you've got the power

After four days away from the gym, I changed into my work-out clothes today and spent my lunch hour on the elliptical and on the mat doing ab exercises with the CorBall.

Every time I go to the gym, I watch the people around me. What is their heart rate? How fast are they moving on the elliptical? What exercises are they doing? Sometimes I try to incorporate their habits into my work out. Other times I think to myself that they are doing this or that wrong. Every now and then I recognize that they are more fit than I am. Then I store their moves into the back of my mind with the intention of utilizing it once I am more physically able.

The internet allows us to have all information at our fingertips. You simply type something into google.com and suddenly you have endless information available to you. Some of the information is repetitive, and some of the information is anything but helpful. But it's all there.

There's this need and desire I have for things to follow a certain order. I want to know what steps I need to take. How do I achieve fulfillment? How do I go about settling on a career and then moving my way up and through that career? What steps do I need to take in order to successfully lose 100 pounds and then maintain that weight loss?

I could find all of those answers and more with a simple search. I could also walk through the aisles of a bookstore and find a book on every topic. Some of those search results and aisles might yield helpful information. But that's all it is. It's just information.

No one can tell me exactly how to go about losing 100 pounds. There is the idea of cutting calories and increasing activity. And that works. But exactly how much do I cut calories? And how much activity is too much activity?

The answer is different for everyone. Just like the path a life takes is different for everyone.

I find myself at a crossroads almost everyday. It's a crossroads about what I want to do and who I want to be. It's a crossroads of wondering how I should go about standing out or if I should just try to blend in. Sometimes I mention my questions and thoughts to other people. Other times, I remain quiet and pensive.

This evening, I finally moved the laundry off of the washing machine and dryer. I dropped it on the foot of the bed and set about my least favorite chore: folding and putting away the clean (and now wrinkled) clothes. The whole time I considered this need to have a plan. This desire to know exactly what I have to do to lose weight or land my dream job.

There is no plan I can follow directly. Life is not a straight line. It's a series of twists and turns. Every decision impacts where a person goes next. And while I do believe God has certain hopes for us and intentions for our lives, how we land at those points is completely up to us. It's why we have free will. Because He could just make every decision for us and allow us to follow a completely straight path. But He would rather us figure it out on our own.

That in itself is a blessing. Yet I so often turn that blessing into a curse and mutter about how I just want to know what is going to happen next. I just want to know when I will finally figure out exactly what my life is supposed to be.

At 26, I don't need to have it all figured out. I shouldn't have it figured all out. If I did, what would I do with the next 40 or 50 or 60 years left in my life?

It's easy to think about the now. How each decision impacts my current state. It's also easy to ignore the now and think about only the future - how I will do this or that once I reach a certain point in my career or once I have a certain amount of money in my bank account. Really I can't just concentrate on the now or the future. I need to open myself up to both. My life is meant to be lived in the present but with intention because I want the present to lead to an even better future.

And it's not just about me. This life and these decisions. Yes how I treat myself is important, and yes it is my life to live. But I want my life to be so much more than just my life.

Someone might stumble upon my blog with a question about how to lose 100 pounds. Or a statement about wanting to love themselves and feel beautiful. And I would love to give them every ounce of knowledge I have. I would love the opportunity to meet somewhere for coffee, especially a gingerbread latte with Christmas season at hand, and just talk. To hear their story and then also share mine. To understand how our lives interconnect and maybe to help them find their way. But I wouldn't be able to instill any true advice on how to live their lives.

My advice would come from my experience. The advice would be what I had learned on my journey. Maybe it would help for them to know they weren't alone. I know that helps me. But it would just be assistance. It wouldn't be the easy and clear answer they were searching for - the easy and clear answer I hope to find each time I search google.com.

I'm thankful for every result I find on google.com. I think it's imperative that we all share our stories. I think it's a gift to have the internet as a way of connecting and as a reminder what we are never alone in our struggles, our hopes, and our achievements.

But I also know to take everything with a grain of salt. I know that some of my questions will go unanswered. And I know that my life will never follow the exact same path as someone else. But that's a beautiful thing - the fact that we are all so different and yet to so similar.

So, if you ever see me in the gym watching you, just know I am intrigued. Know that your effort inspires my effort. Know that I love that I can get ideas from you. Know that you, and the story you are living, help me get back into the swing of things after four days away from exercise of any kind.

And if you are looking for answers and a clear path, just remember that you are not alone. And those answers? That path? It will all become clear for you in it's own time. And once it does, the wait will have been worth it. A reminder that is just as much for me as it is for you.

(title from "someone still believes in you" by mary beth maziarz)


celebrating the small things (week 1)

We moved into our house in January 2009. After six months of living in a small, old apartment and listening to our neighbors stomp and yell drunkenly. After a scare when we awoke to a fire burning in a building just feet away from our home. After knowing that many of the people living around us were involved in illegal matters.

It wasn't the house I first fell in love with. It was the second house. Tired of searching and ready to have somewhere to turn into a real home. Feeling like this was it. Big, a good price, nestled in an area that was gaining popularity.

It didn't take long for me to fall out of love with the house. To notice the creaks and the widening cracks. To feel the chill that came in through the windows. To know that we took on so much more than we could handle. And to wonder, for nearly three years, why it was that we felt God allowed us to buy this house that was obviously not something we could take care of.

We're still there. And I still cringe at the creaks. I eye all of the cracks. And I wonder how we will make this work. I pray for God to move. For something to happen. And then I wait. I don't do anything to turn the house into the home. I wave off all the kind things others say about the house. Then I point out the flaws. I talk about everything that is wrong and how I don't know how we will fix it all. I worry. And I don't trust.

I want the house to be the home. But until recently, I haven't wanted to do the work.

The temperature is dipping. We've had a few nights of lows in the 20s already. And I know I can't make it through another winter with the frozen air pushing through the windows and stealing any warmth our central heating unit and little space heaters provide.

So I made a choice. I spent the money and purchased curtains. I hung them first in our bedroom. They don't stop all of the cold air, but they help. And with the green and brown hanging over the windows the room was transformed from a dingy space to a bedroom I felt almost glad to call my own.

With a little extra money in our account, and curtains on sale, I spent much of Sunday hanging more curtains. Covering the windows in the dining room, the living room, and the study. Transforming those three rooms from somehwat decorated rooms to completed rooms.

I notice the cracks still. There's worry over how we will make it all work. And the house is still a bit colder than any of us would like. But it's a start. The beginning of taking the house we've lived in for three years and turning it into a home.

I'm not sure what will happen. If we'll be able to afford putting as much money into it as it needs or not. But I do know that, for now, I can use this home God has given me and find things inside of it to be thankful for.


done looking for the critics (week 4)

I made a decision to be thankful and grateful and not a Scrooge this holiday season. While it is difficult to not be with my parents, brother, and Nana to eat turducken and laugh around the dining room table, I want to enjoy the traditions I have with my husband and with my in-laws.

The beginning of Thanksgiving Day started with a new tradition. A tradition I decided on all on my own. A sweaty, 85-minute work out. With earbuds in, I completed my very own 5k on the elliptical and then pushed through an upper body strength work out. After the work out, I called my family to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Then I came home and roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts. By 1pm, we were at my in-laws ready to eat turkey and all the sides that accompany Thanksgiving.

It was the first holiday I wasn't sad. There's never been a time when I felt anything less than loved and accepted with my in-laws. They've always welcomed me into their family. Even when my husband and I were just dating. They made sure I had family to spend the holidays with and opened their home and traditions to me in case I didn't.

But I've always missed my family and our traditions. I've always struggled with how to combine my traditions with my husbands, and I spent more time wishing for my traditions instead of appreciating the traditions around me.

Not this year. I would have loved to wake up and drink a smoothie with my family before turducken. I would have loved to smell the homemade pumpkin pie my mom makes and eat a few too many of my Nana's potatoes. And I could have spent the day wishing for those things. But I didn't because I know I'll get to experience all of those things again at some point.

Instead I enjoyed the holidays here. I decided there was no time or room for sadness. I refused to do anything but enjoy every moment of the holidays. And I did.

I spent several hours thinking about what I was thankful for. There were the obvious things like food, clothing, shelter, and family. Those are things that not everyone has. I could have easily written a post about the things I was thankful for, and I almost did. But I wanted whatever I said about the holidays to hold as much honesty and emotion as it could.

So I'm thankful for those things. The food we had on the table. The clothes I bought on Black Friday. The family I talked to on the phone, the family I ate Thanksgiving dinner with, the family I shopped with. The house my husband and I live in with it's size and possibilities.

I am also thankful for this journey. It's hard navigating the table and the kitchen during a holiday that food is so much a part of. And I didn't do the best job. I ate too many mashed potatoes and not enough brussel sprouts. I drank too much diet coke and gave into momentary desires of buttery popcorn at the movie theatre. While I spent Thursday morning at the gym, I didn't make it on Friday or Saturday.

That's why it's a journey. If it were a straight path from overweight to in shape, it would be a line to walk and not a journey. A weight loss journey is going to include struggle and mistakes and bruised knees. It is also going to include successes and realizations and big grins. The holiday weekend had those things in it along with the difficulty I had navigating the table.

The holiday weekend also included time spent on the couch watching The Biggest Loser. It wasn't until the current season that I actually started watching the show. I've read books written by former contestants and watched Jillian Michaels' spin-off show. But due to an already full DVR, I had never taken the time to watch the past seasons. Then I discovered that Netflix has all of the past seasons available to watch instantly.

I haven't gone in order of seasons. Instead I've watched the seasons I've heard to be the most inspiring. I started with season 8. And I teared up during almost every episode. I felt connected to Shay due to my field of profession. And to Abby because of her faith. And to Danny because he was from Oklahoma. When the season ended, I wasn't sure what season to watch next. I remembered a tweet a friend sent me about a specific moment in season 11, and I decided that would be the next season.

Watching season 11 was therapeutic for me in many ways. Because I am the contestants. I have the fear of getting hurt that Sarah had. I have the feelings of nothing being good enough that Hannah talked of. And Olivia with her faithful and supportive husband was also me.

In the end, the final three were all female. And they all lost an incredible amount of weight. But what I loved the most was the friendships they shared with each other and how they all said it wasn't about winning the money or losing the most amount of weight. It was about changing on the inside, that change being reflected on the outside, and how they all then have taken that change and allowed it to impact other people. I also loved that they proved people wrong. There were people who said they couldn't and they responded with "yes, I can." And then they did.

I don't know if there is anyone in my life who has said I can't lose the weight. I don't know if there is anyone in my life who thinks I will gain in all back. For all I know, there are people in my life who are waiting for me to fail. But it doesn't matter. Because just like Hannah did, (if they do exist) I am going to prove them wrong. And just like Olivia did, I am going to prove to myself that I can finish.

I may never be on The Biggest Loser. And I won't lose weight as quickly as the contestants. I don't have one of the world's best trainers. My weight loss will not result in $250,000 or $100,000. I can focus on the things I won't have - the things Olivia and Hannah had - or I can think about what I do have and what will happen after my weight loss.

I think my life and my dreams start with losing this weight. I think this journey is the first step to the rest of my life. I think God has placed me in the place I am with a specific purpose. And while I've learned a lot and changed some, I know I haven't fully given into the process. I've held on my wants and desires more than I've opened myself to the opportunities God might be placing in my path.

So I'm choosing thankfulness. It's a choice I have to make daily and sometimes multiple times a day. Because it's easy to be thankful one minute and then feel like everything is crashing down the next. Something will go wrong every day. It might be something small like a speeding ticket or something big like losing a job. And when those things go wrong, I have a choice to turn to God and thank Him for being constant or to forget Him and turn into myself and wonder why this or that is happening to me.

I choose the latter most of the time. I say I won't next time, but I usually do. And it needs to stop. I need to be thankful always. As my husband says, nothing terrible has happened. And it hasn't; God always, always provides a way.

So today, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I am thankful for friends, for family, for a roof over my head, for my husband, for our two crazy dogs, for opportunities and closed doors, for weight loss and weight gain, for the The Biggest Loser and the contestants that touched me, and for a God who provides me with eyes to see the things I have to be thankful for.

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


there'll come a day

After a week away from the gym and then a week finding myself back in the gym, I've realized that I need to push myself even harder. I need to not become comfortable with the gym. I need to constantly push myself to run faster, bike harder, and lift heavier.

The gym still intimidates me. When I first started this journey, it terrified me. I felt out of place and as though I would never belong. I wasn't thin or tan or fit or pretty or anything that I thought the other people in the gym were. And even though the gym intimidates me, I am determined to continue to step foot into the gym and continue to ignore the other people at the gym.

When I step foot into the gym, I do it with purpose. My purpose is to sweat, to burn calories, to move as much as I possibly can. It's not to socialize or meet new people. I love having a friend next to me on the elliptical or on the mat because my friends push me to work out harder.

The further I go into this journey to more I see that my work outs need to constantly change. The first work out I completed left me exhausted and sore. As I continued to push myself and spend time in the gym, the soreness disappeared. I enjoyed completing a work out, waking up the next morning with no soreness and getting after it again. I felt like I was getting stronger. And I was, in a lot of ways, but I was also becoming complacent and comfortable.

It's no secret that the body adapts to exercise. The body is smart. It recognizes the movements and becomes comfortable with those movements. And that comfort makes it so that the body stops adapting and stop changing. No amount of exercise, for me at least, can undo the comfort unless the movements are different.

Changing exercise scares me. I'm worried about getting hurt. I'm worried about doing exercises incorrectly. I'm worried about looking like a fool in front of other people who know what they are doing.

Last Wednesday, I took a chance. There was a free boot camp hosted at my place of employment. All you had to do to participate was to bring a canned food. So I borrowed a can of food from a co-worker and headed to boot camp with her.

That day I did things I wasn't sure I could do. I tried new exercises. I spoke up when I couldn't do something and took the instruction on how to modify movements to meet my needs. And I didn't give up.

Months ago, I met with a trainer for a personalized consultation. He wrote down weights for me to complete without really listening to my needs. And he told me that I should do planks and squats. I told him I didn't know what a plank was and that I could not do squats.

He mentioned that I should attend one of his classes and that he would then show me how to do the proper squat as well as teach me how to do a plank. I thought about going, but I never did. I was too scared.

It wasn't just fear of doing squats and possibly getting hurt. There was fear of letting someone in and seeking advice. That sounds odd; after all a trainer's job is to show individuals how to exercise in such a way that gets results and also meets the needs of one person's body.

I've gotten over that fear now. All of those fears. It happened one day in zumba class when the instructor began doing squats in the middle of the class, and I had nothing to but learn how to complete squats with the proper form.

So I did the squats then. And after class was done, I walked out of the gym. My knees never gave out as I feared they would. I completed squats again in other zumba classes, and I spent time doing squats while at the boot camp on Wednesday.

After mentioning my knee injuries to the trainers, they checked on me. Making sure I was okay with the different circuits. Asking how I felt with squats. And I told them I was good that I knew to listen to my body and that I wouldn't push myself too far.

I didn't. I pushed myself and tried new things. I sweated a lot and woke up the next day sore. But I wasn't hurt.

I'm chasing the soreness now. I want to feel my muscles working and strengthening. I want to know, as soon as I wake up the next morning, that I am no longer comfortable with my own work outs.

I am so much more open to exercise now. I'm excited to try different classes and to learn what other things I can do that I didn't think I could. I'm excited to see how I improve at squats. I'm excited to jump on the elliptical throughout the week and run out several miles.

Every time I do a squat and finish a mile, I move further away from the fear and closer to the fit and healthy person I am chasing. Every time I push myself and try something new, I remind myself that this journey is mine for the taking. Every time I complete a work out with shaking arms, as I did today, or wake up sore from the work out the day before, I move further and further away from comfortable.

(title from "the sun will rise" by kelly clarkson)


shine like the stars bright

When I was a teenager, I had a sticker on my closet door that read I'm not opinionated; I'm just always right. And at that age, I believed that I was. I thought I knew just about everything I needed to know in order to live my life.

I'm no longer that teenager, but I do still struggle with thinking that I know best and that I have all the answers I need to have. Finally, I am beginning to learn that I have close to none of the answers and that while I might have a good idea of what is best, the decisions are so much harder to come to.

As a teenager, I focused more on myself and how each decision impacted my life. I carried that on with me into college and the beginning of our marriage. Because each decision doesn't just impact my life; each decision impacts my husband's life and our future life.

Going to him with questions and with uncertainty is difficult. Because I want to know. I want to explain my reasoning. And I want to hear that I am right. I want that instant gratification, that sigh of relief that comes once you realize everything is going to work out for the bestthe way you want it to.

We've spent quite a bit of time talking recently and dreaming. Wondering where our lives will be in a year and in five years. Trying to understand how to not repeat the same mistakes and how to move forward the way we want to. And it's becoming clear that it's so much harder than I thought it would but also so much more rewarding.

And everything is a decision we are making together. The nights I spend at the gym. The dinners I took. The things we watch on television. Some times the decision is made in his favor; other times the decision is made in my favor. Regardless we are doing our best to make it together and not without one another.

It's a hard thing to go from the mentality of always being right to the mentality of asking what someone else thinks and then actually listening and absorbing their response. And it's a hard thing to go from wanting and needing instant gratification to a place of conversing and thinking and wondering and then waiting for the gratification you hope will come.

At times, I think we actually know what we are doing. At times, I think we are finally where we've been trying to get for the past however long amount of time. At times, the cockiness of my teenage years creeps back into my mind and I think that I know best. Even better than God who so clearly planned for my husband and I to meet and marry.

I am at that point where I could easily give into the cockiness and think that I know best. I am at the point where I want to let go of the plans and give into the wants I have. In the past, I likely would have thrown caution to the wind and given in hoping that things would work themselves back out.

Except I know better. I know better than I did when I was a teenager. I know better than I did when I was newly married. And because I know better, I am making the choice to not let go, not give in, and not throw caution to the wind.
Marriage is important, and it deserves to be treated as such. It's not something to laugh at or to make jokes about. But so many have turned it into just that. I've even turned it into that in the past. There's no such thing as a perfect husband, a perfect wife, or a perfect marriage. Perfect simply does not exist in our world. We're all flawed, and I think realizing that is a step in the right direction. Knowing that you aren't perfect and that you are not always right allows you to open up to another person and have a marriage of compromise.

My husband is so supportive. More so than I probably give him credit for. But isn't that always the way? we struggle to give credit when someone is doing everything they possibly can. For me it is sometimes because I realize how much farther I have to go in order to be as supportive as he is.

The holidays always make me think about marriage and relationships. It's been several years since I celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. And it's hard. And it has made me more of a scrooge than not. It's tempting to be that Scrooge again this year. To think about all the things I don't have and want. But what if I did the opposite? What if I focused on what I do have instead? What if I say that I have been wrong for acting the way I have? What if I admit that I'm not always right about the holidays?

I'm the only one who can dictate my own actions. I'm the one who lays my head down on my pillow every night. I can have all the support in the world, but it's still up to me.

So I'm making that decision. About the holidays and about compromise and about holding strong to the dreams my husband and I share. I'm further bidding farewell to the girl who thought she was always right and saying hello to the girl who is willing to admit she is wrong. I'm bidding farewell to the Scrooge and saying hello to the opportunities the holiday season brings.

And, finally, I'm working on saying goodbye to the girl of plans. The girl who has to know when everything is going to happen. The girl who doesn't like when things change unexpectedly. And I am saying hello to the girl who welcomes God's plan and purpose - even when it looks different than imagined.

Who are you saying hello and goodbye to?

(title from "this is not the end" by gungor)


pretty words to say

Sometimes there is no other way to say it than how it has already been said. Sometimes you have to fall so that you can have the strength to get back up. Sometimes you need to cry so that you can have the courage to keep on going. And sometimes all we need is to be reminded that someone went before us.

(title from "turpentine" by brandi carlile)


done looking for the critics (week 3)

Before I spent a week recovering from strep throat, my work-out schedule was relatively consistent. I averaged 10 hours of exercise a week and spent many days squeezing in two work-outs. I prefer waking up early and getting at least one work-out done. A morning spent on the elliptical and lifting weights also guarantees that I fit strength training into my schedule and helps to determine how the rest of the day will go.

I had hopes of early morning work-outs this week, but a combination of cooler weather, cuddly dogs, and a body that needed rest made those hopes just hopes and not reality.

In the past, I spent Thursday nights at the gym combining cardio, circuit training, and core muscle training. It's one of the nights I take time and go to the gym. While I don't enjoy the great number of other patrons, I love being able to exercise without worrying about time constraints.

I stepped into the gym on Thursday after work. I was a little worried about completing my first second work-out of the day since spending an entire week on the couch, but I pushed past the worry and stepped into the gym.

I'm finding that I love the elliptical. I hope to one day be able to pound out miles on the treadmill, but as it stands now, my knees are a bit too wobbly and sore to do that. So I choose the elliptical. And everytime I climb onto the elliptical, I do it with the intention of finishing three miles. I did just that on Thursday and finished in 40 minutes.

The television was turned to the Travel Channel, and I kept my eyes on two episodes of Man vs. Food while I completed intervals on the elliptical. Some people might enjoy the show. For me, personally, it saddened me. And it caused me to look inward at the relationship I have and used to have with food.

If you aren't familiar with the show, Adam Richman takes on different challenges throughout the show. While I watched, he consumed nine sushi rolls as quickly as possible, attempted to eat five pounds worth of chilli dogs and fries in 20 minutes, and also ate pancakes that were big enough to feed at least ten people. There were other items eaten, but those were the ones that stuck out the most to me.

I kept wondering why. Why would you force yourself to eat so much food in a time constraint? Why would people watch him and cheer for him? Why is there a show like this? Why eat food when you don't really get to enjoy it? I also wondered what. What happened to make someone want to eat so much food and so quickly?

I turned those questions on myself as I huffed and puffed through the three miles. I thought back to all the food I used to eat. I never devoured five pounds worth of chilli dogs and fries, but I used to get every meal from a fast food restaurant. I don't consume nine sushi rolls, but I've been known to finish three all on my own.

My reasons were simple: I didn't love myself. During that time, I didn't see it that way. I saw myself as being busy and stressed and having no other choice. But I always had a choice. I just chose not to take care of myself, not to put myself first, and not the love myself the way I deserved.

The further I travel on this journey the more I love myself. I'm at a point where I now look into the mirror and appreciate what I see. I notice the changes. I might not be at the end of the journey, but I am well on my way.

In the past, I would have looked in the mirror and shrugged. I wore clothes that were nice enough and tried to look presentable. But I never really cared. I figured I was as good as I was going to get. I figured there was nothing else I could do. Trying to improve my health would be too hard. There were too many obstacles. It wasn't worth trying.. I wasn't worth trying.

My body image was not good. My image of myself was not good. I took all the negative things I had ever heard from other people, all the things I wasn't that the media said I should be, and everything I thought of myself, and I listened to it.

Starting this journey, I began the process of shedding all those negative things. I began the process of looking in the mirror and not shrugging. I started to care. And I started to love myself.

Thursday was the first time I looked into the mirror and truly saw the changes. I've noticed them before, but I've always pointed out the flaws and the items that aren't improving. I've always focused on the things that aren't good enough. But when I saw myself in the mirror Thursday, I felt acceptance.

The journey to health begins with a choice. No one else can make a person start to lose weight other than the person who needs to lose weight. After that first choice, every single day is a choice. And I choose to not be a critic of myself.

The more I love myself the easier this journey becomes. There are still temptations. But it's easier to say no. Because no now means I can say yes to other things later. There will be days when I look in the mirror and shrug, but the more I love myself the fewer those days will occur.

Life is short. But it's beautiful. We as people are beautiful too - no matter what the world says. But it is up to us as individuals to love ourselves enough and live out that beauty.

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


stand a little taller

Several weeks ago, I read about the Lady Ball Awards. There was an option to nominate other people or yourself, and I decided to nominate myself for the Steel Ovaries Award. I found out last night that I won the award.

What is the Steel Ovaries Award? The Steel Ovaries Award is in recognition of the most exceptional woman among women. She enriches all womanhood just by showing up. She exhibits aspects of both Brass and Iron Ovaries. The winner of the Steel Ovaries Award is a leader among women. She is proud to be a woman, and proud to be stronger than most men she knows. She has seen adversity and risen above. She endures.

I'm not sure if I'm everything the award boasts, but I do strive to be those things. I strive to endure through whatever comes my way. I want my life, and whatever I am doing in my life, to reflect strength and love and passion.

It's fitting that the winners were announced this week for so many reasons. I needed a reminder of why I am on this journey. They say to get healthy for yourself. And I believe that to be true. I also believe it is a personal decision to share some or any of your journey. Even so, it is nice to be recognized - especially aftr a week of being sick.

Earlier this week, I received an email from my Nana - a woman who embodies the idea of Steel Ovaries in my opinion. I get so much of my strength from her. She reminds me to keep going when I don't want to and believes in me so much more than I could ever believe in myself.
Special people are those who have the ability to share their lives with others. They are honest in word and deed, they are sincere and compassionate, and they always make sure that love is a part of everything. Special people are those who have the ability to give to others and help them with the changes that come their way. They are not afraid of being vulnerable; they believe in their uniqueness and are proud to be who they are. Special people are those who allow themselves the pleasures of being close to others and caring about their happiness. They have come to understand that love is what makes the difference in life. Deanna Beisser

That quote also embodies the sort of person I want to be - the sort of life I want to lead. Our pastor always says that life is short and goes quickly - like a wisp of smoke. And it's true. I want to take the time I have and make it matter.

I love the idea of the Lady Ball Awards because it recognizes strength. They recognize persecerance and womanhood. It's about who a person is - not their status or looks. And it reminds us all, at least to me, how important it is to be true to yourself.

I wouldn't have been able to submit my name for any sort of award without certain people in my life. People like the girls I meet with weekly from our community group. They are more than just a community group. They're true friends - the family you get to choose. People like the women in my family who exude strength - my mom, my Nana, my grandma, my mother-in-law. Those women teach me with every conversation. People like my best friend. She lives far away, but she has been there, in my life, through everything. And I know she will always be there. People like those women who share their stories in books and in blogs. Their words pierce me and inspire me and remind me of why it is I write. All of these women give me strength - whether they know me or not. All of these women make me proud to be a woman. They remind me to endure.

And they give me hope that my story will be able to impact someone else the way they have impacted me.

(title from "what doesn't kill you (stronger)" by kelly clarkson)


it gets better than this

Leaving the house this morning, I was determined. Determined to have a good day. Determined to eat well. Determined to push myself with an hour work out that would leave me sweaty, stinky, and red-faced.

It started off well with hot green tea and a breakfast sandwich of a fried egg, canadian bacon, and cheese on an english muffin. But it went downhill quickly with an upset stomach and a sudden hit of exhaustion. I hadn't planned well for lunch - meaning I didn't have anything for lunch - which was a by product of being sick for a week and living off of Panera Bread or macaroni and cheese rather than cooking and eating homemade food.

There was a period of time when I strongly considered staying at the office for lunch rather than slipping into capris and a tank top and then heading to the gym. 12:00pm came and went which left me without a class to go to. The minutes ticked by, and at 12:45pm, I made the decision to leave the comfort of my office and head to the gym.

My hope had been that Tuesday would bring two work outs, but I listened to my body and slept in. For a moment, I thought my body was telling me to take Tuesday off entirely, but I realized that it wasn't my body - it was my mind.

A week away from the gym is mentally taxing. It takes approximately twenty-one days to set a habit and a routine, but it only takes a few days, at least for me, to break a habit and routine. Even though the week away from the gym was for my health, it still broke the habit and is making it difficult to get back into the routine.

But I did it. Sweat dripped down my face and soaked the back of my shirt. Three miles on the elliptical in 40 minutes, then 15 minutes spent on the stationary rower, and four minutes of stretching. I huffed and puffed on the elliptical. I focused on the lyrics to the songs on my playlist. I watched the clock on the elliptical and pushed myself to do sprints and intervals. I kept going on the stationary rower even though I was bored after five minutes.

I reminded myself of how far I have come so far. And I reminded myself of just how far I have left to go. It's overwhelming to realize that even though I have lost over 30 pounds I still have roughly 70 pounds left to lose.

Every work out I complete brings me closer to that goal. Every interval I do on the elliptical brings me closer to the goal of being a runner. Every time I push myself I become healthier and more fit.

I do wonder, though, when it will become too easy. When I will become complacent in my work outs. Because it has happened before. And I know it will happen again.

It's one of the reasons I enjoy watching The Biggest Loser. The episodes sometime go on for too long. There's often more product placement than I would like. And I fast forward through parts of it. But the work outs and the transformations continue to inspire me.

I often say "I can't do this" and "I can't do that." I blame the things I can't do on my knees and on my ankles. And I do have to be careful because of those things. But I also have to be careful because it's just me pushing myself on the elliptical and just me selecting which strength training moves to do.

I see where contestants are on The Biggest Loser, and I'm jealous. Jealous of the training and the one-on-one attention. Jealous of the facilities. I have two gym memberships. I have access to different classes, but there's so much I don't have that I wish I did.

So I have a choice. I can be frustrated that I don't have a trainer to count my intervals and increase the speed on the treadmill when they want me to run faster. I can sit on the couch and wish I had made the choice to get healthy earlier and subsequently try out for The Biggest Loser.

Or I can take the amenities available to me and figure out how to push myself.

I choose the latter. Even though figuring out how to push myself terrifies me. Because what happens if I get hurt? What would I do then?

When I finished my work out, my lovely heart rate monitor reminded me of something. I was already pushing myself.

I thought I wasn't. Leaving spin class after 30 minutes on Monday felt like a failure. Lifting weights Monday was hard and made me feel like I had lost all of my strength. But today I realized that the time off from working out made me stronger and healthier - even if it broke the habit and routine.

Do I have to be careful? Yes. Do I have to work out at my own pace and cater things to my knees and ankles? Yes. Does that mean I can't push myself? No.

I don't have the knowledge that a lot of people might. I am not at a place financially where I can spend money on one-on-one training - though I would love that. And I'm not a contestant on The Biggest Loser with a nutritionist and a team of medical professionals to watch all of my injuries.

But I have determination. I have drive. I have a goal. And I have the reminder that this journey matters in my life and in the lives of others.

There is strength in numbers. Getting emails from people asking me questions about heart rate monitors excites me. Seeing replies on twitter or getting new followers makes me throw up my fist in the air out of excitement. Documenting my work outs on Go The Distance and seeing other people's progress reminds me that we can all do this.

I'm still scared. But I'm focusing on the strength I have instead of on the fear I feel. Because focusing on the strength will help me move forward while focusing on fear will keep me in the same place or push me backwards.

And I won't go back. I won't let me habit turn back into a sedentary lifestyle. I'm going to take every setback, including being sick, and use it to propel me forward.

(title from "fearless" by taylor swift)

how hard it is to make it look so easy

Following a week of being sick, I planned on getting out of bed by 5:00am and heading straight to the gym. I wanted my Monday to start off with thirty minutes on the elliptical and thirty minutes of strength training. But after a restless night's sleep, I chose to change the alarm for 6:25am and cuddle with our two dogs.

Spending my lunch hour at the gym had always been my plan for Monday. I debated getting onto the elliptical then since I missed my chance that morning, but spin class called out to me. And I answered.

I finished thirty minutes of spin class and burned over 300 calories. And then I dismounted and headed for the weights. While I wanted to last the entire hour of spin class, I couldn't do it. I felt too weak, and my heart rate was staying too high - making it quite difficult to breathe.

My hope had been that I would walk back into the gym and be able to do all the things I did before getting sick. But a week away from the gym, a week spent resting on the couch and eating too much frozen yogurt, made that hope fail.

I never thought that a week could so drastically change me, but it did.

I appreciate the strength I have gained so much more now. While I was defeated for a moment, I am now thankful for the time I have spent at the gym so far. And I'm excited to regain my old strength and increase it now that I'm on antibiotics and getting over being so sick it was hard to move.

This is where patience comes in handy. I need to wait and allow things to take their time. I need to accept that things will not always be exactly how I want them to be. But when you are forced to be patient, you tend to learn a lot more. At least that's how it is for me.

I may not have conquered two work outs today, but I left the office and headed straight to the gym at lunch. I may not have made the whole one hour spin class, but I listened to my body and did what was best for me. I may not have been able to lift as much weight, but I still lifted.

After burning over 500 calories, and watching what I ate throughout the day, I enjoyed Mexican food and conversation with my husband and two friends. Instead of ignoring the chips and queso, I enjoyed it but did not ask for more queso. Instead of eating a salad, I stayed with my tried and true chicken quesadillas. It's been months since I ate real Mexican food, and while it probably negated my work out for the day, I walked out of the restaurant with more patience and more gratitude for the fact that I got back into the gym after seven days of being sedentary.

I'm learning just how much of a say I have in my own life. Things will always happen. There will always be responsibilities that need to be met. But it's up to me to decide how to respond to those things that happen. It's up to me to have the right attitude while meeting responsibilities. Just like it was up to me to make it to the gym at least once on Monday.

Just like it will be up to me to make it to the gym at least once today and tomorrow and the next day.

(title from "easy" by rascal flatts & natasha bedingfield)


what i've been chasing

Sundays are often one of two things. One - a chance to rest and recover from the weekend. Two - a chance to catch up and ready for the upcoming week. After a week of trying to recover from being sick, today has been more of a chance to catch up and ready for the upcoming week.  But it has also been so much more than that.

I was stuck in a tailspin of emotions Saturday afternoon. Every few weeks, I seem to find the need to worry about something. My future. What I want to be when I grow up. Our house. Finances. The list goes on and includes items that, really, aren't as important as I make them out to be. But I give into the idea that I need to have everything figured out and that everything needs to happen according to my plan.

This is a common theme in my life. It's something I've struggled with for about as long I can remember. I've sought the next step in my life and how to go about getting to the next step.

I know this is something I need to let go. Though I think I am in control of all these things, the truth is that I am not. And by trying to hold tightly onto the control I don't have, I miss out on many things that are more important.

Church this morning touched on this for me. I felt it first during worship. Having just come from a brunch with our community group, my mind was swimming with thoughts of where God is leading me and how all the places I feel Him leading me make absolutely no sense. They all involve steps that others might question like going back to school and depending on student loans or stepping back into a position I never thought I would again want to. While I considered all of this, and prayed for guidance on where to go, I was reminded of the fact that my life is not necessarily meant to make sense to other people. It's supposed to be different. I'm supposed to stand out from the crowd and live my life in a way that make other people wonder what is so different.

And I don't.

I give into my needs and my wants more than I should. I focus on my success compared with someone else's. I wonder why my life can't look the way I want it to - the way I thought it would. During these moments of clarity, I can see that God is guiding me towards the plan He has for me.

And I want those things He has planned for me. But I want them now - in my timing - and not necessarily when He has them timed.

That's what happened Saturday night. A mess of emotions over our finances and our house and how nothing seems to be getting better in the way of having a large amount of money in our bank account. But if we did have all those things, what would I lack? The answer is simple: a chance to step out in faith and live my life in a way that might seem weird to others. A chance to lay it all out on the line and trust that God knows oh so much better than I do.

It's a season of soul searching. I am sure it will also be a season of waiting and of being patient even though I want to be nothing but impatient. And it is a season of listening to see where my heart lies and what my passions are.

All of this while I am working towards my goal of 100 pounds lost.

I made that goal for myself. For reasons of health and reasons of selfishness. But I am starting to see that this goal is a goal God has had in mind for several years. Because it's now that I am working towards something, sticking with something and not giving up, that I'm really open to hearing what His heart is for my life.

There's a part of me (a HUGE part) that wants this goal of 100 pounds to come quickly. I want to lose it in six months as they do on The Biggest Loser. I want to step onto the scale and hear clapping from people at the five or seven pounds I lost in one week.

But I know it needs to take time. I need the time to say goodbye to those pounds and time to say goodbye to all of those reasons I got to a point where I needed to lose 100 pounds. I need the time to learn how to listen to my body and also how to listen to God. Because, for me at least, those things are intertwined.

The sermon today touched on rescue and redemption. There was talk of caring for the fatherless and the oppressed. Talk of stepping into someone else's brokenness and of staying with me - and of coming back. It pricked at my heart in such a huge way. Talk of foster care and loving those who need it always does.

Because that's where my heart rests. It's the one thing I want to be connected to for the rest of my life. It's a dream my husband and I share - this dream to care for children who don't have anyone to love them in the case of adoption and this dream to care for families who are broken and need help being put together in the case of foster care.

So often I forget this. I force myself to.  I push it as far out of my mind as I can because it seems like we will never attain it. There is so much against us that it seems like an impossible dream - like it is something I will always have to stand on the sidelines for.

But I was reminded today, as we drove in the car and discussed the sermon, that God always makes a way. We just need to remember His promises. So that's what I am doing for the rest of this Sunday.

Preparing for the week. Cleaning the house. And resting on His promises and the fact that He will always come through - in His time.

(title from "down" by jason walker)


never run away

I started this week feeling weak. The weather switched over the weekend, and the temperatures fell for the second time this fall season. And just as it had the first time, it left me with a stuffy and runny nose.

I made the decision to rest. While I wanted to spend my Monday at the gym, I chose to spend it at home and also reading for lunch. I was determined to feel better on Tuesday and make it to the gym, but halfway through the work week, I felt worse and ended up leaving early so that I could spend the rest of the day and evening on the couch.

Wednesday I went to work. I felt less nauseus than I had Tuesday, but my throat started burning. I left the office early again and headed to the doctor instead of straight to the couch. There was blood work, a test for the flu, and a strep test. A little over an hour after arriving, I had my diagnosis (strep throat) and a prescription (penicillin).

I joked with the doctor that growing up I always had strep throat over Thanksgiving or Christmas. And I had. But it had been years since I had strep throat and even more years since I was truly sick on the holidays.

I like to think that my body told me I was sick. My venture home on Tuesday had nothing to do with a sore throat just like my call to the doctor had nothing to do with a sore throat. It was an upset stomach and hurting stomach that left me feeling like I couldn't move. But the diagnosis had nothing to do with my stomach.

There was a small part of me that was angry and frustrated with feeling sick. I went a whole week without stepping foot into the gym. And while I kept track of everything I ate, I didn't do the best at making healthy choices. My choices, instead, were all about comfort and ease.

I ate a lot of Panera Bread, noodles and sauce, and then chicken noodle soup out of a can. I drank water, apple cider, and lots of Sprite. I also consumed more vanilla frozen yogurt in the past several days than I had in the past month. I rested on the couch and watched hours of The Biggest Loser and Felicity from Netflix. I considered writing and reading, but I was too exhausted to do either.

Being home was what I wanted. My office closes for Veteran's Day, so I took it one step further and also asked off for the Thursday before. I had plans of hanging curtains and cleaning baseboards. I was determined to dust windows and vacuum floors. I was even excited to venture into the world of deep cleaning.

After a Thursday on the couch, I hoped I would be up for something on Friday, but it didn't happen. I had high hopes for this beautiful Saturday also, but I think those hopes might just be hopes and not turn into reality.

Every now and then, I need to slow down. I need to spend time doing nothing. But a whole week of slowing down and doing nothing is a bit too much for me.

In the past, this sort of a week would have curtailed my hopes of getting healthy. No matter how far I would have come, I still would have quit. Because taking a week off makes it difficult to get back into the swing of workouts and planning meals.

I know that this time, though, a week a of sickness will not curtail my hopes. It won't stop my efforts or keep me from succeeding.

There are a lot of things I am discontent with in my life. A lot of things that I feel just aren't right. It's not to say that I'm not thankful for much of my life, because I am, but there are certain situations that have remained the same for several years that I feel like should be different. But they aren't. I'm trying to accept that while still working towards bettering my life.

It's like being sick. You take what you have and do with it what you can. That's one of the reasons I watched so many episodes of The Biggest Loser. If I couldn't work out, I wanted to continue to be inspired by the transformation working out can be. I wanted to do everything I could to stop the quitting that would have taken place in the past.

My health is something that is in my control. Getting sick is frustrating and a setback. But it doesn't control my journey. And so I won't let anything keep me from becoming the best me I can be.

Maybe along the way I'll see that other things are also in my control. And maybe I'll be able to document my journey to better those things too.

For now, I'm going to clean some, write some, and rest some more. The four-day weekend wasn't what I planned for, but maybe, in His funny way, God gave me what I needed.

(title from "the reckoning" by needtobreathe)


plant your hope with good seeds

This weekend was a combination of good and bad, happy and sad. I have so many questions and thoughts, hopes and dreams, desires and needs, prayers floating in my head. I feel like I have come so far. And then I am daunted by how far I have to go.

It's been over 6 months since I took the first step towards the new me. 6 months of running through past hurts and lies. 6 months of turning to other people instead of to food or into myself. 6 months of opening myself up to the world and learning how to let go.

Sometimes I think "I've got this" and "Nothing can stop me." Other times I still want to crawl back under the covers and stay hidden in my house.

I don't know if I'll ever not feel like hiding at least some of the time. I don't know if anyone ever feels like they can face every single day without fear. But if someone does, I'd really like to know how and to tap into that strength.

But no matter how I feel, I know that I have come so far already. Yes there are many more months to go. And yes, I hope to lose another 69.2 pounds. Yes, I still have a lot of dreams to chase. And more dreams to dream.

I'm scared of the dreams I have. Of the knocking I feel on my heart to tell evey ounce of my story. To share all of the things that brought me here. To actually be a writer and finish an entire.

And I'll probably fall and scrape my knees and bloody my hands (again and again), but I will get up every time and keep going. And I'll write the book - no matter how scared I am.

Saturday night.
Monday morning.
After all, I've already lost 29.8 pounds. If I can do that, I am pretty sure I can do just about anything else.

(title from "thistles & weeds" by mumford and sons)


done looking for the critics (week 2)

Every so often, in the midst of the busyness and the feelings of being not good enough, there is clarity. It might just be for one moment. Or it may be for several moments. And when it happens, when the clouds part and the fog disappears, it is impossible not to notice.

I've had moments of clarity before. Moments of truthful words being spoken. Moments of realizing and grasping how important life is as well as how God is working through all things and using all things to tell a story with my life.

Those moments do not last forever. Eventually the clarity disappears, and we are once again in murky waters. That's why it is so important to write the moments down. To remember the details. Because then we can return to those moments, through our memories, and realize once again that God is working through all things.

For months, I prayed for friendships. College brought close friends, but graduation and marriage and people moving across the country separated us all physically. There were so many times when I felt lonely. Comfort wasn't really an option though my husband did everything he could to bring me whatever comfort he could find. I got to a point where I decided I was not going to have close friends. Where I decided that it would just be me.

I don't remember the last time I prayed for close friendships. But this week I got hit with the realization of answered prayers in the form of friendships. And I understood what our pastor so often talks about. I felt like I was a part of a community, and I've felt lighter and happier and more content and more at peace than I have in months.

Nothing has really changed. Those friendships have been there for quite some time. But I refused to open myself up to them for a lengthy period of time. I pushed away. I built up my walls higher and higher. Sometime between pushing and building, those walls came crumbling down. And for the first time, I don't miss them.

This week I've learned and thought a lot about balance. I took advice and rested more than usual. And in just five days, I've lost over three pounds according to the scale. As excited as I am about the loss on the scale, I am much more excited about the peace I feel. I thought I needed weight loss, but really I needed perspective gained and a moment of clarity.

With this moment of clarity, there is still a question. And that question is where do I go from here? The answer is I am still not sure.

I used to think that there needed to be an answer for every question. I felt like I needed to have it all figured out. Often times, I still feel like I need to have it figured out because it seems like everyone else has it all figured out.

This moment of clarity showed me that no one has it all figured out. That's why we need each other. We learn from one another. Everyone is blessed with a talent and with knowledge. And that talent and knowledge is meant to be shared with other people.

Every person on this earth is born with a purpose. I strongly believe that. Life, then, is the time we spend on earth finding our purpose. Some people's purposes seem bigger than others. But there is no such thing as a bigger purpose than another person. Because we are all important and loved and created.

I struggle with this. I want my purpose to be big and in shining lights. I want to see the impact I have on other lives. And I spend too much time wanting those things and too little time seeing what my life is right now.

That's my goal for this next week. I want balance. And to be present in my current life. I want my purpose to be whatever it is supposed to be. And I want to help others find their purpose.

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


so hard to believe it

I started Monday morning off by stepping onto the scale at the prompting of my heart rate monitor.

I stepped onto the scale a few times over the weekend and had an idea of what the number would be, but I was hopeful that a decent night's sleep would lower the number. It took just a few seconds for those hopes to be dashed.

I've said it before (and will continue to say it for the rest of time). This journey is about so much more than weight loss. But knowing that the journey is about more than weight loss does not remove the sting of watching that number stay the same.

It's a balance. A balance I am still seeking to find. A balance I will likely continue to search for.

Balance is something I struggle with in every aspect of my life. I want so badly to give all of myself to every aspect of my life, but unfortunately, it is not possible to give all of myself to every aspect of life. And so something always falls to the wayside.

I'm not sure how to find the balance right now. Or if I can even find the balance. I've tried to locate balance in the past and strategically place myself somewhere that will allow me to handle every role in my life. But I have always failed.

Life takes over so often. And different things take priority. As life takes over and those different things take priority, balance is often the first thing to go.

When I worked for the state, I gave everything to my job and to the families I worked with. Most weeks involved at least three nights of working past 7:00pm and clocking at least 45 hours. I spent over 50% of my work week driving in a car. Every visit I did lasted at least an hour because every child deserved my full attention. By the time I arrived home, I had nothing left to give.

Then, to make up for those almost two years of focusing just on my job, I tried to focus on church and on my husband. There was no real time left for me to focus on myself, and eventually, I found myself in a place where I was unhealthy and unfit and unmotivated.

I'm at a place right now where most of my time is spent in the gym. I also spend a lot of time grocery shopping and meal planning. When I can, I read about weight loss or watch The Biggest Loser for inspiration. In one week of exercise, I burned over 4000 calories, and yet I lost no weight.

It was on Monday that my trainer said I might be overtraining. And it was on Monday that he suggested I zig-zag my calories (1700 calories one day, 1400 calories two days, 2200 calories one day). He said I was doing all of the right things, but that my body was, essentially, going into starvation mode due to my consuming less calories and burning so many.

To be honest, I wanted to hear nothing that he said. I wanted to continue to push myself past the pain and past the exhaustion. But something clicked on Tuesday night, and I realized that he was right.

I've lost balance. My dedication to this journey has been so strong and so consuming that I have not allowed my body any time to rest. I've watched what I ate so closely on every day of the week, and my body decided it wasn't sure what to do with the exercise and restriction of calories.

Taking my trainer's advice, and also encouraging words from friends, I decided to rest this week. Rather than spend two plus hours at the gym every day, I committed to spending at least 45 minutes a day in the gym. If I felt up to more, then I would do more, but if I didn't, I would spend time at home resting.

In a lot of ways, the week has been hard. I feel like I am slacking or failing by not spending at least two hours in the gym every day. But in other ways, this week has been exactly what I needed. My body aches, especially my knees, and I'm sleeping a lot more than I normally do. It seems like I am catching up on all the rest I did not allow myself for several weeks.

And it's working. The rest and the zig-sag of calories. The advice the trainer gave me and encouragement of friends. All of it is working.

I stepped on the scale this morning and saw a 2.2 pound drop. Not even a week of this attempt at balance has passed, and I've lost over 2 pounds. I'm officially at my lowest weight and have finally surpassed the 25 pounds lost mark.

It took me just over six months, but I've lost 27.2 pounds. My BMI has gone from 38.7 to 34.7.

Now that I have gotten closer to finding balance in my life, I need to figure out how to keep the balance. My time needs to be spent both in the gym and in the grocery store, with my husband, at home and out with friends, and focused on work. Knowing that is one thing, but doing it is something else entirely.

I think there will be a lot of soul searching. A lot of asking the hard questions of myself. A lot of answering those questions. A lot of moving on from those things that, at one point, made me feel like it had to be all or nothing. A lot of moving on from those things that, at one point, made me feel like I wasn't good enough to have everything I wanted.

And as I find that balance, I sincerely hope it will give me more time. More time with my husband. More time to enjoy the blessings God continues to give me. More time to write. More time to dream and then learn how to make those dreams a reality. More time to focus on myself. More time to focus on others and remind them that they, too, are worth the balance.
(title from "the sun will rise" by kelly clarkson)


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