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Monday, May 26, 2014

Little Things Can Make the Biggest Difference

At times, I want to write a blog entry but I'm not sure what to write about.  Tonight is one of those times.  

I will say, although many of the big changes are no longer happening on a regular basis, I am seeing so many little things that allow me to see how far I've come in the last 16 months.  Some of those are listed below with a little insight into how they made me feel or what they've helped me see.  

1. Looking through pictures on my phone (see below) with my 2.5 year old niece on Saturday.  She sees one of me from a little over 2 years ago and says, "who's that?".  

          I mean, I'm not sure anyone could even begin to imagine what that felt like.  I will say, there was a little mixture of emotions.  I said, 'you don't remember Mimi like that, do you?'.  When she said no, I immediately realized the impact of the transformation I've made.  Don't get me wrong, I see it every day when I look in the mirror.  But, now as I looked at through the eyes of a toddler, basically someone who didn't know me when I was that other person, it's just another confirmation of the all around transformation.  The mixture of emotions that came through when I realized how much time I spent being unhappy was something I hadn't felt often.  I can't describe what it's like to be happy when you've spent so much time on the other side of the spectrum.  
         To realize that Chloe (and Emma) will never know that person is an amazing feeling.  To know that Cooper watched me change my life and is still watching me as I accomplish all new things.  Wow, I can't put that into words.  When the girls get older, I can share my journey with them.  Show them what's it's like to be a girl and to find ways to believe in yourself.  That it's not all about being skinny.  It's about being healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally. Given that I work with high school kids every day, I know this is something that is difficult for many teenagers.  And it starts very early in life.  I want to be that support for them.  Because, without even knowing it, they've been supporting me since the day they were born.  When I was struggling, they gave me a reason to smile.  I want to help all 3 of them navigate life, share my experiences and be someone they can count on if/when they need something.  
          By the way - here's the second half of the picture Chloe was looking at - 

2.  Another little thing - last summer (and for most of my life) you would have been hard pressed to find me in a pair of shorts.  I've never been a big fan of shorts.  I don't like my legs and, given that I spent most of my life overweight, they weren't comfortable and my legs were always rubbing together, making me even more uncomfortable than I already was.  So, I met my family at a park on Sunday and thought, I'll just throw some shorts and a tank top on.  First, I couldn't believe that thought was entering my mind.  Second, I actually had a pair to put on!  So, I went to the park and, as I'm walking the dog around with my family, my mom asks me if I think my legs are getting smaller.  Of course I said no.  I have trouble seeing any of those kinds of changes.  I should have measured certain parts of my body but I never thought about it til recently.  Then I realized I don't have a tape measure.... Guess I could go buy one...but that's another story.  I guess they could be getting smaller.  I mean, I have no idea how to judge that.  But, I will say, when she said it and Kristin agreed with her, I started smiling even more than I was because we were having fun.  Although I'm still not sprinter (and never will be), I can run short distances with the dog and not fall over.  The shorts are just another little thing that allow my confidence to continue to grow.  And I wore another pair today.

To be able to find joy in all the small things in life is an enormous gift.  One that I don't intend to take for granted.  Ever.  Because I spent too many years looking for sadness, finding way too much of it and allowing it to consume my life.  Take it from me, life is much better when you're happy.

It's still amazing to me that the little things have taught me more than the big changes I've made or accomplishments I've seen throughout this process.  I've said before that weight loss was the catalyst that started me on this ever changing journey.  Still crazy to me is how much else has changed simply because I've learned how to believe in myself.  And because I finally understand that I have a lot of people in my corner that I can count on for help, advice and to cheer me on.  You know who you are.  Thanks for being my support system.  I couldn't have done this without any of you. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Still Fighting...

I love the person I have become because I fought to become her.

And I'm still fighting ....

Sometimes the journey of the last 16 months is difficult to put into words.  In fact, a lot of times it is.  But, I am going to give it my best shot.

On a regular basis I have people ask me questions about the enormous changes I've made in my life or, if they've recently entered my life, people have trouble believing how much of a different person I was.  Sometimes it's strange to me to think back and remember that so many people that are so important in my life these days weren't around me two years ago.  

My life has done a complete 180 in the last 16 months.  I've fought for every single thing that has happened, that I've achieved and milestone that I have experienced.  

As I'm sure we all have, I have fought many lifelong battles with myself.  I definitely think the most significant battles I've fought have occurred within the last year and a half of my life.  I could have just kept going on with life the way it was at the beginning of 2013.  I was sad, lonely, felt disconnected, wasn't overly happy at work and had just lost my passion, my happiness, for living life.  It would have been easy (so to speak) to keep living that way.  It would have been the easy way to go.  

Instead, I decided to fight.  And, that meant taking a lot of scary steps.  Recognizing I needed help and reaching out to get that help was the first and most significant obstacle for me.  In general, I think asking for help is difficult for almost everyone.  We all want to think we can do everything on our own.  I'll be the first one to tell you, this adventure is something I never could have done on my own.  I'm still getting help.  Just in different ways.  

I had to make the decision to fight my way through the grocery store (and, yes, I'm serious when I say fight),.  I chose to battle exercising.  Try new things, be sore, laugh at myself, go to the gym instead of taking a nap, and so much more.  

Most importantly, I decided to fight myself.  That may sound weird.  But, if you know me at all or have read this blog, it makes sense.  For so long, I retreated inside myself.  It's where I felt safe.  It's where I still feel safe.  But, everyday I fight to take another step towards my future.  Some days are better than others.  However, for the most part, I love taking those steps.  They make me feel brave.  And smart.  And like I have accomplished something I never thought was possible.  Happiness.   

I have days that I want to give up.  That I want to be able to eat whatever I want, just lay on the couch and sleep or not try to figure out what those darn recipes are talking about.  But, then I look at everything I've fought for, everything I've achieved, everything I've accomplished and I snap out of that mindset pretty quick. 

The best part of this whole journey?  Now, I get to help others.  Most of the time I don't even know I'm helping someone else.  In fact, I still find it bizarre when people tell me I inspire them.   I mean, who would have ever thought the quiet girl who walked with her head down in the hallway at school, preferred to read books than to play outside, the one who always wanted to (and still does want to) blend into the background / not be in the middle of a crowd. and the girl who never wanted to go out would be the one who, in her mid 30's, finally found herself.  And now enjoys being around people.  

I have many daily struggles with all of this.  But, they get easier everyday.  And they are a little less heavy on my shoulders every night when I go to bed than they were when I woke up that morning.  

Although she still doesn't take credit, I have one person to thank for all of this.  I found a quote earlier this week that I sent to her because it immediately made me think of the impact she's had on my life and continues to have on a daily basis.  It said - "My friend gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person.  She believed in me".  If Renee' hadn't believed in me and everything she says she knew I could do, I don't think I would be where I am today.  I'll always be fighting for the life I want.  And working to step outside my comfort zone.  But, I've learned I have to take it one step at a time.  One day at a time.  And, know what?  That's okay.  We all move at our own speed.  And so, this seems to be an appropriate way to end this entry - 

The key to victory is believing you have a life worth fighting for.  

I do.  And so does everyone who reads this :) 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Being There for Others

I posted this on Facebook this morning and, as I thought about it, I love it so much that I thought it would make a good starting point for a new blog.

There are so many people who have made a difference in my life during the 34 years I've been around.  I have had countless teachers, friends, neighbors, mentors, bosses, etc that, in one way or another, have had an impact on my life.  I wouldn't be the person I am without all of those people.  And, I can safely say that although I may have thought so (and still do), they may not have fit the textbook definition of brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect.  But, in my mind, they all fit my definitions of those words.

     Brilliant - The dictionary would probably say the definition of this is book smart.  However, I think brilliant means that you are smart enough to know who needs you and when.  You know what to say and what not to say. You're just there when someone needs you with no questions asked.  The brilliant people are the ones who make this a world worth living in.
     Rich - This word often defines those who have a lot of money.  And, while that is definitely a valid meaning of the word, there are so many other ways to be rich.  You can be rich with wonderful people, experiences and many other things.  You can be rich in the ways you approach situations and deal with others.  And, certainly you can be rich in what receive by giving to others.  
     Beautiful - Inner beauty means so much more to me than outer beauty.  However, I often find that those who are beautiful on the inside, have beauty radiating on the outside.  
    Perfect - No one is perfect.  It's what makes us all human.  But, certain people are meant to cross paths and, often, for one reason or another, those people are perfect for each other.  Either for a short period of time or as a lasting friendship.  

But, the part of this that really tugged at my heart is the last part - You just have to care enough and be there. 

There's something to be said for being there for someone.  Everyone (me included) gets wrapped up in their own lives.  We wouldn't be human if we didn't.  But, when someone takes a moment to tell you they appreciate you.  Or to send a compliment your way, it can make a much bigger difference than you realize.  Some people don't have a lot of positive things to look forward to in life.  When you can get someone to smile, it might be one of the only times that person feels happy.  I've been there.  I know what it feels like when you don't feel like anyone notices you.  Even if it isn't true.  I am so blessed now.  And, I can see I always have been.  I just needed to find someone who I knew cared enough and has the ability to help me see that.  I am lucky to call her one of my best friends now.  

Take a moment today and reach out to someone.  Show them you care.  Even if you can't physically be there, they will know you are there in spirit and will always be someone they can lean on in good and bad times.  You never know what kind of a difference it will make in that person's day.  Trust me, it means more than you'll ever know.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Flying Pig 2014

I've said before that I've never been a runner.  I don't get a lot of enjoyment out of it like some people do.  I have yet to experience that "runner's high".  But, I am figuring out that I am capable of more than I thought when it comes to running.  If someone had told me a year ago that I would be challenging myself to run in a 10k (6.2 miles), I would have laughed and said, there's no way I would ever be able to run a mile, let alone 6!

When I did a 10K back in October, I don't think I thought it through completely.  I had just done my first 5K and hadn't even been able to run all of that.  But, I had already signed up so I gave it a try.  I think if I combined it all, I probably ran 3 or so miles and walked the rest of it.  I wasn't overly happy with myself but I finished in an hour and 15 minutes and, just the fact that I finished made me extremely proud of myself!

So, fast forward to the beginning of January this year as I was trying to come up with goals for the year.  I thought, maybe I'll give another 10K a try.  So, before I could change my mind, I signed up for the Flying Pig 10K.  I'd been told it was fun and the course wasn't too hilly which was a huge selling point for me.  Me and hills do not get along very well!  Now, when I signed up, I was under no illusion that I would be able to run the whole thing.  But, I wanted to see how much of it I could run.  I didn't actually follow a training program.  I did a lot of running on the treadmill because of the horrible winter we had.  Once spring finally arrived in Ohio, I got outside as much as I could and proved to myself over and over again that I could run.  And faster than I ever thought possible.  The most I ever ran at one time was 4 miles and that was pushing it but I figured I would be able to run a majority of race.  In the weeks leading up to the race many people asked me if I had a goal - My response - just to beat my time from October.  

I hadn't been able to find anyone to go with me so I had planned to do everything by myself.  But, then, my amazing sister decided on Thursday that she would go with me :)  I was so excited to have someone there to support me, start the race with and meet up with at the finish line!  I'm not sure she knows how much that meant to me.  We got to talk a lot on the way down and while waiting for the race to start.  It was a cool but gorgeous day.  

Once the race started she took off (which I was fine with and told her to do) and I got started.  What an amazing feeling as I kept passing people throughout the first mile!  I was keeping my own time on my watch and, when I got to the first mile, I glanced down at my watch and it said 10:01.  I had never run that fast in my life!  I made it a little past mile 3 before I stopped to walk some.  I probably could have gone a little further but I wanted to be able to run more towards the end and I was trying to pace myself.  I allowed myself to walk for 5 minutes (which included a hill) and then I ran for another 5 minutes before walking up another hill for 2 minutes.  After that I ran for a decent amount of time.  The only other walking I did was for a few minutes up the last hill.  I ran the rest of the way - including the last 1.2 miles.  That's where I think the mental stuff is the hardest for me.  I wanted to stop and walk.  I was tired, sweaty, etc.  But, I also knew that I would be so mad at myself if I did walk at that point.  So, I kept going.  I also knew I had a shot at beating the time I had put for my finish time (1:10).  Crossing the finish line was so fun!  And when I looked at my watch, I had beat the time I had in October by 10 minutes!  One hour and 5 minutes for 6.2 miles.  If I had to guess, I would say I ran about 5 miles of it.  Most I've ever run at one time!

After the finish line, I started looking for my sister and, when I found her, it was so fun to see how excited she was for me!  And, she did great and got a personal best!  I think she finished in 47 minutes!  As we made our way back to the car, I reflected a little bit on how much had changed in a year.  Last year, I walked the half marathon with my mom and we finished in a little over 3.5 hours.  If I do the math, that was probably about 16 minute miles.  This year, although not as far, with the walking included, my pace was 10:34!  Running wise, I think I did a little under 10:30 miles.  And that's all in just one year.  Absolutely crazy!  

It was a wonderful experience and I would definitely do it again.  Having my sister there made it even better!  I made her take a before and after picture - And I was still breathing and didn't look dead!



And - I found my results on the website - Have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself!

I think this quote describes the experience perfectly - 

Everything you need is already inside.