Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weight Loss Wednesday: It's Not That Hard

Update: I somehow dropped 3 lbs since my weigh in on the 18th, so I am down a total of 38 lbs. I think it is because I was sick Thursday-Tuesday and am still fighting it off. Also I've had a pretty poor appetite, but hey, I'm not complaining! I am so close to 40, another milestone!

No tips or workout routines today, just a story about a real situation that occurred a few days ago.

I was talking with a group of people about starting our own Weight Watchers group- just holding each other accountable for our actions, having weigh ins, sharing recipes. Someone else piped in and said "You guys don't need weight watchers. It's really not that hard to lose weight".

My head snapped around so fast, I could have broken my neck.

It's not that hard?

Of course, me being me, I didn't say anything except "I beg to differ". But thinking about it now, there's a lot I should have said.

You're right. It's not hard at all to wake up at 5 O'clock on a dark, freezing morning and get to the gym, put an hour workout in, and then work a full day. It's not hard at all to do 45 minutes on the treadmill at a 10 incline. It's not hard at all to chest press 60 lbs. It's not hard to go through each day watching everyone else indulge in donuts, chocolate, pizza, and other snacks while I eat egg whites, plain turkey burgers and protein bars. It's not hard to come home from a full day at work totally exhausted and have to cook my meal. It's not hard at all to sit on the couch with aching muscles and bones, knowing I will have to wake up in a few hours and do it all over again.

It's not hard when my emotions get the best of me and I become OCD about the numbers on the scale or feel incredibly guilty about eating something I shouldn't. It's not hard to put all that work in, and only lose an ounce, or not lose anything at all.

False. So, so false.

This is hard. This is the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. It's so hard that on some nights, I just cry. Because even though I'm happy and I am seeing results and feeling better, it's so damn hard.

It would be easy, my friends, to give up. It would be easy to say "you know what? Today I am not going to track everything I eat. I am just going to eat whatever I want". But if I do that, today will turn into every day, and I will be right back where I started. I will not let that happen, so instead of choosing to give up or to give myself a break or to take it easy, I keep fighting- HARD.

When this is all said and done, when I have reached my goal weight,  I will reveal my starting weight. Because I damn well know there are other people out there with the same or similar numbers, and I need them to know that this is possible. It's hard, but it's possible.

The girl who said it was easy has probably never struggled with weight. Obviously I don't know her whole background and I can't easily make that judgement, but based on what I do know, I am fairly certain that I am correct. She is probably never had to lose 100+ lbs. But when you have been overweight most of your life, when you can't sit comfortably in a car because you are too fat, when you can barely make it up a set of stairs without getting out of breath, you get it. You get that this is not easy.

Hard as it may be, it's totally worth it. I am taking control of my body and my health, and I've never felt stronger.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Blues

We're all sick of winter. It's the coldest winter in Michigan history that we know of, and the most snow we've gotten since 1908. It's gloomy and disturbingly cold (I'm talking -30 cold) and we're all tired and annoyed.

So let's try to find the good things.

  • Soup. Soup is good in winter anyways, but especially tasty when it's -30 degrees outside. So far this year I have made stuffed pepper soup, vegetable tortellini soup, sausage tortellini soup, veggie orzo soup, and plain old vegetable soup. All have been delicious and warm my little tummy on these bitter cold days.
  • Netflix and flannel pj's. Is there a better combo? I don't know about you but I've been loving watching old episodes of Glee on Netflix and wearing my comfy flannel pajamas and hoodies. It's totally acceptable to sit on the couch all day when there's a blizzard outside.
  • Get lost on the internet for a while. Discover new bands on Pandora. Find hilarious youtube videos and post them on your friends wall. Scroll through those ridiculous valentine's cards memes. It's okay, it's too cold to do much of anything else. Go ahead: Get lost.
  • Cuddle weather! Grab your hunnie and cuddle under some big warm blankets. If you're single, cuddle your pet. If you have kids, cuddle them.
  • Reading. When you need a netflix break, pick up a book. Catch up on some reading.
  • Blast the Frozen soundtrack. Dude, how irnoic is it that Frozen came out the same year we are hit with the coldest winter ever? But blasting the soundtrack when you're cold to the bones is a lot of fun. I'm doing it right now.THE COLD NEVER BOTHERED ME ANYWAAAAAAAAAAAAAY
  • It's kind of- sort of- pretty outside. I mean, if you can look past all the slush and ice, the snow itself is beautiful. It's a sham it's too cold to go outside and play in it, but we can admire from afar.
  • Make yourself a big ole cup of tea. It's comforting to sip on a hot beverage, and tea is good for you. I strongly recommend peppermint tea. Delicious.
  • Together time. Oh I know. The amount of snow days may be getting out of control but some day, you're gonna wish you had more time with your family. So try not to get too petty with each other and try to have fun. Write a story together, make a music video, bake cookies, do something.
We can get through this, guys. When it's all over we will look at each other and laugh. We will talk about this months from now as we sit outside in our bathing suits, sipping on margaritas. We will cheers each other, because we made it. In the meantime, let's hold each other close. Check in on each other- watch your pets, bring meals to your elderly neighbors, and text the stay at home moms who are going stir crazy. Don't let the polar vortex break our beautiful spirit. We got this.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Love Yourself

This is for guys and gals of all ages:

Love yourself.

Usually, this type of campaign is aimed toward teenage girls. And, of course, I agree. Teenage girls need to love themselves and value their worth. But so do the rest of us. I know grown men who do not love themselves enough to take care of themselves and their well being. I know elderly men and women who think their life was not relevant, that they did not accomplish a single thing in their life.

Those things are just not true.

All of us have accomplished something. It may not be huge, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't really matter. Each of us have done something in our life to be proud of. Sometimes it just takes a little digging to find it.

I wince when I hear people say that they aren't good at anything. Yes, you are. Do not compare yourself to those around you. I know people my age who make triple the salary that I do and own homes and fancy cars- that's not my life, and it may never be my life. But that doesn't mean I am not a good person, or that I haven't accomplished anything.

If you are someone who struggles with loving yourself, do me a favor. Each night, before you go to sleep, write down one accomplishment from that day. If it's "took my vitamins"- AWESOME. If it's "Went to the gym"- AWESOME. If it's "Made someone smile"- AWESOME. These are all GREAT things that you did. Be proud!

I have written on this topic hundreds of times before. But it's worth repeating: You were uniquely made. You are meant to be in this world. You are important. Your existence makes a difference. Be proud of the person you are.

Beautiful things happen when you learn to love yourself. Your fists begin to unclench and your hands begin to open, to grab onto new opportunities. Your heart will follow- it will open, and you will begin to love life and love others, and to let love inside that heart. But it all starts in your mind. You must wake up each morning and say "I woke up for a reason. It's my duty to find out what that reason is". Go about your day with eyes of wonder, looking for positivity and love along the way. I won't lie, bad things may happen. You may have a really, horrible day. But do not let that define you. Don't let that force you back into your hole. Stop, think, and act in a way that will bring about a positive change.

You don't need me to tell you that you're beautiful (even though you are). You need to tell yourself that you're beautiful. When you rely on others to tell you how awesome you are, you enter danger zone. Your happiness and self worth does not come from others- it comes from you. So embrace yourself just as you would a friend in need, and take care of yourself.

Sending each of you bundles of love.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I am going to warn you that this post will be fairly cheesy. I was going to wait until Valentine's Day to post it, but it's on my mind and my heart so you get it today instead.

When you spend the majority of your life thinking you're not good enough to be loved, it's pretty incredible when you find someone who changes your mind.

Throughout my life, I have been rejected again and again by guys. They chose someone over me, or they didn't have any interest what so ever. The guys that I did date ended up hurting me, cheating on me, forgetting about me. A guy once told me "Yeah, you're cool, but....looks are really important to me sooo" insinuating that I was not good looking enough for him. Another told me "I really like you, but I also really like *Sara, and she's really hot so I'm going to see where things go with her. But if they don't work out, I'm willing to try things with you". I was clearly his second choice. I don't want to be anyone's second choice. I've had others promise me that they loved me, that they thought I was beautiful, and suddenly they disappear and begin dating someone else.

I suffered the ultimate betrayal this past March when my boyfriend at the time, whom I was head over heels for, who came to my house every single night making promises and telling me how much he loved me, left me, out of the blue. I thought we were doing just fine- but all it took was one day. He wouldn't answer my calls or texts, and hours later I discovered he had gone back to his ex girlfriend. The guy didn't even have the decency to call me and tell me this himself. I heard it from her.

After years of rejection, you begin to think poorly of yourself, and believe that no one will ever want to be with you. You have it settled in your mind that you will always be a second choice.

Enter Tom.

Actually, re enter Tom.

A lot of people don't know this, or seem to forget, but Tom and I actually dated two years ago. We met online, right before I moved out of my parents house, and dated for a few months. It was fun- we'd go to dinner and the movies and hang out at my new place. But it was never anything big. I broke it off with him in April 2012, but we remained facebook friends.

When I went through that horrible break up in March, Tom reappeared. He picked up on what happened and we began to chat again- as friends. He helped me get through the heartbreak. He would listen to me cry at night and read all the lyrics/poems I had written. He tried to make me laugh. He joined my gym right when I did so that we could go through the weight loss journey together.

Tom asked me to give him a second chance. I was so hesitant. I was scared to be rejected again, and scared that I was settling. So we took our time. We spent the summer with each other. He made me laugh. He made me feel whole again. He made me forget all the nasty feelings that I had. He became my best friend. I told him everything.

On September 22nd, I realized that Tom and I were more than friends. We were at my parents house to feed Seamus before we went to the movies. My parents were out of town that day and I was on Seamus duty. I had been telling Tom that my parents front yard was a mess and that it needed soil. I went upstairs to shower and when I looked outside, Tom was working on the yard so that my dad would not need to worry about it (at that point, my dad had suffered the seizures, but we didn't have a diagnosis). I smiled watching him work so hard to make things easier for me and for my family. We went to the movies- he took me to see Wizard of Oz in 3D, my all time favorite movie. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It was simple, but happy. We became "official" that day, but in reality, we had been together since the day he reappeared into my life.

I cannot imagine my life without Tom. We don't text all day long and sometimes when we're hanging out we don't even talk. We just sit and be. But then there are the nights we fire questions back and forth at each other, giggling. He is the sweetest guy I have ever known. Just this morning, he brought me breakfast from Coney and shoveled the driveway. He's always wanting to do little things for me. But the most important is that he's there. He will listen to me. He goes to Church with me. He asks me to rate my day. He's nerdy and goofy and always looks a little sad when we say goodbye. He gives tight hugs and asks about my family.

Why am I writing a blog about this? Because I have some friends who are single, and maybe feel like I once did- that no one will ever come around. But someone will. You will find your person. Maybe it's even a person you already know- mine is. Don't be afraid to let someone in who may just be the person who helps you let all your fears out. That's who Tom is for me.

Oh, and for all your other jerks who treated me like garbage: Thank you. You did me a favor, because that rocky road led me to Tom. Also, he thinks I'm beautiful.

Tom and I on September 22nd :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The End.

Note: For the 500 words challenge, Jeff encouraged us to write about "the end". I thought about what it might be like to write about the end of my weight loss journey. This is what I imagined. One day, I'll actually be able to share these words.

I was shaking as I walked towards the scale. This could be it, I thought. I slipped off my clothes, took a deep breath, and stepped on.

A smile erupted onto my face.

I did it.

I lost 150 lbs. It took over a year, but I did it.

I wanted to hug every single person in the locker room. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run around naked.

I stepped back on the scale, one more time, just to be sure. When the same number came up, I cheered. I clapped. I quickly put my clothes back on and pushed through the crowded locker room to go find Tom, who was waiting for me outside. I jumped into his arms and began to cry. He held me tight. He knew what this mean- I had done it.

When I finally let go, Tom had tears in his eyes, too. "You did it babe!" He said, smiling. We hugged again. I wouldn't have done it without him. Most mornings, he was right at that gym with me.

Tom and I drove to my parents house. As much as I wanted to send them a mass text message that I had finally reached my goal weight, I wanted even more to tell them in person. I burst through the front door, nearly tripping over Seamus, our loyal golden retriever. My parents were on the couch, watching the Notre Dame game.

"I did it", was all I said, and they both jumped up from the couch to hug me. We were all crying. This was the happiest I had ever felt in my entire life.

For 90% of my life I have struggled with my weight. I've been medically obese since I was 19. I was a food addict who struggled with anxiety and depression. For the longest time, I didn't care enough about myself. I just stuffed myself with food to make me feel better, not caring that I was slowly killing myself with food. It was not until I was 25 that I decided I actually wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to live.

And I did it.

Anyone who tells you weight loss is easy is a damn liar. It's hard. For over a year I counted every calorie I put into my mouth and worked my butt off at the gym. There were many obstacles I had to overcome- stress, illnesses, life changes, plateaus, etc. But I knocked every single one of those hurdles down as hard as I could and I kept fighting.

The biggest change was my emotional mindset. I realized I could not solve all my problems with food and I couldn't numb the pain with food. Every time I wanted to binge eat, I would remind myself of how awful it makes me feel, and I would distract myself with prayer or writing or eating a healthy snack. And it worked.

I know people who are looking to lose weight hear this all the time, and you may not believe me, but you can do this. Look at me. I used to get tired walking to my car. I was wearing a size 24 pant. I couldn't shop anywhere my friends did. I thought popping a frozen pizza in the oven and eating the whole thing counted as dinner. I stood out- people stared at me. I got called fat. I was always uncomfortable. And now? I am a totally different person.

You CAN do this.

I did it.

The tears I cried today after stepping on that scale are tears of rejoice. They represent all the tears I cried when I thought I wasn't good enough, when I didn't feel worthy of love. I know now that isn't true. I am, and always have been, worthy.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but this is the end. The end of a journey that changed, and saved, my life. It is not the end of my story. I don't quit here. I keep it here as far as the weight goes, but I move forward with my life, with a new body and a new mindset. It's my time to shine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Short break.

Whenever I write a blog, I check the stats. How many page views, comments, spam comments, and how people came across my blog on Google.

Over the past few days, my blog views have significantly dropped. Typically, my Weight Loss Wednesday post gets 100+ views. This week? 27.

It shouldn't bother me. But it does. And so I am taking a few days off to reevaluate why I write, and do some private writing rather than writing for an audience.

My goal in this blog was never to get a ton of readers, comments, etc. So I don't know why I'm upset. I suppose because it's such a big drop.

I'll be back in a few days, probably by next Wednesday- and I'm not going to quit this blog just because my views were down. I will only quit this blog when I get tired of writing. I'm not tired yet. I have a lot to say, and this blog gives me platform to say it.  My goal has always been to try to relate to other people, to help other people. When I feel like I am no longer doing that, I will quit.

For now I am just taking a few days to write in my journal and too bring myself back down to earth.

I'll be back.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Weight Loss Wednesday

The picture on the left is from November. The right is January 20th. You may not be able to see a huge difference, but I do. The tummy is getting smaller!


Well, friends, I dropped the weight. I am now down a total of 35.5 lbs. How did I do it?

I think it's a combination of things. I went to the gym trainers and my friend Jeannette for advice. Here are some of the things they told me:
  • Drink more water. My trainer slapped my hand when I told her I drink maybe two glasses of a water a day. Now I make sure I get my 8 glasses in. I count then during the day and immediately enter them into myfitnesspal so that I can easily keep track. Lately I've been adding a little lemon into my water. It's supposed to boost your metabolism and help your skin.

  • I made sure to take my vitamin d every day. I'm severely deficient, so I am supposed to take 4,000 iu each day. For a while I was forgetting. Now I have an alarm on my phone, and as a backup Tom also has an alarm and texts me to remind me. I notice a significant difference in my mood and energy level when I take my vitamin d consistently.

  • Both Jeannette and my trainers told me that I had to start doing more weights in my workouts. So now twice a week I focus just on Resistance training. I do a 10 minute warm up on the treadmill or bike and then do circuits with the dumbbells or bars: pec flys, lateral raises, tricep extensions, squats and lunges with weights, etc. I also add in crunches and other ab work on my strength days. Oh, and battle ropes. Battle ropes are my new favorite toy at the gym.
  • I added lots of spinach and other veggies to my diet and really watched my intake of processed foods. I don't eat full on organic but I really watch what I eat. Example: lean cuisines are great and quick, but not necessarily nutritious. Instead, I bring my leftovers from dinner. Also, I love eating soup for lunch in the winter but try to make my soup for the week rather than buying canned soup. Just little things like that. Tonight I'm making a stir fry with lots of yummy veggies, chicken, and brown rice.
  • I was not eating enough calories. I know that sounds pretty contradicting, but I was eating way below the recommended amount for my weight. Now I make sure I get pretty close to the supposed amount- but by eating the right foods. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips that are 200+ calories and loaded with fat and salt, I eat a protein bar, Greek yogurt, or Angie's popcorn, which is an all natural popcorn that tasted delicious and is just 90 calories a bag. Oh, and my favorite desert is the Snack Factory dark chocolate pretzels. I eat exactly 5 every night as my night snack- 5 is just enough to fill my sweet craving, and it fills me up. They are delicious, and 5 is 130 calories total. So far I have only found them at Costco, though.


I want to be down another 10 lbs by the time my Florida trip comes around. I want to be able to feel comfortable in a bathing suit rather than totally covering up in shorts and a T-shirt. Florida is in about 12 weeks. I think I can do it. But I won't punish myself or feel guilty if I can't.

Each day that I get closer to that 50lb mark I push myself a little harder. A friend asked me how we are going to celebrate losing 50 lbs. I have no idea, but we will. At least, I will. 

I realize I may get stuck again. Maybe this is my new pattern, where I don't lose any weight for a few weeks and then suddenly drop a few lbs all at once. Who knows. I'm just going to keep pushing. 

I found myself encouraging a friend the other day. She was venting and telling me she was sick of being tired all the time and that she wanted to do something about her weight. I told her that it was in her control to do so, and that she is worth being healthy. I told her how important it was to take care of herself and that her body would begin to thank her. She emailed me later to tell me that on her lunch break she called a gym and signed up. I was so proud of her!

So now I will tell you the same thing: you are all beautiful and worthy of love and of good health. Take care of yourselves. Whatever it is that is your burden, get rid of if. It won't be easy. This is the hardest thing I've ever done. But I finally feel like I am fully living life. And that makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me to join her at a kickboxing class at her gym. I was very hesitant. I couldn't really figure out why. I'm a little afraid of being judged in classes, so maybe that was it. I also could have been worried that the class would be too difficult for me (the website, which I checked thoroughly, promised a very intense hour).

But then I realized what it was that was holding me back: my routine. I am such a person of habit, of routine, that when it changes, I get incredibly anxious and overwhelmed. I also plan ahead, and I don't like surprises. I have had my Monday planned since Sunday. The new kickboxing class was at 7pm, and that changed my evening plans, which were to go to my own gym for Zumba at 6, come home and cook dinner, shower, read, sleep. The 7pm time was just enough to mix things up a little bit. It was a minor change, but enough to make me hesitant, and enough to give me a little anxiety.

Once I realized what was holding me back, I sat down and wrote up a new schedule for tonight, making sure I could fit everything in that I wanted. I decided that instead of eating dinner before kickboxing (I hate eating a big meal and then working out, I always feel sick), I would prepare my dinner so that it would be ready when I returned home, and eat a small, healthy snack before the class.

So I registered for the class on the website and spent the rest of the day pondering what the class would be like. Another thing about me: I don't really like to go to new places. I get worried that I won't know where to go or that I will look silly. At the same time, I'm afraid to ask questions. So I usually just sort of silently suffer until I either figure it out or flee the situation.

Upon arrival, I was intimidated by the gals with six packs and ripped arms. It seemed that most of them were pretty "elite" athletes. When my friend arrived, the instructor helped me to wrap up my hands and put my gloves on- and then it was go time.

It was the hardest hour of my entire life. Not only are you moving your hands and punching the bag, but in between rounds, you do things like pushups, mountain climbers, squats, ladder climbs, etc. There is no rest period, no breaks. After about 15 minutes, I was already exhausted. I work out almost every day, but my workouts are simple compared to that intensity!

I have to admit, I enjoyed the actual boxing part- maybe a little too much. Yes my arms were sore and I wasn't sure I could hit the bag one more time, but I'd get this burst of energy where I could hit it hard, and that made me keep going. I used it as an opportunity to let out all my aggression, emotion, and fear.

I had to walk out with 10 minutes to go- the room was hot and I thought I was going to throw up. But I'm proud of myself. I did it. I changed up my routine and I did something new, went to a new place.

So the next question on everyone's mind: would I do it again?

Probably. I am kind of curious if I would be able to keep up more next time. But, I prefer using my own gym, mostly because since I pay a membership fee I may as well use it. So I will have to check and see if they have a similar class.

Now that I have tried this, I have confidence in trying Yoga. My first class is Saturday morning at my gym.

Sometimes we need to do things that scare us, to help us to see that while they may be hard, it is possible to do them. The feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes after performing a difficult or scary task is more than worth the worrying and nervous feeling.

Let's make 2014 the year we do things that scare us a little. Let's stop fear from getting in the way of crushing our goals. Let's understand that change is okay, and that our lives will not fall apart if we change up our routine a little bit.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are countless ways to write about and honor Martin Luther King Jr. The man was an exceptional leader for peace, stood up against hate, and fought for equality and acceptance. He was hero, a leader, and a role model for people of all ages, race, religion, and gender. His words are words to live by.

I spent some time this morning before work looking through MLK Jr quotes. I wanted to choose one that resonated with me to write about today for my 500 words. I chose two.

We live in a society where we want everything instantly. Instant success, instant gratification. We want to get to our next destination as quickly as possible. But we can't always have what we want at the snap of our fingers. It's not always that easy to just sprint through life without any obstacles. Sometimes we have to slow it down a notch, tap the brakes. And sometimes we need to slow it down even more, to a tiptoe pace, moving moment to moment.

As long as we continue to move forward, we are on the right track. Sometimes we will want to scoot backwards, or sometimes we want to put everything to a halt, a complete stop. But we cannot do that. We keep moving, no matter how slowly we have to move.

As a nation, we need to move together. We need to work together, at each moment, at bringing peace into the world. As individuals, it's difficult to make big changes. But together, we can. If enough of us work toward peace and love and kindness, we can begin to see a more beautiful world.

Like Martin Luther King, Jr, we need to realize the importance in standing up for something we believe in. But some of us must learn HOW to stand up for what we believe in. Over the weekend, there was major twitter drama between a member of One Direction and a famous "youtuber". You can roll your eyes all you want at this story, but it is a prime example of how easily hate and misjudgment are thrown out into the world. The band member tweeted kudos/appreciation for one of the Duck Dynasty dudes, and it caused Tyler, the youtuber, to say something about how disappointed he was, considering Tyler is homosexual and a huge, well known, One Direction fan. Then it got crazy. 1D fans were tweeting death threats to Tyler. The band member, Liam, even tweeted Tyler and told him he was "never really a fan", which caused even more hysteria, and suddenly things like #riptyleroakley and suicide assumptions were tweeted. It was disturbing, and disgusting, to see 13 and 14 year old kids tweeting such hateful, cruel things to someone they don't know.

So what in the hell does that have to do with Martin Luther King Jr? If you ask me, everything. These kinds of twitter battles happen all the time. Silly as it may seem, it's real, and it's dangerous. People are being targeted and bullied to the point where they are told to kill themselves, or threatened to be killed, or hurt. The kids tweeting these things may not actually mean what they are typing, but they may very well mean it. And their intent behind their words don't really matter. They are still saying them. And it's not acceptable. We need this to stop.

Martin Luther King, Jr spoke about love, and often said that hate does not stop hate. This twitter war, and countless others, is a perfect example of people trying to solve hate with hate. They are upset, so they spit out hateful things. When we will realize that does not solve our problems, that does not make things better? We will be better when we can respond to all things with love.

My challenge for all of you today, and maybe every day, is "what difference can I make in the world today?". Small things, of course. I don't think anyone expects any of us to go out and start a new nonprofit or to donate thousands of dollars to charity on any given day. But we can do small things. Maybe it's holding back when we want to make a mean comment. Maybe it's telling our friends/peers/whoever that what they did was wrong. Maybe it's writing a note to a coworker who is having a rough day. Maybe it's making dinner for your family. Do something.

I apologize that this post is kind of all over the place. I really wanted to include the One Direction/Tyler issue, because I saw it all over Twitter and it was almost heartbreaking, in a way, to see kids be so cruel. And I sit and think about people like Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus, Mother Theresa, Laurence, and I wonder what they would do in these situations. Perhaps if we all had that mindset, there wouldn't be twitter death threats or hate crimes.

I hope you all have a blessed week.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brave Little Banana

The bravest thing I ever did was dress up as a banana and cheer on runners at the Rock N Roll Marathon in Nashville.

I'm a shy person, and an introvert. Meaning, I prefer to be alone. I've never been one who likes shopping in groups of people or who enjoys big parties. I get really uncomfortable. Big crowds terrify me. And marathons? They have some big crowds.

It was Spring 2008. I was in my junior year of college. To make a long story short, I was headed to Nashville to support several of my friends who I had met through a Melinda Doolittle fan site. They were going to be running the marathon in honor of our group, Melinda's Backups. Now, before you write me off as a creepy weirdo who meets people off the internet, understand that the Backups are the sweetest, most compassionate people I've ever met and to this day continue to be some of my best friends.

I was not running the marathon. I was a student, and out of shape, and the thought of squeezing training for a marathon into my schedule terrified me. But I wanted to go anyways. These ladies and gents were my friends, I wanted to support them.  There was a big group of us- the first day of arrivals was full of squeals and hugs, catching up face to face. We even got to have dinner with Melinda. Most of us had met her by that point, but some had not. It was an exciting trip for all of us.

Flying there and spending a few days with "strangers" was a brave enough act, for me. I had only met a couple of them, and had barely spoke when I did, fear that I would say something stupid and they wouldn't like me anymore. I was still shy on this trip, I remember a couple times where I stood awkwardly, just not knowing how to engage or jump into conversations.

But little did I know, I was about to be even more brave.

Us cheerleaders spent the night before the race making signs and packing up chairs and snacks for the sidelines, while the runners rested. And then I saw the banana. My friend Gem, the artist among the group, had constructed these amazing banana and pickle costumes. It was an inside joke from the site, and she wanted two of us to wear them so that the runners could spot us.

I wore the banana.

Me. Shy little me. And you know what? I had the greatest time in that thing. I don't think I stopped smiling for a second. At one point, I was standing next to Melinda, who was being recognized by several runners/cheerleaders. Two girls came over and asked if they could get a picture- assuming it was with her, I reached for the camera. Bur no, they wanted a picture with me, the banana. I put my heart and soul into cheering on my friends as they ran by our group. I would hug them tight (Except Val, who didn't stop! Kidding, Val!) and then yell at them- kindly, of course, to keep going. The feeling of immense joy that I had watching my friends fight hard to reach their goal was something I have never felt sense. Afterwards, when they crossed the finish line and I fed them water and fruit, I had never felt so proud. We were a team, we were a family. We still are.

The banana costume still hangs up in my room. It is a daily reminder of that day, the day I chose to be brave and loud, instead of hiding and quiet. That day changed me. I did not become this super outgoing person, but I did gain confidence. I also gained gratitude, for my new friends and for Melinda, who all pushed me to put myself out there.

My "banana story" is one of my go to stories I tell people. You know, in those "Tell us a random fact about yourself" kind of situations. No one really seems to get it. They sort giggle, and move on to the next person. And maybe my readers won't get it either. But the backups do. Melinda does. I do. And it is a story, and a day, that I will cherish for as long as I live.

Myself, Melinda, and Babz in the pickle.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happy little Saturday

It was going to be a pretty typical Saturday. I was going to workout, clean the house, get my groceries, and do some writing. Tom and I had plans to go out in the evening, but my day was going to be pretty average.

And then my mom called, as I was sitting up in bed trying to force myself to go to the gym.

"Maureen and Dave are violently ill. I'm going to pick up Ryan and bring him here to babysit. Can you help me?".

I told her I would come by after I worked out. There went my plans to grocery shop and clean the house! I started moving quickly- if i wanted to get everything done, I had better leave soon.

The gym was crowded. It was the last day of the open house for new membership and there were tons of people coming through for tours. Normally, that would somewhat intimdate me, having so many strangers see me working out. But not today. Today I pushed hard. I did all resistence/weight training circuits, and smiled as people came through. I even showed a group how to use the Battle Ropes, a new "toy" at the gym.

I promised myself (and Tom) I wouldn't step on the scale this week. I had started getting so frustrated with not losing that it was bringing me down. But, curiousity got the best of me so I stepped on the scale in the crowded locker room. I was down nearly 3 lbs, putting my total weight loss at 35 lbs.

Excited, I practically ran to my car, and after a quick coffee stop, pulled into my parents house to help with Ryan.

He greeted me at the door, and wanted me to follow him into the kitchen. As my mom washed some of his toys in the sink, Ryan and I chased each other around the island. He was so happy. Every few seconds he would just run into my arms, giggling. He's never done that before and it melted my freaking heart. I couldn't help but squeeze him tight when he did that. Then we went downstairs to play with his amazing hand me down play kitchen. At one point I sat down on the couch, already tired from a workout and chasing him, when he came running to me again.

I know it's a simple little thing, a child running into your arms. It happens all the time. But it made me so happy.

I left when Ryan was eating his lunch, knowing his nap was coming afterwards. I grabbed Jimmy Johns for Sam and I and headed home- to a clean house. Sam had cleaned it all already. I swear, sometimes there is no better feeling than walking into a clean house. It smelled so good and everything was put into place. So Sam I spent some time eating our lunch and chatting. It's rare to do that on a Saturday, usually we are both running around with our errands, too busy to sit and talk.

The day continued to be happy when Tom and I had the perfect date night together. It's actually pretty rare that we go out, we try to save our money so we usually have dinner in and watch tv or a movie. But this time, we went out. Nothing fancy, but we had the best time. First we went to 2nd and Charles in Auburn Hills, which is full of new ad used vinyls, CDs, movies, books and games. I walked out with two books on my to read list. We will be going back soon. I could spend an entire day in that store. Plus we ran into Toms' aunt, the store manager. She's so sweet! 

Then we went to dinner at a Mexican restraunt. I allowed myself to get a meal I actuAlly wanted to get, rather than order the healthiest thing on the menu. I was still careful, I took the cheese and sauce off my chicken tacos and barely ate the rice. I still felt kind of guilty, but Tom assured me that I have to eat what I want sometimes.

After our meal we were stuffed, so I was insistent that we go walk it off somewhere. On the drive to Meijer we sang along to the radio at the top of our lungs. That put me in a goofy mood and I probably embarrassed Tom in Meijer because I was power walking through the aisles at full speed, pivoting at the turns like a drill Sargent. 

Tom made me laugh the rest of the night. When he asked me to rate my day, sometime he does daily, I held up all ten fingers. It was perfect. Between my workout, Ryan, lunch with Sam, a solid two hour nap and my beautiful date with Tom, it was pure bliss.

I hope you had a happy Saturday, too, and if not, there's always Sunday.

Friday, January 17, 2014

10 Post Idol Albums You Should Check Out.

American Idol is my absolute favorite TV show. I have been watching religiously since season 1. Season 13 just began and I can say with confidence this is going to be an amazing season.

As a fan of the show I try to support my favorite artists once they begin their music career. It can be frustrating, because the contestants are so easily forgotten about. People forget about them. But they keep making music anyways. And that is one of the main reasons I love the show.

I own a lot of "post idol" music and I'm always ready to share it with others. So here are the ten post idol albums you should be listening to. Also, I did not include any Kelly or Carrie albums on here because really? That's not fair. And also, if you do not own at least one Kelly Clarkson album, you are seriously making a musical mistake.

 I have included links to Amazon so that you can listen to previews of these great songs.

From the guys: 

David Archuleta
 David Archuleta, David Archuleta. Our Season 7 runner up. He is an adorable little nugget who is now serving his Mormon mission so he has put music on hold. He has a couple albums/ep's out, believe it or not, but his first holds a special place in my heart. I'm not sure what will happen with David's music when he returns from his music, but I do know the kid (not so little anymore) has a gorgeous voice. Listen to "Crush", his very first single to make your heart smile, and then listen to "You Can", because it's great.

Jason Castro [Deluxe] [+Video] [+Digital Booklet]
Jason Castro, Jason Castro.  Jason finished in 4th place on American Idol during Season 7, best known for his "Hallelujah" performance. Jason has actually released a few ep's and albums, but his first one is my favorite. His others are worth checking out too, though, especially if you are a fan of Christian music because that is the direction he took (Jason has never been shy about his faith) after this album dropped. Jason's voice is as smooth as butter, and he is very talented when it comes to musicianship. I have a lot of favorite songs on this CD, but check out "You Can Always Come Home", a duet with Serena Ryder.

The World From The Side Of The Moon [+digital booklet] 
Phillip Phillips, The World From The Side of the Moon. Phillip took the Idol crown on Season 11. I had this totally irrational dislike for Phillip on his season. Mostly because by that point, I was sick of white guys with guitars getting all the credit, and many of his Idol performances failed to impress me. But when I saw him on tour that summer (yes, I go to the American Idol Live! tours), I changed my mind. I checked out his album when it was released and was surprised to hear how good it was. Phillip has done pretty well on the radio with "Home", and "Gone, Gone, Gone". but my personal favorite track is "A Fool's Dance".


 David cook, This Loud Morning. Cook won Season 7 of American Idol, and is best known for his post Idol single "Light On". Although you won't hear much from him on the radio these days, he continues to make music and is frequently on tour. This Loud Morning, his second album, is a fantastic pop rock album. "We Believe" is a feel good, powerhouse anthem that I adore.


Casey Abrams, Casey Abrams.  If you like the singer songwriter, gritty music, you will love Casey. His album is full of soulful gems. Casey is immensely talented. He plays several instruments, writes his songs, and has a lovely, smooth sound. Check out "Great Bright Morning".

From the girls:
 Listen Up! [+digital booklet]
Haley Reinhart, Listen Up! Haley was third place on Season 10, losing to Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. She won me over, actually, with her "kiss off" song of "Bennie and The Jets". This album is so rich and full of great pop songs combined with Haley's smooth, jazzy voice. This was one of those albums that I actually bought a hard copy of, and listened to in my car on repeat for WEEKS. Check out "Hit The Ground Runnin'" and "Undone".  

Megan Joy

 Megan Joy, Megan Joy. Megan was 9th place during Season 8, otherwise known as The Adam Lambert Season. This one is interesting because I did not like Megan on Idol. I thought she was quirky and kinda fun, and I liked that we had the same name, but her performances were not strong and I wondered what was keeping her on the show. But then something happened. She started posting these short clips of her original songs on Twitter, and I sat there in awe. Where did this girl come from? When she released her first EP in 2012 I bought it and was so impressed. Trust me, listen to "Longing" or "Two Rivers" and you will have ALL THE FEELS. Megan also just recently released another EP that I will be listening to!

Gemini EP

Brooke White, Gemini Brooke was 5th place on the best season of Idol Season 7. (But really, can we just agree that it was the best season ever?) Brooke is probably the sweetest contestant to ever hit the Idol stage. After Idol, she joined forces with Jack Matangra to form "Jack and White" and they released Gemini in 2011. It's a bluesy, smoky album full of great songs and wonderful writing. My favorite is "Smoke and Mirrors".

Melinda Doolittle, You're The Reason. Melinda is my favorite Idol contestant of all time, hands down. She landed in third place on Season 6, behind Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis. She just recently released this EP, and I love it so much I listen to it once a day. Melinda is a powerhouse vocalist, and there is no argument there. You cannot listen to her sing and not be moved! All of the songs on her EP are good, but listen to "I Believe in Love". It is a gorgeous song!

Jordin Sparks, Battlefield Jordin was our first place winner on Season 6. Jordin's 2nd album, Battlefield, is horrendously overlooked. It is a shame. Battlefield is the PERFECT pop album. There are so many quality songs, but unfortunately, they do not get the credit they deserve. Jordin has a beautiful voice, and awesome personality to match. She's got some movies coming out this year, so keep an eye on this girl because she's not going away! Check out "Let It Rain", my personal favorite tune off the record, but there are so many good ones, it's hard to pick!

Idol fans, sound off in the comments. What is your favorite post Idol album?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sometimes Things Don't Work Out.

Tell us about a time things came this close to working out… but didn’t. What happened next? Would you like the chance to try again, or are you happy with how things eventually worked out?

I was drinking beers with two friends after a long day at work when my mom called me to tell me there was a job opening at my former high school for an alumnae director. My heart began to race- this was the job I had always wanted. At the time, I was just wrapping up my year as a full time volunteer at a high school in Detroit. The job hunt was constantly on my mind. The alumni director position was exactly what I had been hoping for. 

I rushed home from the bar and sat down to fix up my resume and type my cover letter. I hit send, and prayed every second of every day.

I got the phone call to come in for an interview just a few days later, as I was finishing brushing up my teeth. Of course I had my phone with me in the bathroom. I did not let it out of my sight, I did not want to miss the chance of a call. I scheduled my interview and then spent every waking moment preparing for said interview. My brother in law quizzed me on possible questions, my sister told me what to wear, my parents reminded me to be confident. The interview went flawlessly. I felt extremely confident about my answers, and the responses I got from the Director, who also happened to be a friend of mine's dad. 

Although the interview went well, I tried hard not to get my hopes up. Until I got a call for a second interview. By that point, I was ecstatic. I was confident. I thought I was about to land my dream job.

The second interview went just as well as the first. This time it was a group interview. I presented my ideas for the alumni program to the group, and they loved them. I felt super confident. I practically ran out of there. Everything was falling into place. I was going to get this job, my brother was going to be married in a few days, and I would start settling into my own adult life.

The day before we left for my brother's wedding, my phone rang. It was my high school. I was ready to accept the position. 

But instead, my heart sank, because they told me I was not selected for the position. Their reasoning was that I was better off working "one on one with youth", not the alumni program. 

I hung up the phone as quickly as possible and sank to my knees. I began to sob and shake. I was sure that the job was mine, and just like that, my dreams were crushed. I had to go upstairs and tell my parents, and all I could do was cry. 

I had a really difficult time with this rejection. I felt like I wasn't good enough, and then began to worry that I was never going to get another job and that no one would hire me. If I couldn't get a job that I was so perfect for (in my eyes), how would I get a job anywhere else?

I did eventually get a full time job, with hospice. So no, I did not end up working one on one with youth, although that is what I am most passionate about. 

Perhaps the timing wasn't right. Or, maybe I just wasn't meant to get that job. But I will tell you that if that job ever opens up again, I would apply. I still believe, in my heart, that I am meant to be back at Mercy. I don't know how and I don't know when, but I am going to find out.

Things don't always work out the way we want them to. Life will be disappointing, sometimes. But just because you are told "no" does not mean it's the end of the road. Other opportunities will open up, doors will open for you. You just can't give up.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's A Beautiful Day.

Note: There is no Weight Loss Wednesday this week. As most of you know I was feeling pretty frustrated at my lack of weight loss. After talking to some trainers at my gym and my friend Jeannette who has been through this herself, I have some ideas and have put them into place to see if they work and I start dropping lbs again. Fingers crossed.

When my clock turned to 3:45 today, all I could do was picture my parents and my sister sitting in the doctors office, hearing the news of my dad's test results. I put myself into prayer mode and waited for my phone.

"It's excellent news", she said.

As she began to tell me about the tumors shrinking, tears formed in my eyes. I wanted to cry, I wanted to run around and skip, I wanted to scream. I was beyond thrilled. I am relieved beyond measure. I am more grateful than I have ever been in my life.

This means its working. The medicine is working. My dad is fighting hard, and he's kicking ass!

I was shaking when I hung up. I was so excited. I also happened to be in the middle of an e-mail to my coworkers about something else. So  I quickly added a little paragraph about my dad, and immediately I got responses from people saying how happy they were to get this news. My coworkers have been extremely supportive of me throughout this entire thing, so to share my good news with them was something I wanted to do, and I was very touched to see all of their responses.

This good news is a big step for us. It is a huge weight off our shoulders. It is a hug from God. It is a blessing. It is, as my dad would say, a small miracle.

I think back now to how totally terrified we were that first day that my dad was in the hospital, and how far we have come since then. Obviously we had a right to be scared, and that fear still creeps in sometimes, but now we can celebrate and be grateful.

We have had so many people on our side. Some who we don't even know very well. It is a beautiful feeling to know you have a team of people cheering you on and praying for you. To each of you that have prayed, called, texted, e-mailed, and stopped to ask how we are doing, millions and millions of hugs going out to you. Millions.

This is not the end of the road- my dad will continue to have these test frequently. We know that, and we are ready. We can take anything on. We are #carolinstrong .

The most important lesson I have learned through my dad's diagnosis is this: hold your loved ones close. Do not ever hold back your love for them. Tell them, frequently, what they mean to you. Also, do not underestimate what your kind words can mean to someone else. So many times through this whole thing, just a simple hand squeeze, hug, or "how are you doing?" have meant the world to me. Oh, and one more thing: little, silly things that bring you down? They don't matter. Do not let them consume you.

I love you all.

PS: Yesterday in my letter to Laurence I asked him to give me some U2 songs today as a sign of comfort. He gave me three. It really was a...drum roll please...Beautiful Day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dear Laurence...

Dear Laurence,

Does God separate his angels into teams?

I know that's a pretty bold question to start off with tonight, but it's the first thing I thought of. Like, are there angels who watch over the poor, angels who care for the sick, angels who lead those who are lost? And do these teams have captains? I'm willing to bet that if this is the case, you are the captain of  some kind of team. Maybe other teen angels who spent their time on earth helping others. Maybe you all found each other up there in Heaven and you're working together now, trying to help the rest of us. I bet you'd be a great captain, just like you were for your soccer team.

I have a very selfish favor to ask of you, though. Can you put your angel duties aside tomorrow and focus on my dad? He will receive some news back on his tests regarding the tumor in his lung, and I am hoping and praying that it is good news. If Heaven works the way I think it does, you probably already know the results, and maybe you are working on how to be supportive of each of us tomorrow as we wait. All I need is peace and understanding. I have confidence that my dad is going to be okay, but I may need some help putting that confidence into practice tomorrow while I wait for my parents to tell me the news.

Back in September, when my dad was first diagnosed, there was a few days where I heard U2 songs everywhere I went. In the car, in stores, at the gym. etc. I am positive that was you, showing me that you were here, and that we were going to get through this. Maybe tomorrow, you can throw me a U2 song?

Sometimes I wonder what you would be like if you had never gotten sick, and if you were still here. Tragedies will happen and I'll watch the news and think "man, what would Laurence have done if he was here?". There's no doubt in my mind you'd still be changing lives and inspiring people. Because that's happening now, even though you aren't here. Every single person who hears your story is touched, and moved to action. It's incredible.

This day makes me miss you, but I know, I just know, that good things continue to happen because of your legacy. I am sad that you did not get more time, but I am overjoyed that I had the honor and privilege of having you as my little buddy, that I witnessed your story, and that I can tell that story.

I look for you a lot. Just in passing- in the smiles of others, in acts of kindness. Sometimes I feel you beside me, cheering me on when I have a new idea or a goal. But two years ago, I saw and felt you most when we were in Ft. Walton. We are headed there again in April, and I can't wait to see you there. We will be side by side, just like when we were kids.

I love you Laurence. Please look over my daddy and the rest of my family tomorrow. I miss you. See you in Florida.

<3 p="">

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why we gotta be so mean?

A very wise young songstress once sang "Why you gotta be so mean?"

But really...why DO we have to be so mean?

There are countless articles, blogs, research, and workshops dedicated to discussing bullying amongst kids and teens. And I am totally on board with that. I support any and all anti-bullying campaigns. Seeing a child heartbroken over being called names is disgusting, and should not be tolerated in schools, online, or anywhere.

But what about adults? What if workplaces wrote people up for bullying? Took away their lunch hour as a punishment for being a bully? Why is it ignored once we reach a certain age, and why aren't we doing anything about it?

I witness it constantly. Not just at work, by the way. At the bar, I have heard girls call other girls fat. At the gym, I once saw a couple giggling and pointing at other people. I see it via social media all the time. People are downright cruel. We are so quick to judge, criticize, roll our eyes, and gossip.

As adults, we should not be so worried about "being cool" or "popular". We should not be turning our back to others just because we don't think they are "cool" enough.

Come on. Guys and gals, we are better than this. We have all seen Mean Girls, right? We've heard this quote:

"Calling someone fat won't make you any skinner. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter. Ruining someone's life won't make yours any better. The only thing that you can do in life is solve the problem that's in front of you."

I think we can learn a lot from this quote, if we really put it into practice, and think before we speak.

I am not totally innocent. I gossip. I roll my eyes. In fact, I will fully admit to you that I have said some really mean things, usually when I am caught up in a moment of anger. But I am certainly not proud of that. I hate that I do it, and I want to stop. Every time I catch myself in the web of nasty words and bitterness, I feel awful.

Can we also quit being so jealous of one another? When a friend has good news, be happy for them. Don't roll your eyes or muster up feelings of anger. You want your accomplishments to be celebrated, right? So bring out your pom poms and cheer on your pals. You don't have to throw them a party or buy them a card. Use your words. Say something like "Hey, I'm really proud of you.".

There is enough ugly in this world. Each of us have the ability to make it a little more beautiful, so reach inside of you, find the love, the spread it. Make sure you sprinkle some on yourself, too, because you deserve it.

The anger, jealousy, and bitterness that sneaks into our veins needs to be released. Perhaps if each of us makes a conscious effort to dispose of it, life will be a little happier. Can't we at least agree to try? I think we owe it to ourselves.

To close, I have written a short, simple mantra to try to keep myself in line:

Think before you speak.
Listen before you act.
Try to understand before you judge.
Be happy, before you let jealousy win.
Smile, embrace, accept, love.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Three People in '13.

I meant to write this lblog as one of my cliche "end of the year" posts. But the end of the year came, and went, and I never got settled enough to write it. It keeps creeping through my mind, though, and that is usually a sign that I need to just sit down and write. So here I am.

I met some awesome people in 2013. There are three, however, that stick out the most, three that made a profound impact on my life.

I've mentioned Paula on this blog before, so forgive me you have heard this before. But she kind of changed my life, so I think she deserves a few blog mentions. And then some.

Before I knew Paula, I vaguely knew of her. I know she was an OBGYN, I knew she had a handful of kids (4). I knew she was one of Martha's best friends, and that my mom loved her and her kids. I knew she was my landlord's sister in law (weird, right?). But prior to June 2013, I could not have picked her out in a crowd if you paid me. She was just another Hugo parent to me.

In early summer, when I was having the health scares, my mom asked Paula for advice. Paula took it upon herself to schedule an appointment at a local fitness center. She had heard good things about it and thought that it might help. After gathering up all the necessary information, she invited my parents and I over to teach us what she knew. As you can imagine, I was less than thrilled about going to some strangers house and having her tell me about a gym. There were about a million other things I would rather be doing. I was both anxious and embarrassed when we rang Paula's doorbell. She sat us down and was so gentle in her approach, carefully explaining each amenity the gym had to offer, and stressing how important it was for me to get my health under control.

You guys know the rest of the story. I joined the gym and now I'm one of those crazy people that wakes up at 5 am to go workout. But what you don't know is that Paula has been an essential piece to this puzzle. Not only is she responsible for getting me started, but she is a constant source of advice and encouragement. When I first started working out I would text her the little changes I was noticing. She was always so quick to respond with positivity, that it made me want to keep going. I still text her-it's sort of a way of keeping me accountable.

Besides the weight loss, she's been a huge support to my parents through my dad's diagnosis. Since she works at the hospital where he was, she was always around, answering our questions best she could, bringing us coffee and food, and letting us cry and vent. Once during that horrendous week she came down and found me in the cafeteria and we just talked. I needed that. Badly.

Paula is a special person. She's been an amazing friend to Martha, to my mom, and now to me.

I got this feeling of panic when my sister told me we were going to take family photos the day after Halloween. Here's the thing- I'm one of those people who's slightly obsessed with looking at other people's family photos and engagement photos. But I despise being in them. I think most people are probably like that, because we're all so self conscious. I was so nervous for our photo shoot. I knew Ryan would look adorable- as always, but was scared how I would look. Awkward, probably.

My mom told me that Anne, another Hugo person, was going to be taking our pictures. I didn't know Anne. I checked out her portfolio online, though, and it looked like she did beautiful work. But I was still nervous as hell.

Similar to the situation with Paula, my nerves were settled almost immediately. Anne has a beautiful spirit, and you can see that right way. She radiates. She is also super laid back and made us laugh, even though we all felt a little nervous. She made us feel like rockstars and beauty queens. She even gave me my own personal photo shoot, as the only non married one there. Just in the few hours that I spent with Anne, I can tell she is a genuinely good person. So sweet, passionate, and full of positivity.

You know how there's some people in your life who you meet and you think "I want to be like that" ? That's how I felt about Anne. If I could bottle up her personality and sell it, I would. Is that creepy? Probably.


If you ever meet someone who consistently makes you laugh so hard you nearly choke, you need to keep them around. That's Mary for me. I met her on our trip Up North in July. Immediately, she had me cracking up. She has these incredible one liners. And the best part? She just says whatever she wants to say. Mary is one of the realest people I have ever met. She will say exactly what is on her mind, and she doesn't care how it sounds to other people!

I recently saw Mary again on New Year's Eve and she is just as funny as I remember. And again, her confidence in herself and her ability to speak her mind are two very admirable qualities. Sometimes I think of the things Mary has said and just start laughing. She's someone everyone should meet at least once, because when you do, your worries will go away and you will just start laughing and forgetting about all the silly stuff holding you back.

I hope that these three women stay in my life for a very long time. I was certainly blessed to meet them, and to know them. Much love to you all.

Friday, January 10, 2014


I am forever haunted by January 10th and 11th.  It was this date, two years ago, that tragedy ensued. It was tomorrow, January 11th, that I heard what happened.

It was the most angry, scared, sad, and confused I had ever felt in my entire life.

How? Why? How? WHY? God, WHY?

As humans we try so hard to understand these kinds of things, to wrap our heads around the tragedy. But we can't.

No matter how many January 10ths and 11ths pass me in this lifetime, I will never forget 2012. I will never forget how I felt. And I will never forget you.

I see your face in the faces of so many other moms that were just like you. I have met a lot of new moms this year, and in each of them I see a lot of your qualities: compassion. strength. love. pride. truth. I see it in Martha and Paula, in Julie, in Deborah, in Anne, in Carolynn, in Esther. I know you are holding each of us close, helping us hope over each obstacle presented, giving us hope and strength.

Most of all, I see you in my mom. You were such a friend to her, and a person she admired. She adored you. But what she doesn't always realize, is she is a lot like you- loving, kind, passionate. Like you, she always wants to help others. She's a special woman, and you meant a lot to her. I believe she carries your spirit with her.

I miss your kids. They are so beautiful. I know they are being taken care of, I see pictures and it warms my heart to see the smiles on their faces. The girls are so tall, and starting to look like you. Nick is becoming a handsome young man. I miss my mornings with them, back when you were still here. They will grow up to be life changers, no doubt. They are so full of love- love that you gave them- that I have no worries about them. I just miss them.

Today, I wish I could gather up everyone that knew you and we could all spend a few hours together remembering you and the impact you made on our world. Your family, friends, students, coworkers, and me...your babysitter. All of us could hold each other, cry, laugh, pray. I know so many of us will be thinking about you today.

To everyone hurting over this loss, to everyone replaying the memories of today and tomorrow in your head over and over: May you be comforted by the fact that the qualities you loved the most in Susan are qualities that are also in your heart and in your soul. You just gotta let em shine. Susan was a pro at that- she shined so bright, that she shed light on this whole town. Remembering what happened is hard- it gives some of us nightmares or anxiety attacks. But remembering Susan, and her smile, is easy. I have absolutely no doubt that if you are reading this and knew Susan, you were impacted her in some way. She left a piece of herself with everyone she met. Take that piece and hold it close. Snuggle it tight. And then, each day, remember that it is there. Use it. Use it to get yourself through the day or to help someone else.

We miss you, Susan.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Weight Loss Wednesday

I will not lie to you, I was a little apprehensive about today's Weight Loss Wednesday post. I have only lost about another 0.5 of a lb since Christmas Eve. I was hoping to lose at least a few more, so I was feeling kind of down.

But then something special happened. My friend Christine sent me a link to her wedding pictures. I was the maid of honor in her wedding back in late September. I love the pictures- they are stunning. I already have a large stack picked out to be printed and framed. But the first thing I noticed was how much weight I have lost since then. My arms appear flabby and big in the pictures, where now they are stronger and more toned. My fingers are super chubby in the pictures, where as now they are thin. And my face looks bloated at the wedding, now it is much thinner and longer.

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Also, I worked in a different branch office yesterday. I had not been there in quite a while, and several people noted how much weight I have lost and how different I look.

And on New Years Eve, when I walked into my friends house for our party, my friend Mary exclaimed "Is that Megan??"

So I need to stop obsessing about the number on the scale and remember how I feel and the progress that I am making. A few months ago I could not even begin to get myself into the plank position, now I can hold a plank for 15 seconds. I can do 75 squats at a time. I can do 60 crunches at a time. These are things I never thought I could do before. My next challenge for myself? Push ups.  Never liked em, never pushed myself enough to do them.  But I'm going to try.

I know I shouldn't get too frustrated about the number on the scale. I need to focus on the other successes and victories, and how I am feeling. But it is hard when I seem to go in this cycle now of "nothing, nothing nothing, BOOM 2 lbs, nothing nothing nothing". I am antsy!

A few people have asked me to share some of my workouts and recipes. So under the cut, you will find that information. If you aren't interested in that, thanks for reading what you have so far, and I hope you have an amazing week!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Polar Vortex

When winter began, I wrote a blog about how I can't stand it, how the darkness and cold get to me. I always have a little hope, though, that maybe the winter won't be so bad, maybe we will get lucky.

Not this year. This year we've been hit, hard. I mean, like, right now it is a windchill of -36 degrees outside, with about 9 inches of snow. You know what happens to snow when it's that cold? It freezes. You can't salt the roads below 15 degrees. So basically? We're screwed. We are going to be living in an icy, frozen snow globe for the next few days. Before today, I could not have possibly imagined what -30 degrees would feel like. I can now. It feels like your blood is getting sucked out of your veins. Your nose hairs freeze. Your breath is taken away and you begin to cough. Your eyes water. Your cheeks ache, burn from the cold. Any inch of skin exposed to the cold feels like it is going to fall right off. It's not a good feeling.

If I was a kid, this might be kinda fun. Eating warm meals, chugging hot chocolate, laying around watching tv and coloring all day because of no school. But now, I'm anxious. I did a lot of work from home, but if I get stuck much longer I will run out of the things to do, and will need to get back to the office to continue. Our company has sent out emails stating our safety comes first, and that they expect us to make the right decision, but at the same time, work piles up. Patients need to be seen. When you work for a hospice, the need to work is constant. It's not easy to just take a few days off or be away from your work. Our patients still need us. 

This is one of the worst winters we've had, at least in the last few years. The cold temperatures are hitting records. I guess we were due for it. And I know, it's Michigan, we should expect this kind of weather. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. 

This winter is a real test for me. I could curl up in a ball in my hoodie and sweatpants and stay locked up in my room for a few days, not doing a darn thing except worrying, and obsessing. But I know that, very simply, I can't do that. Doing that means letting winter/darkness win. I've come this far, I will continue to fight through this storm (literally) to get to the sunshine. I have, instead, continued to do as many work projects as I can. I've taken shoveling snow as my task, trying to clear the way for a few of us. I write- this 500 words challenge has been a savior, allowing me to let my mind wander. And I've been cooking. Soups, mostly, because what else tastes as good as soup when it's -36 degrees outside? 

So it's not all bad. It's difficult, and a little annoying, but I am blessed in that I have a warm home, a job that cares about my safety, food in my pantry and fridge, and the health to shovel. 

This will come to an end. We will see warmer temps and sunnier skies soon. I will rejoice the day I put the shovel back in the garage, knowing I won't see it again until next year. Until then, I will tiptoe on the ice, carefully paving my way.

PS: Saturday is supposed to be 40 degrees. A heat wave for us. The snow will melt, and we'll get ready for the next storm.


Monday, January 6, 2014

You're the Lucky One...

Everyone assumes it's so easy to be you. You have more money than most of us could ever dream of having. More money than any of us would ever know what do do with. You are constantly given luxurious gifts- cars, clothes, etc. You get paid to do what you love to do. Everyone knows your name.

But when you take away all of the perks, I bet it's not so easy being you. People analyze your every move, every decision you make is judged by whomever is watching. You make one mistake, and people turn against you, calling you names and laughing at you. Your weight is a constant topic of discussion. You're too thin, eat a hamburger. You look anorexic. These things are spoken about you constantly. And there's so much pressure put on you to be perfect, to be a role model. You've got to do it right, you've got to please the people. Give them what they want to hear, always put on a show,fake a smile. You're told where to go and when to go there, what direction to go in. Security surrounds you constantly, to stop harassment, or worse, in case  someone gets a little too close and tries to hurt you. Your words are taken too seriously, or not seriously enough. You are a constant target for bullying.

I bet a lot of nights are lonely for you, once the entourage disappears and you are left alone with your thoughts. You must constantly battle who is actually a friend versus the people who just want a glimpse of fame, so they use you and your friendship to get there. You don't know who to trust. Men throw themselves at you only to break your heart when they decide they are bored. Your family worries that you work too hard, your old friends start to think you are forgetting them. You haven't forgotten them, you miss them so much it hurts, but you don't know how to tell them that without sounding desperate.

And then there's your fans. Most love and adore you, praising you and your existence. But some fade away, finding new role models, new favorites. It's sad to see them go. Others completely turn against you, or worse, pretend they don't like you simply because their friends say you aren't cool enough. And others, well, they are downright cruel, sending death threats to your ex boyfriends or anyone who has dared to speak ill of you. Those fans are the most complicated, and they make things hard.

While it would be fun, exciting, and adventurous to live a day in your high heels and pretty dresses, a day is all I could do. Because I know it's not easy, it's exhausting and confusing. But know this: Despite all the hate, bullying, criticism, and exhaustion, you are still the light in people's lives that shines brightly when everything else goes dark. You are still a face of hope. Your words are full of dreams, possibilities, and truth. So don't let the hate ruin you. Let it fuel you to keep going.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The map in my room

A map of the United States hangs on a wall in my bedroom. Heart stickers, the glittery kind, mark the spots of where my out of state friends and family live. Before I drift off into dreamland every night, I stare at the map, thinking of my friends and praying for them. Some of them I have not spoken to in quite a while. Others, I am constantly texting. But no matter the distance, or the frequency of our communication , they will never lose their spot on my map..or in my heart.

Other times, when I am sad, or overwhelmed, or anxious to get out of the cold weather, I look at the map and plan my escape route. Where would I go? To a cabin in the moutains of Vermont? To a hipsterish loft in Seattle, where I could jump in puddles and drink my Venti skinny vanilla latte from the original Starbucks? To a studio apartment in Nashville, walkng distance from the Bluebird Cafe? There are so many possibilities, and possibilities give me hope.

I have no actual plans of escaping. Sure it might be fun to one day throw all my stuff into a Uhaul and head south on 75, but right now, that is all just simply a thought.

As tired, cold, and overwhelmed as I get sometimes here in Michigan, it is home. It is everything I know. I have built a life here. Some of it was handed to me, through my parents and family, but it has been primarily up to me to make it what it is.

I know a lot of people who have moved and built a life for their own in ther new home. My brother, for instance, went to college in Indianapolis, 5 hours away from us, and has lived there ever since. He made friends there, gotten an amazing job (and a few promotions!) and met his now wife there. One day, they will raise their children there.

I give my brother, and other friends who have moved away, a lot of credit. While I'd love to move to Nashville and write songs and stalk country stars, I don't know that I'm that brave, or that financially stable, or strong enough to leave this place behind.

Some people may call me naive or a coward, wondering how I can dismiss the idea of moving or leaving home until I try it. They may say I need to just take a risk and do it. But I simply cannot rationalize leaving what I love behind to start all over. Maybe that does make me a chicken. But I'd like to call it committed. I love it here. I love being 10 minutes away from my parents, sister, brother in law and nephew. I love living with my best friends. I love being active in my church, volunteering for Gilda's club, and discovering new breakfast places with my boyfriend. My life here is not glamorous, it is nothing to envy. I don't have a lot of money, I do not go to fancy dinner parties, I'm not anyone special. But it is a life that gives me comfort, joy, and peace. And I'm more than okay with that.

I think I'll always keep that map up in my room. It feeds my dreams and imagination, and it warms my heart to think of all my family and friends nestled in their homes across the country.

I pray that wherever you call home is a place that is happy, and full of love.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

overcoming food addiction

I've always had a pretty messed up relationship with food.

Even at a young age, I was sneaking food...hiding it, storing it away for later. At first I believe it was out of boredom, but it later became an aide to my severe anxiety. As a kid I would grab handfuls of chips or stuff Oreos into my pockets. I got a sick thrill out of sneaking food. I have a very distinct memory of opening the fridge one night and stuffing my mouth with leftover almond boneless chicken, quickly ,so that no one would see me do it.

My issue with food got much worse when I started driving. I discovered the beautiful convienence of fast food restaurants. I would order the largest order of chicken fingers and fries I could before parties and dances, and on most days after school for my "snack". Another favorite treat for me at that time was pop tarts. Don't ask me why, because they are disgusting, but I could eat a whole box. If my parents were gone for an evening, it was a free for all. Id devour cartons of ice cream or make myself two whole chicken pot pies. They caught on, and we'd talk about it often. My dad would take me to the grocery store to pick out healthy foods. But it seemed the more they tried to help, the more I resisted and rebelled.

College life became straight up dangerous, because along with all of the eating, I was adding alcohol into the mix. A lot of alcohol. I don't like to talk about those days now, but they were bad. And soon my body began to turn on me. I was tired all of the time, lethargic, and was constantly feeling "under the weather".

The food addiction did not really slow down until I moved out of my parents house in February 2011. And even then, it did not totally stop. I would still swing by mcdonalds or Wendy's on my way home from work, or have a night alone where I would tear through an entire pizza and bottle of wine by myself.

I ate because I didn't care about myself. I knew it wasn't healthy, but i continued to sabotage myself.

I can tell you now with confidence and glee that I have broken my food addiction. The last time I ate a whole pizza by myself was last January, after my ex boyfriend Derrick and I had gotten into a fight. If I eat fast food it's a kids meal with apples instead of fries or a chicken sandwich without the bun. I no longer sneak food. There aren't a million wrappers under my bed. But just because I don't give in does not mean the temptation is not there. It's there every moment of every day. Driving home from work is one of my biggest challenges. I pass the Wendy's and Dairy Queen that used to be my frequent stops. Now I just keep driving. I grip the wheel so tight and just focus On the road ahead of me, reminding myself of all the healthy food I have to cook at home. After youth group on Sunday nights I so, so badly want to take leftover pizza and eat the whole box on the way home.

But I don't. I distract myself by praying or calling a family member. I learned to cook to give myself a project, so that I know exactly what I'm eating and feel both proud and satisfied.

It's certainly not easy. But it can be done. I can push past the temptation. I can overcome addiction. I can be happy, healthy, and proud of my body.

It was difficult for me to write this, and I considered leaving it unpublished. But I am taking a risk and letting you all into a little glimpse of my life that was hidden for so long. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction or eating disorder, please seek help. You are worthy of love and of a healthy life.