Friday, November 23, 2012

It Took A Random Act of Kindness to Adjust My Perspective...

Hello, friends.  I know.  It's been awhile.  Several weeks, actually.  I am back.  I've decided to continue to be a blogger.  But I haven't been in touch.  Life has encroached on my free time...dealing with a lot of knee pain, doctor's appointments, working two jobs, reconstructing the house after the hurricane took my bedroom away from me.  It's been a long month, for sure!

But today, something happened that made my perspective shift a bit and I made the time to come tell you about it.  Because I hope that it's going to do the same for you...give you some pause, cause you to reassess your situation, and then change your outlook.

While taking my son to his job this morning, we decided to go to our favorite fast food restaurant...Chick-Fil-A to get some breakfast before his shift.  We waited in the drive thru lane, made our order, got our total, and then came to the window.  When we got there, it took a few minutes for the friendly staffer to take our payment because she was pressing a lot of buttons on the register.  Finally, she smiled at us and explained that the man who was two cars ahead of us paid extra for the cars behind him.  The woman in the car in front of me got her entire meal free!  We ended up getting about half of our meal free!  I was stunned...and immediately humbled.  What a wonderful blessing on a busy, busy shopping day for a random stranger to help others - to spend his money on others instead of himself.  Wow!

After sharing our meal together, Kev and I had a few minutes before his shift began, and I needed a new pair of shoes, so we decided to brave the mall on Black Friday and see what sales we could find.  I was so pleasantly surprised at the kindness of the shoppers and the store staff on such a hectic day.  And the shoes I found...wow!  I have horribly bad knees, as you know, and need really comfortable and supportive shoes to make walking even POSSIBLE, much less comfortable.  I found a shoe at Nike called Lunar Allways TR that feels like it was custom made for my foot!  It's wonderful!  The regular price was marked as $79.99, but were marked on sale for $54.99, which was a good enough sale in my mind.  But at the register, they rung up at $42.00.  Happy Black Friday sale day!  Door busters at Nike got an additional 30% off this morning!  Double WOW!!

So after shopping, Kevin went to go do his shift and I headed home, happy.  It was then I realized something that I think I've lost sight of for the past month or so.

I am blessed.  Truly, truly blessed.

You see, for the past month, I've just been muddling through life.  Dealing with things as they come up, trying hard to be happy.  Too hard, really.  It's been such an EFFORT to try to remain positive with the physical pain I've been dealing with.  Add on top of that the housing situation because of the flooding from the hurricane, my ridiculous work schedule, and parenting stresses, and you can imagine that smiling has been a little forced lately.

But it shouldn't be.  Ever.  I am RIDICULOUSLY blessed!!  And that has NOTHING to do with the things going my way today.  It also has nothing to do with things NOT going my way during the past stressful month.

God has not forgotten me.  He showed me that today, reminded me that I am still held in the palm of His hand, still the apple of His eye, still placed in life exactly where He wants and needs me to be right now - painful knees and all!  I just have to choose to see it that way.

And it's time to do what He made me to do...be a source of positivity and light for this world.  That's who I am at my core, and it's time to be that woman again.  No, it won't make my knees hurt less (although these lovely new shoes may help with that!).  No, it won't make my house get repaired more quickly. No, it won't put a lot of extra income in my budget this month to give the kind of gifts I'd like to give this Christmas.  But it WILL be fulfilling the purpose of my life.  It's time to pay the kindness I've been shown forward.  It's time to bless others as I have been blessed.  I just had to remember how truly blessed I am!

So, my challenge to myself in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is to practice an act of kindness for someone every day.  And I'm going to challenge you to do the same.  Remember how incredibly blessed you are.  Focus on what you have, not what you don't, and from your physical, emotional, and financial wealth of resources...bless others.

Are you up for it, friends?  Make this holiday season the best one you've had in a long time...use it to bless others!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Long Time Coming...

I haven't written in a while. Maybe you've noticed. Maybe you've even missed me. Maybe not! (Don't tell me if that's the case, please!) But perhaps more than anything you've wondered why I went missing from my blog. After all, for the past 20 months or so, I've had a lot to say. Except for the past few.

Honestly, I've been deciding how to keep moving on this journey...determining if being transparent and blogging about how my life is changing is truly something I value, or only something that I enjoy when life is going well. That's been a difficult question to answer. It's required me to examine some deep places in my life and in my faith. But the fact that I'm back here talking may give you some indication of the answer I've reached.

I started this blog because I clearly felt the leading of The Lord to do so. That's why I began this journey to discover who I really am, too. Somehow, somewhere along my journey as a person, I lost sight of that and allowed myself to become someone that I didn't want to be. I found myself a few years back as a 328 pound arthritic woman who didn't love herself, didn't even really like herself, and lived every day in a great deal of physical and emotional pain.

Slowly, over time God's been walking me back, showing me where He wanted me to be all along. He's taught me things that He wants me to know about Him, but also about ME. I've looked at myself more openly and honestly in the past 20 months than perhaps I have in the past 20 years! It's been eye opening and life changing.

But it hasn't all been good. Or easy.

In fact, the past two months in particular have quite literally been hell in some ways.

I've had tremendous battles with physical pain. My left knee in particular frequently swells, frequently aches, and generally makes me wish I could amputate my leg above the knee just to get rid of the source of searing pain it gives me with every step. (Yes, I am a dramatic person...but no, I'm not exaggerating this pain. Sadly.)

In addition to that, I've had a fair amount of emotional "stuff" to deal with as I have transitioned to a life without my husband, at least for the foreseeable time being. I'm not going to discuss our marriage on this blog, because those discussions belong between me, Dan, and the Lord...not in the public arena. But you can imagine that making this adjustment, determining whether it is temporary or permanent, trying to discern His will for my life and marriage...these are weighty issues to take on.

The bottom line though for why I've stayed away from my blog is that I didn't want to be transparent with you about my weight. This blog is where I promised you...promised myself...that I would always be honest. And I don't want to be. However, not wanting to and not NEEDING to are different things. And what I'm feeling right now is a need to come clean.

I've gained weight. A lot of it, actually.

I had to seriously curtail my workouts, cardio in particular, because of my knee issues and because of my new schedule of working two jobs in order to function financially as a single parent. Mostly because of my knee, though. I've been too proud to leave the gym and go back to the pool for workouts, even though I know I should have and had much success with them earlier in this journey.

With a curtailed workout schedule I should have cut back calories. But I didn't. And over these two months, I've gained 20 pounds.

The scale this morning said 245.

No more 100 pound loss.
Not even 90!
Nope...only 83.

I am almost quite literally where I was a year ago...and I'm mad about that.

Mad at myself.

I know how to do this. I know that "eat less, move more" is how my body is designed to work. But I haven't done either of those things in the past two months. And I know why. Pride.

Too proud to admit I can't be in the gym right now and go back to the pool.

Too proud to come here and tell you about the bend in the road I'm trying to navigate...without much success.

Too proud to face the fact that I can't handle it all - the physical and emotional crap that's piled up in my life right now - and ask God to take it from me and handle it for me.

Pride.

So what's a girl to do when she finally faces the truth? Well, I figured I had two choices: end this blog, go on my merry way, and do life in private and hope for the best...or come back here and walk this walk in front of you, be as transparent as I've always been on the journey, and count on Him to build better things in ALL of us because of it.

And I chose to be here.

I hope you're still here, too. I don't know where He's leading us...but I'm here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pain Keeps Me Humble...

So it's been a week of ups and downs so far.  And I'm OK with that.  (Not that I really have a choice!)

The "Ups"...my new school year has begun and I'm having a blast!  I'm working with people I love and admire greatly.  The families of my students are supportive and friendly.  And the new kiddos themselves are a joy to get to know.  I'm looking forward to the school year being amazing.

Also a BIG "up"...I have an incredible community of family and friends surrounding me.  I've heard from many of them this week.  Phone calls, texts, emails - you name it - they've let me know they love me, support me, and are praying for me.  That's just overwhelming!  I LOVE these people...truly, truly love them!

The only real downer this week is I'm having tremendous knee pain.  Swelling.  Meniscus problems on the right knee.  Just a really icky week for me physically.  Only one night in the gym so far, and it's not looking good for the rest of the week at this point.  Hoping that changes, but not anticipating it.

But here's what I'm thinking tonight.  The pain is keeping me humble...keeping perspective for me.  I might forget how utterly wonderful the rest of my life is and begin to take it for granted if I didn't really have rotten parts, too.  So if this knee pain is what it takes to keep me reminded of how great the rest of my life is...BRING IT ON!  Because I don't ever want to take for granted the blessings that God has given me and forget to thank Him for them!

Good night, my friends...count your MANY blessings!

DISCLAIMER...this blog post was written under the influence of some heavy pain killers...so who knows if I'll feel this way in the morning!??!?!  Hahahaha!!!  Just kidding!!  (Not about the pain killers...just about tomorrow!)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Insecure? Me?? Umm....

Every once in awhile, the girl I was creeps out of her hiding place deep inside me and reminds me that she's still around.  Let me share with you something that happened earlier this week...

The Scene:  Chatting with a friend...we mention a girl that we grew up with...one that we both knew, but haven't seen in a long time.

My friend:  "Oh, I remember her...she was really, really cute!"

Me:  :-(

Now...what my friend said was completely accurate (she really was cute...and still is!)...and in NO WAY did the comment about our mutual friend have ANYTHING to do with me.  But do you want to know what I heard??

"Oh, I remember her...she was really, really cute!  So much more cute than you were..."

Insecure, much?  You know the answer to that.  There's no point in even stating the obvious.

My friend didn't say that.  Wouldn't ever say that, because my friend loves and respects me...and never even thought this.  Not once.  I'm completely confident of this.  But it doesn't change the fact that it immediately ran through my head during this conversation.

What really makes it even more disheartening that I would allow this kind of purely insecure, negative talk to permeate my brain is that I have several reasons this week to feel very confident.  I'm taking on big responsibilities this school year and have begun work this week on a great note.  I've also spent time chatting with some great friends, being encouraged by them about the positive changes I've made in my life...and hearing from them how these changes have impacted them positively, too.  There are so many things going really well in my life right now that produce feelings of accomplishment and success. 

So, where does that voice come from?  The one that whispers lies to me...that tells me people look at me, judge me, and find me inadequate and lacking in comparison to others?

Well, as someone who believes that there are spiritual forces at work and at war in this world, I can tell you that the enemy of my soul is largely responsible for that whisper.  But I can't lay this all on him.  Because I bought into that lie long ago...hook, line, and sinker!  The only reason he can use this weapon against me is because I allow it.  That voice is one that I've chosen to listen to over the past 25+ years as I've struggled with self image and obesity.  And that just begs the question...

If it was my choice to listen to those lies over the years and absorb them into my life, can't it also be my choice NOT to listen anymore?

Instinctively, I know the answer to that question.  And I'm betting you do, too.

The other side of those Spiritual forces...the side I'm allied with and have staked my eternal future on...whispers the TRUTH to me.  And I can choose to listen and believe.  In fact, I'm invited to do so.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." 

So, it's time to renew my mind...get rid of that old girl hiding deep inside of me and all of her insecurities.  I know who I am...and WHOSE I am.  And I like me. A lot.  And you know what?  The bottom line is that's all I really need.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Circumstances Are Neutral? Yep...I Believe They Are...

I said something in my last blog post that I want to explain more.  I've had a few people ask me about it, and really, understanding this idea has made a huge difference in how I approach my life these days.  So, let me explain myself a little bit.

What I said is that I believe that circumstances - the things that happen to us in our lives - are neutral.  I believe that these events have no emotional impact until we choose to react to them and assign them that value in our lives.

Just like the transmission of a car in neutral is not capable of moving the vehicle either forward or backward until a gear is engaged, so the circumstances in our lives are not able to impact us either positively or negatively until we choose how we are going to respond to them.  My car will move in the direction I tell it to when I engage the gear I select.  My response to circumstances will create the feelings that the circumstances produce in my life.

Here's an example of what I mean that might help explain it a little better.

The arthritis and tendonitis in my knees is a circumstance in my life, a circumstance I deal with every moment that I'm awake and standing on them.  Physically, my knees are painful...there's just no denying that. But emotionally, arthritis is neutral...until I assign an emotional response to it.

Some days, that response is frustration.  On those days, I tend to whine a bit about my circumstances.  I often can be found sitting down to ease the pain a bit, although sitting for prolonged periods really doesn't do anything to help my knees, and can in fact make them MORE painful physically because they get stiff from being in the same position for too long.  Frustration days lead to no working out - after all, the knees aren't going to get any better because I work out, so why go, right?  These days sometimes lead to emotional eating, although I'm getting better at choosing not to do that very often anymore.

So, let's recap...choosing to respond to the pain of my arthritis with frustration leads to whining, a sedentary lifestyle, and possible food binges.  Anything positive hiding out in there that I missed?  No...I didn't think so!

Other days, however, my response to the pain of my knees is determination.  I am determined that I will do what I can do...all that I can do...to decrease the amount of pressure on my knees so that the pain will go away.  The best and only way to do that is to lose weight, and I know that, so I work harder at it, with a different kind of resolve.  I eat less, move more - no matter that it is painful - and grit my way through a workout, take anti-inflammatory meds, ice my aching joints.  In short, I do all that I can do to lessen the impact of arthritis on my body. 

Now, let's look at this response to the circumstance of having arthritis.  Responding with determination leads to eating less, moving more, and taking care of my joints in a way that makes my physical therapist proud of me.  Those are decidedly positive outcomes in my way of thinking.

Here's the deal...having arthritis and tendonitis in my knees is neither positive nor negative.  It just "is".  It is a neutral event in my life...until I choose how to respond to it.  It is my response to the circumstance, not the event itself, that determines whether it's positive or negative for me.  I understand that most people see arthritis and pain as negative things.  But my belief is that it's only a negative in my life if I choose for it to be.  I can reshape my thinking, deliberately choose to focus on something other than negativity, which makes the circumstance something other than negative, too.

Is any of this easy?  No.  Not really.

I wish I could tell you that I consistently choose the positive response to the circumstances in my life.  I try to.  And many times I'm successful.  But not always. The reason for that, I believe, is that my "default" is wired to be somewhat negative.  I'm programmed to interpret physical pain as a very negative experience, and then I do things in response to that experience that I think will lessen my pain, like become less active.  The problem is, the things I choose to do are often things that will have the exact opposite impact.  They'll increase my pain, not lessen it.

If it's not easy, is it at least worth it to play this mind game?  Yes.  Most definitely.

While I can't tell you that I'm always in a good place mentally, I CAN tell you that when I am thinking this way, my life is happier, my mood is better, and honestly...my knees hurt less!  Perhaps it's because I'm focusing on something other than pain.  Perhaps it's because positive thinking releases serotonin or other endorphins that block the pain.  Perhaps it's because I'm doing things that really do lessen the pain, like strengthening my quads, hamstrings, and other muscles and tendons that will work in place of my messed up knees.  I don't know...and honestly don't really care.  I do know that it's true.  Choosing a positive response to my circumstances leads to very, very positive outcomes.

I hope you will consider what I'm saying here and not discount it.  Because this is not just Angie wearing rose-colored glasses and not having a true view of the world and how things are.  No...that's not me at all.  This is Angie being EMPOWERED in her life to determine what her outcomes are going to be.  And the best thing is, you can do this, too.  Once you believe it.  So think on it a little bit...see if it makes some sense to you.  And better yet, start trying it!  See if it doesn't work for you, too!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's Been a Week! (Or Almost Two...)

Very rarely will you ever see me when I'm not smiling.  It's not that I am completely happy all the time, because I'm not.  But I tend to have a smile on my face much of the time, no matter what's going on in my head and heart.  In fact, I'm somewhat known for it.  I don't think I ever fully frown (very bad for skin tone...and I don't want wrinkles!), but there are times in my life where a smile is hard to come by. 

This past 10 days have been that way for me.

I've had very difficult parenting challenges with a teenager who needed to be reminded that mommies are to be respected...and that self-control is a virtue that will get him far in life.  Also with a 20-Something who pretty much withdrew from life for awhile after losing a job that he didn't really enjoy, but paid his bills.

I've been getting used to living alone (even though my boys are here most of the time) after living in a full house for the past 24 years.  It's had its ups and downs, but perhaps more downs in the past week or so.  (Broken lawn mowers don't help with that!)

I've been a little sick lately.  Nothing overwhelming - just a sinus and ear infection that I'm sure will be feeling better soon.  But facing each day with a pounding ear and head before you even get out of bed is beyond frustrating.  Especially when you're as busy as I've been to begin this month.

I've been hurt by a few people that are incredibly close to me. Unintentionally hurt, but nonetheless hurt. And now I am working to heal those relationships, which is important, but not really easy.

And I've experienced death indirectly.  Not once...but twice.  That has most definitely been the hardest thing that's happened in the last 10 days, and that is what has robbed me of my full smile lately.  It's been hard to get it back, frankly.

Yesterday, my friend was laid to rest.  She was an extraordinary woman, so upbeat and positive.  Despite the fact that she struggled with a fatal disease for much of her life.  Christina had Cystic Fibrosis, and she far outlived the typical person with CF.  There's no known cure for CF, and Christina knew that.  But she lived her life as fully as she possibly could.  She was a loving wife, a fantastic mommy, and a source of great encouragement to me and her other friends.  She has been with me on this journey from the beginning, often giving me private comments to let me know that she thought what I was doing was amazing and that she was proud of me. 

Realizing that I won't have any more of those comments from her hurts me.  But what hurts me more is that her husband and children have to face life and move forward without her.  Mommies aren't supposed to leave their young children behind.  Trying to understand the "why do bad things happen to good people" conundrum is taxing.  And as much as I love God and trust that He's in control, there are just times when I don't get it.  At all. 

Which is pretty much how I feel about the other death I experienced this week.  The day after Christina succumbed to CF, my friend and colleague, Barb, lost her husband when cancer took him from her far too quickly.  When they got the diagnosis at the end of the school year, the prognosis wasn't good, but I'm pretty sure that no one expected he would leave his family and friends so soon.  Tomorrow, when we all gather to support Barb at a memorial service for her husband, I'm sure those sentiments will be shared by everyone who knew him.  Such a loss.

So, it's been a tough month of August for me so far.  The thing is, sometimes life is like this.  Often, actually.  Seems like we spend a lot of time struggling through difficult things in our lives.  All of us, not just me.  So what do I take away from these 10 days?  A few things, actually.

First, we are much stronger than we think we are.  My friend Christina showed me that, outlasting by a good bit the typical life expectancy of CF, mostly by sheer force of will, I believe.  My friend, Barb, is showing me that by facing the loss of her husband and best friend with grace and dignity, despite the fact that he left so suddenly and with such pain.  People can do so much more than they believe they can.  We sometimes only learn this lesson through adversity.  But wouldn't it be wise if we remembered it in the good times, too?  Maybe then we'd experience fewer defeats in our challenges if we could remember that we have the strength we need to face them head on and be victorious.

Next, I take away that tough times don't last forever.  They come...but then they go.  It's hard to remember that while you're right in the midst of them, but it's no less true.  My friend's husband, Stephen, is moving forward.  He took their daughter to dance class today, beginning to understand and embrace his role as "Mr. Mom" as he called it.  Does he miss her?  To the uttermost depths of his being, I'm sure.  Is he still aching?  Absolutely.  But is he moving forward?  Yes.  The best he can, he's moving on.  I'm sure Barb will experience the same thing.  And I know I have and will, too.  We all do. 

Finally, the last takeaway from the beginning of this month for me is this:  perception is not reality.  We treat it like reality, but it's not.  My feelings, my perception of these events over the past 10 days has been largely negative.  People I care about dying or losing people they love...children struggling to grow up and become the men I know they'll be one day...sickness robbing me of energy and creating pain...friends hurting me - not one of those things feels positive to me.  But the reality of the situation is that my response to those circumstances in my life is up to me.  I get to choose how I will respond.  I can respond in very positive ways that lead to good outcomes, or I can choose to dwell in my feelings of negativity, which will not produce anything good.  How I perceive these events is not what they actually are.  The events themselves are neutral.  They have no feeling automatically assigned or associated with them, only what I choose to give them.  What each of these difficulties truly is in my life is an opportunity.  A chance for me to put into practice what I preach and choose my response to the circumstances of my life.

So, I think that smile may just have to come back.  Because I'm done feeling defeated and negative.  Yes, it was a difficult start to the month.  But I'm still here.  I'm still working on my goals in life.  These ten days have not stolen anything from me that I can't replace if I choose to.  Happiness isn't about my circumstances at all.  It comes from a much deeper place, and right now, I'm reclaiming it.  I don't enjoy any of the circumstances that have come my way, but I am better, stronger, and healthier because I've dealt with them and learned from them.  THAT is how I choose to view the first part of August. 

Now...let's move on to better days!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Music Has Always Reached Me...

I love music.  Truly.  From my earliest days I could be found singing all around the house.  In fact, my mom (and later my husband) had to enact a "no singing when you wake up" rule in our home.  It was just too hard for these non-morning people to wake up to cheerful, happy singing. So I complied to preserve the peace in our home...but I still sang in my head!

I discovered early on that I learned lyrics easily and remembered them well.  Eventually, someone taught me how to sing...thank you, Judy (Woods) Hooks!  And then I learned that I was an alto and figured out how wonderful harmony feels when you get the "money" note in a chord.  Oh!  Not much tops that in life, my friends!

Music has always reached me.  Always.  It's the language of my heart.  It speaks to me and teaches me in ways that little else does.  And lately, it's been my "go to" for this journey, particularly on the tough days.  The messages that I get from the music I love have been a big part of how I'm choosing to reshape my life.

Today, one of the people I follow and enjoy on Twitter used a quote from a Switchfoot song, "This is Your Life", as his post.  Here's what the chorus of that song says in part...

"This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose..."

Well, needless to say, songs that pose questions, even rhetorical ones, command my attention and engage my thought as I ponder the answer.  This IS my life...am I really who I want to be?  And if not, why?

I've said to a few people lately that I feel like I'm living someone else's life these days.  And I just want to have my own life back.  Well, that feeling may be understandable given the enormity of the changes I've endured in the past 6 weeks.  But in reality, this IS my life...the result of choices I have made, both on my own and in response to the choices of others.  And if it's not what I want it to be...if I'm not who I want to be...then it is up to me to change that.  Before I can make those decisions, though, another question has to be posed and answered. 

Who DO I want to be?

You see, it does me no good to make grand, sweeping changes in my life without having an idea of who I really want to be when all is said and done. 

What do I value?  How does that play out in my life?  In what ways does my life reflect what I truly believe and would be willing to die for? 

The answers to those questions require me to look at myself with complete honesty - to see my strengths, as well as what is lacking in my character.  It's only with that knowledge that I can decide who I really want to be, and make the changes I need to become that person. 

So, this is what I'm doing these days...seeking the answers to these questions...evaluating where I am, where I've been, and figuring out where I want to go from here forward.  And isn't that what a "journey" is really about anyway? 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why Am I Up and Watching a Bicycle Race???

A quiet morning.  The sun begins its gentle rise up over the horizon, peeking through the small slats in my mini blinds, beckoning me to awaken and join the day.  I slowly open my eyes...stretch contentedly, smile, and get up from my warm bed to begin another day. 

Um...NO!! 

Welcome back from the brief trip to Fantasy Land!  That's not really how it went down this morning around my house.  More like this...After getting only about 5 hours of sleep, having stayed up last night (and early this morning) to pick up my son from work at 1:00 AM, my body woke me up at 6:30, apparently deciding that I'd had enough sleep, although it is a perfectly wonderful Saturday morning when I could have stayed in bed for MUCH longer! 

So, why was I up?  Well, I can tell you this for sure.  I wasn't awake specifically to watch the bicycle race that was on my TV when I turned it on for some company (because you and I both know that my 20 and 17 year old sons were NOT awake at 6:30 this morning! Shoot...the DOG was barely awake!)  I was probably awake because I'm a middle-aged woman, learning how to adjust to her changing body, which apparently requires much less sleep than it used to.  (Boy, I hope that changes soon!  I feel tired, but wake up after only a few hours of sleep!)

So perhaps I'm asking myself the wrong question.  It's not "Why am I up?"...the better question is "Why did I watch bicycle racing?"

Well, I know nothing about bicycle racing other than there's a really long race through France each year that is bigger than the Super Bowl...if you're a Frenchman and don't have an NFL team to cheer for.  (For those of us who do...no bike race will EVER hold a candle to good old American FOOTBALL...but I digress!)  My point is that I didn't watch bicycle racing because I'm a big fan of the sport.  Nor did I watch it because it was the only thing on my television.  I could easily have changed the channel and found any number of things that would have interested me.  That's the beauty of paying Verizon for FiOS every month...literally thousands of channels at my disposal.  But I didn't.  I kept it on.  Probably for the same reason that I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics last night.  This is the OLYMPICS, for goodness sake...the biggest competition EVER!

To me, there's something wonderful about watching the culmination of an athlete's training and preparation play out in competition.  In fact, I get so captured by it that I forget I'm not a fan, that I know next to nothing about the sport, and I'm right there, cheering along with those who live and breathe bicycle racing!  Competition will do that to me.  It always has.

When I was younger, I used to compete at both team and individual sports.  I enjoyed the contests...and winning, which I did a lot.  And I hated losing.  As I got older, for some reason, I changed my focus to academic competitions versus physical ones, perhaps because I changed to a very sedentary lifestyle in my late teens and early 20's and didn't win the athletic pursuits nearly as often.  I still played the brain games to win, though.  And often did (and still do!).

What maturity has now taught me, however, is that competing is really only of value in my life long term if the person I'm competing against is myself.  Oh, there's nothing like the thrill of victory beating someone in a game of cards or board game.  But that feeling is short lived.  Competing against myself in my pursuits, though, is an entirely different euphoria when I win.  And it's a much more lasting and satisfying result.

I'm sitting here at my desk as I write this post.  Under the glass top that protects my grandmother's antique wooden desk is the bib from my first (and so far only) 5K race.  Just looking at that number 68 makes me smile almost a year later because I easily remember the victory that day.  Oh, I didn't win that race.  In fact, I came in pretty much dead last in the Cougarthon 5K.  (Angie and Dan were with me and wouldn't let me cross last, but let's face it, I was the last place finisher.)  But I was competing with ME...not those other runners.  I had never even come close to walking that far before, much less trying to do it quickly.  I won that day because I finished...finished when I really wasn't sure that I could! 

Now, 10 months later, I can walk/run a 5K in a much faster time than I set that day.  And every time I step on the treadmill, I try to beat it.  I'm not always successful at bettering my time, just like I don't always win the other games I play against people, but I'm always out there competing...going for the win.  Competition fuels wonderful things in me.  Perseverance.  Determination.  Effort.  So many positive and useful character traits are on display in my life when I choose to compete.

So, why was I watching a bicycle race at such an early hour this morning instead of sleeping snugly in my nice warm bed?  Because the drama of the competition drew me in, like it always does.  And by the way...the finish of that race?  Completely unexpected!  I won't be a spoiler and tell you who won, but I'll say this...it was worth watching!  High drama!  (And we all know what a true drama queen I am! Ha!)

Have a great day, friends.  Go COMPETE...and WIN!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"You Want the Truth..."

The scene:  a military court martial, a courtroom filled with high ranking officers.  Jack Nicholson is sitting in the witness chair, testifying about the Code Red he ordered as a disciplinary measure for a young soldier, against military protocol and regulations.  Tom Cruise is grilling him like any good hotshot attorney would.  (And doesn't he just look YUMMY in that uniform...I've totally got a thing for guys in uniform!)  The interrogation begins innocently enough, but goes nowhere.  And then comes the climax...after a particularly heated exchange, brave, bold military attorney Tom demands: 

"I want the TRUTH!"

Angry, indignant commanding officer Jack thunders back: 

"You want the truth?  You can't HANDLE the truth!"

OH!  I love this scene!!  It's one of my very favorite scenes of any movie, ever. It's just so intense...compelling...my eyes literally can't leave the screen when it's on. (And not just because Tom Cruise is hot!  Really!)  The drama just overwhelms and entertains me.

What's this got to do with the price of tea in China?  Well, not much, actually.  But it has a lot to do with where I am in life right now, in a twisted kind of way, I suppose.

I got called on this very thing today by a person who's opinion I greatly value and respect. Oh, not the movie.  The scene.  The truth.  He caused me to question whether I'm living the way I want to be living...walking the talk so to speak.  And that's a good thing to consider.

One of the things that I've committed to in life (and on this blog) is living in a transparent manner.  I'm not always completely successful at that, but for the most part, my life is an open book.  And I do that for several reasons.  I feel it keeps me accountable to my friends and family, which is important to me.  It helps me make good choices when I'm sometimes tempted to not, because I know that people will know about it.  That's a big motivation to think things through!  And really, honesty is one of my core values - something I prize greatly in my relationships and work to maintain.

But here's what my friend had to say about my last blog post.

Where's the truth?

At first, I argued that.  My last blog post was filled with truth...very painful truths in my opinion.  In fact nothing in that post wasn't accurate.  But then I realized...truth is more than just being accurate.  It's portraying the ENTIRE situation with authenticity.  And when viewed through that lens, my last blog post was lacking.

So, here's some truth that was missing from my story...

The truth is...this is the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life - remaking me, handling the physical pain that my knees produce on a daily basis, dealing with a marriage that has huge problems and may not survive, questioning every aspect of my life and being willing to change things that don't make sense to me anymore or don't fit with the person I want to be.  That's HARD...and it's a heavy load to carry around every day.  Sometimes...many times...the weight of it overwhelms me and I'm not sure how I'm going to keep on going.

The truth is...I hurt.  A lot.  I smile and I maintain the most positive attitude I can because at my heart, I truly am an upbeat, happy person.  But I ache.  Physically...emotionally...mentally.  And I wonder when that pain is going to stop...if it ever is going to stop...and life can be easy and carefree again.  I honestly wonder if it ever really was easy and carefree, or if I just wished it to be so and ignored too many things that should have been confronted years ago.

The truth is...I question.  Myself.  My choices.  God.  I'm not feeling like the "good little Christian girl" so much these days.  And I know God can handle that...that He's bigger than my questions and doubts.  That He even WANTS me to question Him and own my faith as I work it out.  But what about my friends?  I wonder if my friends will get that...and so I try to keep that a little bit hidden from them and sometimes give the "Sunday School" answer to questions they ask.  "Oh, yes, I know God is good and He will work this out."  Well...what if He doesn't?  Or what if I don't like how He works it out?  What if my marriage doesn't get healed?  What if my knees are in constant pain the rest of my days?  Then what? I question that often...and I don't have any answers.  God and I wrestle with this on a daily basis.

The truth is...I'm lonely.  Oh, I'm surrounded by loving, supportive friends.  Don't get me wrong!  I'm not physically or emotionally alone in this world.  In fact, I've been overwhelmed this week with the love and encouragement that has been shared with me since my last blog post.  I'm always humbled by that.  And thankful to God...because I understand the true gift it is to be loved by these people.  But alone and lonely are two different things.  Please don't be offended and think your friendship isn't important to me.  On the contrary, it's vital to my well-being.  But at this moment, sitting here on my bed writing this post, I feel lost and lonely.  I want so badly to belong to someone, but I don't. I need to value my own company more than I ever have in the past, and I'm just not completely there yet.

So why am I sharing all this truth with you tonight?  Well, a few reasons. 

First and most importantly, because it IS the truth.  As I mentioned earlier, living in a transparent way is a choice I've made.  I don't usually hold things close to the vest.  I like living as an open book.  It may not work for everyone, but I'm OK with it.  And by not balancing out my story for you, it wasn't as open and honest as it should be.

But here's the other reason.  And I honestly struggled with this one, but in the end, sharing won out.  So many people have been impacted by my life on this blog.  And that amazes me.  It humbles me.  And I feel it deeply as a responsibility that I've voluntarily taken on as a blogger.  It's not ME making this impact.  It's totally God.  I know that.  I relish in that!  But He's using my life to inspire and change others.  Because I'm willing to be "out there" so to speak, to share it all...the good, the bad, the ugly...He can USE that and change other people's lives who are looking for hope, support, help.  But if I only share the good...the successes...the nice, neatly packaged truths - and neglect to show you the other side of that...the me who hurts, questions, doubts, fears...then I'm missing an opportunity to show you that if I'm getting through all of my crap, then you can get through yours too.

I don't know what your struggles are.  But I know you have them.  We ALL do.  It's a promised part of our heritage since the fall..."In this world you WILL have troubles..."  But I love the next part of that verse.  "But TAKE HEART!  For I have OVERCOME the world!"

Because God has overcome...I am an overcomer.  That's a process...and I'm not yet there.  But I'm working it out.  He and I are wrestling it out.  Daily.  I am overcoming.  And the great thing is, I'm nobody special...I'm just plain, old ordinary Angie.  And if I'M doing this...YOU CAN TOO!

Like I said, I don't know what your struggles are.  But I know this.  You have the power to overcome.  It's in your DNA!  Tap into it!  Lean into the pain, not away from it.  Trust that you can defeat your own demons because greater is He who is in you than anything or anyone in the world trying to defeat you.  Cling to the promises of the Faithful One. 

When everything falls apart, He WILL hold you together.  I promise you that.  It doesn't mean it's easy.  It's not pretty.  It hurts in fact.  But He will.

So there's the truth.  The real truth.  Can you handle it?  Sure hope so!  Thanks again for being along for the ride.  It's a bit bumpy right now...but I'm hoping for smooth sailing again sometime in the near future.  You know me...positive and upbeat...and hopeful!  :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

When Everything Falls Apart...

There's a song on Christian radio right now that really speaks to me.  It's called "Everything Falls" by Fee.  Here are some of the lyrics...
"You said you'd never leave or forsake me  
When you said, this life is gonna shake me  
And you said this world is gonna bring trouble on my soul  
This I know
When everything falls apart your arms hold me together  

When everything falls apart you're the only hope for this heart When everything falls apart and my strength is gone I find you mighty and strong, 
You keep holding on You keep holding on."

I've mentioned it a lot lately, but there's a lot going on in my life.  And sometimes it feels like everything has fallen apart.

My knees are not really in a great place (although they are getting better with PT...thanks, Ang!).

My job was difficult during the past school year (although there were some lovely moments and successes and next year promises to be a little bit easier).

My role as a parent of 20 and 17 year olds has been challenging at times (although my sons are really good kids...it's more the age, I think.)

And right now my family is undergoing a change that I never wanted or anticipated happening...we're living apart from one another (although we are making the best of it and praying hard to determine the next step.)

So...when everything falls apart, what do you do?

Well, if you're me...you find the foundation at the bottom of it all.  You find out what you're really made of...what's essential in your life...what isn't.  And you refocus and start rebuilding.

That's what I've been doing for the first half of this year.  Trying my best to figure out who I was, who I now am, and who I want to be going forward.  That is a very introspective activity, but not only am I looking inside myself, I'm also looking up to God and my faith for guidance.  I'm also looking outward to my friends for support and inspiration.  Fortunately for me, that's so easy to find!  I have extraordinary friends.

What have I learned from these 6 months?  Here are some of the many lessons I've gained....
  • When you have a solid foundation (faith, family, and friends) and things fall apart, they don't completely crumble.  They can be rebuilt because the foundation stands strong. And that's what I'm doing.  Rebuilding.  Keeping relationships, activities, and habits that serve my purpose in life well, modifying those that need to be in order to be relevant, and removing some things that I've needed to address for a long while.  (Things like negative self talk, low self esteem, and a distorted self image!)
  • Rebuilding my life was not my first choice, but it has been an adventure that I've stayed positive about for the most part.  It has given me a chance to refocus my life on what I think is vital and most important.  Many people don't take that opportunity unless they are compelled to by circumstances, and I was the same.  But when you assume nothing, question/assess everything, and then allow yourself the chance to make real changes to your life, that's a very liberating thing.  You get to refocus your goals, prioritize differently, eliminate some goals that are unimportant, and hone in on the ones that will take you where you want to go as you rebuild your life.  And that frees you to be who you want to be, who you think you're supposed to be...not stay stuck with who you were.
  • Life is an adventure...and the ride...the process...is the important part, not necessarily the outcome.  Being thoughtful about life is something that I had not done in a long time. I allowed myself to live on autopilot for far too long...to the point that I got unhealthy in every area of my life:  spiritually, mentally, and physically unhealthy.  But by changing my life...being intentional about what I do...and what I DON'T do...I am impacting my health greatly.  No, I'm not what I would term "healthy" in any of those areas, yet.  But again, I think the process is the more important part here...and I'm making headway.  Lots of it!
So...when everything falls apart...you put it back together.  That's what you do.  You make it better.  You refocus your goals.  You keep on keeping on.  And that's what I'm doing right now. Thanks again for being on this ride with me.  The journey continues on...

Friday, July 13, 2012

I Want To Tell You Something...

Well...I really do have something I want to tell you.  But in order to tell you, I have to tell you something that I have intentionally NOT told you.  Oh, the dilemma!  I can't tell you one thing I'm really excited about without also telling you something that I'm decidedly not eager to admit.  

Except, this thing I want to tell you is something important.  So I'm gonna have to spill!

I had intentionally stopped posting my weight on the blog lately.  Because it wasn't what I wanted it to be.  It was moving the wrong direction.  I let you in on that...but only in part. 

What I didn't let you in on was exactly how far it went in that direction.

But in order to tell you what I want to tell you today, I've gotta come clean.  So here goes...

You know that for the past 6 months or so, I've been dealing with a lot of personal stress in my job and in my family...and a pretty nasty arthritis flare up that significantly increased my daily level of pain and frustration. I also had an infection that required a medicine that caused me to gain weight, which I never really lost. 

Between January and June, I gained 18 pounds.  I went from having lost 108 pounds...to losing that 100 pound mark...to 238...only 90 pounds down from the 328 mark I hit when I began this journey.

I kept that from you for many reasons, but mostly because I didn't really want to own that weight gain.  There were a lot of reasons why I gained weight, but the bottom line is, for the past 6 months, I lost my focus.  I stopped focusing on myself and the journey I am on, and instead started focusing on my circumstances.

But here's the problem with that kind of thinking.  When I focus on my circumstances, I'm completely powerless.  There is absolutely nothing I can do to change what happens to me.  My only choice is how I will to react to it.  I don't get to filter what I'm going to experience in life and only choose the good things.  I have to take what comes, good or bad, and deal with it.

On the other hand, when I focus on me...the goals I have for myself, the journey I've already walked, and what's yet to come, I have power to effect change.  I am the one in charge of that.  I can evaluate myself and my habits, keep what needs to be kept, change what needs to be changed.  In short, I'm the one in control. 

So now that I've come clean with you about this...let's get to what I really want to tell you!

In June, as I was processing this (and honestly, feeling really sorry for myself because I lost the 100 pound mark and couldn't bring myself to admit it to anyone), I decided that enough was enough.  I brought myself back into focus, set some new goals, and decided to really work for them.  No more focusing on circumstances, especially ones that I can't control. Time to get it right again.  So I did.

And at the doctor's office yesterday, I got the results from my effort.  I have officially lost 11 pounds in the past month.  I GOT MY 100 POUND LOSS BACK!!!  By a pound! 

I'm 101 pounds less than I was when I started focusing on improving my overall health and wellness.  And really, as great as it was on January 6th the first time I hit 100 pounds down, I honestly think this feels better.  Hitting the 100 pound mark this time was a real testament to the fact that who I am at my core is a strong, committed, capable person who is taking charge of the things in her life that she can.  It makes me feel good about moving forward and maintaining this new lifestyle I've created for myself.

Am I doing anything different now than I have all along on this journey?  No, not really.  The difference is all in my head.  I've told you before...and have confirmed for myself through the first half of this year...life really, truly is almost entirely a mind game.  Once you make up your mind you're going to do (or not do) something and change your focus off of the circumstances and onto your goals, the battle is over.  You've already won it!  My 11 pound weight loss this month proves that to me.

I've talked a lot in the last six months about finding my groove again.  Well, I think I finally really have.  And now it's time to keep rocking it.  I've got 87 more pounds to lose and a whole lot of strength to gain emotionally and physically.  This journey has been on hold for too long.  Time to start controlling what I can and dealing with what I can't.

Thanks for taking the ride with me, friends...let's keep rolling!  We've got places to go!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Letter to the Future Me...

July 10, 2012

Dear Future Angie,

Now that you've gotten much farther along on the journey and you look back to this time in your life where you began to make these incredible changes in your life, there are some things I want you to remember.

First, remember that you didn't do this alone.  Oh, you did the hard work.  You were the one in the pool at 6:00 AM on those cold winter mornings, and then later in the gym after long hard days, working off these pounds, but you were never alone.  You had great support all along the way.  Your family and friends were and are extraordinary.  They encouraged and enabled you every step along the path.  In fact, without them, you probably would have never gotten to where you are now.  Don't forget to thank them, and to acknowledge the tremendous role they played in shaping the "you" that you now are.

Next, remember that this journey was about so much more than losing weight.  It was about a complete transformation of yourself into who you are now.  You quite literally are not who you once were.  You lost a lot more than weight along the way. 

You lost your insecurity about your place in this world, and replaced it with the knowledge that you have wonderful things to share with the world.  You looked for and found ways to do that, and you impacted many lives because you stepped out of your self-imposed shell.  Don't ever go back in it! 

You lost the belief that life is something that happens to you completely out of your control, and replaced it with the understanding that you had choices about what...and who...you allowed to be in your life.  You began to make wise choices after suffering some great hurts in this process, because this lesson was a difficult one to learn.  Don't forget that pain is not wasted when it's a source of growth. 

You lost the limitations that you used to think were yours, and replaced them with an adventurous spirit and willingness to try new things, to press beyond what you used to think your limits were. You became persuaded of the belief that once your mind was set, you could do anything you desired.  Don't ever confine yourself with artificial limits now that you know the power of your mind to effect the things you want in life.

But perhaps most importantly on this journey, you learned one key truth, and I am confident that you are still living it out now.  You learned that loving and accepting yourself JUST AS YOU ARE is the key to the whole process of allowing and empowering yourself to change into the New Angie.  Yes, you've changed much of who and what you were, but you loved yourself along the way, even when you had more weight on your body than you wanted. Even when some people found you unlovable.  Even when you weren't making progress on the journey.  Even when the days were long and difficult.  No matter what happened, you learned to love you.  Not the "you" you are now...the "you" you were then. 

I'm writing you these things so that you can remember who you are, where you came from, and know for certain that where you are going is just the rest of the journey.  Because one other big thing you learned through all of this is that the journey never ends.  It's called life.  Go live it well!

Much love,
You


Monday, July 9, 2012

I Am Enough...



Yes. 
I am.  I am enough.
And I am learning this on the journey to the new me, a little bit more every day. 
And I believe it.
I can say it to you here and know that I believe every word of this. 
As I am, right here, right now.  Not as I WILL be...as I AM, I am enough.

:-)


Saturday, July 7, 2012

So Long, Status Quo...

Status Quo:  Latin for "the state in which", also commonly translated as "the existing/current state of affairs."

Well, friends, the state in which I find myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually is being challenged on a daily basis for me these days.  The existing state of affairs in my life is changing in many ways and for many reasons, whether I'd like it to or not.

Here's the key.  I want it to.

I'm embracing the changes as they come.  That's what this journey to a new me is about, after all.  I'm not just talking about weight loss here, though I often focus on that aspect of the journey because it's obvious and measurable.  I'm talking about a complete evaluation of who and what I am, why I do the things I do, what I will and won't compromise on.  In essence...me.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and knew that things needed to be different?  I'm not just talking physically - your hair, your style, your weight.  I mean the deeper things.  What makes you, well, YOU.  I have to tell you, this is a scary proposition, and until recently, I'm not sure I have ever allowed myself to look this deeply into myself and evaluate what I found there. But for the past 6 months or so of this journey, I've been reworking who I am.  Mostly out of necessity because the circumstances of my life wouldn't allow me any other choice.  But also, because as I go through this season of my life, I'm learning the value of this type of introspection for my growth and happiness.

By considering every aspect of my life subject to change, by laying it open and saying that nothing is a given right now, I've allowed myself the opportunity to truly OWN the choices I'm making with my life and know for certain that I'm willing to be accountable for them.  I'm living far more intentionally, and relying far less on the "it's always been this way" decisions that I default to.

Here's just one example of what I have been working through.  My career means so much to me.  I love being a teacher and believe that I am a very good one.  I work hard at it, but to me, it seldom feels like work, because I enjoy it immensely.  Well, this year, that was decidedly not true for me.  In 24 years, this was one of the most challenging, difficult years I can remember experiencing in the classroom.  In the end, I feel like I was successful, but it drained me.  Emotionally, physically, intellectually - every way you can be drained, I was.  So I allowed myself to use this challenge as an opportunity to consider whether or not my career needed an overhaul, a very scary proposition for me, honestly.  You see, I derive a great deal of my self-esteem from doing this job well.  Giving that up, even if it was my own choice to do so, was a difficult thing to consider.  But I forced myself to try to evaluate fairly whether my career was working for me anymore or not.

The conclusion I have come to is that while I DO love teaching and am very good at it, that there are a number of careers that I believe I could love.  When I broke it down to the values at the core of me, what teaching appeals to is my desire to serve and help others, especially children, and my desire to leave a mark on the world because I was here - to be significant.  As you can imagine, there are many, many other careers that could accomplish those same ends. 

I've always just assumed that I would be a teacher for my entire career.  By allowing myself to step back and evaluate this choice for myself, I have affirmed that I do indeed love it, but have also acknowledged that a few other careers would also appeal to me and satisfy my needs and values.  Therefore, I have begun investigating the possibility of entering law school, figuring out how it fits with my undergraduate and graduate degrees, what it would require from me financially and in terms of time commitment, and what I would gain when I successfully complete it. 

Now, I'm not saying that I'm ready to leave my teaching career, become a lawyer, and never look back.  In fact, in all likelihood, for the foreseeable future, because of some other circumstances in my life that require more immediate attention (like these knees!), I probably won't make any major moves in this area.  My point is this...I allowed myself to go here.  To look at this area of my life, my career, and evaluate whether or not it's still the choice I want for myself.  It's not really about the changes.  It's about the process.  That's important.  Let me say that again.

It's not really about the changes.  It's about the process.

And herein lies the point of this entire blog post.  I'm not just doing this with my career.  I'm trying to be open to this kind of scrutiny, evaluation, and change in every part of my life.  And not only am I doing it, but I'm also encouraging you to do it, too.

The Bible is important to me - and I've affirmed that belief in my life, by the way.  Even that wasn't allowed to remain unchallenged!  One thing that it encourages us to do is examine ourselves.  To see if our lives measure up to our proclaimed faith.  To determine whether we are prepared for communion and intimacy with Him.  To ensure that we're walking the talk in essence.  What I've determined by engaging in this action in my life is that it is wise to challenge the status quo.

Some things in my life have changed for the better because I've done this.  Some things have remained unchanged, but even those have taken on more significance and meaning for me now because I know that I am intentionally choosing to live the way I am.  Many more things have yet to be considered, but I'm certain that I will.  I'm learning more and more who this "New Angie" is going to be by engaging in this process...who I want her to be, who I believe God has called her to be. 

It takes guts to do this.  What I've already figured out on this journey is that I'm a lot stronger than I usually give myself credit for.  And most certainly what I've affirmed in the past few months is that our God is a lot stronger than I have given Him credit for, too.  Oh, I've SAID that He's strong, but far too often, I've acted on my own without Him because I didn't really believe He would handle it.  I've never been more happy to be so wrong about that.  :-)

So...in the words of one of my favorite Nichole Nordeman songs, Brave...

"So long, status quo.  
I think I've just let go.  
You make me want to be brave!  
The way it always was 
Is no longer good enough. 
You make me want to be brave!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Run Your Own Race...

I am not a runner. 

I hope that one day I will be able to choose to be a runner, but right now, with my knees in the condition they are, to run would mean to hasten the time when I have to replace them.  So I don't run.  I walk. Often. And far. But I don't run.

I do know people who are runners, though.  And I've been thinking a lot lately about something I hear them say all the time.  It seems like it's a key component of training and competing in the running world.

Run your own race.

What they're saying is that no matter what anyone else around you is doing, you've got to run the race the way that's right for YOU.  So what if a faster runner sprints away from the starting line and gets a huge head start?  If your own race plan is slow and steady, run it.  Don't be enticed into abandoning your plan to respond to other runners.  Go with what you know works for you.  Stick to the program.  Run your own race.

Why is that sticking with me lately?  I think it could be that I'm finally settling down into the fact that this is how the rest of my life is going to be.  I won't always be in a weigh loss mode.  One day, I'll be maintaining the full weight loss.  But I'm always going to have to run my own race, so to speak.

I'm always going to have to find the balance of eat less, move more that works for ME.  It may not work for everyone else, but it's also not everyone else's race to run.  It's mine.

Just where my head is today.  Settling into my new reality.  Adjusting my focus a bit.  Running my race.

Thanks for being my running partners in this thing called "Life".  I'm honored to run alongside you!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coming Full Circle...

It's been a long 6 months.  Truly.

But today, for the first time in a long time, it felt like perhaps I was coming full circle...coming back to where I was when I hit the biggest milestone of my journey so far, the 100 pound weight loss.

I haven't really lost much since then.  In fact, after losing 8 pounds, I gained them back and have been teetering back and forth right around that 100 pound mark ever since. 

It's been frustrating.  Very.

But today, things were different.  Maybe it's not that "things" were different.  Maybe it's that I was different.

I had a much more positive attitude toward life in general, and my health in particular.  I was in a bit less pain that I have been lately, so I pushed myself a bit and walked extra steps, climbed several stairs several times on campus, and really took responsibility for what food I put in my body.

What do you want to bet that it shows on the scale in the morning?  I wouldn't bet against me on that, by the way.  One thing I've learned about my body is that it absolutely functions by one equation:

Eat Less + Move More = Lose Weight

That equation was in play for me today.  I'm praying that it's going to be tomorrow, too.  And the next day.  I'm ready to get myself back in the game.  No more maintaining.  It's time to work toward the rest of the goals I have for myself.  When I'm at a place that I love, that I want to stay, THEN I'll maintain.  But for now, there are miles to go and promises to keep.

See you in the gym, my friends!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Voices...

Ever hear 'em in your head?  You know the ones...


"You can't..."


      "You'll never..."


           "You're not..."

You wanna know something about that voice?

It's lying.

That thought liberated me today.  I found this positive quote on Facebook today, one of my go-to places when I need to connect and count my many blessings.  Who would have ever thought that the voices you hear in your head are out to sabotage you?  But sometimes, they are.

I have a friend who often tells me I need to change the script I feed myself about situations.  And he's right.  I tend to feed myself the most negative possible scenarios. 

But what if I didn't do that?

What if instead, I decided to change the script those voices feed me to a more positive one that sees me as a success instead of a failure?  I wonder how that might change my reality?

Today, it surely did. 

My knee was feeling good this morning, so I decided to go to the gym.  Once I got on the equipment, though, it started to freeze up a little bit and ache.  I almost stopped the workout in fear, but decided that the voice telling me this was dangerous was lying.  So I changed the script to something like this:

"My knee is sore because I have arthritis and I haven't worked out regularly lately.  After I get back into my routine, this pain won't be so bad.  Angie says it's good for me, and I trust her.  There's nothing dangerous about working out today, so I'm going to continue with the plan."

And then instead of stopping, I finished my mile on the elliptical...and switched to the stationary bike and did 20 more minutes...about 4 more miles.
And guess what?

I survived it.  No damage done.  In fact, I even added on an outdoor mile walk at lunchtime because it was such a beautiful day (and I had such good company!).

Now it's nearly bedtime, and my knees are not yelling at me.  And I have a feeling that my scale will be thanking me in the morning!

The lesson in all this? 

Don't trust the voices.  They lie.  Change the script!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So Perhaps "Often" Should Have Waited Until AFTER School was Out!

So, ever make a commitment to do something more regularly...and then get challenged to keep it???  If so, you know where I'm coming from today!

No sooner did I publicly declare that I'd be on my blog more often and back in the gym, than my schedule totally BLEW UP on me!  That's real life for me, though.  It's always something!

I didn't keep either commitment, by the way.  It's been more than a week since I blogged...and I've only been to the gym one time in that same time period.  Not offering excuses...though there are many reasons why.  Just telling it like it is.

But here's something I noticed.  At first it may seem unrelated, but stick with me on this, OK? 

Yesterday, I saw that my rose bush was blooming for the second time this season.  The first time, it was stunningly beautiful.  Had hundreds of blooms on it for about a week.  And then something ATE it! 

You know me...Ms. Black Thumb...I don't grow stuff.  So don't ask me what ate it.  But something did.  Its leaves were filled with holes and bitemarks.  I'm thinking some sort of bug, but I don't want to imagine what kind it might be.  Because in addition to not growing things well, I'm deathly afraid of bugs and whatnot.  I was actually contemplating digging up the beautiful rose bush and discarding it for dead.  Or at the very least, pruning it WAY back to a small bush again to see if it might still have some life left in it. 

But yesterday, walking by it on my way into the house, I noticed something.  A bloom.  And new leaves...ones that haven't been chewed.  Something new is growing in the middle of the mess I haven't yet cleaned up. 

And that's how I feel about my life right now. 

Something new is growing in the middle of my mess.

Oh, I'm trying to clean the mess - the school year is over, and that will help.  My knees will thank me when I get back into Angie's office next week (or whenever she can see me!).  But my life is decidedly messy right now.

And still, something is growing.

So stay tuned.  I'll let you know the progress of the rose bush...and of my journey!  Thanks for taking the ride with me!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Barely...but still 100

I haven't wanted to write this post.

I've been avoiding my blog...you...the mirror...my scale...myself.

You see, there's this little thing of having lost 100 pounds I did a few months back.  Made a HUGE deal out of it.  Heck...it IS a huge deal!  It was worth celebrating.

But I haven't lost much since then.  I got up to 108 pounds lost shortly after I hit the 100 on January 6.  But then life got a little hairy.  I've talked about it a lot.  My knees are really being difficult right now.  And my life is beyond stressful personally.  I haven't really been losing so much as maintaining.

Only, really...I've been very slowly gaining.  I've found 5 pounds that I had lost.  To you, that might not seem like much.  To ME...it's devastating.  Because what it means is that I'm creeping closer and closer to that 100 pound loss...to LOSING it, not achieving it!

And I just can't go there.

Period.

But I've decided tonight that avoiding the situation won't keep it from happening.  Avoiding things in my life has never really done anything positive for me, in fact.  I am a person who needs to confront it head on.  So I will with this, too.  It's time to tighten the belt a bit.

Since I can't work out as hard as I have been and want to, I'm going to adjust my calorie level down a bit until I can.  And I'm also going to go back to my PT for some therapy to try to get these knees a little more functional than they have been.  Hopefully, between those two things, I can keep my 100 pound weight loss, maybe even increase it a bit.

And no more avoiding.  That's for wusses...weak people.  And that's not me anymore.

So I'll be back on here a little more frequently keeping myself motivated and you updated on how I'm doing.

It's game on...for real.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I Work Out...

Been thinking a lot lately about how to get myself back into the gym 4-5 times a week as opposed to the 3 times a week I've been doing for the past month.

For me, what it's coming down to is remembering why I do this in the first place.  So I decided to write it down for myself...which is a great way for me to process things in my life. 

Here's my Top 10 Reasons I Work Out...

#10 - I actually DO enjoy it.  This wasn't always true, but it definitely is now.  Even with the pain in my knees, I enjoy the feeling of making my body move. 

#9 - It helps me lose weight when I do it consistently and at a high level.  I love watching the scale go down, and it does when I'm working out hard enough and often enough.

#8 - I'm competitive and this lets me compete against myself.  This is a great outlet for me to set and surpass goals.  I love setting a fast time on a piece of cardio equipment....or lifting more weight for more reps than I have in the past.  It's a challenge...and I never back down from a challenge.

#7 - I enjoy having better cardio fitness.  When I walk up the stairs, my knees still hurt, but I'm not breathing heavily anymore.  I can go for increased distances without being winded.  That's a great feeling.

#6 - It's a healthy habit in a life that has had all too few of those! I don't enjoy eating healthy foods.  But this is one habit that I've established that is truly healthy and positive.  I feel like it helps me make up for the years and years of eating french fries and Doritos!

#5 - It makes me actually WANT to drink water.  I drink water because I have to, not usually because I want to.  But when I'm exercising, it's the only drink I want.  I crave it, and that is good for me.

#4 - I like the way my body shape is changing because I exercise.  Muscles are developing where fat used to reign.  There's a lot more shaping and firming to do, but what's already happened makes me much happier when I look in the mirror.  My clothes fit differently...and are much smaller.  That's directly attributable to exercising.

#3 - Exercising releases endorphins and makes me happier - really!  It's a great stress reliever to put the headphones on and block out the world for a half hour.  I come off the equipment smiling and happier than I went on it, and the good feeling lasts quite a while.

#2 - I still have goals for my health that I won't hit if I don't exercise.  And I'm a person who absolutely needs to hit her goals.  I can't feel like I'm living the life I want and need to live if I'm not setting and achieving goals. 

And finally...the one that never leaves my mind...ever.

#1 - I want to walk.  Bottom line for me is that if I stop exercising, stop working out, I won't walk.  It's the fact of my life.  There is so much damage to my knees that isn't really reversible.  But it's manageable when I do good things like exercise and use anti-inflammatory medicine and ice.  I exercise because if I don't, I won't walk. That's a HUGE motivator for me.

So, there it is.  For me, these are the top 10 reasons that I exercise.  I needed to review these in my mind to remind myself why making time to workout is worth whatever it is I have to do to make it happen. 

What reasons do YOU have to exercise?  And more importantly, can you articulate them?  What I've found is the more real I make this...the more I keep these things in the front of my mind...the more committed I am to actually working out.  And the less likely I am to blow it off after a long hard day at work.  Conversely, when I DON'T think about these reasons, I'm far more likely to head home and veg out after a tough day.

So, can you name your reasons to exercise?  Sure hope so!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting Back in the Groove...

Had to go visit my PT for some pretty intense pain this week.  (I'll be going back into regular therapy for awhile here pretty soon!) But when she was evaluating how bad my left knee was, she mentioned that I've lost some of the muscle tone since she's last seen me.

With just a few missed workouts each week for the past 3 weeks, I've lost what it took months to build.  Doesn't that just stink?!?!

So, I was in the gym tonight.  I didn't want to be.  My left knee still hurts a good bit.  It was a long day.  I could give about a hundred excuses.  But none of them was good enough.  I need to get back into the groove.

Once you begin working out, it doesn't take long to start seeing the changes in yourself.  Your endurance is better.  Your weight drops (usually). Your cardio fitness improves rapidly.  There's much less heavy breathing after a few really good workouts.  Your body craves fitness...and when you work toward it, it responds.  Generally, very quickly.

But even more quickly, it responds to a change in your routine.  Because of taking on a part-time job and because of a great deal of knee pain, I've dropped down to 3 times a week in the gym instead of 5 for the past few weeks.  And Angie (the PT...not me!) saw it in my muscle tone.  Honestly, I could have told you, too.  It's part of why my knees have been hurting so much.  My quads and hamstrings, which I count on being strong because my knees aren't, have not been worked out as rigorously as they need to be...and they're losing their muscle tone that quickly.

What's a girl to do but get her butt...and her thighs...and her calves...and her arms...and the rest of her...back to the gym?!?!

It's time for Stella to get her groove back!  Who's coming with me?!?!
:-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sharpening My Focus...

I'm almost there.  Almost.

I've thought and thought about how to get myself back into "losing" mode rather than "maintaining" mode on this journey I've been on for two years now.

I've tried to imagine staying where I am right now...with a 102 pound weigh loss.  And I just can't.  It's not over.  Not yet.  I have proven to myself that I do know how to maintain this weight loss.  But it's just not time to maintain.  Not yet.

The goal was never weight loss.  It still isn't.  That's just the byproduct.  But it's an important byproduct.  And because I haven't been losing for the past 4 months, I'm paying the price in knee pain.  Oh, boy...am I ever paying that price!

Bottom line for me is I need to lose about 80 more pounds.  THAT is what healthy physically looks like for me.  That is my best shot at living with less pain.  And therefore, that is now part of the goals I have for my life.  Officially.

So, now it's time to get there.  Not be almost there like I am today.  It's time to turn my energy and resources toward this goal.  Because only when I do that will I achieve it.

I've got to sharpen my focus.  Lose the distractions and let them fade to gray, and narrow my vision on what the real goal here is.  Healthy.  Lengthening the time before my knee replacements.  Quality of life while I wait.  Time to focus in on those things, and do what's necessary to move toward them.

Ready?...  Set?...  GO!!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Changes

I found out yesterday that the mall I grew up in closed its doors forever on May 1.  When I say "grew up", I mean that almost literally.  I can trace my late childhood and all of my adolescence by the history of that mall.

I watched as it was built across the street from my house.  I saw them take the wide open field where I learned to play softball and turn it into a 2 story shopping extravaganza with attached parking decks.  I enjoyed the freedom to finally be old enough by my mom's standards to walk across the street and shop by myself, for myself.  I earned her trust by proving that I wouldn't be a mall rat (you know those obnoxious teenagers that never spend money, just block the way and get on your last nerve?), but would instead be a responsible citizen.  I mastered video games there, had several dates at the movie theatre in the adjoined shopping center (which was just the open part of the mall to those of us who called this place home), and eventually bought my husband's wedding ring there.

In essence, I've done life at that mall.  I have memories that are dear to me that include this place.  But this blog post is not about an homage to commerce or even a walk down memory lane.  Rather, this blog is about what happened in my mind yesterday when I heard the news that it's now closed for good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No Excuses

So, I went to the gym tonight. 

I worked a long day...at two jobs...and I didn't want to do anything at 8:30 other than come home and chill.  But really, since my last blog post, I've been challenging myself.  Maintaining shouldn't be enough for me right now, no matter what else is going on in my life.

So here's my new motto...

NO EXCUSES!

Yeah, I've got some stress right now...NO EXCUSE!

Yeah, I'm tired....NO EXCUSE!

Yeah, my knees are crap...NO EXCUSE!

Yeah, it's late and I want to chill...NO EXCUSE!

So, I went to the gym tonight.

Because there was NO EXCUSE not to!

And I feel good.
:-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Time for a Reality Check...

I'm watching the finale of another season of The Biggest Loser...and I'm blown away by the transformations.  Just like last season.  Just like I will be next season.

So why am I not blown away by my own transformation?

Because here's my reality...I've lost more weight than a lot of those people.  I started bigger than most of the women, in fact all of them this season.  And I still am bigger than most of them.  But as of today, I have lost 30.49% of my body weight.  That would have put me in the top 5 finishers.

So again...why am I not blown away by that?

The real answer?  Sometimes what I focus on more is the journey that's left ahead of me, rather than the accomplishments I've already made. 

I have some big goals yet to reach.  And I haven't done much to work on them lately.  I'm maintaining...and for right now, I'm OK with that.  But part of me wonders if I allowed myself to truly understand what I've done so far...do a reality check...would I find there enough motivation to move out of maintenance mode and back into a real effort at finishing this journey?

I'll check in with you guys later.  I've got some thinking to do... :-)


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