Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful

One of our Thanksgiving traditions is for everyone to write what they are thankful for on a paper leaf. As we eat, the younger cousins (who are now not so young), read them aloud. The rest of the guests try and figure out who wrote what. It's usually pretty obvious, like the year I wrote Nicki Minaj or the year one of the little kids wrote "cheese" and we all burst out laughing.

This year, my leaf will read something like:

My dad is alive.

Back in September, when we went through that terrible trauma of not knowing what was going on with him, we also didn't know what it meant. We were confident that whatever was happening was not going to kill him, but we also were so unsure about it all. Naturally, that leads to fear, to "what if?". So the fact that he is alive, home, walking and talking is the greatest gift we could have been blessed with.

And then there's everything that goes along with that: thankful for the doctors who cared for him, for the nurses who held our hands through the process and who wiped our tears, to the medicine that helped pull him out of the steroid psychosis, to the friendly aides who took such amazing care of him. To each person who visited even though it was terribly painful to see him in that condition, to the people who delivered meals or sent gift cards so that we could eat, to anyone who babysat Ryan or did laundry or ran errands,  for our employers who were so compassionate and understanding, for the phone calls/cards/emails, for the prayers, and for God, who held us tightly during that time and embraced us with His Grace.

Most of all, I am thankful to be blessed with this crazy group of people I call my family. We would not have made it through that hell without one another. We came out of it stronger than ever before, a united force. No one should dare mess with us, not even cancer.

I learned so much from September 5th- now. Mostly, that family, laughter, sharing and friends are among the most important, cherished things in life. Everything in between is just "stuff". We put "stuff" first a lot, when it should be the other way around. Being with the ones you love, making memories, and giving back to others is a beautiful way to live your life.

Dad, thank you for pulling through. You are the strongest man I know, and I am so proud of you.
Mom, thank you for being the world's greastest caregiver. I know it's exhausting, but you are doing a phenomenal job.  Your patience and compassion shine.

Lord, thank you for blessing me with this family, these friends, and this life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weight Loss Wednesday: The Secret

Whenever someone asks me my "weight loss secret", I feel silly in my answer...like my answer is not enough. Because my answer is "eating right and exercising". It sounds so, so simple.

So I've come up with a better way of wording that statement. Ready?

Finding motivation and resisting temptation. 

Yep. That's the secret, folks. It took me a year and a half to figure out how to put it into words, but that's it. 

Let me give you an example.

Monday was a busy day at work. 9am meeting, 10 am meeting, office thanksgiving party, 1:30 pm meeting, and 2:30 pm meeting. I barely had time to respond to emails. When I got home around 5, I told myself that I would just lay down for 10 minutes and then get up and go to the gym. Well, 10 minutes turned into an hour and a 1/2. I wasn't napping... I fell into a YouTube hole and suddenly it was 6:40 and I hadn't even changed into my workout clothes. I then thought "well it's already almost 7. Maybe I should just make dinner and relax". I wrestled with this thought for about 10 minutes before I came to my senses and changed. I got to the gym and did 40 flights on the StairMaster and 2 miles of jogging on the treadmill. I left feeling satisfied...and energized. 

Then, I had to stop at the store to pick up just a few more things for dinner. The store was overflowing with temptation. First I wanted cider. Then cookies. Then cheese and sour cream for my tacos even though I had already decided I was going to leave them out of the recipe. Then beer. Then back to cookies. But, I resisted and left the store with only what I needed. I easily could have bought the things I WANTED, and I think it's okay to give yourself a treat sometimes, but I had already had a treat at our thanksgiving party and I was not about to ruin the hard work I had just put in at the gym.

Things like that happen every day. The key, as I said, is to always find the motivation. Remember how much BETTER you feel after a workout and don't let lame excuses stand in your way. Those excuses are sneaky little demons, trying to stop you from reaching your goal. No way Jose. 

And try, as hard as you can, to steer clear from temptations. I'll admit I've given in on several occasions. And that's okay. But it can't become a cycle, or else you won't get anywhere. You don't really need the extra "stuff". A cookie is delicious but do you need it? Or can an apple and peanut butter satisfy you instead? Think about it. Take 2 seconds to stop and think before you grab what looks good. 

Since I've had this epiphany I wrote out the words "find motivation and resist temptation" on several notecards. I have one hanging at work, one in my car and one in my room. That way, whenever I'm feeling "too tired" to go to the gym or like I really want to order a pizza and drink beer, I'll remember that this magic combination has helped me lose to lose 88 lbs....and counting.




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dreams

When I was a senior in college, I was convinced that one day I would be living in Nashville, writing songs.  I had learned how to use words to express my emotions and I fell in love with it.My friends   would read the little poems/lyrics I had come up with and assured me they were good. At the same time, I became totally fascinated with Nashville. I had visited it a few times, and I thought that I belonged there. Music on every corner, friendly people, and dreams coming true.  I wanted to be part of it.  I became almost obsessed, and I spent all of my free time looking up jobs and apartments in Nashville.

Something happened, though. An opportunity popped up that wasn't Nashville. Instead, it was to do a year of volunteer service in Detroit, my hometown. I committed, and that year was the best year of my life. I was working at a high school with at risk kids, living with three total strangers who became three of my best friends. I loved it, but writing was still my passion. In my free periods at work, I was writing. I went through about 6 journals that year. I taught a creative writing class and blogged almost daily. I continued to keep the Nashville dream alive. As the year of service came to a close with no job lined up, I wondered if it was time to chase the dream. If maybe I should just go, and worry about the details later.

The problem with that, of course, was money. With very little savings and having just done a year of volunteering, I was struggling. There was no way I'd survive in Nashville with no job.

So, back to mom and dads house it was, where I spent my time applying for jobs and writing.

I got a job with a hospice. I took it, thinking I would do it for a year and then move to Nashville. No problems. Well, that didn't quite work out either. I stayed at hospice for nearly three years before accepting a new job with the American cancer Society.

For whatever reason, I never made it to Nashville. It wasn't in the cards. I didn't have the money nor the courage to drop everything and set up shop in Music City. As the years went by, I began to accept that maybe moving to Nashville wasn't actually a dream, but an escape plan. See, I was convinced that if I could just get to Nashville, I'd be happy. That everything would be perfect and I wouldn't feel so lonely anymore. That I would finally feel alive.

Instead, i found happiness in my own backyard. Literally. I can't imagine being happier than I am right now, and my life is certainly not as exciting as the one I imagined I would be living. But what I've learned is that happiness isn't defined by where you're living, or even what you DO for a living, but by how you live. I may not be living the dream I once had, but I am living the dream. I work for one of the greatest nonprofits in the country, I am in a relationship with the sweetest, most empathetic guy I know, and I live within minutes of my parents, sister, brother in law and nephew. Plus I live with my best friend. Now if not we could get my brother and sister in law a little closer, the dream would be complete. 

Do I still dream of Nashville? Yes. But it's more nostalgic now, thinking back on all the nights I spent drinking coffee and writing lyrics or the thrill I got when I let a friend read something I wrote, so anxious to hear what they would think. 

It's almost a past chapter in my life, though. My writings were, most often, fueled my heartbreak. I wrote best when I was in a deep hole of sadness. It's not a coincidence that I haven't been able to write lyrics like that in over a year. I'll let you figure out the logic on that. 

My dream is no longer to move to Nashville and write songs. It's to take Tom to Nashville one day and show him why I fell in love with that city. And then come back home and keep living my dream.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

eating disorders

Do you ever hear one of your favorite celebrities say something that disappoints you?

If your human, the answer should be yes. Because they are humans, too, and sometimes humans say things they shouldn't.

The celebrity in question in this case is Meghan Trainor. Otherwise known as, the voice behind that catchy top 40 hit "All About That Bass". Or as my mom once called it, "that song about holding butts at night".

It's a great song, despite my mom's description. It's all about self love and that we don't have to be a size 2 to be beautiful. It's also incredibly catchy and addicting. I first heard it in my zumba class this past summer. I loved the line "every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top" and that became my mantra every time I looked in the mirror.

So for such a body positive tune, one would assume the artist behind it, Meghan Trainor, would be preaching self love, right? Right.

But in a recent interview, Meghan made an oopsie. A big one. She said "I wasn't strong enough to have an eating disorder. I tried for like three hours".

Cue facepalm.WHAT?

Now. In Meghan' s defense, perhaps her words got skewed. We all know that can happen sometimes. I'm also taking into account that she's young, she has this very new fame, and maybe she just didn't think about how that would sound. I don't want to make this about attacking Meghan. It's about educating.

People do not wake up one day and say "I think I'll try to have an eating disorder". That's not how it works. What actually happens is that they are tormented by thoughts....fear, rejection, obsession with looks or with the idea of being perfect. These thoughts become terrorizing. In the mind of someone with an eating disorder, the ONLY way to cope is to stop eating, or to binge and purge. The disease tells them that's the only way. The disease keeps it going. The disease makes it near impossible to stop.

The strength part comes in when the person suffering is able to stop allowing the fear/hate/rejection to control their every move.

We have GOT to stop talking about eating disorders and mental illnesses as if they are something to achieve, or as if having one makes us more interesting or that it's "cool" to have one. Because let me tell you, people who have actually suffered from these would never, ever describe it as cool....nor would they wish the disease upon anyone. No one should have to live with an eating disorder. No one should feel so much hate/resentment towards themselves that they put their health in danger.

Also, eating disorders are not always obvious. I know that doesn't relate to what Meghan said, I just feel it's important to point out. People in all shapes and sizes are suffering eating disorders-men and women. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone points out a thin person and assumes they need to "eat a burger" . That's wrong . We don't know that person's story, we don't know if maybe, just maybe, they just happen to be naturally thin-but healthy. I know, what a concept, right?

There is also an eating disorder that no one ever talks about, and that's food addiction/binge eating. Some think it's an "excuse" for overweight people. I've even heard the comment "oh yeah it must be really awful to be addicted to food. Let me tell you, friend, it actually is really, terribly awful. It's scary, the way your eyes glaze over and you are suddenly eating everything in sight, without even realizing it,because the thoughts in your head are telling you that it doesn't matter, no one who  ever love you, and you'll never be good enough, so you may as well eat. It's easier  hide from the world when your  overweight, right? Those are the thoughts someone with a food addiction wrestles with.

My point is: educate yourself. Learn about eating disorders and mental illnesses. Have a little empathy. Consider how your words may hurt. Use your platform, however large it may be, for good.