Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Tweets

Back my popular demand (and by popular, I mean I asked on Twitter if I should post this and my friend Julie responded with a YES!), here are my favorite Tweets this year.

This was a big year on Twitter and it is a big source of news and political chit chat. But I'm just going to post things that made me laugh. I hope they make you laugh, too.

When Nicki Minaj called one of the Teen Mom girls a Ding Bat:

When my friend Lizz made this awesome pun:

This relatable Tweet:

This beautiful moment from the Superbowl:

When Taylor Swift expressed what we were all feeling during the Superbowl halftime show:

My girl Melinda perfectly describing her love for coffee:

My thoughts exactly:

My friend Kristen being an adorable flower protector:

My friend Dean who became a new parent this year:

Kristen being the Kristen we all love:

Leslie Jones being...Leslie Jones:

Meghan Tonjes and her sass:

One of the many Olympics tweets that brought me joy:

The adorable lovefest between Laurie and Beyonce:

Whole Foods People Watching:

Mamrie Hart and I share a love for Trader Joe's:

Once again, Leslie Jones being Leslie Jones:

I actually almost choked laughing at this one:

Christmas carol truth bomb:

And that's a wrap, folks!

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Jams

10. Postmodern Jukebox, Squad Goals
If you haven't been exposed to Postmodern Jukebox yet, it's about time to are. They are brilliant. They take current hits (or in some cases, old hits) and make them into jazz/swing masterpieces. I love a lot of things about PMJ, but one of the best things about them is that they showcase different vocalists and musicians. Several former American Idol contestants (Haley Reinhart, Casey Abrams, Rayvon Owen, and Melinda Doolittle, to name a few) have taken the lead on some of their most popular covers. Take a listen for yourself and prepare to get hooked.

9. Jimmy Eat World, Integrity Blues
I haven't listened to Jimmy Eat World in years. But earlier this year, my brother shared one of their songs with me. I loved it, and then learned that they had recently released a new album. The album flows together beautifully, it is truly crafted in a heartfelt, emotional tone that I can't get enough of. The songwriting and lyrics are what stand out the most to me.

8. Kris Allen, Letting You In
Kris Allen is a singer-songwriter, who found his fame on American Idol. His album Letting You In is full of sweet lovesongs. What I love about this album is that is very authentically Kris. He is not trying to be anyone else, he's kept the same sound and style. And while sometimes it can be good to mix things up, for Kris, this is what works. The songs are great, he has a passionate, sweet voice to match.

7. Haley Reinhart, Better
You may recognize Haley from her videos with Post Modern Jukebox, or her voice from the Extra Gum commercial. I know Haley from American Idol. I actually wasn't a fan of her for most of her season, but the night she was eliminated she sang "Bennie and the Jets" and I listened to it so many times I thought I was going to break my computer speakers. It was that good. I was a fan of her first album, released in 2012, and have followed along with her as she took the spotlight several times with PostModern Jukebox. Her second album, Better, was released in 2016. I knew I was going to like the album the minute I heard the first single. Haley's sultry, raspy, soulful vocals are near perfect on this album.

6.Castro, Diamond Dreams
I was absolutely ecstatic when I learned that the Castro siblings were finally putting their talents together for form a band. Jason Castro is one of my favorite American Idol contestants of all time, and I've actively followed his brother Michael on Youtube for a few years now. I knew that their sister, Jackie, had pipes of her own. Combined, they make a beautiful, soulful trio. Their harmonies are pure goodness, dipping into Americana/folk sounds. I immediately added "Automatic" to my list of potential Wedding songs.

5. Halo Circus, Bunny
I've been following Allison Iraheta's career since her American Idol days and I was so glad when I found out she had started an alternative band called Halo Circus. Their debut album dropped this year, and shortly after the band went on tour, which was funded by fans. (And yes, I happily donated to help bring them to Detroit). The album reminds me a lot of pop music from the late 90's/early 2000's. (I'd use No Doubt as a comparison).  Allison's raspy, yet beautiful, vocals carry throughout each track. I fell even more in love with the album when I was able to see the band perform it live.

4. Sia, This Is Acting
This album was one of the biggest blessings to come my way in 2016. When I was going through a really dark, sad period, I stumbled on the song "Alive" by Sia and felt so overcome with hope and determination. The song soon became my anthem, and I checked out the rest of the album, drawn to Sia's incredible vocals and lyrics. I'm so glad that I did, because soon the album was on repeat. Many of the songs have a similar message to "Alive", and suddenly the album became an aide in my healing.

3. JohnnySwim, Georgica Pond
One of my very favorite singer/songwriter duo's, and they happened to be married! I love these two, their harmonies, lyrics, and their soulful voices. Hoping to see them live for the first time this spring. Georgica Pond is simply another beautiful album from Johnnyswim. It is probably best described as soul mixed with blues and if that's your thing, check this album out.

2. Bruno Mars, 24k
Bruno's last album was released in 2012. I have been anxiously waiting for new music for him since then. Besides Uptown Funk, Bruno has remained pretty quiet. Until earlier this year, when he announced his album would be out in late 2016. It's just the album I was hoping for: pop, with heavy Motown/funk influence. It was well worth the wait!

1. Beyonce, Lemonade
Full Disclosure: I was not a big Beyonce fan before Lemonade dropped. I mean, I've always liked Beyonce. I have passionately sung my heart out to many of her songs. But I've never owned a full Beyonce album. And then Lemonade happened. I watched my twitter feed explode when the Lemonade full video dropped, and I was instantly fascinated. So I gave it a listen, and I fell so in love with the album that I downloaded it immediately and listened to it at every chance that I had. It is so incredible. It tells a story, and it tells that story across several different genres of music. I recommend listening in order.

As you can see from my list, I've included a handful of American Idol alums. Before you roll your eyes, I'd encourage you to give it a listen. I think you'll find that they each have a very different sound. I've included my three favorite songs from each album listed (with the exception of Lemonade, since that's not on Spotify). Go ahead- listen- and then report back. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Healthy Holiday

Healthy eating is really hard at this time of year. Personally, I crave carbs when it's colder outside. I am comforted by warm bread and pasta. Plus, everywhere you turn there is candy, cookies, and other treats. I get it. It's tough.

I had a piece of pie today. I normally only eat pie, or really any dessert besides a chocolate fiber brownie, on very special occasions- like holidays or parties. Sometimes Tom and I will split a piece of pie or dessert after a date night, but even that is rare. 

So here I was, on a Monday afternoon, eating a piece of pie. And I enjoyed every minute of it. 

But, there's the part of me that, of course, feels just a little guilty. So I started talking to myself, building myself up and reminding myself how I was going to stay on track for the rest of the week. I thought some others may want or need to hear this too, so here we go. Here's how I plan to stay healthy through the holidays.

1. It is a very, very real possibility that you will see a slight increase on the scale between now and New Year's Day. Do not fret. It is okay. More than likely, this is just due to the increase in salt and sugar in your diet. Do not get so discouraged that you throw the towel in, do not give up your healthy lifestyle over it, and DO NOT beat yourself up. It's OKAY.

2. Drink a ton of water- you should be drinking half of your weight in ounces every day. If you're working out, drink a little more. Water will help flush out your system. It is especially helpful to drink water on the big party days. 

3. Exercise! Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in every day. This won't always be do able, and sometimes it means just going up and down stairs in your building or taking a few extra laps around the hallways to get some steps in. Do what you can, but try to get those 30 minutes in. I know with the winter weather it's even harder, but your body will be grateful- and it helps boost the mind, too.

4.  Eat lots of protein. This week I am eating egg muffins with spinach and green pepper in them every morning for breakfast to start my day with a protein boost. Next week, when I'm detoxing from Christmas parties, I will probably drink my green smoothie for breakfast (spinach, banana, peanut butter powder). Snacks should include greek yogurt, protein bars, etc. 

5. Roasted vegetables make a perfect side dish at this time of year, and they are healthy! Cut back on the oil (I just spray my veggies with coconut oil instead), season them however you want, pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes and voila. You have a delicious, healthy side dish.

6. Take small portions. I cannot resist cheesy potatoes on Christmas, but instead of taking way more than my tummy can handle, I take a small scoop and will fill my plate with salad and vegetables. 

7. Limit the alcohol.  My drink of choice is beer, but because it's heavier than most drinks and I'd rather eat my calories rather than drink them, I will probably go for a glass of wine instead. (Sidenote, drinking water in between alcoholic beverages is a lifesaver)

8. Listen to your body. It will tell you when it's had enough. Our eyes often want more than our tummy does.

9. HAVE FUN. For goodness sake's, it's Christmas. No matter what you eat, or how much you do or do not exercise, you are still a warrior who is going to continue to kick ass. At the end of the day this holiday is not about food or exercise or counting calories, it's about enjoying time with your loved ones. So do that. Recognize the beauty in you, and do not define yourself by your food choices.

That last one is one I constantly need to remind myself of.

Got any other tips? I would love to hear them!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

My 2016 Christmas Card Letter

At about 5 pm today, exactly one week before Christmas, I thought that I should go buy some Christmas cards to send out to my friends and family. But.... I's one week before Christmas. I am traveling for work the next two days. So by the time I would actually sit down and write the cards, it would be the 21st or 22nd. My cards, if I got them done, likely wouldn't get to people on time.

So instead, I found myself here. On my blog. I'm going to do a simple review of my year, a simple review of the year in general, and then share my holiday wishes to each and every one of you.

If you take away the world tragedies that occurred in 2016 (more on that in a minute), I had a pretty great year. I started it off by chopping 8 inches off my hair and slapping braces on my teeth....because why not change things up? The first few months of the year were focused on the planning of my best friend Sam's wedding, which was on April 2nd. We threw her two showers and a bachelorette party between January and February. It kept me busy, but boy did we have a lot of fun along the way. I loved every minute of it, even the stressful times. It was an honor and a privilege to play such a big part in her big day, and to be able to grow closer to some of my other friends through that. For as long as I have known Sam I've known that she is a romantic, a dreamer, a lover, and someone who likes to have a good time. Her wedding was all of those things and more. I couldn't be happier for her and Eric as they  approach their one year anniversary.

When spring rolled around, Tom and I found a great place to live together, starting the next chapter of our story. I switched gyms, I got back into yoga, I was working crazy hours as we were in our busy Relay for Life season. I grew closer with my coworkers, particularly Jenn, who quickly became one of my very best friends.

Summer meant spending time by the pool, going to concerts, going for a run every Sunday morning, having my annual "Girl's Weekend" with some of my dearest friends, and welcoming my baby niece Cara into the world, just two days before my 29th birthday.

Oh, and I also got engaged. Two days after Cara was born (so... my birthday, if you're playing along), I was sitting at home, waiting for it to be time to go to the 98 Degrees (yes, I'm serious) concert, when Tom walked in from work, took off his boots, and asked me to marry him. I knew the big question was coming soon. We had open conversations about it. So I wasn't that surprised, but somehow, the tears still came. I was completely overjoyed. I've known for quite a while that Tom is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. That night we celebrated with some close friends (and 98 Degrees), and the celebrations continued throughout the weekend. We felt so much love coming from so many people. We quickly went into wedding planning mode and got some of the biggest things checked off the list right away.

With fall comes another peak at work, and I once again found myself working plenty of late nights and weekends. I kept running every Sunday until it got too cold, I went on my annual retreat with Sisters and Associates of Mercy, and I tried to spend as much time with family and friends as I could.

Through all of this, I am very, very grateful to say that my dad, who has battled lung cancer with brain metastasis since 2013, has remained relatively healthy.  We had a few scares along the way, but the doctors have always found a way to make his disease stable again. I can't say it's been any easier, or that I haven't had my moments of break downs over his stupid cancer, but I also know that we have been very lucky. He continues to fight and we continue to stand by him and carry him through this.

So while overall it's been a great year for me personally, I will admit that I have had my personal struggles. There are times I am way too hard on myself, or I get incredibly anxious and feel my heart nearly coming out of my chest, or there are times when I feel an overwhelming sadness and fog. I know I am not alone in this, and although it can be hard to talk about, I am not ashamed, either. It's part of who I am. I have found ways to work through these, and I know that it will be a lifelong thing. I am grateful for Tom, family and friends who helped me through my toughest moments.

So now that you learned a little bit more about my year... let's talk about 2016 in general.

It was rough, right? I think that all of us, no matter what side we are on politically, have felt the divide. There was the deadly shooting in Orlando, the instances of police brutality, the instances of police being killed, human trafficking on the rise, the Flint water crisis, and the election. It seemed like nothing but negativity was being put out into the world for a while. I remember one particular week where I just didn't want to get out of bed. I couldn't believe the world we were living in was so violent and scary, and that there was so much hate. There were many days when I felt helpless, hopeless, and just plain frustrated. I could go on, but I think we all get it, and we've all heard it. 2016 wore us out.

Many of us are now asking the question "where do we go from here?" and "what do we do now?". I spent a lot of time thinking about this, too. I wrote about it on this blog a few times, so forgive me for being repetitive. But when it comes to 2017, here is my hope for all of us:

I hope we don't give up, or give in. I hope we continue to fight for what is right. I hope that we can love ourselves and one another with everything we've got left in us. I hope we are refueled and re energized.  I hope that we have not let the tragedies of 2016 rip the goodness that is left in us. Because we need that goodness if we want peace. I hope we don't ignore our neighbors when they need us. I hope we take time to listen and to see what is going on around us. I hope that our passion and our words move to action. I hope that each of us can live a life where we are healthy, we are happy, and we are at peace.

As you are planning for the new year and choosing resolutions and your focus, think about where you may be able to do the most good. If you've been neglecting self care, this is the year you change that. Take care of yourself. You are worth it. If you can do just a little bit more to make the world a better place, find ways to do that.

Personally, I always find the idea of a new year a little bit scary, but that's coming from someone who doesn't like change. I'm terrified of what's to come, I'll be honest. But instead of spending every minute of every day in fear, I let myself have my moments where I can break down or be scared or just lay in bed for a few hours, and then I get back to work. Because there is always work to be done. Whether it's actual work for my job, or taking care of myself or my family or spending time with friends or volunteering, those are all things that I have to do to keep going. And I must keep going.

I hope you keep going, too, even when it feels impossible.

We'll do this, together.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2016: Books and TV Shows

While most people are excited about baking Christmas cookies and wrapping presents, I'm excited to start making my "end of the year" lists. First up, books and TV shows!

I read 22 books in 2016.  Here are my 5 favorites:

5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I read a few suspense novels this year...and of them, this was my favorite. As the title suggests, it is certainly dark. Gillian Flynn can certainly tell a twisted story. This was full of surprises, and it gave me goosebumps...multiple times. If you were a fan of Gone Girl, I'd highly recommend this.

4. In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. I really wasn't sure about this novel when I first started reading. There were so many characters, each giving their point of view, and in the first few chapters I found it confusing to keep up and differentiate between the characters. Once I started to understand who the characters were and how they were connected with each other, I got really into the story and found it harder and harder to put down the book.

3.  The Problem With Forever by Jennifer Armentrout. It's no secret that I love Young Adult Fiction. I find it fascinating to get in the heads of these coming of age stories, and I often find pieces of myself in the characters. It is both heart wrenching and heart warming, and grabs you right from the start. I related to Mallory and her anxiety in so many ways- and I loved how raw the author made it. It's a high school romance, sure, but unlike any I've ever read before.

2. Where Am I Now? By Mara Wilson. You know the adorable little girl from Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda, and Miracle on 34th Street? Well, now she's this spunky, funny, wise young lady. I started following her on Twitter a few years ago because I kept seeing her witty tweets popping up on my feed. She is very in tune with world happenings. I was excited to read her memoir because I loved her movies when I was a kid, and love her blog and Twitter account now. I'm so glad I read this book. Mara is a wonderful storyteller- in her memoir she shares memories of being a child actor, of friendships and dating, of losing her mother from cancer at the age of 8. She also opens up about her Obsessive Compulsive disorder, and how she has learned to adapt to it. A terrific, authentic memoir.

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This is a powerful, moving novel that I could barely put down. Kristin Hannah is known for her love stories. And while The Nightingale certainly has love stories woven it, this book is so much more than that. It is about two sisters during wartime, it is about women and their strength during wartime. It's a fantastic read, and one that I recommended to just about everyone.

Honorable Mentions: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight.

What were your favorite books that you read this year?

Next, my favorite TV shows I watched.

Full disclosure, I don't watch a lot of TV. I was going to do movies...but that's even more limited. So, here we go.

5. This Is Us. I knew I was going to love This Is Us the moment I saw a preview for it. With the same writers from Parenthood, how could you go wrong? My gut feeling was correct. The show is amazing. Some of the acting could be better, but the heartfelt writing is there. I'm always wondering what the next twist will be.

4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This show just brings me so much joy. It is hilarious, upbeat, and full of pop culture references. I laugh so hard watching this show, I often have to pause it and rewind to hear it again. I cannot wait for season 3.

3. Nashville.  I have loved Nashville since it started in 2012. Season 4 was jam packed with drama, love stories, and, of course, music. My heart broke for Juliette, who was struggling with some serious depression. I went through the ups and downs of Rayna and Deacon and Scarlett and Gunner. I love this show, it's twists and it's ability to capture me with the music!

2. American Idol. 2016 was the last year for American Idol (for now,.....) and although this year's group were not my favorite group of contestants, I still enjoyed the season. My favorite contestants were Olivia, Mackenzie, Trent, La Porsha, and Avalon. Admittedly, I haven't really kept up with any of them post Idol. What I loved most about the last season was that they brought back old contestants. Kelly Clarkson's emotional performance of her song "Piece by Piece" was one of the highlights of the season. Also, the finale was basically a giant nostalgia fest and really showcased past favorite contestants. I'll miss American Idol, but I will forever cherish all the memories it has given me.

1. Orange is the New Black. Season 4 premiered on Netflix on June 17th, and I was finished with the season by June 18th.  I know there was a ton of negative feedback surrounding the season, but I loved it. It was much darker than previous seasons, but I thought they did an excellent job of portraying just how corrupt our prison system is, as well as playing out real life issues like racism, police brutality, and sexual assault. Also, I have never in my life cried so hard over the death of a character. I felt like someone in my real life had died. I still think about the ending of that season, I talked about it nonstop for weeks. I cannot wait to see what they do with Season 5.

Honorable Mentions: Fuller House & Modern Family

What were your favorite shows this year?

Monday, November 21, 2016


I am thankful for my past and all it's experiences, however painful they may have been, for shaping me into who I am today. I am thankful for every person who taught me a lesson that I carried through the years, for my family for gifting me my core values, my parents who provided encouragement throughout my life. I am thankful for every place I've visited, for every friend I have made, for every broken heart I suffered. I am thankful for God's timing, and that He carefully placed people in my life when I needed them the most. I am thankful for every job I have had. I am thankful for every  mistake I have made. I am thankful for every accomplishment thus far, no matter how big or small. From learning to ride a bike to losing 140 lbs. From being a Kairos leader to becoming a Mercy Associate. From loving to read to learning how to write from the heart. I am thankful for every second of every day that has led me to right here, right now. I am here.

I am thankful for the present, and all that is surrounding me. I am thankful I have a warm place to live, a family that I adore, a fiance who is my very best friend and my other half. I am thankful to have a job that I love, with co workers whom I can call friends. I am thankful for friends who are still here, and for all the fun that we have. I am thankful for modern medicine for keeping my dad alive. I am thankful for the music that comforts me, the books where I can escape, and all the silly things that bring me simple joy like foxes and hot tea and sunshine and podcasts and yoga. I am thankful for my mom and all that she does to keep the pieces together. I am thankful for each moment that I am still breathing, still alive. I am thankful that God embraces me, forgives me, and comforts me. I am thankful that when I am down, I don't stay down. I am thankful for the people that bring me back up. I'm thankful that I am here, with all of you, experiencing this life.  I am here.

I am thankful for tomorrow. That I have a chance at tomorrow. That there is so much left to experience. I am thankful for the memories that are yet to be made, the people I have yet to meet, the books I haven't read and the songs I haven't heard. I am thankful for the learning that is still to come. I am thankful that although I do not know it yet, God has a plan for me. I am thankful that who I was yesterday, and who I am today, will help who I am tomorrow. By the grace of God, I will be here.

I am thankful for me. I can be incredibly hard on myself, sometimes questioning if I am deserving of the love that I am getting. But I am worthy, I am strong, and I am thankful that I have never given up on myself. I am thankful that I have kept going. Because I am here.

And you, you are here too. And you deserve to be here. If no one else has told you this lately, I will tell you: I am thankful for you.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Together we fall and together we rise

It's been said that this was the most stressful election ever. I've read stories and articles of how the election has broken up friendships and caused rifts in families. And, it's clearly causing a divide across our country.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Soon, most of us will be gathering in homes with our family and friends, eating delicious food, drinking, and watching football. It is a day for us to truly take a step back and remember what we are grateful for. Right now, a lot of people in our country aren't feeling very grateful. I get that. So many people I know are feeling uneasy, scared. Most people I know, no matter what side they fall on, are fueled up, ready to fight back against anyone who disagrees with them. And I get it- we should be having dialogue. I'm not discouraging dialogue.

What I am discouraging is for hatred to leak through your words. When you come face to face with someone who clearly disagrees with you, instead of instantly engaging in heated arguments or spitting out words that are hurtful or hateful towards anyone, just take a minute. Take a minute to put yourself in that person's shoes. Think about why they may believe what they are saying. Agree to disagree. Let it go.

There are some behaviors, I realize, that aren't worthy of your time. If someone is abusive towards you, or other humans in general, and you simply can't have a discussion with them, then don't. In those cases, I say it's okay to stay away (if possible).

I'm directing this at the people who may only see their extended families once or twice a year. This Thursday may be that only time. You may know ahead of time you don't agree politically. That's fine. You don't have to. Shake of the hostility, engage in healthy conversation, and show that individual the same love and respect you want shown your way.

I know what some of you may be thinking. That the world doesn't work like this, that we can't all just smile and ignore what is happening, that we need to TAKE A STAND. And trust me, I am all for taking a stand against racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. I think there could be opportunities for teaching moments, if they are done without violence attached to them.

But I also think one of the best things that we can do is to show our love out loud, obnoxiously. And that includes showing our love to the people who don't agree with us, as hard as that may be.

It is my hope, that this Thanksgiving, as you fill your bellies and celebrate amongst loved ones, that you can truly enjoy the holiday,  honor your gratitude, and speak your love. I can't say it will be easy, but I certainly hope it will be worth it.

PS: If you're like me, you'll find comfort in music. Maybe this song will help. It's called Same Side, by Jill and Kate, and it's available on Itunes tomorrow. Perfect timing.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fear. Believe. Hope.

As I sit down to write this, I pray that my my words have meaning, and that I am understood by everyone who reads this. I am not asking for everyone to agree with me, I am not trying to change any minds. I simply hope to be understood and respected just as I am trying to understand and respect others.

I am not happy that Donald Trump has been elected President. I am not whining because my candidate did not win. I am not going to attend a protest (although I am not judging people who are). I am not angry at my friends who voted for Trump, nor am I angry at my friends who voted for 3rd party candidates.

I accept that he is going to be our next President. It's not any easy thing to say, or do, but I accept it. I accept it, though, with fears. Today, I thought I would share my fears, my beliefs, and my hope.

I fear that the progress we've made toward LGBQT equality will move backwards. I fear that hardworking immigrants and refugees will be deported and families will be torn apart. I fear that Muslims will be assumed to be terrorists. I fear that thousands upon thousands of people will not have access to health insurance. I fear that other countries will not trust us. I fear that Trump's attitude towards women and minorities will rub off onto others. I fear that too many people will feel targeted and unsafe in their own homes and workplaces. I fear that Donald Trump will be too quick to judge, that he will be irrational, and that he will be, in essence, a bully. I fear that some of the people who stand by him are not thinking of the poor and marginalized.

Yesterday, a video went viral of middle school students yelling "build that wall" at students of Hispanic descent. This is disgusting, disturbing, and wrong. The message to those kids? "You aren't welcome here, get out". How did we become this way? How did we let our fears of the unknown, our fears of people who are different than us, allow us to become hateful, angry people? I don't know, but I don't think Donald Trump is going to be able to reverse that. That's scary.

As a blanket statement, I believe that every human person, no matter their stage in life, their sex, their national origin, their economic status, their sexual orientation deserves love, respect and care...and equal rights.

When it comes to what I believe in, I align nearly perfectly with the Sisters of Mercy and what they stand for:

You can read more about the Sisters of Mercy here:

So what do I hope? I hope that I am wrong about Donald Trump. I hope that he can lead our country in a peaceful, united way. I hope that we can ALL feel safe. I hope that we can come together, address concerns and fight for a better and brighter future. I hope that we can truly be united. I hope we can treat every single human being with the exact kindness we would treat our loved ones.

And I am not just going to sit back and see what happens. I am going to continue to be someone who  embraces others and who stands up for what I believe is right. I am going to stand next to those who are standing alone. I am going to support the Sisters of Mercy and their ministries, I am not going to engage in violent conversations. I am going to love so, so loudly. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Have you ever given much thought to your breath? To how often you breathe, the rhythm of your breath, whether or not you breathe through our nose or mouth?

Maybe, or maybe not. 

I've given a lot of thought to my breath. I distinctly remember an instance when I was young- maybe 6 or 7, sitting in the chair where my mom would do my hair for school. I had been thinking about my breath, and I said "I'm worried I'm going to stop breathing or forget how to breathe." Instead of brushing off my fears, my mom said "I know what you mean. I've felt that before, too. I just remind myself that I know how to breathe. But I know it can be scary". Ever since then, when I feel like I CAN'T breathe, I go back to those words. I know how to breathe. I know this is scary, but I will catch my breath again.

When have I lost my breath? In times of severe anxiety. When tears are falling too hard. When I am put on the spot. When I get scared. When I heard bad news. After a long run or a hard workout. And, at one point in my life, simply walking up a flight of stairs. But I always find my breath again. Without having to think too much about it, it comes back. And trust me, there are times where I do not think I will ever be able to catch my breath. But I always do.

All my life, the words "breath" and "breathe" have brought me immense comfort. I think it's the simple fact that to breathe means to live- and so long as you continue to breathe, you are still alive. You have not been consumed by whatever it is you thought was going to take your precious breath away.

I've been taking yoga classes here and there for the last three years. Breath, and paying attention to your breath, is one of the core aspects of yoga. Learning to really control my breath, to sit with my breath, to try different KINDS of breathing (who knew there were so many?) has made a very deep positive impact on me. I have a breathing technique when I cannot sleep at night. I have a breathing technique at the dentist, when I'm getting a massage, when I'm anxious, and when I'm nervous or when I'm angry. 

It's so easy to turn to someone who is anxious and to say, simply "breathe". Sometimes it can come off sarcastic, or rude. But breathing really is one of the best things you can do in that situation. It will bring on the calm, and the peace you need to move onward. 

I'm honestly not sure why I wrote about this, or that my post even makes sense. I just feel almost surrounded by the idea of breathing, and with breath comes calm. I know there are may be other people out there who struggle with anxiety and may "lose their breath", and I hope it helps to know- you know how to breathe. You WILL breathe. And you will become calm again.

I told you've I've been drawn to these words, I've also been drawn to songs that embrace this idea. I'll share a few here:

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I put my armor on, show you how strong how I am

Last week, my family learned that my dad has a brand new tumor growing in his brain. Ever since he was diagnosed with cancer in September 2013, we've been through all kinds of ups and downs, twists and turns. I've written about all of them. Perhaps, you, too, are getting sick of reading about it.

Cancer is not supposed to be easy, and of course, bad news comes with the territory. We get bad news, we fix the problem, we go on. Until the next thing happens.

So even though we are "used" to this type of news, even though we KNOW that this is not going to be a smooth ride, that doesn't make it easier. And that doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing about it.

Selfishly, writing helps me to release my emotions. But I also think it's important to share my dad's story- to share our story.

In short, it sucks. It feels like a sucker punch to the stomach every time we hear something like this. No matter how much fight we have in us to conquer forward and to leap over this hurdle, there is no denying that it plain sucks to have to deal with this.

I cannot promise you that we are going to "be positive" or "stay strong" all the time. There are some days when that is just too hard. There are some days where we need to cry or be angry or hibernate.

This is cancer in it's ugly moments.

Having said all of that, I want to assure everyone around us that we are NOT going to give up. My dad will fight, and we will fight. When one of us is weak, the others swoop in. We will rise, even when it doesn't feel possible. Because as ugly as cancer is, it also gives us this incredible gift of perseverance. Cancer has been the hardest, most challenging, work out I've ever had.

Thank you for reading my very raw, somewhat depressing ramble of emotions. Like I mentioned, for as much as cancer tries to bring us down, we will fight back 10 x stronger. It just takes a moment-or two- to get back in that mindset. After we catch our breaths, and after the tears stop flowing, we plan our attack on cancer.

I'm saying we, of course, because my family moves as a unit. None of us can feel what my dad feels or fight this fight for him, but together, we move forward, one step at a time. #carolinstrong

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pure Imagination

I can't remember the first time I ever watched Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. I just remember it being a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I've watched it countless times. As a little kid I was blown away by all the candy and magic that came with the factory. I longed to visit a place like that, equipped with a chocolate river and all! I loved how sweet Charlie was, I laughed when Violet turned Violet, I wanted to try an everlasting Gobstopper. I was terrified of that ride on the river, and I used to fast forward through that part. I knew that in order to be rewarded as a kid, I couldn't be greedy or selfish like the other characters in the movie. I even loved Mr. Wonka himself, for as sarcastic and sometimes scary as he was.

I continued to love the movie through adulthood. I appreciated things differently. Like how close Charlie and Grandpa Joe were and how the movie showed the importance of family. That if we treat others well, and do the right thing, good things will come. That we should be grateful for every moment, every experience, and everything we have.

But above all of these things, the biggest take away from Willy Wonka is this:

 If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it; want to change the world... there's nothing to it.

That was always my favorite part in the movie, when Mr. Wonka is singing this song. And maybe I didn't fully understand the words when I was a kid, but as I got older I sure did. That song is one of my all time favorites. I am brought to tears nearly every time I listen to it. It's so simple, but so beautiful. Paradise, as we know it, is right here. Right in front of us. And if there's something that needs to be changed, we have the power to change it. How amazing is that? Our minds, our imaginations, are really a beautiful, powerful thing. They can give us hope, they can give us ideas, they can give us power and confidence.

I often have conversations with God or my guardian angel. Sometimes, I doubt that these are real. Am I just making it up? Is it just my imagination? When I asked this question to a spiritual director, her response was "Did God not create your imagination?"

That was the only answer I needed. I no longer doubt the power of my imagination. As the song states, there is no life I know to compare with Pure Imagination.

When news of Gene Wilder's death broke a few weeks ago, my heart broke right along with millions of other people across the globe who were inspired by this movie or other work that Gene Wilder did. I'll always think of him as Willy Wonka. I'll always hear him sing the words of Pure Imagination. He made that movie what it is for me and for so many other people. I know that he had many great projects outside of this movie, but I can't help but imagine him up in Heaven in his Wonka costume, joking with kids and eating candy. Pure Imagination.

Bonus: Here is the Glee Cast covering Pure Imagination. One of my favorite covers they ever did It's just the audio but worth the listen.  :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I will not forget the first time I heard Adele. I was in college, partying with my roommates. Saturday Night Live was on in the background. My best friend Sam noticed Adele, the musical guest on SNL. Sam pointed at Adele and made a comment about how refreshing it was to have a bigger girl on TV, singing her heart out. Adele wasn't like the typical pop star.

I then remember seeing Adele's video for Chasing Pavements on MTV. I was mesmerized. Her voice was so soulful and rich. I remember jamming to her first album, 19. I remember how ecstatic I was when the hit single "Rolling In The Deep" was released. I remember shedding a tear the first time I heard "Someone Like You", but shedding even MORE tears when I heard "Don't You Remember", a track off of her incredible album 21.  I remember how anxious I was to get my hands on her third album, 25, and how happy I was to hear how she has grown as an artist and as a person.

My original impression of Adele remains true to this day: She is not the typical pop star. There really is no one like her right now. Aside from her outstanding vocals, emotional lyrics and soulful style, she's also (seemingly) down to earth, gracious, and hilarious. The real deal. Everything you could ask for in a singer, without any antics necessary.

I've never been able to see Adele live. She has sold out her shows every time she's rolled into town. And, as she gets more and more famous, it has become increasingly difficult to even try to get tickets. She's coming to Detroit for TWO nights, and both concerts sold out in a matter of about 5 minutes. I was "in line" on Ticketmaster just before they sold out. As the dates got closer, I was searching the Internet for tickets. I didn't want to pay a ridiculous amount, but I just couldn't imagine skipping out on this show. Of all of the artists I love, Adele is one I absolutely MUST see. I said so in 2011, and I say so now.

Well, luck came my way because my friend Kristen, who was one of the lucky ones who got tickets when they went on sale, decided to upgrade her seats and sold her original tickets to Sam and I. So now I am going to see Adele. I can barely even type that sentence out, it doesn't seem real. I know that may seem a bit dramatic...I just can't even believe it. Her music has gotten me through some of the toughest heartbreaks I've ever felt. I KNOW I'm not alone in that. That's what is so special about her music. So many of us feel something when we hear it. That's what makes Adele so special.

I feelings for Adele can be summed up in this tweet from 2015:

I wanted to share 10 Adele songs that you may not know if you don't own her albums. Make no mistake, her singles have been incredible. But I'm not going to include them here because my hope is to introduce you to a song you may have never heard before. So here are my 10 favorite Adele songs that were not radio singles.

10. He Won't Go

9. Million Years Ago

8. My Same

7. Take It All

6. Remedy

5. Crazy For You

4. Sweetest Devotion

3. One and Only

2. Don't You Remember

1. All I Ask

Monday, September 5, 2016


When I was in my teens, I loved to make a "Summer To Do" list at the end of every school year. They included simple things like "have sleepovers" or "go for bike rides". But I also set some pretty high standards for myself, adding things like "fall in love", "go on a week long road trip". (I never really checked those two things off the list). At the end of every summer, I would recap. How did I do? Did I check everything off my list? Did I have the BEST SUMMER EVER? I so wanted to always have the best summer ever. I wanted to be able to go back to school and tell everyone how amazing my summer was. 

It wasn't until my mid twenties that I realized my summers did not need to be epic. Maybe it was because I had a full time job, so summer wasn't so much a 3 month long break anymore. Or maybe it was because I realized that just being able to capture some really special moments were enough. I didn't need to have wild adventures or check things off a list. I just needed to enjoy the sunshine, and soak up all the fun that I could.

As I reflect on this past summer, I can't help but wonder how my 16 year old self would rate it. I mean, I got engaged to the love of my life. My niece Cara was born. Those are two pretty important milestones. Maybe I didn't go on any crazy adventures or road trips, but dozens upon dozens of adventures will be on their way. Tom and I have so much to look forward to- and entire lifetime, in fact. The engagement was just the first step. 

There was something else pretty magical about this summer, too. I ran a total of about 42 miles. Nearly every Sunday morning, around 8 AM, I was outside running my 3 miles. At first, my runs started off as a way to change up my exercise routine. Between boot camp, weights, and yoga, I needed some cardio. But at some point, it turned into something so much more. It became spiritual. It became time for me to talk to God,  but more importantly for me to listen. There were several occasions, where, while running, I felt God's presence more than I have in a very, very long time. Sometimes I heard a song that I needed to hear in that moment. Sometimes I suddenly got chills. Sometimes I felt a hand (or several hands) on my back. But most of the time, a message that I needed to hear suddenly entered my mind. At first I was afraid to tell people what I was experiencing when I was running. I was worried they might think I was crazy, or that I was exaggerating, or both. Now, I don't really care who knows or what they think. Those times have brought me such immense comfort and peace, that I've stopped questioning if it's real or if I'm crazy and just embraced it. 

I joke that I hate running. To be honest- it's still not my favorite. But I've certainly learned to like it much more than I used to. I love being able to beat my time, or try a new route. But most of all, I love that it helps me to clear my mind, and gives me quality time with God.

So...this summer, I got engaged to my best buddy, I celebrated the birth of my niece, and I ran. I also went to a few concerts, had a fun girls weekend, and spent a lot of time with my family. Best summer ever? So far, yes. But honestly, they just keep getting better. I bet my teenage self would never believe that. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Quit Worrying


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 , 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  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. .  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 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.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Give me strength for the fight

Today as I was leaving the hospital, after visiting my dad, I began to feel incredibly overwhelmed. My stomach felt like it was being punched repeatedly, my hands were a bit shaky and I just wanted to go lay down somewhere. This feeling has come over me several times over the last few days. I know the feeling well. It's called anxiety.

After I talked myself through the physical feelings, I started to sort out the mental. I came home, collapsed into my bed head first, and had a heart to hear with myself.

Me "Dude! Why are you having such a hard time this time around? You should be an old pro by now!"

Me "I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm also moving in a week and because work is so busy right now"

Me "But when Dad was in the steroid psychosis you were in the midst of Strides season- and you were a Strides manager! and you handled that just fine!"

I sat with that for a while. Why do I feel like I handled it fine, maybe even handled it better, back then, but that I'm barely holding on now? At first, I started to see this as a sign of weakness. Maybe I'm not as strong as I think I am.

Or maybe I just don't remember how much I struggled. You know how people always tell pregnant women that they will never remember how much pain they felt during delivery? They'll just remember holding onto their sweet baby for the first time? Maybe it's kind of like that. Maybe I just remember my dad coming out of the psychosis, and the incredible sense of relief we all felt. I bet if I looked back at some of my posts from those days, I would find plenty of examples of when I was "barely holding on".

Or, maybe, I shouldn't compare. I preach all the time that we shouldn't compare ourselves to others. But I guess we also shouldn't compare ourselves to...ourselves. We're not always going to be 100%. We're not always going to be strong. Life brings different circumstances and surroundings every single day and not one day can be exactly the same as the next.

I'm working on accepting that- that I have a right to be where I am now, emotionally. That I don't have to "stay strong" (even though those are the words people love to say the most). I can just BE. I don't need to feel guilty about how I am or am not acting. I don't need to worry about making everyone else happy. I can only do what I can do in these moments. I can't promise you all that you are getting the very best version of me right now, but I can promise you that you're getting the real, raw me.

As for my dad, he's hanging in there. The poor guy carried a look of sadness today that really tore at my heart, and maybe that's why I felt so defeated. I hate seeing him so down, and I wish I could snap my fingers and fix it. I feel helpless, and that's probably leading to a lot of my own emotional distress. I like to be able to help- and when I can't, I feel a little out of sorts. Please continue to keep my dad in your prayers, and send him all the positive vibes and sunshine you can muster up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You Come Back To What You Need

As most of you know, last week myself and my family were dealing with the news that one of the spots in my dad's brain showed significant growth. We found out late Tuesday afternoon. Over the next few days, all of us pondered what direction this would go. We really only had two options: steroids or surgery. Steroids once through my dad into a psychosis, and not one of us ever want to deal with that again. He's also already had two brain surgeries- how many brain surgeries can a man have?

Apparently, three. Or more, maybe. Because on May 6th, my dad will have his third brain surgery to remove yet another growth. The neurosurgeon says the spot is an easy one, and that the surgery should be a breeze. So that's a relief. Kind of.

It's still brain surgery. It's still his THIRD brain surgery.

It's yet another "roadblock". It's another unpredictable next step. And it's scary.

While we were dealing with that news, and with decision making, I was having one of my busiest weeks at work. It was a good busy- a lot of exciting things were accomplished and I was able to build on some really strong relationships to set me up for some success later down the road. But it was pretty hard to enjoy all of that while worrying about my dad, and my mom, and being mad at cancer and scared and annoyed AND trying to "stay positive" because Lord knows that's what everyone would tell me to do.

One more layer to add so that you can get an idea of how my brain was feeling by the end of the week: I'm also moving in a month. Moving can be stressful on anyone. But my move is a big change. Tom and I are going to be living together. Trust me, he and I are both incredibly excited and giddy over this, but we're also both scared. Neither of us have lived with a significant other before, and personally I never thought I would live with someone until I married them. But, somehow, our course has led us here, to this next step. And if you know me at all, you know I'm scared of next steps. Any next step. Anything that is unknown or new to me, terrifies me.

So it's no surprise to me that over the weekend, I slept... a lot. My entire body was feeling the exhaustion. I slept in, let the couch consume me, and went to bed before the sun was down. I needed sleep. Or maybe, I needed to shut down my brain. Either way, I slept a lot.

On Sunday evening, I took a walk. I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the thought of starting a new week (yet another busy week at that). I was wanting the weekend to go on forever.

At some point during my walk, "This Love" by Taylor Swift started playing. I love some T Swift, and that song, but for whatever reason, hearing it on Sunday night just brought out a lot of emotion in me. The calm, whimsical melody brought out a peace in me. Something about it reminded me that I am right where I need to be, and that although times are stressful and unknown and chaotic, it's all going to be okay. I don't really know HOW I got that message, it's not exactly the message of the song, but in that moment, that is how I interpreted it, and that is what brought me peace.

The song says that she let a love go, and then it came back to her. I guess somehow I related this to my relationship with God. Sometimes I run away from God, or put up a wall, or lose trust in God. But God always comes back. That trust comes back.

I'm sharing my story with you because I know there are people out there who are feeling chaotic, messy, scared, and maybe hopeless. But let me remind you that you are where you are meant to be, life is happening as it should, and you are not acting alone. God is by your side.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Thanks For the Memories

I fully admit to having a slight addiction to social media. I love to see what my friends are posting, to keep up with the news and celebrities in such a quick, efficient way. Social Media has made it so much easier for us to connect- even if it's through a screen.

I'm also very nostalgic person. I celebrate really silly anniversaries, I remember dates well, I look through old cards and letters often. So you can imagine, then, that I am a big fan of the Timehop app, as well as the Facebook Memories feature. Those are the first two things I check in the morning. I love to see what I was doing a year ago. I smile as I scroll past the pictures and the tweets and the funny conversations.

But sometimes, those apps can leave me in a funk. It reminds me of people who have passed away, of darker times in my life, and of friends whom I no longer speak to. Usually, I can take the attitude of "yes, that was hard, but look! you got through it!". Other times, though, it just makes me feel sad. I start to dissect what went wrong, and then I start to blame things on myself. It's not the healthiest attitude.

I also can't help but wonder if the people in those memories are reading the same thing I am. And if they are, what are they thinking? Are they sad our friendship ended? Do they have negative feelings towards me? Are they wondering about me? Are they wondering if I am wondering about them? I have, at times, thought about reaching out to those people. But I always hang back. I tell myself that the friendship ended for a reason.  That may sound harsh, but trust me, in some cases, it's best to appreciate what we had at the time and let it go at that. But there are the others who I certainly could reach out to. They were and still are good people.  And I easily can reach out, with social media. But I don't. Why is that? Maybe I'm afraid of what they will say...or what they won't say. I'm really not sure what holds me back.

This post is not insightful by any means, and I'm not here to offer and solutions or advice. It's simply been on my mind, and I thought others could relate. These apps, like most things in life, have two sides.

What are your thoughts on apps like Timehop and the Facebook Memories?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Self Care

For the longest time, I associated the term "self care" with basic health and wellness needs. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods, etc. But over the last year or so, I have come to realize that self care is so much more than that.

Yes, all of the things I mentioned up above are important. As I've stressed several times on my own health journey, I really don't believe you can be helpful to yourself or anyone else unless you are feeling your best self.

But my point today is that it's not all about eating vegetables and getting sleep. It's about knowing your mind and your body well enough to know what you need at any given moment, and then acting on that need. It could be as small as getting up from your desk to walk a few laps around the office when you are starting to get a headache from your work. It could be treating yourself to a yoga class. It could be just sitting at your kitchen table, listening to music. The point is, it's whatever will get you through. It's whatever helps you take another step in life, or jump over another hurdle. We cannot expect to succeed if we do not take care of ourselves whole heartedly. We can't leave ourselves behind, we're stuck with who we are- so we need to embrace that person and treat them like the beautiful soul that they are.

If you had a friend or a family member that wasn't taking care of themselves, you would say something, wouldn't you? Most of us would. We would express our concerns. So we need to do that very same thing for our own selves. When you are starting to feel run down, or beat up, ask yourself "what do I need in this moment?".

Eventually, with practice, that will become second nature. You will start to put yourself first. Not in a selfish way. You will just start to know what you need to keep on keeping on. But even the most experienced self-carers (totally not a word) slip up, get lost in the chaos and forget. That's okay. It just takes a few moments to get back into that mindset.

There are thousands of articles on the Internet that tell you how to practice self care. They have some good tips, but I say---- self care is what you want it to be. There's no checklist or how to guide. It could be something different every time! That's where listening is key. You'll be surprised at what your own self might be telling you.