Thursday, August 18, 2016

Quit Worrying

Hello.

It's me.

Look, I'll be honest, I really have no idea what I'm about to write in this post. My blog posts have pretty much disappeared these days. A few days ago, the overwhelming feeling of wanting to write hit me. I got so excited! It's been so long since I've had that feeling! I thought I had so much to write about! I could tell you all about how much I've grown to love running, or all about living with Tom, or how amazing my job is, or that I have a new baby niece, or even how Trader Joes has become my second home. But then I sat down to actually write, and nothing really came out. Nothing, at least, that I wanted to publish.

And I know I've touched on this before....but after watching a video blog by Christian singer Jamie Grace, this thought struck me again: I'm not used to writing about being happy. If you've been following this blog for a while, you probably know that my best posts, and my best writing, come from places of pain. I've knocked out a few good gratitude/happiness posts before, but for the most part, my writing has been caused by an incident that hurt me, and writing is how I deal with it. Now that there's less pain in my life, I suppose that means there's less writing.

Notice I said LESS pain- not NO pain. Trust me, friends, there is still pain. I still have anxiety, I've just learned how to deal with it in a much healthier, productive way. I still struggle with self doubt, but I challenge myself.  I still consume with worry about my dad, but I take comfort in the fact that my family is my greatest strength and support. I still, despite how happy I am, get struck with this incredible sadness at times that seems nearly impossible to shake. But the difference is that instead of giving into it, instead of letting it control my life, I take a few days to slowly bring myself out of it.

Self doubt seems to be my biggest demon. I am constantly worried that I am not where I should be in life. Or that I am not a good enough friend, or sister, or daughter, or girlfriend fiancee.Or that I should lose more weight. Or that I should have run faster. It goes on and on and on. Most of the time, I'm able to shut those thoughts down. But sometimes they take over for days and days. Then, somehow, it breaks...until it starts again. It's a cycle.

But despite those feelings, despite the bad days, my life now compared to where it was 4-5 years ago is drastically different-and by different, I mean better.  And as it has gotten better, my writing has slowed down.

I am exactly where I want to be in my life. There's always room for improvement, and there's always goals to set, but for the first time in a very long time, I'm not trying to completely change who I am. I'm just trying to be the very best me that I can be. And when I have those periods of self doubt, that's what I tell myself. That I am doing the best I can.

Maybe I'll write more, maybe I won't. Maybe I will tell you about my Trader Joes obsession or about how much I loved Ghostbusters or how yoga has become a part of my weekly routine. Maybe I'll tell you all about how I'm getting married in just over a year. Maybe. I won't put the pressure on myself to write, but I won't stop myself from sharing the gleeful moments, either.

We'll just see what happens.

Ending with a song that has become my theme song. These ladies are a constant source of inspiration for me, and this song is no exception. I hope you enjoy.







Sunday, July 10, 2016

I Believe....

This was another gut wrenching week in America.

I, like so so many, was deeply impacted by the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and then again by the murders of Dallas Police Officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Aherns, and Michael Smith. I don't believe that any of these individuals should have been killed.

I think there's been some confusion about what exactly I, and many others, believe in. There is a misconception by some that because individuals were speaking out against the deaths of Alton and Philando, that automatically meant they were "happy" about the death of the Dallas Police Officers. That hit me like a ton of bricks. That's not how it works. So I've decided to list out some of the things that I do believe in. But because that's not enough, I'm also sharing what I'm going to do about it.

I get it- I can't solve the problems of the world. I also get that not everyone is going to agree with me, or believe in the same things I do...but if you do, I encourage you to take small steps.

Note: This is not a comprehensive list of everything I believe in. We don't have time for that. This list reflects the current events that I mentioned above.

I believe in stricter gun control. (Note, this does not mean I believe in banning all guns...again, that's not how this logic works). So, I've signed up for alerts from http://everytown.org/ , a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.

I believe that racism exists. So, I am going to watch my words. I am going to learn. I am going to hope that people call me out when I say something racist, and I will try to gently call out others. I am going to keep an eye open for events in my community that are aimed to discuss racism, so that I can continue to learn and hear view points from others.This is a big one, guys. But I think the first step in making a change is accepting that racism DOES exist. I've heard way too many people say that it doesn't. (Sidenote... I plan to read The New Jim Crow if anyone wants to read it along with me.

I believe that police brutality is a real issue. (If I haven't made this clear yet, let me once again say that I do NOT believe that all police are evil). I personally have done a lot of research on this issue- I've read both sides. And the conclusion that I have come to is that it continues to be an issue. LET ME AGAIN SAY that I respect all police officers, I know that they have an incredibly hard job, and I know that they often have to act without having time to think. I also know that sometimes it IS necessary to kill the suspect. But I also believe that many of these deaths by police officers are unjust. And what's more upsetting is that the police often walk away, free of punishment. That's why it's such a complicated issue! So, I've become part of http://www.joincampaignzero.org/#action  to learn more about the issues, and to support where I can. I'd really encourage everyone to read this website.

I believe that police officers deserve respect and safety. So, I am going to make a point to say THANK YOU whenever I come across an officer.  I hope to pay for their meal or coffee if I run into them at breakfast. I also plan to run in the Thin Blue Line of Michigan Fall Color Run, which  provides assistance in the areas of financial, legal, benefit recovery, counseling, funeral stipends, college stipends, medical costs, medical equipment and other areas of hardship to the families of injured, personal illness, disabled or deceased members of the law enforcement community.

I believe that poverty is a root cause for many of the issues America currently faces. Admittedly, I struggle here. How can I fix poverty? It's such a complex issue. Poor people have less access to the care that they need and deserve. I can give money to homeless people I pass on the street, I can donate clothes and food- but is that enough? I've signed up to help advocate with CARE, which is  worldwide movement dedicated to ending poverty. They have an ACTION network- they make it really easy for you. You just find the causes you want to support and sign a petition- even if that's all you can do. http://www.careaction.org/campaigns .  Locally, I've inquired about volunteering for Grace Centers of Hope.

I believe that our youth need positive role models and mentors. I hope to volunteer with the children at Grace Centers of Hope, but I also support Detroit Cristo Rey High School. I would encourage you to look up mentor programs in your area, or to donate to schools like Cristo Rey.

Above all things, I believe that love is always the answer, and that every single person, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or class, should be treated equally. EQUALLY. In everything that we do. I can practice this by loving and embracing everyone and by choosing peace and love before hate or anger. I know I can't fix all of this on my own. I know I can't get involved in every single charity or organization. But I can do my best. I can do my best, and I can speak love.

I must mention how lucky I am, too, to be part of the Sisters of Mercy community. The Sisters have similar beliefs that I do, and they do their best to bring awareness to the community and to fight for the people who don't have a voice. They often hold or collaborate on events that touch on many of these issues. Just this week I got an invite to a workshop on Racism, that I plan to attend. If you'd like more information on the work the Sisters are doing or how you can tag along at some of these discussions/events, let me know.


I'm going to close with something I wrote back in 2010. The words remain true.

 I believe music can save our souls
And connect even the loneliest strangers
Who are anxiously waiting for that curtain up, cue the band
Belly up to the barricade
Singing along to the words they know so well
Escaping reality with thousands of their closest friends
Cuz no one gets them like these lyrics and melodies
I don't believe in lost causes
Everyone deserves to be found
I was one of them, destined for failure
But baby look at me now, I believe in me
and I believe in you
I believe everyone has a voice
So if you'r waiting your for your turn
This is me telling you it's time
You are important and you better believe
You are loved
So step up, stand up, and be loud
I don't believe in lost causes
Everyone deserves to be found
I was one of them, destined for failure
But baby look at me now, I believe in me
and I believe in you
I believe that time is precious
And life can't always be according to our plans
So lose the grudge, forgive, and love hard
Love with all you've got 
Because of all the things I believe in
I believe the right answer is always love

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I've Still Got A Long Way To Go............

This topic has been something that's been on my heart and mine for a while now, I just have never had the guts to post about it. But lately it's been consuming me, and for me, the only real way to release that is to let it out in the world. Maybe someone can relate or it will spark meaningful conversations. As with almost everything I post, that's my goal.

So here we go. Here's my confession.

I'm still not confident in my body.

Now I know some of you are thinking "duh- no one is...that's part of being human". But I also know some of you are thinking "Stop being so hard on yourself!". So let me explain.

I've lost almost 150 lbs. At least once a week, someone says to me "you must feel so incredible". And I do- honestly, I do. I feel proud of myself, I feel stronger, and I feel healthier. But even after losing 150 lbs, I still don't feel super awesome in my own skin.

Some days are worse than others, of course. Example, about a month ago I was at a networking event. This thin, beautiful, athletic young woman said to the group "I just started the 21 day fix- I need to get bathing suit ready". I immediately started to compare myself to her. If SHE thinks SHE needs to fix her body, then clearly I have a LONG way to go!

I also wear clothes that are still just a little too big. I'm not yet confident enough to show off any skin or parts of my body. I wore a tank top on Sunday night, and the mental battle I went through to even wear that was incredibly challenging. I won't wear skirts or dresses to work our out if they are above the knee. I hate showing off my arms. And my legs are where a lot of my excess skin from the weight loss has landed, so I'm having some serious anxiety about wearing bathing suits.

I wear a lot of black or darker colors. I don't want to stand out. Not because I like to follow the crowd or because I want to fit in, but because I don't want any attention- negative or positive. I'm just not there yet.

I've tried to figure out why I am struggling here. Is it because of the excess skin? That could be part of it. Sometimes I just grab the little extra skin pouch on my tummy and wish I could peel it off. Sometimes I think about getting surgery to remove it.  But really, I think I struggle because....I'm human. I think there is a huge misconception that weight loss is going to be the magic cure for these kinds of issues. And while my weight loss has been the biggest gift I've given myself, and it's improved my life in nearly ever regard, I can't lie to you and say "yeah, I love my body!" Don't get me wrong- I love parts of it. I love my strong shoulders and calves and that I have curvy hips. But I certainly don't love the whole package.

But damn it, I'm trying. And that's all any of us can do. I didn't write this post for attention or to depress anyone- I wrote it to be real. I'm 100% the body positivity movement and I read nearly every article out there about loving your body. I also do not judge other people on their body- I'm loving and open to everyone of all shapes and sizes and find everyone beautiful- I know that sounds cliche and maybe a little hypocritical but it's very true. I'm slowly trying to adapt it to my own life. I'll get there, I hope.

I will end on a more positive note to say that while I'm not 100% loving my body, I am 100% loving what my body CAN DO. I can run 3 miles, I can lift weights, I can do yoga and run up stairs and move faster. For those reasons, I love my body. Also, not loving my body does not mean I do not love me, or that I think I am any less worthy of love, respect. I still think I'm pretty awesome.





Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Goobye to The Y

I joined the Birmingham YMCA in February of 2014, just a few weeks after I had accepted my position at the American Cancer Society. I was about 8 months into my weight loss journey and had lost 50 lbs. Because of my new job I wasn't going to be able to go to the gym I had been going to every morning at 5 am- it just didn't make sense for my commute. At the time, I was devastated to leave that gym. I didn't think any gym would ever replace it. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up my weight loss progress. I doubted that the Birmingham YMCA would ever be "home" for me.

I was wrong.

The Birmingham Y is not the greatest, most up to date Y. It's small, it only has a few of each machine, and the weight room is often pretty crowded. So why then, am I so sad to say goodbye to this place?

Mostly, Bootcamp. I remember my very first Bootcamp class. I was looking for a challenge, but I was nervous I wouldn't be able to do it. And, honestly, I barely did it. I remember coming home and saying "Dude- we had to run up and down the stairs for 2 minutes in between sets". Even though I was down 50 lbs, I was still heavy- and Bootcamp was hard for me.

But then I met Sarah. Sarah was a trainer at the Y. She and I hit it off right away. She was funny, calm, and helped me to understand things. She really encouraged me to keep trying Bootcamp- especially when she started teaching the class. It was her class that made me fall in love with the challenge of Bootcamp. Sarah made that class feel like you were just hanging out with your friends. We all got to know each other, we challenged and pushed each other. She encouraged us to try new things or try heavier weights or to run a little further. She let us do what was best for our bodies while pushing us to go further. I looked forward to every Tuesday and Thursday with Sarah and the rest of my Bootcamp buddies.

Over the years, I've tried new classes, designed my own workouts on the days I wasn't in classes, shared my weight loss story, fell in love with kickboxing, laughed with my classmates, trained to climb 70 flights of steps, learned how to properly lift weights, and, most importantly, become a much more confident individual. The confidence could come from the weight loss, sure- but I can't help but think that it also comes from the sense of empowerment that I got from the Y.

Within the last 6 months or so, we've had a new Bootcamp instructor named Josephine. Josephine is this tiny little thing, but she is fierce, and she is challenging. She pushed me to a whole new level with bootcamp. I always walked out of her class totally exhausted, but feeling like I climbed a mountain or could take on the world. I seriously looked forward to each and every class of hers, and even gave up many of my Saturday afternoons to take the noon class with her.

Tonight I took my final Bootcamp class at that YMCA. With my move, I am switching over to the Y that is closer to me....in fact, it's in walking distance. I couldn't help but feel emotional about leaving. That place really has become my home. I was there 5-6 days a week, almost every week, for two full years. That's a lot of time to spend anywhere! But it's not just the time I spent there. It's the milestones that I hit while I was there, it's the friends I made there, it's the memories of burpees and stair climbs and zumba and yoga and, most dearly, bootcamp.

So now I start a new chapter. I've reached my goal weight, but that won't stop me from going to the gym or continuing to challenge myself. I still have records to beat, weights to lift, and classes to take. And while I'm doubtful any experience will compare to my time at the Birmingham Y, I am looking forward to a whole new challenge.

Thank you Sarah, Josephine, and everyone in between for the support you have shown me over the last two years. You've given me more than I could ever express.