I am feeling inspired to share a piece of my story with all of you.
I grew up in suburbia, down in Orange County. To paint you a little picture I had a loving father and mother who shared a beautiful marriage and two hilarious, sometimes challenging (sisterly love), but also extremely kind younger sisters, Caroline and Pamela. We lived in a wonderful home and were given an incredible amount of support and love.
I mean how cute are my little sisters?!
To be completely honest with you, I loved growing up in OC. I was a fish out of water in a place that has all of these stigmas attached to it but I loved it, I really did. My family life was very beautiful, I had two parents who loved each other more than I can begin to write in a blog post or say in words. They had that fairytale, the real freaking deal. I grew up in the dance studio, in the temple studying Hebrew, was involved in the theatre community, and lived in a very structured home where my parents both taught me the meaning of working hard.
My gorgeous parents
Understanding my body was always a big part of my life being that I began dancing at age 4. My daddy was very active at the gym. He would wake up around 4 am before work five days a week to get his workout in. When I turned 9, I joined him for his evening jogs on the days I got out of dance early. It seemed like the American dream.
When I was 13 years old our world was turned upside down when my amazing father was diagnosed with cancer. The feeling I experienced through that year of my life still leaves me with tears rolling down my face. Louis Benner was a mans a man. A fit strong man who was active in sports but also was a devout Shakespeare enthusiast, and the epitome of strong, sensitive, and intelligent. He was my world at that age and the most supportive and encouraging dad I could have ever ask for. He loved us with every inch of his being. My dad was having terrible symptoms before he was actually diagnosed with cancer. After thirteen, yes, thirteen doctors - a close friend to the family, who is also an amazing doctor, was the one to diagnose him. From the time he was diagnosed on December 4, 1998 he was in and out of hospitals and on all sorts of chemo and drugs. My entire family was split between different friends’ homes while my dad was deep in the trenches with his battle to cancer with my warrior mother by his side. Having my sisters in one place, my parents in another, and me alone with family friends was honestly one of the most difficult experiences of my life to date. I felt so alone, and struggled knowing that I could lose my dad any minute. This is hard to swallow at any age, let alone at 13 years old.
My dad holding me the day I was born
My dad lost his battle to cancer on August 16th, 1999. I remember the first night without him when my mom, my sisters, and I were all home sitting at the dinner table. My dad could light up a room and we always looked forward to him walking through the kitchen door around 5 pm every night. He would greet us with a huge smile, give my mom a kiss, and then hug and kiss myself and my sweet sisters. My mom tried to make things feel as normal as possible when she sat down at the dinner table that first night without him. She looked back at the door and said to me, "Daddy will never walk through that door again." She got up and excused herself as she walked upstairs crying. My mom is a warrior woman, I mean a true symbol of what strength represents. But every now and then a warrior must let her guard down. I'll never forget that moment. To have someone there and then all of a sudden they are gone feels like the ground was pulled from underneath you.
Our amazing community of family and friends gave us unconditional love and support and helped us get through the next year following his passing. My mom made sure our lives felt as normal as possible. Being that it was my freshman year of high school I got involved in all the school activities from my varsity dance team, to student body, to various clubs, plays, and musicals.
At the end of my freshmen year my mom connected with my now step dad and found a new path for herself. She and my step dad connected through tragedy. My stepbrother, Matthew Terry (who was a friend of mine for many years) was diagnosed with cancer just a few months after my dad was at just 15 years old. My mom soon married (which I can't lie shook me up once again) and there we were, struggling through another fight against cancer for two more years. My stepbrother lost his life my junior year of high school. I shot out of bed the moment he passed away. That has always stuck with me. Often times when you are connected to people, you just know. You know when someone is struggling, you know when someone is glowing, you just know.
I lived in a fog for about 4 years. I was finding my way slowly and my nightly jogs after dance rehearsal helped me gain a lot of clarity. They reminded me of my evening jogs with my daddy and it felt good to be doing that again.
Before I knew it I was standing in front of my graduating class of 2003 leading them in moving our graduation cap tassels from one side to the next and off to college we went. In college I majored in dance and while studying I found yoga. Yoga was my safe place. I felt so connected to this space and I am forever thankful for it. What I found in yoga is that the body we are each given is a gift. We are all built differently, we have different strengths, different forms of flexibility, you get the gist-we are different and yet that’s what makes all of this so beautiful. We want to feel good in this life. I can't even begin to express how happy I feel each day I wake up healthy. I am very aware that this can change in a second. We don't know what each day brings but we want to make it amazing.
So why did I wind up in the health and fitness world?
It’s an easy answer. I know that I want to feel my best everyday. I think we all deserve to feel our best, that is why I do what makes me happy. I teach fitness and create new fitness ideas because we all deserve to have access to feeling better. I want YOU to feel better. With that, we all can walk with a clearer vision, with more support and care from others and there is no better feeling than that.
I share with my students daily that this moment right now is the greatest moment because we are healthy, we are here, and we are ahead of the game as we have this amazing opportunity to care for ourselves while we are in this space together.
It is the simplest concept. Go back to square one, think about the things that are important to you. I don’t mean things, I mean people, emotions, and experiences. Hang onto those feelings and carry them with you throughout your days, even the hard ones that we have to work through.
I love what I do, I can’t wait to meet more of you and share a space with you. I love each of you that took the time to read my story. We all need one another because this life is about unity, collaboration, love, and respect. We can’t get through this alone. Radiate your vision, and do it, share your story. I would love to hear from you.
Have the best day to date.
I love you, I love you, I do…