Fives,
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