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Monday, December 30, 2013

Celebrating 2013 and Welcoming 2014!

Where do I start?  When 2013 started, I never could have imagined it would be the absolute best year of my life.  I mean, a year ago, I was crying as I was taking down the Christmas tree, not wanting to go back to work and feeling like my sister was taking pity on me by inviting me up to her house for New Year's Eve.  Today, well, I haven't taken the Christmas tree down yet (maybe Thursday) but when I do I won't be crying, I won't mind going back to work on Monday (well, except for that whole alarm clock and packing my lunch thing) and I am so excited to spend New Year's day with some family and friends.  Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and I am completely okay with sitting on the couch in my pjs.  (After I spend some time with my mama).  Yes, I'm old.  But it's okay :)

It's hard to remember everything I have achieved and accomplished this year.  But, I'm going to try.  Renee' is big on me writing down what I've accomplished.  I'm not real good at patting myself on the back.  But, here goes nothing! I'm going to try to go in chronological order.  We'll see how well my rainman memory does with this! 

1.  Trusting someone I'd never met before - right from the start.
2.  Throwing away all of my comfort food
3.  Going grocery shopping and looking for food I've never heard of - and finding it!
4.  Cooking without using the microwave
5.  Staying away from cookies, donuts, candy and everything else people like to give to those of us who work in education.
6.  Going to the gym for the first time in a long time - and going back
7.  Not letting getting sick stop me.
8.  Trying yoga - and realizing I am not that flexible
9.  Learning there's something called a healthy cookie...
10. March 7, 2013 - Surpassing my first weight loss goal.  At this point I had lost 22 pounds in about 6 weeks.  And I was 2 weeks ahead of my goal date.
11. Agreeing to participate in "Kiss the Pig".  If you know me, and know what this is all about, you know that was an adventure for me!
12. Volunteering for a wonderful organization and going by myself (and actually talking to people)
13. Enjoying my birthday but not going overboard with treats
14. Buying a large shirt for the first time in a very long time
15. Participating in boot camp for the first time - and going back
16. Accomplishing my next goal of losing 15 pounds before the flying pig.  Actually, I lost an additional 17 for a total of 38 on May 3, 2013.
17. Walking 13.1 miles (Flying Pig), finishing in well under 4 hours and feeling good afterwards.
18. Seeing the changes in my body and being so excited and happy.  In ways I can't even begin to describe.
19. Buying a swimsuit in a size 16 (and in the regular misses' section)
20.  Shopping for pants and walking right by the plus size section.
21. May 30, 2013 - Stepping on the scale, and realizing I had officially lost 50 pounds!  And I had done it in 4 months!
22. Wearing an old dress for graduation - and feeling amazing in it.
23. Going to lunch at a restaurant by myself and not feeling (completely) out of place.
24. Joining a book club and going to dinner with a group of people when I only knew one of them.
25. Jogging/walking for the first time and not falling over
26. Applying for a new job.
27. Going to a cookout and not going crazy with food.
28. Buying new clothes for vacation
29. Getting hired at the job I applied for.
30. Buying all new clothes for the start of the school year.
31. August 22, 2013 - Reaching my goal of 75 lbs lost. 
32. Starting this blog - and finding out people enjoy reading it.
33. September 5, 2013 - Reaching my goal of 80 lbs lost - And then deciding it was a good idea to workout with Renee'....just kidding - it was fun - but I almost cried when she told me I had to do 80 reps of everything.... and then I survived - the end :)
34. September 13, 2013 - Going to the doctor, having her congratulate me on all my weight loss and just being happy for me.
35. September 20, 2013 - Weighing in at 198 pounds - I had lost 83 pounds and there was a 1 in front of my weight for the first time in at least 7 years.
36. Running in my first 5K - and finishing in 34:59!!
37. Running in my first 10K - and finishing in an hour and 14 minutes!
38. Crossing the 90 lbs lost mark - actually 91
39. Ordering a salad from Wendy's and nothing else.  Even though a frosty and french fries sounded good at the time.
40. Starting boot camp again and being able to do so much more than I could in May.
41. Reaching a plateau and fighting my way through it - I still am.  But I will be stronger because of it
42. Indulging on Thanksgiving - and then going right back to the way I always eat the next day
43. Realizing changing up my food really does make a difference
44.  Reaching the 95 lbs lost mark.  And starting my countdown (or up, depending on how you look at it..) to 100 :)
45. Enjoying the holidays with my family, being happy, indulging a little and realizing that this has been the most incredible year I could have ever asked for.  Thanks Renee'.  (I'll get in trouble for that...but it's okay)

I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for me!

Approach the new year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I've never been a big fan of New Year's resolutions.  Probably not surprising, but I've never been good at them.  Like most people, I give up on resolutions after awhile because I get tired of working at them and not seeing results.  If you can't tell, most of my resolutions focused on my weight.

I would always start out with the best of intentions.  But, my idea of a good plan was to deprive myself.  Within a few weeks or a month at the most, I would find myself buying candy at the store and telling myself, it's just a little, no big deal.  I would eat a donut at work and tell myself, it's just one, no worries.  But, that stuff piles up.  And then I would wonder why I couldn't lose weight?  DUH!!!

One of the funny things about this journey I've been on over the last year?  It actually didn't start out as a resolution.  I've had several people ask me that question.  On January 1, 2013, I was so down on myself I didn't even want to think much about the future so why would I want to think about a resolution?

My goal is not to discourage resolutions.  In fact, I am trying to come up with a few of my own for 2014.  But, don't think that January 1st is the only time you can start to make a choice to do something better for yourself.  Whether that be exercising, eating better, volunteering, looking for a new job, going back to school, etc.  You can make that choice any day of the week at any time of the year.

Granted, my journey was pushed a little by my mom and the support of my family.  But, as I've heard more times than I can count during the last 11 months, no one could make the decision to actually start but me.  I was the only one who could keep going when I had difficult days, laugh at myself as I tried to find my way around the grocery store, tried to cook, etc.  I was the one who had to decide that I wouldn't lie about the food I was eating, that I wouldn't waste the time of this wonderful person who had taken time out of her busy schedule to help me find my health and (eventually) happiness.

Make a change because you want to.  Not because someone is telling you that you have to.  Or because you feel like you have to.  Make sure you surround yourself with people who will support you in every aspect of whatever you are trying to change.  I've had to cut a few people and things out of my life as I've made all of these changes.  But, I know they are healthy changes and are the best decisions I could have ever made for myself.

Make your goals attainable.  Trust me, my first goal was extremely small and I didn't have much expectation that I would reach it.  As I started to find confidence and see results, I realized I could achieve my goal.  As I started adding more goals throughout the months, I found that they helped me stay focused.  At first, I really thought my goals would be all about weight.  It was funny to me how, right away, Renee' had me focus on other things as well.  How to get myself out amongst the living was a huge focus.  I never would have realized how much I needed that on my own.  Renee' said this to me a couple of months into our friendship - Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to help you see what's there, what you need and what you can find in yourself and others - Long before that I knew how lucky I am to have Renee' as a friend.  But when I heard that from her, she put into words what I couldn't about why our friendship works, is fun and why I was finally finding the person that has been hiding inside me for so long.

Don't get mad at yourself if you don't succeed at first.  Change takes time.  I'm still changing.  In fact, I think we all are.  Life is about change.  You just have to decide if you are going to change for the better.  I'm so happy I did.  And that I am.  And that I will for a long time to come.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sometimes...

Sometimes you have to forget whats gone, appreciate what still remains and look forward to whats coming next.

Forgetting what's gone -

I can't change the past.  I can't change what I've experienced and what I haven't experienced.  I can only start from this moment forward and do everything I want to do in my life.  Sometimes people refer to times  you wish could redo as "wasted time".  I don't feel that way.  Are there times in my life I wish I could redo and live over again?  Absolutely.  But, there's a reason my life turned out the way it did and, for the first time in forever, I am okay with it.  I actually think one of the biggest reasons I went through some of the crap (actually, most of it) is to make me a better person and more equipped to help people.  So, I guess, in some ways, although it is good for me to forget what's gone, it's also so important for me to remember the lessons the past has taught me.  I wouldn't be the person I am today without it.  Your past really does make you who you are.  And you would be amazed how much strength you can find from all of your experiences :)

Appreciating what still remains - 

There are so many things in my life I am appreciative of that are left from my past.  Most important would be the friendships I've formed with a couple of my best friends, the friends who are like family and, of course, my family.  I am so grateful for what remains of all of my collective experiences in life.  Without it, I probably wouldn't be able to guide students in making good decisions for their future (which I absolutely love doing).  Or maybe I wouldn't be such an awesome aunt (yes, I'm patting myself on the back here) with so much patience for the three most important people in the world to me.  Maybe I wouldn't have had the courage to do everything I've done over the last year without having to pick up the pieces of what was left of my life a year ago.  What remains of that life is what keeps me going to build a new and improved one for myself.  It makes me who I am today and who I will be in the future. What a huge blessing I've been given!

Looking Forward - 

Last year at this time, I didn't know how to look forward.  I just made it through each day as best I could.  I looked forward to the time I could spend curled up on my couch all alone.  I couldn't find anything else that made me happy.  Now, I can't wait to see what comes next.  When you fund yourself in this crazy world, it's unbelievable how much you want to share that with people.  I rarely stop smiling and, I've been told, the happiness I feel inside just radiates off my face.  I can't even imagine where I'll be next year at this time.  Although, I couldn't imagine where I would be right now when I was sitting on my couch a year ago.  Wow.  A year is both a long time and a short time.  I've enjoyed every moment I've experienced in 2013.  I can't imagine what could be better for 2014!  But, I know there are many things and I can't wait to experience every single one of them!

Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.  You will find that they haven't half the strength you think they have.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Strength - In Many Ways

You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.

I have to believe this is true.  If I didn't, I don't think I would have survived the last few years.  I never understood why I was picked to be a person that felt like the world dumped a bunch of crap on me.  But, in the end, I'm not sure it really matters.

Strength can mean so many different things to various people.  There's physical strength, emotional strength, etc.  I believe I've gained both this year but my emotional strength has grown by leaps and bounds simply by finding people who believe in me and want to be a part of my life.  It's really amazing what can happen when you find that in your life.

As I've gone through the last 11 months, I've slowly realized that not everyone has the support system I have or the access to various friends and resources to find help.  So, I have to assume that part of the reason I was given this life is because someone knew I was strong enough to find my way through it.  I still don't completely understand why.  Heck, I may not ever understand why.  But, deep down, I know that I was and am strong enough to come through all of this with flying colors and with a bright future on the other side.

Although I've often questioned why I was given so many obstacles in life, I know other people have difficult situations to go through that I might not ever understand or have to go through.  Every single person experiences a different walk through life.  For such a long time, I was so focused on anything and everything that was wrong with my life.  I couldn't see all the blessings I have.  Of which there are many!

When I left my parents house last night, I realized just how much I have changed and how much strength I've found in myself in the last 11 months.  And I loved that my mom said the exact thing I was thinking when I gave her a hug good bye.  Last year, I left there in tears.  This year, I left smiling, happy and looking forward to the rest of the break.  She told me how proud she and my dad were of me and the amazing year I've had.  I'm not sure she'll ever know how much that meant to me.

When you find yourself, and all of the strength that is within you, it will be amazing.  I believe this is a lifelong process.  It's hard to completely comprehend all of the strength I've found in myself this year.  When you find people who believe in you and push you to be at your best, you'll often find the strength comes pouring out of you.  Why?  Because if/when you fall down, you know, without a doubt, there will be people there to help you pick up the pieces and move onward and upward.  It's crazy to me how much having strength is about having people in your corner.  For a long time, I really only had that with my family and one or two friends.  Now, I have that with more people than I can count.  It feels amazing.  And so does realizing that I am strong enough to find my way through all of the obstacles put in front of me.  

Mom, Dad, Andy, Ang, Kristin, Seth, Kim, Renee', Lindsey, Mere and so many more people than I can list here - This is for you:

When something bad happens you have three choices.  You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.



Thank you for helping me realize how much strength I have and being such a wonderful, important part of my life.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh Life...Sometimes It's Hard to Understand

The most difficult phase of life is not when no one understands you; It is when you don't understand yourself.

So, this a gigantic part of where I've been for the last few years.  You'd think, since I have a degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling that I would be awesome at figuring myself out.  Sorry to tell you that is not even close to true.  In fact, I used to be one of the worst people about doing things for myself.  And trying to figure myself out.  I just put myself on the back burner and focused on anyone else I could find.  I wouldn't let anyone get close to me because I didn't want them to see how unhappy I was and how unsure of who I am I was in so many ways. 

For a long time, I didn't understand why I kept eating all the time.  I was doing so much damage to myself but I couldn't see it.  I just knew I felt better every time I put food in my mouth.  I don't think my family really understood that.  In fact, I know they didn't.  I would always talk about how I was the "fat" one and how I stuck out like a sore thumb.  But, I was the first one to grab cake and ice cream (and volunteer to take the extra home) at any of our many parties.  I couldn't stop myself.  

Not being around other people was another part of not understanding myself.  I didn't expose myself to the outside world as much as I probably should have throughout my twenties.  I often thought it was because other people didn't get me.  The truth?  I didn't understand myself enough to where I might fit in and what kind of groups of people I would have fun with.  As I look back on it, I can see I was still doing to myself what I did in high school.  Just trying to fit in somewhere.  Not the best way to try to meet people with similar interests.

I didn't give people the chance to understand me because I didn't understand myself.  I didn't really know what I wanted out of life.  I would just kinda float through each day and hope that, eventually, I would find my way without too much effort.

It actually took my first meeting with Renee' (and a few of the initial emails) to get my brain started on trying to understand myself.  That was a huge part of our conversation that first day.  She asked me about my strengths, weaknesses, what I like to do for fun and some other things that sparked some thoughts in my head.  Eventually.  No one had ever taken the time to ask me those questions and stick around to hear the answers.  It took me awhile to come up with the answers.  Shocker to some but to those who know me well, you probably aren't surprised because you know I don't always come up with quick responses.  I've never been good at complimenting myself or talking about myself.  Now that I think about it, it's probably because I didn't understand who I am.  Taking the time to get to know me is one of the greatest gifts she's given me.  There's a lot of them but I definitely believe this is a huge part of the initial step out of my hole of self doubt and depression.  

I think Renee' knew right away how much I don't like to put myself out there.  Now, I have to keep in mind that my brother set this whole meeting up and I still have no idea what he said to her.  And to be honest, it doesn't matter to me.  He loves me, wants what is best for me and he is the BEST big brother ever so I know he said nothing but the things he knew and believed about me.  He just wanted to help me in anyway he could.  I'm not sure he could have imagined the huge turnaround he would be in charge of starting.  Maybe he understood me better than I understood myself.  Well, he had to since I'm just starting to understand who I am.  And what I want out of life.  

Renee' pushed me to start looking into different activities that I could get involved in.  She helped me see, almost right away, that I could make a difference in the lives of others and, that by doing so, I would make a better life for myself.

Figuring out who you are is a lifelong process.  It's why we encourage kids to get involved in and try out different activities.  You never know who you are until you find your niche.  For some of us, that takes a long time, like me.  I'm still figuring it out.  But, I am learning to love being a lifelong learner.  And I'm having fun understanding myself.  It makes me smile so many more times during the day than I ever thought I could.  And they are genuine smiles.  And when people see genuine understanding and happiness coming from within you, they want to be around you and get interested in learning more and more about who you are.  

Take the time to get to know yourself.  You won't be sorry.  I know I'm not.  I can't wait to see what else I find inside myself for the world to see.  I bet there are some amazing things to discover!  And I'm willing to bet the same is true for all of you :)  

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world. 


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Surviving the Holidays

How do you survive the holidays when you're watching what you eat?  Well, I may not be the right person to ask because watching what I eat is something I do every day, not just certain times of the year.  But, I feel like I might be uniquely qualified to answer that question this year.

I have a huge sweet tooth.  I probably used to gain at least 10 pounds during the Christmas season just because I would eat any cookie, fudge, brownie, etc that I could get my hands on.  I convinced myself it wasn't a big deal because it's not like I ate like that all the time.  Right.  Actually I did eat like that all the time.  I just chose to try to bury it underneath my fake smile.

So, how was I going to survive this year?  I actually never thought I would make it the last couple of months constantly walking past all of the Christmas candy at the store.  However, I realized that it wasn't that I couldn't eat the candy.  I just didn't need to.  I had my dark chocolate and my york peppermint patties.  And, I knew at some point I would indulge.  I just wouldn't go overboard.

I think the biggest difference this year is that I'm not using all the sweets and extra food to heal what's broken inside of me.  If I want to have some, I will.  I just won't eat 10.  Honest truth?  I used to eat 10.  I would just pop stuff in my mouth and then pretend like I didn't really eat all of the stuff I had just put in my mouth.  I actually avoided the sweets at work for the majority of the holiday season.  By the last day of school before break, I decided that if someone offered me something, I would try a little bit.  I won't lie, that chocolate chip cookie and handful of m&m's were delicious!  But, it was all I needed.  Could I have eaten more?  Of course.  But, I reminded myself how upset I would be later when I realized how much junk I put in my mouth.  And I wasn't overly tempted to eat more.  When did that happen?? :)

The next day was my family's annual cookie day.  We get together, decorate cookies, make buckeyes, eat food and just have a ton of fun.  Normally a death trap for someone who loves sweets but is trying to not eat too much of them!  I got up and worked out in the morning like I usually do.  I ate a normal breakfast.  However, the rest of the day was a complete wash as far as food goes!  Snacks for lunch, decorating cookies (although I did pretty good with not eating too many) and then olive garden for dinner.  Although I wasn't overly happy with myself for the way I ate that day, I also wasn't feeling real guilty.  Why?  Because I NEVER eat like I did that day.  And it's okay to have a day here and there where you indulge.  The difference now is that I am able to go right back to the way I need to eat the next day.  I don't let one bad day set me back.  It's not worth it to be that hard on yourself.  Trust me.  I've done it.

Of course I'm sure I will eat some holiday treats over the break but it's really fun to see that I actually have the willpower to just have one.  I think my conscience and Renee's voice in my head are big parts of that but, hey, it's an achievement for me!

It's so fun to enjoy the holidays (food included) in ways I never have before.  I am so excited for Christmas with my family, seeing the looks on the kids faces and so much more.  What a difference a year makes!

As Christmas and New Year's approaches:

May your home be filled with lots of love, laughter and yummy smells!

Thanks for taking the time to share my journey with me!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Tell Yourself... :)

I saw this and I loved it.  If you can't tell, I love quotes :)

Tell Yourself:

Everything will work out

When you are struggling through something, this is often hard to believe.  But, you just have to believe that all things happen for a reason and that it will all work out the way it is supposed to.  You can definitely try to change the outcome of situations.  But, at some point, you may have to accept what is happening.  At that point, just have faith that it will work out the way it is supposed to.  Once you come to that conclusion and accept it, you'll be a few steps ahead of the rest of the world.

Things will get better

When things aren't going well, it's hard to believe that they will ever get better.  I've been there.  More times than I can count.  We all have bad days, tough moments or difficult situations where it feels like nothing good will ever happen.  I still have that happen.  The funny thing is, because I try to find the positive side of everything, it doesn't happen very often.  Probably not the best example, but, take cooking.  I suck at it.  Hey, why sugarcoat it??  If I really let it get to me, I would probably think it will never get better.  Instead, I just keep trying and I laugh at myself on a regular basis.  Without that, I would still have a lot of negative things in my life.  If I didn't believe that things would get better, I wouldn't have been able to change my life in so many amazing ways this year.

You are important

Take time for yourself.  I still do.  If you don't take of yourself, nothing else will work in your life.   Sometimes, my time to myself is my work out.  Other days, it's my time laying on the couch in my pj's watching TV.  Well, more times than not, I get a decent amount of alone time doing the latter.  But, it's part of what I need to be the best version of myself I can find.  Even if you can only find 10 minutes a day, take it.  Do something for yourself.  You won't regret it.  I promise.

You are worthy of great things

This is something I really struggled to believe for a long time.  I think that's why I avoided all kinds of social situations for so long.  I never thought anyone wanted to be around me.  Now, I know I completely deserve all of the amazing things that have happened to me this year.  And all of the great things that are still waiting in the wings.  What a gift I have been given.  I could never repay a certain someone for helping me find that inside myself.

You are loveable

For years, I thought my family just tolerated me.  I never thought I had anything to offer.  As you know, my nephew and nieces are my world.  When I was at my lowest, I struggled to believe that they really loved being around me.  As I came out of my funk, I figured out that my family loved me.  That there were so many reasons they loved me.  That I was (and still am) an amazing aunt.  Those kids are my world and they always will be, no matter what.  They are a huge piece of the reason I figured out that I am worthy of being loved.  

The time is now

Seize the day.  Don't tell yourself you will do it tomorrow.  It's too easy to just keep putting it off.  I'm not just talking about losing weight.  I'm talking about anything that you know you need to do but just haven't done yet.  I used to be the poster child for avoidance.  In a few ways, I still am.  But, every day I get better and I just choose to do things that are a little scary to me.  I still have a long ways to go but if I hadn't taken that initial step back in January, I never would have made so many amazing steps in my life.

This too, shall pass

The bad stuff will stop.  Sometimes you have to walk away from situations or people that you are used to having in your life to make it stop.  For me, I had to get myself out of some toxic situations / environments / etc to truly realize that the above is true.  Once you put yourself in a more positive situation and surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you, the bad stuff will be less and less until it happens so infrequently, you won't know what to do with yourself!

You can be who you really are

If people don't like you for you are, it's their loss.  Everyone is not going to like you.  Or want to be your friend.  Find people who like/love/respect you for you are and you will find yourself very quickly.  It's so fun to be yourself.  I have definitely discovered the best version of myself.  Most of it I don't think I knew existed until this year.

The best is yet to come

Life is a complete mystery.  We never know what will come our way.  Sometimes that can be scary.  I used to think so.  But, when you have faith in the choices you make in life, you'll know the best things are still waiting in the wings for you.  Although I'm not sure what they are, I know there will be so many wonderful things to enjoy in the days, weeks, months and years to come.  

We believe what we tell ourselves

OMG - so true.  I used to tell myself nothing but bad things.  Now, I tell myself I am a great person.  That I have amazing people by my side.  That I have a lot to offer the world.  Now that I tell myself so many positive things, it is so easy to be happy.  Don't say horrible things about yourself.  It will only bring your self-esteem down.  Tell yourself what you want to hear.  When you start doing that, your life will turn around in ways you never could have imagined.

In short - life is a gift.  Unwrap it at your own pace and you will find so many amazing things waiting for you.  I can't wait to see what's ahead of me.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Always....:)

Always pray to have eyes that see the best, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad and a soul that never loses faith.

I love this.  I think it says a lot about the person that I have been trying to find inside myself for so long.  I always knew she was in there.  I'll be honest.  One of the things I lost in my depression was my faith in God.  I'm not a super religious person.  But, I've always believed in God, prayed and all of that stuff.  One of the things I remember saying to my mom in January is that I was mad at God.  That may sound crazy but, for someone who felt like she had nothing to offer the world and that everyone was conspiring against her, it probably doesn't surprise you to hear that come out of my mouth.  I felt like there was some secret plan to make life miserable and I didn't understand why I got so lucky (that's sarcastic)...

So, with that, here's what this quote means to me:

Always pray to have eyes that see the best....

For me, this means asking a higher power to help you see the best in others and yourself.  Find your best qualities and showcase them.  We are all unique.  We all have something amazing to offer the world.  You just have to find it inside yourself.  It took me 33 long (and short) years to figure out that I had a lot to offer the world.  In fact, I'm still figuring it out.  I have trouble understanding (at times), why people are so interested in my story and this blog.  But, then I try to tell myself, you really do have an amazing story to tell.  I still have trouble believing that about myself.  I'm getting better, slowly

A heart that forgives the worst...

I've had to forgive a lot of people, things and events in order to get to the point I am at right now.  For so long I held on to so many things that weighed me down in so many ways.  The physical weight was a huge piece but holding on to all the crappy stuff was almost a bigger part.  Although a lot of the things I had to forgive weren't meant to be the worst, for some reason, they were to me.  Again, we are all individuals and we all react to situations and events differently.  I've had to figure out (slowly) why certain things bother me, what makes me upset and what makes me happy.  Forgetting is easy (for most).  Forgiving is much harder and takes action on your part.  It took me a very long time to forgive a lot of people for a lot of things.  Some of which they don't even know about.  But, every time I've forgiven someone in the last 11 months, I've felt my heart get a little bigger and the weight on my shoulders get just a little lighter.

A mind that forgets the bad....

As I mentioned above, part of forgiving is forgetting.  With my memory, sometimes forgetting is the hardest part.  But, I've just had to move past all the things that I can't forget.  And I've worked really hard to move past the bad things or figure out why they happened and learn a lesson from them.  Once you stop holding on to the bad things, you'll be amazed at how few truly bad things happen to you.  We all have days we wish we could forget or redo, but, in the end, it just an unfortunate set of circumstances that was put in motion for a particular reason.  Eventually you'll figure out why.  I'm still figuring it out.

And a soul that never loses faith.

Yep, I lost faith.  In a lot of things and a lot of people.  But, I can't begin to describe how amazing it feels to have found it again.  I believe everything happens for a reason.  Maybe I've gone through all of this so I can help other people through difficult situations.  That is a big part of my job and something I enjoy doing.  Maybe it was because I needed to meet some new people (Renee', Lindsey, Kira and Kelli just to name a couple) who have shown me what it's like to have people respect you for who you are and are in your corner 100% (no matter how stupid I might be about food....).  My close friends and my family who have always been there for me, even when I tried to push you away (Mom, Dad, Andy, Kristin, Ang, Seth, Kim, the list could go on forever).  You are all a big part of the reason I have faith in the world again.  And in people.  Such a blessing.

Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Shocking" My Body

As I mentioned, I've recently hit a plateau with  my weight loss.  Actually, I'm surprised it took me 10 months to hit one.  I kept expecting it to happen a lot sooner.

For three weeks I weighed in at 187 pounds.  Nothing to be ashamed of or sad about but when you're that close to a huge goal of hitting 100 pounds lost, you just want the weight to keep coming off.  I know I did.  And I know I still have weight to lose.  But, my body has gotten used to a lot of the stuff I've been doing so it looked like it was time to change some things.

In a way, hitting a plateau has actually a good thing for me.  It's made me change more things with my life and, as Renee' says, figure out ways to "shock my body".  These changes reinforce to me even more how this is a complete lifestyle change, not a diet.  If I want to keep making myself look and feel better, these changes are going to become a regular part of my life.

So, Renee' suggested that I change up my food.  Oh lord.  If you read any of this blog, you know how much food confuses me.  And how stupid I am about food.  But, I digress.   She emailed me an example of what she meant by changing my food.  That caused quite a few laughs at work that day.  As I read it, I just got more confused.  More words and food I've never heard of.  Sounded like there would be more adventures at the grocery store.  Instead, my wonderful co-workers sat down during lunch with me and tried to explain to me some of what Renee' was talking about.  I think the funniest part was when Kira asked me if I'd ever had a bean.  I think she almost fell over when I said no.  I wasn't even sure I would know what one is if I saw it in the store.  Really, I am not smart about food.  At all.  

I also had to change my breakfast around.  If you haven't guessed by now, I love having a routine.  Makes life predictable.  So, changing my breakfast threw me all off.  In fact, I think every day except Friday last week I was 5 minutes late to work because I couldn't get my timing down for making this different food!  It wasn't anything complicated, just required a little more work than an English muffin and a banana!  

You may think I'm nuts, but I really enjoy laughing at myself.  If I didn't, I think I would probably cry at times from how confused I get about food.  The recipe writing people need to start writing things with words 10 year olds can understand so that people like me don't need a dictionary to understand them!  

The other part of shocking my body was how I exercise.  I'm a little smarter about the whole exercise thing but, not much!  Renee' told me to just workout for 30 minutes as hard as I can.  So, a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday, I decided I would try to start this new workout routine.  I actually managed to run on the treadmill for more than 20 minutes straight at a speed of 5.5.  The fastest I've ever gone for an extended period of time.  I felt good when I got done but I also felt like I was cheating.  35 minutes (which included a cooldown) felt like such a short amount of time.  But, I definitely believed what Renee' told me so it was worth a try.  I kept exercising like that for the rest of the week and, when I stepped on the scale last week, I had lost a pound :)  Guess it worked, at least a little.  I'm hopeful that it will keep working.  I want to see 181 on the scale so badly and be able to say that I've lost 100 pounds.  I know I'll get there.  It's just going to take time.

Change is difficult.  But it's possible.  And it's worth it.  Take it from someone who absolutely hates change.  Or, at least I used to.  Now, it's not so bad.  Start small and build on it.  Because it's worth it in so many more ways than I could every describe to you.

"I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day.  And, if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes, you have an opportunity to change that." - Gillian Anderson


Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 - Year in Review - Part 3

The final three months of 2013 have been just as incredible as the first 9.  Of course, it's not completely over yet.  I am so excited for the last couple of weeks, time off of work and spending lots of time with my family and friends :)

October - What a great month (seems like a bit of a theme...)

I love high school soccer season.  My brother is the head coach of a team and my sister is one of his assistants and the JV coach.  So, needless to say, I spend a lot of time at soccer games in the fall.  I love watching the games and cheering them on.  Even better?  It gives me even more of an opportunity to hang out with my nephew and nieces.  The thing I've noticed the most this year that is different from previous years is that I can't wait to get up and play with them.  I chase the girls along the bleachers and I love playing on the field with Cooper at halftime.

I was so excited to be walking in the "Light the Night" walk at Sawyer Point in early October to support my sister-in-law's nephew and the rest of her family.  It was such an honor to be able to walk with them.  It was so fun to not be the one walking super slow.  In fact, at times, I was running with my nephew and niece.  Or I pushed an empty stroller.  Hey - everyone needs a job.  I didn't mind :)  To look around and realize how blessed I am to have the amazing family and friends that are in my life along with my health gave me a great feeling inside. 

 I

That weekend I was running in my first 5K.  I had absolutely zero thought that I would run the whole thing.  I had just started jogging in June.  But, completing a 5K was one of my goals for the fall so I had to do it.  Luckily, the path was pretty flat and I had an awesome cheerleader, friend and co-runner with me the whole time :)  I didn't set too difficult of a goal.  I wanted to finish in under 40 minutes.  When Kira and I got close to the finish line I noticed that it hadn't even been 35 minutes.  When I crossed the finish line in 34:59, I almost cried.  But I was so excited.  I didn't run the whole time, but it was a majority of running.  
 
I lovingly call my nieces "double trouble".  They are only 5 months apart in age and are so much fun to be around.  One of the things I've realized throughout this journey is that, although the girls won't remember the old me, when they struggle with things as they get older, I can reflect back on all of my experiences and hopefully help them the way so many people have helped me.  

  
I remember getting strep in October, not getting 100% better and then coming down with Bronchitis.  Anyone who knows me knows that is pretty typical for me.  But, I was frustrated.  I wanted to workout but for about 3 days I just didn't have the energy.  I missed a couple of days of work and I was just frustrated.  I finally felt better on a Wednesday so, given the way I had been eating and not moving off the couch, I didn't expect much on the scale that week.  Imagine my surprise when I lost 3 pounds that week!  I had eaten fairly normally (probably worse than normal), not exercised and this happened.  I couldn't explain it but I was more than okay with it!  In 9 months I had lost 91 pounds.  Happy and Proud aren't strong enough words for how I was feeling.
 

 At the end of the month, I did a 10K with my mom.  To this day, I'm not sure why I thought this was a good idea but, it's done.  I ran as much as I could and was so proud of myself for finishing.  My time was an hour and 14 minutes and I couldn't have been prouder of myself.  I definitely only ran about 3 miles of it but, just to finish was an incredible feeling.  Hopefully I'll be better prepared for the next one this spring!


November

By this time, I was feeling like a completely new person.  Losing 91 pounds, running for decent periods of time and so many other things that I never would have imagined doing a year ago.  I remember being so excited to get our family pictures taken the first weekend of the month.  I couldn't remember the last time I was excited to get my picture taken professionally.  I felt like I finally fit in with my family and that I didn't stick out like a sore thumb.  What an unbelievable feeling.
Boot camp also started back up that week.  I was lucky enough to have a half day at work the first day so I got there for the whole thing.  It was fun to do something different and see the people I hadn't seen since May.  And, I was able to do so much more than I remember being able to do in May.  It's really crazy to me how much my life has changed in such a short span of time.  

Later in the month I went on a field trip to the University of Kentucky with a group of seniors.  While the two hour bus ride wasn't the most fun I've ever had, I really enjoyed the entire day.  The best part was the campus tour.  A year ago I would have been out of breath and dying tired from walking as much as we did.  Yes, there should have been a sample dorm room on the first floor (that's for you Kira) but I was amazed at how much easier it was to walk up the stairs.

I started to hit a plateau with my weight loss.  I knew it would happen eventually but I was hoping I could just avoid it somehow.  In the past, this is where I would have struggled to keep going but I just kept pushing myself.  I kept eating right and working out and I knew my body would eventually figure it out.  

It's November.  Of course that means Thanksgiving.  It was so fun to be playing with my nieces and nephew, still eating snacks and stuff but not going to crazy and just enjoying dinner without feeling so full that I thought I would fall over from a full stomach.  Plus, at that point, I had lost 94 pounds.  To celebrate, I made each of the kids pose for a picture with their weight then do one with all 3 of them and me with a sign with their combined weight.  I had lost more weight than the three of them combined.  Crazy.

December - The most excited I've been for the holidays in several years.  My life has changed in so many ways.  I honestly can't describe everything I feel about it.  Never, in a million years, could I have said to anyone a year ago that I would be the happiest and healthiest version of myself that I've ever known in December 2013.  Renee' took an interest in me, my life, my struggles, and celebrates every achievement (big and small) with me.  I'll never be able to repay her for what she's done for me.  But, the funny thing, she doesn't want me to.  We're friends.  When someone is genuinely happy for you and wants to know you for who you are, that's a true friendship.  I haven't had too many of those in my life but I feel so blessed to have found friendships like that in the last year.  

And - I've lost 95 pounds.  100 - Here I come!!



One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.

The greatest gift of life is friendship and I have received it.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Year in Review - Part 2 :)

If you enjoyed the first part - here's the continuation :)  I feel like this one is going to be super long so I've decided to divide the second part in to two entries.  So, here's July, August and September.

July - Amazing month in so many ways!  I'll start from the beginning. 

My sister and I were able to spend an evening together which was awesome.  We don't get to do that very often.  Life just gets in the way.  She had been wanting to celebrate my 50 pound weight loss so, for the first time in several years, I went to a Reds game with her.  It wasn't the best night, weather wise, but we had fun and enjoyed just hanging out together.  We got dinner beforehand and it was amazing to me how I wasn't tired walking up all the steps to our seats.  At that time I was up to (I think) 61 pounds.  That extra weight really does make a difference!
 Although I don't have a picture to post, one of my favorite moments was the day we left for our annual family vacation.  Lots of reasons, I mean it is vacation!  But, one in particular was the best.  I hadn't seen Renee' in almost 2 months so I asked her if I could stop by real quick on my way to my parents house to head out of town.  She was fine with it and her reaction to me was so fun!  I walked in and there were athletes there finishing a session and they kinda looked at me strange but then she turned around and saw me and gave me a hug.  It was fun to see her and show her how different I looked.  It was such a fun morning and started my vacation off in the perfect way.  

Going to my Aunt Moe's for a few days was awesome.  She has a ton of land and it was fun to go out and run around with the kids.  When I've been there before, I've never had that much energy to be outside.  Plus, my aunt said she hardly recognized me, so that was awesome too!  I made my dad take this picture of me on my aunt's back deck so I could show off the first time I wore a sundress in I couldn't even tell you how many years :)
As I said in previous entries, our whole vacation was amazing.  I was on the beach, chasing the kids around, riding on the waves and just having a blast.  Playing pool volleyball, laying on rafts, etc.  The picture below was taken on Tuesday night during our vacation.  This was the night before my phone interview for my new job.  I was a little nervous but at the same time I was so excited.  Plus, I was at the beach - Who wouldn't be happy?? :)
The rest of the month was a whirlwind.  I accepted the job while on vacation so I spent the rest of July cleaning out my office at my old job, bringing things to my new job, buying clothes and spending some time with my nieces and nephew and the rest of my family.  Buying new clothes was the best.  Seeing how good I looked and the sizes and styles I was able (and willing) to buy - I can't even begin to describe that feeling.

August - Another month of so much change and fun things.

I started my new job on August 2nd.  Right away I felt at home and knew I had made the right decision.  As I spent the first week adjusting to all the new parts of my job and getting acclimated, I was feeling more positive and excited than I had in a long time.  I got to spend the evening on Saturday with my family and they made me a special drink in a special glass....
I think one of my favorite parts of the month was hitting the 75 pound mark.  It happened the first week we had students and I was able to get a picture of myself in my Indians shirt with a huge smile.  I couldn't believe how amazing it felt to know I was finally in the right place with so many things in my life.
As the month came to a close, I was nearing my next weight loss goal of 80 pounds.  As I continued to write that number, I started to realize how much I had accomplished since January.  It was (and still is) an unbelievable feeling.  

September - A couple of huge milestones!

The first week of September was a good one.  Okay, that's an understatement but we'll go with it.  I got up on September 5th and proceeded to my bathroom to weigh myself.  I never thought I would actually see the number I wanted to see but I did.  201 pounds.  I had officially lost 80 pounds!!  I didn't get this picture until a couple of days later but there is another significance to it - The t-shirt I am wearing is one I bought in Cancun at my cousin's wedding almost 5 years ago.  I'm not sure I've worn it more than twice.  I found it while I was cleaning all of my clothes out and it felt like an early Christmas present!
I thought, maybe, the next week I would finally get under 200 pounds.  But, my body had other ideas.  I lost a pound so I was at exactly 200 pounds.  I was a little disappointed but just more determined.  And, what Renee' said made me smile even more.  This week was the last time I would weigh in the 200's, ever!  

So, the next week I knew I would get under 200.  I just wasn't sure how much.  When I stepped on the scale that Thursday morning, I definitely cried.  198.  I'm not sure when the last time was that I saw that number on the scale.  I felt excited, exhilarated and so many other emotions that I can't even describe them.  Maybe the smile on my face will give you an idea - 
As the month went on, I realized how happy I was on a daily basis.  It's so funny to me how so many things have changed gradually and I can't really pinpoint a time when they truly changed for the better.  

Amazing how a friendship with one person and the best support system in the world has been able to completely change my life.  Yes, I've had a big role in it, but Renee's guidance and willingness to laugh with me has made this whole process so much more fun and easier to go through.  And the support of my friends and family continues to be one of my biggest sources of strength.

Friends give us the courage to lift the blinds on our hearts, to open up and show what we generally keep hidden from the world.

Family isn't always blood.  It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for you, for who you are.  The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who LOVE YOU no matter what.


In case you're anxious, I'll start working on part 3 soon :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 - A Year in Review - Part 1

If you've read my blog, you pretty much know my whole story up until now.  So, I'll try to not bore you too much with another recap.  But, I wanted to do a year in review in another way.  The best I've been able to come up with is a month by month of my feelings throughout the year.  And any special events or achievements that I remember.  I think it is a great way to show people who may not know me real well how much of a transformation I've achieved this year.  This idea kinda came to me while I was making my Christmas card and a present for a friend.  I think it might also be fun to include pictures of myself throughout the year.  Some of these will be repeats because I don't have a lot of pictures of myself from earlier in the year.  But, I think it really shows my transformation, inside and out.  This might get a little long so I'll divide it in two parts. Here goes nothing!

January - Feeling so down I didn't even know where to go.  This picture was from a "slumber party" I had with my niece and nephew.  At that point, this was the only thing that was making me smile.  Chloe is holding a water bottle I gave her and she looks so little and young.  Guess she's changed a lot too!  Cooper is just as adorable as ever.
I went back and looked at a calendar and this picture was taken on January 24th.  I showed up at my parents house, looked at Cooper and realized we were dressed completely alike.  I thought it would be fun to take a picture.  The date is significant because I had just come from meeting with Renee' for the first time.  I never thought this would become a "before" picture.  No matter how positive I felt after meeting with her, in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined where I would be by the end of the year.

February - I couldn't find any pictures of myself from February but this was taken at the end of January so it will have to do.  Where was I in February?  Beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Other than my family, not many people knew that I was trying to lose weight and do some different things with my life.  I could say I just wanted to keep it to myself.  But, deep down, I think I was worried about failing again and didn't want people to judge me.  Not that anyone ever really judged me but, again, that was my mindset a year ago.  I was also getting lost in the grocery store week after week.  I should have taken a video of that :)  I was working out as much as I could during a busy month at work and beginning to see how much better I felt just by taking some time for myself.  And, I was seeing results.  I was losing weight.  

March - I can honestly say that by the time March hit I was starting to see a new me emerge.  With me, this would take awhile.  I'm not sure I can hit all the highlights because it is such a busy month, but I'll try.  One of the first, best moments was this day (I believe it was March 2nd):
While I may not look much different, by this point I had lost 18 pounds and, as I got ready for my nephew's birthday party, I looked in my closet and decided to put on a pair of jeans that hadn't fit in a long time.  I just wanted to see if I could get them on.  Imagine my surprise when they actually zipped without a problem!  If I had been allowed to jump, I would have!  I told Renee' and she called me and was so happy for me.  She helped me figure out how I was going to get through being surrounded by pizza and cake (I'd avoided it up to this point) and I felt empowered.  Both because of the conversation and because of the jeans :)
This picture was taken at a birthday celebration for my sister-in-law.  As I've said before, our birthdays are 10 days apart.  There were a couple of people at their house, we had some drinks, played games and just hung out.  It was great.  And even better for me - they included my name on the cookie cake :)  I had a small piece but resisted the urge to eat more throughout the night.  I remember feeling happy.  Especially when my brother told me he could tell that I had lost weight.  Although I had lost a little over 20 pounds at this point, I was still having trouble seeing it in myself.  So, to hear it from him meant the world to me.

The other parts of March were my birthday and Easter.  I've already written about a lot of it but, in a nutshell, the week of my birthday was a huge turning point for me in so many ways.  To have someone brag to other people about what I've accomplished, really feel like Renee' and I had and would continue to have a great friendship, spend a whole day with my mama, just me and her and so many other things was more than I could have ever hoped for.  

April - I really started to see a difference in myself.  I think my favorite part of the month was cleaning out my closet.  I usually pack away all my winter clothes but, this year, I was instructed to give them away.  They were already getting too big and I actually believed I wasn't going to be fitting back into them next year.  Then I started trying dresses on to see what I should keep for all of the end of the school year celebrations.  Here's a picture of one of those dresses - I'm not the best at selfies but...
The other part of April that was fun (eventually) was first going to a workout with Renee'.  I couldn't believe (at first) that she wanted to include me given how much she'd have to modify everything for me.  I remember when I realized that didn't matter to her, that she just wanted me to come, I felt another little boost in my self-confidence.  I think she knew (and still knows) that little things like that make a difference to me.  I was starting to find some happiness.

May - What a month!  For the first time in a few years, I had agreed to walk in the Flying Pig Half-Marathon with my mom.  13.1 miles.  What was I thinking?  That's what I thought when I was getting up before the crack of dawn.  But, the weather cooperated and we finished in under 4 hours which was my goal all along.  It was fun to spend that time with my mom and I was beginning to see what I am capable of.  Other than being tired, I felt pretty good throughout the entire walk.  Well, I was hungry, but that's because, by that point I had gotten used to eating every couple of hours.  That was when I realized I had really changed my eating habits and that eating every couple of hours is really the best way to go.
In the middle of the month, my nephew graduated from preschool.  This picture was taken that night and, when I looked at it, I really saw a difference in my face.  People started saying that I looked happy and I was actually feeling happy.  
Over Memorial Day Weekend, we had decided to get together and reminisce about old times with pictures and stuff.  Kind of a fun extra celebration of my parents' 60th birthdays.  So, that Saturday was a gorgeous day.  While the guys played golf, the girls took the kids to the park.  I had so much energy and loved running around with them.  I couldn't even tell you the last time that happened.  Actually, it's probably never happened.  I was hanging on the playground equipment, swinging and just having fun.  I felt a freedom I hadn't felt in a very long time.  I was even starting to see a difference in my body.  Fun picture from that day:
I don't think I have a picture from the day it happened but, the other thing that made May so unbelievably memorable was that, the last Thursday of the month, I stepped on the scale and I had officially lost 50 pounds!  I literally couldn't believe it.  I think I cried a little bit.  I had gone from 281 to 231 in 4 months.  I wasn't quite at my next goal yet but I knew it would be happening sooner rather than later.  My confidence was growing in ways I couldn't believe.

June - For anyone who works in education, this is definitely the greatest month of the year!  The school year was coming to an end and I was so excited to see what the summer held for me.  Little did I know all the surprises that were in store for me.  I was teaching swim lessons a couple of nights a week and one of the first things I noticed was that I could actually just use my arms to hop out of the pool.  I couldn't do that last year.  All along, it's been the little things.  Like being comfortable in a pair of shorts (see below).  Couldn't tell you the last time I wore a pair in public.  
By mid- June, while hard to believe, I was still losing weight.  I think it was the 3rd week of the month when I hit my next goal.  58 pounds.  Seriously!!!????!!!  I didn't know what to do.  I hadn't seen Renee' in over a month so I sent her this picture so she could see what all of her help was turning into :)



Also, I had applied for a new job.  I was keeping it pretty quiet but, deep down, I was so excited at the possibilities of what could be ahead of me.  By the end of the month, I had been on this journey to change my life for 5 months and I was amazed at how it just felt like everything was falling into place.

As you go through the pictures of the first 6 months, I hope you see not only the physical changes, but also the change in my smile.  It started to become genuine, not forced.  I can't begin to explain how amazing that feels.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty 
- Maya Angelou

Stay tuned for Part 2 :)








Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Figuring Out Why It All Happened

"Sometimes you fall down because there is something down there that you are supposed to find"

I can't even begin to explain how true this is for me.  I have fallen down more times than I can count.  In fact, I think there has been more than one period of time where I feel like I just kept falling every day.

This is kind of a continuation of my previous entry but I really believe I was at my lowest point ten months ago.  But, in conversations I've had with my family, there was definitely a reason I got to that point.  I think it is because I was supposed to finally figure out that people exist in the world who wanted to help me.  That there are people out there who want to be my friend simply because I'm me.  Not because of who my brother and sister are.  That's not meant to be mean (and I don't think they would take it that way).  I love my brother and sister more than anything.  They are my best friends.  But, for years and years, I never thought anyone wanted to be my friend unless they knew me through them.  Didn't think I was important.  I think that's why I talked about them so much to other people.  It was all I knew.  The good part?  Now I talk about myself.  And I enjoy it!

Many of you know, I am not good at patting myself on the back.  But, I also think that, maybe, I got to where I was at so I could go on the adventure I've been on in the last 10 months.  

I've met people I never would have met and done things I never would have done if I had stayed curled up in my little comfort zone (aka, my bubble). I've had conversations with people I never in a million years would have had a year ago.  I definitely think my "Bubble" is getting bigger.  Maybe someone poked some holes in it!  While I am still super quiet around groups of people I don't know real well, every day I get a little better.  One of the biggest things I notice - my face doesn't get red when I answer questions.  I'm not embarrassed when people look at me.  I am so much more comfortable with being in the middle of group.  As long as I don't have to say much. ;)

The best thing I found at the bottom of the hole that I brought out with me?  My sense of humor and my ability to laugh at anything and everything.  For the most part, I'd always been a pretty happy person who enjoyed laughing.  Somewhere, somehow, I lost that.  Finding it has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.  If I can't laugh at myself, who will?

The other part of the reason I think I was meant to fall so far down?  I love helping people.  So, maybe I was that far down so I could help other people who are in the same position.  I've noticed that, since figuring all this out about myself, I am so much better equipped to help my students on a regular basis.  I focus so much better on them.  I'm not so uber-focused on myself and dwelling on all that's wrong in my life.  I don't even let much bother me anymore.  I am so much calmer than I ever thought possible.  I never thought that would happen.  Guess that's a side benefit to finding happiness in my life.  

I've had so many people tell me how inspiring my journey is to them.  I still find that strange in some ways but at the same time it makes me feel like I have another purpose in this world.  Renee' has done so much for me, I definitely want to pay if forward in any way I can.  I love telling my story because it shows people it's possible to accomplish the craziest of goals if you find a place to start.  And find someone to believe in you.

Looking back on all of this, I am actually happy I fell down.  

If you don't get lost, there's a chance you may never be found.

In a nutshell - I found self-esteem.  I found self-confidence.  And I found myself.  And it's unbelievable.