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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Been Quite A Year.... Again!

Last year at this time I was writing about my year in review.  I couldn't believe everything that had happened in 2013 and how much self discovery I had found my way through. Honestly, I still can't believe it.  Of course, I did it all with a lot of help.

So, as I begin to look back on 2014, it's absolutely crazy to me that another year has gone by.  I never thought anything could top 2013.  And, to be honest, I don't think anything will compare to what I achieved and accomplished last year.  This year has been incredible in other ways.  But, it's amazing how much better life has gotten and how 2014 has been an even better year than I thought was possible.

It's definitely been a year about finding balance, looking for different things to work towards and just, in general, figuring myself out even more.  It took me a long time to figure out that I couldn't have my life revolve around a number on the scale.  In fact, I got to a point where I had to put the scale in the closet.  I was allowing that number to control my life.  While it's healthy to know my weight, I don't need to be checking it several times a day.  Even now, I only get the scale out every couple of weeks.  Sounds strange but this was a huge step for me.

Once I did that I was sitting around like, okay, now what?  For so long my life has revolved around my weight and all the emotional and physical struggles that come with a lifelong struggle with weight.  So, now I had to find something else to focus on.

Even though I don't really enjoy running, I decided doing some different races, setting goals and having different times to beat would be something I could work towards.  But, where to start?  Yeah, I can run here and there.  But for more than a mile at a time?  Yeah, not really my strong suit.  But, as I kept working, I realized that every small step I took was a step towards achieving another goal.  And, for me, achieving goals that were not weight loss related was a huge step in the right direction.  I did a 5k (ran the whole thing) two 10k's (where I only walked a little and ran the first 3 miles without stopping) and a 4 mile race (which I ran without stopping).  Each time I accomplished something, I found another piece of that confidence I have been searching for for so many years.  

See, unfortunately, confidence isn't something we are all born with.  Well, maybe we are but, for some, it's more difficult to find.  That would be me.  I have always struggled with believing in myself.  So, finding other things to celebrate and focus on other than weight were huge milestones for me.  I love that I wake up with a smile on my face almost every day.  Just two years ago, I never could have imagined that would happen.   

Figuring myself out has been and continues to be a long process.  But, it really is crazy to look back on these last 23 months and see just how much my life has changed for the better.  I have finally figured out how to put myself first without giving up the things that are important to me.  Balance is a struggle for me.  But, I do believe that each day I get a little better at it.  

It's difficult to sum up 2014 but, if I have to, I can just say that it's been a year of growth, change and even more self-discovery.  And, although this process can be difficult at times, every step is necessary. 

I'm so excited to see what 2015 has in store for me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated

Ever since I started writing it, I've used this blog to express myself because it really is the best way for me to share my thoughts, feelings, etc.  So, while I'm sure many people will have various opinions on what I am about to write, just know that it is my perspective on what is often a sensitive issue.  Given some recent events, it is something that I've thought about more over the last few days than I have in a long time. 

Bullying.  Unfortunately we hear about it all the time.  Too many kids are victims of all sorts of bullying.  And the definition of bullying has become so broad with increased availability of social media.  I'm only 34 years old.  According to some of my students, I'm not old.  Although there are times I feel that way.  That being said, it's astounding to me what kids today have to deal with on a regular basis.  I am thankful every day I grew up before social media existed.  Kids have 24/7 access to anyone.  Including people they want to taunt, tease or bully.  Home used to be a safe place for kids who were having a difficult time at school.  Unfortunately, that's often not the case anymore.  Don't get me wrong, most kids still feel safe at home, with their family, parents, etc.  But, they can no longer fully escape from the trials they go through on a daily basis unless they completely unplug from the world.  And, if you know any pre-teen or teenager, you know there is about a one in a million chance of that ever happening.  

I probably have a very different point of view on this because I've been on both sides of the equation.  I was bullied throughout middle school and high school.  It wasn't overt.  I never felt physically threatened.  But, emotionally, I was down on myself every day.  I never felt I could trust anyone.  The way people spoke to me and about me (when they knew I could hear them) was more hurtful than I could ever put into words.  To this day it affects me.  There were things posted in my locker from time to time that were extremely hurtful and untrue.  I kept it all to myself.  I don't know why.  Maybe because I was embarrassed.  Or because I didn't think anyone could do anything to stop it.  But, mostly, it was probably because I didn't want to know what would happen if I told on the people bullying me.  If I even knew who they were, which, sometimes I wasn't 100% sure.  While I so wished someone would see how much I was hurting, I wasn't willing to reach out for help.  I had plenty of adults that I trusted at school, but, deep down, I really think I was embarrassed.

As a guidance counselor for the last 11 years, I can see the other side of this issue.  I HATE hearing about kids being bullied.  I want to fix it for them.  But, I also can't help them if I don't know about it.  I am not a mind reader, although I wish I were at times.  Unfortunately, kids today will do exactly what I did 20 years ago - they'll keep it to themselves.  Being bullied is embarrassing.  It damages your self-esteem in ways I don't think everyone understands. 

My best advice is this - teach your children to love and respect one another and model that for them.  Even though I was bullied, it never entered my mind to react in a mean and spiteful way.  I wasn't raised that way.  Since the day I came into this world, my parents have demonstrated how to have love and respect for everyone you meet.  They raised me, my brother and my sister that way and I couldn't be more thankful for that.  It's not in my nature to be outright mean to others.  And I firmly believe that is because of the way I was raised.   If your child is being bullied, report it.  Immediately.   Don't be afraid.  As long as you treat people with respect, I honestly believe you (and your child) will be treated with respect with regards to your specific situation. Treat others as you would want to be treated. You know your child best.  If something doesn't seem right, don't be afraid to question it.  I know I got so mad at my parents when they would question me about lots of things.  Looking back now... it's because they cared.  And because they could see something was wrong. 

As I stated above, as a kid who was bullied, I kept it to myself.  To an extent, I shared some of it with my family but they never knew how bad I felt about it or myself.  I kept all of that inside.  And I never shared it with anyone at school.  Unfortunately, I think that is still the case with most kids today.  It's embarrassing to admit you are being bullied.  You don't want to draw attention to it.   But. that's exactly what needs to happen to begin to resolve any situation with regards to kids having a difficult time.

You might be thinking, why write about this now?  Well, because it is always a relevant topic.  But, also, because it is something that has affected me throughout my life.  I believe it was a huge part of the beginning of my depression (which I believe started back in my teenage years).  Thankfully, I didn't have access to the things kids see these days through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the internet and all the other resources out there. 

I think the bottom line is this - 

And, as I once heard at a school assembly - 

"People will never know how far a little kindness can go"    - Rachel Joy Scott


Monday, December 8, 2014

Why Food?

I'm sure I've written about this before but it's something that resonates with me often.  I still struggle with my addiction to food.  Every day.  Just like anything else, an addiction to food can be very detrimental.  It can cause many problems, mental and physical.  

So, have you ever wondered why people eat as much as they do even when they probably aren't hungry... or why people eat a gallon of ice cream when they've had a bad day....or even why a scoop of peanut butter can make a piece of dark chocolate taste that much better when someone who strives to keep sweets out of her house has had a bad day?  It's about control.  Sometimes, the only thing we have control over in our lives is what we eat.  And, so, many people (including myself), use it as therapy.  

You would think, as adults, we have control over many parts of our lives, right?  Well, in some respects, yes.  I mean, we have control over whether or not we go to work, how much effort we put into our job on a daily basis, what our demeanor is like around others, etc.  But, if you've ever been at a point where you don't feel that way, you'll take control any way you can get it.  Often times, that need for control comes from something you may not understand.  For me, that was my depression.  

As a mental health professional, I thought I understood mental illness better than most people.  In retrospect, yeah, I probably do have a better understanding than many people.  However, it is so easy to miss those signs in yourself.  Or ignore them.  After all, I wasn't injuring myself in anyway, right?  Wrong.  Even though it wasn't visible, I was killing myself on the inside.  Food made me feel better.  For a few minutes.  It made me feel like I had control over something in my life.  Then I would get down on myself for giving in to eating crap.  A lot of crap.  And then I would look in the mirror.  All I could see was someone who was so unhealthy, I got to a point where I didn't see the point in trying to overcome what I had done to myself.  I figured I would just live the rest of my life in the body I had created on my own.  And be miserable.

Imagine my surprise when, once I was willing to admit that I was depressed, how different the idea of control became.  Take control over how I feel on a daily basis.  Do what the doctor says.  Use the resources that have always been right in front of me (namely, my family) as well as the new ones that were presented to me.  Understand that it takes time.  I didn't get to where I was physically, emotionally, mentally overnight.  I'm not going to figure all this out overnight.  But, each step I take, gives me just a little bit more of that control that I have longed to have in my life.  

So, where did all of these thoughts come from?  Well, I went in for a physical with my doctor today for the first time in over ten years.  Don't ask me why it took me so long.  Probably because I wasn't ready to face the music for so long.  He told me I was boring.  Which I took as a compliment.   A doctor is probably the only person you want to tell you that you're boring.  And, when he asked me how my brain was, I understood exactly what he was asking and could honestly say, it's great.  I'm happy.  I smile.  I laugh.  I have rough moments and days.  But, thankfully, they are few and far between.  He said, "isn't it amazing how exercise makes you feel?".  And, to sum up my answer in one word, yes.  Stress relief.  Accomplishments.  Physical, Mental and Emotional fitness.  Crazy what taking just a little time for myself every day can do on so many levels.  

And, as I've gone through all of this, I believe it has made me more keenly aware of what the kids I work with are going through.  See, if I look back on it, I'm sure I was depressed as a teenager.  People who knew me then can probably attest to that.  And, 20 years ago, depression wasn't something that was talked about for teenagers.  It's hard for me to remember ever being truly happy before the last two years.  I could put on a front of happiness but, deep down, I think I always knew I wasn't whole.  I write this,  not to make people feel sorry for me because that is the last thing I want.  I've had enough of that in my life.  I just want people to have a better understanding of what people who struggle with depression go through.  It isn't something we can control or just "snap out of" when we want to.  I've learned how to control mine.  And live with it.  I work every day to not make food my comfort drug.   Finding my purpose in life is my goal.  I know I grow a little each day and I am so unbelievable grateful for that in more ways than I could ever say.   

If you struggle, find a healthy way to take control.  If you know someone who is struggling, don't give up on them.  Often when they push you away the most is when they need you the most.  

It's never too late for a new beginning.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Find the Good

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.

You might be thinking, what on earth is this girl thinking?  How is there opportunity during a difficult time?  Well, I guess maybe you have to do some soul searching to really figure this out.  I know I did.  And, when I go through difficult times, I have to really look inside myself to figure out what about this situation I'm in is going to make me a better person. 

I have had my fair share of difficult experiences.  No need to dwell on them.  But, I will say, they are the foundation on which I built a large part of my life prior to January 2013.  And that's not a good place to be.  Trust me.  When I dwell on the negative, my life becomes negative.  It's crazy to look back and see just how negative life used to be for me.  I couldn't see it.  A big part of me probably didn't want to see it because that would mean I would have to face a lot of things about myself and life that I wasn't ready to look at in an honest way.

So, when I finally decided that I had to figure out how to deal with A LOT of "stuff", I took the chance to see what opportunities I could find. Well, not right away.  I was in such a fog a couple of years ago.  All the emotion that came pouring out of me when my mom took the time to confront me about a lot of things.  I was exhausted.  Mentally and physically.  But, when I started to formulate a bit of a plan, I could see the opportunities I might have.  Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I like to have a plan.  When I know what's going to happen, I can function so much better.  Although I have become much more easygoing, I can honestly say this is a way I keep control of life.  Even in a small way.  

However, the way I see it, a little control is a good thing.  I know what works for me.  And how I can maintain a healthy balance in my life.  It has taken me so long to get to this point.  And I know I still have so much more growing and "figuring out life" to go through.  But, I'm having fun.  How many people are lucky enough to say that?

My opportunities through all of the difficulties I have worked my way through have been plentiful.  And they still pop up when I least expect them.  I'm not sure I can limit it to 3, but, if I were to list the top ones, they would be:

1.  Friendship.  In more ways than I could have ever imagined.  I have been so blessed to meet some amazing people over the last 2 years, some of which have become very good friends of mine.  And they each have brought and continue to bring various blessings to my life.
2. Health - More than just weight loss, I feel healthy for the first time in a long time.  I can run around, I like to be active and my stress level is minimal most days because I use working out as my stress relief.  So much healthier than eating a bunch of chocolate!
3. Happiness - When you've lived the majority of your life not feeling genuinely happy, to experience it is just an unbelievable feeling.  I walk around with a genuine smile on my face.  And, most days, I can see the happiness in my own eyes.  When I see pictures of myself from a few years ago, I can't believe the sadness in my eyes that I never knew was there.  I'll never go back there.  Because now that I've experienced being happy, I can't imagine living life any other way.

Once you find good things in your life, the rest will start to fall into place.  I still have things going on but I am finding that, with each step I take, life gets a little happier and there's a little less weight on my shoulders.


Find the Good.  It's all around you.  Find it, showcase it, and you'll start believing in it.

I did.  And I do.

Friday, November 21, 2014

So Thankful - Part 3

61. My extended family as a whole - I have so much family all over the place and I wouldn't trade a single one of them for the world.  I so wish we could spend more time together but I cherish the time we do get to spend together.  Love you all!
62. Charter buses - What a great way to travel or go on a field trip!
63. Warm showers
64. Skittles
65. Peanut Butter
66. Pictures like this that show anything is possible if you just believe in yourself
 67. Being able to see different college campuses so I can help my students make even more informed decisions.
68. My love of walking - It's so relaxing and is also a great form of exercise
69. Antibiotics - If you know how often I get sick you know why I am thankful for these wonderful things.
70. My Kindle - I can play games, read books and do so much more with this fabulous device
71. Quotes - Because they inspire me, motivate me and just push to always find the positive things in life.

72. Nyquil - When I am sick, it is the greatest invention ever.
73. Dark chocolate - satisfies my sweet tooth
74. Sore muscles - tells me I'm doing something right when I work out
75. The freezer - I'd waste a lot of food if it weren't for the ability to freeze leftovers.  And it makes packing lunch much easier.
76. My co-workers - I could not ask for a better group of people to work with every day.  Here's a few of them from an in-service day earlier this year : )


77. Lazy Friday nights - no better way to end the week in my opinion.
78. Yearly vacations with my family.  We get to make awesome memories in some wonderful places.  And seeing the joy on the kids faces is the best thing in the world!
79.  Silly face selfies with my favorite girls :)
80.  Playing like a kid again and loving every second.
81.  Seeing all I am capable of and, at times, making decisions that, 2 years ago, would have devastated me.  Today, those types of decisions only make me feel stronger on the inside.

82.  Caffeine - I don't drink it often but when I need it, it becomes my best friend for the day.
83.  PB&J - I swear nothing tastes better when I am sick.
84.  My treadmill - it isn't the best machine in the world but it is a great resource to have in a pinch.  Or when it's freezing outside!
85. Christmas decorations - They make me happy :)
86. Dogs - Although I don't have one, I always had one growing up and I love them.  One day, I hope to have one of my own but, for now, I will settle for visiting with my friends' dogs :)
87. Blender - So I can make smoothies
88. Boot camp classes - It's so nice to not have to come up with my own workouts a couple of days a week.  And I know I challenge myself more in a group of people than when I am by myself.
89. Popsicles.  Because, sometimes, you just want one.
90.  People who take the time to help, guide and just be there when you feel like the whole world is against you.  I believe people like that are angels sent to help you because someone knows you just need another person to show you all that you have to offer the world.  Renee' did that for me.  And she's never asked for or expected anything in return.  I don't want to think about where I would be if I hadn't been fortunate enough to meet her, learn so much about so many things I can't even list them all and most importantly, find a great friend in the process.  Every day is a learning experience and an adventure for me and I credit her for helping me see that living life this way is fun and the only way to go :)

Thanks for indulging me and reading about the multitude of things and reasons I am thankful.  I can't begin to describe how blessed I am in so many ways.


Happy Thanksgiving!




Monday, November 17, 2014

So Thankful - Part 2

I really do have so much to be thankful for.  So, here goes my attempt at the next 30 things I am thankful for.

31. My cousin Meredith - She made the list last year and I can't imagine a time when she wouldn't make the list.  Although we didn't grow up together, we made an effort to become friends through letters (showing our age) and, finally, a visit when I was 17 and she was 16.  At that point I think it had been over 10 years since we'd seen each other.  It was like we'd been best friends forever.  And, since then, I've always known she is someone I can turn to when I need to cry, need to vent, need a friend, need to celebrate or just want to chat and catch up on life.  I so wish we could see each other more often but, when we do, it's like no time has passed at all.  Mere - we need a new picture!!  Hopefully that will happen this year :)

32. The beach - it truly is my happy place and I feel at home whenever I feel the sand between my toes and the sun shining on me :) 
33.  My condo - It really is my home.  I remember moving out on my own a little over 8 years ago and how scared I was.  Now, I love it.  It's my little sanctuary.
34. Books - they make me think, imagine things and occupy my mind in a healthy way.
35. Writing - It really is the greatest way I have to express myself, my thoughts and my feelings.
36.  My sister-in-law, Kristin - It's weird to even think of her as an in-law anymore.  She is my sister.  And one of my best friends.  She and Andy have given me two of the most precious people in my life and she is always there for me whenever I need her.  Our family is so lucky to have her as a lifelong member :) 

37. My job - I am so blessed to go to a place that I truly enjoy working at every day.  My co-workers are amazing and, although our job can be stressful at times, I love that we are all friends and are able to laugh and have fun on a daily basis.  
38. The students I get to work with every day.  There is definitely a variety!  And I love hearing about their hopes, dreams, goals and so much more.  It's so fun when I hear that they've been accepted to the school they want to go to or that they've earned an award they worked hard for and so much more.  Helping them achieve their goals is why I went into this field to begin with.
39. Water - I'm pretty sure I'd have a decent headache every day without it.  Can't believe it took me 32 years to figure that out!
40. Random facts - they just make me laugh.  
41. My friends (and co-workers) Kira and Kelli.  They listen to me on a daily basis, laugh at me while I laugh at myself about food and cooking, are fun to be around and are willing to keep me company while I try to achieve goals.  Namely, running 4 miles without stopping.  I'm so thankful they were there for me to share my achievement with that day!

42. Running - It's not my favorite thing in the world but I am so thankful that I am able to do it.  It took me a long time to get to where I would call what I do running.  But, all the effort paid off and continues to pay off every day.  I actually miss not being able to get outside now that it is freezing cold and snowy.  Hopefully there will be a few sunny days here and there where I can get outside this winter.  
43.  The Biggest Loser - Despite the controversy that surrounds this show (some of which I agree with), I still love seeing people have the opportunity to gain their lives back.  Being someone who has been in their shoes, I see both the physical and emotional struggles they go through during this process.  And I love seeing the breakthroughs they experience on all levels of the process to change their lives.
44.  Body spray - I love the different scents :) 
45. Tissues with lotion - if you know me, you know I am sick throughout most of the winter.  If the tissues didn't have lotion, my nose would be even redder than it usually is.
46.  My brother in law, Seth.  He is the perfect match for my sister.  I am lucky enough that we get along great and actually work in the same field.  It's so nice to have someone to bounce things off of when I need to or to ask for advice if I need it.  He's an amazing dad to Emma and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him and Ang.

47.  Driveway salt - without it I am fairly certain I would fall on my butt many times throughout the winter.  Well, I still might fall but, then I can just blame my lack of coordination.
48. The ability to see improvement in myself every day.  The first time I ever did 10 push-ups (not on my knees) without stopping I almost cried.  That may sound crazy but, if you have any recollection of where I started almost 2 years ago, you'll understand what a huge accomplishment this was/is for me.  I'm not able to do it every day but I feel stronger each time I do.  One day, maybe I'll actually be able to bend my elbows a little more than I do right now.  Small steps :)
49.  My heated mattress pad - I mean, it's the only way I survive winter.  But, it does make getting out of bed a little more challenging than it already is when it is cold.
50. Words with Friends - even though I'm not very good, it's a fun game to play.
51. My Aunt Mo.  I've used a couple of quotes she's sent me in this blog.  She is truly one of the greatest people in the world.  She often gets me in a way even I don't understand.  She helps me see things from a different perspective and she is absolutely hysterical.  There are some certain songs that instantly bring a smile to my face when I hear them because all I can see is her driving her car in rural "Virginny" singing along to them.  I know I can always count on her to be there.  Anytime she, my cousin Mere and I get together, we are like the 3 musketeers :) 

52. Razors that don't require shave gel.  One less thing to buy at the store.  And much quicker in the morning.
53.  My shower radio.  Keeps me awake while I am in the shower before work.  
54.  Nintendo Wii - When I get really bored - the obstacle course is super fun!  And, it's the only way I am any good at golf.
55. Short hair - I've had many different hairstyles but I love my current cut and how little time it takes me to get ready in the morning.
56. My grandparents.  Sadly, they are no longer on earth with me.  But, I am so lucky that I had so many years with all 4 of them.  Each one taught me many different lessons in life and I wouldn't be the person I am without the wisdom and influence they each brought to my life.  I believe they are all still with me in some way.  There are little things that happen each day that show me they are looking out for me.  And I am so lucky to have 4 amazing angels watching over me each day.

57.  Nail files - then I don't have to cut my nails just because one breaks.
58.  Microwave - If you know me at all, you know I hate cooking.  So, this is the best thing ever!
59.  Soccer - this game has brought so much fun and achievement to my family in many ways.  I can't imagine the fall without a bunch of soccer games to go to.   And the friendships it has created.
60.  Snooze button - feel free to refer to the posts about how much I love to sleep.

Stay tuned for Part 3 :) 





Thursday, November 13, 2014

So Thankful

Last year I saw many people doing the 30 days of being thankful on Facebook.  So, I put my own twist on it.  And I came up with something I was thankful for for every pound I had lost up to that point.  It was fun.  I mean, as I started to write it out, I wasn't sure I would be able to come up with over 90 reasons/things to be thankful for, but, much to my surprise, it was easy (feel free to go back and read those entries if you're intrigued).  Just one more shining example of how, when you find happiness in life, it's so easy to see all the blessings that surround you on a daily basis.  I haven't lost any weight this year so that strategy isn't an option.  But, I have maintained a weight loss of at least 90 pounds this year.  And, since I feel that is something to be immensely thankful for (and proud of), I am going to go with that number and strive to come up with that many things that I am thankful for.

So, here goes the first 30 - not sure how long it's going to take me to come up with these.  Some will probably be repetitive from last year but that just means I was right!

1. My parents.  This world would not be complete with these two AMAZING people.  They are seriously the most patient, kind hearted, generous people anyone could ever hope to meet.  They would give the shirts off their backs to help someone in need.  As parent/child relationships go, I've certainly given them a run for their money, so to speak.  I was definitely a challenging child.  But, they've never given up on me.  And I know they never will.  If I am struggling, I know I can call them and they will drop whatever they are doing to help me.  Or just listen to me cry.  Luckily, that doesn't happen as much as it used to.  But, just knowing they are there is the best feeling in the world.  I am so thankful God blessed me with them as my parents.

2. Zero Calorie Sweetener - I mean, how could anyone eat plain greek yogurt without this stuff? 
3. Fleece pjs - As it starts to get colder, I am reminded how much I love to be all bundled up under a blanket in my warm fleece pjs :)
4. Chapstick - Winter would be really difficult without this stuff.
5. Nail polish - It just makes the world a prettier place.  Especially when people wear flip flops.
6.  My brother and sister.  I mean, how on earth did I get so lucky?  Sure, we had our differences growing up (what siblings don't) but they have ALWAYS been my best friends and I know they always will be.  I absolutely treasure how close we are and that we get to spend so much time together.  I love that we workout together and that they push me to do things that I don't think I am capable of doing on my own.  They support me and love me  even at times when I am not all that lovable.  I can't imagine navigating this crazy world without them there to support me.  And I am so thankful I'll never have to find out how difficult that would be.

7.  Google - I would not be eating or have figured what some of the foreign words people use in recipes mean without this wonderful invention.  (How did I get through high school without it?)  
8.  DVR - I'd actually have to know what's on TV and when were it not for this lovely device.
9.  Pictures - as most of you know, I am a picture fanatic.  I feel like they capture precious moments that you might forget otherwise.  They are a beautiful reflection of life.
10. Green Tea - even though it makes me have to pee quite often, it tastes good and gives me something warm to drink in the morning since I'm not a coffee drinker.
11.  Being an aunt. I can't imagine life without these three.  I hardly remember life before they came into the picture.  They fill my heart with their innocence, curiosity, enthusiasm, energy hilariousness and zest for life.  But, most of all, the love I feel for them and the way I feel when they tackle me with the triple hug is, by far, the absolute greatest feeling in the world.  

 



12. Facebook - I get to stay in touch with so many people from so many different parts of my life.  It's such a blessing.
13. My glasses - Because my eyes get tired after having my contacts in all day.
14. The dishwasher - Because as much as I despise cooking, I equally despise washing dishes.
15. Pillows - I mean, how could you sleep without one?  Or three...
16.  Cooper - This kid is the epitome of the perfect nephew.  He is smart, athletic, inquisitive, funny, warm, caring and so much more.  And he's only 6!  When he came into the world he taught me about a different kind of love.  And he has opened my eyes to the world in a completely different way than I ever thought I would be able to see.

17.  Signs at the grocery store.  Makes it so much easier to navigate that crazy place.
18.  Steamable frozen veggies.  I mean, for someone who hates to cook, this is a miracle of an invention.  
19.  Blankets - Then I don't have to get a pair of socks dirty at night :)
20.  Candy Crush - It's so mindless yet addicting at the same time....
21.  Chloe - My first niece.  I couldn't imagine loving anyone more than I love Cooper.  Well, there was definitely enough room in my heart for her.  From the start she has been the perfect addition to my life.  She makes me laugh, she's so smart, loving, caring, and helps me see that there are so many good things in the world to be enjoyed.  And, she's a girlie girl :)  Who looks adorable in pigtails :) 

22. Old movies - I can probably recite every line in some of them but they still make me laugh.  And Christmas isn't complete without a couple screenings of Home Alone :)
23. Pandora - It keeps going through my work day and has great mixes for me to run to that keep me moving.  
24. Word puzzle books - Keeps me thinking and is a good distraction when I am bored that doesn't involve food.
25.  Candles - They make my whole house smell yummy!  Christmas Cookie is the best!
26.  Emma - Someone broke the mold when they made this girl.  She is hysterical.  Her zest for life, carefree attitude, hilarious one liners and infectious laugh are just a few of the reasons she makes up the 3rd piece of my heart.  I can't imagine life without her.  She makes the world a happier place.

27.  My ability to volunteer.  Working with Special Olympics gives me perspective, allows me to give back and has taught me so much about myself and how important it is to see the gifts everyone brings to the world.
28. Pinterest - Most of my workouts come from there and I love all the variety I find.  Took me awhile to get into using it but now I'm addicted.
29. Sleep.  Enough said.
30.  My ability to laugh at myself.  Without it, I wouldn't be navigating my way through this crazy life change.  And, it actually makes life that much more fun when you can laugh at yourself.  Well, and, I know I provide hours of entertainment to people with all my fun stories :) 

If you enjoyed this entry, stay tuned for Part 2 :) 





Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Small Steps ... And A Moment of Clarity

It's strange to me sometimes how I see pieces of myself in so many of the students I work with on a regular basis.  I guess that's a big part of what makes me love my job.  Because, even if it's in a small way, I feel like I am helping kids find their way through this crazy world.  Especially the part that is the craziness known as your high school years.  

As I'm sure many of you remember, I didn't really talk to my counselor in high school.  Heck, I'm not even sure I remember who he/she was.  I think there may have been two of them throughout my four years at NW.  So, I love how the field has grown in importance and relevance since I finished high school and even since I started my career a little over 10 years ago.  Although there are days where I feel like I have more students than I know what to do with, I always enjoy my conversations and getting to know them as a person.  I take it as a piece of pride when a student comes in to talk and I remember their name, something fun about them and, if we've talked about it, maybe what they want to study or a college they are thinking about.  You might be thinking, how hard can it possibly be to remember names?  Well, when you have over 400 students you are responsible for knowing, it might be a little easier to understand.  It takes time. But, it's fun and why I went into this field.  Because I LOVE helping people.  

So, what made me think of all of this today?  A student was struggling with a few things but was having trouble figuring out exactly how to fix it.  I'm not saying I fixed it.  I can't do that for this student.  But, when I left the student at the classroom after talking for a long time with this student, mom and then a teacher, the student was smiling.  Not a lot.  But, enough that I felt good about where we left things.  As I was talking to the student, it finally came to me what I wanted to say.  Something that it has taken me a lifetime to learn.  And something that has really come into focus over the last (almost) 2 years for me.  

Take small steps.  But you have to take steps if you want to solve problems.  Or become more comfortable with a situation.  If you've read any of this blog or kept up with my story even a bit, you know how much I hate change.  And how much I love my comfort zone.  So, as I was talking to this student, I relayed just a little of the perspective that I've found over the last (almost) 2 years - I can't believe it's almost been that long - You don't have to make big changes right away.  But, you do have to be willing to take a step here and there if you ever want to make changes and find a better life for yourself.  We all have things we are afraid of or don't want to do.  Some more than others.  I'm probably one of the people who has struggled the most to be willing to step out of my comfort zone.  It's something I struggle with on a regular basis.  But, I have learned, that, with taking chances comes awesome rewards.  There are so many things that have happened in my life because I finally decided that taking a chance was what I had to / needed to do.  

Taking that step to change my life in January of 2013 was so incredibly scary for me.  I still remember the feeling in my stomach because I had no idea who I was meeting or what to expect.  Imagine my surprise almost two years later and that I've found more positive things than I can possibly list because I took that step.  Don't get me wrong, it took an immense amount of pushing, convincing, support, encouragement, etc from who I came to know as my friend Renee'.  When I finally started to see what was inside of me and the potential I had, I blossomed.  I have hard times but I've slowly developed the skills to not let those hard times knock me to the ground.  

When I am able to help a student like I did today, I realize the choice I made to change my life has impacted so much more than just me.  I can pay forward what was done for me without even realizing it because I have so much more insight and ability to reflect on myself and others.  While maintaining professionalism, I can let the kids I work with know that I get it.  In a way that I probably didn't get it two years ago.  Or, that I wasn't willing to accept 2 years ago.  

See, I am a firm believer that you have to like yourself and be positive to help others see that in themselves.  That is exactly what Renee' has done and continues to do for me simply through our friendship.  Feeding off of her positive energy helped me see what being happy feels like.  And how much of a difference it can make in my own life and those I'm around on a daily basis.  Today I had a moment of clarity when I said to the student exactly what I challenge myself to do every day.  Take small steps.  What's the worst thing that can happen?  You might end up back where you started but you'll never know how great things can be if you never take a step.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Incredible Change

"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't." -- Steve Maraboli

If you've been following my story at all, you know that the last 21 months have been full of incredible change for me.  Some was easy but, for the most part, it's been a difficult process.  It's crazy how set in my ways I was at 32 (and still am to an extent at 34).  Weird how much I've changed in less than 2 years in so many positive ways.  Amazing how many incredible people I've been blessed enough to meet and have in my life simply by opening myself up to the possibilities that are there when you take a chance to make your life better.

My incredible aunt sent me the quote above.  You'd think with how much I love quotes that I would have seen them all by this point.  But, I've never seen this one until she sent it and I love it.  I like to be in control.  I think we all have a piece of that in us.  But, for some, it matters more.  Or is more a part of who they are as people.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle.  At least now.  I can honestly say that wasn't the case 2 years ago.  I needed to have control over everything possible because I couldn't control what was happening inside me.  Or, I didn't want to have to try to figure out what was wrong with me so it was easier to try to control everything on the outside.  Or, so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when, as I started to find some self-worth, controlling things on the outside gradually became less important.  And less necessary.  I began to see that as I took control of myself I would experience so much more positive change than I would ever find by trying to control stuff that, in reality, didn't matter.  

Slowly, I took control of what I needed to control to be happy.  Myself.  With Renee's help, guidance, friendship and large amounts of patience with me :), I learned about food, exercise, and found confidence in myself.  I began to smile more than I ever thought I would have a reason to.  My attitude towards life lightened up and I began to see all the positive things, people, etc that I had in my life.  It may be difficult to understand if you never experienced it, but, when you're depressed, it's almost impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  All I could focus on was everything that was negative in my life.  I didn't like it but I didn't know what to do about it.  When I finally learned how to take control over what I could/needed to have power over, my life completely changed.  For the better.

Every day is a challenge for me.  Some days more than others.  It's a battle I will always fight with myself.  But, with every day, I become more capable of living life with a light in my eyes and personality that, two years ago, I never dreamed was possible.  There isn't a cloud hanging over my head like there used to be.  And I firmly believe that is because I am happy.  For the first time in more years than I can remember, I am genuinely happy.  I enjoy my daily life, I laugh at myself (because I really am an idiot sometimes, especially about food) and just finally realize that I bring a lot to the world.  And that something might actually be missing if I disappeared.  Two years ago, when my mom asked me that question, I said I wasn't sure that I would be missed.  I didn't see that I had so much to offer to those in my life and those I had yet to meet.  

It's hard to put into words the transformation that has occurred in my life in the last 21 months.  If you knew me two years ago and you know me now, you know how incredibly true that statement is, in more ways than I could ever describe.  I haven't changed the core of who I am.  I've just realized that the core of who I am is amazing.  And I can continue to build on that and make an incredible life for myself full of blessings.  



Incredible change - It's an amazing feeling.  Both inside and out :)


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Accomplishments

When you accomplish something you never thought would happen in your lifetime, it's difficult to put the feelings into words.  That's exactly what happened to me yesterday.

January 2013 - I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.

If someone had told me less than 2 years later I would be running in races, I would have laughed in their face.  A mere 9 months later, I did my first 5K.  I didn't run all of it.  But I did run a good amount of it.  With the help of my friend Kira.  And when I finished in 35 minutes, I remember being so excited and proud of myself for even having the guts to try to run a race.  After all, I had just started running in June.  And I'm not even sure I would call what I started doing at that time running.  But, I was doing more than walking so, we'll go with running.  A couple of weeks later, I succeeded in doing a run/walk in my first 10K.  I'm still not sure why I thought a 10K was a good idea at that point but, hey, at least I finished it!  And it was a good challenge.

Fast forward to April of this year.  My weight loss had pretty much stopped but I was working on building up my ability to run.  Winter was particularly brutal last year so I hadn't really gotten outside to run.  I signed up for a 5K in mid-April about 2 weeks before it happened.  My goal was to run the whole thing but I wasn't sure I would be able to.  Physically I knew I could.  But, for me, running is completely mental.  I often stop and walk just because I can.  Not because I don't have the ability to keep going.  So, when I crossed the finish line of this race and had run the whole thing (in 32 minutes, no less), I was ecstatic.  Talk about accomplishing something you never thought would be possible in your lifetime.  Running 3.1 miles?  Who knew?

I did another 10K a few weeks later and while I knew I wouldn't run the whole thing, I did have a goal of finishing in under an hour and 15 minutes (my time from October).  I finished in an hour and 5 minutes!  My only thought?  What is happening?  When did I start running, setting goals and accomplishing them?

I kept running over the summer but definitely had some other struggles that I dealt with (in good and bad ways).  So, when I did a 10K in August, I actually wasn't surprised that my time wasn't as good as it was in May.  I was tired, had a lot on my mind and just not overly motivated to run a race.  I needed to work on my mindset if I was going to keep setting and accomplishing goals.

Fast forward a few weeks and, after a butt kicking and doing a lot of soul searching, I made some decisions to start doing things for myself.  I'm still completely figuring out what that looks like.  But, I'm getting there.  In the meantime, I decided to focus on a fitness goal.  Something I knew how to do.  I remembered hearing about a 4 mile race in the middle of October.  But, I never like to do anything by myself.  Plus it's fun to have people to hang out at the start line with and meet up with at the finish.  So, I convinced two of my friends to do it with me.  As the next few weeks went by, I tried to get out running 2-3 times a week.  Sometimes I was able to go about 3 miles without stopping.  Sometimes the mental piece got the best of me.  And the hills.  But, I wasn't going to back out of the race.  And, in the back of my mind, I still wanted to try to run the whole thing.  But, of course I didn't have a whole lot of confidence in myself.  I just kept working towards it and figured I would give it my best shot.

10/11/14:  Luckily, the weather cooperated and it was actually really good running weather.  Sun wasn't really out for most of the race, no rain, etc.  Standing at the start line I learned that the first 2 miles would be a lot of hills.  After learning that I thought, there's no way I'll be able to run this whole thing.  Hills always get the best of me.  But, I just started running.  And, I was okay with having the first two miles be slower than I was used to because of all the hills.  (For anyone familiar with Cincy or the Pig, imagine starting a race running through Eden Park and up the hill by Krohn Conservatory, among other hills).  As I turned around at the 2 mile mark, I realized I would now be running down hill.  Yay!  Maybe I could actually do this.  I just kept going.  And, once I got to mile 3, I thought, I have to keep going.  I will be so mad at myself if I stop now.  So, I kept going.  And there were more down hill parts, which helped.  I saw the finish line in the distance and finally knew I could do it.  And the closer I got, the faster I tried to go.  I just smiled as I crossed the finish line.  I seriously think I was in shock.  I still am.  I posted it on Facebook and more than 80 people have liked it - What?!?!  Never expected that.  I just don't think that highly of myself.  Reading the comments just made me even prouder of myself.  And, as I started to process what I had done,  I just got happier.

It may seem crazy, I mean it's just 4 miles.  But, for me, that was like finishing a half marathon.  If you've never struggled with weight, being active, being fit or just health in general, it might be hard to imagine what it feels like to experience these types of accomplishments.  It's surreal.  When I look in the mirror I often still see the person that I saw a couple of years ago.  But, if I look real close, I can see another piece of me emerging.  One with a little confidence, happiness and the ability to accomplish what I set my mind to attempt.

Deciding to try is 90% of the battle with anything.  Living life is a process that evolves every day.  Realizing you're capable of more than you ever thought possible, well, that takes a little getting used to.  And it's the greatest feeling in the world.





Sunday, October 5, 2014

Forget, Don't Sweat It and Embrace It

Recently my aunt sent me an email with a quote in it that she loves.  She knows how much I love quotes.  And her.  She is such an amazing person, inside and out. When I read the quote, I immediately loved it but wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.  When I read quotes or sayings I love or that inspire me, sometimes I post them on FB or twitter.  Other times I keep them to myself and wait for something to click.  I did the latter with this one.  I figured something would eventually click with it.  And give me inspiration to write.  

"Forget yesterday - it has already forgotten you.  Don't sweat tomorrow - 
you haven't even met.  Instead, open your eyes and 
your heart to a truly precious gift - today."  
- Steve Maraboli

I know I've written about it before but, I'm a planner.  And I love routines.  Having an idea of what is going to happen helps me get through this crazy thing called life.  However, I also know that I can't go through this adventure always knowing what is going to happen.  Or dwelling on what happened in the past.

When someone tells me to forget yesterday because it has already forgotten me, that can be difficult at times.  First, because I have a memory of steel.  Literally.  I can remember things no one has the right or need to remember.  Many times, it's a great trait to have.  However, it does make it difficult to "forget yesterday" when something not so good happens.  Throughout this process of changing my life, I've had to figure out how I can go about forgetting yesterday.  For me, that means not dwelling on things that happen.  Or letting how those things make me feel control my mood, feelings or life.  Easier said than done.  It's taken me awhile but I've figured out that having some amazing people to talk to has made it easier for me to forget yesterday.  I've slowly realized that part of the reason why I couldn't forget yesterday even though it had already forgotten me was because I didn't know how to process my thoughts and feelings.  And I often didn't let myself process them.  Which led to bottling things up inside until I exploded.  I have finally allowed processing my feelings to become part of how I live life.  It's been an amazing discovery for me.  And it has changed how I function in such a positive way.

Ever try telling a planner to not worry about the future?  How'd that work for you?  My guess is that it didn't go over real well.  There's all different kinds of people in the world.  It's what makes life interesting.  So, when you tell me (or someone like me) to not sweat tomorrow, you'll probably get a little smile and nod and then I'll go back to planning what's going to happen.  The funny part?  As I've grown and changed over the last 20 months, I've become a little less of a planner and a little more willing to go with the flow.  I think it's because I have more confidence in myself.  Planning and routines will always be a part of who I am.  But, like everything in life, there's a place for it and I'm slowly finding where they fit in in my life.  

It's amazing how it feels to open up my heart.  I have spent so many years so closed off from the world.  As I've developed more confidence, and belief in myself, I've opened up to the world a little bit at a time.  Being vulnerable is extremely difficult and scary for me.  Probably more so than for the average person.  But, I've learned to embrace that about myself.  I wouldn't be who I am without that piece of my personality.  And, turns out, there's nothing wrong with who I am.  

So, putting all this together, what does it mean?  It means if you take the time to really get to know yourself, to figure yourself out, and do things for yourself and those you love, you'll truly be able to embrace the gift you're given every 24 hours - today.


My transformation - Inside and out :) 


The three pieces of my heart :) 


Monday, September 29, 2014

When Your Story Doesn't Make You Cry....

"When you can tell your story and it doesn't make you cry, 
you know you have healed"

This whole blog is about my story.  The good and bad times.  The struggles and triumphs.  And there have been times it has been a little more difficult than you might think to write.  I love writing.  It's very healing for me.  I'm not the best at talking about myself, expressing how I feel, etc off the top of my head.  I often struggle to figure out why things bother me, why I'm upset and/or the reasons behind my feelings and emotions.  So, writing this blog gives me the opportunity to think about what I want to say and what it means to me.  Maybe even what I've learned from different experiences.  But, as I write these entries, it takes me a long time to really think about what I want to say.  It might be surprising to learn this, but, at times, it's been difficult to write about some of this journey.  Experiencing depression, difficulties I've had throughout my life, feeling lost in many ways and, eventually trying to find my place in the world.  Those aren't easy things to write about.  Especially when you work in the mental health field.  Many people think when you have that kind of a career you should have this all figured out.  Well, I can speak from experience that nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, many people get into this field because they want to help people who need assistance to get through the difficult spots in life.  Be a light to someone in ways they've struggled to find themselves.  

I am very blessed, I have an amazing family.  My parents are the best people in the world and my brother and sister are truly my best friends in the entire world.  Sounds cheesy, right?  Well, it's true.  But, at the same time, I've had my struggles with finding my place with all of them.  And, it took me almost 33 years to finally come to the conclusion that I couldn't do everything on my own.  That I needed help in many ways.  I needed someone who didn't really care who I was related to and wanted to learn about me as a person to help me see how amazing I can be.  And, yes, I am actually describing myself that way.  Rare occurrence.  I never would have used that word to describe myself 2 years ago.  Or anything even remotely close to amazing.  My friendship with Renee' is one of the greatest blessings I've ever received in my life.  She has helped me figure out so much about myself.  Simply just by asking me questions I never would have asked myself.  Or had the courage to figure out the answers to.  I work on it every day.  And, I feel a little stronger every day.

So, one would think, hey this girl has an amazing family, a job she loves, good friends, etc, how could her story possibly make her cry?  Well, to keep it short, a lot of it is internal.  It's how I see myself and how I believe others see me.  It's my insecurities about who I am and my trust issues with people I let into my life.  It takes a long time to knock down the walls I have built up around myself.  It's my protection.  But, I do think I've let the walls get a little weaker and a little shorter over the last year and a half.  In my book, that's success.  When people ask me what got me started on this adventure, I can open up and tell people about the depression without being embarrassed or wanting to crawl in a hole and hide.  I used to just say, oh, I knew I wasn't healthy and that I needed to lose weight.  It was the easy out.  Now, there's a smile on my face most days of the week that I never knew existed.  My story makes me smile.  And feel so incredibly proud of myself and all I've overcome and accomplished.  It gives me strength each and every day in ways I didn't know was possible.  It may sound crazy, but, my story has actually given me the ability and the power to find happiness.  Because I know what the alternative is and what it feels like.  And I know, for certain, that I never want to go back there.  

"Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come.  Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won 
and all the fears you have overcome."

I work on that every day.  And I've started to believe I am capable of this one - 

"Stand in front of your past and let it be."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Emotional Side of Weight Struggles

I was watching The Biggest Loser the other night and this entry just started formulating in my head.  At the end of last season, the show got a bad rap for how far the winner went to win.  And, I shared the viewpoint of many.  But, if you look at the big picture, the show has helped millions change their lives.  Yes, the people who are contestants on the show.  But, also those who are inspired by seeing the success these people find.  I used to sit and watch the show and think, man, I wish I could do that.  There were times I would be trying to lose weight while watching it and others when I would sit there with a bag of M&M's and think that maybe, just maybe, someday I'll figure this out.  I knew I was eating out of boredom.  And for comfort.

It's been almost 20 months since I started an adventure to change my life.  And, I've been successful.  For the first time ever, I am figuring out why I turn to food for comfort.  And other ways I can cope without turning to food.  I believe I watch this show from a very different perspective now.  I am no longer the one who wishes she could lose the weight.  I'm the one who understands where these people are.  And the success and happiness they have the ability to find.  

I'm lucky.  I have access to someone with endless knowledge about food, fitness, nutrition and, well, honestly, someone who figured me out long before I figured myself out.  Support is huge in this process.  Not everyone has that.  And that's often why people don't find success with weight loss.  I know it's why I struggled for most of my life.  

The other reason people often struggle with weight loss?  The emotional piece.  I believe this is a much bigger piece than who or what resources you have access to for assistance.  As I watched the show this week, it was evident that many of the contestants were being challenged about what got them to the place they are now.  Indirectly, I was asked the same question when I started my journey.  I was asked questions that made me think.  That made me really try to get inside my own head and figure out why food was such a comfort for me.  Obesity has a huge mental component to it.  It leads to many physical ailments but the mental piece is often what leads you to that place.  

I know that was the case for me.  Food was, quite simply, always there.  Nothing else was.  Don't get me wrong, I am extremely blessed with the most amazing family.  But they've never really understood why eating made me feel better.  How could I expect them to understand if I didn't have it figured out?  My triggers definitely center around not feeling important.  And whether or not I matter to anyone besides my family.  At times, I wondered if I mattered to them.  Those triggers were becoming more and more frequent in my life.  And, while I didn't enjoy it, I didn't know how to stop it.  

To be successful in finding health, you have to be willing to work on yourself.  You have to be willing to make a commitment to making smarter decisions for yourself (and your family).  It's not easy.  Even when you get to a point where you are happy with your weight, the work is far from over.  It's a lifestyle change.  It has to be.  If you look around, it's easy to eat junk.  It's cheap, it's quick and usually tastes good.  But, what about what you're doing to the inside of your body?  It may not affect you now.  But, it will in the future.  No one can make you do something you don't want to do.  Or something you aren't ready to commit to.  I had reached a breaking point.  I needed to make a change or who knows what would have happened.  It's a decision I continue to make every day.  And, some days are better than others.

Finding happiness is a lifelong process.  It's something I work on every day.  Whatever my weight is on any given day, it does not equal happiness.  Every day I make a choice to keep looking and striving for the life I want to have.  Honestly, I still don't have a real clear picture of what it is I'm looking for.  But, I have figured out that I have to step out among the living to figure it out.  And, finally, I'm ready to do it.  It's been an extremely slow process.  Especially for those who have been there forever.  I have trust issues.  That makes it difficult to open up to people.  My invisible scars hide a lot of pain that I've experienced in my life.  I've been, for lack of a better word, screwed by lots of people I thought were my friends.  I believe I finally have a good balance of people in my life. Full of support when I need it, ass kicking when I need it and, most importantly, full of belief in me and the person that I am becoming and will continue to grow into as the years go on.  My triggers, trust issues and insecurities still surface.  More often than I'd like them to.  I told my sister last week that they are the one thing I hate about myself.  She stopped me and said, you can't hate anything about yourself.  Everything about you is a piece of you. Makes you who you are.  Inside and out.  Those words gave me perspective.  Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who will listen with an open mind, not judge and help you see things in a way you couldn't find on your own.  It changed the way I thought about what I was struggling with at the time.  And, I ended up feeling much more like myself after the conversation and ever since.   

"Desperation to lose weight might bring you to the start..... but knowing your why will keep you going."

Concentrate on finding your goal, then concentrate on reaching it.

My "Why" is Health and Happiness :)  And I know I am on my way to finding both :)