done looking for the critics (week 7)

Today is the last Friday of 2011.

A large part of me is saying good riddance to 2011 and willing it to leave as quickly as possible. I want to forget much of it and move on to 2012 with the hope that 2012 will be the best year yet.

The thing with hoping for a best year is that you have to have sometime to compare it too. And while I am excited for what is to come, I also know I have so much to be thankful for. 2011 taught me so much about life, love, myself, and writing. 2011 helped me to open myself back up to possibilities and friendships.

I may not remember everything about 2011 but there are some things I never want to forget.

In January, I broke my silence after two months of no words. I struggled with letting go.

In February, I considered where God had led us. I thought about where my heart is. I wrote but not as much as I should have.

In March, I started to count my blessings. I celebrated my husband's 25th birthday. God continued to teach me.

In April, I finished telling the story of us. I won a short story contest. I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I attended the 8046 conference.

In May, I worked out in the morning. I wrote a few of the women in my life letters for Mother's Day. I tried to write every day in May but failed.

In June, I celebrated 15 pounds lost. I thought about just how much can change in a year. I made a list of goals.

In July, I felt stuck. I realized just how hard it is to lose 100 pounds. I continued to struggle with control.

In August, I reconnnected with an old friend. I started the South Beach Diet. I tried to stop comparing my story to other people's stories. I considered the similarities between writing and losing weight.

In September, I revisited the vows my husband and I made. I celebrated three years of marriage. I completed a 5K to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

In October, I started a weekly series. I celebrated six months of weight loss. I wanted to quit but kept going instead. I burned 989 calories in one day.

In November, I made it back into the gym. I celebrated the small things. I won the Steel Ovaries Award.

In December, I opened myself up to 2012. I contemplated what Christmas really means to me. I started to see myself the way others see me. I began a bucket list. I admitted to my lack of time in the gym.

Looking back, I realize just how much good there was in 2011. I see the thread that held it all together. I recognize the lessons I was meant to learn and realize the growth that came form the struggles. I feel God's presence in all of it. And I'm so thankful to have had the chance to look back and remember.

Now it's time to look forward and make 2012 the best year it can possibly be.

What do you remember about 2011?

(title from "f*ckin' perfect" by pink)


change will always come

When I married my husband, I also married his lack of cooking skills and his picky eating habits. When my husband married me, he married my dislike of cooking, as well as my claims that I wasn't a good cook, and my sweet tooth.

Our wedding registry had a few kitchen items on it. But truthfully, I was more concerned with comfortable sheets, couch cushions, and other items that would make our home look pretty rather than items that would help feed us.

This year I've become friends with the kitchen. We're not best friends just yet, but I am getting to know the kitchen better. I'm finding that I can chop an onion without crying. I can also follow a recipe quite well and even adjust the ingredients and amounts when warranted. I've even invited friends over with the intention of cooking an entire meal for them.

Every year, my parents ask me to write a letter to Santa Clause. Over the past few years, I've asked mainly for one thing: money. Amazingly, Santa Clause does make money, and so my letters have always been received and responded to.

This year, I asked for lots of things for the kitchen. I wanted pots and pans that matched, knives that actually cut well, and a few other items. Santa Clause, as well as family members, delivered, and I'm now the proud owner of cookware that sparkles.

The items I had before were all usable. And use them I did. I also abused them by letting food dry on them and forgetting to remove them from the hot burners as soon as I was done whipping up whatever masterpiece I had planned for dinner.

Our refrigerator has been bare over the past few days, and so I've only used one new pan once to scramble eggs with cheese and spinach.

Food is the thing I struggle with the most. Although recently the gym and I have been quite distant. Still, I know it all comes back to what I am eating, how much I am eating, and also making sure that I am consuming enough water - not just surviving on coffee and diet coke.

Armed with spices, a new food scale, and more pots and pans than I know what to do with, I'm determined to learn my way around the kitchen, become even closer friends with the art of cooking, and finally begin to understand portion control.

Over the past few months, I've realized that how I eat needs to be a way of life and not just a diet I stick with for a few weeks. I've looked into different eating habits, and I've tried a few. The one that I know works for me is the South Beach Diet.

It's daunting to cut out carbohydrates and sugars. But I know that those are my trigger foods, the items I can (and do) eat endlessly and mindlessly. So starting tomorrow, I am restarting the South Beach Diet.

Last time, I made it one and a half weeks into phase one. It was difficult but not impossible. I learned quite a bit over that time and know that in order to be successful I need to have variety - namely more variety in vegetables and less broccoli.

The past few weeks, ever since Thanksgiving, have been a struggle. I've gained motivation in other aspects of my life but lost the desire to exercise. I've given into the ease of fast food. I've allowed myself to make lots of excuses, and I've enjoyed myself a bit too much.

I know it's going to be hard to make this much needed change. But I also know it won't be impossible - especially since my kitchen is now stocked with pots, pans, and knives that are begging to be used. Maybe I'll get lucky and find lots of good South Beach Diet recipes on Pinterest - a tool I didn't have the first time around.

Here's to eating lots of green vegetables, tons of chicken, string cheese, and eggs every morning for breakfast. And here's to saying goodbye to ice cream, pasta, sushi (but not sashimi), bread and potatoes.

(title from "keep us" by peter bradley adams)


words fall through me

Last night, I had dinner with friends from church while my husband reconnected with friends from high school. We each needed the nights we had. More than that, though, I think we each needed the nights we had away from each other.

It's hard being married. For a million reasons. And one of those reasons, at least for me, is how our lives combine.

My husband and I didn't go to college together. I grew up in Texas, outside of Houston, and he grew up here in Oklahoma, just minutes away from where we live. We met our senior year of college, and almost instantly it was just the two of us - trying out hardest to fit our lives together and finding that it was nearly impossible to cram years of separateness together.

Four years later, we're still trying to figure it out. And last night, after we both got home at the exact same time, we lay in bed and talked about how we make all of it work.

It would be easier, in some ways, to pick up our life here in Oklahoma and move somewhere entirely new to us both. Somewhere that would force both he and I to make new friends. But the easier way is not always the right way, and we know that, for now, we are called to stay in Oklahoma.

We've talked about making effort a lot lately. Effort in our relationship. Effort in friendships. Effort in ourselves. And last night, as he discussed how it was good and strange to reconnect with people I know from a distance but not close up like he does, he spilled words out that echoed my heart.

The hustle and bustle and loneliness and joy of Christmas is over. But there's a whole new year heading our way, and with that new year comes the chance for change and growth. And knowing that my husband wants the growth I so desperately want makes me feel closer to him than ever before.

It's things like this - that I could say are little but really are big - that give me so much hope about 2012. Because 2011 was hard. Maybe not quite as hard as 2010 (in some ways) but so much harder in others. There were dreams lost and realized in 2011. A lot of growth and a lot of tears. Many questions and not enough answers.

And I know we are not the only ones who struggled in 2011. From what I can tell, it's been more of a difficult year for most. But it's almost through. Just a few more days, and we can officially wave goodbye and then hello to all the possibilities that rest in the change of a single number.

My night wasn't filled with realizations last night. Just quiet moments, good food, conversations, and the feeling washing over me that, as much as I might fight it, God has me right where He wants me.

I'm learning to be okay with where I am. To relish it even. It's not perfect, but never again will it be December 28, 2011. Never again will I have the opportunities set in front of me or the time to spend resting on the couch with my husbamd. Never again will I be 26 with a world of possibility in front of me.

I want to enjoy 2012. Even though there might be difficulty and frustration. Even though it won't be perfect. I want to enjoy it and find beauty in every moment. I want to live my life instead of just taking everything day by day. I want to reflect all this wonderment and beauty and all of these little and big moments.

We've talked a lot about the possibilities and what we want from 2012. There's been mention of my writing, of my husband's writing, of intentionally spending our time, and of doing things now instead of waiting for this or that to be better. The talk is good - great even. It binds us together and puts us on the same page. It gives us things to dream about and hope for.

But talk is also just talk. And there needs to be action along with it. The action is, I think, the scariest part. It's an act of faith. There's no time to look down or to worry. I simply have to get out of the boat and then not look down or worry.

This blog is the first step for me. There's accountability that comes with announcing that I've written more than 6,000 words of my new novel. There's accountability that comes with saying I'm going to be positive and happy and trust God even more in 2012.

With this accountability comes the possibility of people mocking me, laughing at my choices, and questioning my decisions. I know to expect and be prepared for all of these things. As scary as those things are, it's worth it, I think, to live life intentionally and to open yourself up to the possibilities.

So here I am. Open to 2012. Ready for what it will bring. Expecting wonderful things. Excited for growth. Thankful to have another life to share the year with.

(title from "falling slowly" by glen hansard)


i'll return when it's time

Christmas started on Friday evening. We gathered with Justin's family, on his mom's side, and enjoyed an evening of food, conversation, dirty Santa and catching up with people we had not seen in a year. It's a tradition they've had since before Justin was born, and usually occurs on Christmas Eve. With Christmas on a Sunday this year, his grandmother wanted to make it to church Sunday morning.

One of the traditions I had growing up was attending church on Christmas Eve. The Christmas story was told, and the night would end with singing "Silent Night" by candelight.

Our church held service on Christmas Eve. There wasn't candle light, but there was singing and the sharing of the Christmas story. It was a night that reminded me, again, of what Christmas means to me. It was a night that we walked away from and felt cautiously optimistic.

Many people, myself included, make resolutions the very first day of the new year. But this year, Christmas marked the start of the new year for me. Christmas spoke to me. It reminded me that life starts over every year. It reminded me that some years will be more difficult than others, but there is always a new year coming. And that new year always comes with the promise of hope and love.

I'm choosing hope now. As scary as it is to be optimistic about the upcoming year, I feel that things will change. So much has already been set in motion.

And so, after the Christmas Eve service, I felt lighter than I had in weeks. Christmas itself might not have gone exactly the way I wanted it to - we didn't make it to a Christmas movie - but it was a beautiful and wonderful weekend.

We were so blessed this year by our friends and family. Not just in the way of gifts but in the way of thoughtfulness and in the way of hope and in the way of love.

Many of the gifts we received were gifts we had been wanting and needing, and they're gifts that will continue to give. A 17-piece stainless steel cook set. A beautiful mustard yellow stock pot. A new knife set. An indoor grill/griddle combo. Cookbooks. The chance to dress my kitchen and open my front door to guests.

So much has recently been set in motion. The possibility of extra income. Reconnecting with old friends. The beginnings of a new novel. The decision to pursue others and my dreams. Letting go of many things and opening myself to whatever awaits me this upcoming year. Trusting that God truly does know what is best and reminding myself that I can lean into His plans without fear.

That's what Christmas has been. The day itself as well as the days that proceeded it and the days that came after.

I head back into the real world of work tomorrow. And while I would much rather remain in this land of no work and Christmas, I know that when I head back I will do so with renewed energy, rediscovered hope, and a clean house.

(title from "you've got growin' up to do" by joshua radin)


there really ain't nothing wrong

There was a time when I loved Christmas. I anticipated running down the stairs and seeing the presents overflowing into the hallway and the living room. My alarm would be set for exactly five minutes before I was allowed to wake my parents and my Nana. We would eat breakfast, sip coffee (once I was old enough and with lots of creamer), and then dive into presents.

My dad was Santa. He would wear a cowboy-esque hat that read "ho ho ho" on it. My brother and I were responsible for handing out the presents to open. And after the living room overflowed with wrapping paper, cards, toys, clothes, and other presents, my mom would set about cooking a delicious dinner.

There were other traditions, too. How we trimmed the tree. What presents we opened on Christmas Eve. Going to church as a family and looking for Santa Clause in the sky.

Being married changes the holidays. It's been four years since I spent Christmas is Texas, pretending to be cold as we sat by the fire. My life collided with my husband's life. And even though my family is hours away, we're lucky enough to be close to his family and be able to celebrate with them.

But it's still hard. For me and for him. Probably for our families too. Because it's not that I don't love my in-laws - I really do (in fact I am amazed by just how lucky we are to have the families we do), but I miss my family and all the things we did for years and years.

So it's balancing act. Because my husband has his traditions too. And we're trying to have traditions for just our family.

One of our traditions, started just last year, is not buying presents for one another. We get so much from our families that it seems almost wasteful to buy presents for one another. So instead, we buy presents for children who need them.

There are over 8000 children in foster care in the state of Oklahoma. And all those children need and deserve Christmas presents. So this year, we did just as we had in 2010, and bought presents for children instead of for each other.

I can't say its easy. There is a part of me that would prefer to spend money on myself or on my husband. But that's not the reason for Christmas. And to think that one gift could light up a child's face on Christmas seems so much more important.

I got to attend a party thrown by a local bank. The bank was a donation site for the Christmas presents, and my heart was filled with joy, probably for the first time this season, when I saw how many presents were under the tree at the party. Especially considering the fact that I knew there would be even more presents delivered before Christmas.

In the future, I hope to have children at our home for Christmas. And my hope is to be able to care for those children who need a stable home until they can go back to their families. If they aren't able to return to their families, my hope is to invite them into ours and to their forever family (if you want to know what a forever family is, please watch this and be prepared to tear up).

The thing about giving gifts for children in foster care is that you will never know who receives the presents or how much they light up. I had the chance once, when I was a social worker, to watch three children open their gifts. I think of that day every year. Their smiles were brighter than any I had ever seen. Remembering that day, remembering those children, it helps me to hold onto the tiniest bit of Christmas spirit.

But I also feel like I am not doing enough. I have such a huge desire to open my home and bring in children and families and to do all these things I have hope to do. Now is not the time, though. There will be a time, sometime in the future, but now is not it.

So I will continue to give gifts for Christmas to the children in foster care. And we will continue on our other traditions - like goingattempting to go to a movie on Christmas Day just the two of us.

Since Christmas is on a Sunday this year, our church is holding service on 5:30pm on Christmas Eve. And while my parents will be in Texas and I will be in Oklahoma, I'll be able to continue a tradition of attending church on Christmas Eve and maybe spotting Rudolph pulling Santa's sleigh.

I've realized, too, what is important about Christmas. It's not about the gifts or playing Santa Clause. It's about who I spend the time with. It's about remembering the reason for Christmas - for me. It's about looking back at the year with a thankful heart and then looking forward to the next year with a hopeful heart.

I mentioned weeks ago my hope to be in a better spirit this year for the holidays, and I've failed. I've spent more time crying and sad and frustrated than happy. The season is almost over now, but I can spend the next days happy and thankful and celebrating the family I have, the life I have, and the reason for the season.

So from our family of four to you (wherever you might be this season), Merry Christmas, and I hope that you are able to join me in finding the spirit of Christmas and the reason for the season.

(title from "why do i" by joe purdy)


there's a place for us

For a writer, I don't have the best memory. It's not that I don't remember things. I do - I just remember snapshots rather than complete scenes. I remember the feeling of a moment, the gist of inspirational words, but the exact words escape me.

I think that's why I've always loved fiction and how easy it is to get lost in the world created by the author. Often times it's a mix of reality and fantasy. And even though things don't always go according to plan, there's a light with every misstep and the understanding that everything will work out in the end.

Not every story has a happy ending, but there is always an ending.

Life isn't like that. Life doesn't just end; it continues to breathe and grow - even after the person living the life is gone. Each choice a person makes has a consequence. Those consequences come to the person who made the choice as well as to other people.

If the woman didn't choose to place the baby up for adoption, then the couple wouldn't have adopted the baby. If the couple hadn't adopted the baby, the baby may never have learned how to read at 5. And if the baby hadn't learned how to read at 5, then the baby may never have grown up to be a writer.

And if the writer didn't tell the story of how boy met girl, there would be no inspiring words to curl up with on a rainy day. No funny words to laugh over while stretched out on the beach with a drink in hand. No sentence to dissect in the midst of a sophomore English class. No novel to write a five-page paper over in college.

The story, even though it has a definite ending, continues on because of the author's choice to write the story.

I've always been drawn to fiction because it gives me hope. I've always felt better suited for writing fiction because I didn't have to remember. I could grasp onto the moments in my life and enjoy the murkiness of those memories without having to squint and force the details to come into focus. And I've always loved fiction because I could hide my own realities behind it.

Then I made the choice to start a blog, and suddenly there is no hiding any realities. It is all about showcasing the good and the bad along with the somewhere in between.

Writing a blog is stretching me. It's causing me to look at the world more carefully. I'm taking in the edges and the details along with the whole picture. I'm going back to those little moments and dissecting them, trying to understand why I felt the way I did and what the air felt like and who was present.

There are certain moments that stand out. One was on a bridge. I was in junior high. The church I grew up in was at Conclaves. It was the end of the weekend. Split into our small groups, we wrote notes to one another. Notes of affirmation. Notes that could be pulled out years later and hopefully serve as the beacon of hope through whatever darkness we might be facing in that moment. I don't know the exact words that were written, though I am sure they are hidden somewhere in my bedroom at my parents house, but I remember how they made me feel. I felt inspired and good enough and loved. Three things that are sometimes difficult for a teenage girl to feel no matter how much she hears those things.

The other day I started putting together a bucket list. One of the items on the bucket list was to become an inspiration. While looking at the list earlier today, I found a comment from a friend of mine that read you can mark done on this one too...you have always been an inspiration to me.

Those words took me back to that bridge. And to other moments. Times when people poured into me and told me words of affirmation. Times when I heard that something I said or wrote - something I did - made a difference in someone else's life.

In those other moments, I would take the words, believe them for a moment, and then release them. But this time I held onto the words and thought about them. I considered what they meant. And I wondered what it was about me that made me feel like I shouldn't or couldn't believe the words.

I started wondering about what it is about all of us that makes us all feel that we aren't good enough. I started wondering about what it would be like if we started to see ourselves the way other people saw us.

How different my life would be if I saw myself as an inspiration. How different my life would be if I considered myself a writer. How different my life would be if I saw my dreams as realities and not impossibilities.

I don't have it all figured out (clearly). I'm stumbling and fumbling along in my weight loss journey. Rather than writing a novel, I think about the characters and the plot. And so maybe I'm not the one to spark a revolution for the whole world, but I am the one to spark a revolution for my own life.

So I am going to do the thing I've never been able to do. I'm going to take the words of affirmation, years worth of words of affirmation, and I am going to believe them. I am going to remember how it felt the first time I heard the words. I am going to concentrate on the details and allow them to seep into future memories. I am going to allow the words I once hid away to effect the rest of my life and maybe make their way into someone else's life.

I am going to be the person so many people already see me as.

(title from "romeo & juliet" by edwin mccain)


done looking for the critics (week 6)

I say that I am on a weight loss journey. And I am. But this journey is about so much more.

It's about figuring out who I am once and for all. It's about sticking with something and not giving up when it gets to be too hard. It's about dreaming and then making those dreams come true.

I don't have a lot to say today. I haven't had much to say this week. Because I've spent time thinking and processing and dreaming and planning.

But I wanted to share something with you all. A few of the items I've added to my bucket list.

Along with my bucket list, I've listed some of the things I've already done.

Life is hard. But it's beautilful. Sometimes we notive the hard things too much and forget how much we have done and how much more we have left to do.

It's time to remember. And for me, it's time to live. 2012 is almost here, and I feel like this is going to be the year for me. What about you? What's on your bucket list? What have you already done?

(title from "f*ckin' perfect" by pink)


seems like it's been forever

The truth is that I have not stepped foot into the gym in a week. The girl with not one but two gym memberships hasn't worked out in seven days. The girl who loved going to gym and the endorphins that rushed after a sweaty work out has lost the motivation to run on the elliptical, to lift weights, and to move my body to the beat during zumba.

The worst part of it is that I don't know how to get my motivation back.

I don't think this is only a wall that I'm hitting. I think it's a wall combined with exhaustion combined with a body that needs rest combined with life combined with trying to figure out what works best for me.

You see I haven't gained any weight during my time away from the gym. Time away that began before last Wednesday. Time that began weeks ago when I got sick and then struggled to get back into my routine.

When I stepped on the scale this morning, I prepared myself for a gain in weight. I haven't been wonderful at counting calories or limiting my intake of delicious frozen yogurt and peppermint ice cream. I've eaten more than I have in weeks. And I've started consuming more coffee and diet coke.

But my weight has stayed the same over the past week. And I'm happy for that. But this journey is, at this point in time, a weight loss journey not a weight maintenance journey.

I'm excited about where I am right now on the scale and in the sense of the size of clothes. I'm three sizes smaller than when I started. And I'm close to the weight I was when I got married in 2008.

At the same time, though, I have a ways to go. I've lost 33 pounds so far and about 20 inches. My goal includes losing another 67 pounds and however many inches that works out to. I would say another 40 inches but that seems almost too much.

Knowing that I still have 67 pounds to lose, and no time to just maintain, I realize that it is time for me to step out of hiding and announce my struggles so that I can once again make my way back into the life of healthy.

How to get back into the life of health and exercise is different for everyone. For some people, they can just do it. And while I could be like those people, I know that just doing it won't work long term. Because I always get to a point where I am too tired to just do it.

So it comes down to planning for me. Being a Type-A personality, I am a master of planning in many ways. But most of my plans involve what will happen in the future and not necessarily how to get there. I'm also a person who struggles with focusing on the here and the now as I prefer to focus on what things will be like five and ten years down the road.

My biggest downfall, over the last almost 8 months, has been lack of planning. I've failed to plan out my workouts for the week, meals for the week, snacks for the week. My life is picking up speed in several different areas, and I'm finding my time stretched between different commitments to myself, to work, to friends, and to my family. I want to keep all of those commitments, but I can only do that through lots of planning.

That's how I will spend this week. I'll plan grocery lists for two weeks at a time (and then stick to the lists), exercises for two weeks, snacks and meals, and also how I spend my time. My plan will look different from another person's plan because my life and responsibilities will differ from another's life and responsibilities.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what 2012 holds. Because I am. I'm at a make it or break it point. I know I never want to go back to where I was in April, but I also know that lack of planning and follow through could easily lead to just that. And I realize that I need accountability in the way of friends, family, and blogging. But accountability doesn't work if I refuse to admit to anyone that I am struggling. Accountability also doesn't work if people do not know what to hold me accountable for.

Along with the planning, I need to focus. That focus needs to be placed back on me and my journey instead of on other people's journeys. I love success stories. They motivate me, but lately I find myself frustrated because I haven't succeeded in the same way another person has or in the same time frame. And that needs to stop - for my healthy and my sanity.

When I see success stories, I forget about the rest of the story. I see where another person is now but not how they got there or where they came from. Even though the might share their struggles I don't realize they are still there in the background because I am too focused on wishing I could be right where they are.

There's no perfect way of getting to a point of losing 100 pounds. And losing 100 pounds isn't going to fix any person's life. The weight isn't the issue; it's a product of the issue.

I've moved past a lot of my struggles - the reasons that I got to a point where I needed to lose 100 pounds. There was a lot of excess baggage I carried for years. Now that it's gone, I feel great, but I also know that more baggage could load itself onto me in the way of pounds if I don't share during the times when I want to do nothing more than eat a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese or pepermint ice cream (or both - not from the same bowl) rather than sweat and move at the gym.

And right now, I would much rather sit on the couch. But I am going to plan out how to not do that. And then I am going to stick to that plan - confessing when I am struggling and celebrating when I am succeeding.

Here's to 33 pounds lost and another 67 left to lose.

(title from "where'd you go" by fort minor feat. holly brooke)


benefits of exercise (a guest post)

Since starting this blog, I've been approached to host different giveaways as well as to publish articles about different topics. I've said no to every opportunity except for one - this one.

Having suffered from illness (with no real cause or understanding in some cases), I know how important exercise is. I'm still very much in the midst of my journey, but I am finding that all aspects of my life are imroving. It's because of my experiences, and learning on a daily basis how much my body needs exericse, that I'm sharing this information with you today.

Melanie Bowen is a part-time blog contributor at Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and also has her own personal blog - Milady Knows. She is advocate for natural health and cancer patients. She also assists in social media outreach in her efforts to spread awareness. You can also find Melanie on twitter and facebook. Thank you so much for sharing your information, and passions, with me and my readers, Melanie!

It is a well-known fact that exercise can improve our physical and mental well-being. It burns fat, builds muscle, and makes us look better. That is the reason most of us do it, but exercise isn't just about making us look better; it's about making us feel better as well. There are a number of health benefits to exercise, so it makes sense that it will help those with a chronic or terminal illness feel better and increase life expectancy.

Exercise can help with an abundance of chronic and terminal illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, depression, and fibromyalgia. Even patients with lung conditions like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or mesothelioma can feel physical and psychological improvement when diet and exercise are added to their treatment plan. So what are the physical benefits of exercise?

Other than trimming the waist, exercise helps make us feel better and promote longevity, especially when used alongside a healthy diet. Some physical benefits include lower cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthening of the heart, stress reduction, decreased blood sugar levels, and increased muscle strength. Exercise is also beneficial in the way of increasing energy levels and endurance, raising the body's capability to fight infection, improving sleep patterns, and reducing shortness of breath according to National Jewish Health. Healthy adults who do not exercise usually lack energy, get out of breath easily, have trouble doing simple physical activities, and can be overweight. Add an illness to that and imagine how run down it can make you feel. Failing to exercise can make a chronic or terminal illness worse, in turn making it harder to fight. When exploring and consulting with a doctor for their opinions on overall health and wellness outside of traditional treatment, one should be motivated to start their path of clarity and healing.

Many terminal illnesses, especially cancer treatment, expose patients to radiation and chemicals, causing pain, weakness, nausea, and vomiting. Exercise increases strength, lung function, and overall health, making it easier to conquer the side effects of treatment. Another benefit patients will see is stress and depression relief. Exercise gives them an outlet for all of the negative emotions they are feeling. Getting up and moving around gives them a sense of accomplishment and lets them feel in control. Instead of lying in bed letting the illness get to them, they are taking charge and increasing their body's ability to fight the disease.

Deciding to start an exercise regimen is the first step to improving recovery. Your doctor will know the best thing for your body, and together you can decide what will work for you. You don't have to go to a gym to get the exercise you need either. You can do simple things in your home like walking up and down the hall or stairs, lifting light objects such as soup cans, or following a fitness video. All you need to do is start moving. Before you know it, you will be feeling better, both physically and emotionally.


and i will waste no time

I graduated college in May 2008. Armed with dreams and a bit of naivity about how the real world works, I was excited for more free time, the freedom to write whatever I wanted, and the knowledge that I would be living in my own apartment and could enjoy as much solitude as I wanted.

Years of education had made me think I didn't have any real free time. I felt that, without papers to write and tests to study for and three jobs to work on top of a full-load of classes, I would have all the time in the world. What I didn't realize then, and what I am starting to realize now, is that I have just as much time now as I did then.

My first year after college I was busy. I moved into an apartment and then moved out of it months later due to busted pipes. I worked a job that required the majority of my time and energy. I planned and executed a wedding in less than four months. Then I settled, or tried to settle, into my first year of marriage. Four months later we bought and moved into a new house.

I didn't really have a lot of free time then. And when I did have any free time, I had no energy to spend on writing or any real desire to write. Five years of writing papers, stories, novels and articles took away all of my desire to write. And then all I really wanted to do was absolutely nothing at all during my free time.

It's been over three years since I graduated college. We'll have lived in our house for three years this coming January. I enjoy writing again. The ideas are slowly trickling back into my head, and I'm responding by writing character profiles and outlines. I struggle with how to spend my free time and wonder how I did it all in college.

Maybe it was the lifestyle of college. Being free and knowing I could skip class whenever I wanted (which never happened - ever). Feeling like all-nighters and choosing friends and fun over an early night of sleep was expected. Knowing I could roll out of bed and head to class or work in a pair of sweatpants and a tee-shirt. But at that time, I made so much more time for everything than I do now. I chose to put effort and time into classes, into relationships, into writing, and into myself. I might not have made it to the gym each day, but I did at least attempt a work out every so often.

Today, I find myself at multiple crossroads. My job is no longer as consuming. I have time to write. And yet I still prefer to sit on the couch, watch television, and then head to bed early. I make countless excuses about how busy I am and how I just can't do everything. But it's a choice I've made - this choice on how to spend my evenings, my mornings, and my lunch breaks. Even my weekends.

I've spent a lot of time wanting things to change. Wanting to write. Wanting our house to be fixed. Willing and wishing and praying for a way to do it all. And it's a lot to take on, especially when I so desperately want balance in all aspects of my life, but it's all things I need to just take on. It's choices that need to be made of how to spend my time and my money and where to put my energy.

I'm not naive enough to think that I can do everything and do it all well. I know my schedule is more restricted now than it was when I was in college and could work before class, between classes, and then in the evenings. And I have a husband to think about as well as two dogs that want my attention and a house that seems to need to be cleaned daily. But I can do this. I can make the choices that need to be made, the sacrifice of sleep when other things take priority, and the determination/drive to make my life work for me in the way I need it to.

I still spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. And I'm trying to stop. It's a daily struggle and a daily process. This wondering of where I am compared to this person or that. This questioning of why I want some things others don't or why I have no desire to have my own children but really want to adopt or foster. And this wondering of where my life is going, what will happen in the next few months and years, when I will get close to figuring it all out, and why it seems so much is harder than I thought it would be.

And I want the answers to those wonderings. Desperately. They might be out there, too, but I am not finding them with how I am currently living my life.

So I am making choices and decisions that will impact my life. Every choice results in a response - good or bad (sometimes both). I'm prepared for the good, the bad, and the somewhere in between. I know that it might be hard living with the choices and what happens after I decide.. I'll have to be more dilligent with my time and start the day off with even more coffee. And I know it's going to be hard to remain constant with writing, motivated with working out, and determined. But I also know it will be worth it.

And I know I can do it.

Writing this blog has taught me so much. I'm not one to write about the daily ongoings of my life. I'm terrible at taking pictures to post. And I spend my time with friends enjoying the laughter rather than thinking about how it relates to a post or how I might work it into my blog.

But I've found a voice. A voice I didn't know I had. This voice talks about struggles and thoughts and all these things that are a little more serious. But this voice is helping me to peel off my layers and see the beauty in my life. It's given me a deeper understanding of my strengths.

And this voice has reminded me that I really can do anything I set my mind to. It might take me longer than some, but I've still lost 33 pounds. My house might need a lot of work still, but with curtains hung (three years later), it's turning into a home. And I might never be a mother in the traditional sense, but there's a desire there to care for children that I will one day turn into a reality.

I will never share every choice here. Some are more private. And some are harder to describe. But I'm excited right now for all the possibilities I see before me. And for all the doors, that were once sealed shut, opening because of the choices I am making.

(title from "clarity" by john mayer)


celebrating the small things (week 2)

Show me where to go and what steps to take. Make the path known for my life. Grant me wisdom and discernment to decide how to move forward and when to skip to the side. Those words tumble off my lips and flood my mind to any given day. I consider which way I might skip and if now is the time to step out in faith. I concentrate on the dreams I have - dreams that are not ready to become reality - and lose focus on the here and the now.

It usually happens that I think I know. It feels right. Everything is in line, and yes, this is the direction I need to move.

Suddenly the door that was once open is shut, and there is no window to peak through. So much time was spent considering the possibility and what I knew would happen - what I felt should happen - that I didn't stop to think about how it might not happen.

I know this about myself. This need to plan and understand the possibilities I want to have happen. There's always a fear that by wanting something I will make it so it will not happen. By planning, it's almost as if I am guaranteed to have things go completely the opposite direction.

There's always a bit of light, peaking through the bottom of the door like the cold air slinks into our house through the crack between the front door and the wood floors. Sometimes I see the light and move closer to it, feeling the warmth and understanding that there is always a way. Other times I notice only the cold and forget that God is there in those moments too.

I think I know what He has called me to, and then I wonder at the same time. As much as I plan, there is beauty and grace and hope found in all of these unknowns. And there's a choice. Do I step where I think I should step or do I step into the places I fear - the places that are not a guaranteed success?

The idea came to me last week. Similar to ideas I've had before but this time it held a strength it's never held before. Pictures and moments in a time that doesn't quite exist yet outside of my mind. A story to tell that is no one's story and yet so many people's story.

So I listened. I listened and imagined and thought about what it could mean. This story that needs to be told. This story that found me and knocked on my heart and asked to be told.

After I listened, I sat. My fingers danced over the keys and the words poured onto the page. A summary. Descriptions of characters. An outline as bare as possible. And then a hope that had been extinguished by the cold air suddenly gaining strength from the light that slips through the crack under the door.

Do this for yourself. Think about the words you want to say. The experiences you've had. The children who deserve a voice. The people who should know. And then do something about it.

So I am.

As this one door that was once closed now opens back up, I see the possibilities. Not just here at a computer telling a story that came to me. But in other aspects of my life. An understanding of why so many doors have been closed and some never even opened. An acceptance of this life and an excitement at all the places it might lead.

But I know to be careful. To keep my hands open but my eyes shut. I need to feel how to get there and not to walk the paths I think are right but might really be wrong. It's time to trust and to breathe and to allow these moments in time to turn into more than I could have ever dreamed of.

I am just a vessel. This life of mine will be a wisp of smoke so quickly gone. But this story, and any other stories that might come after it, can live on longer.


i have to want to leave the ground

I've never been a fast runner. Really I've never been a runner. And in the past that was fine. Planned even. In the past, I had no desire to be a runner.

But now, I do.

When I took PE class, I generally walked the required mile. There was a group of us who would walk and maybe jog some for the benefit of the teachers. None of us had any real desire to run. We were in PE class because it was a required part of our education and not because we chose to be.

Now, upon entering the gym, I am there because I choose to be. Yes, it is a helpful part of my weight loss journey, but I could strictly watch my calories and still lose weight. I did that last week and lost a pound. I go to the gym because I like the endorphins and because sweating up a storm makes me feel better about myself.

I forgot that last week. I gave into the impending winter weather. I allowed myself rest. It helped some, but now it is Monday morning of a new week and I am still tired. I still don't want to go to the gym. So this week, instead of resting, I am going to force myself to finish.

In PE class, your times of completing a mile are compared with the other students (at least they were for me) as well as with the time you took to complete your previous mile. Knowing I would never win against another student allowed me, in my mind, the opportunity not to try.

And while I do compare myself to others in the gym, my time and my effort really only matters for myself. I'm not doing this for a grade or to be able to look at others and say I can run faster than you. I am doing this because I want to be healthy and because I want the joy of saying I finished that mile in my fastest time yet.

More than that, I want to reclaim the joy of just saying that I finished. I want to rediscover the feeling of accomplishment I get after a workout. I want to remember how much I love the gym. And I want to stop allowing my injuries or exhaustion to take over.

Because I am injured. I have a knee that hurts all of the time. And I'm not going to be able to break into a sprint or come in first during a 5k. But right now all that matters is that I try and that I not give up. Right now I need to push through the pain and rehabilitate my knee. I need to stop making excuses and stop allowing things to get in my way.

I need to remember that I will never again be that girl who took 20 minutes to finish a mile. And I need to remember that I will always be the girl who finishes.

(title from "on my way here" by ryan tedder)


done looking for the critics (week 5)

This week has not been what I wanted or expected. After a weekend of resting, shopping, eating good food, and not worrying about too many things, I had hopes of a week full of energy and hours spent at the gym. I set my alarm every day to go off before 5:30am so I could get in a morning work out.

I turned the alarm off every day and didn't even pretend to consider getting out of bed with the intention of sweating for an hour at the gym.

Each night I've gotten home exhausted. In fact, I've spent the entire day at work exhausted. The coffee I brew in the morning doesn't seem to help. And neither does the caffeine I try to sneak in during the work day.

Maybe I'm not drinking enough water? Or maybe my body is fighting off another infection. Maybe it's because the cold and grey skies are becoming more normal than not in Oklahoma City. I'm not sure. I just know what this week has been a week of missed work-outs, eating macaroni and cheese for dinner, and just trying to make it through the week.

There will always be weeks like this. Sometimes just getting out of bed and making decent food choice is all you can do. Sometimes your body needs a break. And sometimes fitness just isn't a priority.

I've come a good distance in other ways. I have ideas for a novel. I want to write. I've enjoyed snuggling on the couch with my husband. And I am 3/4 of the way through Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. And I haven't beat myself up too badly for not working out. Because I know there's a reason I feel so sluggish, a reason I just can't seem to muster the energy to even change into my work-out clothes.

So what do you do during these times? Some people would say to push through. Go to the gym any ways. Just get it done. There are times when I agree with that. But right now? Right now this is not something I can push through. Right now I need to just take whatever time my body needs and allow myself to not spend 10 hours in the gym.

Winter has made it's slow descent on Oklahoma. There's a possibility of snow on Monday (which I am praying against), and I've already spent a few mornings in my car waiting for my frosted windows to defrost. I had hoped the cold temperatures wouldn't slow my weight loss, but they have. As much as I want to be healthy, I am fighting the battle to just hibernate through the winter and live in oversized sweaters.

I used to like cold weather. I think it's because I spent so many years living in Houston where there is no (real) cold weather and also because I could and would live in a hooded sweatshirt and Uggs if life allowed. But now the cold is becoming my enemy. It threatens to take my health and my ability to wake up early in the morning and dominate a work out.

This week is not a result of the cold weather. It's a result of my body needing a rest. It's a result of my mind coming to grips with closed doors and with new possibilities. It's a result of me making a choice to not push myself as hard as I have in the past. But I know that this week could very quickly become the normal occurrence for the winter, and that's something I don't want to allow to happen.

I went shopping on Black Friday for one reason and one reason only. All of my clothese were too big. I bought pants and jeans and a few tops (some pictured to the left as I spent most of this week wearing said new clothes and somewhat attempting to style my hair). I'm planning on making these things last me through the winter, and I'm trading my too-big clothes into Daisy Exchange or Plato's Closet once I have time to run some errands. So I simply can not hibernate. I must keep working out and bidding farewell to excess pounds.

This week, even though I've barely stepped foot in the gym, I have felt decently about myself. I spent weeks feeling less than decent. Everything I owned was too big and felt frumpy. I thought I would never get to a point where I felt comfortable enough to shop again. And then I did. While my worth is not found in material possessions, an outfit in which I feel somewhat cute does quite a bit for my confidence. And I needed that.

Feeling decent this week has reminded me that my worth is not found in the number on the scale or the number of miles I complete on the elliptical. It's found on the inside. Similarly feeling decent is not found in my job or the path my life is taking. Those things impact it but they do not define me.

They say change is made on the inside (at least that's what Bob Harper has said on an episode or two of The Biggest Loser). And this week there have been a lot of inside changes. I'm excited to see how they impact my work outs once I get back in the gym, but I am even more excited to see how those changes impact the rest of my life.

(title from "f*ckin' perfect" by pink)


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